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ULTIMATE Guide to Visiting Banff this Summer (2024) +Top Activities

ULTIMATE Guide to Visiting Banff this Summer (2024) +Top Activities

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Banff just has to be one of the prettiest and most well-loved locations in Canada – after all, it did become Canada’s first national park! If you’ve ever seen videos or pictures of this amazing place, you’ve probably seen snow-dusted streets and white-capped mountains, but did you know that according to locals, summer is actually the best time to visit this popular 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 fun 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 in Banff like moose, coyotes, and bears.

We’ve visited Banff in the summer a ton of times, so let us share with you all the best summer activities as well as the best Banff tours, hikes, and hotels on offer. 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, with one big reason being that the weather is warm with average temperatures of 20 °C (68 °F)! July is the hottest month when daily temperatures can rise as high as 24 °C (75 °F). 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 fun indoor and outdoor 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. So to make the most of your time in Banff, I recommend spending at least a full weekend here in the summer!

Things to do in Banff in Summer

1. Go horseback riding

Riding a horse in the Bow River in Banff National Park
Riding a horse in the Bow River in Banff National Park

One of my all-time favorite summertime activities in Banff is going horseback riding! Pair that with the picturesque views of Banff National Park, and you’re onto a real winner. Imagine seeing the incredible mountain scenery atop your trusty steed, surrounded by the songs and sounds of nature – pure bliss.

Turns out I’m not the only one who thinks this way – there’s a ton of great horseback tours throughout Banff, each offering different tour distances and time schedules. If you’ve never been on a horseback tour before, Banff really is one of the best places to find your feet, or – well – hooves!

Here are a few tours that we’ve fallen in love with, and we’re sure you will too:

Covered Wagon Ride in Banff with Western Cookout

Right at the top of our list is this covered wagon ride tour, which gives you the opportunity to ride on horseback or in a western-style covered wagon – how cool! Over the span of 3 exciting hours, you’ll make the beautiful journey along the Bow River and into the misty mountains. I couldn’t help but feel like the hero of my own epic western, and no doubt you will too.

Starting at 11:30 am, at Warner Stables, this tour 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. Yeehaw!

We think this is the perfect opportunity to saddle up the family and go for a ride, but it’s worth noting that children must be over 8 years to ride a horse. It’s also a public tour, so there may be other riders joining you for the journey! Prices start from a reasonable $135 CAD for adults (13+) and $101 CAD for kids (4-12). You can grab your tickets for this tour online here.

Bow River Ride

This 1-hour horse-riding tour follows the picturesque Bow River and is really popular with couples! As it’s a shorter ride, it’s perfect for fitting into a gap in your schedule, and it’s still packed with amazing sights. On your ride, you will pass by rock caverns and lakes before venturing onto the trail, which is where you could possibly see some of the animals of Banff National Park, like beavers, elk, coyotes, and even bears.

There are a few start times for this particular tour, including starts at 9 am, 10 am, 11 am, and 12 pm. Tickets for this tour also cost $93 CAD per person. When booking this tour on Viator, you also have free 24-hour cancellation, so if the weather doesn’t look so great on your chosen date, you can always reschedule!

2-Day Backcountry Lodge Trip

Finally, and if time allows, this one-night, two-day tour is the ultimate backcountry adventure! With a cozy night at a backcountry lodge, this tour of the Canadian Rockies takes you on a journey deep into the mountains, and you can take your time to take in the epic scenery. For us, we loved the idea of not worrying about watching the clock and enjoying a beautiful sunset on horseback.

The tour starts at 9:30 am at the Warner Stables, so you’ll also have the entire first day to explore too. When night rolls around, you’ll spend it at a cozy lodge with an open fire, where you can enjoy a delicious dinner with wine prepared by an expert chef before a good night’s rest. On the second day, you will ride back into the stables where you began your tour at 4:30 pm.

This epic experience runs only on Saturdays and includes all meals, a night’s accommodation, and costs from $860 CAD per person. You can book your spot for this tour online here.

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 24th to October 4th (10 am to 6 pm) there is a Farmers Market in Banff Central Park. Here you can buy the freshest fruit and produce, but also many other unique crafts and handmade gifts too. It is truly where you will find the most unique souvenirs 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.

It’s held at the west parking lot of Banff Central Park, with plenty of on-site parking, so drop by when you’re in town and stock up on food and goodies for your journey!

3. Visit Johnston Canyon

Bailey at the Upper Falls at Johnston Canyon in Banff National Park
Upper falls!
Lower falls at Johnston Canyon in Banff National Park
Lower falls at Johnston Canyon in Banff National Park

Johnston Canyon is one of the best hikes in Banff, which can be walked as part of 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 (0.68 mi) 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 (0.93 mi) walk from the lower falls. For a return trip to the upper falls, we’d suggest allowing around two hours.

To get to reach the trailhead, you can drive to the parking lot and access the trail for free on your own. We also have a complete guide on how to get to Johnston Canyon from Banff that goes into detail on this!

However, if you don’t have your own transport, or simply want to focus on the experience rather than the driving, you can try out a tour instead! This 4-hour bike and hiking tour is the perfect active tour for those who want to combine a cycling experience with a visit to Johnston Canyon. Tickets for this tour cost $167 CAD per person and can be booked online here.

Or if you’re looking for easy transport to the canyon, you can take the hop-on-hop-off bus that stops off here, as well as a bunch of other cool locations like Lake Louise. This is a great bus tour from Banff that will save the headache of trying to get a parking space, which can be especially difficult on the weekends in the summer. With tickets at $80 CAD for adults (18+) and $65 CAD for kids (6-17), you can grab your seat on the bus online here.

Important note: Johnston Canyon is within Banff National Park on the Bow Valley Parkway, a gorgeous stretch of road that we’ll be talking more about later in this blog! To drive down this road, you’ll need a one-day park pass, which costs $10.50 CAD per adult or $21 CAD per family. You can also grab a Discovery Pass, which lasts the entire year and gives you access to over 80 destinations.

4. Canoe on the river

two large Canadian canoes in the Bow River in Banff
Canadian Canoes are the perfect way to explore the Bow River in Banff.

I don’t know about you, but when I think about summer I think of water sports! So, what better way to enjoy Banff in the summer sun than spending some time on the water with this 1.5-hour big canoe adventure?

