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Banff National Park is arguably the most beautiful place to visit in all of Canada. Situated within the Canadian Rockies, both the park and town are surrounded by picture-perfect places. With stunning lakes, an abundance of wildlife, sprawling pine trees, and of course the huge mountain peaks, there are plenty of places to get amazing photos and the perfect Instagrammable shot!
Bailey and I have visited Banff multiple times and we’ve been able to get many incredible shots at some of the most famous places in Banff. Some have ended up on Instagram, and others have even been printed and framed.
It’s true though, no matter where you look in Banff National Park you’ll be able to get amazing shots. However, if you’re looking for those magical Instagram-worthy spots that should be on everyone’s Banff Itinerary, this blog is perfect for you!
So without further ado, here’s our list of the 15 most Instagrammable places to visit in Banff National Park!
Instagrammable Places to Visit in Banff
1. The Banff Pedestrian Bridge
To kick off this list of the most Instagrammable places to visit in Banff I’m starting with a few places in Banff town, and first up is the Banff Pedestrian Bridge.
Although the bridge itself isn’t the most beautiful, its perfect backdrop of Cascade Mountain makes this Instagrammable spot so amazing. With the right technique and lens, the Banff Pedestrian Bridge can be transformed into a picture-perfect location.
Bailey and I headed there one sunset to capture some amazing shots. Using our zoom on the lens to make Cascade Mountain appear not only closer but even bigger, we got what I’d call a perfect shot for Instagram.
It can be tricky to find the bridge empty like we did, but with a little patience and with the help of some nice pedestrians, we were able to get the shot.
Where and when: You can find the Banff Pedestrian Bridge from the Bow River trail that connects to Banff Central Park. This attraction is best at any time of the day, but sunset provides some great lighting.
2. Banff Ave
Banff Ave is easily one of the most photographed places in Banff National Park. Despite being the main walking street of Banff, the views of the mountains from the road are so breathtaking that Banff Ave is definitely Instagram-worthy.
The most famous view is, of course, of Cascade Mountain towering over Banff Ave (pictured above.) This iconic shot is plastered all over postcards around Canada and for any photography enthusiast, it’s a bucket-list shot.
Of course, on a busy day, it can be hard with the crowds so I personally recommend taking photos at sunrise or even at night! Regardless, Banff Ave is a great place to start your photography adventure in Banff National Park!
Where to take the shot: The best angle of Cascade Mountain can be found at the south end of Banff Ave closer to the Bow River. From here, the street aligns perfectly with Cascade Mountain!
3. Sulphur Mountain (Banff Gondola)
Next on our list is one of the most famous things to do in Banff and that’s taking the Banff Gondola up Sulphur Mountain. From the top, the views are absolutely stunning!
To me, the Banff Gondola is the most spectacular gondola ride in Canada. And even though the ride isn’t very long, the uninterrupted views from the top always blow me away.
One of the best things about taking the gondola up Sulphur Mountain is the boardwalk at the top. From this short boardwalk, you can enjoy spectacular views in just about every direction. The boardwalk gradually climbs to the summit of Sulphur Mountain and finishes at an old weather station. From here, the 360-degree view is a bucket list experience that everyone should see.
The Banff Gondola isn’t a free attraction and to take the gondola to the top you’ll need to pay around $60 for adults (depending on the time of day and week). In the busy months of summer, it’s best to book your ticket in advance.
With that said, you can also hike up if you want to save some money. The Sulphur Mountain trail is 5.5 kilometers each way and takes around 4 hours up and back not factoring in time at the top. This trail starts from the bottom of the gondola and zig zags up the mountain below the gondola.
4. Vermillion Lakes
If you love reflections then you simply must visit Vermillion Lakes just outside of Banff town! These large shallow lakes are pretty spectacular, however, it’s the famous backdrop of the Rocky Mountains that makes this place so special.
The entire lakes area is accessed by the Vermillion Lakes Scenic Drive and along the way, there are so many great photo opportunities. Personally, I love the far end of Vermillion Lakes Road. From here the shallow water is guarded against the winds and the still water reflects the mountains for your Instagram photo.
