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40 EPIC Things to do in Banff in Summer (2022 Summer Guide!)

40 EPIC Things to do in Banff in Summer (2022 Summer Guide!)

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When you think of Banff I bet you imagine snow-dusted streets and white-capped mountains, but did you know that according to locals summer is actually the best time to visit this pretty mountain town?! Yep, although winter in Banff is magical it’s in the summer that the town really comes alive!

For one, there are so many summer activities on offer in Banff like horseback riding, hiking, canoeing, and fishing. And secondly, it’s just so scenic here from May to September! Think bright blue lakes, wildflower-covered mountains, and the chance to spot wildlife like moose, coyotes, and bears!

In this blog post, I will share with you all the best summer activities in Banff as well as the best hikes and hotels. This guide is all you’ll need if you’re visiting Banff in the summer months!

About Visiting Banff in the Summer

The main street at Banff Town on a sunny day
Banff town is so beautiful in the summer months!

As I’ve mentioned, Banff is one of the best summer destinations in Canada, that’s because the weather is warm with average temperatures of 20 Celsius (68 Fahrenheit). July is the hottest month when daily temperatures can rise as high as 24 Celsius (75 Fahrenheit). But it never gets too humid here, thanks to the cool mountain air.

Funnily enough, during the summer is when the most rain falls in Banff with June being the wettest month, having 11 days of rainfall. Luckily, the rain is quite mild with just 1 mm of daily rainfall and there are plenty of fun things to do in Banff when it’s raining too.

What I love most about summer in Banff is the long daylight hours, meaning more time to pack your day with activities. The sun rises at 5:30 am in the summer and doesn’t set until 9:30 pm – that’s a whopping 16 hours of daylight!

Banff is an incredibly popular summer destination thanks to the phenomenal range of activities on offer during the warmer months like stand-up paddleboarding, rock climbing, canyoning, and more. Not forgetting that the best and most scenic hiking is on offer at this time too. Therefore, I recommend spending at least a full weekend here in the summer.

Things to do in Banff in Summer

1. Go horseback riding

woman on a horse in Banff National Park
Ready to head to the mountains!

One of the most memorable activities to do in Banff in the summer is to join a horseback riding tour through the beautiful Banff National Park. Imagine seeing all that incredible mountain scenery from horseback, there are several guided horse-riding tours available from Banff town varying in length and destinations.

This horse-riding tour is our favorite as you can choose to ride on horseback or in a western-style covered wagon! How cool! This 3-hour tour takes you along the Bow River and into the mountains. It also includes a delicious BBQ lunch, and before you eat you can try your hand at some ‘cowboy games’ like practicing your roping skills and playing horseshoes. It’s ideal for the whole family, but it’s worth noting that children must be over 8 years to ride a horse. Prices start from a reasonable $127 CAD per person.

This 3-hour horse-riding tour also follows along the Bow River but is most popular with couples. On your ride, you will pass by rock caverns and lakes before venturing onto the Sundance Canyon Trail, which is where you are likely to see lots of wildlife like beavers, elk, coyotes, and even bears! You can choose a number of different start times for this particular tour and prices start from $213 CAD.

Finally, and if time allows, why not consider this one-night, two-day tour that includes a night at a backcountry lodge! This tour allows you to get deep into the Rocky Mountains and you can take your time to take in the epic scenery. Your night will be spent at a cozy lodge with an open fire, here you can enjoy a delicious dinner with wine before a good night’s rest. On the second day, you will ride back into Banff. The tour includes all meals, a night’s accommodation and costs from $785 CAD.

2. Visit the Banff Farmers Market

Bailey walks through the Banff Farmers Market
There are so many vendors at the Banff Farmers Market.

Every Wednesday from May to the beginning of October (10 am to 6 pm) there is a Farmers Market in Banff Central Park. Here you can buy fresh fruit and produce, but also many other unique crafts and handmade gifts. It is truly where you will find the most unique souvenir from Banff, likely made by a Banff local!

There is also live music and a variety of food trucks. I had a gourmet grilled cheese sandwich and it was delicious! So, go for lunch or an early dinner and then sit in the park and eat while enjoying the music. Simple, but wonderful.

3. Visit Johnston Canyon

view of a bridge and waterfall at Johnston Canyon
This is an easy hike, but so beautiful!

Johnston Canyon is a great place to visit in Banff as it can be hiked on both a winter and summer itinerary in Banff. In fact, the canyon is completely different in each season so regardless if you’ve done it in one season before, you’re going to want to do it in the other.

At the canyon, the main trail people hike is to the lower and upper falls.

To the lower falls, it’s a 1.1 km walk along a relatively flat path that takes around 15 minutes to reach. If you’re heading to the upper falls, it’s another 1.5 km walk from the lower falls. For a return trip to the upper falls allow around 2 hours.

To reach the trailhead, you can drive o the parking lot and access the trial for free on your own. However, if you don’t have your own transport, you can book a tour instead. This bike and hiking tour is a great tour for those who want to combine a cycling experience with Johnston Canyon. Or if you just want transport, take the hop-on-hop-off bus that stops here. This will save the headache of trying to get a parking space, which can be especially difficult on the weekends in the summer.

4. Canoe on the river

whitewater rafting on the bow river
The beautiful Bow River is the perfect place to canoe!

What better way to enjoy Banff in the summer than from the water on this unique canoe adventure. Hop into a 12-seater Big Canoe as your guide takes you along the scenic Bow River and tells stories about the rich native history of the area.

Keep an eye out for bears, elk, and coyotes who are often foraging along the river’s edge, before ending with some light refreshments surrounded by beautiful mountain scenery. This interactive tour is great fun for the whole family. Plus, it’s short and sweet at just 1.5 hours and starts from Banff Canoe Club, and is great value-for-money at just $62 CAD.

5. Visit Lake Louise

A lady stands at the Lake Louise forshore
The stunning Lake Louise!

One of the most beautiful lakes in the area, if not all of Canada – Lake Louise is a short 40-minute drive from Banff via the Trans-Canada Highway. It’s the perfect choice for a day trip from Banff, especially in the summer when the water in the lake is at its bluest! Honestly, the photos don’t do it justice you just have to see how blue the water really is for yourself!

Because I lived in the Rockies for several years, I’ve been lucky enough to visit Lake Louise so many times. In fact, I’ve pretty much done all the best things to do in Lake Louise from canoeing on the lake to hiking one of the many awesome trails there.

The Lake Agnes Tea House Trail is one of my favorite hikes here. It begins at the lake’s edge and takes you well above Lake Louise, where you can glance down and see areas of the lake from afar. The Lake Agnes Tea House Trail is a somewhat challenging, but not technical, 7.3-kilometer (4.5-mile) return trail.

