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50 EPIC Things to do in Banff, Canada (2024 Bucket-list!)

50 EPIC Things to do in Banff, Canada (2024 Bucket-list!)

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Banff, Alberta is smack dab in the middle of the Canadian Rockies. The variety of lakes, rivers, mountains, and wildlife in Banff National Park sets the scene for some pretty incredible activities and adventures – the world here really is your oyster!

But in all honesty, as there are SO many things to see and do here, it can be a little overwhelming at first to decide which activities are worth spending your time on. 

After countless visits, I’ve discovered the 50 best things to do in Banff and Banff National Park, and I wanted to share these experiences with you! Many of these can be completed on a short visit to Banff, but if you’re here on a longer vacation, then feel free to group them together for an epic time away.

Table Of Contents
  1. 50 Things to do in Banff, Canada
  2. Where to Stay in Banff, Canada
  3. Thanks for reading!
  4. Renting a Car in Alberta

50 Things to do in Banff, Canada

1. Ride the Banff Gondola up Sulphur Mountain

Banff gondola building and boardwalk on a early spring day with lots of snow
The top of the Banff Gondola
Cable cars travel up the Banff Gondola
Up we go on the Banff Gondola!

Taking a trip up the Banff Gondola is possibly the single most popular thing to do in Banff – and for good reason! From the top of the Banff Gondola, the panoramic views of the mountains and Banff town are out of this world. The first time I rode the gondola was during my first Christmas in Banff and I loved it!

The Banff Gondola is an 8-minute scenic ride from the parking lot to the summit of Sulphur Mountain. Once you reach the top of the gondola, you’ll find a restaurant and café (definitely grab a coffee here and enjoy the views!), a gift shop, tons of information on the area and wildlife, as well as my personal favorite, the boardwalk!

The boardwalk leads you to some amazing viewpoints and takes around 1 hour to walk up and back the entire way. For the best views, walk all the way to the end and visit the old weather station. From here you can see the entire valley!

For the best views, it’s best to go up the Banff Gondola on a clear day, but a little low cloud won’t ruin your views completely. As there are a ton of things to do inside the complex at the top, and the gondola is completely enclosed, a visit here is great in all seasons.

We’ve dined a couple of times at the Sky Bistro, which is the restaurant right at the top of the gondola. It’s pretty crazy eating from a whopping 7,510 feet (2,289 m) above sea level, but it makes for an incredible lunch or dinner. You can take a peek at their menu here – I’d personally recommend the lemon garlic chicken or the ratatouille!

The gondola costs $59-$67 CAD per adult depending on the day you visit, and I’ve found that it’s generally cheaper the further out you can book. The best place to buy Banff Gondola tickets is online through Viator. You’ll get to pick your date and skip the admission line that can get long during busy times!

2. Relax in the Banff Upper Hot Springs 

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

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

One of the things I love most about the Banff Hot Springs is how accessible they are for everyone. The hot springs are easy to get to (only a couple of minutes from the center of town) and are also pretty affordable.

These hot springs can get very busy, though. If you want to visit with fewer people, I recommend going later on in the evening when all the tour groups have left, or when it’s raining outside. No need to worry about getting wet when you’re in a pool, anyway!

The Banff Hot Springs are open until 10 pm and the later you go, the fewer people will be there! Be sure to check the hours before you go because hours can sometimes change. Parking here is also a little limited and tends to fill up pretty quickly during the summer season, so you may want to grab the ROAM bus number 1 instead. It’s super straightforward and the route goes straight to the Upper Hot Springs parking lot.

Admission for the hot springs is $17.50 CAD per adult or $56.75 CAD for a family of four, and all tickets need to be purchased in person at the springs.

The Banff Upper Hot Springs are open during all seasons. However, they do close annually for 1-2 weeks for cleaning near the end of October. Be sure to check their website for these exact dates!

Related Read: Another amazing hot spring is Radium Hot Springs. It is also operated by Parks Canada and although a couple of hours away, it’s located in the beautiful Columbia Valley!

3. Check out the Bow Falls Lookout 

Bow Falls in Banff
Bow Falls in Banff
Bailey and Daniel at Bow Falls viewpoint in Banff National Park
What a beautiful place!

The Bow River is a gorgeous stretch of water that runs right through the heart of Banff. With beautiful evergreen forests on both sides, it’s nothing short of picture-perfect.

After a short 1.5 km (0.9 mi) scenic walk from Banff town (or drive), you’ll come to the Bow Falls viewpoint on the river’s edge. Here, not only will you see the river, but also the Bow River waterfall!

The viewpoint is a really nice place to come for a coffee in the morning or a short walk during the day. There is also a pretty large parking lot, so you can park and take a stroll. But if you plan on walking from Banff, just follow the river’s edge downstream until you reach the viewpoint.

If you want to keep walking, you can jump on the 15 km (9.3 mi) out-and-back Mt Rundle trail and either hike the entire way (which takes about 8 hours) or just the beginning. It’s quite a challenging route, so bring good footwear and plenty of water!

4. Check out the Banff Hoodoos

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

I didn’t know Banff had its own hoodoos until my 6th visit! For some reason, they remain off the typical tourist trail and I think that’s such a shame. Although the hoodoos themselves aren’t the most spectacular, it’s the views from the short, easy trail that make this a must-visit in Banff.

If you didn’t know, a hoodoo is simply a name for a tall spire of rock that is formed by erosion. They can turn into some pretty wacky structures over time, leaving us to enjoy some impressive displays!

You can reach the Banff Hoodoos two ways. The first is to drive up to the parking lot on Tunnel Mountain Road. From here, it’s only a 10-minute walk to the viewpoint, at which point you can turn around and head back whenever you feel like it. This is what I usually do, simply because it’s so convenient.

The second way is to hike from Surprise Corner, walking the Hoodoos Trail to the viewpoint. The entire trail is actually a loop that you can start and end in Banff town; however, this means you need to walk back on Tunnel Mountain Road. Instead, I’d suggest just walking from Surprise Corner and returning via the same trail. It’s about a 10 km (6.2 mi) walk that takes about 3 hours.

5. Hit the slopes!

Bailey at Lake Louise Ski Resort
So excited!
snowboader at Lake Louise Ski Resort
Dan ready to go!

The most obvious and popular thing to do in Banff in winter is skiing and snowboarding! I love to ski and Daniel snowboards, and together we just love hitting the slopes around Banff National Park. In Banff, you’re really spoiled for choice when it comes to world-class ski resorts.

Here are some of the most popular resorts around Banff:

Mt Norquay

Mt Norquay is the closest ski resort to Banff town. In fact, it’s only a 13-minute drive away! The ski hill offers some of the best views over Banff and is also open for night skiing. Mt Norquay isn’t the largest resort in the area and the runs to me aren’t the best. On the other hand, I think it’s a great place for beginners to find their feet or those not looking to ski an entire day.

You can also rent out the equipment you’ll need for the day here – their full-day complete ski package for mid-performance adults includes skis, poles, and boots, for just $53 CAD. If you don’t have a helmet, you can also get one here for $12 CAD.

The price for a full-day lift ticket is $124 CAD for adults, $93 CAD for youths (13-17) and seniors (65+), and $48 CAD for children (6-12). That’s not a bad value for Banff! Tickets are also cheaper if you pre-purchase online.

The closest hotel to the resort is The Juniper Hotel & Bistro, which is just a 10-minute drive away with comfortable and modern rooms.

Bailey on the Banff Sunshine Gondola in winter
Winter is more popular for skiing!

Sunshine Ski Resort

The Sunshine Ski Resort is located right in the heart of Banff National Park, about 20 minutes from Banff. As their name suggests, they’re known for the sunny weather and have a wide variety of runs for beginners and experts alike.

There are lots of black and double black runs here, making this resort especially good for advanced skiers and snowboarders. Although there are plenty of green runs too, most have flat spots which are not so great if you’re not comfortable going really fast.

As for ski rental, they’re broken down into three groups: sport performance (12 and under), sport performance (13+), and high performance (13+). A full-day ski package for sport performance (13+) will cost $60 CAD and does not include a helmet. This can be rented for an extra $15 CAD.

A lift ticket costs $165 CAD for adults (18+), $127 CAD for youths (13-17) and seniors (65+), and $69 CAD for children (6-12) plus tax.

You can also stay at the ski resort and ski in and ski out every day – the Sunshine Mountain Lodge is a luxurious hotel that is only meters from the chairlifts! Stays here aren’t just limited to the winter though, the lodge and resort are also beautiful in the summertime, with loads of outdoor activities to try.

Bailey skiing at Lake Louise Ski Resort near Canmore, AB
Me, skiing at Lake Louise!

Lake Louise

Lake Louise is the furthest ski hill from Banff, around a 40-minute drive away. With that said, it’s one of the largest in Canada with a 935-meter (3,068 ft) vertical descent, 7 ski lifts, and 142 km (88 mi) of groomed ski runs. It really offers the complete package when it comes to enjoying an amazing ski experience.

