An Ideal 5 Day Banff Itinerary You Can Copy

We often get asked what the ideal time is for a vacation in Banff. Most visitors spend about a week here on their first trip. Some spend as little as three days, but many fall right in the middle.

Five days in Banff is a great amount to give you a little taster of what the Canadian Rockies have to offer. You’ll see many of the main sights, like Moraine Lake, the Banff Gondola, and Johnston Canyon, but you will 100% leave wanting to return. If this is you, we’ve put together an ideal 5 day Banff itinerary for you that makes sense! This itinerary packs a lot in, but also ensures you’re not wasting any time in the area.

Day 1

Stroll Downtown Banff

Natasha on Banff-Avenue

You have made it to Downtown Banff, and it’s highly likely that if you’re looking at how to plan a five-day Banff itinerary, you are staying there. If you checked into your hotel last night or in the morning, it’s time to tackle the day.

First, we recommend first-time visitors to Banff get acquainted with Downtown Banff. Strolling down Banff Avenue is well worth a few hours of time. Grab a coffee at Whitebark, and take time to stroll into all the stores on Banff Avenue. Don’t miss Rocky Mountain Soap Company or any of the many art galleries. You can also hop on over to Bear Street for a few more shop and restaurant options!

Walk to Cascade Gardens


Continue walking all the way to the end of Banff Avenue, where you will see a beautiful brick building. The building you see was built in 1937 and is the first administration building of Parks Canada. It is the largest structure of its type within Canada’s national parks and symbolizes the development and progress of Canada’s first national park.

From the Administration Building, you can get a great photo off Banff Avenue with Cascade Mountain looming above it. If it’s summer, you’ll also notice beautiful flowers everywhere. That’s because this stop is the Cascade of Time Garden. These Gardens are a great free thing to do in Banff, and as you walk through the gardens, you will notice the different groupings of plants. On top of the stunning flora and fauna displayed at the gardens, you will also notice ponds, a waterfall, and winding paths leading to postcard-worthy views. Those who are into gardening will absolutely love wandering through here.

Continue Walking to Bow Falls

cameron at bow falls

Continue walking from Cascade Gardens to Bow Falls via the Bow Falls Trail. In just 20 minutes, you will reach one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Banff. Bow Falls drops just 9 meters down, so it’s not a huge waterfall in Alberta by any means, but it is still one of the best sights to see near the townsite. It is right outside of town on the Bow River near the Banff Springs Hotel. Read more about visiting Bow Falls.

Local tip: Parking at Bow Falls is extremely limited so we recommend either walking or taking the Roam Bus 2

Have Lunch Downtown


Walk back to Downtown Banff via the Bow Falls Trail. Pass over the Banff Pedestrian Bridge and make your way towards Banff Avenue. It’s time for lunch! There are plenty of places to grab lunch in Downtown Banff, and no matter what kind of cuisine you are craving, you can find it here. Two of our favorite cheap eats are Hankki (Korean Street Food) and Ramen Arashi (Japanese Ramen).

If it’s a nice day, we recommend sitting out on a patio. Some of the best Banff patios are at Three Bears Brewery, Touloulous, and Anejo!

Vermilion Lakes

Vermilion Lakes Sunset Landscape

If you have a car, jump in it and head to Vermilion Lakes. These are the closest lakes to Downtown Banff, and sit right below iconic Mount Rundle. We love to come here with a coffee or a beer (depending on the time) as there are some great docks to relax on. Keep your eyes open; there are always curious ducks and geese on the water, and if you’re lucky, you might even spot a beaver. It’s a pretty shallow spot to canoe, making it great for beginners who want to canoe in Banff.

Drive Lake Minnewanka Scenic Road

two jack lake - driving from vancouver to banff

After Vermilion Lakes, continue in the car and hop on Lake Minnewanka Scenic Drive just outside Banff. This is one of the most scenic drives in the Rockies! Along this 24 km route, you’ll hit four lakes. The first is Cascade Ponds, sitting right under Cascade Mountain. Continue on to Johnson Lake, where you can enjoy a nice, gentle walk around the lake if you want to stretch your legs.

The next point of interest is Two Jack Lake, where you’ll get a different view of Mount Rundle. It’s a wonderful place to stand-up paddleboard (if you have your own—there are no rentals). The last lake you’ll reach is the massive Lake Minnewanka.

