Banff Frequently Asked Questions

As you may have noticed this entire website is aimed at helping you visit Banff and the Canadian Rockies easier. We have spent years of our life exploring the Canadian Rockies, taking thousands of photos, and stayed up way too late writing to bring you our awesome website, The Banff Blog.

There are over 250 articles on this website to help you navigate Western Canada easier. We’re confident that somewhere on this website any question you may have is answered, but to help make it easier we’ve narrowed down our most frequently asked questions.

If you have more questions please leave a comment on this blog, join our private Facebook page, or find us on Instagram and we’ll be happy to answer it there! – Natasha and Cameron


FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT TRAVEL IN THE CANADIAN ROCKIES

1. What is Banff Known For?

Banff National Park is known for many things, but in general, it’s known for its extreme beauty.

The Town of Banff is the highest town in all of Canada, it is the oldest national park in Canada and the second oldest in North America, and the third oldest in the world!

Banff is famous for its bright blue lakes and endless beautiful mountains. We’ve traveled to over 85 countries, and still find the Canadian Rockies the prettiest place we have ever been.


Why is the Water so Blue in Banff?

Many of the lakes in Banff are a bright blue/turquoise color that almost seems too beautiful to be real.

These lakes are glacier-fed lakes caused by a natural phenomenon in glaciers.

The glaciers grind rock down into the rock flour which is then carried downstream into the lake.

This rock flour then refracts the light and gives off a vivid blue or teal color.

Some of the bluest lakes in Banff are Lake Louise, Moraine Lake, Peyto Lake, Sherbrooke Lake, Waterfowl Lakes, and Bow Lake.


What Mountain Range is Banff in?

Banff National Park is located in Canada’s Rocky Mountains. Banff is entirely located within the Canadian province of Alberta.

However in just a short drive, you can be in a different mountain range such as the Kootenays or the Purcells.


Why is Banff Important to Canada?

Banff is important to Canada for being Canada’s first national park. In addition, it is one of the most popular places in the entire country and plays an important role in tourism and for Parks Canada.

It’s a symbol of extreme beauty. Moraine Lake itself is perhaps the iconic symbol of Canada (seriously just Google “Canada” and see what comes up). The blue lake with the ten peaks in the background once even graced Canada’s twenty-dollar bill.


Why is Banff Called Banff?

Banff is named “Banff” after the Scottish town, Banffshire. As this is where the president of the Canadian Pacific Railway was from.

In 1930 the park was renamed from Rocky Mountains Park to Banff National Park.


Can You Stop in Banff Without a Parks Pass?

You can drive on the Trans-Canada freely without a Parks Canada Pass and stop for gas. However, if you stop in Banff for sightseeing or touring you must purchase a Parks Canada Pass. Adult day passes start at $10.

You’ll also need a Parks Canada pass for Jasper National Park, Yoho National Park, and Waterton National Park.

If you plan on spending more than a few days in the Canadian Rockies it’s probably worth it to get a Discovery Pass.

A Family pass (up to 7 people) costs $139.40 for the year while one adult pass costs $69.19 for the year. They are a fantastic value if you visit many Canadian National Parks.


Is There Cell Service in Banff?

There is cell service in Downtown Banff and at major tourist sights like Lake Louise, Vermilion Lakes, and Mt. Norquay.

However the further you go into the park the less likely you are to have cell coverage. If you plan on doing any hikes you should prepare to not have cell service. If you are driving on the Icefields Parkway you will have almost no cell coverage the entire drive.

A Garmin In-Reach can come in handy for these hikes in the backcountry.


Do I Need Bear Spray in Banff?

Bear Spray is essential if you plan on doing any hiking in Banff in the summer.

Even short hikes in Banff require bear spray as there are plenty of black bears and grizzly bears in the park. You can buy bear spray in any outdoor shop in Banff. Atmosphere sells bear spray for about $40.

You cannot fly on a plane with bear spray so it’s best to pick it up when you arrive.


Are There Grizzly Bears in Banff National Park?

Yes, there are grizzly bears and black bears in Banff. There are about 70 grizzly bears in Banff, but more can be found in Jasper and Kananaskis.

While there are plenty of bears in the Canadian Rockies, your chance of spotting one isn’t so great, especially if you aren’t planning on doing much hiking and sticking to the main Banff attractions.

