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50 EPIC Things to do in Banff, Canada (2022 Bucket-list!)

50 EPIC Things to do in Banff, Canada (2022 Bucket-list!)

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Seeing more than 4 million visitors every year, Banff is one of Canada’s most popular tourist destinations. One of the biggest reasons for this is the number of incredible things to see and do in Banff!

Banff, Alberta is smack dab in the middle of the Canadian Rockies offering some of the most incredible scenery. The variety of lakes, rivers, and mountains set the scene for some pretty incredible activities and adventures throughout the town of Banff, and of course, Banff National Park.

But in all honesty, there are so many amazing things to do in Banff it can be hard to decide what to do and what activities in Banff to miss.

Luckily after countless visits, I’ve found out about more than 50 different activities and experiences in Banff and Banff National Park! Many of these can be completed on a short visit to Banff. The list includes easy activities to do in town as well as epic road trips and tours through the Rocky Mountains near Banff!

So, without further ado, here are the 55 BEST things to do in Banff and Banff National Park, Canada!

Table Of Contents
  1. 50 Things to do in Banff, Canada
  2. Where to Stay in Banff, Canada
  3. Before you go…

50 Things to do in Banff, Canada

1. Ride the Banff Gondola up Sulphur Mountain

The top of the Banff Gondola on Sulphur Mountain, Banff National Park, Canada
Views from the boardwalk at the top of Sulphur Mountain in Banff, Canada

The Banff Gondola is possibly the singular most popular thing to do in Banff – and for good reason! From the top of the Banff Gondola, the 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 a 10-minute scenic ride from the parking lot to the summit of Sulpher Mountain. At the top of the gondola, you’ll find a restaurant and cafe, a gift shop, lots of information on the area and wildlife, as well as my personal favorite, the boardwalk!

The boardwalk takes you to various 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 even a little low cloud won’t ruin your views completely. The Sky Bistro at the top of the gondola also offers a great dining experience at 7,510 feet for lunch and dinner.

Important info: The gondola costs $64 CAD per adult but discounted rates are available for children or for those who purchase online in advance. Not to mention, you’ll also be able to skip the line that can get long during busy times!

2. Relax in the Banff Upper Hot Springs 

The Banff Upper Hot Springs on a sunny day with the mountains in the background
The Banff Upper Hot Springs are on of my favorite things to do 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 very affordable. At only $9.25 CAD per adult and $29 for a family, even those on a tight budget can enjoy one of the best Banff attractions.

These hot springs can get very busy though. If you want to visit with fewer people, I recommend going later on in the evening when all of the tour groups have left. The Banff Hot Springs are open until 10 pm (11 pm during the summer), the later you go the fewer people will be there! Be sure to check the hours before you go because during some months they close as early as 5pm.

Important info: 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, located in the beautiful Columbia Valley!

3. Check out the Bow Falls Lookout 

The Bow River from the Bow Falls Viewpoint
This viewpoint of the waterfall and the river is really beautiful!

The Bow River is a stunning river that runs through the heart of Banff. Turquoise in color, it is nothing short of picture-perfect.

A short 1.5km 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. At the viewpoint, there is a large parking lot so you can park up and take a stroll. 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 Mt Rundle track and either hike the entire trail or just the beginning.

4. 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 know that we are more of “adventurous travelers”, meaning we don’t spend a huge amount of our 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. In the museum, you’ll find interactive displays and lots of information on the life, history, and culture of the first nations people.

The museum only costs $10 CAD per adult (discounted rates for children and seniors) and takes about an hour to go through. It is the perfect thing to do in Banff, especially on a rainy day when you need an indoor activity.

Buffalo Nations Museum is located just across the Bow River Bridge in Banff.

5. 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 great place to visit in Banff is Cave and Basin Historic Site. Here you can see some historic hot springs that are home to a rare species of snail.

