If you have plans to visit Banff in September, you are in for a real big treat. Many consider September one of the best times to visit the Canadian Rockies. While Banff is beautiful year-round, there is something majestic in the air come September. It’s honestly one of my favorite times to enjoy Banff.
Summer crowds are dwindling, and hot coffee underneath the mammoth mountains surrounding you in Banff has never tasted so good. Here’s what you can expect from Banff in September, including the average Banff September weather, followed by a few great Banff itinerary ideas!
Things to Know Before Visiting Banff in September
What’s the Weather Like in Banff in September?
September in Banff is simply one word – amazing! Locals would argue it’s the best month to visit Banff and the Canadian Rockies. Why? Well, things begin to cool off slightly in September, but it’s still relatively warm… for Banff. Snow has yet to cover the ground, and there are still plenty of amazing things to do in Banff in the fall.
The average temperature for this month is around 18°C, but nights – as always – can feel quite cold. It’s also the start of fall. You know what that means: the town and the park change colors to a golden palette, making it a beautiful time of year to visit.
The last two weeks of September typically mean the larch trees are turning. A larch is a conifer tree native to much of the cooler temperate northern hemisphere. They are all over the park and lose their needles in autumn. Before they lose their needles, they turn a fantastic golden color that brings all the regional hikers to the trail.
September means kids are also back to school, meaning fewer tourists than in the summer. That doesn’t mean it’s dead; you will still have people visiting for September Long Weekend (Labor Day) and chasing the larches in late September.
Things don’t truly die off until October. During larch season, some of the already popular hiking trails become even more popular, so you will still have to venture off the beaten path a bit to get some quiet time, but that’s not hard to do in Banff National Park.
Hiking is still in full swing in Banff in September, though you should be prepared for all sorts of weather and pay even more attention to the forecast than you would have to do in the summertime.
What to Expect Out of a Banff September Day
The days are getting shorter in September, but there is still plenty of time to have a very long and fulfilled day in Banff. The sun rises around 7:15 am in September and sets between 7:45 and 8:30 pm, depending on the month’s time. The average high is 17° C while the low is 2° C. The earlier in the month it is, the more like summer it will still feel. While late September is very much fall weather.
What are the Crowds Like in Banff in September?
The summer crowds die down slightly after Labor Day, but this is short-lived. You can expect the park to be relatively quiet after Labor Day (the first Monday in September) as kids return to school. However, once the first photos of the golden yellow larch trees start to pop up on social media around the third week of September, it’s time to brace for incoming again.
What is a larch tree? Larches are conifers that are native to cooler temperatures. Although conifers, they are deciduous and lose their needles in the autumn. Right before they lose their needles, they turn a golden color for a few short weeks, creating a fantastic scenic landscape that people flock from around the world to see and photograph.
When is the best time to see these larch trees? Every year is different, but typically between September 20th and October 5th is prime time – give or take a few days. Albertans are out in force on all the hiking trails enjoying the larches during these times. To escape the crowds, my best advice is to hike further and higher. See some of our favorite larch hikes in Alberta here.
Can You See the Northern Lights in Banff in September?
The northern lights are best seen in Banff between October and March. However, seeing the northern lights in September is still possible if lady luck is on your side.
What to Pack for Banff in September?
A mix of summer gear and fall gear is what you should pack if you’re visiting Banff in September. The first few weeks of September may still feel like summer. You could be wearing shorts and a T-shirt or bundled up in a down jacket and boots. This is the Rockies, after all, and the mountains promise nothing.
So pack for both instances. I’ve spent days in tank tops and in my down jacket. The weather in September could be cold and snowy, chilly and rainy, or even sunny and warm. I know that may not help you pack light for your trip, but it’s the truth!
At the very least, we suggest you plan to visit Banff in September with a packable down jacket, hiking boots, long pants, a sweater, a rain jacket, a hat, and a buff. But also, don’t be afraid to pack lightweight shirts, shorts, and Birkenstocks.
Can You Visit Lake Louise in September?
Yes, you can visit Lake Louise in September, and it’s a magical time to visit. Lake Louise herself is unfrozen and blue as can be. Summer tourism is dwindling, and you may not need to be there at dawn to get a parking spot.
Plus, Lake Louise has plenty of larches in the area. Hike up high to the Big Beehive, followed by Devil’s Thumb, to get a glimpse of them. The best larch hikes around Lake Louise and Moraine Lake are around Saddleback Pass, Sheol Valley, Saddle Mountain, Sentinel Pass, and the Paradise Valley Trail.
Can You Visit Moraine Lake in September?
Oh, can you ever visit Moraine Lake in September! Some would even say it’s the best time to visit Moraine Lake. While crowds are still there and getting to Moraine Lake is still a bit of a pain in the butt, Moraine Lake has tons of larches in the area. Particularly if you hike the path up to Larch Valley and Sentinel Pass. It’s here where thousands of larches turn golden yellow at the end of September.
