If you have plans to visit Banff in September then you are in for a real big treat. Many refer to September as 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.
Summer crowds are dwindling, and hot coffee underneath the mammoth mountains that surround you in Banff have 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 easily the best month to visit Banff and the Canadian Rockies in general? Why? Well, things begin to cool off slightly in September, but it’s still relatively warm… for Banff, that is. 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 start to 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. Right before they lose their needles they turn an amazing golden color that has just about everyone drooling.
September means that kids are also back to school, meaning fewer tourists than in the summer months. That doesn’t mean it’s dead though, you will still have people visiting for Labor Day and in late September chasing the larches. During larch season some of the already popular hiking trails actually 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 Pack for Banff in September?
A mix between 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 you may be bundled up in a down jacket in boots. This is the Rockies after all, and the mountains promise nothing.
So pack for both instances. I’ve worn tank tops in September and also been rained and snowed on in September. I know that may not help you pack light for your trip, but it’s the truth! At the very least plan to visit Banff in September with a packable down jacket, hiking boots, long pants, a sweater, rain jacket, 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. The summer tourism is starting to dwindle and you may not need to be there at the crack of dawn to get a parking spot.
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 parking is still a pain in the butt, Moraine Lake has tons of larches in the area. Particularly if you hike the easy path up to Larch Valley and Sentinel Pass. It’s here where there are literally thousands of larches that turn golden yellow at the end of September.
If you’re feeling really energetic and are a fit and capable hiker you can scramble up Eiffel Peak or Mount Temple if it hasn’t snowed yet and these are some of the best Moraine Lake hikes. Enjoy Moraine Lake now as it’s the last full month Moraine Lake road is accessible. Come to mid-October Parks Canada shuts the road down 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 there are plenty of Aspen that 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 filled 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 starting point is a short drive from the town of Banff and climbs a gradual pass until unveiling 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 quite a few 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 of views – and it’s far less crowded than Moraine Lake and Lake Louise.
Read a Book at Vermilion Lakes
Vermilion Lakes is largely a marsh so it doesn’t hold the brilliant blue waters like many of the other lakes around Banff, but it still makes for an incredible place to enjoy the park. The lakes are well protected by the winds and the shallow water means that the waters remain calm on most days so it’s an easier place to canoe, kayak, or SUP.
The Vermilion Lakes are prime habitat for wildlife and it’s a well-known spot for birders. We’ve personally seen beavers, bald eagles, owls, elk, muskrats, buffleheads, and herons. The docks also make it easy to enter the water and you don’t even have to get your feet wet. We’ve come here many days 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 are located at the end of Banff Ave and are definitely worth a visit while you’re in Banff. If you are looking for 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 – as 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 up 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 an amazing 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. Some of my favorite larch hikes in Kananaskis include Pocaterra Ridge and Ptarmigan Cirque. See other great Kananaskis hikes here.
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.
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. However, expect prices to rise during July and August.
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.
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 $138 (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.