Dan and I love hitting the water when it’s warm out, whether that’s going for a swim, grabbing a few friends for a boat tour, or heading out on a canoe like this. When we learned about this special tour, where you hop into 12-seater big canoes along the Bow River, we knew we had to give it a go – safe to say we’re so glad we did!

After a much-needed lie-in (hiking the day before will do that to you!), we met up with the team at the Banff Canoe Club at 12:45 pm, which is right on the west side of town by the river. After a short safety brief by our guide, we made our way out onto the river, learning all about the incredible history of the area as we went.

Along the way, you might even see bears, elk, and coyotes, who often forage along the river’s edge (we managed to see a pair of elk going for a drink before they darted back into the trees). Once the tour is finished up, there’s the chance to have some light refreshments, and it’s the perfect opportunity to take in the beautiful mountain scenery too!

As a shorter tour, this is perfect for fitting into a busy schedule, and it’s also great fun for the whole family. With tickets at $70 CAD per adult (13+) and $35 CAD for kids (6-12), we’d say it’s great value for money too! You can book your seat on this scenic tour here.

5. Visit Lake Louise

Bailey stands on a rock at Lake Louise, Canada
Lake Louise is so quiet in the morning!
Lake Louise foreshore and the Fairmont hotel in Banff National Park
Lake Louise Foreshore!

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 too, 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 from Banff to Lake Louise. Just 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 epic photos at the Valley of Ten Peaks. This particular tour is only available to book between April and November and costs $104 CAD per person.

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 $80 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 month if you don’t want to deal with the hassle of getting parking at Lake Louise. Seriously, parking here, as well as at Johnston Canyon in the summer months can be such a headache! 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 May 13th until October 10th, you’ll be required to pay $21 CAD per vehicle per day to park at Lake Louise Lakefront (2024 updated price). The paid parking is in effect from 7 am until 7 pm daily.  

Views of Lake Louise from the foreshore
Views of Lake Louise from the foreshore

Where to Stay in Lake Louise:

If your itinerary allows, do yourself a favor and stop for at 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 Dan and I always stay. It’s one of the most affordable options yet has everything you’ll need for a comfortable, and central, stay! There are also private rooms if you don’t fancy sleeping in a dorm. Beds here start at $49 CAD per person and can be booked here.

If you’re looking to spend a night in luxury, then you can splurge at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise! The Fairmont really is an icon of the area and simply breathtaking – we’re super jealous if you decide to stay! This hotel is located on the edge of Lake Louise with some of the best views around. Rooms here start at $755 CAD and you can secure your date here.

6. See Moraine Lake

Bailey canoes on the blue water on Moraine Lake, Banff
Oh Moraine Lake you are beautiful!
Bailey and her mum pose for a photo at Moraine Lake
It’s so beautiful!

One of the most epic free things to do in Banff in summer is to visit Moraine Lake! The lake is up there with Lake Louise as one of our favorite lakes to visit in Canada, surrounded by mountains that are nothing short of amazing. There are plenty of amazing things to do at Moraine Lake, such as hiking, enjoying a coffee, or even going canoeing!

Our favorite viewpoint of the lake is from a spot called the Rock Pile. It’s only a short hike from the parking lot 300 m (984 ft) and to reach it you can take 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. All you need to do now is take the trail to the right and follow it right up to the viewpoint!

As of 2023, Parks Canada has restricted the Moraine Lake Road and parking lot to commercial traffic only. So, you’ll need to figure out a parking alternative at the lake, like catching a Parks Canada shuttle, taking public transit, or saving yourself all the hassle and booking this hop-on-hop-off bus from Banff town that stops at Moraine Lake, Lake Louise, and Johnston Canyon!

For more tips before you go, we put together this complete guide on how to get to Moraine Lake. Also, take note that 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.

Want to visit Moraine Lake for sunrise?

The only way to visit Moraine Lake at sunrise this year (since the road is closed to personal vehicles) is to either go on this organized tour or book this privately-operated shuttle (the Parks Canada shuttles don’t leave early enough to make it for sunrise.)

The tour begins at 4 am in Banff, and because they are a licensed tour operator, they can access Moraine Lake for sunrise. The tour costs $287 CAD and includes not only a visit to Moraine Lake with hot chocolate and coffee to enjoy, but also an early morning visit to Lake Louise. That means you can visit two of the busiest lakes in Canada without the crowds or the stress of parking/shuttles. You can book the tour here with free cancelation up to 24 hours before.

The new Moraine Lake sunrise shuttle includes transport only from Lake Louise Village but comes at an affordable price of $59-69 CAD per person. They offer a few pick-up times depending on what you have planned at Moraine Lake, with the first shuttle leaving at 4 am and the second at 5 am. You must book your spot online in advance here to avoid missing out.

7. Drive the Bow Valley Parkway

Bailey at Morant's Curve on the Bow Valley Parkway
Morant’s Curve is stunning!
A car drives along the Bow Valley Parkway
Bow Valley Parkway

I touched on Lake Louise earlier, but I didn’t mention the amazing drive you can take to get there. The drive between Lake Louise and Banff is really special – it really is an incredible adventure in itself!

Along your road trip, I suggest you take a slight detour and drive the Bow Valley Parkway to get there. This is a highway that stretches between Banff and Lake Louise and, in our opinion, is one of the most spectacular drives in Canada! The 50-kilometer-long (31 miles) highway takes around 1 hour to drive without stopping, but we’d allow half a day to get the full experience.

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

Castle Mountain Viewpoint – Castle Mountain is one of those mountains in Banff you simply can’t miss. Here at the roadside viewpoint, you get some spectacular views of the Bow River and the valley. However, those who want a closer look can drive up to the Castle Mountain Lookout trail, where you can hike 6.5 km (4 miles) out and back to the mountain viewpoint.

Morant’s Curve – This has got to be my favorite place to photograph on the Bow Valley Parkway. Morant’s Curve (pictured above) is one of the most famous viewpoints in the Bow Valley, where the iconic train passes through. While there’s no set schedule for the trains, you can expect to see one every hour or so. Either way, this spot really is 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. Situated in an ideal spot on the western stretch of the Parkway, there’s a whole range of room types to pick from. Choose a romantic Jacuzzi Suite for couples or a one-bedroom loft for families! Rooms here start at $390 CAD and can be booked online here.

Note: There will be some closures to vehicle traffic on sections of the Bow Valley Parkway this year (2023). From May 1-June 30 and then again from Sept 1-Sept 30 vehicles will NOT be able to drive the 17 km/11 mi 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 that is affected if you’re traveling to Johnston Canyon from Banff. You will still be able to access Johnston Canyon and the Bow Valley Parkway via the intersection near Castle Mountain Chalets.

