Banff in October is a magical time of year. Fall in Banff is cool and crisp, and the foliage still lingers for a large portion of the month. It’s the shoulder season in Banff, so crowds are much lower than in the summer and even in September. Although there may be a few dustings, the snow has yet to really fall, and the temperatures remain comfortable, meaning you can still venture out and enjoy hiking in the mountains among unfrozen lakes.
If you’re wondering what the weather is like in Banff in October and what all you can do in Banff in the fall, keep reading!
Things to Know Before Visiting Banff in October
What’s the Weather Like in Banff in October?
Banff in October means there is still plenty of sunshine, but it is definitely fall, and it’s going to get cold fast. The month starts off being your ideal fall destination, but it typically goes out with the peaks covered in a fresh blanket of snow. Early October means larch season, but hurry and get out as fast as you can, as the larches turn yellow in late September and may only last until the first week of October or so. If you missed the larches, not to worry, there are still plenty of gold Aspen trees and red shrubs around.
There’s not much snow on the ground yet, meaning you can still get out and go hiking; just prepare to bundle up and pack layers, as the weather can change fast. The temperature on average is between 10-15°C, depending on the time of the month. After dark, it can drop below freezing.
Days are getting shorter, and you can expect the sun to set around 7pm and to rise around 7:30am – again depending on the time of the month. The days start getting short quick in October. Although the days are shorter than they were in Banff in the summer, there is still plenty of time to get out there and enjoy the Rockies!
Visitors can expect instances of light rain and even snow across the month, but it’s still plenty pleasant enough for hiking in the mountains, and biking around the valleys, especially the first two weeks. This is what makes a Banff fall so special! By mid to the end of October, little fall foliage will still be around, and you’ll quickly realize that winter is coming.
One October, I distinctly remember getting about 8 cm of heavy snow in Canmore on October 17th, and Lake Louise Ski Resort had enough snow to open before Halloween! This past winter, I was hiking and biking in a tank top on October 9th! Keep in mind that this is the mountains, and nothing is ever gauranteed. Each year is different, but if you get good weather in early October you better make sure you get out and enjoy it!
What to Pack for Banff in October?
Put away the flip flops and shorts – summer is over. Come to Banff in October with leggings, sweaters, a toque, and warm shoes. I would suggest bringing a down jacket for the evenings and hiking, and you can never go wrong with a hat and gloves – especially in the Rockies. All of the photos in this article are from Banff in October, I’ve tried to note the date so you can check what I’m wearing.
Although you won’t need full-on snow boots yet in Banff in October, a waterproof pair of hiking shoes are recommended. Items are would make sure are in my suitcase are:
- Down Jacket
- Casual Pants
- Long sleeve shirts
- 2-3 x Wool Socks
- Warm Hat
- Waterproof Boots or Shoes
Can You Visit Lake Louise in October?
As mentioned, there’s still plenty of sunshine in Banff in October, but it’s most definitely fall weather, and you should plan your trip to Lake Louise accordingly. Early October means larch season and a good time to go hiking, so it’s not a bad time to visit Lake Louise!
But at least be prepared for it to get cold and for some more unpredictable weather that you may not be used to. All I can say is layers, layers, and layers. This is your last month to enjoy Lake Louise before it is frozen.
The Lake Louise boathouse operates until October 9, so this is your last date to rent a canoe on Lake Louise. Though you are still permitted to bring your own watercraft if you wish! So get out on that canoe, but wear a life jacket; falling in would surely shock you to hypothermia quickly.
By mid-October, the season’s first snow will begin to fall, making it a beautiful time to visit Lake Louise. I love seeing the trees and peaks dusted in snow with the lake still unfrozen.
Some good Lake Louise hikes that you can still enjoy well into October are Lake Agnes, Little Beehive, and Big Beehive, although you’ll have to keep your eyes out on the mountain tops for higher elevation objectives like Mount Niblock and Devils Thumb. If there’s been heavy snowfall already (which is completely possible), these objectives should be reconsidered.
Many people are still seeking to see the golden larch trees around Lake Louise in October. The needles have fallen to the ground by October 10th or so, but if you get out before that some great Lake Louise larch hikes are Saddleback Pass, Saddle Mountain, and the Paradise Valley Trail. See all our favorites here.
Can You Visit Lake Moraine in October?
If you want to head to Moraine Lake, this is your last month to do it. By mid-October, Moraine Lake Road will close for the season as the snow from the surrounding peaks will become dangerous to road conditions on Moraine Lake Road.
