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15 BEST Day Trips from Banff (With & Without a Car!)

15 BEST Day Trips from Banff (With & Without a Car!)

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There are a ton of things to do in Banff, but taking at least one day trip is a must while you’re in town! 

One of the things that we love the most about Banff – as well as its natural beauty and fantastic wildlife – is that it’s the perfect base for exploring the Canadian Rockies. You’ve got so many bucket-list destinations within easy reach of this tourist town, from the stunning Icefields Parkway to the bright blue waters of Moraine Lake. 

We’ve visited Banff many times and even lived nearby in Canmore, so we’re well aware of the amazing day trip opportunities here. Whether you want to hit the most popular spots or get off the beaten track, we’ve got you covered with our ultimate list of day trips from Banff! 

Best Day Trips from Banff

1. Icefields Parkway

Peyto Lake Viewpoint in Banff National Park on the Icefields Parkway, Canada
Peyto Lake!
Scenic road down the Icefields Parkway in Canada
The Icefields Parkway!
  • Distance from Banff: 60 kilometers (37 miles) to Lake Louise entrance
  • How to get there: Drive or take a guided tour
  • Time needed: 1-2 days

The Icefields Parkway has to be one of the most beautiful drives in the world. We’ve done it so many times, but we never get tired of it. Quite the opposite, in fact – we love it even more every time we make the journey! There are so many stunning stops along the way, from ancient glaciers to vivid blue lakes, and plenty of epic viewpoints. 

The road is 230 kilometers (143 miles) long and stretches between Lake Louise and Jasper. However, on a day trip from Banff, you’ll access the road via Lake Louise. To help you plan, we’ve written about all the best stops between Lake Louise and Jasper, and we’ll discuss some of our favorites further down. All you need is a Parks Canada Pass and you’ll be set to

If you’ve got a rental car, you can drive the Icefields Parkway all year round. My favorite time of year to drive here is the summer because the conditions are easy and you get spectacular views. That being said, the road is stunning in winter when you can see snow-capped peaks and frozen waterfalls. However, you will need snow chains or winter tires on your car. You should also check for conditions and road closures with 511 Alberta before you go.

We love staying overnight along the Icefields Parkway during the summer and taking two full days to explore the wonderful stops. If you want to do the same, read our guide on where to stay along the Icefields Parkway here. But if you prefer a single-day trip, we suggest only driving as far as the Athabasca Glacier, which is roughly the halfway point, then heading back to Banff. Otherwise, there would be way too much driving for one day.

Mistaya-Canyon-on-the-Icefields-Parkway-in-summer
Mistaya Canyon!
A grizzly bear eats grass on the Icefields Parkway
We love seeing grizzly bears

As you drive along the Icefields Parkway towards the Athabasca Glacier, you can pull over at the Crowfoot Glacier Viewpoint and Bow Lake Viewpoint – we were even lucky enough to see a bear at the latter! We also recommend spending half an hour walking to the Peyto Lake Upper Viewpoint and back for awesome views of this bright blue lake shaped like a dog’s head. 

You can also stretch your legs with a short hike at Mistaya Canyon. This hike is 0.5 kilometers (0.3 miles) long each way and takes you from the parking lot to a viewpoint overlooking a beautiful canyon. 

Arguably the most epic stop along the Icefields Parkway, though, is the Athabasca Glacier, which is part of the Columbia Icefield. There are a couple of ways to explore this glacier, which is estimated to be around 240,000 years old. You can only visit between May and October, but that’s by far the most popular time to drive the Icefields Parkway anyway. 

You can hike the Athabasca Toe of the Glacier Trail for free in 10 to 20 minutes, which takes you to a viewpoint overlooking the glacier. But honestly, what’s even better is walking along this glass-bottomed Skywalk! The Skywalk protrudes out of the cliffside and hangs over the Sunwapta Valley, giving you breathtaking views of the glaciers, valley, and snow-capped mountains surrounding you.

Daniel on one of the large Ice Explorers on the Athabasca Glacier on a tour
The Columbia Icefield!
Jasper Skywalk along the Icefields Parkway
A little freaky, but so cool!

To kick things up another notch, you can combine the Skywalk with this Ice Explorer Tour, which allows you to travel across the glacier’s surface in a behemoth vehicle, and then get out and walk on it! We even got to fill up our water bottles with fresh glacier water, which was so cool.

However, if you really fancy yourself as a polar explorer, you can also embark on this 4-hour hike across the Athabasca Glacier’s surface with this guided tour. You’ll even have the chance to abseil down into a crevasse – and come on, it doesn’t get much more adventurous than that! 

Whichever experience you choose, make sure to book in advance. The Athabasca Glacier attracts over a million visitors every summer, so if you turn up on the day I guarantee you’ll waste hours waiting around at the Glacier Visitor Center.

Then, from the glacier, it’s a 2-hour drive back to Banff – although if you can time it right, we love stopping at the Peyto Lake Viewpoint for sunset on the return trip! 

Tours of the Icefields Parkway from Banff

Peyto Lake at sunset on the Icefields Parkway
Does it get any better than this?

If you don’t want to drive yourself along the Icefields Parkway, you can always book this tour from Banff, which takes you to Lake Louise, Bow Lake, the Crowfoot Glacier, and Peyto Lake, as well as Moraine Lake (when it’s open during the summer). This tour is a great choice if you’re worried about driving yourself along the Icefield Parkway during the winter. It also allows you to see many of the top spots in the Canadian Rockies in just one day, so it’s ideal for those short on time! 

The guides are laid back and don’t make you feel rushed, which we always think is important when you’re visiting this many places in a day, and we like the fact that it’s a small group tour with a maximum of 22 people. The 9-hour tour costs $195 CAD per person and is available most days, with pick-up around 9 am from Banff.

However, our top choice for an Icefields Parkway tour from Banff would have to be this epic tour! It does exactly what we suggested above, and takes you halfway along the Icefields Parkway to the Athabasca Glacier, where you’ll enjoy the Skywalk and the Ice Explorer tour. This means you get to see the glacier from high above and up close when you stand on its surface! Plus, you get to visit the Crowfoot Glacier and Bow Lake, as well as Peyto Lake if there’s time.

This 11-hour tour costs $339 CAD per person, including hotel pickup and drop off, your Skywalk and Ice Explorer fees, and a filling packed lunch (which you’ll enjoy at a scenic stop). The tour runs from May to mid-October, and honestly, we think that the itinerary is pretty much perfect! 

2. Lake Louise

Bailey on the shores of Lake Louise
It’s almost too easy to get good photos here
Bailey and Daniel with their dog rex at Lake Louise foreshore
Dogs love it too!
  • Distance from Banff: 57 kilometers (35.4 miles) 
  • How to get there: Drive yourself, take the bus or a guided tour
  • Time needed: 5-11 hours

Lake Louise is a picturesque alpine village that feels like it belongs in a storybook, or at the very least, on the front of a postcard! It’s one of our favorite places to visit in the whole of Canada, and with its stunning lakefront, fantastic hiking trails, and very own chateau, we just know that you’ll fall in love with it, too. 

It takes 50 minutes to drive from Banff to Lake Louise, so there’s really no reason not to visit while you’re in Banff. 

We love coming here in the summer when you can canoe on the vivid blue lake. You can also combine your visit here with a trip to nearby Moraine Lake, which we’ll talk more about below. 

We’ve written a whole blog about things to do in Lake Louise during the warmer months, but we’ll highlight some of our favorites now.

First off, we love riding the summer sightseeing gondola, which is open between late May and early October. It’s actually possible to spot black and grizzly bears as you ride up to the top of the mountain, so it’s worth bringing binoculars if you have some. There are some nice hiking trails at the top of the mountain, and we had a delicious gourmet meal at the Whitehorn Bistro, with amazing views to boot! The gondola is popular, so it’s best to reserve your tickets in advance, especially if you’re visiting during the Canadian school holidays. 