Lake Minnewanka is a man-made lake that is 21 km long and 142 meters deep and helps power Banff with hydroelectric power. In the summer, you can walk the lakeshore and enjoy the sights, but what we really recommend doing here is…

Cruise on Lake Minnewanka

heading back to devil's gap on lake minnewanka

If you’ve followed our itinerary, it’s been a long day already, so this is totally optional. However, it’s a fun evening activity if you have the time.

The Lake Minnewanka Cruise is an hour-long panoramic that cruises the lake. These cruises head to Devil’s Gap at the end of Lake Minnewanka and then make a return. It’s a stunning new way to take in the surroundings. If you’re on an adult adventure and love beer, then you can only enjoy the Lake Minnewanka Beer Voyage Cruise in the summer. This 90-minute cruise runs daily at 5pm and allows guests to enjoy local craft brews while enjoying the views.

Local tip: If you don’t have a car look into Roam Route 6 to visit Lake Minnewanka. Bus tickets are free with a cruise ticket.

Dinner Downtown

summer at saltlik

It’s been a busy day, and we bet you are tired. So you can either grab a laid-back dinner at Una Pizza, Magpie and Stump, or Banff Sushi House or make reservations for a nicer meal at places like Hello Sunshine, Saltlik, or Brazen.

Day 2

Go For a Hike

johnston canyon - banff

Start your day early and go for a nice, easy hike in Banff. If you had Johnston Canyon on your list, now is the time to do it. But get to the trailhead early (before 8 a.m.). Johnston Canyon gets crazy busy in the summer, and you’ll want to be one of the first on the trail if you really want to hike it. The hike to the Upper Falls should take you between 3 and 4 hours.

Other great hikes are Tunnel Mountain, the Sundance Canyon Trail, and Surprise Corner To Hoodoos.

Lunch Downtown


After your hike, head back to Downtown Banff for another great lunch. Some nice patios include Nourish Bistro and Coyotes Southwestern Grille!

Banff Gondola


After lunch, relax a bit before making your way to the Banff Gondola (reservations are recommended in the summer). The Banff Gondola is this region’s most renowned gondola and takes visitors 2,292 ft up Sulphur Mountain in just 8 minutes. On your journey up, you will experience breathtaking views of the Spray and Bow Valley. Once at the top, you can admire the Town of Banff and Cascade Mountain from a completely different view.

Keep your eye open for other landmarks you may have seen in Banff, like the Cascade Gardens, the Banff Springs Hotel, and Banff Avenue. There is an elevated boardwalk where you can walk to Sanson’s Peak. If you’re feeling chilly, there are nice interactive displays inside, ideal for entertaining the kids.

You can book your Banff Gondola tickets here. If you don’t have a vehicle, look into Roam Transit Route 1. If you want to combine tickets you can book a Banff Gondola + Lake Minnewanka Cruise ticket here.

Dinner at Sky Bistro

This one will require reservations and advanced planning because it’s one of the most popular ad scenic places to eat in Banff. The Sky Bistro is fine dining in the sky and is located at the top of the Banff Gondola.

They serve up delicious cocktails and even better appetizers, entrees, and desserts. It’s one of the nicest restaurants in Banff so it books up 30 days in advance. They save about 10% of their tables for walk-ins, but it’s not a large restaurant, so I wouldn’t plan on walking in and eating without a reservation.

*Optional Hotel Move*

Now is your chance to split up your 5-day Banff itinerary with a hotel move to Lake Louise. Plenty of visitors like to split their time between the two towns. That’s because Lake Louise is not only closer to… well, Lake Louise, but it’s also closer to the start of the Icefields Parkway, Jasper, and Yoho National Park.

Day 3

Lake Louise and Moraine Lake Day

How to Get to From Lake Louise to Moraine Lake 

Nearly every first time visitor to Banff has Moraine Lake and Lake Louise on their itinerary, and rightfully so! They are some of the most beautiful lakes in the entire world.

However, because they are so busy and popular, accessing them requires a bit of advance planning. If you’re reading this itinerary well before your Banff trip, it’s time to start thinking about how to get to Moraine Lake and Lake Louise. You are not able to park at Moraine Lake anymore, and parking is extremely limited at Lake Louise.

