This blog may contain affiliate links. Read our disclosure policy for more info.
Seeing more than 4 million visitors every year, Banff is one of Canada’s most popular tourist destinations. In fact, it is likely one of the most popular tourist towns in the whole world. One of the biggest reasons for this is the number of incredible things to do in Banff!
Banff, Canada 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 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 a few different visits, I’ve found the 33 absolute best 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 33 BEST things to do in Banff and Banff National Park, Canada!
- 33 Things to do in Banff, Canada
- 1. Ride the Banff Gondola up Sulphur Mountain
- 2. Relax in the Banff Upper Hot Springs
- 3. Check out the Bow Falls Lookout
- 4. Explore Buffalo Nations Museum
- 5. Cave and Basin National Historic Site
- 6. Go Partying on Banff Ave
- 7. Take a Stroll on Banff Ave
- 8. Spend a Night at the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel
- 9. Ride the Chairlift Up Mt Norquay
- 10. Vermilion Lakes Scenic Drive
- 11. Explore Sunshine Village Ski Resort
- 12. Enjoy Panoramic Views on a Helicopter Ride
- 13. Drive the Bow Valley Parkway
- 14. Walk along Johnston Canyon
- 15. Hike the Lake Louise Foreshore
- 16. Eat at the Train Station Restaurant in Lake Louise
- 17. Ride Lake Louise Gondola
- 18. Drive the Icefields Parkway
- 19. Marvel at the Athabasca Glacier
- 20. Experience New Heights on the Skywalk
- 21. Check out Moraine Lake
- 22. Shop (and Eat) at the Banff Farmers Market
- 23. Ride on a Lake Minnewanka Cruise
- 24. Go Hiking on One of Banff’s Best Hiking Trails
- 25. Explore the Mountains on Horseback
- 26. Have an Adventure Whitewater Rafting
- 27. Tackle Via Ferrata or Rock Climbing
- 28. Go Hiking in Snowshoes
- 29. Go Dog Sledding
- 30. Ride on a Horse-drawn Sleigh
- 31. Spot Winter Wildlife
- 32. Try Cross Country Skiing
- 33. Go Ice Climbing
- Where to Stay in Banff, Canada
- Before you go…
33 Things to do in Banff, Canada
1. Ride the Banff Gondola up Sulphur Mountain
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 car 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
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 and very affordable. At only $8.30 CAD per adult and $24.50 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!
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!
3. Check out the Bow Falls Lookout
The Bow River is a beautiful 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 carpark 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 Museum
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 Museum in Banff to be quite interesting!
Buffalo Nations Museum is located just across the Bow River Bridge in Banff.
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.
5. Cave and Basin National Historic Site
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 have since closed and remain 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 surounding area.
Important info: Entry to the Cave and Basin Historic Site is only $3.90 CAD per person. Expect to spend about half an hour exploring the Cave and Basin.
6. Go Partying on Banff Ave
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.
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!
7. Take a Stroll on Banff Ave
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!
8. Spend a Night at the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel
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!
9. Ride the Chairlift Up Mt Norquay
When it comes to the top things to do 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 $37 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 for cheaper in advance online.
In the winter months (November to the end of April) Mt Norquay is open for skiing and snowboarding. Lift tickets cost $89 CAD per adult for a full-day with cheaper options available for half-days and children.
*If you don’t have your own gear (skis or snowboard, helmet, etc) with you, consider renting it in advance with delivery to your hotel to save any hassle!
10. Vermilion Lakes Scenic Drive
Only a 5-minute drive from Banff town is the Vermilion Lakes Scenic Drive. This 4.3km-long stretch of road winds its way along the edges of a couple 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 the 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!
11. Explore Sunshine Village Ski Resort
Much like Mt Norquay, Sunshine Village is a ski resort in the winter, and a scenic viewpoint in the summer! But unlike Mt Norquay, Sunshine Village is an actual small village complete with shops, restaurants, and a lodge!
From the end of June until the beginning of September you can ride both the gondola and chairlift at Sunshine Village for sightseeing. Once at the top, you can hike one of the many trails in the area and explore the magnificent views. It costs $45 per adult and $23 for children.
What I loved so much about Sunshine Village was the fact that the views from the top were so much different from Mt Norquay and the Banff Gondola. Also, the walking trails made exploring the area really fun.
In the winter, Sunshine Village boasts the longest non-glacial skiing season in Canada! They typically open at the end of November and stay open until late Spring (as late as possible!) So no matter the season, you can visit the Sunshine Village in Banff! For the most snow, you’ll need to head to Revelstoke in winter.
12. Enjoy Panoramic Views on a Helicopter Ride
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 $350 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!
13. Drive the 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.
Johnson 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!
For more, check out this blog on the best stops on the Bow Valley Parkway.
14. Walk along Johnston Canyon
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!
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.
15. Hike the Lake Louise Foreshore
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 jumping on one of the hiking trails in the area such as the one to the Lake Agnes Tea House or the Plain of Six Glaciers. You can also rent a canoe in the summer months!
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!
*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!
16. Eat at the Train Station Restaurant in Lake Louise
If you didn’t already eat at the Fairmont Lake Louise Restaurant, be sure to stop at the Station Restaurant in Lake Louise Village!
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!
17. Ride Lake Louise 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 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.)
*During peak times in the summer, this sightseeing gondola ride can get very busy! Book your tickets in advance online to skip the line and save you time!
