Banff National Park is one of Canada’s most well-known national parks and for good reason.
The park is filled with countless activities and viewpoints which can make it difficult to decide what to do.
Luckily, I have Michelle from The Wandering Queen who’ve recently been there. She has listed the best things to do in Banff National Park below.
Whether it is driving through Icefields Parkway, canoeing bright blue lakes, hiking through mountains with surrounding glaciers, or experiencing tall waterfalls, this list has it all.
Get ready for a perfect, fun-filled vacation at Banff National Park!
- Best Time To Visit Banff National Park, Canada
- Where To Stay in Banff, Canada
- Remarkable Things to do in Banff, Canada
- 1. Cave and Basin National Historic Site
- 2. Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel Viewpoint – Surprise Corner
- 3. Moraine Lake
- 4. Lake Louise
- 5. Icefields Parkway
- 6. Lake Minnewanka
- 7. Sulphur Mountain
- 8. Johnston Canyon
- Recommended number of days in Banff, Canada
- Car Rental in Canada
- Get more travel tips & hacks for your favourite destinations!
Best Time To Visit Banff National Park, Canada
The best times to visit Banff National Park is from June to mid-September.
During the summer season, you will have the opportunity to go hiking and see beautiful coloured turquoise lakes.
Note that better weather mean more crowds.
Mid-September through mid-October is a great shoulder season choice, as there are fewer crowds and you get pretty fall colours as well.
Where To Stay in Banff, Canada
Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel is the most beautiful hotel in Banff. The hotel was built in 1888 and is a National Historic Site. The hotel was meant to look like a Scottish Baronial castle. Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel features a spa, heated outdoor pool, bowling alley, tennis courts, and golf courses.
Moose Hotel and Suites is located in the heart of the city of Banff. It features a spa centre and an on-site bar. A-la-carte breakfast is available and Pacini Italian Restaurant is perfect for dinner. This hotel is one of the best hotels in Banff as rated by travellers!
Rimrock Resort Hotel is located right next to Banff Upper Hot Springs. The hotel features a spa, restaurant, an indoor pool, and hot tub.
Remarkable Things to do in Banff, Canada
1. Cave and Basin National Historic Site
If you want to experience one of Banff’s most important historical areas, then you need to visit the Basin National Historic Site.
In 1883, three railway workers came across the hot spring caves. This helped establish the city of Banff and two years later, Banff was named Canada’s first National Park.
The basin highlights the growth of Canada’s National Parks with interactive displays and has boardwalks for a nice stroll.
2. Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel Viewpoint – Surprise Corner
Even if you are not staying at the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, snapping a picture of it from the Surprise Corner is a must in Banff! The hotel looks eerily beautiful and Bow River rushing below it makes for fantastic photos.
I was surprised at how much I loved this photography spot.
3. Moraine Lake
Visiting Moraine Lake is a must do in Banff. Moraine Lake has become a world-famous lake because of its staggering beauty.
But let me warn you, Moraine Lake can get hectic. The area can’t handle the number of people that flock to it every year. This area tends to close their parking lot pretty early in the morning because it gets full pretty quickly.
I recommend getting there at sunrise to experience this place with smaller crowds.
There are plenty of activities at Moraine Lake. You can easily spend a whole day here. You can rent a canoe, hike the Larch Valley Trail, or eat lunch at the hotel located next to the lake.
4. Lake Louise
Lake Louise is another one of the best things to see in Banff National Park. The turquoise blue lake has great views of mountains in the distance, a beautiful Chateau next to it (Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise), and there are some great hikes near the area.
One of the Banff National Park activities is to canoe in this stunning lake. You can buy tickets at the lake or the Fairmont Hotel. The pricing can be found here. There are options for a sunrise or sunset experience as well.
Hiking around Lake Louise is also a great way to experience the area. The two hikes I recommend are the Lake Agnes Trail and the Plain of Six Glaciers Trail.
Lake Agnes Trail
Lake Agnes Trail is one of the most popular trails near Lake Louise.
The path is 3.4 km one way, 385 m elevation gain, and 2.5 to 3 hours round trip. The trail is an uphill climb and ends at the stunning Lake Agnes.
There is also a tea house next to the lake, which makes for an excellent spot for lunch. You can find many flavours of teas and sandwiches. Just note that there might be a long wait as the tea house can get pretty busy.
Plain of Six Glaciers Trail
If you want a less crowded hike, then Plain of Six Glaciers should be your number one choice to do in Banff National Park.
The views are incredible, and there is also a tea house at the end of the hike. This tea house does not get as crowded as Lake Agnes, and I feel like the views here are more impressive.
It, however, takes a lot longer to do this hike. It is 5.3 km one way, 365 m elevation gain, and 4 hours round trip.
5. Icefields Parkway
Icefields Parkway is the famous road that connects Banff and Jasper National Park. It is a 227 km parkway with tall standing mountains, glaciers, blue lakes, and excellent hikes.
When it comes to picking my favourite part of Banff, Icefields Parkway wins hand down. Experiencing Icefields Parkway is a must do in Banff in my opinion!