8. Go canyoning

Bailey smiling in a rivier canyoning
Canyoning is so much fun!

If you’re looking for a unique activity that’ll leave you with so many amazing memories, why not consider trying the adrenaline-pumping sport of canyoning in the heart of the Canadian Rockies?

If you’ve never tried canyoning before, we think that this beginner canyoning experience would be perfect for you! As the name suggests, this experience is targeted directly towards new players in the canyoning scene, teaching you the ropes (literally) and supplying all the safety gear you’ll need.

This action-packed adventure is full of amazing scenery to boot – it’s hard to take your eyes off it as you learn all about the fundamentals of rope rappelling! With incredible mini hikes along the way, the crowning achievement is beating the awesome 60-foot (18.2 meter) waterfall rappel and slide, the perfect challenge if you’re new to the sport.

The meetup for this canyoning adventure is at the Heart Creek Trail Parking Lot, about a 30-minute drive from town. At around 4–5 hours for the entire experience, you can choose to start either at 9 am, 10:30 am, or 12 pm – whichever suits your schedule best! Tickets cost $195 CAD for adults, $175 CAD for youths (13-17), and can be booked here on Viator.

If you’ve been canyoning before and are itching for your next big challenge, then this intermediate 7-hour experience will be right up your street! Also taking place at the Heart Creek Trail Parking Lot near Jasper National Park, you’ll have tons of fun trying out no less than 8 rappels. All safety equipment and wetsuits are included (yup, you’ll get wet on this tour). Prices for this experience start at $295 CAD for adults (16+) and you can secure your spot online here.

9. Enjoy patio drinks on Banff Ave

Daniel and Bailey take a selfie ith drinks on a rooftop bar in Banff, Canada
No better way to spend the afternoon!

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 a refreshing 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 also 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 a visit if you’re looking for a good meal. (P.S. – Their beef ribs are out-of-this-world!).

Finally, I just have to mention Banff Ave. Brewing Co. because I just love a good craft beer and this is what these guys live and breathe. 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. If you’re a solo traveler or just itching to be social, this is also a great place to meet people in Banff!

10. Go fishing

man fly fishing in Banff National park
Ready to catch something?!

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. Safe to say, you’ll have your hands full when trying out fishing here!

It helps too that Banff is one of the most scenic locations in the world to fish, attracting a large number of fishermen every year, particularly during the summer. If you’ve got a few fishing buddies who are looking for a new spot to try, why not pitch together for a road trip up to this fishing Mecca?

A little over 15 minutes drive from Banff is Lake Minnewanka, one of the best lakes in Banff and the largest lake in Banff National Park. It’s another popular fishing spot for lake trout anglers from around the world, so if this sounds like you, don’t forget to give this spot a try!

Of course, if you’re looking for the ultimate fishing experience with guidance from an expert local, we’d suggest booking onto a full-day or half-day guided fly fishing trip from Banff, which includes all the equipment, transportation, and assistance from Big Jim (your legendary guide) you need for an amazing day out.

The more anglers that join you on your trip, the cheaper the experience will be – if you round up three other buddies, then a full-day trip (8+ hours) works out to just $187.50 per person. Now that’s a sweet deal! You can head on over to their website to learn more and to book your next great fishing trip.

It’s important to note that a national park fishing permit is needed to fish anywhere in Banff National Park, even if you’re heading out on a tour! These can be purchased from the park’s visitor center or online here.

Related Read: Thinking of heading to Banff during the wintertime too? This is the perfect time to try out ice-fishing in Banff during the winter months!

11. Explore Lake Minnewanka

Photo out the front of the boat on a Lake Minnewanka Cruise in Banff
You should definitely consider a cruise on Lake Minnewanka!

The lakes in Banff National Park are really some of the most beautiful places to visit – if you’re like us then your Instagram will soon be full of lake pics! Lake Minnewanka is no different and everyone who comes to Banff to get amazing photos should visit.

Lake Minnewanka is just a 15-minute drive from Banff town and is most famous for the Lake Minnewanka cruise. Dan and I have tried the cruise out for ourselves, and we had such an amazing time! I even put together a guide on everything you need to know before taking the Lake Minnewanka cruise if you want to know more.

Lasting for around one hour, the cruise takes you to the other side of the lake while your local 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!

While we think this cruise is the best way to experience the lake for the first time, but if you don’t fancy it, you can still enjoy the views on the shoreline! From the lake’s edge, you can stare out at Mount Aylmer and the surrounding mountains and even take a short walk around the lake.

If you want to really stretch your legs and get some great photos then consider hiking the Lake Minnewanka Lakeside Trail. The trail is around 16 kilometers (9.9 mi) out and back and is a great free way to enjoy spectacular views without paying for the cruise.

While you can technically swim here, just know in advance that the glacial water is still super cold, even in summer! For this reason, many people (including us), stick to walking by the lake instead. If you really fancy going for a swim, then we suggest…

12. Enjoy Two Jack Lake

Bailey on a inflatable doughnut at Two Jack Lake, Canada
If you need me…
People enjoy water sports on Two Jack Lake in Banff as seen from the lake trail
So stunning!

Two Jack Lake is another of the most popular lakes to enjoy near Banff in the summertime, and it’s only a 15-minute drive from downtown Banff! 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. There’s a brilliant day-use area with spectacular views of Mt Rundle, and from here you can continue onto Lake Minnewanaka (Two Jack Lake is located along the road to Lake Minnewanka).

If you’re planning to go camping, there are also two large campgrounds at Two Jack Lake. The 74 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.

There’s also all the facilities and amenities you could want for a great camping experience, including flush toilets, firepits, and kitchen shelters. If you really want to camp in style, then you can also snag one of the 10 oTENTik sites, which have heating, lighting, raised flooring, and beds too!

The 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. Pricing for a regular site at Two Jack Main starts at $23 CAD and $29.25 CAD at Two Jack Lakeside.

13. Drive the Icefields Parkways

Scenic road down the Icefields Parkway in Canada
The Icefields Parkway!
Daniel poses for a photo at Peyto Lake Viewpoint in Banff National Park
Peyto Lake is one of the best attractions on the Icefields Parkway.

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 itinerary. 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. Don’t worry, I’ll be talking more about these awesome Icefields Parkway tours below!