The resort is also perfect for beginners, intermediates, and pros. I love the tree runs around Lake Louise and with so much resort to explore, it will keep you busy all day, and the next day if you decide to come back! Oh, and on the colder days, the gondola is an absolute lifesaver.

You can rent a full-day complete ski equipment package (skis, boots, and poles) here for $74 CAD, and if you don’t already have a helmet you can rent one here for an additional $13 CAD.

Adult lift tickets start at $139 CAD with a half-day option at $112 CAD. Youth and senior tickets start at $95 CAD, children $45 CAD. Depending on the day you go, tickets might be more expensive. If you want to stay close to the resort, you’ll need to book a hotel in Lake Louise Village.

I have been lucky enough to ski at all the ski resorts above. So, which one is my favorite?

Well, in all honesty, I love Lake Louise the most. The ski area is huge and I love the terrain. Plus, the gondola really saves you from the cold! My second choice would have to be Sunshine Village. It also has great terrain and the views are spectacular. For beginners, though, I wouldn’t recommend it. Instead, head to Mt Norquay where you can learn and ski for less.

Regardless of where you go, skiing in Banff really is a must-do in winter!

Related Read: Skiing is also one of the best things to do in Whistler in winter!

6. Go on a sightseeing tour

Bailey on the shores of Lake Louise
Lake Louise is so beautiful!
Bailey and her mum pose for a photo at Moraine Lake
Moraine Lake!

If you’re short on time when it comes to your Banff itinerary, one of the best things to do is to join one of the full-day sightseeing tours in Banff. Not only will you be guided around by an expert local, but this also takes the hassle out of finding parking at some of the most popular attractions in Banff National Park.

This Banff National Park tour will take you to both Lake Louise and Moraine Lake, which are some of the hardest places to get a parking spot (it’s actually now impossible to park at Moraine Lake!). The entire tour lasts for just over four hours and on your way back from Lake Louise you’ll drive down the scenic Bow Valley Parkway (more on this in a little bit).

Both of these lakes are well worth spending more time at, but again, if you’re in a rush, then this is such a great way to explore them both without any hassle. There’s also an absolute maximum of 24 people per trip – when we took it there couldn’t have been more than 15, so all in all, it felt very personalized.

This tour is definitely one of the most popular options in all of Banff and comes with hundreds of 5-star reviews. At $113 CAD per person, it’s also a great deal!

7. Go partying on Banff Ave

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

Banff isn’t just a lively town in the daylight. When the sun goes down, the bars and clubs really come alive.

There are plenty of great places to go for dinner and drinks, so just hit the main street of Banff Ave and take a stroll. It won’t take you long to find somewhere great! However, a few places I can personally recommend are:

Banff Ave Brewing Co

I love craft beer, so I always stop at Banff Ave Brewing Co. whenever I’m in town. They have a huge selection of beers and this place gets super lively at night! Their opening times do vary a bit, so make sure to check out their website, but generally, their pub is open until midnight or 1 am. This makes it an amazing place to go for pre-drinks before heading over to our next recommendation…

The Dancing Sasquatch

The Dancing Sasquatch is your classic young-person party bar and club. The bar itself isn’t that nice or fancy, but there’s always a great party on, and it’s easy to meet other people here. They also often host DJs from out of town and hold themed events, like their famous glow rave! It’s open from Thursday to Sunday from 9 pm to 2 am.

St James’ Gate Irish Pub

Irish pubs are always a fun place to go for a drink, there are always jokes, stories, and great-tasting beer to be had. I love the food at St James’ Gate and the warm cozy feel of the bar. It’s definitely one of my favorite places for a social drink in Banff.

Of course, there are plenty more bars to check out, so let your senses do some exploring!

8. Take a stroll on Banff Ave

Bailey poses for a photo on Banff Ave walking street
Welcome to Banff!

This one sounds obvious, and it probably is, but that doesn’t mean I can’t give you some advice on the best places to check out along Banff Ave!

Banff Ave stretches straight through the middle of Banff and the views from the street are so amazing, that simply wandering around makes for a fun afternoon.

There are tons of hotels at one end and the Bow River at the other. In the middle, you’ll find bars, restaurants, and shops to explore. You could literally spend weeks here going into every shop!

Personally, I recommend the following awesome spots:

  • Cool as a Moose souvenir store – Here is where you’ll get the coolest souvenirs in town. Amongst all of the souvenir shops you can find here, this one has the best selection and the staff are super cool too!
  • Banff Candy Store – Buy some Canadian classic candies here, including chocolates and Saltwater Taffy.
  • Park Distillery – This distillery offers daily tours at 3:15 pm. Any other time of the day you can enjoy their bar and restaurant and have a cocktail made with their local spirits.
  • High Rollers Banff – High Rollers is a bowling alley/bar that’s a really fun place to take the family. Bowling, beers, and pizza – what more could you ask for!? There are just 6 lanes here though, so it does book up pretty quickly. You can book your lane here.
  • The Grizzly House – This restaurant has been around Banff practically forever. Their specialty is Fondue and the restaurant has a really cute and quirky setting.

9. Drive the Icefields Parkway

A bird flys over the road on the Icefields Parkway in Banff National Park in fall
The beautiful Icefields Parkway!
Scenic road down the Icefields Parkway in Canada
There are stunning views at every corner!

The Icefields Parkway is a beautiful highway considered by National Geographic to be one of the 10 most scenic drives in the world! The road connects Banff and Jasper going through some of the most beautiful spots in both Banff National Park and Jasper National Park.

Some of the best places you can see along the drive include:

  1. Crowfoot Glacier
  2. Bow Lake
  3. Peyto Lake
  4. Waterfowl Lakes
  5. Mistaya Canyon
  6. Howse Pass Viewpoint
  7. Weeping Wall
  8. Athabasca Glacier/Columbia Icefield (more info below)
  9. The Skywalk
  10. Athabasca Falls

For more details about each of these stops, check out our guide to driving the Icefields Parkway here!

As the Icefields Parkway stretches between national parks, you’ll also need to purchase a day pass or Discovery Pass to drive the route. Just like the Bow Valley Parkway, this costs $11 CAD per person.

You can choose to drive yourself or, if you don’t have a rental car, you can join one of the very popular Icefields Parkway tours from Banff. This full-day tour takes you through the heart of the Rockies, where you’ll get to visit beautiful glaciers, waterfalls, and emerald-green lakes. It’s actually pretty incredible how much you’ll experience in just one day, I know I took about a million photos along this route!

Here’s a little personal tip: While the tour does include some light refreshments, it’s a great idea to pack a lunch or some extra snacks. This not only allows you to save some time but also ensures you can enjoy a bite to eat while soaking in the stunning views all around.

You can get your tickets for this tour for $195 CAD per person – just know that this is a super popular tour, so make sure to get in there early to secure your dates.

Without a doubt, the Icefields Parkway is my favorite scenic drive in all of Canada. Please don’t miss this, it’s not just one of the best activities in Banff but also in all of Canada!

Winter driving: The downside to this drive is that it can be very icy in the winter months. You are required to have winter tires between November and April.

10. Walk on the Athabasca Glacier 

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

The great thing about glaciers is that they are around all year! So even in the summer, you can enjoy epic views of the Athabasca Glacier and see the snow. In fact, tours that go onto the Athabasca Glacier only operate in the summer because, as you can imagine, it gets pretty cold up there!

Now I have to be honest, the Athabasca Glacier is located a bit of a drive from Banff, at 2.5 hours each way. However, the drive is along the beautiful Icefields Parkway, which is something you absolutely don’t want to miss out on anyway!

I drove out the glacier and back again on a day trip from Banff all while enjoying the best stops on the Icefields Parkway. It makes for a long day, but the views make it worth it. And if you want more info or more day trip ideas, check out my blog about the best day trips from Banff here.

Once you get to Athabasca Glacier, it’s time to explore it! The only way to walk on the glacier is on a guided tour, and as you can imagine, it is a really popular activity that is often fully booked. This full-day combo tour is the most popular option, and it includes riding up to the glacier in a specially designed vehicle called the Ice Explorer (pictured above) before getting out to stand on it.

Although only a couple of hours long, tickets are reasonable at $115 CAD per person. It also includes tickets for the Skywalk too (which we will explain next)! We have a whole review on this glacier tour here if you want more details.

If you love hiking as much as we do, consider booking a half-day guided hiking tour on the glacier. This tour spends a lot more time actually on the glacier but requires a better degree of fitness than the typical Ice Explorer tour that most people do. If you want to truly explore the Athabasca Glacier, this is the best way to do so!