Cave and Basin Historic Site was once a popular place to swim and soak up minerals from the water, but has since closed and remains a place of conservation. It is interesting to learn about the minerals produced in these natural springs as well as the history of Banff.

The museum is the main attraction in my eyes and it is very interactive and fun, especially for kids. You’ll find lots of information about Banff and the surrounding area.

Important info: Entry to the Cave and Basin Historic Site is only $8.50 CAD per adult, youth are free. Expect to spend about an hour exploring the Cave and Basin. Give yourself up to 2-hours if you want to enjoy all of the boardwalks around the area.

6. 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 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 must-visit in Banff.

You can reach the 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. This is what I usually do simply because it’s so convenient.

The second way is to hike from Suprise 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, walk from Suprise Corner and return via the same trail. It’s about a 10-kilometer/6.2-mile walk that takes about 3 hours.

7. Hit the slopes!

People ski down the Lake Louise Ski Resort
Skiiers and snowboarders descend the slopes at Lake Louise.

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

Here are some popular resorts around Banff:

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. I find it suited to beginners or those not looking to ski an entire day.

Although not my favorite hill, the price for a full-day lift ticket is $74 CAD for adults, $56 for youth, $29 for children, and $56 for seniors. That’s cheap for Banff. The closest hotel to the resort is The Juniper Hotel & Bistro.

Sunshine

Sunshine Ski Resort is located in the heart of Banff National Park 20 minutes from Banff. As the name suggests, they’re known for the sunny weather and have a wide variety of runs for beginners and experts alike. The ski resort is really good for advanced skiers and snowboarders with lots of black and double black runs. Although there are plenty of green runs too, most have flat spots which are not good if you’re still not comfortable going really fast.

A lift ticket costs $127 CAD for adults, $99 for youth, $49 for children, and $99 for seniors. You can also stay at the ski resort and ski in and ski out every day. The Sunshine Mountain Lodge is a luxurious hotel only meters from the chairlifts. You can stay here in both summer and winter.

Lake Louise

Lake Louise is the furthest ski hill from Banff at 40 minutes away. With that said, it’s one of the largest in Canada with a 935-meter verticle descent, 7 ski lifts, and 142 kilometers of groomed ski runs. It’s 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. Oh, and on the colder days, the gondola is a lifesaver!

Adult lift tickets start at $129 CAD with a half-day option at $99. Youths cost $99, children $49, and seniors $99. 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 don’t recommend it. Instead, head to Mt Norquay where you can learn for just over half the price.

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

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

8. Go on a sightseeing tour

Moraine Lake from the Rock Pile
Moraine Lake is stunning!

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

This particular sightseeing tour will take you to both Lake Louise and Moraine Lake which are some of the hardest places to get a parking spot (it is often completely impossible!) The entire tour lasts for just over four hours and on your way back from Lake Louise you will drive the scenic Bow Valley Parkway. This tour is one of the most popular options in all of Banff and comes with hundreds of 5-star reviews. At less than $100 CAD per person, it’s a good deal too.

9. 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 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! However, a few places I can personally recommend are:

Banff Ave Brewing Co. – I love craft beer so I always stop into Banff Ave Brewing Co as they are the only brewery in Banff town. They have a great selection of beers and this place gets lively at night!

The Dancing Sasquatch – This is your classic young-person party bar. The bar isn’t that nice or fancy, but there’s always a great party on and it’s easy to meet other people. They also often host DJs and events.

St James Gate Irish Pub – Irish pubs are always a fun place to go for a drink. I love the food here and the warm cozy feel of the bar. Overall, one of my favorite places for a social drink in Banff.

Maclab Bistro – Maclab Bistro is a small bar with a trendy atmosphere. You can enjoy some great cocktails and enjoy the beautiful views, especially at sunset!

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

10. Take a stroll on Banff Ave

The main street of banff during a warm summers day, Banff Ave
Banff Ave is the main street in Banff and it’s beautiful!