At sunset, you’ll usually find plenty of photographers at this spot as its close proximity to Banff make it one of the best photo opportunities nearby. If you want to avoid the crowds be sure to go at sunrise. Or, if you’ve got a DSLR camera, go at night and capture the beautiful Milky Way!
5. Mt Norquay Chairlift
One of the most surprising places I’ve visited in Banff National Park was Mt Norquay. In the winter, Mt Norquay is a famous ski hill in the Banff area, but in the summer, they open the chairlift for sightseeing so people can enjoy a meal, drink, or just the views from their restaurant Cliffhouse Bistro.
But it wasn’t the food or drinks that made me fall in love. Instead, it was the breathtaking views of Banff town and the surrounding mountains including Mt Rundle that had me never wanting to leave.
This amazing viewpoint has become one of my all-time favorite photography spots in Banff National Park. It’s an off-the-beaten-path experience I recommend to all.
The Mt Norquay chairlift costs $43.05 per person and is a much less busy attraction than the Banff Gondola. The chairlift is only open for sightseeing from June to October.
6. Morant’s Curve
Moving further out of Banff takes us to the Bow Valley Parkway. This breathtaking scenic drive has many amazing viewpoints and attractions with my personal favorite being Morant’s Curve.
Located around 60 kilometers from Banff, Morant’s Curve was made famous by Nicholas Morant who was sent to the area to discover amazing tourist attractions along the Canadian railway many years ago. Nicholas fell in love with the viewpoint and it became his favorite in Banff National Park.
The curve in the name comes from the train tracks that curve their way along the Bow River. This, along with the stunning mountain backdrop, makes it one of the most beautiful photography locations in Banff National Park.
In the summer you’ll enjoy the amazing colors of the Bow River, and in the winter, Morant’s Curve becomes a winter wonderland that’s even more photogenic! So, no matter what season you’re visiting in, add Morant’s Curve to your Banff Instagram bucket list!
7. Lake Louise
Lake Louise is without a doubt one of the most scenic lakes in all of Canada. The lake has the perfect amount of rock flour (the dust that gives alpine lakes their color) which makes Lake Louise literally shine blue. So blue in fact, every time I visit I question if what I’m seeing is real!
Lake Louise is accessed via the Lake Louise carpark and it only takes a short 5-minute walk to enjoy the main boardwalk. From here you can get amazing photos with glaciers and mountains as a backdrop.
If you want a more unique view you can hike around the lake on the Lake Louise Shoreline Trail. The 4-kilometer return trail takes around 1 hour to complete and is relatively easy. Canoes can also be rented if you want to explore the lake and start at $115 for half an hour.
One thing to note about Lake Louise is how busy it gets. Being so accessible and popular means getting parking can be almost impossible. To ensure you get a spot, arrive before 8 am! Honestly, if you arrive at lunchtime you’ll likely be turned away by staff.
Note: From May 13th until October 10th, you’ll be required to pay $12.25 per vehicle per day to park at Lake Louise lakefront (2022 updated price). The paid parking is in effect from 7 am until 7 pm daily.
8. Lake Agnes Tea House
From Lake Louise, there are plenty of different hiking trail options. If you only have time for one though, I’d personally recommend making it the Lake Agnes Tea House hike. This medium difficulty trail takes you high above Lake Louise offering breathtaking views along the way.
With that said though, the main attraction here is Lake Agnes and the cute tea house that sits on the lake. From the edge of the lake, the views are out of this world and it’s almost impossible not to get a great Instagrammable shot!
On a calm day (pictured above) the lake reflects the mountains perfectly and with a cute tea house only meters away, you can refuel with some tea made with glacier water from the lake. Because the trail isn’t super difficult it’s dog friendly and as you can see from the photo above, we brought our friend’s dog, Polly, along for the journey!
The Lake Agnes Tea House is a 5.4-kilometer round trip with a pretty decent elevation gain of 333 meters. Despite this, it only takes around 4 hours to complete at a medium pace.
