An Ideal Banff Itinerary for Your First Trip to the Canadian Rockies

Planning a trip to Banff? Then you are in for a trip of a lifetime. Because Banff National Park is truly one of the most spectacular places in the entire world.

The first time we visited Banff we knew it was something special. It was so special that we decided to move to Alberta a few years ago and haven’t looked back.

If you’re planning to visit Banff for one, two, three days or longer than a week you’re still going to need to have a general plan so you can see as much as you would like in your time here. No matter how many days you have here it still won’t be enough to uncover the beauty of this place, but you’ll at least get to the highlights.

Here is the best Banff itinerary including things to do, Banff travel tips, a packing list, car rental tips, and the best time to visit Banff.

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The Ultimate Itinerary for Banff


Banff Itinerary – 1 Day


Welcome to Banff National Park, one of the most beautiful places in the world! I know you’re on vacation and you probably want to sleep a bit, but trust me it’s worth it to get up and make the most out of your time in Banff because there is a lot to see and do! Let’s get into day one on your Banff itinerary.

  • Sunrise at Moraine Lake
  • Canoe on Lake Louise
  • Hike Around Lake Louise
  • Dinner at The Fairmont

Sunrise at Moraine Lake


Banff-Hikes-Moraine-Lake-Cameron-Rockpile

Moraine Lake is the most popular thing to do in Banff, and arguably the most popular sight 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 want to see Moraine Lake it’s imperative you wake up early to do so, because parking is very limited, so you may as well head there for one of the most memorable sunrises ever!

**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.

If you miss sunrise your next best option is to wait until evening to see Moraine Lake. During late May and early June, you can generally get in after 7 pm. In July and August I’ve had to wait until after 9pm to catch the sunset here.


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. Canoes are available to rent by the half hour from the Fairmont.


Hike Around Lake Louise


Lake Louise Hikes The Little Beehive

If you want to go for a hike while visiting Lake Louise (and I highly suggest you do) there are numerous hikes ranging in difficulty leaving right from Lake Louise.

The most popular and easiest hike is to the Lake Agnes Tea House. This is an easy hike that can be done in under two hours and is an iconic thing to do in Banff. However, be warned its ease makes it a busy one! To escape the crowds (and get better views) keep climbing to the Big or Little Beehive.

Another longer option is Devils Thumb, but this should be attempted by those who are seasoned hikers. There are also other hikes like the Fairview Lookout and Mout St. Piran. Read all about our favorite Lake Louise hikes here.


Dinner and Stay at Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise


The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise is the most iconic hotel in Banff National Park. It’s easily one of the best places to stay in all of Alberta and overlooks the beautiful Lake. If you book early enough and score yourself a room here in the summer enjoy it!

After your day enjoying Moraine Lake and Lake Louise you can now relax and have dinner at the Chateau and enjoy a night in the Fairmont. Make sure to take advantage of the location and catch the stars at night around the Lake without the daytime crowds!


Banff Itinerary – 2 Days


  • Drive the Icefields Parkway
  • Stand Up Paddleboard on Bow Lake
  • Take in the Views at Peyto Lake
  • Have Lunch at Athabasca Glacier
  • Glacier Skywalk
  • Drive on to Jasper

Drive the Icefields Parkway


Wake up at Lake Louise, enjoy a coffee with views and head out for a road trip on 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. Make sure to hit these places.


Stand Up Paddleboard on Bow Lake


You can’t miss Bow Lake on your way up the Icefields Parkway. It’s a huge lake and you’ll see many people stopped here admiring the view. If you have a stand-up paddleboard, canoe, or kayak this is one of the best places to enjoy from the water.


Take in the Views at Peyto Lake


Peyto Lake Banff Packing List Vest

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 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. (Note that the Peyto Lake area is closed to visitors for maintenance in Summer 2020.)


Have Lunch at Athabasca Glacier


Athabasca Glacier is a popular place to stop along the Icefields Parkway. It’s here you can see Mount Athabasca and walk on Athabasca Glacier if that interests you.


Athabasca 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. If you’re an avid outdoor person and hiker the Skywalk can be a lame way to waste $35.


Drive to Jasper


After Athabasca, you’ll exit Banff National Park and enter Jasper National Park. The views keep continuing though and the drive is just as stunning. Continue on to Jasper Town and relax here for the night.