It’s hard to know the exact date Parks Canada will shut down the Moraine Lake access road as it changes every year. Typically it is right after the first substantial snowfall, in 2023 it was scheduled to close October 9th, and we can expect around the same in 2024. After this date (October 10th onwards), no more vehicles will be allowed to drive on the road, this includes the private tour companies and the Moraine Lake shuttle provided by Parks Canada.
If you are determined, it’s still possible to bike the road to Moraine Lake, and as long as it hasn’t snowed heaps yet, it’s a fantastic time to bike to the lake. You’ll be able to enjoy Moraine Lake in all her glory without the summer crowds.
Things to do in Banff in October
Get Out on a Larch Hike
Larches are conifers that are native to cooler temperatures. Although they are conifers, they are deciduous that lose their needles in the autumn. Right before this happens, they turn a brilliant golden color for a few short weeks.
This happens at the end of September and the beginning of October. The best way to see them is to get out on a larch hike. Some of the best hikes to see the yellow larches in Banff are Larch Valley, Arnica Lake, and Healy Pass!
Banff Larch Hike Suggestions
- Healy Pass
- Sentinel Pass
- Paradise Valley
- Saddleback Pass
- Arnica Lake
- Taylor Lake
- Skoki Lakes
Have a Hot Cocoa on Vermilion Lakes
October is for sweaters, pumpkins, and hot cocoa. Grab a thermos with some hot chocolate and marshmallows and head to the docks at Vermilion Lakes to enjoy the cool, crisp air.
Grab a Coffee and Stroll Banff Ave
Banff Avenue and Downtown Banff, in general, is crazy busy and packed during the summer. However come October and the crowds die down and the overall atmosphere is different. If you get a sunny day take the time to stroll down Banff Avenue, grab a coffee at Whitebark Cafe, check out Bow Falls, and smell the flowers at the Cascades of Time Garden.
Check Out Two Jack Lake
Just a five-minute drive away from Lake Minnewanka is Two Jack Lake. It’s a fantastic Banff lake with Mount Rundle Views. Two Jack is one of the most photographed lakes in the Canadian Rockies due to its proximity to Banff.
It’s also a popular spot with visitors and locals alike to go for a kayak or canoe. It won’t be frozen over in October, so you can still have an enjoyable time out on the water – just make sure to bring a life jacket! If you can’t get out on the water, I definitely recommend still visiting and enjoying the views – it’s here you can get some of the best views of Mount Rundle.
Go For a Bike Ride
If there is a style of biking you enjoy, you’ll find an abundance of scenic places to get on a bike in Banff. Your skill level doesn’t matter either, as there is everything in the area. Head up the Bow Valley Parkway to Lake Louise on a road bike for one of the best rides of your life. Or head over to Canmore’s Nordic Center for some thrilling mountain bike trails, my favorite trail to ride is EKG to Odyssey. Or take to the wild and explore some of the park’s amazing trails.
If all of that sounds too much, hop on the Legacy Trail and between Banff and Canmore and end the bike ride with some beers at the great Canadian Rockies breweries. Or just rent some simple cruisers and enjoy the scenery around Downtown Banff, like Bow Falls or Vermilion Lakes. Here are just a few suggestions of bike rides to enjoy in the fall. If you want to research them further, we recommend looking at the Trailforks app.
Easy Bike Ride
- Lokis Trail (Canmore)
- Fun Forest (Canmore)
- Horseshoe Loop (Canmore)
Moderate Bike Rides
- Goat Creek/Spray Valley (Canmore to Banff Bike Trail)
- Bike to Moraine Lake
- Canmore to Banff (Legacy Trail)
- Soft Yoghurt (Nordic Center)
- Star Wars (Banff)
Hard Bike Rides
- Highline Trail (Canmore)
- Bow Valley Parkway (Banff to Lake Louise)
- Prospector (Exshaw)
See the Northern Lights
If you get lucky, and I mean really lucky, it’s possible to see the Northern Lights in October. Skies are crisp and clear this time of year, and the aurora can be active in Southern Alberta. See all of our tips for catching the Northern Lights in Banff!
Walk Around Johnston Canyon
The Johnston Canyon walk is the best thing you can do in Banff in the winter or summer for free. October is a great time to enjoy this activity in Banff as the weather will be cool, and there will be fewer crowds, but the views will be just as magnificent.
