If you are looking for the best things to do in Banff we have you covered! We visited this little mountain town a few years back and fell in love so much that we decided to move to the Canadian Rockies.
There’s really nowhere quite as special as Banff National Park. Whether it’s the winter or summer in Banff there is so much to do in Banff it’s impossible to get bored. We could spend a lifetime exploring these spectacular mountains.
Mountains that provide an endless playground bringing in millions of tourists a year. Hopefully, this guide will provide you with the information to choose the things you want to do while you’re visiting Banff!
The Best Things to do in Banff
Relax on Lake Minnewanka
One of the top things to do in Banff National Park is to stroll along or take a boat ride on Lake Minnewanka. Lake Minnewanka is a glacial lake that is just a ten-minute drive away from the town of Banff. This man-made lake is 21 km long and 142 meters deep and helps power Banff with hydroelectric power. You can also hop on the popular boat cruises that take you to the lake’s start called the Devil’s Gap.
In the summer it’s a busy place to hike, picnic, and go canoeing on, and in the winter it’s a sight to behold. The mountains towering over Lake Minnewanka are seriously impressive all year round. Oh yea, and there’s also a Canadian resort ghost town under the lake.
Take Photos at Two Jack Lake
Just a five-minute drive away from Lake Minnewanka is Two Jack Lake. It’s another fantastic 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 out or even go for a swim. It’s one of the most scenic views in Banff National Park and always makes for a great photograph, especially when the evening light hits Mt. Rundle. In the winter it’s possible to arrive here with a tripod and be all by yourself.
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. It doesn’t matter your skill level either as there truly 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 trails, 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 ride to Canmore for some beers at the Grizzly Paw Brewery. Or just rent some simple cruisers and enjoy the scenery around Banff town, like Bow Falls or Vermillion Lakes.
Catch Sunset at Vermillion Lakes
A great Banff summer and winter excursion are Vermillion Lakes. Vermillion Lakes is one of my favorite places to go to Banff for both sunrise and sunset. Mount Rundle, arguably the most famous mountain in the whole park towers over the lake creating an epic backdrop any time of the year. It’s the perfect place to come early morning and enjoy your coffee, or travel to for sunset with a bottle of wine.
You can also take a canoe, kayak, or paddleboards out here and enjoy the water. The lakes are pretty calm even on a windy day and they are home to a plethora of bird life. If we’re ever in town in the evening this is where we’ll head to catch the sunset, see you there!
Walk Around Johnston Canyon
The Johnston Canyon walk is the best thing you can do in Banff in the winter or summer for free. In the winter it’s truly magical and has fewer tourists (but still busy). Have you ever stood on a frozen waterfall before? Neither had we until the Johnston Canyon hike. Due to the elevation of the region and the sub-zero temperatures of winter the waterfalls of Johnston Canyon freeze in time. It’s a pretty surreal experience and completely accessible for all.
As a tip, we suggest picking up some ice cleats in town if you visit Banff in the winter. Although the trail is well managed it can get icy and it’s better to slip everywhere on the trail – ours were very handy! Once you reach the end of the trail and the most impressive frozen fall you’ll probably find some ice climbers. If you’re feeling adventurous book an ice climbing tour yourself.
The summer is a completely different experience and nice to watch the waterfalls in motion. It is one of the easiest hikes you can do around Banff, with a well-maintained trail that is suitable for all ages. If you want to make a bit more of the day out make sure to continue on to the Ink Pots.
Climb Mount Athabasca
Mount Athabasca looms over one of the most popular attractions on the famed Icefields Parkway, but only a few get to see the view from the top. To reach the summit requires a long hike to a technical glacier crossing and then up an exposed face or couloir. The views are breathtaking in more ways than one. From the top, you can spot countless glaciers, icefields, and many of Alberta’s highest peaks.
The peak is one of many in the Canadian Rockies famous for reaching an altitude of 11,000 feet. Many climbers in the Rockies have the lifetime goal of summiting all 54 (58) of the peaks, and they are considered classic mountaineering objectives. At 11,453 feet in elevation with a massive glacier and convenient location, Athabasca proves to be a tremendous first “11,000er.”