Bears tend to stay away from large groups of people and lots of noise, so you’ll really only see them while hiking or in the woods. Though that’s not to say you won’t see them on the side of the road. We’ve even seen them in our backyard!

If you do see a bear on the side of the road please do not stop and pull over as this creates what we call a “bear jam,” and will soon have plenty of cars and tourists stopped in one spot, creating a traffic jam, and getting out of there cars to take selfies. If you spot a bear, slow down and take a quick photo if you want, but give the bear its space. If you make an animal move or change its path you are too close.

If you see a bear while hiking stop and remain calm, speak to the bear and let them know you are there, and know how to use Bear Spray just in case. See Parks Canada’s tips here.

It’s worth noting that we have been on hundreds of hikes and excursions in the Canadian Rockies and can count on two hands the number of times we have seen a bear. We have never even felt the need to use our bear spray.


What is the Best Month to Visit Banff?

The best month to visit Banff is typically summer, unless you are craving a winter adventure.

July and August are when you will see the best and warmest weather in Banff. September is also a great month if you are chasing the golden larch trees and fantastic fall weather.

Keep in mind that July and August are also the busiest times of the year, and is when prices will be sky high. Personally, September is my favorite time of year as I can still enjoy all the outdoor activities on offer without all the crowds.

If you are into ice skating, skiing, snowboarding, and snowshoeing the best time to visit Banff is in the winter from December to March.

If you are yearning for a proper white Christmas, there are few places as beautiful around the holidays as Banff.


How Cold Does it Get in Banff?

It gets quite cold in Banff at any time of year, but the coldest months in Banff are January and February. During this time temperatures can dip to -30°C, or even lower.

However the average temperature in the winter in Banff is -15°C. Things start to warm up come April, and by July and August, it’s the warmest you’ll see Banff with an average temperature of 24°C.

Though nighttime in the summer can still get quite cold with temperatures dropping below 10.°C. The good news is that because of the dryness in Banff and Alberta the cold temperatures can be more bearable than coastal weather that is similar. The bad news about that dryness is unfortunately wildfires in the summer months.


Should You Spend Christmas in Banff?

If you want a white Christmas filled with Christmas spirit and cheer, the Canadian Rockies are one of the best places to spend the holidays.

We love spending the month of December in “Christmasland.” The snow is plentiful, the cafes are warm and cozy, and there are fun caroling events around town. My favorite place to head to see the Christmas festivities is the Banff Springs Hotel, who take decorating to the max.


When Should You Avoid Visiting Banff?

Banff National Park is always beautiful, however the worst times to visit Banff, in my opinion, are during the shoulder months.

It’s recommended to avoid visiting Banff in April, May, and November as it’s not warm nor is it that beautiful winter wonderland you might expect either.

Most high elevation hikes still have significant snow, and are not ready to be tackled yet. The bright side is you can still ski and snowboard in April and November, and even May!

If you aren’t into winter activities biking is still a possibility in May, though April and November can get very cold.

One of my favorite things to do in November is go ice skating on all the frozen lakes.

The silver lining to all this is it’s mostly locals out and about during these months so things will be very quiet and accommodation prices will be lower.


Are there Mosquitoes in Banff?

There are mosquitos in Banff, but they often aren’t too bothersome. The worst months for mosquitos are July and August. Having bug spray, especially for any hiking or camping is important.


What Airport is the Best for Traveling Banff

The best airport to fly in and out of for Banff is Calgary International Airport (YYC). Calgary International Airport to Banff takes about one and a half hours to get to by car and is roughly 144 km, mostly along the Trans-Canada Highway.

Calgary is a great airport to fly in and out of with many direct flights to the United States and Europe. There are no airports that service Banff directly.


How Far is it from Calgary to Banff?

144 km from YYC to Downtown Banff. The best way to get to Banff from Calgary is with a car, however, it’s also possible to take the Banff Airporter or a private transfer to Banff.


Where Should I Stay in Banff National Park?

There are plenty of places to stay in Banff National Park at all different price points.

One of the best places to stay near the town of Banff is the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, alternatively, you can base yourself more in the wilderness at a beautiful Banff cabin.