For that reason, we recommend people start looking into alternative ways to get to Moraine Lake and Lake Louise. The most popular options are the Parks Canada shuttle buses, but there are also plenty of private tour operators who will take you to the iconic lakes. We cover these topics extensively on the blog, so please check out these articles for further reading.

Moraine Lake

sunrise at moraine lake

Many visitors have seeing Moraine Lake at sunrise high on their list. To do this, you can either book the Parks Canada Alpine Start Shuttle in advance, look into a private full-day tour, like this one offered by Radventures, or book the private Moraine Lake Bus Company Shuttle Bus.

Whether or not you catch Moraine Lake at sunrise, there are many things to do in the area. Keep in mind that Moraine Lake is a natural area, and there is no town or village here. At Moraine Lake, it’s all about hiking or canoeing on the lake. One of our favorite easy hikes is to Consolation Lakes, or for a more difficult experience, you can check out Sentinel Pass.

Lake Louise


You should take the day to see Moraine Lake AND Lake Louise, since they are in the same area. You can easily connect the two via the Parks Canada Lake Connector Bus (must have a reservation). Nearly all private tours include both Moraine Lake and Lake Louise on their schedule.

Many visitors to Lake Louise simply walk the lakeshore, but you can enjoy plenty of hiking in the area. The most popular is the Lake Agnes Teahouse Trail, but you can get great views from the Beehives, Mount Saint Piran, as well as the Plain of Six Glaciers.

If you’re not up for a hike the other popular thing to do is rent a canoe from the Boathouse and enjoy the lake from the water.

If you cannot get shuttle reservations or don’t want to deal with shuttles, we recommend booking the Moraine Lake Bus Company to get you to the lakes.

Marble Canyon on the Way Back

marble canyon in the summer

If you didn’t opt to stay in Lake Louise, you’d have to travel back to Banff after your epic Lake Louise and Moraine Lake day. If you have the energy, hopping on the Banff Windermere Highway and driving into Kootenay National Park is a great detour. Far from the madding crowds of Johnston Canyon, it’s here you can find Marble Canyon. This is an excellent alternative for those wanting a quieter yet still accessible experience that can be completed quickly.

I love to take the family to Marble Canyon when they visit, and it’s a great addition to a day spent at Lake Louise for those who want a little extra adventure for the day. It’s a super easy hike here, where you’ll walk across nice and stable bridges over the roaring canyon below.

Day 4

Drive the Icefields Parkway


Wake up early – and I mean early. Today is the day you’re going to drive one of the most beautiful drives in the world. If you’re staying in Lake Louise, you’ll be able to get an earlier start to your day, as the start of the Parkway is just a few km from Lake Louise. If you’re staying in Banff, you’ll have about an hour extra of driving.

The Icefields Parkway, or Hwy 93 North, is a scenic drive between Banff and Jasper that attracts visitors from around the world. One can enjoy drive-in nature, surrounded by waterfalls, rock spires, ancient glaciers, and turquoise lakes on this entire drive.

This 232 km double-lane highway runs along the Continental Divide. It will take the entire day to drive the entire thing, and you definitely won’t see everything. We’ve driven this route many times and still always see new things along the drive.

natasha on the iceields parkway
Walking on Athabasca Glacier on an Icewalk Tour

A few of our favorite stops include Herbert Lake, Bow Lake, Peyto Lake, Mistaya Canyon, Athabasca Falls, and Sunwapta Falls. If you want to hike, there are plenty of opportunities like the Helen Lake hike, Parker Ridge and Wilcox Pass.

Parker Ridge Hike
Parker Ridge Hike

About halfway between Banff and Jasper, you’ll reach Athabasca Glacier, and it’s here you can enjoy a walk on the Glacier or book the Columbia Icefields Adventure Tour. The Athabasca Glacier is a really great turnaround point for heading back to Banff. Sure, you’ll miss some sights in Jasper, but you will just have to return on another trip.

Your other option is to book a few extra nights in Jasper and drive the entire Icefields Parkway. For this 5 day itinerary, we’ll stick to you turning around and heading back to Banff. If you want to spend time in Jasper follow this Banff itinerary.