9. Moraine Lake
Another Instagramble spot in Banff National Park located near Lake Louise is the famous Moraine Lake. Moraine Lake is arguably the most photographed lake in all of Canada and after visiting for myself, it’s not hard to see why!
Bailey and I loved Moraine Lake so much I actually proposed to her here. There’s something about Moraine Lake that feels so romantic. So much so, it made our blog about the top things to do on a honeymoon in Banff.
Moraine Lake offers many amazing views, however, few compare to the magnificent view from the Rockpile. The Rockpile is a short hike from the carpark that takes you to a vantage point overlooking the lake. From here you can truly see just how amazing the lake and surrounding mountains are.
If you plan on visiting Moraine Lake you need to be prepared for the crowds. Because the lake is so popular the car parking lot is often full and the staff closes the road to the parking lot at the turnoff near Lake Louise. Because of this, it’s extremely hard to get a parking spot at Moraine Lake. My recommendation is to visit at sunset or sunrise.
At sunrise be sure to arrive at around 5:00 am to ensure getting a spot. The parking lot is usually full by 5:30 am (even on days when it’s still dark!)
If you don’t want to battle for parking or get up super early, be sure to either book the Park and Ride shuttle in advance or a tour such as this hop-on-hop-off bus that includes a stop at Lake Louise, Moraine Lake, and Johnston Canyon!
10. Lake Minnewanka
The lakes in Banff National Park are really some of the most beautiful places to visit. Lake Minnewanka is no different and everyone who comes to Banff to get amazing photos should visit.
Lake Minnewanka is located only 15 minutes from Banff town and is most famous for the Lake Minnewanka cruise. I’ve personally done the cruise and thoroughly enjoyed it.
Lasting for around one hour, the cruise takes you to the other side of the lake while your guide explains all about Lake Minnewanka’s history and some other interesting facts. Of course, the cruise is only available in summer as the lake freezes in winter!
With that said, you don’t need to do the cruise to enjoy the views. From the edge of the lake, you can stare out at the surrounding mountains and even take a short hike. If you want to really stretch your legs and get some great photos then consider hiking the Lake Minnewanka Lakeside Trail. The trail is 16 kilometers out and back and is a great free way to enjoy spectacular views without paying for the cruise.
11. Icefields Parkway
The Icefields Parkway is considered one of the top 10 most scenic drives in the world by National Geographic. It’s not only one of the most Instagrammable places in Canada but also a bucket list experience you just have to do!
There are plenty of amazing places to stop along the Icefields Parkway with some of the best including Big Bend, Athabasca Glacier, Waterfowl Lakes, and Athabasca Falls. Below I’ve specifically mentioned two places I love. With that said though, I personally find the best photo opportunities aren’t actual attractions, and like the photo above, are simply taken along the road with the huge mountain backdrops.
This scenic drive travels between Banff and Jasper National Park and takes around 2.5 hours to drive without stopping. With that said, you’ll need an entire day if you want to truly explore this spectacular stretch of road.
Related Read: If you plan on driving the Icefields Parkway then don’t go without checking out our 1 day Icefields Parkway itinerary first! It includes 15 stops you can visit in just one day!
12. Peyto Lake
I mentioned some of the best stops of the Icefields Parkway above, however, two of the best stops will be getting their own special mention. And the first is Peyto Lake viewpoint!
This Instagrammable lake sits in a deep valley surrounded by mountain peaks and literally glows blue. The viewpoint, which overlooks the lake, is the perfect vantage point to get that picture-perfect Instagram shot.
One of the things that make Peyto Lake so amazing is the fact that you can drive right to the viewpoint. No long hike up through the mountains is required. Because of this, Peyto Lake can be visited at sunset, sunrise, and even at night to get amazing astro shots.
Peyto Lake provides a very unique opportunity to get some great photos without having to hike!
13. Bow Lake
My next favorite Instagrammable spot in Banff National Park is also located on the Icefields Parkway – Bow Lake! Bow Lake is one of the closest attractions along the Icefields Parkway to Banff and it’s truly spectacular.