Banff Itinerary – 3 Days



  • Explore Downtown Jasper
  • Maligne Canyon
  • Spirit Island
  • Athabasca Falls
  • Overnight in Banff Town or Camp Along the Way

Jasper Town


Wake up in downtown Jasper and have a coffee and baked good at Bear’s Paw Bakery. Take a stroll around town and enjoy the fresh mountain air.


Maligne Canyon


Maligne Canyon is another one of the things to do in Jasper that will keep you occupied and fulfilled, regardless of the season in which you visit. Carved slowly out of limestone over the years by the rushing waters within, the deep canyon walls reach nearly 200 feet in places, making it one of the most dramatic sights in Jasper National Park. Though it freezes solid in winter, it provides recreation for brave ice climbers; there are guided tours of the area’s frozen waterfalls and ice caves too.

When the ice thaws in late spring and summer, the canyon area is a hot hiking spot due to its natural beauty and the sheer number of amazing and unique geological features you’ll find. Guided tours are available but you can also visit on your own, though visiting in the winter without a guide isn’t recommended for those not equipped for Canadian winters, as you’ll need special cleated or spiked boots to walk on the ice safely.


Spirit Island


A great place to visit in Jasper is Spirit Island. As you may have guessed by its name, Spirit Island is a serene and revered place, especially to the area’s indigenous people. Due to its sacredness, the island is off limits, but boat tours are available which will take you close enough to appreciate its splendor.

For those who need a little more exertion and adventure, it’s possible to view the island by kayak or canoe; this option is only for the physically fit because the roundtrip is difficult to complete in a day. There are campsites nearby where you can book an overnight spot, breaking the trip into a day and a half and giving you a wonderful night in the wilderness.


Athabasca Falls


A great thing to do in Jasper in the winter is to check out Athabasca Falls. Located about 20 miles south of Jasper town – with a drop of about 75 feet – Athabasca Falls isn’t a giant by waterfall standards, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t dramatic and majestic in its own right. The volume of water that rushes over the edge is very high, making the upper Athabasca River positively roar – especially during the height of the thaw in late spring. Like so many other visitor sites in the area, it’s conveniently located in Jasper National Park, which will make filling up your day with enough scenery to satisfy even the most finicky nature lover pretty easy.

There are ample hiking trails to get you to viewing areas which will allow you to ogle the river and falls in all their glory. Don’t try to get closer to take a good picture, the ground and rocks are treacherous and slippery and a fall into the frigid water and rocky canyon wouldn’t end well.


Overnight in Banff Town


After your full day in Jasper, it’s time to head back to Banff (although if you have one extra day I would consider spending another day in Jasper as there are plenty of other things to do in Jasper.


Banff Itinerary – 4 Days


  • Sunrise on Tunnel Mountain
  • Walk Around Banff Town
  • Check Out Bow Falls
  • Sunset on Sulphur Mountain

Catch Sunrise on Tunnel Mountain


Tunnel Mountain is right in the heart of Banff. It’s beloved by locals for its accessibility and you can hike it year-round. It may be one of the smallest mountains in Banff National Park, but it still offers tremendous views of the surrounding valleys and Mount Rundle, especially at sunrise.

The hike moves slowly up the mountain through a number of switchbacks and offers various viewpoints out into the Bow and Spray Valleys. It’s a great Banff hike for sunrise or sunset and it rarely disappoints. The best part is it’s only 4.5 km round trip and shouldn’t take more than one hour up. It’s also one of the easiest winter hikes you can do with only 266 meters of elevation gain.


Walk Around Banff Town


Paul Zizka

It’s hard to believe there is a town in the center of one of the most beautiful national parks on earth, but there is and walking around Banff is a must for any visitor. There are plenty of shops, cafes, and restaurants to enjoy in Banff. But really I just love strolling and admiring the mountain views from down low.


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 the half in ice and half water. There are nice walkways for visitors so they can view safely.


Sunset on Sulphur Mountain


One of the best places to catch the sunset in Banff is from the top of Sulphur Mountain. The Banff Gondola runs all day to take visitors up and down, making it the easiest mountaintop to catch the sunset in Banff.

If you’re up for some activity it’s also possible to hike up Sulphur mountain and save some money and get your legs moving. Sulphur mountain peak can be reached in under two hours through a path of easy but relentless switchbacks. In the offseason, it’s possible to take the gondola back down for free! See my full guide for hiking Sulphur Mountain here.