You cannot attempt this on your own without mountaineering experience, it is a serious mountain. We did a three-day mountaineering course with Yamnuska and summited on the third day – the experience was epic. This is probably not for everyone, but definitely one of the more adventurous things to do in Banff. It’s also a great introduction for those interested in mountaineering.
Walk on Athabasca Glacier via the Ice Explorer
If you’re not feeling a full-on mountaineering climb up Athabasca you can still go see the glacier, and even walk on it on the Ice Explorer. Here you can get some history around the glacier and experience the fun without much physical effort.
You take these massive vehicles with wheels taller than a person on to the center of the Athabasca Glacier. We’re a little mixed on the experience as the glacier has seen extreme level of retreating that’s a direct effect of global warming. None the less perhaps we can sacrifice one glacier to help educate visitors about their wonders.
Walk on the Glacier Skywalk
If you’re already at Athabasca Glacier you may as well continue a couple of kilometers down the road to the Glacier Skywalk. Here you can step out on a cliff edge walk and see the glaciers around you and have views out of the Sunwapta Valley.
The Columbia Icefield Skywalk has views of wildlife, waterfalls, and fossils. It’s a fun family-friendly thing to do in Banff. However, in my opinion you can get the same experience by going on a beautiful hike in Banff National Park for free!
Enjoy Moraine Lake
Moraine Lake is the most popular thing to do in Banff, and arguably the most popular sights to see in all of Canada. This iconic lake is the picturesque picture of Canada (seriously, just Google image “Canada” and see what comes up). With the ten peaks rising high over the glacier waters Lake Moraine is certainly a Banff attraction to see.
Moraine Lake is about an hour’s drive away from Banff town, and only twenty minutes further than Lake Louise. With it’s rising popularity and millions of Instagram location tags you’ll have to arrive around 6 am to grab a parking spot between June and September.
If you don’t get a parking spot you’ll have to either head back down to Lake Louise and fight for a parking spot there and shuttle in. If that is full (which it frequently is) you will have to try your luck at overflow parking 2km away and take a bus to Lake Louise and then get on another shuttle bus to Moraine Lake. It sounds simple, but in peak summer this whole process can take hours.
Just note that if you think you’re going to make your visit to Moraine Lake quiet and easier by visiting in the off-season you may want to think again. Moraine Lake Road closes between (approximately) October 10 to May 22. The road gets covered in snow and avalanche risk is high.
A visit in early October or Late May will provide you with the most promising parking situation and fewer crowds. Alternatively, you can snowshoe in the 11 km in the winter or bike in before the first snowfalls.
Hike Around Moraine Lake
I’d say 90% of the people that head to Moraine Lake stay for an hour or so, take photos, and leave. But there is so much more to do at Moraine Lake than this. If you want an easy activity you can rent a canoe, but the more adventurous should consider a few of the hikes around Moraine Lake.
The easiest one is the Consolation Lakes. This follows the path up the Lake Moraine rockpile and into the valley. This hike is only 6km roundtrip and has a 60m elevation gain.
Other hikes are Sentinel Pass, a 12 km moderate hike (732m elevation). The Tower of Babel scramble and Eiffel Peak hike are much harder and should be reserved for experienced hikers, but provide epic views over Moraine Lake.
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 in Jasper National Park. The drive itself is stunning, but there are so many pull-offs along the way. Bow Lake, Peyto Lake, and Herbet Lake are just to name a few.
This drive is amazing both in the winter and summer, but be warned if you do it in the winter to allow extra time – roads can be icy! To make the most of driving the Icefields Parkway I would start early (6 am) and allocate at least two days.
Morning Walk at Johnson Lake
Johnson Lake is one of our favorites because it’s often overlooked by the more popular Two Jack Lake and Lake Minnewanaka. Take a nice stroll around Johnson Lake and enjoy the mountain scenery. It’s a very easy hike that is an even elevation and makes for a great evening or morning walk as it’s not too far from Banff town and very close to Two Jack Lake campsite.
The trail works its way through the forest and offers some astounding views out over the lake back to Cascade Mountain looming high above. The lake is tranquil and a great place to go stand up paddleboarding or even take a swim if you’re brave enough. Keep an eye out for a rope swing!