Banff/Canmore Ghost Walk Tour
One of the best things to do in Banff and Canmore around Halloween is go on a ghost walk! See the beautiful mountain towns in a whole new light and learn about the paranormal side of the Bow Valley. Tours take about 1.5 hours and run daily run or shine!
Hike in Kananaskis
Kananaskis has some fabulous hiking opportunities, especially in the fall. There are plenty of larch hikes for the whole family to enjoy! A few of our favorites are Pocaterra Ridge, and Arethusa Cirque, and Ptarmigan Cirque for families!
Taking the Banff Gondola up Sulphur Mountain is one of the most accessible things you can do in Banff in October. It’s a great family activity that lets everyone get to see the views from the top of a mountain. The Banff Gondola is a nice half day experience that lets visitors walk around the well-maintained wood platforms, enjoy the exhibit inside, and enjoy a meal at the Sky Bistro.
If you prefer to save money in Banff and avoid the ticket cost to go up the Banff Gondola you can hike up Sulphur Mountain through a series of switchback trails. This hike should take you between 2-4 hours round trip.
Drive the Icefields Parkway
October is a fantastic time to drive the Icefields Parkway between Banff and Jasper. There are so many awesome stops to make on the Icefields Parkway before the snow really starts to fall in November. Some of our favorite stops are Bow Lake, Sunwapta Falls, and Peyto Lake.
Pay special attention to the weather and road conditions (you can check on 5.11 Alberta). If there’s been significant snowfall the drive can become treacherous, this can happen in October and proper winter tires are strongly encouraged if you’re planning on doing this drive.
Lake Agnes Teahouse Trek
The Lake Agnes Teahouse trek is a popular thing to do in Banff for visitors to Lake Louise. This is an easy to moderate hike above Lake Louise that is suitable for all visitors to Banff. When you reach the top of the 7.6 kilometers (round trip) heavily trafficked out and back trail, you’ll find a teahouse and stunning Lake Agnes.
This is an easy hike that can be done in about hour (one way) and is an iconic thing to do in Banff. However, be warned it is a busy one, though in October the crowds really start to die down. The Lake Agnes Tea House also closes for the season after Canadian Thanksgiving. You can still hike to the teahouse after this time, but it will not be open for business, so BYOT (bring your own tea!).
To escape the crowds (and get better views), keep climbing to the Little Beehive, Big Beehive, Mt. St. Piran, or Devils Thumb. If you’re an experienced scrambler, you can keep going past to summit Mount Niblock (moderate scramble) or Mount Whyte (extremely difficult!), but these higher objectives become less likely once the snow falls, typically around mid October.
If there is snow around Lake Louise, you’ll have to keep an eye out on avalanche risks around Lake Louise. After heavy snowfall, it’s not advised to go up to the tea house.
Spot the Banff Wildlife
Banff wildlife is active all the time. Apart from bears, you’ll find moose, elk, deer, owls, foxes, wolves, and coyotes here all year round. Please remember to keep your distance from the precious wildlife here, especially the elk in October, as this is elk rutting season. The period of elk rutting spans from late August to mid-October. This is the elk’s breeding season when male elk, commonly referred to as bull elk, may exhibit heightened aggression. It’s essential to keep your distance from them and their herd of cow elk (females) and never get in between them.
In Banff in the summer, you may catch a glance of a black or brown bear, though come October, the bear activity will be dying down, as they are preparing for their winter slumber. Though they are definitely still out and about, eating all the food they can before hibernation. It’s essential to still hike and bike with bear spray and be bear aware!
Taste for Adventure
The slow season in Banff usually hits around October 15th and last until the holiday festivities kick in around mid December. It’s a time when you’ll find more locals out and about and fewer visitors. Naturally, this means businesses and restaurants get quieter too.
To combat this, many of the best Banff restaurants have collaborated to bring us all “Taste for Adventure.” From October 24 – November 7, 2024 some of the best restaurants in the valley, included Brazen, Anejo, and Three Bears Brewery craft up delicious and inspiring menus at a discounted price.
It’s the best time of year to dine in Banff, as you can enjoy there course menus around the valley for $50 (a steal in Banff!). See all the details and offerings here.
Cave & Basin
The Cave and Basin National Historic Site is situated near downtown Banff and stands as a prominent landmark within Banff. It’s just a walk away from Downtown Banff, making it the ideal thing to do if you’re in Banff without a car. Cave & Basin is also an indoor/outdoor experience, and is included in your Parks Canada Discovery Pass, making it a great budget friendly activity on a mixed October day.