If you’d prefer not to drive there yourself from Banff then this full-day guided small-group tour is the perfect alternative. Hop onboard a comfortable coach for this 9-hour trip, which includes stops at some of the best attractions outside of Banff town, including Bow Falls, Peyto Lake, Mistaya Canyon, and of course, the Icefields Parkway.

One of our favorite parts about this tour is that it’s limited to just 8 people, meaning that the whole experience feels very personal, with loads of time to ask your expert local guide any questions you may have! Starting at 8:30 am at the front of the Banff Train Station, we think this is one of the best introductions you could have not just to the Icefields Parkway, but to some of the best spots around Banff too!

Tickets for this tour start at $288 CAD per person and can be booked online on Viator. As these are small group tours, they can book up quick, so make sure to check out your dates well in advance.

If you’re planning to visit the Parkway by yourself, we suggest allowing more time if possible and spending the night here! Luckily, there are a few beautiful hotels on the Icefields Parkway to choose from.

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 at stations on the Parkway) and bring a couple of snacks and water with you.

Why We Book Tours with Viator

Viator is a trusted online booking system for tours around the world! We almost always book our tours using Viator for a couple of reasons:

  • Free cancellation on most tours – Most of the tours on Viator allow you to cancel and get a full refund up to 24 hours in advance. This is handy in case plans change, or if booking an outdoor activity, the weather forecast is looking grim.
  • Reserve now and pay later – You can secure your spot on some of the most popular tours well in advance and not pay until closer to the day of the tour.
  • Pay in your chosen currency – Avoid costly international transaction fees by choosing to pay in your home currency.
  • Peace of mind – When booking with tour operators you find in person on the street or in small booking offices, you are often promised one thing and given another. This online platform holds tour operators accountable with a written description of inclusions as well as the opportunity for customers to leave reviews.

Check out the Viator website here! Or, read our complete Viator review to learn more about what we think about Viator.

14. Visit Athabasca Glacier

Daniel on one of the large Ice Explorers on the Athabasca Glacier on a tour
Explore the Columbia Icefield on the Ice Explorer Tour!
the ice explorer athabasca glacier bus drives on the glacier with a mountain backdrop
This bus actually drives you onto the glacier!

Of course, as mentioned above, for the best experience 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 the car parking lot and hike to a beautiful viewpoint of the glacier – but for an extra special experience, we highly recommend the Athabasca Glacier Ice Explorer Tour. As part of this experience, you take a bus to a station near the glacier where you board an “Ice Explorer”, 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’ll need to stay in the exclusion zone as there are deep crevasses and dangerous hidden spots out on the glacier. For us, the entire experience was amazing – it really was the highlight of our trip to the Parkway.

If you’ve never walked on a glacier before, this is a must-do on your Banff itinerary. Tours on the glacier cost $105 CAD per person and last for about 2 hours. You can grab your tickets for this brr-illiant experience here.

For something a little more adventurous, why not try out this full-day hiking tour on the glacier? It is a 10 km (6.2 mi) guided hike that’ll have you exploring parts of the glacier that most people never see. It’s also a small-group tour, with a maximum of 12 people per group, the perfect size for getting to know everyone before the hike is over. Tickets for this experience start at $204 CAD per person.

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 with plenty to do, around 11 hours in total, so keep that in mind.

One of the best parts about this tour is that there’s no worrying about driving or parking, you’re free to focus 100% on the incredible scenery and making memories that will last a lifetime! You can grab your tickets for this tour online, with a ticket costing $322 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 Glacier Skywalk. As the name suggests, the Skywalk is a structure with a glass floor that hangs right off the edge of a mountain – it’s as if you’re walking on nothing, surrounded by beautiful nature!

Despite how the platform looks, it’s also incredibly strong, so much so that it’s said to be able to hold a 747 airplane!

I must admit, it was a little nerve-racking walking out onto the glass floor, but with Dan reassuring me, the whole thing turned about to be a crazy and fun experience! The views from out on the Skywalk are really out of this world – need we say more? 

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. 

For the ultimate adventure, and a truly unforgettable experience, this 3-day Rockies classic tour includes stops at many incredible locations in Banff, the Icefields Parkway, and beyond! From Lake Louise to Yoho National Park, the Columbia Icefield to Jasper town, the friendly folks organizing this tour really have gone above and beyond to show you the best of what there is to see here.

While there are too many awesome activities to do and places to see to list here, day two is particularly special as you’ll head on an extensive journey to the Columbia Icefield, with the option to on the Skywalk too! The tour also includes accommodation for two nights, meaning all you need to do is sit back, and enjoy the ride as you visit some of the most iconic places around.

Tickets for this complete tour start at $872 CAD per person (without admission) and $1,007 CAD per person (with admission). Personally, we’d suggest adding on the admission, as this helps take the headache away of arranging tickets, leaving you more time to enjoy each location! You can check out this tour and secure your dates online here.

16. Ride the Banff Gondola

view from the platform at the top of the banff gondola in summer
From the top of the gondola you can enjoy these epic views!

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 (and most scenic) way to the top is to take the famous Banff Gondola, which rises up to an impressive 698 meters (2,292 feet). Better yet, you can give your legs a break and enjoy an 8-minute ride up the side of Sulphur Mountain!

Once you get to the top, it’s time to enjoy the views from the various viewing areas, including our personal favorite, the boardwalk to Sanson’s Peak. Summer is one of our favorite times to walk the boardwalk – especially when the weather is warm and clear. There is also a restaurant, the Sky Bistro, where you can grab a delicious bite to eat – taking in all of these incredible views is hungry work!

I’m sure you’ll be as surprised as I was by how many things there are to do up here. Don’t forget to visit the Banff Interpretive Centre, take a look inside the Above Banff Theatre (free with your gondola ticket), get a coffee at Castle Mountain Coffee, and visit the gift shop.

The Banff Gondola hours of operation are 10 am to 10 pm in the summer months and the best way to buy a ticket is to purchase online in advance. You’ll skip the long lines and have the added bonus of canceling up to 24 hours in advance if the weather doesn’t look great.

Tickets for the gondola vary depending on demand and how far in advance you book. It costs between $59-72 CAD per adult (16+) and $37-45 CAD per child (6-15), with children 5 and under being free.

Related Read: Not far away is another great view from the Lake Louise Gondola, where you’re also likely to spot grizzly bears!

17. Golf!

Views at Stewart Creek Golf Course in Canmore
Views at Stewart Creek Golf Course in Canmore
A man puts a ball at Stewart Creek Golf Course in Banff
The courses are stunning!