Lake Agnes Teahouse near Lake Louise
Don’t forget to visit the teahouse!
Bailey stands on the edge of Lake Agnes on the Lake Agnes Teahouse hike
Lake Agnes

The hikes at the top of Mt Whitehorn are nice, but honestly, the best one in Lake Louise has to be the Lake Agnes Tea House Trail. You start at the Lake Louise lakefront and hike up the mountainside, enjoying spectacular views over this famous body of water, until you reach Lake Agnes, which is another beautiful alpine lake. Plus, you get to enjoy coffee and cake at the Lake Agnes Tea House before heading back again. 

The Lake Agnes Tea House Trail is a moderate hike, so if you hike regularly, you’ll be fine. However, if you’re a bit nervous about going off into the mountains by yourself, you can book this small-group guided hike during the summer. That way, you’ll have a guide to show you where to go and make sure that you stay safe en route. 

Meanwhile, winter opens up a whole host of different activities in Lake Louise. The Lake Louise Ski Resort is renowned for its fantastic slopes, so if you enjoy skiing or snowboarding (or have ever wanted to learn) then take full advantage of this world-class destination. And if you don’t feel like skiing, you can always enjoy snow tubing here instead – absolutely no skill required! 

Bailey at the top of Lake Louise Ski Resort
Some of the best skiing in the world!

Another thing we love about Lake Louise in the winter is that the lake completely freezes, which means you can skate on the surface! The folks at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise kindly clear the snow each day, and you can skate for free if you have your own skates with you, or rentals are available from the lakeshore for around $23 CAD. 

Afterward, you can always head to the Fairmont’s beautiful, open-air Ice Bar, which will make you feel even more like you’re living out a Christmas movie in Lake Louise! You can warm up with a mulled wine or spiked chili hot chocolate, and reservations are not necessary, although priority is given to hotel guests when the bar is busy. 

Getting there

Roam transit bus at Moraine Lake
The Roam Transit bus!

Car 

Driving from Banff to Lake Louise is easy, but the parking situation can be tricky, so you’ll need to plan ahead if you want to drive yourself. We detailed the entire Lake Louise parking situation here, but we’ve also provided the Reader’s Digest version below.

Between May and October, parking at the Lakefront costs $21 CAD per day and is very limited. Get here before 8 am to secure your spot, or else you’ll waste a lot of time waiting!

Alternatively, you can park at the Lake Louise Park and Ride and book the Parks Canada shuttle for $8 CAD per person. You’ll need to reserve your spot on the shuttle, which you can do by making sure that you’re on the booking site two days beforehand at 8 am sharp. So, for example, if you want to use the Parks Canada shuttle on the 10th, you’ll need to be online at 8 am MST on the 8th to grab your spot. 

Bus

You can also take the 8X Roam Transit bus from Banff to Lake Louise all year round. Tickets cost $10 CAD each way, and you can catch the bus from the Banff High School Transit Hub or Banff Train Station. The schedule changes seasonally, but buses run throughout the day, so make sure to check the timetable and reserve tickets before you go. 

Tour

Views of Lake Louise from the foreshore
You can’t beat these views

If you don’t want to worry about parking or making bus reservations, you can always book this small group tour. It takes you to Lake Louise, the Vermillion Lakes Viewpoint, and to Bow Falls and Surprise Corner in Banff. During summer, you get to go to Moraine Lake, which is a real bonus as it’s a bit of a nightmare to get to by yourself. And during winter, you’ll enjoy a thrilling ice walk through the dramatic Johnston Canyon (with the help of your expert guide, of course!). 

So basically, this tour is a winner all year round! 

Tours run daily at 9:45 am from a central meeting point in Banff and last roughly 8 hours. The tour costs $155 CAD per person, excluding a $10 CAD service fee for your guide (which is payable on the day). We think that this is a very reasonable price considering that you get to visit so many places, and because there’s a maximum of 14 participants.

Related Read: If you plan to travel in the colder season, check out our list of the best wintertime tours in Banff. You’ll really get a feel for this winter wonderland!

3. Moraine Lake

Daniel proposes to Bailey at Moraine Lake
Daniel proposed at Moraine Lake!
Bailey in a canoe at Moraine Lake, Banff NP
The water here is unreal!
  • Distance from Banff: 71.4 kilometers (44.4 miles) 
  • How to get there: Drive then take the Parks Canada Shuttle, or take a private bus or guided tour
  • Time needed: 6+ hours

Not only is Moraine Lake epically beautiful, but it’s also a very special place for us because this is where we got engaged! 

The water is such a vivid shade of blue that every photo looks like it’s got a filter applied, but we promise, it really does look like this in person – only better.

Moraine Lake is tricky to get to, which we’ll cover in a moment, but it’s so worth the effort to visit this majestic lake. Also, bear in mind that you can only visit Moraine Lake between mid-June and mid-October since the summer is the only time the access road is open. 

And if you can make it here for sunrise, that’s even better, because it’s even more spectacular at first light. In fact, there’s nothing like watching the first rays of the day hit Moraine Lake and the Ten Peaks… it gives me chills just thinking about it! 

Daniel and Bailey pose for a photo the the rockpile at Moraine Lake
What a backdrop!

One of the best things to do at Moraine Lake is to rent canoes from the Lodge, which costs $140 CAD (before tax) for an hour. It is a bit pricey but so worth it because how often do you get to glide across a lake as beautiful as this one? Afterward, you can grab a cup of coffee at the Snowshoe Cafe to warm up again. Yup, it still gets chilly out on the lake, even in the middle of summer! 

We also love walking along the Lakeshore Trail, which is 3.7 kilometers (2.3 miles) roundtrip from the Lodge. This trail gives you fantastic views of the water and the Ten Peaks behind.

Make sure to walk to the top of the Rockpile, which is right in front of the lake and is a truly epic photo spot. If you follow the trail mentioned above, it takes a little detour here. And if you search “Moraine Lake” on Instagram, you’ll see thousands upon thousands of photos taken from this perspective. It’s also the exact spot where we got engaged! 

Definitely bring your camera when you visit Moraine Lake. And if you’re looking for more photo-worthy destinations, read our blog about the most Intagrammable spots in Banff.

Getting there

Buckle up – getting to Moraine Lake is not easy! 

Driving here was always a bit of a nightmare and since 2023 private vehicles haven’t been allowed to use the road at all. To be honest, this probably saves many people a lot of hassle in the end, but it does mean that you need to book transportation here. 

Parks Canada Shuttle

Parks Canada bus the Lake Connector
The Parks Canada Bus

You can visit Moraine Lake and Lake Louise on the same day, since they’re only 11.5 kilometers (7.1 miles) apart. So if this is your plan, you can always drive from Banff to the Lake Louise Ski Resort Park and Ride, which takes about 45 minutes, and then take the Parks Canada Shuttle from there to Moraine Lake. We actually wrote an entire guide on taking this shuttle here.

This is a convenient option in the sense that shuttles leave every 20 minutes between 6:30 am and 5:50 pm during the summer, and the last shuttle departs Moraine Lake to take you back to the ski resort at 7:30 pm. The bus ride takes roughly half an hour. 

This is an affordable way to visit Moraine Lake since tickets for the shuttle cost $8 CAD. However, you need to be pretty on it when it comes to booking your spot on the shuttle. 

You can either do this when the first tickets become available in mid-April, or two days before you plan to go to Moraine Lake. The tickets are released at 8 am Mountain Time, two days ahead of the date of travel. So, for example, if you want to visit Moraine Lake on Wednesday, you’ll need to be on the website at 8 am on Monday. Click on the section called “Day Use” on the reservation page.

Don’t be tempted to push your luck and sleep in. The tickets get snapped up very quickly, so set an alarm! 

People line up for the bus at Moraine Lake
The long line for the Parks Canada bus

When you reserve your tickets, you don’t need to book a time slot for the shuttle, which does take some of the pressure off. The downside to this, though, is that there are always lines for the shuttles even though everyone has to pre-booked, so expect to spend some time waiting in line. We recommend trying to catch one of the first shuttles of the day to beat the crowds. 

Private bus

Daniel and Bailey pose for a photo with the Moraine Lake shuttle
We love the Moraine Lake bus shuttle!