The viewpoint is just a short drive away from Downtown Banff and gives an impressive view of “The Castle of The Rockies.” While it’s not surrounded by larch trees, there are some nice hints of fall to see around the castle. If you are up for a hike after you visit, you are just a 2 minute drive away from the start of the Tunnel Mountain trailhead!
Head to Canmore!
Okay, this isn’t really a thing to do in Banff, as Canmore is a 15-minute drive away. We may be biased to our home base, but we think Canmore is the bee’s knees. It’s also where we spend a lot of our time in the Canadian Rockies.
Canmore is another mountain town just outside of Banff National Park. It’s not nearly as touristy or popular as Banff, making it much more enjoyable in our eyes. You can walk down the main street here without fighting through crowds, and there are plenty of great restaurants, bars, and shops to venture into. In the fall the colors around Canmore are just exquisite. A few of our favorite places to see the fall colors are around the Canmore Reservoir, Quarry Lake, and walking along the Bow River near the Historic Engine Bridge! Don’t forget to bring your camera to snap of the The Three Sisters!
When is Canadian Thanksgiving?
It’s always a surprise to our American friends when we tell them that Canada has it’s own Thanksgiving. It’s not celebrated with a football game or at the end of November either! Canadian Thanksgiving is the second Monday of October, meaning most Canadians celebrate the entire weekend prior, and also on Monday. Since this is a bit of the “last hurrah” before winter, it’s typically a very busy time in the park. Canadian Thanksgiving, is also when many summer attractions like the Lake Louise Gondola, canoe rentals on Lake Louise, and the Mt Norquay Chairlift stop for the season.
If you’re wondering if Thanksgiving may impact your travel plans, we would say most likely not as most tourist-oriented businesses are still open. Hotels, restaurants, and most stores are still operating and grocery stores are still open. It’s nothing like Christmas Day, but you may some businesses limiting their hours.
What Stops Operating in Banff in October?
We’ve been asked many times if October is a good time to visit Banff since “so much shuts down,” and while a few operations and roads close in October it’s not nearly enough to stop anyone from coming. When people hear that things shut, they are usually referring to to the Moraine Lake Rd. While access to Moraine Lake closes around Canadian Thanksgiving, it’s important to remember that Banff, Lake Louise, Jasper, and Canmore are outdoor destinations with many activities revolving around being in nature – and nature never closes. However some of the paid summer excursions in nature close for the season, and some roads close in preparation for winter. We’ll highlight those below:
- Moraine Lake Road (closes October 10th): Winter track setting will begin as conditions permit. A reminder to visitors as winter sets in that beyond the viewpoint, the road crosses large avalanche paths. Travel beyond this point requires avalanche training and equipment, and because of this, Parks closes access during the winter months. For as long as we have been living here, the road closes the Tuesday after Thanksgiving every year. You can still walk, bike, or ski to Moraine Lake. Winter track setting will begin as conditions permit. Reminder to visitors as winter sets in that beyond the viewpoint and tracksetting, the road crosses large avalanche paths, and you should have proper avalanche training and gear to go all the way to Moraine Lake.
- Yoho Valley Road (closes October 10th): Yoho Valley Road leads visitors to Takkakaw Falls, and there is a seasonal closure from mid-October through mid-June
- Moraine Lake and Lake Louise Shuttes (stop operating October 10th): The Parks Canada shuttles will stop operating from October 10th until next summer. Again, the road to Moraine Lake is closed and typically, there are no issues parking at Lake Louise between October and Late May.
- Canoe Rentals (October 9th and 10th): Moraine Lake canoe rentals, Lake Louise canoe rentals, and Emerald Lake canoe rentals are all finished for the season. You can still bring your own watercraft out on Lake Louise until the lake freezes in November.
- Chairlifts (October 10th): The Lake Louise Summer Gondola closes on October 10th, and will open again for the winter season on November 10th. The Mt Norquay Chairlift closes on October 10th, the Sunshine Gondola closed already on September 10th.
- Hotels: Moraine Lake Lodge closes on October 1st, more than a week before Moraine Lake Rd closes, and the Glacier View Lodge on the Icefields Parkway closes on October 9th.
- Columbia Icefield Adventure (October 15th): The Icefield Explorer tour and Jasper Skywalk stop operating on October 15th.