Taste the Gin at Park Distillery
The Park Disterilly is a hip restaurant and distillery in the town of Banff. It’s great for lunch and dinner (but gets busy in the summer!). This gin distillery has won multiple awards and has some delicious cocktails. I mean what can you expect from a place where the water comes from glaciers? It’s the perfect place to come with friends after a day out hiking or on the ski hill. They do daily free distillery tours (call to check times).
Enjoy a Beer at Banff Ave Brewery
If you’re not much a gin person then go down the street to Banff Ave Brewery. This brewery was opened by the same crew who opened the Jasper Brewing Co (Canada’s first National Park Brewery) after great success.
Located on Banff Avenue this two-story restaurant and bar serve up delicious food and great beer. It’s well worth a stop for anyone visiting Banff. Try to get a seat outside in the summer and watch life go by! Warning, the deck space is pretty limited so you’re lucky if you snag a seat on the weekend.
Have a Picnic!
A holiday to Banff is not a cheap one. Banff is a tourist town and prices are higher than many other places in Canada. If you go out to eat for every meal you’ll put a huge dent in your wallet.
I recommend grabbing some bread and cheese and a cooler and enjoy a picnic lunch (just remember to leave no trace). There are so many lakes and rivers to pull off by in the summer and enjoy a meal in the mountains.
If you really want to save money on your food to Save On Foods or Safeway in Canmore where prices are normal grocery store prices.
Climb Cascade Mountain
Cascade Mountain towers over the town of Banff and has been on every postcard of Banff National Park for years. It’s beautiful to look at, but you don’t just have to stop there!
Did you know you can actually climb Cascade Mountain? It will require work and a long 20km day, but the rewards are fantastic views over Lake Minnewanka and the glory of saying you summited Cascade! It’s not the most exciting hike you can do in Banff but it is easily accessible from the town if you don’t want to venture far.
Canoe on Lake Louise
Lake Louise is the other iconic lake that millions from around the world flock to Banff to see. It is certainly a highlight of any trip to Canada. Lake Louise, while not AS scenic as Moraine Lake is still pretty darn mesmerizing.
Lake Louise is another glacier-fed lake that sparkles bright turquoise blue under the sun. The mountains rising up around it provide the perfect backdrop to any photo.
Lake Louise is frozen solid from late October to early June, but in the summer you can take a canoe out and enjoy the fresh air. During the winter you can walk out on the lake, go for sleigh rides, and go ice skating.
Drive The Smith Dorrien Highway
The Smith Dorrien Highway is not in Banff, but instead a gravel road that crosses Kananaskis Country an Alberta Provincial Park. It’s just south of the town of Banff and can be reached from the town of Canmore.
The gravel road is flanked by some spectacular mountains and offers a great chance to spot more wildlife. We’ve even seen moose on more than one occasion near the Mt Engadine Lodge. It’s a gorgeous drive and one of our favorite parts of the Canadian Rockies. Just keep in mind it’s not a good road for a sedan or small rental car.
Take a Hike in Kananaskis Country
There are so many more great hikes in the Kananaskis Country Provincial Park it’s a wonder why Banff gets all the glory. The provincial park is home to some of our all-time favorite hikes and scrambles in the region. If you want to find some headspace on less crowded trails it’s a great place to go for a hike. To learn more, we’ve got a post on our favorite hikes in Kananaskis Country.
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 under an hour and is an iconic thing to do in Banff. However, be warned it is a busy one! 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 (difficult!).
Soak in the Banff Hot Springs
Enjoying hot water in the cool air is one of the top Banff winter activities to enjoy. Don’t let the frigid Canadian temperatures detract you because there are plenty of ways to warm up around the Banff. Just outside of the Banff town lies the Banff Upper Hot Springs.
These hot springs make for one of the best places to relax those stiff muscles after a ski day. Just be warned afternoons can draw a crowd so head there in the morning for a more quiet experience.
Mt Norquay Via Ferrata
Want to get into the mountains, but have the safety of harnesses and a mountain guide? Mt. Norquay’s Via Ferrata is the perfect thing to do for those looking for a real adventure in the Canadian Rockies.
This is an assisted climbing experience up Mount Norquay. There are four different routes that vary in length and difficulty. Perfect for any visitor in Banff with many different options for families too.