Day 5

Spend the Day in Canmore

summer day in downtown canmore

You’ve spent a lot of time in Banff, and although you’ll never be able to check everything off, we recommend you head elsewhere for a change of pace. Today is a really great day to check out Canmore. Canmore is the town neighboring Banff, and we recommend everyone visit on their trip to the Canadian Rockies. There are many things to do in Canmore, and you’ll likely want more time here, but even with one day, you can get a pretty good idea of the mountain town.

canmore engine bridge

The first thing to do in town is venture around Downtown Canmore. You’ll probably find that it has stunning views, just like Banff and that it’s also pedestrian-only in the summer – just like Banff! However you’ll probably notice that Canmore isn’t near as busy at Banff, with many visitors saying they even prefer it to Banff!

Grab a coffee at Eclipse and venture into Stonewaters to do some nice shopping. You can easily enjoy a nice walking trail such as the Policeman’s Creek Boardwalk or walk all the way to the famous Canmore Engine Bridge over the Bow River. You’ll get different views of what you’ve seen in Banff, but they are just as staggering.

Grassi Lakes Natasha
Grassi Lakes

If you have a car and want to hike, we recommend venturing to Grassi Lakes or Grotto Canyon. Some beautiful lakes near town are the Canmore Reservoir or Quarry Lake.

If you want to stay in Canmore, our favorite hotel is The Malcolm!

Other Option – Venture into Yoho

Cilantro Cafe at emerald lake
Emerald Lake

Your other option besides Canmore is to spend the day in Yoho National Park. Yoho National Park is just over an hour from Downtown Banff and is where you can find incredible sights like Emerald Lake, the Natural Bridge, and Takakkaw Falls. If you want to do any hiking in the area, you can hike the Iceline Trail (a long full day) or make a short hike to Laughing Falls. At lunchtime, we recommend heading into the small BC town of Field for lunch at Truffle Pigs.

Things to Keep in Mind

roam transit on downtown banff
Roam Transit Bus

You Need a Parks Pass

You need a National Park Pass to visit Banff, Yoho, Kootenay, and Jasper National Park. You can read more about getting one here.

A Car is Ideal for This Itinerary

Although you can easily get around Downtown Banff (Day 1) without a vehicle, you’ll be best served by renting a car for most of this itinerary. That being said, it’s possible to get to many hot spots using Roam Transit, though you will be subject to their bus schedule and times, meaning you may not be able to make the most of your time here.

Book a Hotel in Advance

In the summer, booking hotels in advance is imperative. Between June and September, it’s extremely busy here, and hotels do book out. The sooner you book, the better, and the better rates you will get! We have a great article if you’re curious where to stay in Banff.

This is a Summer Focused Itinerary

This itinerary is focused on visiting Banff in the summer, between May and October. This is when attractions like the Athabasca Glacier Tour and Columbia Icefield Skywalk are running, as well as when you’ll find unfrozen blue lakes, sunny days, and patios to enjoy. That being said you can still complete this itinerary in the winter, just manage your expectations regarding the weather.

Other Areas

This itinerary mainly focuses on visiting Banff. If you’d like a more detailed Canmore itinerary, we have that for you, as well as a detailed Jasper itinerary.

Make Restaurant Reservations

Just like hotels, the restaurants are very busy during the summer months. It’s best to make reservations for dinner, especially at some of the higher end restaurants.

Plan Your Trip to the Canadian Rockies

  • 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!
  • Get to Banff or Canmore Without a Car: The Banff Airporter provides fantastic service connecting you from the Calgary International Airport (YYC) to Banff or Canmore.
  • Get Around: We suggest renting a car to get around. You can search for rental cars on Or embark on an epic campervan trip. We like to compare prices on Motorhome Republic and Outdoorsy.
  • Cheaper Airfare: 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!
About Natasha

Natasha calls Canmore, Alberta home. After traveling across seven continents and 90 countries with Cameron, she settled down in the stunning Canadian Rockies. She loves to help others travel and make their planning easier. She is a winter enthusiast and loves to snowboard, ice skate, and snowshoe and enjoy all the fantastic summer opportunities in Banff like hiking, scrambling, and biking. You can find her in the mountains or enjoying a coffee by the river. Learn more on the about us page!

If you have found the content on this site helpful to your trip planning please consider supporting The Banff Blog. You can say thanks directly by buying us a coffee. All support is much appreciated!

Leave a Comment