When Moraine Lake access road closed to cars in 2023, private bus companies began offering to take visitors to the lake. Choosing this option means you don’t visit the lake with a guide, but also allows you to easily arrange transportation to the lake without having to scramble for tickets to the Parks Canada Shuttle. 

The Moraine Lake Bus Company takes visitors to the lake between early June and mid-October, and it’s definitely easier to book their services than Parks Canada’s, as long as you do it well in advance (although it is more expensive). The bus leaves from Lake Louise, not Banff, so you will need to drive there or take the 8X Roam bus to Lake Louise first. 

You can take the company’s daytime bus from Lake Louise to Moraine Lake between 6:25 am and 4:50 pm during the summer, which costs $49 CAD for adults. 

However, if you’re not afraid of an early morning, then you can take the sunrise bus. We can assure you that sunrises here are 100% worth the early start, and you can read more about our experience plus tips on taking the sunrise bus here. With that being said, to get to Moraine Lake for sunrise before 21 July, you’ll need to catch the 4 am bus from Lake Louise. This means leaving Banff at around 3 am – but a least the roads will be quiet at that time of day!

Between 21 July and mid-October, the company also runs a 5:05 am bus from Lake Louise which will still get you to Moraine Lake before sunrise. 

Sunrise tickets cost between $99 and $119 CAD, depending on the date. This is a lot pricier than going during the day, but you really can’t put a price on seeing the sun rise over Moraine Lake, without the usual crowds around. 

Tours from Banff

Moraine Lake Lodge in Banff National Park
The beautiful Moraine Lake Lodge!

If you want to see Moraine Lake at sunrise but don’t feel like driving from Banff at such an early hour, book this tour instead. It picks you up from Banff Train Station (or your hotel if you arrange it with the tour company) well before the crack of dawn to get you to Moraine Lake for the most epic sunrise of your life. 

I love how the local guide makes sure you find the best spots to watch the sunrise over the bright blue water. When we went, they also gave us complimentary hot drinks to warm up as we gazed at the sky. The guide showed us how to take the best sunrise photos to capture the insane beauty of the scene, and we walked along the lakeshore before all of the big tour buses arrived.

Speaking of that, there’s a maximum of 21 people on this tour, so it won’t be too crowded. Plus, you get to head into Lake Louise for breakfast after you see the sunrise. You’ll even be able to rent a canoe here or check out some of the trails if you like!

This tour costs $288 CAD per person and gives you about 1.5 hours at Moraine Lake, as well as 2 hours in Lake Louise. We think the price is totally worth it for this jaw-dropping sunrise experience – there really is nothing like it! 

Alternatively, you can combine your visit to Moraine Lake with a day trip along the Icefields Parkway on this full-day tour (which visits Lake Louise as well). Not only does it allow you to explore the Rockies’ most incredible lake, you also get to visit several stops along the stunning Icefield Parkway, such as Peyto Lake and the Crowfoot Glacier. It costs $195 CAD and we think it’s an ideal way to get a feel for the incredible, diverse beauty of the Rockies for those who are short on time. 

4. Johnston Canyon

Daniel at the entrance to Johnston Canyon in Banff National Park
Time to enjoy some nature!
Lower falls at Johnston Canyon in Banff National Park
The Lower Falls at Johnston Canyon
  • Distance from Banff: 25 kilometers (15 miles) 
  • How to get there: Drive, bike, or take a guided tour
  • Time needed: 3-9 hours

Hiking the Johnston Canyon is a must while you’re in Banff! It’s only a 5-kilometer (3-mile) round trip walk from the parking lot if you go all the way to the Upper Falls, but you get to traverse through so much beautiful scenery during this relatively short and easy walk. 

On the Upper Falls Trail, you start off by hiking through a lush forest until you come to the river canyon, where you will walk across a series of crisscrossing catwalks that take you over Johnston Creek. Then, for the grand finale, you’ll be rewarded even further as you reach two big waterfalls. You can actually view the Lower Falls by crawling through a cave, which adds an exciting twist to the hike. 

If you want to keep the hike short, you can turn back after you reach the Lower Falls, which will only take around 1-hour roundtrip. 

However, if you have time, I definitely think it’s worth continuing onto the Upper Falls. You’ll need to hike an extra 1.3 kilometers (0.8 miles) through the canyon to view the falls from the bottom. After, if you like, you can climb up the steep trail that takes you to a viewing platform over the falls. This is my favorite way to see the falls, and the entire hike there and back takes around 2 hours. 

Boardwalk along the river in Johnston Canyon in Banff National Park
One of our favorite places

If you’re visiting during the summer, there’s an option to extend your walk even further by taking the Ink Pots Trail. Continue for another 3 kilometers (2 miles) along the trail from the Upper Falls until you reach the Ink Pots mineral springs. These bright blue springs are dotted with larch trees and look absolutely magnificent on a summer’s day, especially when the wildflowers are in bloom. Plus, this section is much quieter than the path to the waterfalls. 

And if you’re wondering whether you can hike the Johnston Canyon in winter, the answer is yes! We love coming here during the winter because the snow-covered trees and frozen waterfalls are absolutely spectacular to behold. 

However, hiking the canyon is much trickier during the winter, and driving along the Bow Valley Parkway can be dangerous. It’s best to book this guided Ice Walk so that all of your transportation and winter hiking equipment is taken care of.

Getting there

Car

Daniel driving a rental car in Canada
Off we go!

If you’re planning on driving to the Johnston Canyon during the spring or summer, then you need to be aware of the seasonal road closures. The section of the Bow Valley Parkway between Banff and the Johnston Canyon closes 24/7 to cars between 1 May and 25 June, and then again from 1 to 30 September.

You can still drive to the Johnston Canyon from Banff during this time, but you will need to take a slight detour. You can drive along Highway 1 to Castle Junction (exit 50), and then turn onto the Bow Valley Parkway there. Then, you will be able to drive back to the Johnston Canyon. This route will take you around 40 minutes, which is only 10 minutes longer than when the entire Bow Valley Parkway is open. 

The Bow Valley Parkway remains open to vehicles all year round between the Johnston Canyon and Lake Louise, so you could also visit Lake Louise in the morning and then stop at the Johnston Canyon on your way back to Banff in the afternoon. 

For more info, check out our guide on getting to Johnston Canyon from Banff.

Bike

Views from the upper viewpoint at Johnston Canyon in Banff National Park
Views from the upper viewpoint

During the warmer months, biking to Johnston Canyon from Banff can be an epic experience! It’s especially amazing in June and September when the road closures mean you have the beautiful Bow Valley Parkway all to yourself. 

If you want to cycle the entire way, you can start in downtown Banff and head out along the Legacy Trail, which will take you to the Bow Valley Parkway towards the Johnston Canyon parking lot. Bikes aren’t allowed on the hiking trail, so you’ll need to lock up your bike at the racks in the parking area. You do this at your own risk, but we’ve done it several times and never had any problems – just remember to bring your own lock with you! 

It’s 52 kilometers (32 miles) to cycle from Banff to the Johnston Canyon and back again. It’s a long way, but we promise you, the stunning views are worth the sore legs! However, if you don’t want to cycle quite that far, you can always park up at Castle Junction and cycle from there. It’s 12.8 kilometers (8 miles) round trip and should only take you about 20 minutes each way. 

Another option is to book this guided E-bike Tour from Banff. We love this option because you get to cycle the entire way from Banff to the Johnston Canyon, but you’ll be on an e-bike which makes it a lot easier. Plus, a guide leads the group and takes you on a hike to the Lower Falls. Then there’s a shuttle back to Banff, so you get to experience the full beauty of the Bow Valley Parkway, while only having to cycle one way! This 4-hour tour runs between May and October and costs $178 CAD per person, including transit from the Banff meeting point

Tour

Bailey and Daniel pose for a photo at Johnston Canyon in Banff National Park
The Lower Falls at Johnston Canyon!
Waterfall at Johnston Canyon in Banff National Park
The beautiful Middle Falls!