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 it’s considered one of the most Instagrammable places in Banff National Park.

There are tons of hotels at one end and the Bow River at the other. . And in the middle are tons of 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, this recommendation will be valued highly!
  • Banff Candy Store – Buy some Canadian classic candies here including chocolates and Saltwater Taffy!
  • Park Distillery – This distillery offers daily tours at 3:30 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!?
  • The Grizzly House – This restaurant has been around Banff for practically ever. It specializes in Fondu and has a cute and quirky setting.

Hot tip: If you really want to get to know Banff town then going on a private walking tour once you arrive is the best way! A local will show you around and point out all of the best things to do and see as well as where to eat! You can book your Banff Walking tour well in advance online as they are often booked full!

11. 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 be busy – like really busy! Luckily, 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 enjoying buskers, mountain views, and the lively atmosphere.

There are also large patios lining Bear Street, and most of them are dog-friendly!

12. Explore Sunshine Village/Sunshine Meadows

Views from the Sunshine Village Ski Resort in Banff, Alberta
Summer views from the ski hill!

Sunshine Village is a ski resort in the winter, but it transforms to 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 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 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 kilometers/4.1 miles and will take most people about 3 hours to complete. It’s an easy hike and suitable for all the family provided they have a reasonable level of fitness!

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

It costs $45 CAD per adult and $23 for children to ride the gondola to Sunshine Village. Tickets don’t need to be booked in advance. Parking is available at the base of the gondola or you can ride the free bus from Banff town.

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

13. Spend a night at the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel 

Fairmont Hotel in Banff, Canada
This hotel looks like a castle! Photo credit – Banff & Lake Louise Tourism Fairmont Hotels & Resorts

Looking for some luxury? Then you simply must stay at the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel. It is arguably one of the most beautiful hotels in the world with incredible views!

A hotel like the Fairmont doesn’t come cheap though and you can expect to pay upwards of $450 CAD a night! But to me, it is so much more than just a hotel and an actual overall experience. Even if you can only afford to stay one night, it is 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 within the hotel! It is a great way to indulge in amazing food and drink pairings and eat literally like a king or queen!

14. Go camping

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

Okay, so the Fairmont is a little out of your budget (it is for me too), not to worry, you can enjoy Banff without breaking the bank by camping! There are a few 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 and one that books up pretty fast.

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

All campgrounds in Banff National Park are managed by Parks Canada 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.

15. Ride the chairlift up Mt Norquay 

The views from Mt Norquay in Banff National Park
The stunning views from the restaurant at Mt Norquay!

When it comes to the top viewpoints in Banff you can’t go past a visit to Mt Norquay. Mt Norquay chairlift and ski resort is located just a 10-minute drive from Banff town. In my personal opinion, the views from atop Mt Norquay are even better than those from the Banff Gondola!

At the top of the Mt Norquay chairlift, you can enjoy the views from the Cliffhouse Bistro. This little restaurant offers incredible food (try the tacos!) as well as a large selection of drinks. A beer with this view can’t get any better!

From the beginning of June to mid-October the Norquay Chairlift is open just for sightseeing. For $43 CAD anybody can jump on the chairlift and ride it to the top. It is an awesome photo spot! You can also buy your tickets in advance online.

In the winter months (November to the end of April), Mt Norquay is open for skiing and snowboarding. Lift tickets cost $97 CAD per adult for a full day with cheaper options available for half-days and children.

16. 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? Then be sure to head up to Mt Norquay and get yourself a ticket for their mountain tubing. I myself was skiing away when I saw it and just had to give it a go. I loved it!

Mt Norquay has the longest tube lanes in Alberta and you get some serious speed! The best part is the entrance to the tube park is only $42 CAD for adults and $28 for kids. With that, you can pretty much go as many times as you want.

The tube park is open during winter from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm every day with night tubing from 5:00 pm to 8:00 pm on Friday and Saturday. This can change so always check before you go.