The Fairmont Banff Springs Golf Course is located next to Fairmont Banff Spring Resort, earning its reputation as one of the best luxury hotels in Banff! Of course, the greens here are on a whole other level, with a captivating yet challenging layout that 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! If you’re lucky, you may also have some beautiful (but wild!) pitch invaders – elk or even bears can often be found in the area. When was the last time you got to see a bear while practicing your swing?

You can play 18-holes here for $80 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.

Itching to play another round? 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 (4 mile) 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 is super popular for those looking to golf this summer!

5. Enjoy tea at Lake Agnes Tea House

Bailey stands on the edge of Lake Agnes on the Lake Agnes Teahouse hike
This is one of the most beautiful lakes in Banff National Park!
Lake Agnes Teahouse near Lake Louise
Don’t forget to visit the teahouse!

My favorite hike that starts from Lake Louise has got to be the Lake Agnes Tea House trail – we did dedicate an entire blog to it after all! Starting from the Lake Louise lakefront, the trail has you hiking high above Lake Louise where you can peer down and see parts of the lake from above.

After, you continue on to an interestingly shaped mountain called the Bee Hive (let’s see if you can tell how it got its name!) Then, it’s on to the main attraction, Lake Agnes.

Named after the original First Lady of Canada, Lake Agnes is a small but spectacular alpine lake that’s surrounded by huge mountain peaks. Of course, it’s the perfect place to relax and enjoy some pretty spectacular views, and if you’re feeling thirsty, you can also head over to Lake Agnes Tea House to enjoy tea, coffee, or a snack.

The tea house is usually jam-packed so if you don’t want to wait in line, you’d best get going early in the day. However, even without buying something from the tea house, visiting Lake Agnes is easily one of the best free things to do in Banff National Park.

The Lake Agnes Tea House Trail is a 7.3-kilometer (4.5 miles) return track that climbs 400 meters in elevation. While it’s not super beginner-friendly, we’d call it moderately difficult but not technical at all!

Note: From May 13th until October 10th, you’ll be required to pay $21 CAD per vehicle per day to park at Lake Louise Lakefront (2024 updated price). The paid parking is in effect from 7 am until 7 pm daily.  

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!

Grizzly bears have been calling Banff National Park home for over 100 years, with around 65 individuals out there in the wild! I will admit, they can be tricky to find, but you have a much greater chance of success during the summer months and an even better shot if you join one of the guided wildlife tours in Banff.

Would you believe that a male grizzly can weigh up to 360 kg (793 lbs)? When they can be that big, it makes you wonder why they’re so hard to find! But despite their intimidating appearance, they are quite shy and typically stay far away from anywhere there are people.

Having been on a few wildlife tours in Banff ourselves, one of our favorites to spot grizzlies has to be this 10-hour guided tour which takes you deep into Banff and Yoho National Park with an experienced local guide. Meeting up at the Mount Royal Hotel in Banff, don’t forget to bring your camera – you’ll definitely need it.

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 orphaned and brought here as a cub. You can grab tickets for this tour into grizzly country for $276 CAD per adult (13+) and $134 CAD per child (6-12).

Related Read: Riding the Kicking Horse Mountain gondola is one of our favorite things to do in Golden, BC!

20. Go on a food tour at the Fairmont

Food at Fairmont Banff Springs Banff
Photo credit: Fairmont Banff Springs

Do you love good food with a side dish of fascinating history? Well, have we got just the thing for you!

In the famed Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, there are no less than six incredible restaurants to choose from. And as part of this foodie tour, you’ll have the chance to explore four of them, including the Vermillion Room, Stock Food and Drink, Grapes, and the 1888 Chop House.

Over the course of about 2 and a half hours, you’ll taste the best dishes from each restaurant, with each meal being paired with a complimentary beverage, while you learn all about the history of this iconic hotel from your guide. We also love that it’s a small-group tour, with no more than 12 people on each tour. We were joined by 6 others on our last tour, which meant we had lots of time to ask questions (after enjoying the food!).

Tickets for this scrumptious food tour cost $206 CAD per person, and all food and drinks are included. You can book your seat at the table here.

21. Try rock climbing or Via Ferrata

bailey hangson a cliff while trying via ferrata
Via Ferrata is a little nerve-wracking, but also lots of fun!

With all this incredible mountain scenery, there are some really great places to go rock climbing in and around Banff National Park. If you’re an experienced rock climber, you can rent gear in Canmore (about an 18-minute drive from Banff) and then try it out on your own. Otherwise, for those a little less confident, it’s a good idea to join a tour where an experienced rock climbing guide can teach you all the ropes.

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 (with a maximum of 8 climbers) and is suitable for all skill levels. Come the end of the 7-hour tour, you’ll be able to climb the wall – even if you’re a beginner.

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 do very often.

Instead, I like to do Via Ferrata. Essentially, it’s an easier version of rock climbing where you still climb but are assisted with ladders and iron bars along the way. While rock climbing is incredibly safe, Via Ferrata just gives you that extra needed support, making it so much easier to get up higher with less experience and effort.

Even if you’ve never tried it before, I highly recommend this Via Ferrata tour in Banff for anyone who isn’t completely sold on rock climbing just quite yet! This experience lasts about two and a half hours, with meetup at Norquay’s North American Lodge, around a 6 km (3.7 miles) drive from downtown Banff.

Tickets for this experience cost $194 CAD per adult (12+). Honestly, this is one of my favorite summer activities, and booking the experience through Viator means you have a 24-hour cancellation window if the weather isn’t looking so great!

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 offers some pretty spectacular viewpoints, including, three amazing mountain summits! It’s rated as moderate to 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 (3,280 ft)in elevation. From our own experience, what makes the trail so hard is the technical climbing/scrambling required on one side of the trail. It’s also 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. It’s also pretty short loop, at around 2.8 kilometers (1.7 miles) each way. While it is a shorter climb, you only summit one mountain, and getting down this steep section is technical, which, in my opinion, is a bit too difficult!

Only hikers with some experience under their belts should consider hiking the trail and those afraid of heights should either steer clear or hike with experienced hikers. Also, it’s a good idea to avoid this trail on days with high winds or any rain as the rocks can become dangerously slippery.

23. Hike in Sunshine Meadows

Sunshine Meadows in Banff National Park
Sunshine Meadows in Banff National Park

Taking the spot as Lonely Planet’s number 1 day hike is no small feat, so you can imagine just how special the Sunshine Meadows hike is, especially during the summer months when the weather in Banff is gorgeous!