Most people would think Moraine Lake or Lake Louise would win, but in my opinion, Icefields Parkway has so much more to offer.
The hikes are on another level of beautiful, the lakes are just as blue, the drive is one of the best in the world, and the crowds are nowhere as bad. Below, I have listed the best places to stop at Icefields Parkway.
Peyto Lake Viewpoint
Peyto Lake is one of the most accessible hikes in Banff with a perfect view. This destination is an excellent place to stop.
I will warn you that it does tend to get crowded, but there is enough room to get a great picture in. If you want to avoid the crowds, I recommend getting there earlier.
Parker Ridge is the hike that surprised me the most. The trail takes you on top of the mountain ridge to incredible views of the Saskatchewan Glacier and its surrounding mountains. The views from here are out of this world!
If there is only one hike that you do at Banff National Park, let it be this one.
The trail is 2.7 km one way, 250 m elevation gain, 2.5 hours round trip.
Bow Lake is one of the easiest and best places to stop at on the Icefields Parkway. The lake is so stunningly blue, and the mountains surrounding it are breathtaking.
All you have to do is park your car and take a picture of this lake.
Wilcox Pass is one of my favourite hikes of all time. The views of the surrounding mountains, glaciers, and cute bighorn sheep makes you fall in love with the Canadian Rockies.
The intensity of the hike is labelled as moderate and is 4 km one way, 335 m elevation gain, and 3 to 4 hours round trip.
Athabasca Glacier is a landmark that is hard to miss and should not be overlooked. To experience this glacier, you can either do it on your own through a short 1.4 km hike round trip, or you can pay to walk on the actual glacier.
Either way, adding this glacier to your list of things to do in Banff National Park is a must!
6. Lake Minnewanka
Lake Minnewanka is a perfect place to start your Banff adventure. The lake is located outside the town of Banff, and it is a great way to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
I recommend taking a boat tour to experience the stunning views of this lake and its surrounding mountains. You can buy the tickets here. The tour talks about interesting facts about the area and takes you around the lake.
7. Sulphur Mountain
When visiting Banff, getting up to Sulphur Mountain peak is a must-do in Banff!
To get to the top of Sulphur Mountain, you can ride the gondola up. The top of the mountain has an observation deck with chairs and fire pits so you can enjoy the surrounding panoramic views.
There is also a restaurant (Sky Bistro) with large windows to view the stunning mountains.
I highly recommend hiking to the Sanson’s Peak Meteorological Observatory from the observation deck. The hike is pretty easy (about 0.5km) on a boardwalk that follows the summit ridge.
If you do not want to spend money on a gondola ride, you can hike up Sulphur Mountain. The hike is 5.5 km to the top of the gondola, plus 0.5 km to Sanson Peak; 655 m elevation gain and a 4 hour round trip in all.
If you get to the top and you do not want to hike back down, you still have the option of buying a gondola ticket to get down.
Once you explore the peak of the mountain, make sure to check out Banff Upper Hot Springs to relax. The hot springs are located at the foot of the Sulphur Mountain, and it is a great way to end the day.
8. Johnston Canyon
Hiking Johnston Canyon is one of the most popular Banff National Park activities. It is a relatively easy trail with catwalks that are fixed to the limestone cliffs.
This hike is perfect for families, people of any age, and any fitness level.
There are two waterfalls throughout the trail – the first is Lower Falls which is 1.2 km one way, 30 m elevation gain, and 1 hour round trip. The second waterfall is Upper Falls which is 2.4 km one way from the parking lot, 120 m elevation gain, and 1.5 hour round trip. Catch both waterfalls if you can!
If you are seeking a longer hike, you can continue past the Upper Falls to the moderate trail named Ink Pots. The dirt trail is more difficult than the Upper and Lower Falls trail, but if you are up for the challenge, the result is worth it.
The trail to the Ink Pots are 5.4 km one way (from parking area), 330 m elevation gain, and a 4 hour round trip.
The Ink Pots was probably my favourite part of Johnston Canyon. At the end of the trail, you will be rewarded with 360-views of the surrounding mountains, a gushing river with a cute bridge, and the Ink Pot water holes that resemble glass. The area is just astounding beyond words and one of the most magical things to see in Banff, Canada.
Tip: Arrive at the trail exceptionally early, possibly before 8am. The Johnston Canyon trail is one of the most crowded trails in the Banff area. I have never experienced such a crowded hike in my life. If you want to avoid this, get up early.
Recommended number of days in Banff, Canada
To be honest, you can stay in Banff for weeks and still feel like you haven’t even scratched the surface, but not everyone has unlimited time off of work.
A good amount of days to see the essential “Must Sees” is at least 5 days.
I would spend two days in the city of Banff, two days in the city of Lake Louise and one day on Icefields Parkway. If you have more time I highly recommend checking out Yoho and Jasper National Park which is located next to Banff National Park.
Banff National Park is a great place to enjoy your summer holidays. If you wish to hike, take great pictures or relax, Banff has it all.
There are just so many great things to do in Banff that it can be difficult to choose what to do. I hope this list can help you plan the perfect Banff vacation!
Car Rental in Canada
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