If you’re short on time, we recommend taking this Banff and Johnston Canyon tour, which will show you all of the town’s highlights and take you for a guided hike along the canyon. As well as the Johnston Canyon, you’ll visit Bow Falls, Surprise Corner, and the Banff Hoodoos. It also includes a ride on the Banff Gondola up Sulphur Mountain, which we think is the #1 thing to do in Banff! Just make sure to choose the option that includes your gondola ticket when booking the tour. 

We think that this tour is fantastic if you don’t have long to spend in Banff and want to hit all of the highlights, including Johnston Canyon. It costs $245 CAD per person with the gondola ride and includes pick-up from a central location in Banff. Tours are available on Mondays and Fridays during the winter, or from Tuesdays to Saturdays during the summer.

Daniel and Bailey take a selfie at the upper falls at Johnston Canyon in Banff National Park
Selfie with the Upper Falls!

Alternatively, if you’re seeking a bit more flexibility with your sightseeing, you might prefer this Hop-on Hop-off Banff bus. This tour also has the novelty factor, because you’ll be traveling around Banff National Park on a yellow school bus, and you’ll get to hop off and explore a variety of places including Lake Louise, Moraine Lake, and of course Johnston Canyon! 

We took this bus and had plenty of time to hike to the Lower Falls. We recommend catching the first bus of the day at 7:45 am to arrive at Johnston Canyon when it’s quiet and enjoy having the trails to yourself before the crowds descend. 

What’s great about this tour is that it gives you the flexibility to build the day you want. And at $85 CAD per person for a full-day pass, it’s also a relatively inexpensive way to explore Banff National Park without having your own car. The tour is available daily between 7 June and 22 September, so we think it’s perfect for a day of summer sightseeing. 

However, if you want to visit Johnston Canyon during the winter, the best way to do it is with this guided Ice Walk Tour from Banff. There’s no need to worry about the wintery conditions because you’ll have a professional guide and driver to keep you safe! We loved this tour because the guide also helped us spot wildlife and taught us tons about the fascinating history and geography of this stunning canyon. The tour costs $101 CAD per person, including round-trip transport from Banff, ice cleats, and hiking poles. It’s a great deal for such a novel experience! 

5. Canmore

Bailey and Daniel enjoy Scoopin Moose in Canmore on 8th Street
You have to try the ice cream at Scoopin Moose!
Bailey at Grassi Lakes, Canmore on a spring day
Hanging out at Grassi Lakes, Canmore
  • Distance from Banff:  25.4 kilometers (15.7 miles) 
  • How to get there: Drive or take the public bus
  • Time needed: 3+ hours (depending on how much you want to do here!)

We love Canmore – so much so that we decided to live here! And after living here, we can confirm that it’s an amazing city with just as many amazing hikes, shops, craft breweries, and opportunities for skiing as Banff itself. We actually prefer Canmore to Banff because it has a more laid-back, unpretentious feel, so it’s worth taking a day trip here and finding out if you can see yourself living in this friendly, outdoorsy city, too! 

One of the reasons we decided to move to Canmore was because we couldn’t resist the idea of so many beautiful hikes right on our doorstep. If you only do one hike here, make it the Grassi Lakes, which is a super accessible 4-kilometer (2.5-mile) trail that can be completed in about 2 hours. These lakes offer exactly the kind of breathtaking beauty that people come to the Rockies for, and you can even go swimming here on a hot day. 

If you have time to fit another hike in, then we recommend the Bow River Loop Trail, which will take you past the historic Canmore Engine Bridge and provide beautiful mountain views throughout. Plus, it’s a flat 2-kilometer (1.3 mile) loop trail, so you only need about 40 minutes for this one.

However, if you are interested in learning more about Canmore’s history, take this 1.5-hour cowboys and coal mines walking tour. You and your private group will explore local trails as you learn about the people who helped create this town.

Walking the Bow River Loop Trail with views of the Historic Engine Bridge in Canmore, Alberta
The historic Canmore Engine Bridge you see on the Bow Valley Loop Trail!

If you’re in Canmore during the winter and are worried about hiking conditions, you can also join this 3-hour history and wildlife tour, which takes you along some of Canmore’s most scenic hiking trails, and includes winter equipment so that you don’t need to worry about buying or renting gear. Your guide will take you to secret wildlife spots and if you’re lucky you might even spot an elusive Canadian lynx! 

To really amp up the adventure factor in Canmore, I suggest this half-day caving tour, which includes all your gear and guide. When we went, we were rappelling into a cave and navigating through ancient chambers and rock passages. There were some awesome prehistoric fossils, and our guide shared what they were all about. At the end of the journey through the Canmore caves, we reached a breathtaking natural grotto, which really ended the experience on a high. 

Bailey cross country skis at the Canmore Nordic Center in Canmore, Alberta
Let’s go!
Summer at the Canmore Nordic Center in Canmore, Alberta
Summer at the Canmore Nordic Center

When visiting Canmore in winter, we love going cross-country skiing at the Nordic Center. It’s only $15 CAD for a day pass, which is super cheap in comparison to other places if you already have your own gear, but there are also rentals available here. During the summer, you can take advantage of the hiking and biking trails here. The last time we came here we actually got to watch professional athletes practicing for a biathlon, which was so exciting to see, so keep your eyes out! 

Okay, so that’s all of your adventurous activities in Canmore covered, but don’t forget to rest and refuel. We love hanging out along 8 Street, which is the town’s main strip, and indulging in ice cream from Scoopin Moose or traditional sweets and fudge from the Olde Tyme Candy Store, as well as checking out the local art galleries.

Beer fans should make sure to call into our local, The Drake, for a pint of local craft beer on the patio. Or, read our blog about the best breweries in Canmore for more ideas!

Finally, if you happen to visit Canmore on a Thursday, make sure to head to the Canmore Mountain Market, which is open between 10 am and 6 pm from late May until early October. This farmers market is the place to buy lots of local food and handicrafts, or even souvenirs.

Getting there

It only takes 25 minutes to drive from Banff to Canmore, so there’s really no excuse not to take a day trip here! 

We’ve rented a car through Discover Cars to visit all these cute towns on our own. But if you haven’t got a rental car, you can also take the Roam Transit Route 3 bus from downtown Banff to downtown Canmore. Buses run approximately twice per hour, all year round, and a day pass costs $15 CAD. You can check the schedule online before you go, but the nice thing about this service is that it’s pretty consistent all year round.

Related Read: For those who love cafe hopping in cute towns, check out the best coffee shops in Canmore!

6. Yoho National Park

Two people canoe on Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park, Canada
Emerald Lake, Yoho National Park
Scenic views at Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park
The water at Emerald Lake really looks like this!
  • Distance from Banff:  66.2 kilometers (41.3 miles) 
  • How to get there: Drive or a guided tour
  • Time needed: 5-9 hours

Although popular, Yoho National Park is often overshadowed by Banff and Jasper National Parks – but don’t let that fool you. This national park has a lot to offer, despite its smaller size. It’s chock full of stunning natural attractions, including its famous emerald green lake, lots of waterfalls, and the Spiral Tunnels, which have to be one of the most bizarre feats of engineering found in the Rockies. 

In our opinion, it’s one of the best day trips from Banff for when you’re tired of the crowds and want to visit somewhere a little more peaceful. 

The number one attraction in Yoho National Park has to be Emerald Lake. Unsurprisingly, the name comes from the bright green color of the water, which is at its most vivid during July and August. However, we still think it’s worth visiting during the winter when the area transforms into a pristine winter wonderland. 

This beautiful lake also tends to be quieter than Lake Louise and Moraine Lake – although you should still try to arrive before 10 am to get a parking spot in the summer. We also enjoy walking the 5-kilometer (3.2-mile) Emerald Lake Loop around the water’s edge at any time of year, although you’ll need snowshoes during the winter.

Bailey stands on the edge and admires the views at Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park
Much less crowded here

In the summertime, you can rent canoes from the Emerald Sports Boathouse for around $90-$100 CAD per hour, which is quite a bit cheaper than at Lake Louise or Moraine Lake. Or, if you prefer, you can always rent a SUP board in Banff and bring it with you to explore the water that way, instead. If so, we recommend renting from The Banff Canoe Club in town.