To get to the start of this trail, you’ll need to hop on the Sunshine Gondola, which is about a 20-minute drive from Banff, and from there get the Standish Chairlift to the starting point. It goes without saying, but the scenery all along this trail is beautiful, with alpine meadows and beautiful wildflowers. On our last trip, we happened to spot a lone elk traveling over a distant ridge, but there tend to be a lot of wildlife sightings here, including moose and bears too!

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, as long as everyone has a reasonable level of fitness!

It’s totally possible to do this hike on your own, but if you’d like to get to know the area even better and discover some hidden local gems along the route, we’d recommend you book a guided tour. This one is our personal favorite (our guide Chris blew our minds with all of his amazing alpine facts!) and lasts around 5 to 7 hours in total.

Pick-up from your hotel in Banff is included in the price, and so are the tickets for the gondola and chairlift, as well as a tasty picnic lunch. All in all, this particular tour costs $139 CAD per adult (12+) and $109 CAD per child (8-11), which we think is pretty good value considering all that’s included! You can check your dates and book your spot on the tour here.

If you’re looking to spend some quality time out in nature, but still want the comforts of a luxurious hotel, we suggest booking a couple of nights at the Sunshine Mountain Lodge in Sunshine Village. This hotel is surrounded by panoramic mountain views, and you can access the incredible hiking trails right from the hotel.

Rooms here start from $394 CAD per night, putting it on the pricier end, but we think it really is the perfect location to spend a couple of nights in comfort and style, with views that are seriously unmatched. You can check your dates and book your room here.

Related Read: Learn all about the Banff Sunshine Sightseeing Gondola before you go!

24. Vermillion Lakes Scenic Drive

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

Only a short 5-minute drive from Banff town is the Vermilion Lakes Scenic Drive. This 4.3 km (2.7 miles) stretch of road winds its way along the edges of a couple of very gorgeous and calm lakes (AKA Vermilion Lakes). When they aren’t frozen, the lakes reflect the mountains behind them almost perfectly, making it one of the best spots to grab that mind-blowing photo (that may or may not end up as your Facebook banner)…

In our opinion, the best place to go for photos is right at the end of Vermilion Lakes Road. Here, the water is protected from the wind, with incredible views all around. It really is the perfect place to snap a pic or two!

My second tip is to go at sunset, which is normally between 9 and 10 pm during the summer. Head down there a little earlier to take some photos first and make sure you get there in time for the sunset! Grab yourself a cold beverage, sit back, and enjoy the views in all their summer glory. Can you imagine a more beautiful free activity so close to Banff town!?

25. Visit one of the many amazing cafes in Banff

The view outside from Evelyns Coffee Bar in Banff, Canada
The view from Evelyn’s Coffee Bar. Photo Credit: Evelyn’s Coffee Bar
A coffee on a table at Evelyns Coffee Bar
Photo Credit: Evelyn’s Coffee Bar

There are so many incredible 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

Wild Flour Bakery is a local favorite in Banff and one of the best downtown cafes. Brewing up beautiful coffee since the late 1800s, their rich history and great-tasting snacks have made them a staple in this cute resort town.

We also think that 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. Did we also mention the bakery-fresh bread that’s prepared every morning? I can almost taste it now…

Wild Flour Bakery is open from 7 am to 4 pm every day. If you’ve got some time before your next tour, or are simply looking to chill out for a while and enjoy Banff town, this is an amazing spot to visit.

Whitebark Cafe

Second on our list is Whitebark Cafe, which 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 sooo good and really 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! Seriously, do yourself a favor and grab one before you leave. We promise you won’t regret it!

The cafe is open from 6:30 am to 6 pm every day, so feel free to stop by whenever you’ve got some free time and are craving some great coffee.

Evelyn’s Coffee Bar

Last, but certainly not least, there’s Evelyn’s Coffee Bar, which has been serving up tasty brews in Banff for over 30 years! But it’s 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 that 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. Evelyn’s is open from 7 am to 9 pm every day, making it a great late afternoon stop if you’re craving a sweet treat or simply something to drink.

26. Day trip to Canmore

Bailey at Grassi Lakes, Canmore on a spring day
Grassi Lakes is one of my favorite spots in Canmore in the summer.
Summer at the Canmore Nordic Center in Canmore, Alberta
Summer at the Canmore Nordic Center in Canmore, Alberta

While Banff has so many incredible things to see and do, it’s also an amazing location to visit thanks to how close it is to other awesome locations in BC, like Canmore! Canmore is one of Canada’s best mountainside tourist destinations, with many coming to town to join a tour, kayak, canoe, and rock climb.

Just like Banff, there are a ton of fun things to do in Canmore. So, why not make a half-day or even a full day of it and drive the short distance (about 20 minutes by car) to Canmore from Banff!

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 Paw, one of the best breweries in Canmore, for a beer and a burger – so delicious!

With a ton of awesome hiking trails just outside of town, we think that summer is the best time to tackle them. You’ve got the weather on your side – so what more could you want?

Grassi Lakes is one of the best hikes in Canmore and a personal favorite of ours. Just a 5-minute drive out from Canmore town and you’ll find the trailhead. The trail itself is around 4 km (2.5 miles), taking 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!

2023 Update: Grassi Lakes has now been re-opened for the 2023 season after undergoing a lengthy maintenance period.

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 shows perfectly why this activity made the list!

The Cascade Gardens are within walking distance from Banff Ave and the perfect spot to visit on a tranquil summer afternoon! With landscaped paths, terraced gardens, and multiple gazebos and sitting areas, it’s a beautiful location to bring the family and relax with a picnic.

There are several varieties of trees and flowers throughout the gardens, with peak blooming season running from late May to early September. If you come later in the year, and miss the flowers blooming, don’t fret – I can assure you that the fall colors are just as beautiful!

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!

The last time we were in Banff in summer, we grabbed a tasty sandwich from Whitebark Cafe before walking down and over the bridge to the gardens. Highly recommended!

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! In fact, one of the best ways to save money while still enjoying the incredible natural scenery 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. We made sure to book this well in advance, and we recommend you do the same! Sites book up very quickly during the summer, and with a location as good as this, we can totally see why.

You’ll also find a large campground at Two Jacks Lake. Although this is also a short 13-minute drive from town, this location is so peaceful and beautiful, so much so that you won’t want to leave!