17. Visit the local breweries

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

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. Banf Ave Brewing is located (as the name suggests) right on Banff Ave and they serve a range 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 o 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 30 vendors from around Alberta (yep, only Alberta) come together to showcase their new brews.

18. Vermilion Lakes Scenic Drive

Vermilion Lakes, Banff
If you drive to the end of Vermilion Lakes the reflections are incredible!

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

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

My tip is to go at sunset! Take a glass of wine or beer down and just sit back and enjoy the views!

19. Ride on a Lake Minnewanka Cruise

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

Lake Minnewanka is the largest lake in Banff National Park. It spans over 28 kilometers (17.4 miles) and reaches a depth of 142m – it is huge!

The best way to explore Lake Minnewanka is on a scenic boat cruise. There are cruises departing hourly every day between the months of May and October. The cruise ride goes for just over an hour and includes live commentary by a local guide.

On the cruise you’ll learn about the legend of the lake, its history, and its importance today! You’ll also see beautiful mountain views and have lots of opportunities for photos.

The Lake Minnewanka Cruise only costs $64 CAD per adult and $32 CAD per child. It is a really fun way to spend an hour and since it is indoors on a boat, it isn’t weather dependent either. However, 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 coupe 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!

20. Visit Two Jack Lake

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

On your way to Lake Minnewanka you will drive by a smaller, but equally as beautiful, lake called Two Jacks Lake. Here, you’ll find a large day-use area complete with picnic benches and mountain views.

Two Jack Lake is one of the most popular lakes to kayak and SUP in the summertime. However, in winter the lake freezes over, and although less popular to visit, the lake is the perfect place to capture stunning photos.

Grab a coffee on your way out of Banff and take a drive out to Two Jack Lake to enjoy the gorgeous views. Stop at the day-use area and catch spectacular views of Mt Rundle, then, continue onto Lake Minnewanaka!

If you want, there are also two large campgrounds at Two Jacks 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 Jacks Lakeside Campground is my personal favorite since it offers views of the lake.

21. 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, 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.

Scenic flights in Banff don’t come cheap though. Flights cost about $300 CAD for a 20-minute ride with a landing for exploring (an hour in total). Although not cheap, this experience is totally worth it. If you are on a budget you can do shorter flights without landings and these are much cheaper.

The best part is that you can enjoy scenic flights all year round and take in the craziest views of the Canadian Rockies possible.

The company we went with was called Alpine Helicopters. We honestly loved the tour and these guys are really professional!

22. Visit Surprise Corner

the view from Surprise Corner in Banff during winter
The view is even more impressive in the middle of winter when everything is covered in snow!

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

At the viewpoint, there is a small parking lot that can fit around 12 vehicles so it can be best to walk from town if you’re going during peak periods. 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!

Related Read: Banff is easily one of the most beautiful places to visit in Alberta – find out what the other destinations are!

23. 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) there is a Farmers Market in Banff Central Park. Here you can buy fresh fruit and produce, but also many other unique crafts and handmade gifts. It is truly where you will find the most unique souvenir from Banff, likely made by a Banff local!

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

24. Explore the mountains on horseback

Horse riding in banff National Park, Canada
If you don’t want to walk, let the horses do the work for you! Photo Credit – Banff & Lake Louise Tourism Paul Zizka Photography

If hiking sounds a bit too exhausting, or just not that much fun, a great alternative is horseback. Besides, back in the day, this is how people got around, so why not give it a go for yourself?!

There are a few different horseback mountain experiences you can have around Banff, with the most popular being:

  • 1-Hour Bow River Ride – This shorter horseback ride is perfect for those short on time, or just wanting to try out horseback riding for the first time! The price is only $88 CAd per person.
  • 3-Hour Bow Valley Loop – This guided horseback ride takes you on a 3-hour tour on the Bow Valley Loop. You’ll also have a good chance at spotting wildlife! Prices start from $210 CAD per person.
  • Covered Wagon Ride with Western cookout – This is a great option for those who want a little more comfort in a wagon pulled by horses. The tour includes a huge meal (a Western cookout) as well as a 2-hour ride.