As you make your way across the ice, your knowledgeable guide will share some fascinating details about how the glacier was formed, what makes it so unique, as well as the ongoing impact of climate change. Walking across a glacier is definitely a story to tell the folks back home, and for $184 CAD for 4 hours of glacier hiking – you really can’t beat it!

That being said, all year round you can do a short hike to a viewpoint of the Athabasca Glacier and check out the glacier. This hike is completely free, and you can do it without a guide. With that said, for the best experience, I highly recommend joining a tour!

11. Experience new heights on the Skywalk 

Columbia Icefield Skywalk
Columbia Icefield Skywalk
Jasper Skywalk along the Icefields Parkway
If you don’t like heights, don’t look down!

If you already plan on driving the Icefields Parkway and visiting the Athabasca Glacier you might as well do the Skywalk too! This 279-meter (915-foot) high glass walkway offers views of glaciers and mountains like no other!

It is a bit freaky standing on glass so high in the sky, however, the engineers guarantee the Skywalk’s strength saying it could hold as many as two whole airplanes!

You can visit the skywalk from the Columbia Icefield Discovery Center (same as the Athabasca Glacier). From here, a shuttle will take you out to the Skywalk before returning to the Discovery Center. The tour takes around an hour, but you can stay as long as you want at the Skywalk and simply return on a later bus.

The Skywalk starts at just under $40 CAD per person but can also be paired with your Athabasca Glacier tour so you save money. This experience does get fully booked in the summer, so be sure to purchase your admission tickets in advance.

12. Check out the new pedestrian-friendly street

Drinking beer at Three Bears Brewery
Three Bear Brewery (Banff’s newest brewery) is located on Bear Street

Banff Ave can get busy – like really busy! Lucky for us, the newly constructed Bear Street just steps away from Banff Ave is now open and ready for pedestrian use. Along Bear Street, you’ll find lots of restaurants and shops as well as beautiful greenery and plenty of benches.

The best part about Bear Street is that it is mainly for pedestrians. The street is level with the sidewalk, meaning no curbs or narrow walking paths. Drivers who must access this street (usually only delivery drivers) have to give pedestrians the right of way. So, you can freely wander around, enjoying buskers, mountain views, and the lively atmosphere! There are also large patios lining Bear Street, and most of them are dog-friendly.

If you’re looking for somewhere to grab a sweet treat, a crusty baguette, or a piping hot coffee (or all of them), then you’ll want to stop by Wild Flour Bakery on Bear Street. I dropped by here before walking over to Bow Falls the last time I was here, and let me tell you that their specialty breads are the bomb! Trying cranberry walnut bread for the first time was such a cool (and tasty) experience.

For something a little more filling, stop by Banff Poutine, which serves (you guessed it) this classic Canadian dish. But that’s not all, they also do some super smoked meat sandwiches, burgers, hot dogs, and more. Stop by to fill up the tank when you’re hungry – you won’t regret it.

13. Vermilion Lakes Scenic Drive

Reflections at Vermillion Lakes in Banff National Park
Head to the end of the road for the best reflections.

Only a 5-minute drive from Banff town is Vermilion Lakes one of our top favorite scenic drives near Banff! This 4.3 km-long (2.7-mile) stretch of road winds its way along the edges of a couple of very gorgeous and calm lakes. When the lakes aren’t frozen, the lakes reflect the mountains behind them almost perfectly – like nature’s own mirrors!

The best place to go for photos is right at the end of Vermilion Lakes Drive. Here, the water is protected from the wind and the views are stunning. Trust me, your camera will thank you.

My top tip? Definitely go at sunset. Pack yourself a bottle of wine or a few beers and just sit back and enjoy the views! It’s the perfect recipe for a moment of pure bliss, so no wonder it’s one of our top free things to do in Banff.

14. Ride on a Lake Minnewanka Cruise

Views of the mountains from a Lake Minnewanka Cruise in Banff National Park

Lake Minnewanka proudly holds the title of being the largest lake in the entire park, spanning over a whopping 28 kilometers (17.4 miles). And when it comes to depth, Lake Minnewanka goes deep – like, really deep. Plunging down to 466 ft (142 m), it’s like the Mariana Trench of Canadian lakes!

The best way to explore Lake Minnewanka is on a scenic boat cruise. There are cruises departing hourly every day from May to October. The cruise goes just over an hour and includes live commentary by a local guide, and is only $69 CAD for the whole experience.

We took this specific cruise and learned all about the legend of the lake, its history, and its importance today. Don’t forget to keep your eyes peeled for glimpses of the cute but elusive mountain goats on the lake’s edge and bald eagles up above. Trust me, spotting some of these majestic creatures in their natural habitat is simply magical!

We wrote a full review on this cruise and, spoiler alert, it really is a fun way to spend an hour! Since it is indoors on a boat, it isn’t weather-dependent either. The cruise doesn’t operate between the months of November and April simply for the reason that the lake freezes!

Note: There are now a couple of different cruises you can choose from, including a Beer Cruise and a Family Cruise. You can see all of the different cruises online here!

15. Visit Two Jack Lake

Three people relax at two Jack Lake on a hot summers day in Banff National Park
The best summer hangout!
Bailey on a inflatable doughnut at Two Jack Lake, Canada
If you need me…

On your way to Lake Minnewanka, you will drive by a smaller, but equally beautiful, lake called Two Jack Lake. While it may be smaller in size compared to its popular neighbor, it certainly doesn’t lack awesome views! Here, you’ll also find a large day-use area complete with picnic benches and, of course, those amazing mountain views.

During the summer, Two Jack Lake is a really popular spot for kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding. You can’t actually rent kayaks or paddleboards at the lake, so it’s best to bring your own, or you can rent paddleboards in town from trusted places like The Banff Canoe Club.

When winter rolls around, the lake freezes over, and while it’s much less busy, it’s still the perfect place to capture some stunning photos. So make sure to grab a coffee on your way out of Banff and take a drive to Two Jack Lake to enjoy the gorgeous views. Stop at the day-use area to spot Mt Rundle in the distance, then continue onto Lake Minnewanaka!

There are also two large campgrounds at Two Jack Lake. They normally book out fully months in advance, but if you can snag a spot (like we did last year) then you’ll love camping here. Two Jack Lakeside Campground is my personal favorite since it offers views of the lake.

16. Visit Surprise Corner

Bailey at Surprise Corner viewpoint in Banff, Canada
I could sit here all day!

One of the most famous viewpoints in Banff town is Surprise Corner. Overlooking the Spray Valley and Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, you’ll fall in love with the view! Many proposals happen at Surprise Corner each year, although, that’s actually not how the viewpoint got its name!

The parking situation here is a bit of a tight squeeze. With a capacity for only about 12 cars, it’s often best to take a leisurely stroll from the town during peak times. My recommendation is to visit after a fresh sprinkle of snow. The landscape gets a whole new level of beauty that’s just so pretty. Don’t just take my word for it, go see it for yourself. You won’t regret it!

Regardless, this is one viewpoint every visitor to Banff should visit. If you can visit after a light dust of snow, the views are even more spectacular!

17. Check out Canmore

The Three Sisters Mountain Range is iconic in Canmore.
Bailey at Grassi Lakes, Canmore on a spring day
Grassi Lakes in Canmore is a popular spot.

I love Banff, but if I’m being totally honest, I love Canmore more! Why? Well, I might be biased, we did live in Canmore for a while. But truthfully, Canmore is a lot more laid-back than Banff with more hotels to choose from, as well as amenities like large grocery stores. Canmore is also cheaper than Banff with more deals when it comes to restaurants and budget-friendly hotels!

Plus, the town is located just on the outskirts of the national park, so no park pass is required when visiting Canmore – bonus!

Besides all that, Canmore is full of fun things to do. There are lots of easy day hikes you explore including Grassi Lakes and other outdoorsy activities like bike trails. The Canmore Nordic Centre is popular in the winter for cross-country skiing, and in the summer, for mountain biking. You also can’t miss the iconic view of the Three Sisters – it’s stunning (pictured above).

Canmore is only about a 20-minute drive from Banff town. For this reason (and the fact that it’s generally cheaper), many people often opt to stay at a hotel in Canmore and visit Banff on day trips. I do this occasionally and it works out just fine!

Where to Stay in Canmore:

For a budget stay, you can go wrong with Canmore Rocky Mountain Inn, which starts around $114 CAD. For something a little nicer but with one and two-bedroom apartments available, check out Grande Rockies Resort. Prices here range from around $229 to $509 a night during the peak summer season.

18. Wander the Cascade Gardens

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

The Cascade Gardens are within walking distance from Banff Ave and are the perfect activity on a calm and sunny afternoon. The gardens feature landscaped paths, terraced gardens, and multiple gazebos and sitting areas!

There are several varieties of trees and flowers. The peak blooming season runs from late May to early September. If you come later in the month, and miss the peak bloom, don’t fret. I can assure you the fall foliage more than makes up for the lack of flowers!