There are loads of delicious restaurants in Lake Louise including Bill Peyto’s Cafe and the Lake Louise Village Grill

But if you’re not familiar with Lake Louise it may be a good idea to book a guided tour of the lake. Like this 4-hour tour which includes a visit to nearby Moraine Lake too. On the tour, you will learn about the history of the area, and get the chance to take some photos at the Valley of Ten Peaks. This particular tour is only available to book between April and November and costs $95 CAD.

Alternatively, the Banff hop-on-hop-off bus includes a stop at Lake Louise as well as Johnston Canyon, Moraine Lake, and Samson Mall in the heart of Lake Louise Village. It’s a great option if you don’t want to drive there yourself but still want to have the freedom to explore the lake in your own time. A ticket for the bus costs $67 CAD and you can choose to stop at every stop along the way, or just choose a select few.

Honestly, the hop-on-hop-off bus is a great option in the busy summer months if you don’t want to deal with the hassle of getting parking. Getting parking at Lake Louise, Moraine Lake, and Johnston Canyon is such a headache, and in some cases, impossible. If you can’t get a spot you may be turned away to try and come back another day. At least with this bus, you’re guaranteed to get there to see the attractions!

Note: From June until mid-October, you’ll be required to pay $12.25 per vehicle per day to park at Lake Louise lakefront (2022 updated price). The paid parking is in effect from 7 am until 7 pm daily.  

Where to Stay in Lake Louise:

If your itinerary allows, do yourself a favor and stop for a least a night in Lake Louise. The only problem is sometimes it can be hard to find somewhere to stay in Lake Louise (hotels often book up well in advance.) But if you can, book a hotel in Lake Louise Village.

HI Lake Louise Alpine Centre is where I always stay. It is the cheapest option and has everything you’ll need for a comfortable, and central, stay.

If you’re looking for luxury, then you can splurge at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. It is an icon of the area and simply breathtaking, located on the edge of Lake Louise.

6. Enjoy sunrise at Moraine Lake

view of Moraine Lake from the rock pile
Beautiful turquoise waters of Moraine Lake.

One of the most epic free things to do in Banff in summer is to visit Moraine Lake. The lake has a bright turquoise color, and the surrounding mountains are nothing shy of amazing. There are plenty of amazing things to do at Moraine Lake, such as hiking, enjoying a coffee, or even going canoeing!

If you want to avoid the crowds, it’s best to visit Moraine Lake in the late afternoon. This is by far the least busy time. But sunrise is very popular for a reason. The way the sunrises, hitting the peaks of Moraine Lake first and lighting them up in a yellow glow is a sight to see. As the sun continues to rise it lights up the valley and glows off of the stunning blue water. It’s truly a magical time and a bucket list experience.

The best place to watch the sunrise is from a viewpoint called the Rock Pile. It’s only a short hike from the parking lot (300 meters) and to reach it jump on the Consolation Lakes trail until you hit a Y in the path. Here you’ll see a bench and a sign talking about bear safety. Take the trail to the right and follow it up to the Rock Pile.

Sunrise during the summer is around 6 am and if you plan on visiting then you’ll need to arrive at Moraine Lake around 5 am to get a parking spot.

Moraine Lake closes annually in October and doesn’t open again until the end of May, so it really is a summer-only activity in Banff.

Note: Getting parking at Moraine Lake is a huge challenge. Read our blog about parking at Moraine Lake for all of the info, or save yourself and book this hop-on-hop-off bus from Banff town that stops at Moraine Lake, Lake Louise, and Johnston Canyon!

7. Drive the Bow Valley Parkway

Bailey watches a train pass by at Morants Curve on the Bow Valley Parkway near Canmore
Morant’s Curve is one of the viewpoints on the Bow Valley Parkway

I touched on Lake Louise briefly earlier but neglected to mention the amazing drive you’ll encounter to get there. The drive between Lake Louise and Banff is really special.

Along your road trip, I suggest you take a slight detour and drive the Bow Valley Parkway to get there. The Bow Valley Parkway is a highway that stretches between Banff and Lake Louise and is one of the most spectacular in Canada. The 50-kilometer-long highway takes around 1 hour to drive without stopping but allowing half a day is recommended.

Some of the best places to check out on the Bow Valley Parkway include:

Castle Mountain Viewpoint – Castle Mountain is one of those mountains you simply can’t miss. At the roadside viewpoint, you get amazing views. However, those who want a closer look can hike 6.5 km (4 miles) out and back to the viewpoint.

Morant’s Curve – This is my favorite place to photograph on the Bow Valley Parkway. Morant’s Curve is a famous viewpoint (pictured above) in the Bow Valley, where the train passes through the valley. It’s stunning and a must-visit!

Moose Meadows – Moose Meadows isn’t home to many moose these days, but it’s a nice place to stop with spectacular views.

Baker Creek Mountain Resort – Looking for a beautiful cabin getaway? Baker Creek Mountain Resort is the perfect place to stay on the Bow Valley Parkway. Choose a romantic Jacuzzi Suite for couples or a one-bedroom loft for families!

Note: There will be some closures to vehicle traffic on sections of the Bow Valley Parkway this year (2022). From May 1-June 30 and then again from Sept 1-Sept 30 vehicles will NOT be able to drive the 17km stretch of road from the TransCanada-Highway junction to Johnston Canyon, it will be restricted to cyclists’ use only. This is the eastern part of the road. You will still be able to access Johnston Canyon and the Bow Valley Parkway via the intersection near Castle Mountain Chalets.

8. Go canyoning

Definitely an activity for the more adventurous traveler – why not consider trying the thrilling sport of canyoning in the heart of the Canadian Rockies.

If you’ve never tried canyoning before, this 4-5 hour tour is perfect for you. You will be taken to Heart Creek Canyon, which is the closest canyoning site to Banff, where you can learn and improve on your rope rappelling. On the tour, you will start with shorter height distances before tackling the 60 feet waterfall rappel and slide! Test your adrenalin on this tour which costs from $184 CAD.

If you have previous experience at canyoning and are ideally at an intermediate level then this 7-hour tour is amazing. The tour takes place near Jasper National Park, and you will have between 4-5 hours in the canyons – rappeling across no less than 8 rappels! All safety equipment and wetsuits are included (you will get wet on this tour!) Prices start from $244 CAD.

9. Enjoy patio drinks on Banff Ave

Drinking beer and eating at Banff Ave Brewing
Nachos and beer is their a better combo?!

A great way to enjoy the beautiful summer weather is to grab an afternoon drink at one of the patios on Banff Avenue. Or even better, visit for sunset when the surrounding mountains are bathed in a pink glow. So pretty! Just remember that sunset in Banff in the summer is as late as 10 pm!