25. Have an adventure Whitewater Rafting 

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

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

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

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

26. Drive the Bow Valley Parkway

Castle Mountain along Bow Valley Parkway
Castle Mountain along Bow Valley Parkway

Between Banff and Lake Louise, there is a road called the Bow Valley Parkway. Instead of driving along the highway, consider taking this route that is very scenic and includes tons of places to stop along the way.

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 carpark or hike the 6.5 km (4 miles) in and back to a viewpoint.

Silverton Falls – Silverton Falls wasn’t the most stunning waterfall but the walk to the falls was really peaceful. From the carpark of the Rockbound Lake Trail, it’s a 700-meter easy walk to the falls and you return via the same trail. You can also hike on to Rockbound Lake.

Morant’s Curve – Morant’s Curve is the famous place the railway passes through the forest with a stunning mountain backdrop. You should go check this place out especially if you’re a photographer!

Moose Meadows – This used to be a place you could spot Moose but these days they don’t visit the area very often. However, you can still see wildlife here and enjoy breathtaking views of wildflowers and mountains.

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 the 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.

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

27. Walk in Johnston Canyon

Johnston Canyon in Banff
Johnston Canyon in Banff

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. There are two waterfalls along the trail, one located 1.7 km (1 mile) from the parking lot and one located 1 km (0.6 miles) further.

In the winter, the canyon freezes in many areas making the walk look like something out of a winter wonderland! Imagine icicles hanging everywhere and frozen waterfalls, it is magical!

For those who want to learn more or don’t have their own gear, you can book a Johnston Canyon Icewalk tour. This specific tour is 4 hours long and includes transport to and from the canyon as well as an expert guide, ice cleats, and hiking poles. You’ll enjoy the views of frozen waterfalls and icicles while walking along the steel walkway. The tour is $88 CAD and includes a hot chocolate and a maple cookie snack at the end! 

The downside to Johnston Canyon is that it can get very busy. So busy, in fact, that the massive parking lot often fills up meaning you must reach it using a shuttle bus!

If you don’t want to do that, be sure to get there early or book an organized tour. This way you get dropped off and picked up with your guide and get to learn all about the canyon on the walk too!

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

28. Go ice climbing

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

If hiking through Johnston Canyon is not intense enough, try ice climbing! It’s definitely an adventure and a really unique activity in Banff. Ice climbing can be challenging and dangerous if not approached carefully, so joining a tour is the only way to do it safely for beginners.

This tour is a full-day adventure that helps people of all experience levels try out ice climbing. 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. The tour costs $186 CAD and leaves from Banff town. You’ll set off at 8 am and the tour lasts around 8 hours. There’s also a two-day experience available for the more serious climbers.

29. Visit the Lake Louise Lakefront 

Bailey stands on a rock overlooking Lake Louise on our trip to Banff, Canada
Lake Louise is so beautiful!

Lake Louise is one of my favorite lakes in Canada. The best way to enjoy the lake is by simply wandering the edge of the lake for an hour or so. The lake is pristine and the mountains surrounding it are breathtaking.

If you are up for a little more adventure, consider renting a canoe! There are also plenty of hikes you can do from here (more on that below on #33.)

However, if you just want some relaxation (like I did), grab a coffee or even a meal at the Lakeview Lounge. This gorgeous restaurant offers lakefront views and makes for the perfect place to dine (just book in advance for dinner or lunch peak times!)

Lake Louise is located about a 45-minute drive from Banff making it the perfect day trip and one of the best things to do in Banff!

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 10am.

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

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!

*For an extended stay at the lake, consider booking a room at the lakefront Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise hotel. This luxury hotel is gorgeous itself set in a peaceful and stunning location!