Banff Itinerary – 5 Days


Lake Minnewanka Natasha Backpack
  • Sunrise on Vermillion Lakes
  • Stand Up Paddleboard on Two Jack Lake
  • Mt. Norquay Via Ferrata
  • Scenic Cruise Around Lake Minnewanka
  • Dinner and Drinks in Banff

Sunrise on 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 and a great place for a chill ride.


Stand Up Paddleboard on Two Jack Lake


Just a ten-minute drive away from Vermillion Lakes 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. In the summer it’s a popular spot to come with a stand-up paddleboard or kayak. It’s perfect for an afternoon picnic to take in the views.


Scenic Cruise Around Lake Minnewanka


One of the top things to do in Banff National Park is Lake Minnewanka. Lake Minnewanka is a glacial lake that is close to Two Jack Lake. This lake is 21 km long and 142 meters deep.

In the summer it’s a busy place to hike 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, and there are scenic cruises around Lake Minnewank on offer in the summer.


Mt. Norquay Via Ferrata


If you’re a beginner hiker but want to see what hiking in the Rockies is all about I highly suggest the Mt. Norquay Via Ferrata. 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.


Dinner and Drinks in Banff


Devaan Ingraham

The sun has set over Banff National Park. It’s time to refuel for the day at one of Banff’s many places to eat. A few of our favorites are:

Banff Sushi

We love sushi and we love a good deal so Banff Sushi is a slam dunk for us. The novelty of sushi train was definitely appreciated and brought us back to Japan as we nabbed tantalizing bites of sushi off the Canadian train engine. If you like sushi this may be one of the best deals in Banff.

Whitebark Cafe

Hip coffee shop serving delicious coffee in Banff and freshly baked treats. It’s the perfect post-ski pick me up if you’re not into the apres-ski scene!

Park Distillery

Check out the only distillery in a national park in North America. It’s super cool inside with large tables perfect to finish off a winter day in Banff with friends or family.

Nourish Bistro

This healthy cafe is the perfect lunch spot in town with reasonably priced lunch combos and coffee.

Bear Street Tavern

Winter activities often mean you’re burning plenty of calories so if you’re looking for a laid-back atmosphere and some tasty grub head to this tavern to replenish.


Banff/Canmore Itinerary – 6 Days


Today is the day to head to the town right next to Banff – Canmore. I personally love Canmore town more than Banff (and not just because I live here), but because it feels less like a tourist destination and place where real day to day operations happen.

  • Sunrise on East End of Rundle
  • Hike to Grassi Lakes
  • Explore Downtown Canmore
  • Walk Around Policemen’s Boardwalk
  • Sunset Paddle Around The Reservoir

Sunrise on the EEOR


East End of Rundle (EEOR) is one of the most popular hikes in Canmore. It’s a beautiful hike up that provides visitors with astonishing views over Canmore, the Bow Valley, and Ha Ling Peak.

Although, just because East End of Rundle (or EEOR, or “Eeyore” as locals like to call it) is close to town doesn’t mean it’s an easy climb up to the summit.

EEOR trail is a 5.8 kilometer out and back trail. It’s certainly a steep and strenuous uphill battle for almost the entire hike. There are hardly any flat parts and the climb starts right from the car park. There is moderate exposure and some scrambling required, but nothing too scary or difficult for the average to the advanced hiker. We are reasonably fast hikers and completed the trail in four hours with a 45-minute summit beer stop at the top and about 15 extra minutes for sunset photos. If we were really moving with no long stops we could have done EEOR in under three hours.

The average hiker will probably be able to summit in two hours and descend in 1.5 hours. If you are slower five hours round trip is probably a safe time to estimate. If you can get up there for sunrise you’ll be rewarded with beautiful views over Ha Ling. Read all about the East End of Rundle hike here.


Hike to Grassi Lakes


With water clear and mesmerizingly blue Grassi Lakes is remarkable and easy to reach on a short hike. Though there are other trails in the area, they’re clearly marked, and you’ll know to turn around when you’ve reached the impassably steep part.

About five kilometers south of town, the lakes are easy to get to and you may want to consider packing a few some food for a picnic, as it’s one of the most picturesque places around Canmore. Stunning views of a nearby waterfall and the town of Canmore below present plenty of photo opportunities so grab your favorite travel camera.