If you feel energetic and are a fit and capable hiker, you can scramble up Eiffel Peak or Mount Temple. If it hasn’t snowed yet, these are some of the best Moraine Lake hikes. Enjoy Moraine Lake now, as it’s the last month Moraine Lake Road is accessible. Come mid-October, Parks Canada shuts the road down for the season due to avalanche risk.
Things To Do In Banff In September
Have a Picnic at Cascade Ponds
While there aren’t many larch trees around Cascade Ponds, plenty of Aspen turn yellow in the fall. Cascade Ponds is a fantastic place to head if you want to enjoy nature around beautiful surroundings. There are plenty of picnic benches and fire pits to enjoy with friends. We love grabbing a cooler with drinks and heading here for a day outside. You can even bring a paddleboard and paddle around the small ponds in between beverages.
Hike Healy Pass
One of the finest hikes in the Banff National Park is Healy Pass. The hike’s starting point is a short drive from the town of Banff at Sunshine Village, and it climbs a gradual pass until it unveils a pristine alpine meadow.
The meadow is resplendent for hiking and famed for wildflowers in the summer and larch trees in the fall. There are several storybook vistas in the park, but Healy Pass rivals the best of them. When the larches start to turn, hike up Healy Pass for the most spectacular views – and it’s far less crowded than Moraine Lake and Lake Louise. If you want a little extra, keep hiking to Egypt Lake.
Read a Book at Vermilion Lakes
Vermilion Lakes is largely a marsh, so it doesn’t hold the brilliant blue waters like many other lakes around Banff, but it still makes for an incredible place to enjoy the park. The lakes are prime habitats for wildlife and well-known spots for birders.
We’ve seen beavers, bald eagles, owls, elk, muskrats, buffleheads, and herons. It’s also a relaxing spot to read with Mount Rundle Views ahead. The colors around Vermilion Lakes in September are what fall dreams are made of, making it my favorite time of year to head here.
Stroll Through the Cascade Gardens
The Cascade Gardens at the end of Banff Ave are worth visiting while you’re in Banff. If you want an easy and relaxing thing to do in Banff in September, these gardens are for you. They are well cared for and enjoyable for all – especially if you are a flower lover. Enjoy them now – once the cold weather and snowfall, you won’t be able to enjoy them until next spring!
Canoe Around the Canmore Reservoir
One of my favorite things to do in the Bow Valley is head to the Canmore Reservoir for a canoe or stand-up paddleboard. It’s one of the best places to take a device out on the water in the area as it’s incredibly wind-protected, making it smooth sailing on a kayak, paddleboard, or canoe. During September, the aspen trees turn a fantastic yellow color providing an epic water experience under Ha Ling Peak.
Go Hiking in Kananaskis Country
While not technically in Banff, Kananaskis Country is a great place to head in September. The park is filled with larches that all turn – you guessed it – a golden yellow in the last few weeks of September. My favorite larch hikes in Kananaskis include Pocaterra Ridge and Ptarmigan Cirque. See other great Kananaskis hikes here.
Walk Policemen’s Boardwalk in Canmore
Policemen’s Creek Boardwalk is a beautiful walk in Canmore, just off Main Street. Walk along this raised boardwalk, and you’ll see plenty of hints of color in September.
Play a Game of Disc Golf
A fun thing to do in September is head to Canmore for a game of disc golf with friends. There are a few disc golf courses around the valley, but two of the best are the Three Sisters Disc Golf Course and the Nordic Center.
Hike to Arnica Lake
Arnica Lake is a moderate hike in Banff that is less busy than other larch hikes in the area. It climbs 750 meters throughout 5km (10km round trip), with no scrambling involved. Your reward for the hike is a beautiful lake surrounded by larches in late September. Keep going towards Twin Lakes for a bit extra.
Enjoy Two Jack Lake
Just past Cascade Ponds is Two Jack Lake, and it’s one of our favorite places to head when we want to sit by the lake and enjoy views of Mount Rundle. There are a few picnic tables here and the famous Parks Canada red chairs. It’s also possible to paddleboard or kayak out on Two Jack Lake in September.
Cycle the Bow Valley Parkway
Every year on September 1st, Parks Canada shuts a portion of the Bow Valley Parkway to vehicles. This closure is between the Fireside Day-use Area and Johnston Canyon, meaning you can cycle this part of the road without vehicles!
It’s one of the best things to do in Banff in September for everyone. Avid cyclists or casual recreationalists and everyone in between can head out to the Bow Valley Parkway to enjoy the sounds of nature by bike, rollerblades, walking, etc!
Drive the Icefields Parkway
The Icefields Parkway is one of the most beautiful road trips you can take in the entire world. The Icefields Parkway (Highway 93 North) connects Lake Louise with Jasper and can easily take all day (or three days) to drive! You’ll notice hints of fall along the parkway in September as you drive.
The drive is stunning, but there are many pull-offs along the way. Bow Lake, Peyto Lake, Herbert Lake, Hector Lake, Sunwapta Falls, and Athabasca Glacier are just a few (but here are ALL the amazing stops).