Stroll Through the Cascade Gardens
This is a great one to enjoy a cup of coffee or tea while you stroll through the beautiful garden. It’s located behind Park Canada’s building right at the end of Banff Ave. From the garden you get great views of Rundle and Cascade. This should go without saying, but don’t pick the flowers.
Climb Sulphur Mountain
Still wondering what to do in Banff in the summer or winter? How about you climb a mountain just outside of town. Sulphur Mountain is easily one of the most popular hikes in Banff National Park. It’s a beautiful hike up that provides visitors with astonishing views over the Bow Valley.
Due to it’s proximity to Banff town, and the fact that you can take the Banff Gondola up to the peak instead of sweating it out on the trail means that Sulphur mountain becomes very busy in the summer! In the winter a pair of crampons and some hiking poles will help you tackle the trail up in no time. You can read all about hiking Sulphur Mountain here.
Take The Banff Gondola
The Banff Gondola is there for you if you want to get those amazing six mountain range views from the top of Sulphur Mountain without the climb up or down. The gondola runs year-round and provides the chance to relax and hang over the trees.
It’s not a cheap experience at $62 Round trip. In my opinion, the gondola is great for those that are not physically able to do the hike. This may mean people with disabilities, the elderly, or large families.
If you are able, I highly recommend hiking up Sulphur Mountain. It’s not a hard climb and doable all year round. The beautiful view will feel much more rewarding! Either way you can’t travel to Banff and not take in the views from Sulphur Mountain. It’s one of the top Banff activities to do!
Hike to Helen Lake
Helen Lake is a beautiful lake along the Icefields Parkway. It’s far less popular than nearby Moraine Lake or Lake Louise. While the water is not glacier-fed bright blue it’s just as beautiful and quiet.
To get to Helen Lake you must hike in on a moderate trail for 6km (one way). The trail is well maintained and absolutely stunning with views of mountains and blooming wildflowers everywhere! Bring lunch here and enjoy the views.
Scramble Cirque Peak
Want more of a challenge past Helen Lake? Keep going once you reach the lake up up Cirque Peak. This is an amazing (yet difficult) hike that provides absolutely amazing views (some say the best in Banff).
It’s a tough steep climb, especially towards the top, and some of it can get a little sketchy, so this should only be attempted by seasoned hikers. You’ll likely find 50 or so marmots along the way. You can try asking them for directions if you get lost, but they probably won’t be much help!
When you reach the summit enjoy the vies and crack a beer – you did it! This whole circuit (Helen Lake+Cirque Peak) took us five hours roundtrip, but we are fast hikers. I would allocate at least 7-8 for this trip.
Head to Peyto Lake
Peyto Lake (PEE-toh) is a glacier-fed lake in Banff National Park. This is probably the third most popular lake to visit in Banff, after Louise and Moraine. The reason is its unique shape and absolutely mind-blowingly blue water.
Peyto Lake is easily accessible from the Icefields Parkway. To get a great view all you have to do is to park and hike up an easy 10-minute path to the viewpoint. It’s the perfect place to come and enjoy the stellar Banff National Park views in both winter and summer.
Get Those Mount Rundle Views
Mount Rundle is one of the most famous mountains in all of Canada and a top sight to see in Banff year round. It’s an icon to Banff and will make you feel incredibly small any time of day.
As mentioned before, Mount Rundle is best seen at sunrise and sunset. Besides Vermillion Lakes, my most favorite spot to see Mountain Rundle is the Mount Norquay Lookout.
SUP on Bow Lake
Right before you get to Peyto Lake you’ll spot Bow Lake on your left (driving from Banff Town). Bow Lake is one of the larger lakes on the Icefields Parkway and lies south of the Bow Summit.
It’s a beautiful lake to stop by and take in the surroundings, but it’s even better when you can get out on the water. We love to take our inflatable Stand Up Paddleboards around Banff so that we can pull over and take them out for a paddle.
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. In the summer, it’s very possible you’ll catch a glance of a black or brown bear (hike with bear spray always).
I love spotting these animals all around the Bow Valley. Please remember if you want to pull over to take photos of wildlife to do so safely and make sure you are out of the way of traffic.