There are a couple of bars/restaurants with patios on Banff Avenue. One of my favorites is the Rose & Crown at 202 Banff Ave where their large rooftop patio (4 stories high) has awesome views of Cascade Mountain. Downstairs in the main bar, there’s live music most nights during the summer and they also serve an extensive food menu with burgers, sandwiches, pizzas, and more. Plus, with happy hour happening daily from 3-6 pm, there’s no better place for an afternoon drink.

Another option is the local favorite Elk & Oarsman on 119 Banff Avenue. It has an awesome rooftop patio with 360-degree views of the town and mountains. It’s a popular sports bar so if you’ve got a game to watch they’re likely to be showing it!

If you want a side of steak with your view, pop on down to Chuck’s Steakhouse at 101 Banff Avenue, where you can enjoy a delicious meal on their outdoor patio. This is less of a bar and more of a restaurant, but worth of visit if you’re looking for a good meal.

Finally, I just have to mention Banff Ave. Brewing Co. because I just love a good craft beer and this is what these guys excel at. Enjoy a pale ale, IPA, pilsener, and other awesome varieties from their patio. They also serve a varied food menu with salads, sandwiches, and other snacks on offer. This is a great place to meet people in Banff!

10. Go fishing

Banff National Park is known in the fishing world as one of the best places to catch brown trout, particularly in the Bow River which runs through the park. Other fish caught in abundance here include rainbow trout, brook trout, lake trout, mountain whitefish, and lake whitefish.

It helps too that it’s one of the most scenic locations in the world to fish, and so it attracts a large number of fishermen, particularly during the summer.

A little over 15 minutes from Banff is Lake Minnewanka, the largest lake in Banff National Park. It’s another popular fishing spot for lake trout anglers from around the world.

You can book a full-day or half-day guided fly fishing trip from Banff and this includes all equipment, transportation, and an experienced guide.

It’s important to note that a national park fishing permit is needed to fish anywhere in Banff National Park, these can be purchased from the park’s visitor center.

Related Read: It’s worth noting that you can go ice-fishing in Banff during the winter months.

11. Explore Lake Minnewanka

The views of the mountains on a Lake Minnewanka Cruise near Banff
The views of the mountains on a Lake Minnewanka Cruise near Banff

The lakes in Banff National Park are really some of the most beautiful places to visit. Lake Minnewanka is no different and everyone who comes to Banff to get amazing photos should visit.

Lake Minnewanka is located only 15 minutes from Banff town and is most famous for the Lake Minnewanka cruise. I’ve personally done the cruise and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Lasting for around one hour, the cruise takes you to the other side of the lake while your guide explains all about Lake Minnewanka’s history and some other interesting facts. Of course, the cruise is only available in summer as the lake freezes in winter!

With that said, you don’t need to do the cruise to enjoy the views. From the edge of the lake, you can stare out at the surrounding mountains and even take a short hike. If you want to really stretch your legs and get some great photos then consider hiking the Lake Minnewanka Lakeside Trail. The trail is 16 kilometers out and back and is a great free way to enjoy spectacular views without paying for the cruise.

12. Enjoy Two Jack Lake

A lady poses for a photo at Two Jack Lake in Banff National Park
Two Jack Lake is so gorgeous in the summer!

Two Jack Lake is one of the most popular lakes to enjoy near Banff in the summertime. With the warmer days, it’s the perfect place to cool off and even have a few drinks.

At Two Jack Lake, you’ll find a large day-use area complete with picnic benches and mountain views. Stop at the day-use area, catch spectacular views of Mt Rundle, and continue onto Lake Minnewanaka (Two Jack Lake is located along the road to Lake Minnewanka.)

If you want, there are also two large campgrounds at Two Jack Lake. The campsites usually book up months in advance, but if you can snag a spot (like we did last year), then you’ll love camping here. Often if you visit mid-week and only need to stay for one night you can get lucky with a cancellation.

Two Jack Lakeside Campground is my personal favorite since it offers views of the lake. You have to sleep somewhere, right? And this is definitely one of the more affordable options.

13. Drive the Icefields Parkways

Views along the Icefields Parkway between Jasper and Lake Louise in Canada
This is seriously the most beautiful highway in the world!

A great day-trip option from Banff is to drive the famed Icefields Parkway which was voted as one of the top 10 most spectacular road trips in the world. This 230-kilometer (143-mile) stretch of road is breathtaking and making this trip should be at the top of your Banff bucket list. I should note that it’s about a 3.5-hour drive from Banff town to the end of the Icefields Parkway in Jasper, so this is a full-day (or multi-day)_ activity.

To reach the Icefields Parkway from Banff, head out and turn left onto the Trans Canada highway and continue straight until you pass through Lake Louise. After this, you’ll reach a fork in the road and the Icefields Parkway is on the right-hand side. To drive this highway you’ll need a valid Canada Parks Pass, regardless if you plan on stopping or not. Once you pass the boom gates it’s time to enjoy the most scenic drive in the world!

The Icefields Parkway can be driven all year round, but it’s best explored in the summer because it’s subject to closures in winter. Also in winter, the Athabasca Glacier tours don’t run and the Columbia Icefield Skywalk is not open. I’ll be detailing more about these awesome tours below.

Important Info: There are limited services along the Icefields Parkway. Fill up with gas in Banff before you leave (to avoid paying a ridiculous amount for gas) and bring a couple of snacks and water with you.

If you’d prefer not to drive there yourself from Banff then this full-day guided small-group tour is perfect. Hop onboard a comfortable coach for this 9-hour day, which includes stops at some of the best attractions outside of Banff town including Bow Falls, Lake Louise, Moraine Lake, and of course the Icefields Parkway. This particular tour is limited to 15 people which means you will be getting a personalized experience, it costs from $179 CAD per person.

14. Visit Athabasca Glacier

on the athabasca glacier
Dan, getting out of this massive truck to walk on the Athabasca Glacier!

Of course, as mentioned above you should drive the entire Icefields Parkway to Jasper but make sure to stop at the Athabasca Glacier on the way. This massive glacier is part of the Columbia Icefield which is one of the largest icefields in the world.

At the glacier, you can drive to a car parking lot and hike to a viewpoint of the glacier – but for an extra special experience, you must do the Athabasca Glacier Ice Explorer Tour. Here you get bused to a station near the glacier where you board an “Ice Explorer”. It’s basically a specially built bus with massive tires on it that they actually use in Antarctica!

Once on the bus, you’ll dive out onto the glacier where you’ll get some free time to explore. Of course, you must stay in the exclusion zone as there are deep crevasses and dangerous areas around! The entire experience is amazing and if you’ve never walked on a glacier before this is a must-do on your Banff itinerary. Tours on the glacier cost $103 CAD and take around 2 hours to complete.

For something more adventurous, do this hiking tour on the glacier. It is a 10-km guided hike that’ll have you exploring parts of the glacier that most don’t.