Meanwhile, if you want an easy waterfall hike, I recommend the Takkakaw Falls Trail. It’s only 1.4 kilometers (0.9 miles) from the parking lot to the waterfalls, which is one of the tallest in Canada. And if you’re up for a bit more of a challenge, you can do the intermediate 8.7-kilometer (5.4-mile) out-and-back hike to Laughing Falls and listen to the laughter-like sound the water makes as it cascades down the rocks! 

There’s also plenty of wildlife to spot in Yoho National Park. As you explore some of the hiking trails we’ve just mentioned, you can spot elk, deer, marmots, and even moose if you’re lucky – although sadly, we’ve never seen one here. And if you really want to spot bears, you can also join this full-day wildlife tour from Banff, which takes you to grizzly hotspots around Yoho National Park and beyond. 

Getting there

A scenic road through Yoho National Park, Canada
The drive through Yoho National Park is beautiful

Car

It takes about 45 minutes to drive from Banff to Yoho National Park, so it’s a pretty easy day trip. However, we do recommend heading to Emerald Lake first during the summer and trying to snag a parking spot before 10 am, because the lot does get pretty crowded around midday. 

Tour

However, if you don’t want to drive, there are also plenty of tours to Yoho National Park, such as this full-day tour, which allows you to see all of the park’s prettiest spots. The great thing about this tour is that there’s a maximum of 12 people, so you get lots of personal attention from your guide, and it doesn’t feel too rushed, giving you plenty of time to soak in the beauty of each place. 

Over the course of the day, you’ll visit Takakkaw Falls, make a short hike to Marble Canyon, see the Spiral Tunnels and of course visit the striking Emerald Lake. In fact, after booking, you can even contact the tour company through Viator and have them arrange a canoe rental for you!

The tour costs $288 CAD per person and runs on Sundays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays during the summer. It’s perfect if you’re looking for a close-knit experience with a passionate local guide, and it’s an ideal way to escape the crowds in Banff. 

Takakkaw Falls in Yoho National Park
Takakkaw Falls in Yoho National Park

Meanwhile, if you’re short on time in Banff, you can also do a combined tour of Emerald Lake, Lake Louise, and Moraine Lake (during the summer) with this full-day tour. At $160 CAD per person, it’s a cost-effective way to see the most beautiful lakes in Banff and Yoho National Park, and it runs year round 3-4 times per week. You’ll also visit the Spiral Tunnels and Natural Bridge in Yoho National Park, and during the winter you get to go snowshoeing around the edge of Lake Louise. 

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.
  • Lowest price guarantee – If you happen to find the same tour at a lower price elsewhere, Viator will refund you the price difference.
  • 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, for more info, read our detailed review about Viator here.

7. Calgary

girl enjoys a craft beer at Paddys Barbecue Brewery's outdoor patio in autumn
Cheers to good beer and food!
Street art on a tour in Calgary, Canada
There is lots of great street art
  • Distance from Banff: 127 kilometers (79 miles) 
  • How to get there: Drive or take a bus
  • Time needed: 6+ hours

Calgary is such a fun city to visit at any time of year, and it’s also a convenient place to fly in and out of when visiting Banff. If you’re in the Rockies in July, make sure to pay a visit to the city and experience the famous Stampede, a 10-day festival featuring rodeos, paradise, concerts, and chuckwagon races! 

Nicknamed “Cowgary”, this is an ideal destination for steak-lovers, and you can try out Caesar’s Steakhouse + Lounge or the Vintage Chophouse & Tavern to sample some mouth-watering Alberta beef. You won’t regret it! 

Apart from eating, one of our favorite things to do in Calgary is to go downhill karting at the Calgary Olympic Park, which was built for the 1988 Winter Olympics. Today, it’s home to the longest go-kart track in the world which is 1.8 kilometers (1.1 miles) long, and entirely downhill. We had so much fun zooming along this track, and you can control your speed so it doesn’t get too scary. The track is only open during the summer, and you can save money by booking tickets online here

view of Olympic Park in Calgary from the luge
People downhill karting in Olympic Park!

We also love going up the Calgary Tower for epic views of the city and the Rocky Mountains behind. Admission costs $19 CAD and there’s even a glass floor section of the observation deck, which gives an extra thrill. You can also enjoy a meal with a view at the Sky 360 rotating restaurant (although you’ll need to book your table in advance). 

Walking along the Bow River is also a nice way to stretch your legs and soak in the city views while you’re in town. If you like cycling, you can combine exercise and sightseeing on this 3-hour bike tour, which takes you to see places like Prince’s Island Park, Fort Calgary, and the quaint suburb of Inglewood.

For those visiting Calgary with kids, make sure to stop by the Heritage Park Historical Village. What makes this place so much fun is that it’s filled with actors who dress up as historical figures and stay in character as you explore the park’s attractions, which include a paddle steamer boat, a traditional Ferris wheel, and an antique steam train. Adults can even enjoy a drink at the Western-style saloon, and the village is also a great place to discover more about Canada’s indigenous cultures.

Getting there

Bailey walks through Grotto Canyon
Taking a hike into Grotto Canyon on the way to Calgary

The best and easiest way to get here is to drive, as it takes 1.5 hours from Banff to Calgary. Plus, there are some cool stops along the way that are worth checking out, such as Ghost Lake, which gives you awesome views of the Rocky Mountains, and the magical Grotto Canyon. 

However, if you can’t drive or don’t want to rent a car in Banff, you can also book bus tickets to Calgary using BusBud for around $110 CAD. Then, use the city’s light rail transport network or the Uber app to get around while you’re here.

8. Kootenay National Park

woman standing at a viewpoint in Kootenay National Park
We love Kootenay National Park
  • Distance from Banff: 41.4 kilometers (25.7 miles) 
  • How to get there: Drive or take a tour
  • Time needed: 3-8 hours

Kootenay National Park is absolutely stunning. If you want to experience the breathtaking beauty of the Canadian Rockies without the hordes of visitors you’d encounter in Banff National Park, take a trip down the road to Kootenay instead! 

Boom Lake is one of our favorite places to visit in the park. Officially, it’s just outside rather than in the park’s limits, but let’s not get caught up on technicalities here. It boasts clear waters and is surrounded by glacier-capped mountains, so it easily rivals Banff’s lakes with its beauty. You can hang out on the lakeshore and soak up the views or spend 3-4 hours hiking the Boom Lake Trail, which is 10.3 km (6.4 mi), but fairly easy with plenty of shade.

Or, for a more challenging hike, tackle the Stanley Glacier Trail, which is 4.2 kilometers (2.6 miles) each way. It starts with an easy walk through a forest, which is in the process of being reborn after fires in 1968 and 2003. Then it takes you over boulders at the end, which is a lot more technically difficult. But don’t worry, it’s more than worth it for the epic views you get of the Stanley Glacier. However, you may want to avoid this hike if you suffer from knee problems.

A man stands on a bridge at Marble Canyon in Kootenay National Park
Marble Canyon is stunning!

We also love visiting Marble Canyon in both the summer and the winter. If you head to the parking lot, you can follow the 1.5-kilometer (0.9-mile) Marble Canyon Trail, which takes you over the canyon via a series of bridges, giving fantastic views of the steep drop and the bright blue waters below. When you reach the stop, there’s an amazing waterfall. This hike is also really popular in the winter because it’s very accessible and absolutely stunning in the snow! 

And make sure that you don’t miss the Paint Pots, which are unique mineral pools that vary in color. Their name refers to the fact that Ktunaxa people have used these pools to make ochre paint for hundreds of years, and they’re easy to access via the 2-kilometer (1.2-mile) trail from the parking lot. In my opinion, they’re definitely one of the most interesting things to see in Kootenay National Park – and that’s saying something. 

Getting there

Views of Kootenay National Park
We love a good hike

Car

It only takes 30 minutes to drive from Banff to Kootenay National Park. You need a Parks Pass to enter Kootenay National Park, but if you’re staying in Banff then you should already have one of these (more info on this towards the end of this article!).