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

19. Walk in Johnston Canyon

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

Johnston Canyon is one of the most famous attractions in Banff National Park. One of the reasons for that is that it is open (and beautiful) all year round!

During the summer months, you can stroll along the boardwalk next to the canyon filled with turquoise water. You’ll find two waterfalls along the trail, the Lower Falls, which is located 1.7 km (1 mile) from the parking lot, and the Upper Falls, located 1 km (0.6 miles) further.

Go exploring during winter!

When winter rolls around, the canyon freezes over, making the walk look like something out of a winter wonderland! Imagine icicles hanging everywhere and frozen waterfalls, so make sure to make a trip up here even if you’re visiting late in the year.

If you are visiting during the winter, I’d highly recommend joining a winter tour from Banff to Johnston Canyon. This Johnston Canyon Icewalk is one we’ve done and loved! It’s 4 hours long and includes transport to and from the canyon as well as an expert guide, ice cleats, and hiking poles – so you’ll be super safe. Along the way, you’ll enjoy the views of frozen waterfalls and icicles, plus, I’ll be really jealous of you as this is one of my favorite winter activities!

Tickets for the tour cost $101 CAD per person and include a cup of hot chocolate as well as a tasty maple cookie snack at the end. Be sure to wear layers too! The temperature can fluctuate, although often dips below freezing in the winter.

Johnston Canyon can get pretty busy.

Now, the downside to Johnston Canyon is that it can get very busy (especially during summer). So busy, in fact, that the massive parking lot often fills up, meaning you must reach it using a shuttle bus! We really like this hop-on hop-off tour that can take you to Johnson Canyon and a bunch of other must-see spots, like Lake Louise, Moraine Lake, and more.

It’s one of the top bus tours in Banff we recommend when we have friends or family come to visit. The bus operates from early morning (starting at 7:45 am) until late evening (the last bus arrives back in Banff at 6 pm). I’d recommend going as early as possible though to make the most of your ticket and see as many spots as possible!

You can purchase tickets for the hop-on hop-off tour for $85 CAD per person. This is a popular tour though, so make sure to get your tickets well in advance!

Important info: Johnston Canyon is located a 30-minute drive from Banff. Entrance to the canyon is free and so is parking.

20. Visit the Lake Louise Lakefront 

Bailey stands on a rock at Lake Louise, Canada
Lake Louise is beautiful!
Views looking out at Lake Louise from the Fairmont
Views looking out at Lake Louise from the Fairmont

Lake Louise is one of my favorite lakes in Canada! The best way to enjoy the lake is by simply wandering around for an hour or so. Located about a 45-minute drive from Banff, Lake Louise is simply pristine and the mountains surrounding it are breathtaking! If you’re only in town for a short time, a stop at Lake Louise has to be on your Banff itinerary.

If you’re up for a little more adventure, consider renting a canoe! You can rent them over at the Fairmont Boathouse on the western side of the lake, with them being available on a first-come, first-served basis. They can comfortably seat either three adults or, alternatively, two adults and two small children.

As for the price, it’s a little cheaper if you’re an in-house guest at the Fairmont, but if you’re not, then renting a canoe will cost $145 CAD for 30 minutes or $155 CAD for one hour.

There are also plenty of great hikes you can do from Lake Louise (more on this coming up in #33!).

I love adventuring around Lake Louise, but some days I just want to relax while I’m here! My favorite way to have a chill day here is to grab a coffee or even a meal at the Lakeview Lounge. The restaurant itself is goregous, but it also offers lakefront views and makes for the perfect place to dine (just book in advance for dinner or lunch peak times!).

One thing to know, especially if you’re visiting Lake Louise in the summer, is that it’s important to arrive early in the summer months at Lake Louise to get a parking spot. During peak times, the parking lot often completely fills by around 10 am.

Note: From May until mid-October, you’ll be required to pay $36.75 CAD per vehicle per day to park at Lake Louise Lakefront (2024 updated price). The paid parking is in effect from 3 am until 7 pm daily. 

Hot Tip: Drive the Bow Valley Parkway on your way back to Banff from Lake Louise – this makes for the perfect scenic drive to end your day!

21. Check out Moraine Lake

Bailey in a canoe at Moraine Lake, Banff NP
be sure to go canoeing!
Bailey canoes on the blue water on Moraine Lake, Banff
Oh Moraine Lake you are beautiful!

We might be biased (as this is where we got engaged) but we think Moraine Lake is one of the most beautiful spots to visit near Banff.

The lake itself is the brightest turquoise color possible and the surrounding mountains are nothing short of amazing. Daniel chose this place to get engaged largely because of how beautiful it is.

Unfortunately, the lake is also a victim of its own success, being one of the most visited places near Banff. Plus, getting to Moraine Lake requires a bit of planning ahead, but it’s worth it! I mean for those views, who wouldn’t want to go?!

Since the Moraine Lake Road and parking lot closed to all personal vehicles in 2023, you’ll need to look into parking alternatives to visit Moraine Lake. Most people visit by taking a shuttle either from Banff town itself or from Lake Louise. Shuttles must be booked in advance!

The alternative to taking a shuttle is going on a tour to Moraine Lake like this organized tour to Moraine Lake and Lake Louise. It starts from the heart of Banff, includes transportation, and help from a professional guide, and not to mention the park fees are covered too. Lasting about 4 hours in total, you’ll have lots of time to explore – whatever it is that you’d like to!

Costing $113 CAD per person, this tour often books up weeks in advance, so it’s best to get your tickets in advance to secure the dates you’re looking for.

Visit Moraine Lake for Sunrise

Moraine Lake and the Ten Peaks at sunrise in Banff
Isn’t it beautiful!

If you want to visit Moraine Lake during sunrise (the most famous time of day to visit!) you have two options since driving yourself is no longer allowed. The first option is with this new sunrise tour to Moraine Lake. The tour was created to specifically fill that gap created with everyone who wants to see the lake at sunrise, but can’t drive themselves or take one of the other options that don’t arrive until later in the morning. The tour departs from Banff and includes all sorts of extras like a guide and even hot chocolate all for $287 CAD.

Alternatively, a brand new company just launched that offers sunrise shuttles from Lake Louise Village to Moraine Lake. They also have early morning departures at 4 am and 5 am, which means you will see the sunrise. This option is transport only, but it is the more affordable choice at only $49 CAD per person. You can book the shuttle online here. They also offer shuttles that run at normal hours (for those of us who like to sleep in!) for only $35 CAD.

Important info: Moraine Lake is open from May to mid-October and closes for the winter due to avalanche risk. This means it’s only one of the best things to do in Banff during the summer, fall, and spring.

22. Drive the Bow Valley Parkway

Castle Mountain Viewpoint along the Bow Valley Parkway
Castle Mountain Viewpoint along the Bow Valley Parkway

Between Banff and Lake Louise, you’ll find a gorgeous road called the Bow Valley Parkway. Instead of driving along the highway, consider taking this route that’s so scenic and includes tons of places to stop along the way.

To drive along the parkway, you’ll need to grab a day ticket or a yearly Discovery Pass from Parks Canada. The day ticket isn’t too expensive, at $11 CAD per adult or $22 CAD for the whole car! You can either buy your ticket online or purchase it in person at the entranceway to the parkway.

Some of the most popular stops along the Bow Valley Parkway include:

Castle Mountain Viewpoint and Hike

Castle Mountain was one of my favorite views of our entire trip to Banff. Pictured above, this mountain is so stunning. You can either just pull over at the car park or hike the 6.5 km (4 miles) in and back to a viewpoint.

Silverton Falls

Silverton Falls might not be the most majestic waterfall you’ll ever see, but the tranquil walk to the falls makes the trip worth it. It’s a gentle, 700-m (2,297-ft) stroll from the Rockbound Lake Trail car park to the falls, and you’ll return via the same path.

For those up for a more extended adventure, you can continue hiking past the falls on to Rockbound Lake. This is a much more challenging route, with the entire trail from the car park to the lake being about 18 km (11.1 mi) out and back.

Morant’s Curve

You may not have heard of Morant’s Curve, but you’ve probably seen photos of it online! It’s a super famous spot along the parkway where trains pass with a stunning mountain backdrop. There’s no specific schedule for the trains themselves, but there’s normally one every hour or so. If you’re traveling along the parkway, you have to check this place out, especially if you’re a photographer!

Moose Meadows

Moose Meadows may not be the moose hotspot it once was, but you can still see wildlife here and enjoy breathtaking views of wildflowers and mountains. It’s best not to rush though, so breathe in the fresh mountain air, and who knows, you might just spot elk or deer.

Johnston Canyon (more info below)

Johnston Canyon is the most famous stop on the Bow Valley Parkway. So much so, we’ve written more details about it in its own section below!