Alternatively, if you don’t want to drive to the Glacier from Banff you can book this full-day guided tour from Banff which includes all transportation as well as the Glacier Skywalk (more on that below), the Ice Explorer Tour bus, and a picnic lunch. This is a long day – at 11 hours, so keep that in mind. At least on a tour, you can relax on the bus and not have to worry about driving. This particular tour costs $290 CAD per person.

15. Check out the iconic glacier Skywalk

the skywalk near banff and jasper
That platform on the left, that’s the Skywalk!

Just down the road from the Athabasca Glacier and the Columbia Icefield Discovery Center is the Skywalk. The Skywalk is a structure with a glass floor that hangs off the edge of a mountain almost like a weightless bridge.  

It’s a pretty impressive structure that is said to be an engineering feat so strong that it would hold a 747 airplane.  

I must admit, it is a little nerve-racking walking out onto the glass floor, but it is also pretty neat too! The views from out on the Skywalk are really amazing.  

If you want to walk on the Skywalk you’ll have to buy your ticket from the Columbia Icefield Discovery Centre, or better yet, book online in advance to secure your spot. From the Discovery Centre, they will actually put you on a bus and take you to the Skywalk (because there is no public parking available at the Skywalk) where you’ll be given headphones for an included audio tour. When you’re ready to leave, you just jump back on the bus where they’ll take you back to the Discovery Center.  

A good option if you don’t have a car or if you don’t feel comfortable driving the two hours here from Banff is this full-day tour which departs from Banff. This 11-hour tour is lengthy and includes stops at Lake Louise, Crowfoot Glacier, and Peyto Glacier before joining the Ice Explorer bus through the Icefields. Of course, access to the Skywalk is included too!

A buffet lunch is provided too, and prices start from $295 CAD per person, which I personally think is great value considering all that’s included!

16. Ride the Banff Gondola

view from the platform at the top of the banff gondola in summer
At the top of the gondola you can enjoy the view from the boardwalk.

At the top of Sulphur Mountain, you get arguably the most spectacular view of Banff town and the surrounding Mountains. Seriously, it’s a 360-degree view that gets better every time I go!

The easiest way to the top is to take the famous Banff Gondola. With it, you can give your legs a break and enjoy a 10-minute ride up the side of a mountain.

Once you get to the top, you can enjoy the views inside from the various viewing areas. There is also a restaurant, the Sky Bistro, where you can have a meal or drink with a view. Other things to do at the top of Sulphur Mountain include visiting the Banff Interpretive Centre, going to Above Banff Theatre (free with your gondola ticket), getting a coffee at Castle Mountain Coffee, or just growing the gift shop.

Get outdoors and explore the large boardwalk too. It takes you to different viewpoints and on a clear summer day, I’m sure that you’ll be impressed.

The Banff Gondola hours of operation are 10 am to 9 pm in the summer months.

17. Golf!

view of Banff Springs Golf Course from above
The golf course from above!

The Fairmont Banff Springs Golf Course is located next to Fairmont Banff Spring Resort, one of the best luxury hotels in Banff. The course is known for its panoramic beauty! This course’s captivating, yet challenging layout draws in professionals and amateurs alike.

The magic of this course is you get breathtaking views of the Rocky Mountains in every direction. Honestly, it’s hard to even be mad if you’re not doing well with views like that!

You can play 18-holes for $75 CAD, plus tax, or 9-holes for $50 CAD, plus tax. All rates include a shared power cart (unless otherwise noted), use of the driving range and practice facility prior to your round, and a sleeve of Banff Springs logo golf balls. The golf course is typically open from early to mid-May to October.

In the town of Canmore, just a 20-minute drive away there are no less than 6 world-class golf courses that golfers from all over the world come to play at. The Silvertip Golf Resort offers a 7,173-yard course complimented by spectacular mountain scenery. Another great course here is the Stewart Creek Golf and Country Club which has an 18-hole Audubon-certified course, a putting green, a driving range, and a fantastic clubhouse.

It’s safe to say that Banff and area is a popular destination for those looking to golf this summer.

18. Do the Sulphur Mountain Highline Trek

view of Banff town from the top of the Sulphur Mountain Highline Trek
Just look at the view!

A less-visited hike in the region, the Sulphur Mountain Highline hike is truly unique. It starts from the top of the Banff Gondola and is rated as difficult due to the high elevation gain of 756 meters and the variation in terrain – think scree slopes, and scrambling over limestone slabs.

The trail is 10.9 kilometers/6.7 miles in length and will take most people about 4.5 hours to complete. It’s safest to complete this hike in the summer months (from June to September) when the ice is melted. Along the hike, you will be treated to epic scenery like the Sundance mountain range, Mount Assiniboine, and Banff town.

What’s good about this hike too is that you have to hop on Banff’s number one tourist attraction – the Banff Gondola to reach the starting point, so you’re combining two awesome activities. The views on the gondola ride up are unsurpassed with 360-degree views of the mountains.

To ensure you successfully complete this challenging hike, why not book on a guided hike with an experienced guide who will help you along the trail as well as dish out interesting facts about the environment up here. The gondola ticket is included in the price, which starts at $256 CAD per person. Allow 6.5 hours for this particular tour.

19. Spot wildlife

A bear eats grass at the Bow Lake viewpoint
We were so lucky to see this grizzly at the Bow Lake viewpoint!

Go in search of the elusive grizzly bear here in Banff, I will admit, they are hard to find but you have a much greater chance of success during the summer months.

Would you believe that a male grizzly can weigh up to 360 kg – when they’re that big it makes you wonder why they’re so hard to find. But despite their scary appearance, they are quite shy and typically stay far away from anywhere there are people.

To better your chance of success, why not book on this 10-hour guided tour which takes you deep into Banff and Yoho National Park with an experienced guide who knows all the best spots to view these giant creatures. The tour also includes a gondola ride up Kicking Horse Mountain where you can enjoy lunch at the highest restaurant in the country, up here too is the world’s largest grizzly enclosure where you can get up close to ‘Boo’ the resident bear, who was brought here as a cub. This tour into grizzly country costs from $247 CAD per person.

Note: If you’re already planning on visiting Golden, skip the above-mentioned tour and ride the gondola on your own.

Related Read: Riding the Kicking Horse Mountain gondola is one of the best things to do in Golden, BC.

20. Go on a food tour at the Fairmont

In the famed Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, there are no less than six restaurants! And on this foodie tour, you will be taken to four of them including the Vermillion Room, Stock Food and Drink, Grapes, and 1888 Chop House.

Taste the best dishes from each restaurant, each meal will be paired with a complimentary beverage, and learn all about the history of this iconic hotel from your guide. Allow 2.5 hours for this indulgent tour, prices for this start from $200 CAD, and all food and drinks are included.