Tour

Alternatively, you can book this sightseeing tour of the park from Banff to ensure that you don’t miss out on any of Kootenay’s most beautiful sites. On this tour, we walked along the Marble Canyon, visited a gorgeous viewpoint over the park, and explored the Douglas fir forest on the edge of the Sinclair Canyon. We ended the day with a relaxing soak in the Radium Hot Springs which has a hot and cold pool, as well as diving boards and slides. 

The tour usually only runs on Thursdays, so plan accordingly! It costs $210 CAD per person, including pickup from the Banff Aspen Lodge. Know that you have to pay extra for entry to Radium Hot Springs, which costs $16.50 CAD per adult (but is oh-so worth it!). 

woman stands at the edge of a pond at the Paint Pots in Kootenay National Park
So many different colored pools!

Meanwhile, visiting Kootenay National Park during winter is even more reason to book a tour. Canadian winters are no joke, so driving yourself can be nerve-wracking if you’re not used to these conditions. I’m from here and I still get nervous on these roads! But with this full-day tour, our professional driver melted all my stress away and showed us some of the Rockies’ most beautiful spots. 

Our guide took us on an enchanting wintery hike along Marble Canyon, snowshoeing around the edge of Lake Louise and seeing a snowed-over Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park. Granted, you don’t get to see the lake’s vivid green color during the winter. However, the area is so picturesque when covered in a blanket of snow that we promise you won’t care about that! 

The tour is only available on select days and costs $165 CAD per person, including national park fees, your guide, and transport from a Banff meeting point. Optional activities like sleigh rides and afternoon tea at the Fairmont Chateau in Lake Louise cost extra and must be booked a week in advance. It’s only available on select days,

Related Read: To help you plan your trip, we created this complete Banff itinerary. It tells you exactly how to spend 1,2, or 3 days here for an amazing vacation.

9. Kananaskis Village

Bailey walks into a pool at the Kananaskis Nordic Spa in Alberta, Canada
Spa after a hike? Yes, please!
Bailey at a sauna at the Kananaskis Nordic Spa 
Taking a break from the sauna!
  • Distance from Banff: 81 kilometers (50 miles) 
  • How to get there: Drive yourself
  • Time needed: 4+ hours

Kananaskis Country is known as “Alberta’s Mountain Playground”… to those who know it at all! This 4,000-square-kilometer (1,500-square-mile) area is often overlooked by tourists looking to take a day trip from Banff. But if you’re looking to get off the beaten path and explore the Rockies minus the crowds, you couldn’t ask for anywhere better.

Since the area is huge, if you’re taking a day trip from Banff it’s best to focus on the Kananaskis Village and the things to do around there. The village only consists of a few hotels, one restaurant, and a convenience store, but it’s a great base for exploring the area.

For example, we love the Village Rim Trail and the trailhead conveniently starts in the village. It’s only 1.5 kilometers (0.9 miles) long, so it doesn’t require any hiking expertise and takes you on a loop around the village to a viewpoint where you get fantastic valley views.

When we visited Kananaskis Village, we paid a visit to Boundary Ranch, which is a 10-minute drive away, and went on this 2-hour horse riding tour with them! We rode along a mountain ridge and enjoyed epic views the whole time while letting our horses do all of the work. We felt super safe, but if you haven’t ridden before and would prefer a shorter introduction, the ranch also offers a 1-hour tour which takes you on a loop through the forest to spot wildlife. 

Daniel and Bailey horseback riding at Boundary Ranch 
Horseback riding at Boundary Ranch!

We also loved this 4-hour whitewater rafting tour, which is offered from May to early September. The meeting point is about 20 minutes outside Kananaskis Village and starts at 1:30 pm, so it’s a good activity on your way in or out of town. When you drift along calmer sections of the river, you can pause and take in the beauty of the area, but when you tackle the more extreme sections, trust me, your adrenaline will be pumping! 

If you’re visiting in the winter and don’t mind staying late, you can also take this epic stargazing tour. You’ll go on a guided nighttime hike through the wilderness, gaze at the stars through a telescope, and learn how to read the constellations. With so little artificial light around, the sky looks absolutely incredible on a clear night. Just note it’s only bookable closer to the winter season.

Kananaskis Village may be the perfect place to indulge your adventurous side, but I just have to mention the incredible Nordic Spa in the heart of the village. If you chat with locals, you’ll quickly realize that this place has quite the reputation for luxury, and it actually books up way in advance during the winter, when skiers flock here to soothe their sore muscles, so we recommend planning in advance. 

It costs between $119 and $169 CAD to access their hydrotherapy pools for the day, or if you want to come in the evening (perhaps as an apres ski treat!) you can get a special twilight pass for $109 CAD between 5 and 9 pm. You can book up to 3 months in advance or chance your luck by joining an online waitlist on the day of your visit – but we’d recommend the former!  

Getting there

You’ll need to drive yourself from Banff to Kananaskis Village, which takes about an hour. And if you’re looking to rent a car, we always recommend Discover Cars since we’ve had such good experiences with them.

Even though you’ll already have a Parks Pass for staying in Banff, you’ll need to buy a Kananaskis Conservation Pass. Fortunately, this is easy to do online, or you can get one in person at the Kananaskis Visitor Information Centre

It’s priced per car, not per passenger, and costs $15.75 CAD per day for a private vehicle. Unlike the Parks Pass, the Kananaskis Conservation Pass expires at midnight on the day of your visit. 

10. Peter Lougheed Provincial Park

Bailey on the Blackshale Suspension Bridge with Mountain views in the Kananaskis
The Blackshale Suspension Bridge!
Bailey at Upper Kananaskis Lake, Alberta
Upper Kananaskis Lake!
  • Distance from Banff: 116.4 kilometers (72.3 miles) 
  • How to get there: Drive yourself
  • Time needed: 5+ hours

Peter Lougheed Provincial Park is in the Kananaskis, but it’s about 40 minutes away from the village, so a day trip here looks a little different! While there are opportunities to indulge yourself in the village (hello, Nordic Spa!), Peter Lougheed Provincial Park is all about outdoor adventure. 

We recommend starting a day trip to Peter Lougheed with a visit to the park’s Discovery Centre to plan your visit. There’s lots of information and trail maps here, as well as a museum with interesting displays to help you get acquainted with the history of the area and the wildlife that you might spot along the way. 

Visiting the Discovery Centre will help you choose a great hiking trail, but personally, I love Rawson Lake. It’s one of the most popular, but that certainly doesn’t mean it’s crowded, and I’ve walked the trail for kilometers at a time without seeing another soul. It’s 6.8 kilometers (4.2 miles) long out-and-back, and it takes about 3 hours to complete. The last kilometer is pretty steep but the incredible views of Rawson Lake make it all worth it. It starts at the Upper Kananaskis Lake parking lot, so you’ll get to experience lakes in one go.

A couple pose for a photo at Upper Kananaskis Lake
Enjoying the sunset at Upper Kananaskis Lake!

During the summer, I also like visiting the Blackshale Creek Suspension Bridge, which is tucked away on the High Rockies Trail, just off of the Smith Dorrien Highway. The views you get here are amazing, and you’re unlikely to see anybody else up here! 

One of the area’s biggest draws, though, are the Upper and Lower Kananaskis Lakes, which are smack dab in the middle of the park. There are several day-use areas dotted around the lakes that are accessible by car. We like swimming here, although you can also rent paddle boards or kayaks in Banff (from the The Banff Canoe Club) and bring them with you to the lake. For us, though, the best thing to do is come and enjoy a beautiful sunset here before you head back to Banff. 

Getting there

The only way to get to Peter Lougheed is to drive, and don’t forget to buy the Kananaskis Conservation Pass to access the area ($15.75 CAD per vehicle). Having a car with you gives you a lot of freedom to explore the park, so it’s definitely worth the 1.5-hour drive. 

11. Radium Hot Springs

woman sits in the radium hot springs in winter
Any day is a good day to visit Radium Hot Springs
  • Distance from Banff: 135.7 kilometers (84.3 miles) 
  • How to get there: Drive or take a guided tour
  • Time needed: 6-10 hours

Believe it or not, there’s more to Radium Hot Springs than just, well… hot springs! I thought that this town was going to be like a mini Banff, but it’s actually an awesome place to visit in its own right. If you want to experience a cute little Canadian mountain town with spectacular scenery and stunning views, then you’ll love taking a day trip to Radium Hot Springs. It’s ideal for when the crowds in Banff get a little much, and it’s super family-friendly. 