Grassi Lakes is easy enough for just about anyone to complete. I would feel comfortable bringing older parents or healthy grandparents on this short hike.


Explore Downtown Canmore


For lunch head downtown to one of Canmore’s many restaurants. I love sitting outside at The Tavern. They have great food and awesome drink specials. Grizzly Paw is another popular option as it’s right on Main Street, but it’s more expensive and not as good of food in my opinion.

There are also shops and cafes to check out downtown.


Walk Policemen’s Boardwalk


If you want to spend a quiet morning or afternoon strolling through nature head to the boardwalk. The elevated walkway presents year-round opportunities without a need for waders, boots, or snowshoes. It’s accessible from downtown and the trailhead is near the intersection of Main Street and Spring Creek Drive.

The four-kilometer trail is well marked, easy to follow, and will bring you right back to your starting point, so you won’t have to drop bread crumbs or call for an embarrassing helicopter rescue. The boardwalk’s pleasant mix of town and country is the best of both worlds, and you’ll think you’re much farther away from civilization than you really are. 


Sunset Paddle Around The Spray Lakes Reservoir


The Spray Lakes Reservoir is a locals place to head in the evening and take a swim, paddleboard, or kayak and watch the sun go down. It’s a quiet place to relax in nature and is perfect for a picnic dinner (just make sure to clean up after yourself! We don’t like picking up other’s trash.


Banff Area Itinerary – 7 Days


If you happen to have extra time in this area then you are doing Banff the right way. Find more information on extra things to do below.

  • Hike in Kananaskis Country
  • Head to Yoho National Park
  • Sunset Picnic on the Smith Dorrien

Hike in Kananaskis Country


Kananaskis is another Alberta Park that is just as beautiful as Banff. Located closer to Calgary it’s a quieter area to enjoy, usually filled with more Albertans than foreigners. There are some amazing lakes to enjoy and fantastic hiking opportunities. See all those here.


Head to Yoho National Park


Banff Itinerary Emerald Lake
Emerald Lake

Yoho National Park is just past Lake Louise and close to Golden, BC. There are some fantastic sightseeing opportunities, as well as beautiful lakes, and awesome hikes. See a few of our favorites here.


Sunset Picnic on the Smith Dorrien


The dirt road that leads up past Grassi Lakes and the Canmore Nordic Center is Smith Dorrien Trail. It’s an unpaved road that is open year-round, avalanche conditions withstanding. As you make your way up the pass between Mount Lawrence Grassi and Rundle you’ll find some impressive views.

Once through the pass, you’ll enter Kananaskis Country an Alberta Provincial Park. Along the drive, you pass some superb lakes and impressive mountain vistas. Keep your eyes peeled as you’ll likely spot some wildlife too, we’ve seen just about everything such as bears, moose, elk, deer, goats, bighorn sheep, and coyotes.


Banff Winter Itineraries


Banff Winter Itinerary – 1 Day


  • Sunrise Skate on Lake Louise
  • Ski at Lake Louise
  • Hot Chocolate Bar and Dinner at the Fairmont

Sunrise Skate on Lake Louise


You’ll be hard-pressed to find a more scenic ice rink than Lake Louise. Every year the lake freezes over and the Chateau Lake Louise marks out multiple ice rinks made for families, figure skating, and hockey. Nothing screams you’re in Canada than playing hockey on a frozen lake. There are a number of places around that offer ice skates for rent, including Chateau Lake Louise.

If you’re not much of a skater don’t worry – Lake Louise freezes completely over every winter providing you the opportunity to walk and explore the area.


Ski at Lake Louise


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 bowl Banff National Park provides you some fresh air and stunning landscapes. We’ve visited resorts all over the world and the views from Lake Louise are hands down some of the best in the world. In our opinion, Lake Louise beats out Banff Sunshine and Mt Norquay by leaps and bounds.

It also happens to be one of the largest ski resorts in North America with 4,200 acres covering four mountain faces. The terrain 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.

We love Lake Louise so much that we have bought season passes there for two years in a row. They have a very long season, challenging terrain, and in general, it’s MUCH quieter than Banff Sunshine. Also as snowboarders, we find that Banff Sunshine has too many flat cat tracks.