21. Try rock climbing or Via Ferrata

Via Ferrata in Whistler, Canada
Via Ferrata is a good option for those who aren’t confident rock climbers.

There are some really great places to go rock climbing in and around Banff. If you’re an experienced rock climber, you can rent gear in town and then try it out on your own. Otherwise, for those a little less confident, be sure to join a tour where an experienced rock climbing guide can teach you all of the ropes (no pun intended!).

On this beginner tour, you will be shown all about rope safety, overhead hazard recognition, climbing techniques, rappelling, and some more advanced topics too! It’s a small group tour and is suitable for all skill levels and at the end of the 7-hour tour, even beginners will be able to climb up the wall!

To be honest, rock climbing is a bit too extreme for me. The combination of strength and heights just sounds terrifying to me personally so it isn’t something I go for.

Instead, I like to do Via Ferrata. It is an easier version of rock climbing where you still climb but are assisted with ladders and iron bars along the way. Via Ferrata is safer and easier to get up higher with less experience and effort.

I highly recommend this Via Ferrata tour in Banff for anyone who isn’t completely sold on rock climbing just quite yet! It is sure to be exciting but suitable for those even with zero experience!

22. Heart Mountain Horseshoe Loop

One of the viewpoints on the Heart Mountain Hike just outside of Canmore, AB on a beautiful sunny day.
This is a beautiful hike!

The challenging but rewarding Heart Mountain Hike/Horseshoe Trail starts just 30 minutes from Banff and it offers some pretty spectacular viewpoints, including, three mountain summits. It’s rated as difficult and is great practice for beginner scramblers.

The full Heart Mountain Horseshoe Loop is 13.5 kilometers/8.4 miles in length and climbs over 1000 meters in elevation. What makes the trail so hard is the technical climbing/scrambling required on one side of the trail. To get to the summit you need to climb up steep rock faces and short vertical climbs. It’s important to mention that, without proper knowledge of the trail, it can be easy to get off the trail and lose the markers.

The trail can be hiked as a loop track, or if you’re short on time as an out and back trail. The out and back trail is 2.8 kilometers each way and involves hiking the counter-clockwise side up and back down. It is a shorter climb and you only summit one mountain, however, getting down this steep section is technical, and in my opinion, quite dangerous.

Only hikers with some experience should consider hiking the trail and those afraid of heights should either steer clear or hike with experienced hikers. Also, you should avoid this trail on days with high winds or any rain as the rocks can become dangerously slippery.

This 7-hour private hiking tour is ideal if you’re lacking the confidence to complete this tough climb and you have a good level of fitness. Your guide will help you on the steep terrain as well as teach you basic scrambling techniques. The tour costs $119 CAD per person, and you will need to make your own way to the starting point (at Heart Mountain car park, off of Highway 1)

23. Hike in Sunshine Meadows

one of the lakes in Sunshine Meadows on a cloudy summer day, Banff National Park
One of the lakes you can check out in Sunshine Meadows.

This is the best day hike in Canada according to Lonely Planet, and so as you can imagine the Sunshine Meadows hike is extremely popular in the summer months.

To get to the start of this trail you need to hop on the Sunshine gondola, a 20-minute drive from Banff, and from there get the Standish Chairlift to the starting point. The scenery all along this trail is beautiful, with alpine meadows and wildflowers in abundance. You are also highly likely to spot lots of native wildlife like bears, moose, and elk!

The entire trail is 6.6 kilometers/4.1 miles and will take most people about 3 hours to complete. It’s an easy hike and suitable for all the family provided they have a reasonable level of fitness!

You can do this hike on your own or book a guided tour, which is about 5-7 hours in duration. Pick-up from your hotel in Banff is included in the price, and so too are the tickets for the gondola and chairlift as well as a picnic lunch. Your knowledgeable guide will also tell you all about the unique alpine ecology on the trail. This particular tour costs from $137 CAD per person.

For those you want a really special experience, book a couple of nights at the hotel in Sunshine Village, the Sunshine Mountain Lodge. This hotel is surrounded by panoramic mountain views and right from your hotel you can access the incredible hiking trails.

24. Vermillion Lakes Scenic Drive

Vermillion Lakes Banff
These lakes are only a couple of minutes from town!

Only a 5-minute drive from Banff town is the Vermilion Lakes Scenic Drive. This 4.3km-long (2.7 miles) stretch of road winds its way along the edges of a couple of very gorgeous and calm lakes. When they aren’t frozen, the lakes reflect the mountains behind them almost perfectly.

The best place to go for photos is right at the end of Vermilion Lakes Road. Here, the water is protected from the wind, and the views are stunning.

My tip is to go at sunset. Take a beverage and sit back and enjoy the views. Can you imagine a more beautiful free activity so close to Banff town!?

25. Visit one of the many amazing cafes in Banff

Good Earth Cafe Banff
Enjoy a coffee with a 5-star view! Photo credit: Good Earth Cafe Banff

There are so many coffee shops in Banff to choose from – you’ll find something for every taste and preference. I’ve listed three of my favorites below:

Wild Flour Bakery is a local favorite in Banff and one of the best downtown cafes. They have been around since the late 1800s and their rich history is well known in Banff. This little cafe is a must-visit for any breakfast lover. For one, their coffee is brewed professionally and each cup looks as good as it tastes. You can also get fresh juices if coffee isn’t your thing.

Whitebark Cafe is the perfect destination for anyone who wants a delicious meal and an enjoyable atmosphere. They have an excellent selection of teas, both hot and cold; light fare; and even offer wine! The coffee is good and needs no introduction since it’s sourced from Moja Coffee – one of the best in Canada. The best part about this cafe, though, is their sausage rolls- they’re legendary among all who’ve tried them!

Evelyn’s Coffee Bar is not just a place for coffee lovers. They offer everything that every cafe guest could ask for – both traditional drinks as well as other options such as light bites, sandwiches, Rice Krispie treats, Salmon Bagels, and even homemade soup! The best part is, Evelyn’s Coffee Bar is located on Banff Ave in the heart of town. In fact, you’ll find them next to Park Distillery, one of the best distilleries in Banff.

26. Day trip to Canmore

Viewpoint of Grassi Lakes
View of one of the Grassi Lakes.

Canmore is one of Canada’s best mountainside tourist destinations. Located just over 20 minutes from Banff, there’s no shortage of enjoyable and thrilling things to do in Canmore. So, why not make a half-day or even a full day of it and drive the short distance to Canmore from Banff!

Canmore is another town that attracts outdoor lovers, with many coming to town to kayak, canoe, and rock climb.

This bustling town’s streets are filled with cute cafes, gourmet restaurants, and of course, boutique shops. Wander 8 Street (Mainstreet) to enjoy mountain views and all of the local businesses at the same time. Stop in at the Grizzly Pay, one of the best breweries in Canmore, for a beer and a burger – so delicious!