18. Drive the Icefields Parkway
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:
- Crowfoot Glacier
- Bow Lake
- Peyto Lake
- Waterfowl Lakes
- Mistaya Canyon
- Howse Pass Viewpoint
- Athabasca Glacier (more info below)
- The Skywalk
- Columbia Icefields and Glacier Adventure
- Athabasca Falls
This blog on the best stops on the Icefields Parkway gives you a great itinerary to follow!
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.
19. Marvel at 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 the Athabasca Glacier only operates tours in the summer because, as you can imagine, it gets pretty cold up there!
The Athabasca Glacier is 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!
All year round you can do a short hike to a viewpoint of the Athabasca Glacier and check out the glacier. But in the summer, you can actually join a tour that walks on the glacier!
*You can also join a tour from Banff to the glacier so you don’t have to drive! This is an especially good option in the winter months for those worried about driving on icy roads.
20. Experience New Heights on the Skywalk
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 only $27 CAD per person but can also be paired with your Athabasca Glacier tour so you save money.
21. Check out 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.
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 6 am, you will 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.
22. Shop (and Eat) at 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.
23. Ride on a Lake Minnewanka Cruise
Lake Minnewanka is the largest lake in Banff National Park. It spans over 28 kilometers 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, it’s history, and it’s 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!
24. Go Hiking on One of Banff’s Best Hiking Trails
Okay, okay, I know this sounds vague. But the truth is, it doesn’t much matter where exactly you decide to hike, all of the trails in Banff National Park are gorgeous!
Some of the most popular and easily accessible day hikes in and around Banff include:
Larch Valley: The Larch Valley Trail is a very popular track in 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.)
Lake Agnes Teahouse: The Lake Agnes Tea House is the most famous tea house in Banff. 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!)
25. Explore the Mountains on Horseback
If hiking sounds like 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!
- 3-Hour Bow Valley and Sulphur Mountain Ride – This guided horseback ride takes you up Sulphur Mountain and offers views of mountain peaks and the Bow Valley.
- Helicopter ride, hike, and horseback tour – The combo tour starts with a 20-minute helicopter ride. From here, you’ll go on a guided hike complete with a picnic lunch before jumping on a hose for an hour ride!
26. Have an Adventure Whitewater Rafting
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!
27. Tackle Via Ferrata or Rock Climbing
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!
28. Go Hiking in Snowshoes
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!
Related read: Check out all the best things to do in Banff in winter!
29. Go Dog Sledding
Dog sledding is a once in a lifetime tour in Banff. This tour is so much fun and all-round it’s a great day hanging out with dogs and friends.
On the tour, you’ll be taken by a dog-pulled sled and learn all about dog sledding as well as enjoy the breathtaking views. Some people worry that the dogs aren’t treated properly, but on these tours, the dogs barley pull much, especially in comparison to how long as they used to back in the day.
If you choose to only do one really unique activity in Banff, make it dog sledding.
Company recommendation: There are a few companies you can choose from but we went with Snowy Owl Sled Dog Tours. We loved the tour and can honestly recommend them.
30. Ride on a Horse-drawn Sleigh
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!
31. Spot Winter Wildlife
Just because you’re visiting Banff in the winter doesn’t mean you can see some wildlife. Some of the wildlife in the area are actually very active in the winter, you just need to know where to look!
Some of the wildlife you can expect to see in the winter in and around Banff National Park include elk, deer, sheep, and wolverines.
*Sometimes spotting wildlife can be difficult, so going on a tour with an experienced guide is a huge help! This tour is a sightseeing tour in Banff with a special focus on spotting wildlife in the winter months!
32. Try Cross Country Skiing
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.
33. Go Ice Climbing
To me, this is the ultimate experience in Banff! You will use ice climbing gear such as ice picks, crampons, and ropes to climb an icy waterfall – how incredible!
This activity isn’t for the faint-hearted though and is best suited to those who aren’t afraid of heights and willing to learn.
Of course, unless you are already a pro ice climber, you’re going to need to sign up for a tour. This particular tour departs right from Banff town and the guides have the highest safety and skill qualifications.
Where to Stay in Banff, Canada
Of course, if you’re going to Banff you will need a hotel! The number of hotels and hostels in the area is quite frankly overwhelming.
We decided to stay at the Rundlestone Lodge in their spa loft suite and it was gorgeous! The location was only a short 5-minute walk to town and there was a bar and restaurant on-site as well as a pool and hot tub!
We wrote a massive blog that is a guide on where to stay in Banff – it will give you a ton more suggestions in different price ranges and locations!
Renting a Car in Alberta
If you’re arriving in Alberta via plane then I can’t recommend getting a rental car enough. Canada is a large country and traveling between cities and even just getting out to the best attractions within them 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 a pickup and drop-off in different locations is around $70 CAD per day. The price does vary though depending on the time of year. 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 Chile, New Zealand, and Australia.
Another popular option is to rent a campervan or motorhome (only for the brave in winter.) Using Motorhome Republic you can search hundreds of deals across multiple companies to pick a great vehicle and the cheapest price. Having a motorhome is a stunning way to see Canada and using crown land and campsites you can often camp for free or very cheap in the most beautiful places imaginable!
Canada Travel Essentials
Before you decide to head off and explore the gorgeous mountains, lakes, towns, and cities around Canada it’s important to have the right equipment. Of course, it’s likely you’ll have most of the basics already but there are some common items people forget that I never travel without.
Crampons: In winter crampons are super handy, but what people don’t realize is that they come in handy in summer too. In fact, up until mid-July, you can still expect ice 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!
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 hand 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…
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!