I mean, obviously, you do have to visit the hot springs while you’re here! The manmade hot springs are nestled into the side of the mountain and they’re open all year round. There’s a hot pool and a cold pool, so you can cool off in the summer or warm up with a relaxing soak in the winter. I actually love sitting in the hot pool when it’s raining outside because it’s never busy then and it feels so cozy. Plus, at $16.50 CAD, it’s an affordable way to relax. 

Radium hot springs at sunrise in winter
Radium Hot Springs at sunrise in winter!

Naturally, we had to mention the hot springs first, but they’re open until 9 pm most days, so you can actually visit them after completing one of Radium’s awesome hikes. We love the Old Coach Trail, because it offers beautiful views of the Columbia River and is an easy and accessible hike, despite being an 18-kilometer (11.2-mile) return walk! You can start near the Visitor Centre, and there are signs to show you the way, as well as information boards that explain the trail’s history. 

And if you’re visiting with the family, the kids will go wild for this whitewater rafting tour on the Kootenay River. The rapids are gentle so kids as young as 5 can participate, and if you’ve never gone whitewater rafting before, this would be a great way to try it out for the first time. Plus, the scenery is just beautiful and you’ll get to enjoy a hearty snack along the water during your adventure. It’s only bookable during the summer and costs $125 CAD, including your guide, gear, and snacks.

After hiking and rafting, you’re bound to need a sugar hit, so check out the Old Tyme Candy Shoppe in town. They’re open Thursday to Sunday from late morning till around 5 or 6 pm, so stop by and stock up! I could spend hours here, and you wouldn’t believe how many types of candy they have, from all over the globe. My favorite is their handmade fudge, but they’ve got something to satisfy every kind of sweet tooth, so why not try something new?

Getting there

view of a bridge at Marble Canyon
Making a stop at Marble Canyon on the way to Radium Hot Springs

Car

It takes 1.5 hours to drive from Banff to Radium Hot Springs, and you’ll pass through Kootenay National Park on your way, so you could always check out some of the attractions there and make a road trip out of it. We recommend stopping to stretch your legs with a quick walk along Marble Canyon or taking this short hike to marvel at the colorful Paint Pots. Just make sure to download directions in advance because there’s no cell service in some parts.

Tour

This tour of Kootenay National Park also takes you for an in-depth exploration, including guided walks in some of the park’s most scenic spots, and ends on a high note with a relaxing soak in Radium Hot Springs. The tour costs $210 CAD per person, and since Kootenay National Park and Radium are lesser-visited parts of the Rockies, it only runs on Thursdays. I found it extra relaxing not having to drive because there’s no cell service in Kootenay National Park, so navigating by yourself can be tricky. Tours pick up from Banff Aspen Lodge at 9:30 am and last roughly 9 hours.

12. Golden

  • Distance from Banff: 137 kilometers (85.1 miles) 
  • How to get there: Drive yourself or take a guided tour
  • Time needed: 6-10 hours

With a name like Golden, you know you’re in for something special when you visit this town! Golden is another of Alberta’s outdoor playgrounds, with a population of just 4,000, but a million fun things to do – or at least, it certainly feels that way. 

During the summer, make sure to check out the town’s newest attraction: the Golden Skybridge! Unveiled in 2021, it’s actually the highest suspension bridge in Canada, as it’s perched 130 meters (426 feet) over the canyon below. However, it’s not actually one bridge, but two, and there’s also a zipline, rope course, and canyon swing here, so you could spend several hours at this adventure playground. Tickets for the bridge cost $45 CAD, and then you’ll need to pay extra if you want to enjoy the additional adventure activities. 

During the winter, you can hit the slopes at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort, but whether you’re a skier, a snowboarder, or a sightseer, you can’t miss the chance to ride on the Kicking Horse Resort’s scenic gondola while you’re in town. It’s open all year round and rather than skiing, we used it to take in epic mountain views and visit the Eagles’ Eye restaurant for a fancy meal. It costs $52 CAD per person to ride up, which seems expensive, but the views are honestly some of the best we’ve seen throughout all of our travels in Canada, so we thought it was worth it. 

Lunch at Eagle’s Eye, Golden, BC
Lunch and a beer in the mountains at Eagle’s Eye!

And if you do want to ski, the Kicking Horse Resort has 128 different trails, 45% of which are black runs, so this place is really catered to the pros. However, don’t let that put you off if you are a beginner, because there’s a beginners-only chairlift and some great runs to learn on. It costs around $125 CAD per day on a weekday or $139 CAD at the weekend. We love it here, although it does get incredibly busy on weekends, so come on a weekday if you can! 

You can also visit Boo the Bear at the Grizzly Bear Interpretive Centre during the summer. Boo has a sad story, but now lives happily at the Bear Refuge, where he’s studied by experts as he forages and plays. You can visit Boo for $34 CAD but if you want to ride the Kicking Horse Gondola for those epic mountain views, you can grab a combo Adventure Pass for $52 CAD and save some money. 

And for even more wildlife, make a quick visit to the Northern Lights Wolf Centre, where you can enjoy a 25-minute interpretive tour and learn about wolves’ behaviors and habitats. We were super interested to learn about the individual personalities of the wolves in the area, and the center does a lot of great work for conservation and awareness.

The Wolf Centre is a great thing for families to do in Golden, but honestly, it’s fascinating for all ages! It costs $15 CAD for adults, but there are discounts for kids and families. Just bear in mind that they only accept cash, but there is an ATM on-site. 

Getting there

Boo the bear in Golden, BC
Boo, the grizzly refugee bear!

It takes just over 1.5 hours to drive from Banff to Golden. We’ve turned the drive into a road trip several times, and you can read our blog about the best stops between Banff and Golden here.

You can also visit Golden as part of this grizzly bear spotting tour! We went to the sanctuary to visit Boo, and rode the Kicking Horse Gondola, enjoying lunch with an incredible view at the rotating restaurant at the top. We also checked out Emerald Lake and Takakkaw Falls in nearby Yoho National Park. It runs from June through September and costs $311 CAD per person, including roundtrip transport from Mount Royal Hotel and all the activities mentioned (even lunch!). This 10-hour tour pretty much combines everything that we love about Golden, and you don’t have to organize a thing yourself. 

13. Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary

dogs playing at Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary in Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Photo credit: Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary
dog at Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary in Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Photo credit: Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary
  • Distance from Banff: 90 kilometers (56 miles) 
  • How to get there: Drive yourself
  • Time needed: 3 hours (but you can extend your day trip and head to Calgary afterward)

Wolfdogs are a hybrid of four different types of wolves, and the Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary exists to educate the public about wolfdogs and prevent backyard breeding. You can come here on a unique day trip from Banff to discover why it’s important to conserve wolves and how the public can help. 

Rescued wolfdogs live at the sanctuary, where you can visit them up close, in a safe environment where they’re happy and well looked after. However, because the team at the sanctuary strives to make the experience as safe as possible, no children under six are allowed and you can’t bring dogs with you, even if they stay in the parking lot. And make sure that you don’t wear fur (even faux fur) because you won’t be allowed in! 

A wolf at the Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary
Such beautiful animals!

There are a few different tours of the wolfdog sanctuary that you can take. There’s a 30-minute intro tour for $43 CAD per person if you’re looking for a quicker experience, or for $73 CAD you can take the interactive tour and enjoy an up-close counter with the packs. You will hear individual stories about the pack members, observe their behavior, and learn what separates wolves from domestic dogs (other than DNA, of course). 

The sanctuary is not-for-profit, so all of your hard-earned dollars go towards protecting these majestic creatures and furthering the team’s mission to ensure that breeding is done in a safe and sustainable way. If you love wildlife, this makes for an epic day trip from Banff. 

You can take the intro tour on weekends, or the interactive tour also runs on Thursdays and Mondays, too. For the latter, try to book at least two weeks in advance! It’s also important to note there’s a minimum age requirement for each tour.