Visiting Bow Lake can be done in minutes as there is a pullover bay on the side of the road for cars to stop at. From here, the views are pretty nice, however, to see the full magic of the Bow Lake you need to continue up the road further and turn left just after the lake towards the Bow Lake car parking lot.
From this parking lot, you can take a short hike to the shoreline and enjoy even more spectacular views. What I love particularly about this spot is the views down the Bow Lake through the valley that you miss from the road. This section of the mountains is truly impressive and easily one of the best Instagrammable spots in Banff National Park!
14. Policeman’s Creek
Ok, so this next Instagrammable spot isn’t technically in Banff National Park, but it’s definitely worth a mention! Policeman’s Creek is not only one of the most spectacular places I’ve ever shot, but it’s only a stone’s throw away from Banff in Canmore.
Located a short hike from the dog park in Canmore, the Policeman’s Creek viewpoint of the Three Sisters Mountain Range is the perfect place to get the perfect photo! What makes this viewpoint so famous is the reflections of the Three Sisters you get on the calm waters. On a clear and calm day, this spot is truly out of this world!
Finding the exact spot can be hard, however, we outline exactly where you can find it in our blog on the best attractions in Canmore.
Related Read: If you want a really epic view in Canmore, check out the Heart Mountain Hike, it’s a challenging but beautiful trail!
15. Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel
Last but certainly not least on our list of Instagrammable places to visit in Banff is the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel. I know what you’re thinking, really, a hotel? Well if you’ve never been to the Fairmont Banff Hotel you won’t know just how Instagrammable this place really is.
The hotel could be a museum and the architecture is truly out of this world. The Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel has preserved the hotel’s history and they’ve done a great job at it.
The best part though is that you don’t have to stay at the hotel to visit the grounds. Simply head to the front desk and they’ll give you a self-guided map to visit some of the most beautiful places. After, enjoy lunch at one of the many restaurants and cafes or spoil yourself at their spa and wellness center.
The best part is that even if it’s raining in Banff or very cold, this is one beautiful place that’s actually indoors – bonus!
The hotel also looks like a castle from the outside. Head to Surprise Corner for an epic view of the hotel and its surroundings (pictured above.)
To put it simply, if you want some great photos in an elegant setting you simply must visit the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel.
Related Read: Visiting Banff from Calgary? Read our guide to driving from Calgary to Banff for an epic road trip itinerary!
Where to Stay in Banff
This is one of the most important parts of your trip and in Banff, the selection can be overwhelming and expensive. There are lots of different areas to consider when it comes to deciding where to stay in Banff National Park. There are also plenty of great hotels in Banff town to consider. Below are some amazing hotels we recommend:
Samesun Banff Hostel – Budget-backpacker Hostel
A great budget hostel with dorm rooms. Perfect for those on a tight budget who want to stay in the heart of Banff town. This is only a backpacker place though, as there are no private rooms available. Dorms can be booked on either Booking.com or Hostelworld.
Banff Inn – Budget-friendly Hotel
The Banff Inn is in the perfect mix of comfort and affordability. It has a budget-friendly price tag but also comes with lots of luxuries. The hotel is located right on Banff Ave and all rooms are air-conditioned. In the hotel, you’ll find a hot tub, steam room, and sauna, as well as a restaurant and bar. You should book the Banff Inn well in advance as this is one of the most popular hotels in Banff.
Banff Rocky Mountain Resort – Mid-range Hotel
Pushing up into the mid-range budget, this hotel has a swimming pool, hot tub, gym, and all the rooms have kitchenettes or full kitchens. It is the perfect place for families since two and three-bedroom units are also on offer. The location is peaceful on Tunnel Mountain but yet only a 5-minute drive from Banff town. You can check availability and book Banff Rocky Mountain Resort online here.