There are tons of opportunities to pull over along Bow Valley Parkway and believe me, you’ll be wanting to stop for photos a lot. This drive can be done in just over an hour, however, if you plan on stopping and exploring, I recommend allowing a couple of hours, all the way up to a full day if you’re keen on exploring a lot.

23. Explore Sunshine Village and Sunshine Meadows

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

Sunshine Village is a ski resort in the winter, but it transforms into a hiker’s paradise in the summer! From the end of June until the beginning of September, you can ride the gondola up to Sunshine Village for hiking and sightseeing. Once you’re at the top, you can hike one of the many trails in the area and explore the magnificent views.

One of the most popular hikes in Banff that’s located here is called Sunshine Meadows. To get to the start of this trail you’ll have to ride the gondola to Sunshine Village and then take the Standish Chairlift. The entire trail is 6.6 km (4.1 mi) and will take most people about 3 hours to complete. Honestly, it’s a pretty easy hike, so we’d say it’s suitable for all the family, provided everyone has a reasonable level of fitness!

On its own, the gondola to Sunshine Village costs $68 CAD per person for a 22 minute gondola ride, which is much longer than the other gondlas in Banff! We’d recommend picking your tickets up online in advance to avoid the queues, but you can also purchase your tickets at the gondola too. Parking is available at the base of the gondola, or you can ride the free bus from Banff town.

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

Related Read: Check out all the sightseeing gondolas available in Banff here!

24. Spend a night at the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel 

At the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel
Me, in front of the Fairmont.

Looking for some luxury? Then you simply have to stay at the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel. For me, it’s one of the most beautiful hotels in the world with incredible views and some of the most amazing hospitality you could ever dream of.

As you can expect, a stay at a hotel like the Fairmont doesn’t come cheap – prices are upwards of $450 CAD a night! But hoenstly, it is so much more than just a hotel, with countless on-site restaurants, extensive spa services, and tons of fun activities like golf, tennis, bowling, and more. Even if you can only afford to stay one night, it is so, so worth it.

If you aren’t able to spend the night, all hope isn’t lost. You can actually go on a guided tour of the hotel and eat some of their finest food on this food experience tour. It’s a really neat way to indulge in amazing food and drink pairings and eat literally like a king or queen while you visit four unique locations in the hotel!

Tickets for this experience cost $206 CAD per person, with the entire experience lasting about three hours. Once you’re finished up, why not go for a little stroll around the grounds? Who knows, maybe you’ll be coming back to stay sooner than you think!

25. Go camping

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

Okay, so the Fairmont might be a little out of your budget (it is for me too). Not to worry, you can enjoy Banff without breaking the bank by going camping! There are tons of different campgrounds located within Banff National Park with a couple of them being super close to Banff Town.

Tunnel Mountain is only a 5-minute drive from Banff town and boasts powered RV sites as well as sites suitable for tenting. This is the closest campground to Banff, so you can imagine that it books up pretty fast! There are a few different options when you look on their reservations page, but if you’re looking to stay as close to Banff as possible, you’ll want the Tunnel Mountain Village 2 campground.

This campground is open all year (being busiest during the summertime) and costs from $30-42 CAD per night depending on if you need electricity or sewage facilities too.

You’ll also find a large campground at Two Jack Lake, as we mentioned earlier. Although about 10 km (6.2 mi) away from Banff town, it only takes about 10 minutes to drive between the two. Plus, this means that this location is so peaceful, and you’re right out in the heart of the beautiful Banff countryside.

Two Jack is open from mid-May through to early October and costs $24 CAD per night at the main campsite and $30 CAD for the lakeside campground.

All campgrounds in Banff National Park are managed by Parks Canada and should be booked in advance – they book up quickly! Expect to pay around $30 CAD per night depending on the campground and facilities.

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

26. Ride the chairlift up Mt Norquay 

Bailey sits with a beer at the top of Mt Norquay at the Cliffhouse Bistro
Not a bad place to enjoy a beer!
Bailey walks down some steps at the top of the Mt Norquay Chairlift
At the top!

When it comes to the top viewpoints in Banff, you can’t pass up on a visit to Mt Norquay. After all, the chairlift and ski resort are located just a 10-minute drive from Banff town! This might upset a few people, but in my personal opinion, the views from atop Mt Norquay are even better than those from the Banff Gondola (sorry not sorry!).

From the beginning of June to mid-October the Norquay Chairlift opens up for sightseeing, so if you’re around during summer and fall, make sure to drop by. Passes cost $46 CAD per person and anybody can jump on the chairlift and ride the 7,000 ft (2,134 m) up to the top! You can also buy your tickets in advance online.

Once you reach the summit, I’d suggest stopping by to savor the views from the Cliffhouse Bistro. This little retro-style restaurant serves some incredible food (try the tacos!) as well as a large selection of drinks. A beer with this view can’t get any better.

In the winter months (November to the end of April), Mt Norquay opens up for skiing and snowboarding. Lift tickets cost $124 CAD per adult for a full day with cheaper options available for half-days and children. Take a look back at section 7 for more info!

27. Go tubing at Mt Norquay

The tube park at Mt Norquay
Seriously the tube park at Mt Norquay is so much fun! Photo credit: Mt Norquay

Not a skier or snowboarder but still want to hit the slopes in the winter months? Well, the friendly folks at Mt Norquay also offer another super fun activity – mountain tubing! I was skiing away when I saw it and just had to give it a go. Safe to say, it was so much fun!

Mt Norquay actually has the longest tube lanes in Alberta and you get some serious speed along the way. The best part is the entrance to the tube park is only $45 CAD for adults and $38 for kids. With that, you can pretty much go as many times as you want. It’s a “snow-tally” awesome deal!

Snow tubing gets really popular, which makes it a good idea to pre-purchase tickets in advance – there’s nothing worse than turning up and not being able to take part.

The tube park is open during winter from 9:00 am to 12 pm, then 1 pm to 4 pm every day with night tubing from 5:00 pm to 8 pm on Friday and Saturday. This can change though, so always check before you go.

28. Visit the local breweries

Bailey enjoys a bear at Banff Ave Brewing Company in Banff town
Cheers from Banff Ave!
A group of people at Three Bears Brewery & Restaurant in Banff
Three Bears Brewery & Restaurant in Banff

Dan and I are suckers for craft beer, so it should come as no surprise that whenever we visit Banff, we go to Banff Ave Brewing. The brewery is located (as the name suggests) right on Banff Ave, and they have a pretty diverse menu that’s full of delicious beer. You can’t go wrong with one of their IPAs, but be sure to ask about their seasonal taps too – they are always so creative!

Banff Ave Brewing isn’t the only brewery in Banff, in fact, recently another brewery opened meaning there are actually now two breweries in Banff! Three Bears Brewery and Restaurant is located on Bear Street in town and offers a trendy atmosphere and plenty of tasty beer. Be sure to try their tea-infused beers – so delicious!

Hot Tip: For beer lovers, the Banff Beer Festival is held every year in early December (dates can change so check before you go) during what’s known as “Craft Beer Week”. It’s a celebration of all things craft beer and at the event, over 40 vendors from around Alberta (yep, only Alberta) come together to showcase their new brews.

29. Enjoy panoramic views on a helicopter ride 

View from a helicopter looking out over the mountains around Banff, Canada
View from a helicopter looking out over the mountains around Banff, Canada

If you thought the views from the ground were nice, just wait until you get in the sky. A helicopter ride in a place as stunning as Banff is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience and will take your trip to new heights – literally!

Scenic flights in Banff do come with a price tag, typically around $300 CAD for a 20-minute ride that includes a landing for some exploration (about an hour in total). I won’t sugarcoat it – it’s not the cheapest option out there, but this experience is definitely worth every penny! If you’re on a budget, there are still plenty of shorter flights without landings and these are much cheaper.

These scenic helicopter flights operate year-round, so you can enjoy them regardless of the season. Prepare yourself for jaw-dropping views of the majestic Canadian Rockies that are sure to take your breath away, just like they did mine!

The company we went with was called Alpine Helicopters. Although they are technically based in Canmore, the flights cover a lot more! Their pilots hold years of experience and know all the best spots to capture some pretty amazing photos. We honestly loved the tour – these guys are really professional!

30. Shop (and eat) at the Banff Farmers Market

Bailey walks through the Banff Farmers Market
Bailey walks through the Banff Farmers Market

Every Wednesday from May to the beginning of October (10 am to 6 pm), the Farmers Market is held in Banff Central Park.

You’ll find rows and rows of vibrant stalls offering fresh, locally sourced fruits and veggies. But don’t think it’s just about produce! This market is its own treasure trove of unique crafts and handmade gifts. I can almost guarantee you’ll find a one-of-a-kind souvenir here that’s got ‘Banff’ written all over it, quite literally. It’s also most likely to have been crafted by the loving hands of a Banff local!