In the summer, spend a few hours hiking, there are lots of awesome trails just outside of town. Grassi Lakes is one of the best hikes in Canmore. Just a 5-minute drive from Canmore town you will arrive at the trailhead. It’s a 4 km (2.5 miles) trail that takes most around 2 hours to complete. You’ll love this trail because it’s family-friendly, great for hikers of all skill levels, and you get to explore some of the brightest-colored lakes you’ve ever seen!

2022 Update: Grassi Lakes is currently closed for trail maintenance. You can find more info here. In the meantime, check out our blog about the best hikes in Canmore to choose an alternative trail.

27. Wander the Cascade Gardens

Cascade Mountain as seen from Cascades of Time Gardens at Banff National Park with the historic Parks Canada admin building in the foreground.
I think this picture adequately shows why this activity made the list!

The Cascade Gardens are within walking distance from Banff Ave and the perfect activity for a tranquil afternoon. It features landscaped paths, terraced gardens, and multiple gazebos and sitting areas.

There are several varieties of trees and flowers. Peak blooming season runs from late May to early September. If you come later in the month, and miss the peak bloom, do not fret. I can assure you the fall foilage makes up for the lack of flowers!

Not only are the gardens free, but you can also visit the Parks Canada Administrative Office for some interactive exhibits about Canada’s land and people. The garden is actually tucked behind the office, so checking out both is pretty convenient!

28. Go camping!

woman at a campsite at Two Jacks Lakeside in Banff National Park
Just camping at Two Jacks Lakeside – our favorite campground in Banff National Park.

If you’re on a budget you can still enjoy Banff without breaking the bank! One of the best ways to save money is to go camping instead of booking a pricey hotel! There are a few different campgrounds located within Banff National Park and a lot of them are very close to Banff Town.

Tunnel Mountain is just a 5-minute drive from Banff and is the closest campground to town. It has powered RV sites as well as sites suitable for tenting. Book this well in advance, as sites book up very quickly during the summer.

You’ll also find a large campground at Two Jacks Lake. Although a short drive from town, this location is peaceful and beautiful.

All campgrounds in Banff National Park are managed by Parks Canada. Expect to pay around $30 CAD per night depending on the campground and facilities.

Hot Tip: When I say these campgrounds book out quick, I mean it! You should plan to be online the minute bookings open to secure your site. Bookings for the summer generally open in the late winter or spring, but this date changes every year so be sure to follow up on it.

29. Party the night away

Partying in Banff town is a great thing to do in Banff!
At the Irish pub!

Because Banff attracts tourists from all over the world, it’s a great place to meet new people. And what better way to meet like-minded people than to party at one of the many bars on Banff Ave.

Start your night at either Tommy’s Neighborhood Pub or Banff Ave Brewing. Both offer a social yet relaxed atmosphere perfect for pre-drinks and this is likely where you’ll find most of the party crowd. Afterward (from 10 pm onwards), join the locals at the Dancing Sasquatch to party the rest of the night away. Or for a more unique late-night option head to High Rollers, where they have a 10 pin bowling alley and a whopping 48 beers on tap!

I should mention the Rose and Crown is another favorite of mine because they often have live music. But it’s most suitable for late afternoon/ early evening drinks, in my opinion.

For those who like a more upscale bar, the Juniper Bistro is a top choice.

30. Day trip to the Kananaskis

Bailey poses for a photo at Upper Kananaskis Lake
Me at Upper Kananaskis Lake!

If your itinerary allows why not spend the day or even a night in Kananaskis Village. I highly recommend spending the night at The Crosswater Resort here. It is ideal for families with a large indoor pool area. You’ll also have preferential access to the Kananaskis Nordic Spa if you stay at the resort. Their innovative hydrotherapy treatments at the spa featured getting into a series of hot and cold pools while taking in the views of the mountains. This is a really fun stay for the entire family!

If you get the opportunity to do some hiking while you’re in the area, be sure to do Troll Falls. It’s my favorite hike, partially because of the stunning waterfall at the end. The waterfall is beautiful no matter the season you do the hike. The hike is around 3.2 km (2.1 miles) round-trip.

Drive down to Upper Kananaskis Lake for an impressive view! Walk the trail around the lake for an easy, but beautiful walk.

Important note: A Conservation Pass is required for any vehicles stopping in parks or public places in Kananaskis Country and the Bow Valley Corridor. A daily pass costs $15 CAD and may be purchased online or at any Kananaskis Visitor Information Center.

31. Bicycling

bicycles for rent on Banff Ave
Bicycle rentals are cheap in Banff!

One of the best things to do in Banff in the summer months is bicycling. You can choose to go mountain biking or just go for a leisurely ride along some of the paved paths around town.

For mountain biking, check out Tunnel Bench Loop and Goat Creek. The Tunnel Bench Loop is an easy track on Tunnel Mountain, it features lovely views of the Cascade River Valley and Cascade Mountain. The total track is 9.6 kilometers/6 miles and is easy for the most part besides an uphill section towards the end. While the Goat Creek trail is a lot longer at 18.6 kilometers/11.5 miles and has quite the elevation gain (604 meters). It will take most mountain bikers about six hours to complete. It’s quite a popular track, especially in the summer, so get here early to avoid the crowds.

For a nice leisurely ride, consider doing the Legacy Trail. This 23-kilometer-long trail is mostly paved and flat. It connects Banff with Canmore and is a popular route. The trail was finished in 2010 to coincide with the 125th anniversary of Banff National Park.

A great family-friendly trail is the Sundance Trail which starts from the Cave and Basin Historic Site. This 3.7-kilometer/2.3 mile-long trail is paced and follows along the scenic Bow River before climbing up to a pretty picnic area.

You can rent bikes from various shops around Banff for as little as $13 CAD/hour. Try Banff Cycle at the train station and Banff Soul on Bear Street. The bicycle rental shops can give you up-to-date information on trail conditions and where you should go based on your experience level.

32. Hike Tunnel Mountain

view from Tunnel Mountain Trail overlooking Banff town and the Bow Valley
Check out that view!

One of the most popular easy hikes in Banff is the Tunnel Mountain Trail. This short 4.5-kilometer hike takes you from Banff town up Tunnel Mountain to a viewpoint over the town and valley.

The views are something out of a postcard and this trail is perfect for everyone with a reasonable level of fitness. In fact, as the smallest mountain in the area, the climb is only 300 meters in elevation.

33. Visit Kootenay National Park

Stanley Glacier, Kootenay National Park
Stanley Glacier in Kootenay National Park

Just under a 30-minute drive from Banff is Kootenay National Park, an area that is home to the Rockies, Kootenay, and Park mountain ranges as well as the Kootenay and Vermillion River. It covers a huge area of 1,406 square kilometers, so it’s best to allow several hours or even a full day to explore the scenic Kootenay National Park!