Fairmont Banff Springs – Luxury Hotel
This is easily the most luxurious hotel in Banff. It’s not cheap but the place is simply incredible – it seriously looks like a castle! Inside the hotel, you’ll find 11 restaurants, 14 shops, bowling, bars, a top-rated spa, a couple of pools, and so much more. It’s a luxury resort-like stay and the only one of its kind in Banff. If you’re visiting Banff on a honeymoon then this should be the hotel you choose! You can check prices and room availability for Fairmont online here.
Important info: Accommodation in Banff can be tricky. For starters, you need to book well in advance if you want to have a large selection.
I still suggest booking a place ASAP! Using Booking.com is great too because lots of hotels offer free cancellation so just lock in a place (or two) for now and make the final decision later!
Parks Canada Pass Quick Info
If you plan on spending time in Canada’s national parks then you’re going to have to pay for a Parks Pass.
Single Daily Admission:
This type of pass is valid for one person for one day. It is ONLY the best value if you are traveling alone and only plan to visit a national park for one day.
- Adult (ages 18-64) is $11.04 CAD
- Senior (65+) is $9.41 CAD
- Youth/Child (17 or younger) is FREE
Group Daily Admission:
If you’re traveling in a group or with family, you can buy a single-day admission for your entire vehicle (up to 7 people in one vehicle.)
- $21.36 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) – $93.81 CAD
- Senior (64+) – $80.18 CAD
- Group/Family (up to 7 people in one vehicle) – $188.59 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 of booths at the entrance to many national parks.
Renting a Car in Alberta
If you’re arriving in Alberta via plane then I can’t recommend getting a rental car enough. Canada is a large country and traveling between cities and even just getting out to some of the best places to visit in Alberta requires transport. Although you can use public transport, on some occasions, it means your trip will not only require more time but more planning.
Car rental in Canada is relatively cheap, especially if you get a budget car. The cheapest car with pickup and drop-off in different locations is around $100 CAD per day. The price does vary though depending on the time of year and the type of car that you rent. For car rentals, I use the website 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!
Canada Travel Essentials
Before you decide to head off and explore the gorgeous mountains, lakes, towns, and cities around Canada it’s important to have the right equipment. Of course, it’s likely you’ll have most of the basics already but there are some common items people forget that I never travel without.
Crampons: In winter, crampons are super handy, but what people don’t realize is that they come in handy in summer too. In fact, up until mid-July, you can still expect icy conditions in the mountains. The pair I use is only $37 CAD and they have lasted me 3 seasons so far!
Waterproof shell: Most people will have this item but I thought I’d include it anyway since it’s so handy in Canada. The Columbia waterproof jacket is a lightweight windproof jacket that will seriously save you in many situations. The best part, though? It comes in pink!
Scent-proof bag (for bears): Most people think you only need to keep the smell of food away from you when you’re overnight camping. However, bears can smell the food in your bag while you’re hiking and the best way to avoid an encounter is to use a scent-proof bear bag. Basically, you put your food in the bag and the bear cannot smell it while you’re hiking. This is one item most people never have (I never hike without it) but it could save you and the bear.
Buff: I love my buff! Seriously, I go nowhere without it both in winter and summer. There are a few brands around but I always buy the original Buff (you know, the one from Survivor!) They’re a little more expensive but the material is good quality and both breathable and quick drying.
Dry bag: I have expensive camera equipment, so I always travel with a dry bag large enough to fit some of my equipment. It can be a camera, book, binoculars, or even my keys. Regardless, a dry bag gives me peace of mind! The MARCHWAY bag is really good quality, and when not in use, takes up only a small amount of room.
Binoculars: I love my binoculars! Seriously they have come in handy so many times, especially when I’m looking for wildlife. The best part is, I use a set that only costs $25 CAD and they serve my basic needs without any issues!
Before you go…
When it comes to Instagrammable places to visit in Canada, Banff truly is one of the best. It’s safe to say you won’t be short on epic photos from your trip and I hope this blog has helped you get a few more!
Thanks so much for reading! Bailey and I hope you found this blog helpful. If you did, be sure to check out all our Canada blogs or these related articles below!