- Golden Skybridge (October 29th): While not in Banff, the Golden Skybridge is a popular addition to any Banff itinerary. They have extended hours from October 13 – October 29, weekends only from 10 AM – 5 PM.
Can You Still Find Golden Larch Trees in Banff in October?
We always tell people if they are trying to plan their fall trip around seeing the golden larches in Banff to travel between September 20th and October 5th – give or take a few days. This is when the larch needles are typically at their peak yellow goodness. That being said, we’ve been hiking earlier and later than these dates and still catch the golden larch needles, though by October 15th, most of these needles have fallen to the ground marking the end of “larch season” in the Rockies.
Are There Still Fall Colors in Banff in October?
September and October are not just all about larch trees, there are plenty of deciduous trees in the Rockies to provide that epic autumn feeling. Usually the fall colors last from September 15th to October 15th, give or take a few days depending on the year.
Can You Ski/Snowboard in Banff in October?
While it’s unlikely that the Banff ski resorts will be open in October, there is a small possibility. In 2020 there was so much snow that we were snowboarding at Lake Louise before Halloween! However, the SkiBig3 Resorts usually open around Mid November.
Is It Worth it to Visit Banff in October?
We think it’s always worth it to visit the Canadian Rockies, no matter the year. However, if you have read our Banff monthly recap article, you know some months are better than others. While October is generally considered a changeable month, it’s still an excellent time to visit, especially if you arrive before Canadian Thanksgiving.
Crowds and prices really start to dwindle in October, more so after the 15th of the month. The beginning of the month is usually met with sunshine, and fall colors abound. It’s a fantastic time to check those remaining hikes off your bucket list, go biking before the snow falls, and perhaps even get a canoe ride in. Most summer attractions don’t stop operations until the second week of October, so it’s also your last time to squeeze in a visit to Moraine Lake or Takkakaw Falls.
If you stick around till the end of the month, you’ll likely witness one of the first major snowfalls of the season, and there is nothing quite like seeing Lake Louise unfrozen with Mount Fairview covered in snow above her.
Our Favorite Tours and Excursions in Banff
- Banff Gondola: Get up on top on Sulphur Mountain!
- Banff Hop on Hop Off: Explore the park at your own pace.
- Lake Minnewanka Cruise: Enjoy a guided tour on the largest lake in Banff.
- Guided Glacier Hike on The Athabasca with IceWalks: Because when else can you walk on a glacier?
- From Banff: Lake Louise and Moraine Lake Sightseeing Tour
- Adventures Earlybird Explorer: Sunrise at Moraine Lake with treats!
- Mt Norquay Via Ferrata: Conquer your fear of heights
Banff Travel Tips
If you plan to do any hiking (including the hikes mentioned on this list), download AllTrails first. Alltrails gives you the latest review of a hike, as well as all the logistical information you may need. If you pay for AllTrails Pro, you’ll also be able to download offline trail maps to your phone. We use AllTrails for every hike. It’s not the end all be all of hiking information, but it’s a great resource to use in conjunction with hiking guidebooks and websites.
Consider Renting a Car
Being in North America, your options for transport are limited. Most visitors to Banff will rent a car in Calgary as this is the easiest way to get around. Renting a car in Banff ensures that you can get to where you want to go on your own schedule.
Depending on the season of your travel, car rentals in Calgary can be quite affordable. We’ve rented with Enterprise for less than 20 CAD a day in the winter. In October, you should be able to find shoulder season rates.
In the winter, it’s best to get a car with winter tires, so make sure to check with your car rental agency. If you do decide to drive from Alberta into BC, these winter tires are mandatory! You can see road conditions here, which are super helpful between November and late April. The good news is you likely won’t need winter tires until the end of October, but keep an eye on the weather!
Other Transport Options
You may not feel comfortable driving in Canada, and that’s okay! There are other options to get to and from Banff and around the town. However, they are limited, so keep that in mind.
To get from YYC to Banff, the Banff Airporter is a good option and costs $146 (CAD) round trip.
Once in Banff, there is the Roam bus system to get around town, and in the summer, it runs to Lake Louise, while in the winter, it will easily get you to Lake Louise Ski Resort and Banff Sunshine Ski Resort.
Where to Stay in Banff in October
For a small mountain town, Banff has a plethora of accommodation options. Some of our favorites are:
Hopefully, this helped you determine what to do in Banff in October!
If you have any other questions leave a comment or see our Canadian Rockies travel guide for more articles about photography spots, lakes, hikes, and everything else.
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