This full-day tour to Kootenay National Park departs from Banff and includes two self-guided hikes, stops at scenic viewpoints of Vermillion Mountain and Mitchell Mountain, and an optional visit to the Radium Hot Springs. This guided tour is 10 hours in length and costs from $180 CAD per person.

Or, if you would rather explore on your own, there are some fun things to do in Kootenay National Park. One of the best hikes is the short 1.6 kilometer/1 mile Marble Canyon trail which will take about 30 minutes to complete. You will cross no less than seven bridges along this easy trail, all of which look down into the limestone canyon. You can access the trail from the car park here, which is just off the Banff-Windermere Parkway.

Another scenic hike within Kootenay National Park is the 10-kilometer/6.2-mile Stanley Glacier hike, which will take a minimum of 3 hours to complete. It’s rated as moderate, and although the beginning of the trail is pretty easy the final section is an uneven track that involves walking on loose rocks – so a reasonable level of fitness is recommended. There’s incredibly photogenic alpine scenery for most of the trail, with the views of the Kootenay Valley being my favorite.

There’s a small town within the Kootenays, aptly named Radium Hot Springs after the famed hot springs outside of town. The Springs are just 3 kilometers from the town and are essentially man-made pools fed by natural spring waters. You can jump right into the cool pool to take a swim, or just relax and warm up in the hot pool. The hot springs are open year-round and because they are owned by Parks Canada, the cost is kept low at about $8 CAD. You can even purchase a punch pass and go multiple times!

Related Read: If you have time on your itinerary why not consider spending the night in Radium Hot Springs, I’ve put together a list of the best airbnb’s in Radium Hot Springs that I’m sure you’ll love.

34. Soak in the Banff Upper Hot Springs

The Banff Upper Hot Springs during winter
The Banff Upper Hot Springs!

Just a short 5-minute drive up Sulphur Mountain you’ll find the Banff Upper Hot Springs, a public hot spring with incredible mountain views!

Summer is the perfect time to visit the Banff Upper Hot Springs. One of the things I love most about the Banff Hot Springs is how accessible they are for everyone. The hot springs are easy to get to (only a couple of minutes from the center of town) and very affordable. At only $9.25 CAD per adult and $29.00 for a family, even those on a tight budget can enjoy one of the best Banff attractions.

These hot springs can get very busy though. If you want to visit with fewer people, I recommend going later on in the evening when all of the tour groups have left. The Banff Hot Springs are open until 10 pm (11 pm during the summer), the later you go the fewer people will be there!

35. Check out the Banff Hoodoos

A lady poses for a photo at the Banff Hoodoos
Can you spot the hoodoos?

It wasn’t until my 6th visit to Banff that I discovered the park had its own hoodoos! They manage to fly slightly under the radar with tourists, which is such a shame. While the hoodoos themselves aren’t the most spectacular, the views from the short, easy trail make this the perfect activity in Banff in the summer, you won’t want to skip.

You can reach the hoodoos either by driving up to the parking lot on Tunnel Mountain Road or by hiking from Suprise Corner.

If you do the first option (which is what I usually do), it’s just a 10-minute walk to the viewpoint, at which point you can turn around and head back. If you do the latter, the entire trail is actually a loop that you can start and end in Banff town.

However, if you complete the loop, this means that you would need to walk back on Tunnel Mountain Road (not the most beautiful way to return.) So instead, walk from Suprise Corner and return via the same trail. It’s about a 10-kilometer (6.2-mile) walk that takes 3 hours.

36. SUP

man stand-up paddleboarding on a calm lake with mountains in the background
Is this one of the most beautiful places to paddleboard in the world or what?!

A truly unique way to explore the Canadian Rockies, why not book on a Stand Up Paddleboarding tour of Johnson Lake here. It’s so pretty here – think turquoise water surrounded by the Cascade mountain range.

It doesn’t matter if you’ve never tried stand-up paddleboarding before, also known as SUP, because your instructor will give you a crash course on the basics of SUP before you hit the lake on your own. You will have about 1.5 hours total on the lake, and I promise you will be hooked on the sport after just one session.

It costs just $85 CAD per person, and starts from the beach at Johnson Lake.

37. Whitewater rafting

Whiste water rafting in Canmore, Alberta
Hard to wipe the smile off your face after that adventure!

Whitewater rafting is one of my favorite summer adventure activities! It is so scenic but also gets the adrenaline pumping with all of the excitement! In Banff, you can join a whitewater rafting tour during the summer months and see for yourself what exactly I mean.

This 2-hour whitewater rafting tour takes you along the Kanaskasis River. The rapids are exciting but not too dangerous and suitable for anyone over the age of 5. You’ll get completely geared up before you start and finish the excitement with a calm float where you can also opt for a swim!

The water is bitterly cold but with the right gear and the added bonus of adrenaline, this is one of the best tours you can do in Banff!

38. Explore the new “pedestrian-only” street

Drinking beer at Three Bears Brewery
Three Bears Brewery is one of the best places to check out on Bear street!

After a few hours in Banff you’ll come to realize that the town’s main street, Banff Avenue, can get really busy! So, if you want to avoid the crowds head on over to Bear Street just steps away from Banff Avenue. This brand new street was only finished in June 2021 and is pedestrianized. Well, certain drivers can access the street (usually delivery drivers only) and they must give way to pedestrians at all times!

Along Bear street, you’ll find lots of restaurants, cafes, and shops as well as beautiful greenery and plenty of benches. Pop into Banff National Perk for your caffeine fix or try a delicious German strudel at JK Bakery. For something more substantial there are loads of great restaurants on Bear Street. Some of the best I’ve tried here include Banff Poutine for, yep you guessed it, the famous Canadian dish of poutine, or for the best pizza in Banff, visit the Bear Street Tavern.

The street is level with the sidewalk, meaning no curbs or narrow walking paths. And did I mention it’s pedestrianized, so, you can freely wander enjoying buskers, mountain views, and the lively atmosphere.

There are also large patios lining Bear Street, and most of them are dog-friendly! My favorite patio here is the Three Bears Brewery and Restaurant. They also are one of the best breweries in Banff.

39. Ride the Mount Norquay Sightseeing Gondola

View for the Mt Norquay cairlift of Banff Town and Mt Rundle
Still one of my favorite views in Banff!

One of the most surprising places I’ve visited in Banff National Park was Mt Norquay. In the winter, Mt Norquay is a famous ski hill in the Banff area, but in the summer, they open the chairlift for sightseeing so people can enjoy a meal, drink, or just the views from their restaurant the Cliffhouse Bistro (more on that below.)