Coming here is one of the best things to do in downtown Banff – and one of my favorite things about the market is the live music! Nothing beats wandering through the market, with the sound of guitars and singing in the background. It’s like Banff’s weekly festival – everyone’s in a great mood.

There are also tons of food trucks dotted around, so there’s no excuse to go hungry here! I had a gourmet grilled cheese sandwich, and it was soo delicious. So, why not grab some lunch or an early dinner, sit yourself down in the park, and soak up the atmosphere with some good eats and tunes.

You can snag a parking spot in the west parking lot of Central Park. It’s just a stone’s throw away from all the market action, making it super convenient for dropping off any heavy bags of local goodies you might pick up. Of course, if you’re staying at a hotel in downtown Banff, you’ll probably be within walking distance!

31. Ride the Lake Louise Gondola

Lake Louise Gondola during a warm summers day
Photo credit: Ski Louise
Viewpoint at the top of the Lake Louise Gondola
Photo credit: The Lake Louise Ski Resort & Summer Gondola

The Lake Louise Ski Resort is one of the largest ski areas in all of Canada! That’s right, so if you want to go skiing or snowboarding in the winter months then this is the place to do it.

But when summer rolls around, the Lake Louise Gondola and Chairlift transforms from a ski lift into an epic sightseeing activity. With outstanding views and a chance to visit the wildlife interpretive center at the summit, it’s a super fun activity that’s only a 40-minute drive from downtown Banff.

One of the biggest draws is the high chance of spotting wild grizzlies! But don’t worry, you’ll be observing them from the safety of your gondola. In fact, during the summer months, the area at the top of the gondola is cordoned off just to ensure the safety of visitors and bears alike.

When we visited, we didn’t get the best weather and the views were pretty obstructed thanks to fog and clouds. But, that doesn’t mean we didn’t have fun. The wildlife interpretive center and restaurant were awesome to visit and the long 14-minute ride in the gondola was a blast!

You can grab tickets for gondola for $63 CAD per person. The summer sightseeing gondola season runs from mid-May to October. You can take a ride up in the winter as well but there are no facilities open at the top, so we think this is a much better activity during the warmer months when you can hike, visit the restaurant, and look for wildlife.

32. Go hiking in Lake Louise

Bailey stands on the edge of Lake Agnes on the Lake Agnes Teahouse hike
This is one of the most beautiful lakes in Banff National Park – Lake Agnes!
A lady hiking on the Larch Valley Trail
Hiking in the Larch Valley in Fall!

While there are plenty of hikes to do close to Banff town, some of our personal favorites are actually located a short way away in Lake Louise. Sure, Lake Louise isn’t technically “Banff”, it’s located about an hour’s drive from Banff town, although Lake Louise is located within the boundaries of Banff National Park. Plus, these hikes are some of my favorites – and I really don’t think you’ll want to miss them!

Some of the most popular and easily accessible day hikes in and around Lake Louise include:

Larch Valley: The Larch Valley Trail is a very popular track in autumn and summer. On the trail, you get to see typical back-country views. The trail is an 11.6 km (7.2 miles) return trip and is moderately difficult. During certain times of the year, you must hike in large groups of 4 or more people (for bear safety).

It’s famous for the colorful Larch trees, particularly in the fall, when they burst into an array of warm colors, making it a breathtakingly beautiful hiking experience. This makes it quite the popular trail, so prepare for some company as you soak it all in!

Lake Agnes Teahouse: The Lake Agnes Tea House is the most famous tea house in Banff National Park. The hike to the tea house begins at Lake Louise and is a 7.2 km (4.5 miles) return trip. At the tea house, you can enjoy stunning views of Lake Agnes and stop for a snack.

Plain of Six Glaciers: The Plain of Six Glaciers is a long but relatively easy hike. The 13.8 km (8.6 miles) return trip only gains an elevation of 380 meters (1,246 ft). The trail finishes at the Plain of Six Glaciers Tea House and the views along the way make it one of the best hikes in Banff.

I love hiking at Lake Louise to escape the crowds and enjoy the beautiful landscape. It is easily one of the best things to do during the summer!

33. Get tipsy at Park Distillery Restaurant and Bar

Bailey drinks a cocktail Park Distillery Restaurant and Bar
The cocktails are delicious!

Ready for a drink yet? I don’t blame you – you’re on holiday after all!

Head over to Park Distillery, Banff’s very own craft distillery. Home to some of the best pub food and cocktails in Banff, it’s a crowd favorite and I love enjoying a meal and drinks here.

The distillery is located on Banff Ave, and they have a small sales counter as well as a restaurant. I love the chicken sandwich and seared BC salmon! For cocktails, be sure to try a few, but my favorites are the Sawback and the Summit.

Although the drinks can be a little on the pricier side, if you visit for Happy Hour (4 – 5 pm Monday to Thrusday, 3:30 – 5:30 with a DJ on Fridays!) you’ll be sure to snag a few deals.

You can also join a free distillery tour and learn exactly how this amazing distillery makes all of their spirits. Tours are offered daily at 3:15 pm, and you also have the option of purchasing a guided spirit-tasting flight for $22 CAD. On top of that, you can also organize a 1-hour private tour, but this must be booked in advance with a minimum of 8 people.

34. Spot wildlife

A grizzly Bear near Canmore, alberta
A grizzly Bear at Bow Lake!
A grizzly bear eats grass near Canmore, Alberta
So cool!

For many, seeing the native wildlife of Banff National Park is a bucket-list experience. Well, the truth is that there is a lot of wildlife around – you just need to know where to look!

If you’re worried about seeing wildlife on your own, then your best chance is on a guided wildlife tour. Some of the animals you can expect to see include elk, bears, deer, foxes, coyotes, bighorn sheep, and more!

The animals tend to be more active in the morning and during the evenings, which is why I’d suggest this evening tour, where you’ll visit plenty of wildlife hotspots. We love that you can also customize the itinerary of the tour to exactly what you’d like to see. Of course, wildlife sightings aren’t guaranteed, but with a local guide, who knows the area like the back of their hand, your chances are so much higher.

This tour lasts for around 3 hours and costs $100 CAD during the winter or $146 CAD during the summer. Once you’ve booked your spot, don’t forget to bring your camera with you, so you’ll have loads of photos to show off back home!

35. Explore the mountains on horseback

Daniel rides a horse through the forest on a horseback riding tour in Banff
Daniel rides a horse through the forest on a horseback riding tour in Banff

Fancy experiencing the trails of Banff in a completely different way? Then why not opt for a bit of good old-fashioned horseback riding? Plus, it’s also a little nod to the pioneers of the past who explored these parts on horseback long not so long ago!

There are several options for horseback riding in and around Banff, each offering a unique experience and a cool new perspective of the stunning surroundings. Here are a few of our favorites:

1-Hour Bow River Ride

Are you ready for an adventure that’ll make you feel like a character straight out of an Old Western movie? Then look no further than this 1-hour Bow River ride! This is a great opportunity to explore Banff’s wilderness from a completely unique perspective.

We took this same tour and thought it was the perfect amount of time (any longer and my bum would have been sore!). I loved getting into nature in this unique way, and riding a horse is always a fun experience!

Make sure to wear long pants and shoes for the ride (no sandals for this one!), as it can get a bit cold up there. Don’t forget your camera too – the views are truly something else!

The tour begins at Banff Trail Riders Stables (formally Warner Stables), which is just a few minutes drive from downtown Banff, making this tour super easy to fit into your schedule. Tickets for this tour cost $97 CAD per person and include a helmet and your horse – of course!

2-Day Backcountry Lodge Trip

If you’re like us and are the type of person who thrives on immersing yourself in the heart of nature, then this 2-day overnight horseback trip is your chance to do just that! This tour takes you off the beaten path and into the wild beauty of Banff, promising some incredible memories that will last a lifetime.

This is a great chance to disconnect from the hustle and bustle and reconnect with the great outdoors. But don’t worry, ‘roughing it’ doesn’t mean you’ll be sacrificing comfort. After a day of riding, you’ll be treated to a cozy overnight stay at the Sundance Lodge, where you’ll feel right at home in no time.

After a filling breakfast in the morning, you’ll hop back in the saddle for the return trip to Banff, filled with even more breathtaking views and hopefully even more wildlife encounters. This tour operates only on Saturdays, with tickets costing $914 CAD per person, including all meals and accommodation. As there are limited spots, it’s important to book your spot in advance to secure your place!

36. Have an adventure whitewater rafting 

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

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

For those with an adventurous streak, check out this 2-hour whitewater rafting tour, which takes you right along the scenic Kanaskasis River. The rapids are such a rush, but they’re manageable for rafters of all experience levels, and suitable for anyone over the age of 5. You’ll get completely geared up before you start and finish the excitement with a calm float where you can also opt for a swim!