Hike C Level Cirque
A short, but rewarding hike near Banff is C Level Cirque. C Level Cirque starts near Lake Minnewanka and Two Jack Lake, it’s a steady incline to the amphitheater which should only take about 45 minutes.
You can stop here, but the views over Lake Minnewanka start when you climb higher. Follow the trail around the amphitheater and up for about 45 more minutes until you reach the rock wall.
I love doing this hike when I am short on time as you can get it done in under three hours. It’s great for families and older visitors to Banff. This is a 9 km out and back trail which can get very busy on weekends in the summer.
Enjoy the Town of Banff
If you want a day of shopping, cappuccinos, and breweries stay in the Banff downtown area and enjoy a day of walking around. Banff Ave has tons of restaurants, boutique shops, and cheesy souvenir stores to entertain all.
Climb Mount Bourgeau
Mount Bourgeau is a 2,931-metre (9,616 ft) tall mountain in the heart of Banff National Park. It’s easily accessible from the town of Banff and Canmore. Only a 10-15 minute drive to the parking area, which makes it a great thing to do in Banff.
Mount Bourgeau is an easy hike with no scrambling involved and provides amazing views over Banff. The only issue is it’s 21 km, so prepare for a full day out if you plan to summit Bourgeau. Nevertheless, if you want a full-on fulfilling hike in Banff summiting Bourgeau is easily attainable for the reasonably fit.
Check Out Bow Falls
Bow Falls are a must see when in Banff. They are only a short walk away from the town and take you into magnificent nature. Depending on when in the winter you go to see them they may be frozen, but we’ve been lucky and seen the beauty of them half in ice and half water. There are nice walkways for visitors so they can view safely.
Be warned it’s one of the most popular things to do near Banff downtown so there can be quite the crowd here. Regardless, it’s a fantastic Banff family activity to enjoy!
Ski/Snowboard Big Mountain Terrain
The ski culture in North America has it roots in the Canadian Rockies with Skoki Lodge the first ski hut in North America located here. Now there are three ski resorts in the Banff National Park and one in the neighboring Provincial Park, Kananaskis, along with a bunch of other great mountains within a couple hours drive. The region has it all in terms of ski whether that’s groomer, big mountain resorts, backcountry, and even heli-skiing.
The resorts within the park comprise a group called the SkiBig3. You have Lake Louise, Banff Sunshine Village, and Mt. Norquay which are all fantastic and unique ski resorts. Skiing or snowboarding here is one of the best things to do in Banff in the winter. You also have one of the longest seasons in North America with chairs spinning from November to May.
Banff Sunshine Village
Banff Sunshine is a mountain that truly offers something to everyone from professionals right down to beginners. You can easily find yourself smack dab in freeride terrain that would be considered out-of-bounds in other resorts. If you want to find a mountain with some seriously humbling terrain in-bounds then Banff Sunshine is the place to head.
When you first arrive in the parking lot the mountain does not look like much as the base is simply a gondola station and one restaurant. In fact, to reach the true resort base guests must take a 15-minute gondola that delivers them into a sprawling resort that looks like it belongs in the Alps, not North America. It’s only a fifteen-minute drive from Banff and generally has great snow conditions.
Banff Sunshine contains two expert only areas that require all riders and skiers to sign out with the ski patrol and carry an avalanche kit. Delirium Dive and Wild West areas feature massive cliff features, chutes, and some seriously steep terrain. Don’t let the expert terrain detract you from visiting the resort as it also has a plethora of groomed beginner and intermediate runs. The resort has something for everyone and the base area makes for a perfect central point to meet after skiing the surrounding peaks.
- Lift Ticket Cost: Adult – $109 • Youth – $85 • Child – $42 • Senior – $85 (Book Tickets Here)
- Runs/Skiable Terrain: 145 runs • 3,300 acres
- Favorite Runs: World Cup Downhill, Bunkers, The Shoulder, Wildside, Rolling Thunder, Tin Can Alley
Lake Louise Ski Resort
There is arguably no ski resort in the world with a better view than Lake Louise Ski Resort. In between runs screaming down groomers or tackling a big mountain bowl Banff National Park provides you with fresh air and stunning landscapes. We have visited ski resorts all over the world and the views from Lake Louise are hands down the best. Lake Louise is what we consider our home mountain and we’ve skied almost every inch of it.