30. Check out Moraine Lake

Daniel proposing to me at Lake Moraine.
Daniel proposing to me at Moraine Lake!

We might be biased (as this is where we got engaged) but we think Moraine Lake is one of the most beautiful places 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 because of how beautiful it is!

Unfortunately, because of its beauty, Moraine Lake is one of the most visited places near Banff. It is easy to get to with only a short couple hundred-meter walk from the car parking lot, so it’s accessible to most. Visiting Moraine Lake is also free. I mean, who wouldn’t want to go?!

The parking lot to visit Moraine Lake is consistently full for most of the day. This means most people visit by taking a shuttle either from Banff town itself or from Lake Louise. Shuttles must be booked in advance!

The shuttles also only run during select hours so if you want to go at sunrise, you are going to have to snag yourself a parking space! This can be a challenge, but if you arrive before 5:30 am, you should be able to get one. To me, a sunrise at Moraine Lake is one of the most beautiful things to see in Banff.

The alternative to taking a shuttle is going on an organized tour. This way you get dropped off and picked up as well as shown around to the most beautiful spots with an experienced guide!

Avoid the crowds: If you want to void the crowds then it’s best to visit Moraine Lake in the late afternoon. This is by far the least busy time.

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.

31. 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 very tasty and affordable, but the location was perfect! The restaurant is actually set in an old heritage train station. It is beautifully decorated and there is tons of pictures to look at and information to read.

Outside of the restaurant, there are 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!

32. Ride the Lake Louise Gondola

Riding up to the top of Lake Louise ski resort for some wicked views!
Riding up to the top of Lake Louise ski resort for some wicked views!

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 in the summer, the Lake Louise Gondola and Chairlift is equally exciting. With outstanding views, a wildlife interpretive center, and really good chances of seeing wild grizzlies (from up above in the comfort of your gondola of course), it is a really fun thing to do! In fact, the chances of seeing grizzly bears are so great that in the summer the area at the top of the gondola is fenced off!

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 15-minute ride in the gondola was a blast!

Important info: The winter season runs from November to April. The sightseeing gondola season runs from June to October (check their website for exact opening and closing dates.)

33. Go hiking in Lake Louise

A panoramic photo of Lake Agnes with The Devils Thumb Mountain summit in the background
Views of Lake Louise on the Lake Agnes Tea House Trail in Banff National Park

While there are plenty of hikes to do close to Banff town, some of our personal favorites are actually located in Lake Louise. Sure, Lake Louise isn’t technically “Banff” and it’ is located about an hour’s drive from Banff town, but Lake Louise is located within the boundaries of Banff National Park. Plus, these hikes I’m about to tell you about are incredible – 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 in the fall.

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 (1246 ft). The trail finishes at the Plain of Six Glaciers Tea House and the views along the way make it one fo the best hikes in Banff.

If you aren’t an experienced hiker then it might be best to go with a guide. Some of the hikes I’ve listed can be completed with a guide on a group tour and should be booked online in advance! With a guide, you’ll gain more knowledge about the area as well as rest assured you have someone who knows the area well and what to do in case of wildlife (like bears!)

34. Drive the Icefields Parkway

A bird flies across the road on the Icefields Parkway near Banff
A bird flies across the road on the Icefields Parkway near Banff

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. Athabasca Glacier (more info below)
  8. The Skywalk
  9. Columbia Icefields and Glacier Adventure
  10. Athabasca Falls

You can choose to drive yourself, or join one of the very popular Icefields Parkway tours from Banff. This particular tour takes you from Banff to the Icefields Parkway stopping at both Lake Louise and Moraine Lake on the way. For $180 CAD it’s also great value!

Without a doubt, this 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. If you are uncomfortable driving yourself during this time of year, you can always book transport.