Getting there

It’s about an hour’s drive from Banff to the Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary. Once there, we recommend the interactive tour, which takes an hour, so this is a rather day trip! Since a visit here won’t take up your whole day, you could always venture into Calgary afterward to check out the city. It’s only 45 minutes from the wolfdog sanctuary, so why not make a day of it? 

14. Lake Minnewanka

the dock at Lake Minnewanka with canoes there and mountains in the back ground
Lake Minnewanka!
  • Distance from Banff: 16.6 kilometers (10.3 miles) 
  • How to get there: Drive yourself
  • Time needed: 2+ hours

Lake Minnewanka is super close to Banff, so you could just make a quick stop here… but that would be such a shame! If you’re in Banff during the summer months, why not spend a day hanging out at this epic lake?

We love the Lake Minnewanka summer cruise, which is the main tourist activity here for good reason. Jagged mountain peaks rise up from behind the sapphire water, making this place postcard-perfect, and the hour-long cruise takes you all the way to the Devil’s Gap. And oh yeah, did we mention, this lake is said to be haunted?

Honestly, this cruise is totally worth the $70 CAD, especially because we saw a bear around the edge of the lake! The commentary was also super interesting and we learned more about the significance of Lake Minnewanka for Indigenous Canadians. To learn more about our experience, read our full review of the Lake Minnewanka Cruise here.

Sailing along the lake on a Lake Minnewanka Cruise in Banff National Park
Enjoying a beautiful day on the lake during the Minnewanka Lake cruise

The cruise runs daily between May and October, with departure times between 9 am and 7 pm. However, we recommend going early if you can and then hanging out along the lakefront at the picnic tables and just enjoying the views. You can also rent a kayak next to the boat launch for $45 CAD for a single or $42.50 CAD for a double kayak. This is another good reason to get to Lake Minnewanka early, as you can’t reserve them in advance! 

After the cruise, I also recommend heading over to nearby Two Jack Lake for the afternoon, which is 2 kilometers (1.25 miles) from Lake Minnewanka. There’s an awesome day-use area here and you can bring camping chairs, snacks, and maybe a good book, and hang out for the day. It’s a nice way to get away from the crowds during peak tourist season. And if you want to turn your day trip into an overnight, you can camp overnight either by reserving a spot for your own tent or by booking an oTENTik cabin.

For more info about the cruise and nearby activities, read our full blog on the Lake Minnewanka Cruise.

Getting there

It takes around 15 minutes to drive from Banff to Lake Minnewanka. There are two big parking lots here but they fill up pretty quickly during the summer, so try and get here before 9 or 10 am, when the first cruise of the day leaves. 

You can also take the Roam Transit Route 6 bus from Banff Train Station to Lake Minnewanka during summer, which only costs $2 CAD, but check the schedule before you go. The bus also stops at Two Jack Lake as well! 

15. Spray Valley Provincial Park

Bailey with one of the dogs on our dog sledding tour in Canada
This was the best part!
Bailey dog sledding in Canmore
Mush!
  • Distance from Banff: 55 kilometers (34 miles) 
  • How to get there: Drive or take a guided dog-sledding tour with transport
  • Time needed: 4+ hours

The Spray Lakes Reservoir is a man-made lake in Kananaskis Country. It’s a long, thin lake close to Peter Lougheed Provincial Park – in fact, you could even combine a visit to the two. It’s a very pretty area with a pebbled beachfront, larch trees, and mountain peaks in every direction. I find it hard to believe that it’s not a natural lake! 

During summer, you can bring a picnic and hang out by the water’s edge, which is nice and peaceful since the lake is usually quiet. For even better views of it, strap on your hiking boots and tackle the 10-kilometer (6-mile) Tent Ridge Horseshoe Trail (open between June and October). The views are incredible, but this hike is challenging so make sure you have provisions with you and know what you’re doing – I recommend allowing 7 to 8 hours for this one. 

We also love the Ha Ling Peak Hike, which is 7.8 kilometers (4.8 miles) each way and pretty steep, with 800 meters (2,600 feet) of elevation. However, all of that effort is worth it because you get epic views of Canmore – aka the city we call home! It takes between 1.5 and 3 hours to get from the parking lot to the summit, but it’s easier coming back down. It took us 3.5 hours total, but we hike often, although we had to wage a fierce battle with the wind on the day we did this hike.

Despite its difficulty, the Ha Ling Peak is popular amongst keen hikers. If you’re looking for a quieter alternative, you can tackle the East End of Rundle. I should warn you, though, that the reason it’s quieter is because it’s even harder, with quite a lot of scrambling involved. This is only for hikers who really know what they’re doing and it is tough. However, when you see views of Whitemans Pond, Spray Lake, and the surrounding mountains, you’ll have to pinch yourself to make sure that you’re not dreaming. 

Bailey at the top of Ha Ling Peak in winter near Canmore, Alberta
Even in early summer, there can be snow at the top!
Bailey poses for a photo at the top of Ha Ling Peak, Canmore

To be honest, though, Spray Valley Provincial Park is arguably even better when you visit during the winter. You can rent skates in Banff and go ice skating on the lake’s surface when it freezes over and there isn’t too much snow. It’s a pretty magical experience. That being said, skating on lakes can be dangerous so I always make sure the ice is thick enough to hold my weight. You can ask at the Banff Visitor Centre before you go.

We can top that, though, with this dog sled tour that we did! It was a crazy adventure as we zoomed along the 10-kilometer (6.2-mile) trail through the park and played with the dogs. What stood out to me the most was how well-cared for the animals were, because that’s a big concern of mine when booking an experience like this, but it was obvious how much the crew loves the dogs. Prices start at $270 CAD per person for the 2-hour tour, and you can add transportation from Banff for $25 CAD per person (requires a 4-person minimum).

Getting there

Spray Valley Provincial Park is well and truly off the beaten track, so the only way to get here is to drive. It takes about an hour to get from Banff to the Spray Lake Reservoir, but if you book the winter dog sled tour, you can add transport from town for $25 CAD a person (4-person minimum). 

This area is part of Kananaskis Country, so you’ll need a conservation pass if you’re driving, which you can buy online here for $15.75 CAD per car. 

Related Read: If you’re also looking for things to do without leaving town, read about the best activities in Downtown Banff!

Where to Stay in Banff, Canada

At the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel
Me, at the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel.

Choosing accommodations 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 for all budget types.

Luxury – $$$

The Fairmont Banff Springs 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!

Prices can be as low as $650 CAD or upwards of $1,000 CAD depending on when you book. You can check prices and room availability for Fairmont online here.

Mid-range hotel – $$

Our top choice for the mid-range budget, the Banff Rocky Mountain Resort has a swimming pool, hot tub, gym, and all the rooms have kitchenettes or full kitchens. It’s the perfect place for families since two and three-bedroom units are also on offer. The location is peaceful on Tunnel Mountain yet only a 5-minute drive from Banff town.

Prices start at $130 CAD and you can check availability and book Banff Rocky Mountain Resort online here.

Budget-friendly hotel – $$

The Banff Inn is 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.

Prices range from $180-$440 CAD depending on the season. Regardless of when you go, we suggest booking the Banff Inn well in advance as this is one of the most popular hotels in Banff.

Budget-backpacker hostel – $

The Samesun Backpacker Hostel is a great budget hostel with dorm rooms. It’s 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 at the Samesun Backpacker Hostel run roughly $50 CAD in winter and $100 CAD in summer. They can be booked on either Booking.com or Hostelworld.

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 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!

Renting a Car in Alberta

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

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. Read our honest review of Discover Cars here for more details!

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!

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” 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.

Thanks for reading!

Daniel and Bailey take a selfie at Lake Louise
Thanks for reading!

We’ve spent loads of time in Banff and every time we come here, we always make some day trips! How can you not in such a beautiful area full of cute towns and outdoor adventures? So if you’re visiting Banff, we highly recommend heading to a couple of the places on this list.

If you found this blog useful, check out more articles about Banff here. We’ve also covered many other destinations across Canada. And to help you out, we’ve linked to a few below. Thanks for reading!

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