All campgrounds in Banff National Park are managed by Parks Canada, which makes it super easy to check out each campground, as well as the services they offer, online. As for fees, you can 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

A couple take a selfie with beers at the Banff Brewery in Banff
I hope you like craft beer as much as we do!

Because Banff attracts tourists from all over the world, it’s a wonderful 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.

30. Day trip to the Kananaskis

Bailey at Upper Kananaskis Lake, Alberta
Bailey at Upper Kananaskis Lake, Alberta
Bailey walks into a pool at the Kananaskis Nordic Spa in Alberta, Canada
Kananaskis Nordic Spa!

If your itinerary allows, we recommend spending the day or even a night in Kananaskis Village, a charming resort village that’s about an hour’s drive away from Banff. In fact, spending the night at The Crosswater Resort here turned out to be one of the highlights of our recent trip to Banff!

The resort is ideal for families, with four incredible restaurants and a large indoor pool area. You’ll also have preferential access to the Kananaskis Nordic Spa if you stay at the resort, perfect for letting that travel stress wash away! 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 – we really had such a blast here.

Rooms here at the Crosswater Resort start at $307 CAD per night and can be booked online here.

Hiking is another one of my favorite things to do in the Kananaskis, so if you’re up for a hike, be sure to try out Troll Falls. It’s easily one of the best and most scenic hikes in the area, partially because of the stunning waterfall at the end. In fact, the waterfall is beautiful no matter the season you do the hike, so if you find yourself in the Kananaskis in winter you can visit it too!

The hike is around 3.2 km (2.1 miles) round-trip and pretty easy overall for anyone with a decent level of physical fitness.

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

person bicycling in the distance on a trail in Banff National Park
There are some great bicycle trails in and around Banff!

While you may not be able to go skiing during the warm summer months, you can still experience the thrill of the descent on two wheels!

For those looking for the best mountain biking trails, 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.

The Goat Creek trail stretches from southern Banff to southwestern Canmore and is a lot longer at 18.8 kilometers (11.7 miles), with quite a high elevation gain at 604 meters (1,981 feet). We reckon it will take most mountain bikers about six hours to complete. It’s also quite a popular track, especially in the summer, so we suggest getting here early to avoid the crowds.

For a nice leisurely ride, consider trying out the Legacy Trail. This 26.8-kilometer (16.7 mile) trail is mostly paved and flat. Connecting Banff with Canmore, the trail was finished back in 2010 to coincide with the 125th anniversary of Banff National Park, and it’s been a popular route among cyclists ever since!

Our top pick for families is the Sundance Trail which starts from the Cave and Basin Historic Site, about a 10-minute cycle from downtown. This 3.7-kilometer (2.3 mile) long trail is paved and an easy ride along the scenic Bow River before climbing up to a pretty picnic area.

If you’re up for something a bit more chilled out and relaxed, then you can also grab a bike and head out to explore the town! In fact, it’s an amazing way to get to know Banff a lot quicker than simply walking.

You can rent bikes from various shops around Banff for as little as $13 CAD/hour. We’ve had a great experience renting with Banff Cycle at the train station in the past. Bicycle rental shops can also 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 (2.8 mile) hike takes you from Banff town up Tunnel Mountain to a beautiful viewpoint over the town and valley.

The views are something right 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 (984 ft) in elevation. We’d say this is the perfect introduction to hiking in Banff, giving you a taster of what’s to come!

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 (542.9 square miles), so it’s best to allow several hours or even a full day to explore as much of the scenic Kootenay National Park as possible!

Whenever we’re presented with such a large area that’s full of so many incredible things to do, the first thing we think of is whether there are any good tours that can give us a complete introduction! This full-day tour to Kootenay National Park is just that, departing from Banff and including two self-guided hikes, stops at scenic viewpoints of Vermillion Mountain and Mitchell Mountain, and includes an optional visit to the Radium Hot Springs.

As it’s a full-day tour, you’ll have plenty of time to get to know your guides and ask any questions that you may have. We peppered our guide with so many questions, and he really did a great job at letting us know all about the park, the wildlife, and so much more! This guided tour is about 8 to 11 hours long and costs $201 CAD per adult (16+) and $182 CAD per child (0-15).

All in all, we think this is a pretty good deal, giving you a fantastic introduction to Kootenay National Park! You can grab your tickets for this tour here.

Or, if you would rather explore on your own, there are loads of fun things to do in Kootenay National Park which you can put together to create the ultimate itinerary. One of the best hikes in the area is the short 1.6 kilometer (1 mile) Marble Canyon trail, which will take about 30 minutes to complete. You’ll cross no less than seven bridges along this easy trail, all of which look down into the limestone canyon.

To reach the trail, all you need to do is head to the nearby car park, which is just off the Banff-Windermere Parkway, and follow the signs from there.

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 also a small town within the Kootenays, aptly named Radium Hot Springs after the famed hot springs outside of town. The springs are just 3 km (1.86 mi) 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 reasonable at $16.50 CAD per adult. 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 Airbnbs in Radium Hot Springs that I’m sure you’ll love.

34. Soak in the Banff Upper Hot Springs

Banff Upper Hot Springs
Perfect on a cloudy day in banff!

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 — after a refreshing dip you can lounge about on the chairs around the pool – perfect R&R if you ask me!

One of the things I love most about the Banff Hot Springs is how accessible they are for everyone. The hot springs are super easy to get to (only a couple of minutes from the center of town) and very affordable too. At $16.50 CAD per adult and $53 CAD for a family of four, even those on a budget can enjoy one of the best Banff attractions.

These hot springs can get very busy though, so 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, and 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 we’ve seen, the views from the short, easy trail make this the perfect activity in Banff in the summer that you won’t want to skip.

You can reach the hoodoos either by driving up to the parking lot on Tunnel Mountain Road, around a 7 to 10-minute drive from downtown, or by hiking from Surprise Corner.

If you do the first option (which is what I usually do), it’s just a 10-minute walk from the parking lot to the viewpoint, at which point you can turn around and head back after grabbing some award-winning photos! If you choose to hike from Surprise Corner, 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, we suggest walking from Surprise Corner and returning the way you came. It’s about a 10-kilometer (6.2-mile) walk that takes around 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?!

We’ve got a special place in our hearts for stand up paddleboarding, also known as SUP (very catchy, we know!). We think it’s one of the best ways to get close to nature and explore some of Canada’s best watery locations, being sustainable to boot.