It’s also possible to stay near Lake Louise. For a cheaper alternative consider staying in Canmore. We’ve answered all your accommodation questioned in the following posts:


How Expensive is a Trip to Banff?

A trip to Banff doesn’t have to be expensive, but in general, a trip to Banff averages about $100 CAD per person per day.

So for a one week trip the average cost of a trip to Banff is $700 for one person and $1400 for a couple. Prices can go up or down from here depending on the type of hotel, the season of visit, restaurant choices, and activities.

Although you’ll spend money on a rental car, food, and accommodation, most activities like hiking and enjoying the mountains are free!

See how to visit Banff inexpensively here.

Camping in Banff is a great way to save on accommodation, though the popular campsites book up well in advance so make sure to plan ahead.


Do I Need a Car in Banff?

A car is highly recommended for a visit to Banff and the Canadian Rockies in general. There are limited public transport options and Banff National Park is huge.

Having your own vehicle ensures you get to the sights you want to get to on your schedule. Though that’s not to say it’s impossible to visit Banff without a car. The ROAM public transport runs buses to the main sights and lakes, and there is plenty to do in downtown Banff. You can even rent a bike to get around!


Can I Fly a Drone in Banff?

Drones are not permitted in Banff National Park, Kananaskis Country, or any National Park.

They are not permitted at Moraine Lake, Lake Louise, Emerald Lake, or any other beautiful place you may be dying to get an epic Instagram shot.

Please do not try to break the rules and fly one in the park. They are a destruction to the natural settings of the Canadian Rockies and disrupt the wildlife, and they are an annoyance to other visitors of the park. I personally hate hearing the buzz of a drone in the Rockies, and know immediately when I hear one.

Anyone caught operating a drone within park boundaries and without an approved permit may result in a fine of up to $25,000. The only way to get an approved permit is if you are:

  • Natural or cultural resource management and protection
  • Public safety or Law enforcement
  • Park/site management purposes directly relating to park administrative purposes

I’ve seen plenty of drones in Banff and Kananaskis, and I have no problem telling the operator to take them down as I’m typically 99% sure they don’t have a commercial permit. I will ask nicely at first, but then I will report the drone to the park wardens via Banff Dispatch. 🙂


How Many Days Do You Need to Visit the Canadian Rockies?

A week is an ideal duration to visit Banff for your first time, although you can spend months here exploring.

A week in Banff will give you enough time to see the main sites and get out on a few outdoor adventures. Here is a great Banff itinerary.

If you have more time I would suggest driving the Icefields Parkway and exploring Jasper for three days at least.


How Many days do you Need to see Both Banff and Jasper?

If planning to visit both Banff and Jasper allow at least three days for Banff and three days for Jasper, however it’s recommended to allocate a total of 10 days between the two locations to get the most out of the Canadian Rockies parks.


How Far is Banff from Lake Louise?

It is just over 60 km to get from Downtown Banff to Lake Louise. The drive should take you around 45 minutes along the Trans Canada Highway.


Is There a Shuttle from Banff to Lake Louise?

There is a shuttle from Banff to Lake Louise on Roam Public Transit. It’s also possible to get from Lake Louise to Moraine Lake. In the winter you can take the free ski shuttle from the Town of Banff to Lake Louise Ski Resort.


Where are the Best Photo Spots in the Rockies?

Honestly anywhere you look is a great photo spot. The Canadian Rockies are so darn mesmerizing you won’t have trouble getting a great photo.

That being said there are some spots that photographers can’t miss. A few of those are:

Best Banff Photography Spots and How to Get To Them

What are Some of the Best Multi Day Treks?

The Rockies have some multi-day backcountry opportunities. My absolute favorites are Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park, Lake O’ Hara in Yoho, and the Berg Lake Trail near Jasper.

If you can score camping reservations around these sites book them right now and plan later.

Some of my other favorites are:

If you really want a fantastic and unique experience in Banff, book a 5-night backcountry horseback trip deep into the park. Seriously, our most memorable trip to date!


Can You See Northern Lights in Banff?

It is possible to see the Northern Lights in Banff from as early as September to April. However they shine the brightest from February to April.