35. Walk on the Athabasca Glacier 

Getting out of a truck on the Athabasca Glacier
Getting out of a truck on the Athabasca Glacier

The great thing about glaciers is that they are around all year! So even in the summer, you can enjoy 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 Icefield Parkway which is something you absolutely don’t want to miss out on anyways!

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. If you don’t want to drive yourself, you can book this tour from Banff that takes you to the Athabasca Glacier and back. It also includes your tour onto the glacier and the Skywalk (more on that below.)

If you drive yourself, you should still book your glacier tour in advance. 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 particular tour is the most popular option and it includes riding up to the glacier in a specially-designed vehicle (pictured above) before getting out to stand on it. Although only a couple of hours long, it is a good price and includes the Skywalk too!

For something even more extreme, 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.

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

36. Experience new heights on the Skywalk 

The Skywalk at the Athabasca Glacier near Banff, Canada
The Skywalk at the Athabasca Glacier near Banff, Canada

If you already plan on driving the Icefield Parkway and visiting the Athabasca Glacier you might as well do the Skywalk too. This 279-meter high glass walkway offers views of glaciers and mountains unlike 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 much as two whole airplanes!

The Skywalk is visited 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 about $40 CAD per person but can also be paired with your Athabasca Glacier tour so you save money. You should book the Skywalk in advance to avoid missing out (it does get fully booked in the summer months!)

37. 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 are 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 a little on the pricier side, if you visit for Happy Hour you’ll be sure to snag a few deals.

You can also join a distillery tour and learn exactly how this amazing distillery makes all of their spirits. Tours are currently offered on Monday and Wednesdays at 3:30 pm and cost $25 CAD per person. You can also organize a private tour, but this must be booked in advance.

38. 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 drinks, 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! In the summer, take advantage of their huge patio!

The Juniper Bistro is open for breakfast and lunch daily, with dinner service from Wednesdays to Sundays. During peak seasons and on the weekends, you should book a table in advance to avoid disappointment.

39. Hike Tunnel Mountain

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

One of the most popular easy hikes in Banff is the Tunnel Mountain Trail. This short 4.5-kilometer/2.8-mile hike takes you from Banff town up Tunnel Mountain to a viewpoint over the town and valley.

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

40. Tackle Via Ferrata or rock climbing 

Rock climbing in Banff Alberta
Rock climbing in Banff Alberta. Photo Credit – Banff & Lake Louise Tourism Paul Zizka Photography

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

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

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

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

41. 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. You can choose to go mountain biking or just go for a leisurely ride along some of the paved paths around town.

For mountain biking, check out Tunnel Bench Loop and Goat Creek.

For a nice leisurely ride, consider doing the Legacy Trail. This 23-kilometer-long trail (14.3 miles) is mostly paved and flat. It connects Banff with Canmore and is a popular route.

You can rent bikes from various shops around Banff for as little as $13 CAD/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.

42. 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!

You can choose between two different snowshoeing experiences in the Banff area:

Banff Wildlife Snowshoe Experience: This four-hour-long tour includes pick-up and drop-off from your Banff hotel. You will explore in the snow and try and find wildlife including lynx, wolverines, and hares.

Lake Louise Scenic Snowshoe Experience: You’ll have to get yourself to Lake Louise for the start of this one, but after that, you’ll ride the Lake Louise Ski Resort Gondola before trekking around for 2 hours in snowshoes. There are some incredible views from up there!

43. Go dog sledding

Dog Sledding in Banff National Park
Dog Sledding in Banff National Park

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. They offer 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 similar. The important part is choosing a great company that cares for their dogs (the most important part of the experience!)

On the trip, we took a 10-kilometer 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 really sad to say goodbye to our crew.

Pricing starts at $260 CAD/person (based on two people going) for a 2-hour tour.

This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, so savor every moment of it!

44. 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 ride and if you want the entire sleigh to yourself or not. You can book a private sleigh ride for $123 CAD or even opt to join a group for $25 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!