To make the most of driving the Icefields Parkway, I would start early before sunrise and allocate at least two days, with a stay overnight at the Glacier View Lodge – one of the best places to stay in the Rockies!
Guided Glacier Walk on Athabasca Glacier
The “Ice Walk” tours across the Athabasca Glacier require advanced booking with the local tour company, and this is one of the best things to do in September before the whole operation shuts down for the season in October. We highly recommend booking an Ice Walk tour and not trying to walk on the glacier alone unless you’re experienced with glacier travel.
That being said, walking on the glacier with a guide is easy! You won’t need any technical experience; with the proper safety precautions and equipment, it’s a straightforward objective/experience for anyone of reasonable fitness.
Enjoy a Banff Brewery
The Canadian Rockies have their fair share of good breweries. I love wearing my sweater and scarf and enjoying a cold beer by the fire at Grizzly Paw in Canmore or the new Three Bears restaurant on Bear Street.
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
- Radventures 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 and all the logistical information you may need. If you pay for AllTrails Pro, you can also download offline trail maps to your phone. We use AllTrails for every hike as it gives us a good idea of what we are getting into. It’s not perfect by any means, so don’t rely on it 100%, but it’s great for getting recent trip reports.
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 you can get to where you want to go on your schedule.
Depending on your travel season, car rentals in Calgary can be affordable. We’ve rented with Enterprise for less than 35 CAD a day in the winter. However, expect prices to be higher in September. It’s best to book in advance and then cancel if plans change.
If you want your set of wheels, kitchen, and bed all in place, we recommend booking a campervan for your trip to the Rockies. Campervans are a popular form of travel in Banff come summertime! You can compare van rates here!
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 $159 (CAD) roundtrip.
Once in Banff, there is the ROAM Transit system to get around town, which operates seasonal routes to Lake Louise and Lake Minnewanka. Lake Louise Ski Resort and Banff Sunshine Ski Resort run free public shuttles during the ski season.
Pros and Cons of Visiting Banff in September
- Larches! Come late September, the park will turn beautiful colors!
- Fewer crowds than in August
- Fall cozy vibes
- But also, summer vibes are still at the beginning of the month.
- All sights, like Moraine Lake, are still accessible.
- Biking season is in full swing.
- Sometimes unpredictable and changeable weather.
- It’s getting colder day by day.
- Days are getting shorter – but still plenty long enough.
- Larch Madness crowds
- I love September – there aren’t many cons in my eyes!
Where to Stay in Banff in September?
One of our favorite hotels on Banff Avenue is The Moose Hotel. Rooms here are incredibly comfortable, and you can’t beat their rooftop sauna and hot tub.
Budget-Friendly Places to Stay in Banff
Although summer is winding down, rates stay fairly high on accommodation in Banff through September, especially on weekends. It’s best to book a hotel in Banff well in advance if you know you’ll be visiting. Nevertheless, there are still some great budget-friendly accommodations in the Rockies.
Is September a Good Time to Visit Banff?
I’m not sure you need much convincing to visit Banff in September! It’s my favorite time of year because you get a little of everything. Summer and fall bring maybe some rain, plenty of sunshine, and usually no wildfires.
Biking is still in full swing, the hiking is simply sublime, and the crowds tend to die down just a little before October. Moraine Lake, Emerald Lake, Lake Louise, Tak Falls – everything is still accessible. I wouldn’t hesitate to book a trip to the Rockies in September!
Hopefully, this helped you determine what to do in Banff in September.
If you have any other questions, comment or see our Canadian Rockies travel guide for more articles about photography spots, lakes, hikes, etc.
Plan Your Trip to the Canadian Rockies
- Hiking in the Rockies: Purchase an AllTrails subscription to have a mobile map on you as you hike.
- Tours (New in 2024): The Banff Blog is partnering with one of the leading tour companies in Western Canada so readers can experience the magic of the Rockies with other travelers – without having to think about a thing. See all our 2024 tour offerings here!
- Hotels in the Rockies: There are many places to stay, from luxury hotels to wilderness cabins. See all our favorites here.
- Pack for the Rockies: See our complete Alberta packing list here.
- Get Around: We suggest renting a car to get around. You can search for rental cars on Rentalcars.com. Or embark on an epic campervan trip. We like to compare prices on Motorhome Republic and Outdoorsy.
- Fly For Free: Turn your spending into airline miles and points with travel credit cards (that’s what we do!). See our favorite travel credit cards. We also use Going to watch for cheap airfare deals!
- Hop On, Hop Off: This tour is taking Banff by storm. It’s exactly what it sounds like, hop on and off a bus bound for all the best attractions at your own pace!
- Travel Insurance: We don’t recommend traveling without travel insurance. We recommend checking out HeyMondo, which offers competitive rates for all travelers.
↓ Join the community ↓
The Banff Blog Facebook Group is your headquarters for the Canadian Rockies’ travel advice and information. Including hike info and off-season travel information. You can also meet new adventure buddies.