But it wasn’t the food or drinks that made me fall in love. Instead, it was the breathtaking views of Banff town and the surrounding mountains including Mt Rundle that had me never wanting to leave.

This amazing viewpoint has become one of my all-time favorite photography spots in Banff National Park. It’s an “off the beaten path” experience I recommend to all.

The Mt Norquay chairlift costs $43.05 CAD per person and is a much less busy attraction than the Banff Gondola. The chairlift is only open for sightseeing from June to October.

40. Enjoy a meal with a view

views from the Whitehorn Bistro restaurant patio in Lake Louise
This is arguably the most scenic place to eat in Lake Louise.

One of the best ways to enjoy a meal is with a view! Luckily for you, in the summer months in Banff there are a few really stand-out restaurants where you can enjoy a delicious meal with unbelievable mountain views.

The Cliffhouse Bistro is the restaurant I mentioned above at the top of the Mount Norquay Gondola. This restaurant is an old teahouse that now is a cozy European-style chalet restaurant. The restaurant only has seats for 50 people, so a reservation is recommended. It is also only open in the summer months from June to October.

If you don’t mind traveling a little farther, head to the Whitehorn Bistro at the top of the Lake Louise Gondola. This restaurant is located 2042 meters above sea level, so as you can imagine, it offers some pretty epic views. The restaurant’s hours do change seasonally, as does the menu, so be sure to check their website before you go. Like the Cliffhouse, a reservation is also recommended at Whitehorn Bistro.

Where to Stay in Banff in Summer

the hot tub at Banff Inn
Relaxing in this hot tub is perfect after a day out exploring Banff. Photo Credit: Banff Inn

This is one of the most important parts of your trip, and in Banff, the selection can be overwhelming and expensive. There are lots of different areas to consider when it comes to deciding where to stay in Banff National Park. There are also plenty of great hotels in Banff town to consider. Below are some amazing hotels we recommend:

Samesun Banff Hostel – Budget-backpacker Hostel

A great budget hostel with dorm rooms. Perfect for those on a tight budget who want to stay in the heart of Banff town. This is only a backpacker place though, as there are no private rooms available. Dorms can be booked on either Booking.com or Hostelworld.

Banff Inn – Budget-friendly Hotel

The Banff Inn is in the perfect mix of comfort and affordability. It has a budget-friendly price tag but also comes with lots of luxuries. The hotel is located right on Banff Ave and all rooms are air-conditioned. In the hotel, you’ll find a hot tub, steam room, and sauna, as well as a restaurant and bar. You should book the Banff Inn well in advance as this is one of the most popular hotels in Banff.

Banff Rocky Mountain Resort – Mid-range Hotel

Pushing up into the mid-range budget, this hotel has a swimming pool, hot tub, gym, and all the rooms have kitchenettes or full kitchens. It is the perfect place for families since two and three-bedroom units are also on offer. The location is peaceful on Tunnel Mountain but yet only a 5-minute drive from Banff town. You can check availability and book Banff Rocky Mountain Resort online here.

Fairmont Banff Springs – Luxury Hotel

This is easily the most luxurious hotel in Banff. It’s not cheap but the place is simply incredible – it seriously looks like a castle! Inside the hotel, you’ll find 11 restaurants, 14 shops, bowling, bars, a top-rated spa, a couple of pools, and so much more. It’s a luxury resort-like stay and the only one of its kind in Banff. If you’re visiting Banff on a honeymoon then this should be the hotel you choose! You can check prices and room availability for Fairmont online here.

Important info: Accommodation in Banff can be tricky. For starters, you need to book well in advance if you want to have a large selection.

I still suggest booking a place ASAP! Using Booking.com is great too because lots of hotels offer free cancellation so just lock in a place (or two) for now and make the final decision later!

Parks Canada Pass Quick Info

If you plan on spending time in Canada’s national parks then you’re going to have to pay for a Parks Pass.

Single Daily Admission:

This type of pass is valid for one person for one day. It is ONLY the best value if you are traveling alone and only plan to visit a national park for one day.

  • Adult (ages 18-64) is $10.50 CAD
  • Senior (65+) is $9.00 CAD
  • Youth/Child (17 or younger) is FREE

Group Daily Admission:

If you’re traveling in a group or with family, you can buy a single-day admission for your entire vehicle (up to 7 people in one vehicle.)

  • $21.00 CAD gets your entire vehicle entry for one full day

Parks Canada Discovery Pass

The “Discovery Pass” is what Parks Canada calls their year-long (365 days from the purchase date), multi-park entry pass. This pass will give 365 days of access to all participating national parks in Canada. This includes the most popular parks like Banff, Jasper, Yoho, Kootenay, Glacier, Mount Revelstoke and so much more.

  • Adult (age 18-64) – $72.25 CAD
  • Senior (64+) – $61.75 CAD
  • Group/Family (up to 7 people in one vehicle) – $145.25 CAD

Hot Tip: Although more expensive upfront, if you plan on spending more than 7 days in different parks in Canada within a 12-month period, then the Discovery Pass is actually the better deal!

Parks Canada Passes can be bought online here or at one of the Visitor Centers of booths at the entrance to many national parks.

Renting a Car in Alberta

The Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park
The Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park

If you’re arriving in Alberta via plane then I can’t recommend getting a rental car enough. Canada is a large country and traveling between cities and even just getting out to some of the best places to visit in Alberta requires transport. Although you can use public transport, on some occasions, it means your trip will not only require more time but more planning.

Car rental in Canada is relatively cheap, especially if you get a budget car. The cheapest car with pickup and drop-off in different locations is around $100 CAD per day. The price does vary though depending on the time of year and the type of car that you rent. For car rentals, I use the website Rental Cars.com. It’s a search engine with lots of deals with good customer service. In fact, I’ve used them all over the world including in Chile, New Zealand, and Australia.

Another popular option is to rent a campervan or motorhome (only for the brave in winter.) Using Motorhome Republic you can search hundreds of deals across multiple companies to pick a great vehicle and the cheapest price. Having a motorhome is a stunning way to see Canada, and using crown land and campsites, you can often camp for free or very cheap in the most beautiful places imaginable!

Thanks for reading!

Bailey and Daniel take a selfie on the Banff Gondola
Thank you for reading!

As you can see, there are so many fun things to do in Banff in summer, and I bet after reading this blog post you can see why locals say the summer is the best time to visit. I hope I’ve given you loads of inspiration for your vacation to Banff this summer!

If you enjoyed this blog, be sure to browse the rest of our blogs about Banff including a few favorites:

21 Best Stops on the Drive from Vancouver to Banff

Guide to Visiting Banff in December

15 Best Stops between Banff and Jasper

Ultimate Guide to Visiting Banff in the Fall

10 BEST Stops on the Drive from Calgary to Edmonton & Choosing Your Route 
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