45. Spot wildlife

Wildlife watching in Banff National Park
Wildlife watching in Banff National Park

For many, seeing wildlife in 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 tour. Some of the animals you can expect to see include elk, bears, deer, foxes, coyotes, bighorn sheep, and more! Choose between a guided morning tour or a sunset tour. Both tours last for about 3 hours including a guide and a small group. They cost about $90 CAD per person.

46. Try cross-country skiing

woman cross country skiing in Canmore, Alberta
Me, cross country skiing at the Nordic Centre in Canmore

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!

If you have never tried cross country skiing before then consider booking a tour and lesson, this way you can learn how to do it and get shown around to the most gorgeous places around Banff and Banff National Park.

47. 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 and you can instead check out some of the easier hiking trails around Banff. Upper Stoney Lookout is the perfect trail to enjoy magnificent views over Banff National Park.

The 4.3-kilometer/2.7-mile loop begins at the Mt Norquay Ski resort parking lot and climbs another 250 meters to a viewpoint. This trail is great all year round. Depending on the weather you may need snowshoes, however, during busy periods the trail is usually pretty compacted. Ice cleats would help more.

In total, the trail only takes around 2 hours.

48. Wander the Cascade Gardens

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

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

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

Not only are the gardens free (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!

49. Day trip to the Kananaskis

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

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

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

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

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

50. Check out Canmore

The Milky-way above the Three Sisters taken from Policeman's Creek in Canmore!
The famous Three Sisters mountain peaks in Canmore.

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, Canmore is located just on the outskirts of the national park, so not 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 can do in Canmore as well as 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. For something a little nicer but with one and two-bedroom apartments available, check out Grande Rockies Resort.

Where to Stay in Banff, Canada

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

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

Samesun Banff Hostel – Budget-backpacker Hostel

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

Banff Inn – Budget-friendly Hotel

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

Banff Rocky Mountain Resort – Mid-range Hotel

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

Fairmont Banff Springs – Luxury Hotel

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

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

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

Parks Canada Pass Quick Info

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

Single Daily Admission:

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

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

Group Daily Admission:

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

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

Parks Canada Discovery Pass

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

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

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

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

Renting a Car in Alberta

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

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

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

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

Travel Insurance is more important than ever right now!

If you’re traveling during these uncertain times, be sure that you have travel insurance!

SafetyWing is our go-to insurance when we are going on longer trips. They offer travel medical insurance that’s super affordable (only $42 USD per 4-weeks!) and even have coverage in case you get that dreaded c-word. The only thing to note is that the insurance must be purchased once you’ve left your home country – we typically buy it as soon as we land at the airport.  

World Nomads is a good option for anybody looking for fully comprehensive travel insurance including things like trip cancellation and adventure activities. They included coverage for over 250 different adventure activities, everything from snowboarding to whitewater rafting! You can also buy the insurance in advance in case your travel plans are interrupted, or, while you’re already on the road. 

We’ve personally used both SafetyWing and World Nomads for different trips, and we’ve been reimbursed for countless expenses when we’ve fallen ill. SafetyWing even covered our flights back to Canada when the pandemic first happened (when last-minute flights before the borders closed were super expensive.)

It’s safe to say that travel insurance has saved us thousands over the years!

Canada Travel Essentials

Bailey stands on a mountain in essential gear for the Canadian Rockies
A windproof jacket and Buff will save you in the mountains!

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 $29 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!

Bear bells: These are a must, and for the price, you shouldn’t hike without them. The bear bells I use are only $12 and they come with a silencer (a must) so you can easily travel with them.

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 $27 and they serve my basic needs without any issues!

Before you go…

A couple take a selfie at Moraine Lake in Banff National Park
Thanks for reading!

And there you have it, 33 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!

The Truth about going on a Wine Tour in Kelowna

33 Fun Things to do in Vancouver

A 1, 2, and 3 Day Banff Itinerary Planning Guide

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