Whether you’ve tried it before or are a complete beginner, we’d suggest trying out this stand up paddleboarding experience at Johnson Lake. Just a 16-minute drive from downtown Banff, it’s so pretty here – think turquoise water surrounded by the Cascade mountain range.

It really doesn’t matter if you’ve never tried stand-up paddleboarding before because your instructor will give you a crash course on the basics of SUP before you hit the lake on your own. The whole experience lasts around an hour and a half, and I promise you will be hooked on the sport after just one session.

Starting from the beach at Johnson Lake, tickets are just $89 CAD per person, and you can select your dates online here.

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 it also gets the adrenaline pumping with all of the excitement! Banff is also one of our favorite spots in all of BC to go rafting, with a great mix of beginner and more advanced spots to explore.

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!

Keep your eyes peeled for some of Banff’s amazing wildlife along the way too, we happened to spot a couple of bald eagles soaring overhead, but you might also spot deer and maybe even a bear too.

Taking place in the early afternoon at the Nakoda Lakeside Lodge, we’d suggest getting there around 15 minutes before the start time so you’re not rushing around. It’s about a 40-minute drive from Banff downtown, so give yourself a little extra time in case of traffic!

The water is bitterly cold, but with the right gear and the added bonus of adrenaline, this turned out to be one of our favorite experiences in Banff, and we’re sure it will be one of yours too. Tickets for this experience cost $129 CAD per adult (16+) and $81 CAD for kids (5-15). You can book your slot out on the rapids here.

Related Read: If you can’t get enough of the water, some of the best whitewater rafting tours in Jasper are also nearby!

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 mostly just for pedestrians! 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 too! 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. If you love cheese, you have to try ‘The Double Double’ at Bear Street Tavern, talk about cheese heaven.

The street is level with the sidewalk, meaning no curbs or narrow walking paths. We often see buskers coming here to play, and in the summertime there’s such a nice and 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 happen to be one of the best breweries in Banff, so you can see why we like it so much.

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 places that’s surprised me the most in Banff National Park is Mt Norquay, a large ski resort which is open year-round! 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 amazing restaurant, the Cliffhouse Bistro.

The chairlift takes about 8 minutes to reach the top, some 7,000 feet (2,133 meters) above the town of Banff. As you can imagine, it’s the breathtaking views of Banff town from this height that makes this gondola ride an absolute treat. Once you step off the gondola, you’ll be able to savor this view from the panoramic viewpoint – if you’re like me, you won’t ever want to leave!

Despite the incredible views, this spot is more of an “off the beaten path” sort of experience, a real hidden gem that I recommend to all.

The Mt Norquay chairlift costs $45 CAD per adult (16+) and $28 CAD for kids (6-15), so it’s also pretty inexpensive for the great views you’ll be getting. If you’re comparing all the gondolas in Banff, this one is a much less busy attraction than the Banff Gondola, being open for sightseeing from June to October.

You can book the Mount Norquay sightseeing gondola online here!

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 we’d highly recommend giving them a call to make a reservation beforehand. It is also only open in the summer months from June to October.

If you don’t mind traveling a little farther afield, head to the Whitehorn Bistro at the top of the Lake Louise Gondola. This restaurant is located 2042 meters (6,700 ft) above sea level, so as you can imagine, it offers some pretty epic views too!

The restaurant’s hours do change seasonally, as does the menu, so be sure to check their website before you go. Like the Cliffhouse, it’s a good idea to make a reservation 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

Choosing the right accommodation is one of the most important parts of your trip, and in Banff, the selection can be a little overwhelming! There are lots of different areas to consider when it comes to deciding where to stay in Banff National Park, with plenty of great hotels in Banff town to consider too.

Below are some amazing hotels we recommend:

Samesun Banff Hostel – $

Finding a great budget hostel can be a little tough in Banff – accommodation here can be expensive, after all! The Samesun Banff Hostel offers clean dorm rooms that are 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. There’s also breakfast included in your rate, which is a big plus.

A bed in a dorm here starts at $62 CAD per night and can be booked on either Booking.com or Hostelworld.

Banff Inn – $$

If you’re looking for the perfect mix of comfort and affordability, check out the Banff Inn, located right on Banff Ave. It has a budget-friendly price tag but also comes with lots of luxuries too, and all the rooms are air-conditioned! In the hotel, you’ll find a hot tub, steam room, and sauna, as well as a fantastic restaurant and bar.

Rooms here start at $229 CAD per night, and we recommend booking the Banff Inn well in advance, as this is one of the most popular hotels in Banff!

Banff Rocky Mountain Resort – $$

The Banff Rocky Mountain Resort is another great option when it comes to hotels near Banff on a mid-range budget, with its very own swimming pool, hot tub, and fully-equipped gym. All the rooms have kitchenettes or full kitchens, which are perfect for making up lunches for the next day or for just enjoying a home-cooked meal as a break from eating out. We’d say it’s the perfect place for families since two and three-bedroom units are also on offer.

At just a 5-minute drive from Banff town, it’s also very peaceful and quiet, yet close enough to all the action when you want to head into town. Rooms here start from $188 CAD and you can check availability and book Banff Rocky Mountain Resort online here.

Fairmont Banff Springs – $$$

The Fairmont Banff Springs is easily the most luxurious hotel in Banff! It’s definitely not cheap, but if you’re looking to stay at the best of the best accommodation, then this hotel is worth checking out – 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, this hotel alone is sure to make your stay in Banff unforgettable!

Rooms at the Fairmont start from $666 CAD, but can rise further when availability is low. 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 (including Banff, Jasper, Yoho, Mount Revelstoke, Glacier, Kootenay, and more) 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 a couple of days.

  • Adult (ages 18-64) is $11 CAD
  • Senior (65+) is $9.50 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.)

  • $22.00 CAD gets your entire vehicle entry for one full day

Parks Canada Discovery Pass

The “Discovery Pass”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) – $75.25 CAD
  • Senior (65+) – $64.50 CAD
  • Group/Family (up to 7 people in one vehicle) – $151.25 CAD

Hot Tip: Although more expensive up front, 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 or booths at the entrance to many national parks.

Renting a Car in Alberta

A car drives along the Icefields Parkway
The drive is memorizing!

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.

Renting a car will definitely make exploring all of the fun things to see and do in Alberta easier.

Car rental in Canada isn’t super cheap, but it isn’t overly expensive either, 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 DiscoverCars.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