It also happens to be one of the largest ski resorts in North America with 4,200 acres covering four mountain faces. They also have plans and approval from Canada Parks to expand, so we’ll see what the future holds. The terrain at Lake Louise varies between beautiful groomers, challenging steeps, and expert level chutes. The longest run here stretches for nearly five miles so start working out your leg muscles now.
The big difference between Lake Louise and Sunshine Village is layout. Lake Louise is easy to navigate with longer runs and the views are way better. The downside of Lake Louise is its forty minutes from Banff.
- Lift Ticket Cost: Adult – $104 • Youth – $79 • Child – $39 • Senior – $79 (Book Tickets Here)
- Runs/Skiable Terrain: 145 • 4,200 acres
- Favorite Runs: Jerry’s Jungle, Pika, Eagle Flight, Upper Boomerang, Swedes, Brown Shirt First
Mt Norquay is the most digestible of resorts here and the least imposing for beginners/intermediates. It’s only a 10-minute drive from the town of Banff, making it a great option to go get some runs in and still have time in town. The resort has been in operation since 1926 and offers a number of activities asides from snowboard and ski. It’s also the only mountain that offers night skiing in the area and relatively small in comparison to the other resorts of SkiBig3.
While Lake Louise and Banff Sunshine can draw a decent crowd (still few lines) Mt. Norquay is a quiet mountain. You’ll have a hard time finding crowds here and it’s the perfect place to learn how to ski with a good ski school and affordable lift ticket. They also offer snowshoe hikes, tubing, and child care. The biggest plus to Mt. Norquay for us is the proximity to the town of Banff, only a 10-minute drive.
However, truthfully we like to consider it the ugly cousin to the other two ski resorts. The terrain is limited and its aspect towards the sun often results in icy runs that aren’t fun. That being said they have a well-known ski school that has been teaching people to ski people for decades. It’s also a lot cheaper than Lake Louise or Banff Sunshine Village.
- Lift Ticket Cost: Adult – $74 • Youth – $56 • Child – $29 • Senior – $56
- Runs/Skiable Terrain: 60 • 72 acres
- Favorite Runs: Constellation, Norquay 90 Glades, and Lone Pine.
Go Dog Sledding
Discover Banff Tours runs dog sledding adventures at Lake Louise and in Canmore. We’ve done this four separate times around the world and it’s always an amazing experience. What I particularly love is how quiet the ride is with only the sound of the dog teams steps against the snow.
Find the Hidden Box
This is a secret most locals don’t even know about, but somewhere in Banff lies an old cigar tin from the 1950s. It now holds a number of postcards and handwritten notes. Sorry, we won’t be giving any hints away. Good luck!
Relax in Nature
We have an addiction to the post excitement high we receive in the mountains. After flying down a mountain on our snowboard or a hike nothing beats the feeling of calming our nerves in nature. There are a countless number of ways you can relax whether it be by a hot tub, on a bench, by a fire, or watching the sunset over the frost-tipped mountains.
Just kick back with the one you love and let the calming effect of Banff National Park wash over you. Nothing else can compare to this when visiting Banff.
Head to Canmore!
Okay, this isn’t really a thing to do in Banff, Canada as Canmore 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 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 meaning it’s much more enjoyable. 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. The views are just as amazing as well. Make sure to check out The Three Sisters!
Spend a Winter in Banff
Banff is not just great in the summer, but perfect for an entire winter vacation. Seriously, it’s a winter wonderland here come December.
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 Canada 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.
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.
Dress for the Mountains
If I had a dollar for every time I saw a visitor wearing poor mountain clothes I would have, like $500. No, but seriously guys come to Banff dressed for mountain weather. That means packable down jackets and hats even in the summer.
The weather here can change at a moment’s notice and you don’t want to be underdressed. It’s extremely important to pack layers, thermals, and HIKING BOOTS.
Yes, hiking boots or shoes. If you plan to do any hiking while visiting Banff please do not show up in Converse shoes. It will not only make you uncomfortable and look like a fool, but it can be potentially dangerous if you attempt a mountain hike you are not prepared for. You can find my entire list of backpacking essentials here.