Best Runs at Lake Louise
  • Beginner
    • Jerry’s Jungle
    • Lookout
    • Wiwaxy
    • Pika
  • Intermediate
    • Juniper/Juniper Jungle
    • Grizzly Gully
    • Boomerang
  • Advanced
    • Eagle Flight
    • Lipalian Chutes
    • Upper Boomerang
    • Hour Glass
    • Ptarmigan Chutes
    • Brown Shirt
  • Expert
    • Brown Shirt First
    • Boundary Bowl
    • Vertical Cornice
    • Swedes

Hot Chocolate Bar and Dinner at the Fairmont


During weekends at Lake Louise you can enjoy a mulled wine at the Banff Ice Bar! The Ice Bar is open from around December 20th to mid April. They dish up all kinds of hot chocolate goodness and even have special treats for the kids.

Oh yea and 20 blocks of ice, each weighing 300 lbs, were used to make this bar, so it’s truly a special place to visit in Banff in the winter.


Banff Winter Itinerary – 2 Days


  • Sunrise on Vermillion Lakes
  • Johnston Canyon Ice Walk
  • Catch Sunset at Two Jack Lake

Sunrise on Vermilion Lakes


This is essentially the same thing as mentioned above, just in the winter. Sunrise at Vermilion Lakes is wonderful any time of the year, just in the winter you get to sleep in a bit.


Johnston Canyon Ice Walk


The Johnston Canyon walk is the best thing you can do in Banff in the winter for free. 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.Ski/Snowboard Big Mountain Terrain

As a tip, we suggest picking up some ice cleats in town. 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!


Catch Sunset at Two Jack Lake


While you can’t take a kayak out on Two Jack in the winter you can get amazing Mount Rundle views with absolutely beautiful winter colors.


Banff Winter Itinerary – 3 Days


This is essentially the same items like Tunnel Mountain, Banff Town, and Sulphur Mountain as above. They are all fun things to do in Banff in the winter.

  • Sunrise Hike on Tunnel Mountain
  • Explore Banff Town
  • Soak in the Banff Hot Springs
  • Sunset on Sulphur Mountain

Soak in the Banff Hot Springs


Banff & Lake Louise Tourism / Noel Hendrickson

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.


Banff Winter Itinerary – 4 Days


  • Drive the Icefields Parkway to Jasper!

Icefields Parkway Drive


Yes – this beautiful drive is still open in the winter. You just have to take extra precautions as road conditions can be very poor and dangerous in Canada. The plus side is the mountains will be covered in fresh snow and the lakes are all frozen. It’s like the inside of a snowglobe!


Banff Travel Tips



When is the best time to visit Banff?


High season (June-August, December-February)


Banff National Park has a high season for winter enthusiasts and those after that perfect North American summer getaway. The first, is much quieter than it’s summer counterpart, but around the holidays prices rise and crowds flock to Banff. Those after a ski vacation visit Banff in February and ski runs become busier. During these two winter times, you’ll find higher prices on accommodation.

However, that’s nothing compared to summertime in Banff. Numbers balloon between June and August and while I would love to say that because of this it’s not a good time to visit I would be lying. July and August bring about the best weather in the park. Long days and sunshine await you during the summer. The wildflowers are in full bloom and it’s a great time for anyone looking for a summer adventure. However, the crowds can be a bit insane at Lake Louise, Peyto Lake, and Lake Moraine.


Shoulder Season (May, September-October)


The shoulder season months are still a wonderful time to visit Banff National Park. As mentioned May is still winter and there is still snow on the ground. The glacier lakes will be frozen, but the summer crowds have not appeared making it a great time to visit Banff.

If chasing the fall and seeing the yellow larches are your thing you’ll want to visit in September and October. After Labor Day the crowds start to fizzle out as the kiddies go back to school and summer vacations are over. Hiking is still great as the winter gods haven’t dumped snow yet.


Low Season (November, March, April) 


These are generally cold, cloudy, and what some may call “miserable” months. Unless you like the winter, snowboarding and skiing, ice skating, cross country skiing, snowshoeing and all that other fun stuff. If you’re a winter person this is time time to visit Banff. Low numbers of tourists, low prices, and plenty of snow!


Download AllTrails


If you plan to do any winter 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. It also runs to popular sites like Lake Louise and will easily get you to Lake Louise Ski Resort and Banff Sunshine Ski Resort.


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. Here’s my ultimate Banff packing list, but in short 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. In the winter you will also want microspikes.

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.

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