We had such a fun time on this experience. Not only does it let you enjoy the breathtaking scenery, but also the thrill of the rapids! Our guide was fantastic and filled our time with fun facts and hilarious stories about life as a river guide. I highly recommend bringing a change of clothes and a towel – trust me, you’ll be glad to have them when you come off the water!

Tickets for this tour start at $140 CAD and is avaliable May through early September.

37. Go ice climbing

A person Ice Climbs in Johnston Canyon
The views from an ice climbing tour in Banff

If hiking through Johnston Canyon isn’t intense enough, try ice climbing! It’s definitely an adventure and a really unique activity in Banff. So, instead of just viewing the stunning, frozen waterfalls, why not climb one?

Ice climbing can be challenging and even dangerous if not approached carefully, so joining a tour is the only way to do it safely for beginners. This full-day adventure is geared towards people of all experience levels, all you need is the drive to give it a go and have fun out there on the ice!

An expert guide will walk you through all the basics of the gear and how to climb, and then you’ll climb a frozen waterfall yourself. I personally haven’t tried it, but I’ve seen lots of people giving it a go at the Louise Falls at the end of Lake Louise. So if you’re ready to embrace the challenge – this is one of those life experiences that makes for a great story!

You’ll set off at 8 am with the tour lasting around 7 hours. Tickets for the tour cost $215 CAD per person, and you’ll leave directly from Bear Street in Banff town!

38. Hike Tunnel Mountain

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

One of the most popular easy hikes in Banff is the Tunnel Mountain Trail. This short 4.5 km (2.8 miles), this trail weaves its way from the heart of Banff town up to a breathtaking viewpoint.

The views are something out of a postcard and this trail is perfect for everyone with a reasonable level of fitness. In fact, as the smallest mountain in the area, the climb is only 300 m (984 ft) in elevation.

One thing to keep in mind whenever you’re out hiking is to carry plenty of water and perhaps also a light snack, so you can enjoy your time at the summit without rushing back down. Also, the trail can get quite busy during the day (especially in summer), so heading out earlier in the day will mean you’ll see fewer crowds!

39. Tackle Via Ferrata or rock climbing 

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

There are some really great places to go rock climbing in and around Banff. If you’re an experienced rock climber, it’s best to bring your own gear, or you can rent equipment from nearby stores like Gear Up Mountain Sports in Canmore and then adventure on your own.

To be honest, rock climbing is a biiit too extreme for me. While I can totally see the appeal, the combination of strength and heights doesn’t suit me all that well, so it’s not something I’d personally go for.

Instead, whenever I get my craving for some adventure, I like to do Via Ferrata! It means “iron path” in Italian, and offers the thrilling experience of navigating rock faces using a series of iron rungs, cables, and bridges – and all the while you’re securely attached to a lifeline. It’s also generally safer and easier to get up higher with less experience and effort.

I highly recommend this Via Ferrata tour in Banff for anyone who isn’t completely sold on rock climbing just quite yet. No worries if you’re new to this – your guide will provide a thorough safety briefing and equipment tutorial before the climb begins.

A little tip from me! Make sure to wear comfortable, weather-appropriate clothing and sturdy footwear. Gloves can also be a good idea as the iron rungs can be a little harsh on the skin.

Tickets for this 2.5 hour experience cost $200 CAD per person and include all of your climibing gear, you expert instrutor, and even a shuttle from Banff!

40. Explore Buffalo Nations Luxton Museum 

A display of the Buffalo Nations people in a tent at the Buffalo Nations Museum in Banff
A display at the Buffalo Nations Museum in Banff

Anybody who knows Daniel and I will know that we are more of “adventurous travelers”, meaning we don’t spend a huge amount of time in museums. To be honest, I’m quite picky when it comes to museums, but I found the Buffalo Nations Luxton Museum in Banff to be very interesting!

The museum is all about the First Nations people of the area around Banff, showing how they used to live in a super visual way. In the museum, you’ll find interactive displays and lots of information on their lives, history, and culture, which really gets you thinking!

The museum only costs $12 CAD per adult (with discounted rates for children and seniors) and takes about an hour to go through. It is the perfect thing to do in Banff when the weather outside isn’t so nice, or if you’re just looking for great places to visit in town.

You’ll find the Buffalo Nations Museum just across the Bow River Bridge in Banff.

41. Cave and Basin National Historic Site

The underground pool at the Cave and Basin historic site in Banff
The underground pool at the Cave and Basin historic site in Banff

Another fascinating place to visit in Banff is the Cave and Basin Historic Site, which is home to some ancient hot springs, as well as a rare and elusive species of snail!

Rediscovered back in 1883, the Cave and Basin Historic Site quickly became a popular place to swim and soak up minerals from the water, but has since closed and remains a place of conservation. Even so, it is still interesting to learn about the minerals produced in these natural springs as well as the history of Banff.

The museum here is the main attraction in my eyes, and it is very interactive and fun, especially for kids!

Entry to the Cave and Basin Historic Site is only $8.50 CAD per adult, and it’s free for youths under 17. You can expect to spend about an hour exploring the cave and basin, but give yourself up to 2-hours if you want to enjoy all the boardwalks around the area.

Note: Keep an eye out for the pair of red chairs here, they’re famous throughout Canada and worth grabbing a photo at!

42. Eat at the Train Station Restaurant in Lake Louise

Bailey and I about to eat at the Station Restaurant Lake Louise
The food is amazing!

If you didn’t already eat at the Fairmont Lake Louise Restaurant, be sure to stop at the Station Restaurant in Lake Louise Village (one of the best restaurants in Lake Louise!).

Daniel and I went here for lunch and were very impressed. Not only was the food delicious and affordable, but the location was perfect! It’s got tons of character, as it’s located in a restored heritage train station. Yep, you read that right! The restaurant is beautifully decorated and there are tons of pictures to look at and cool tidbits of information to read.

Outside of the restaurant, there are also the old trains to look at as well as a river right next door with a bridge you can cross with beautiful views. To me, it was a fun place to eat because it was about so much more than just the food.

It’s open 7 days a week, from Wednesday through to Sunday, serving both lunch and dinner. Lunch is served from midday until 4 pm, and dinner is served from 5 pm to 8:30 pm!

43. Eat at Juniper Bistro

view from the Juniper Bistro in Banff. Photo Credit: The Juniper Bistro
Just look at that view! Photo Credit: Juniper Bistro

While we are on the topic of food and drink, I thought that I should suggest my favorite romantic place to eat in Banff – Juniper Bistro. This restaurant is located just on the outskirts of Banff town at the beginning of Mt Norquay Road at the Juniper Hotel.

Not only does the Juniper serve incredible food with a menu that changes seasonally and features Canadian favorites, but it has won awards for the best view from any restaurant in Banff. If you’re over in Banff during the summer, take advantage of their giant patio and soak in those views!

The Juniper Bistro is open for brunch and dinner daily. During peak seasons and on the weekends it does get quite busy, so I recommend you book a table in advance to avoid disappointment.

44. Go bicycling

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

One of the best things to do in Banff in the summer months is bicycling. Whether you’re a mountain biking enthusiast or a leisure rider, Banff offers a huge range of trails that cater to pretty much every skill level.

For the thrill-seekers, the Tunnel Bench Loop and Goat Creek trails are absolute must-visits. Tunnel Bench Loop is a little more advanced, lasting around 9.6 km (6 mi) which should take around an hour to complete. On the other hand, Goat Creek is a little bit more straightforward, although the trail is longer at 13.2 km (8.2 mi).

Just make sure to take a moment every so often to appreciate the amazing scenery that’s all around you!

For a nice leisurely ride that starts right from Banff, consider doing the Legacy Trail. This 23-km-long trail (14.3 mi) is mostly paved and flat and connects Banff with Canmore. It’s a pretty popular route and I see loads of families riding it whenever I’m in town.

You can rent bikes from various shops around Banff for as little as $21 CAD per hour. The bicycle rental shops can give you up-to-date information on trail conditions and where you should go based on your experience level. I’d recommend checking out Ultimate Sports Banff and Banff Cycle which are well-rated for rentals.

45. Go snowshoeing

Snow shoeing in Banff during winter
Snowshoeing in Banff during winter

You haven’t really experienced winter in Canada until you’ve gone snowshoeing! So, get on your warm gear and strap on those snowshoes – it’s the only way to hike properly in the winter months in Canada.

Snowshoeing Tour to the Paint Pots

This 4-hour tour is my top snowshoeng recommentation in the Banff area! It takes you past historic sights linked to the indigenous people of the region on your way to see the beautiful Paint Pots, which are actually iron-rich, cold mineral springs! They look pretty funny, and as soon as you see them, you’ll understand just how they got their name.

Along the way, your local guide will tell you all about the cultural importance of the Paint Pots in indigenous ceremonies, as well as their role during the era of the fur trade. All in all, this isn’t just an incredibly scenic and fun walk through the snow (at an already scenic time of year), but it’s also a deeper dive into the cultural and historical significance of the area – pretty thought-provoking if you ask me!