You’ll need to watch for a dark and clear night to be able to see them. The best place to see the Northern Lights in Banff is away from town and in areas of the park that are away from light pollution. Lake Minnewanka, Castle Junction, and Peyto Lake are all fantastic spots to see the aurora borealis.


Is the Banff Gondola worth it?

If you are new to hiking or have mobility issues the Banff Gondola is definitely worth the price to get to the top of Sulphur Mountain.

The Banff Gondola provides easy and quick access to the summit of a mountain in Banff. The views from the top of Sulphur Mountain overlooking the town of Banff are amazing.


What Are the Best Things to do in Banff?

There are many amazing things to do in Banff to keep you entertained for a long time. Some of the best Banff attractions are Moraine Lake, Lake Louise, Vermilion Lakes, and Cascade Ponds.

Some of the best things to do in Banff in the winter are to go skiing at Banff Lake Louise Ski Resort, or Sunshine Village, enjoy a hot cocoa at the Lake Louise ice bar, and to go ice skating on one of the many frozen lakes.


What are the Best Hikes in Banff?

There are too many to name! Picking my favorite hike in Banff is like asking me to pick a favorite child, if I had a child. There are plenty of choose from depending on what you want.

One thing I love about Banff National Park is just how many hiking trails there are in the park.

If you are after an easy but classic hike go for Tunnel Mountain or Johnston Canyon. If you want something that is mid-range in difficulty consider the Beehives at Lake Louise. If you want to summit a mountain a classic hike is Mount Bourgeau.

If you want an awesome scramble consider Observation Peak or Mt. Jimmy Simpson. I could go on and on, so it’s best you just look at this post here.


Where Else is Good for Hiking?

Kananaskis Country has some fantastic hiking opportunities. I would say actually that about half my time in the summer is spent hiking in Kananaskis and half is spent in Banff.

There are so many fantastic hikes and scrambles in Kananaskis. A few of my favorites are Tent Ridge, Windtower, and Sarrail Ridge.


Where Else Should I Go in the Area?

Your trip shouldn’t just stop at Banff! Try to make time to visit the neighboring town of Canmore, there are some awesome things to do there and hikes to go on.

There’s also Yoho National Park which is home to Emerald Lake and Takakkaw Falls. If you want to stretch further you can venture to Golden in British Columbia, or Waterton Lakes.

I guess what I’m trying to say is – how much time do you have?


This or That in the Canadian Rockies

Is Banff Better in Summer or Winter?

Many think Banff is the most magical in the summer. There truly is no better place to spend a summer than in Banff National Park. The weather is perfect, the mountains are dry, and the lakes are bright blue.

However if you want guaranteed snow and a white Christmas you should consider visiting Banff in the winter. If you love ski touring, skiing at a resort, snowshoeing, ice skating, and anything winter you won’t be disappointed with a winter visit. Just make sure to pack warm clothes!


Should I Stay Banff or Canmore?

Both are great places to stay and there are fantastic places to stay in both Canmore and Banff. Canmore has slightly more affordable accommodation options and is closer to Kananaskis.

While staying in Banff means you are closer to Downtown Banff, Two Jack Lake, Lake Minnewanka, and sights like Johnston Canyon. See if Banff or Canmore is better for you here.


Is Banff or Jasper better?

Both parks are fantastic and deserve a visit. Jasper is the less-visited park, sees fewer crowds in the summer, and has many things to do. It has plenty of lakes to visit and the Jasper Skytram is a fun activity.

Banff has more lakes to visit and more hiking opportunities, especially for beginners. With more restaurants, hotels, and a livelier downtown area Banff is the town better catered to tourists.

Banff has more ski resorts in the winter, but Marmot Basin is a beloved hill. See which park is better for you.


Is it Better to Stay in Lake Louise or Banff?

Lake Louise has fewer places to stay than Banff. By staying at Lake Louise you are closer to sights like Lake Louise, Moraine Lake, Lake Louise Ski Resort and the start of the Icefields Parkway.

However you are giving up things like fantastic restaurants in Banff, plentiful hotel options, and being closer to the towns of Canmore and the Kananaskis Range. Perhaps a good option is to stay in the Town of Banff for a few days and add on two days at a Lake Louise hotel.


About Natasha

Natasha Alden lives in Canmore, Alberta. After traveling across six continents and 80 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.

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