Plus, if you’ve never been snowshoeing, a guided tour is the simpliest way to get the hang of it. Not that it’s a difficult activity, it’s just a bit awkward at times and I appreciate the convinence of a tour. They provide all the gear and it ends up being a much more enriching experience than just going on your own. You can book this experience for $101 CAD per person,

46. Go dog sledding

Bailey with one of the dogs on our dog sledding tour in Canada
This was the best part!
Bailey dog sledding in Canmore
Mush!

If you are looking for a truly unique experience, dog sledding should be on your list. It’s fast-paced, fun, and the best way to experience the winter wonderland of Banff National Park. 

The only way to go on this kind of adventure is on a tour. Snowy Owl Sled Dog Tours Inc offers some amazing sledding tours from Banff, including a 2-hour tour, 4-hour tour, 8-hour tour, and even an overnight tour!

I actually did my dog sledding tour in Canmore the last time I visited in winter, but most tours are pretty similar. The important part is choosing a great company that cares for their dogs (the most important part of the experience!).

On my trip, we took a 10 km (6.2 mi) trail through Spray Lakes Provincial Park, stopping halfway along the way to meet the dogs and play with them. Then after a quick hot chocolate, we made our way back. I was actually really sad to say goodbye to our crew, I could totally see myself running my own dog sled tour in another life!

Pricing starts at $286 CAD per person, but the cost can flucluate if you have 2 people or if you choose to have the instructor drive, or drive yourself. This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, so savor every moment of it!

47. Ride in a horse-drawn sleigh

people riding on a horse drawn sleigh in Banff when it's snowing
What a fun activity in the snow!

Enjoy the winter wonderland that is Banff on a horse-drawn sleigh! This is a very popular thing to do in Banff around Christmas time as a festive family activity.

Prices depend on the length of the ride and if you want the entire sleigh to yourself or not. You can book a private sleigh ride for $230 CAD for two people or even opt to join a group for just $47 CAD per person!

Related Read: You can also ride in a horse-drawn sleigh at Lake Louise. This is also one of the best things to do in Lake Louise in the winter!

48. Try cross-country skiing

Cross country skiing in Canada
It’s a great workout!

Cross-country skiing is very different than downhill skiing. It is definitely less of a thrill (great for those looking for something a little less crazy) and involves a lot more exercise!

However, it is one of the best ways to get out in nature and take in the tranquility of the forests and mountains. The best part for me though? You don’t have to worry about bears because it’s winter!

You can rent cross country skils from many places in downtown Banff. I typically get a pair from Ultimate Sports Banff. They are good quality and only $23 CAD for a full day! And for your convinence (and safety) Canada Parks department put together a list of recommended cross country ski trails in the Banff area.

49. Hike to Upper Stoney Lookout

Upper Stoney Lookout, Banff
Sometimes you need a good vantage point to truly appreciate the area!

Without a doubt, one of the best things to do in Banff is hiking. Luckily, not all hiking trails in the area are difficult – Upper Stoney Lookout is a fantastic trail that showcases some of the most spectacular views in Banff National Park!

Starting from the Mt Norquay Ski resort parking lot, this easily accessible 4.3-kilometer (2.7-mile) loop trail leads you on an upward journey, ascending 820 ft (250 m) to reach the viewpoint.

This is also an all-year-round trail, so depending on the season and the weather conditions, you might need snowshoes. However, during the busier periods, you’ll find the trail well-trodden and compacted, which means that ice cleats could be a more suitable choice to help with grip.

All in all, the trail takes roughly around 2 hours to complete. It’s an ideal choice for anyone wanting to immerse themselves in Banff’s incredible wilderness without committing to an extended hike.

50. Day trip to the Kananaskis

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

If your itinerary allows, why not spend the day or even a night in Kananaskis Village? If so, I highly recommend spending the night at The Crosswater Resort here. It’s ideal for families with a large indoor pool area, and you’ll also have preferential access to the Kananaskis Nordic Spa if you stay at the resort.

Their innovative hydrotherapy treatments at the spa will have you getting into a series of hot and cold pools while taking in the views of the mountains. This is a really fun stay for the entire family!

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

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

Where to Stay in Banff, Canada

View of the Fairmont Banff Springs from the Gondola
The Fairmont Banff Springs is the most luxurious place to stay in Banff!

Banff National Park is full to the brim with great hotels and hostels – it’s pretty exciting, but it can also be a little overwhelming when deciding where to stay! Of course, cost is a big factor when deciding on your accommodation, as well as comfort and all the amenities on offer.

From hotels in Banff town to ones that are a little more out in nature, we’ve put together a list of our favorites that would be our top picks for each budget category:

Fairmont Banff Springs – $$$

The Fairmont Banff Springs is easily the most luxurious hotel in Banff. As you can expect, it’s not cheap but the place is simply incredible – it seriously looks like a castle! If you’re visiting Banff on a honeymoon then this should be the hotel you choose.

Inside the hotel, you’ll find 11 restaurants, 14 shops, a bowling alley, bars, a top-rated spa, a couple of pools, and so much more. With so much to do in this one-of-a-kind luxury hotel, you’ll honestly feel like you’ll never want to leave!

Rooms here at the Fairmont start from around $1-2k per night, but can rise further in peak season. For the best deals, it’s best to book as far ahead as possible! You can check prices and room availability online here.

Banff Rocky Mountain Resort – $$

For those with a mid-range budget, the Banff Rocky Mountain Resort has a beautiful swimming pool, hot tub, and gym, and all the rooms come equipped with kitchenettes or full kitchens. We’d say this is the perfect option for families, since two and three-bedroom units are also available.

The hotel is also in a good location that’s just a 5-minute drive away from town, so it’s a great place to enjoy the wonderful peace and quiet of the Banff countryside!

Rooms here average around $500-600 CAD per night in the high season, but dip as low as around $129 CAD in the low season. You can check availability and book Banff Rocky Mountain Resort online here.

Banff Inn – $$

Rooms at the Banff Inn have a very affordable price tag, but are also chock-full with all the amenities you could want to have a great stay! This way, you can splurge on those once-in-a-lifetime tours and experiences that make a trip to Banff so memorable.

The hotel is located right on Banff Ave and all rooms are air-conditioned. Inside, you’ll find a hot tub, steam room, and sauna, as well as a restaurant and bar – perfect for a little bit of relaxation after a long day out exploring Banff.

Rooms here start at $159 CAD, but don’t forget to book the Banff Inn well in advance as this is one of the most popular hotels in Banff!

Samesun Banff Hostel – $

For folks looking to save some cash while having a blast in Banff, it’s definitely worth checking out the Samesun Banff Hostel. It’s a great place for backpackers or anyone who’s fine with making some new friends and doesn’t mind sharing a dorm. But if you’re keen on privacy, keep in mind that there aren’t any private rooms available here.

A bed in a dorm here starts from around $54 CAD, including breakfast, and 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 still suggest booking a place ASAP! Using Booking.com is great too because lots of hotels offer free cancellation so just lock in a place (or two) for now and make the final decision later!

Parks Canada Pass Quick Info

If you plan on spending time in Canada’s national parks (including Banff, Jasper, Yoho, Mount Revelstoke, Glacier, Kootenay, and more) then you’re going to have to pay for a Parks Pass.

Single Daily Admission:

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

  • Adult (ages 18-64) is $11 CAD
  • Senior (65+) is $9.50 CAD
  • Youth/Child (17 or younger) is FREE

Group Daily Admission:

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

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

Parks Canada Discovery Pass

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

  • Adult (age 18-64) – $75.25 CAD
  • Senior (65+) – $64.50 CAD
  • Group/Family (up to 7 people in one vehicle) – $151.25 CAD

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

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

Renting a Car in Alberta

A car drives along the Icefields Parkway
The drive is 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.

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

Thanks for reading!

Daniel and Bailey take a selfie ith drinks on a rooftop bar in Banff, Canada
Thanks for reading!

And there you have it, 50 amazing things to do in Banff, Canada! If you even just check a couple of these activities off your list while you’re in Banff you’re guaranteed to have a blast – just like we did!

If you have any questions about Banff at all, please leave them below! Also, if you loved this travel guide, go check out all our other Canada travel guides here or these related articles below.

How to Get from Jasper to Banff +21 Fun Road Trip Stops

Banff vs Lake Louise – Comparison and My Personal Recommendation!

9 BEST Banff Tours from Calgary

BANFF ITINERARY – How to Spend 1, 2, or 3 Days in Banff

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Thebeautycity.com

Friday 14th of February 2020

@Marisol There are more picturesque hikes in Banff NP later in the season but for an early season hike that got your heart rate up an rewarded with views it was a keeper.