Things to do in Banff

Things to do in  Banff

Welcome to Banff

Nestled among the soaring peaks and pines of Banff National Park in Canada, the town of Banff is an ideal base from which to explore the mighty Rockies. With Calgary 85 miles (136 kilometers) to the east and the shimmering waters of UNESCO–listed Lake Louise 36 miles (58 kilometers) to the west, Banff is a beautiful slice of Alberta. You can take in sweeping views from the Banff Gondola at Sulphur Mountain, and be on the lookout for hoodoos (tall pillars of rock_. Outdoor adventure is the name of the game, and visitors can see the sights on a guided bus tour with narrated highlights, or enjoy active pursuits ranging from horseback riding to kayaking. If you’re visiting Banff in search of adrenaline-pumping thrills, hit Kicking Horse River on a white-water rafting trip. The river swells in the summer months, providing challenging currents and exhilarating class IV and up rapids—some tours end in a barbecue lunch. Alternatively, take to the skies on a sightseeing helicopter flight for uninterrupted views over the snowy peaks of the Rocky Mountains, or tackle the heights on a via ferrata tour, in which fixed iron ropes assist climbers of all abilities. Animal lovers can trek by horseback along rugged trails through the wilderness; or spot native bears, elk, and moose on a dusk wildlife safari.

Top 15 attractions in Banff

Moraine Lake

Hemmed in by the dramatic Valley of the Ten Peaks, Banff National Park’s glacier-fed Moraine Lake is renowned for its bright blue-green waters. The surreally vivid color results from light refracting off of tiny glacial rock particles. Stunning Lake Moraine was famously featured on the back of Canada’s $20 bill between 1969 and 1979.More

Bow Falls

Dropping off a 30-foot (9-meter ledge, Bow Falls is not particularly high though it is powerful, with the strong flow creating a dramatic frothy torrent. Easy trails along the Bow River lead to scenic viewpoints from where the falls can be observed, with the glacier-carved valley and the Canadian Rockies visible in the background.More

Lake Minnewanka

Just outside of Banff, Lake Minnewanka is everything a mountain lake should be: crystal clear, glacier fed, and surrounded by alpine forests and imposing peaks. A visit to Lake Minnewanka is a perfect introduction to the beautiful Canadian Rockies. It’s also the only lake in Banff National Park that allows privately operated motorboats.More

Yoho National Park

The unofficial slogan for UNESCO World Heritage–listed Yoho National Park, “rock walls and waterfalls,” aptly describes the stunning Canadian Rockies scenery here. Yoho in the indigenous Cree language may not be as descriptive, but it’s more fitting—as an expression of wonder and awe, it can roughly be translated as, “Wow!”More

Banff National Park

Within the boundaries of Banff National Park lie some of the world’s most spectacular landscapes. The park, which showcases Canada’s Rocky Mountains in all their glory, offers world-class skiing, hiking, biking, and outdoor attractions. It’s a year-round haven for day-trippers from nearby Calgary and for international visitors galore.More

Johnston Canyon

The jewel-blue water of Johnston Creek streams through the sheer-sided canyon, foaming white as it careens down waterfalls into pools below. A well-maintained trail—including a cliff-affixed walkway with incredible views—makes Johnston Canyon one of Banff National Park’s most accessible and beloved day hikes.More

Icefields Parkway (Highway 93)

Every twist and turn of the spectacular 143-mile (230-kilometer) Icefields Parkway (Highway 93) reveals cloud-piercing peaks, valley-carving glaciers, teal lakes, and dense forests. Running from Jasper to Lake Louise, this scenic Alberta drive offers stunning views of the Canadian Rockies, with lots of roadside lookouts and trailheads along the way.More

Columbia Icefield Skywalk

Jutting out from the side of a Jasper National Park cliff, the elevated, glass-bottomed Columbia Icefield Skywalk, also known as Glacier Skywalk, is an exhilarating—if somewhat unnerving—way to experience the epic, untouched landscapes of the Canadian Rockies. From this vantage point, the view of the park’s ice-hatted peaks and glacial valleys is nothing short of spectacular.More

Bow Lake

Visiting Bow Lake feels like stepping into a postcard—you’ll half-expect to see “CANADA” emblazoned in the sky in bold font. Its water shimmers an icy blue while the snow-capped mountains rise in the background, offering the quintessential Rocky Mountain view. This idyllic place is a perfect picnic destination, and you can take the chance to stretch your legs as you explore the scenic Icefields Parkway.More

Sulphur Mountain

Named after its gushing thermal springs, Sulphur Mountain rises to a height of 8,041 feet (2,450 meters), towering over the town of Banff and Bow Valley. Banff Upper Hot Springs sit on its lower slopes, while the Banff Gondola carries you up to the summit ridge for views out across the peaks of the Canadian Rockies.More

Peyto Lake

When you first see Peyto Lake, nestled in the Canadian Rockies of Alberta, the striking blue color of the water will astound you. The hue is thanks to the geologic makeup of the silt (“rock flour”) that mixes with the runoff from nearby Peyto Glacier. Take in the spectacular view from the Bow Summit or hike in for a closer look.More

Crowfoot Glacier

Early explorers named the glacier Crowfoot because its three sections of ice looked like a crow’s foot on the mountain. While one of the three “toes” has now receded and disappeared, the glacier is no less spectacular. The Crowfoot Glacier sits above Bow Lake, providing stunning photo opportunities for those traveling the Icefields Parkway.More

Banff Lake Louise

The turquoise jewel of the Canadian Rockies, Lake Louise sits nestled between glaciers, beckoning visitors with its mirror-like waters, serene setting, and plethora of summer and winter activities, from hiking to snowshoeing. The mountain resort town of Banff is just down the Trans-Canada Highway from Lake Louise.More

Spiral Tunnels

An outstanding feat of engineering, the Spiral Tunnels in Yoho National Park were the ingenious early–20th-century solution to climbing or descending the impossibly steep 4.5-percent grade to cross Kicking Horse Pass by rail. Watch long freight trains cross themselves as they travel the tunnels in different directions at the same time.More

Banff Gondola

The Banff Gondola promises gasp-worthy views of the Canadian Rockies. After an 8-minute ride to Sulphur Mountain’s 7,500-foot (2,286-meter) summit, visitors arrive at a complex with several viewing areas, interactive exhibits, and restaurants. Also here are hiking trailheads and access to an elevated boardwalk leading to Sanson’s Peak.More

Top activities in Banff

Columbia Icefield Adventure

Columbia Icefield Adventure

Banff Gondola Ride Admission

Banff Gondola Ride Admission

Lake Louise and the Icefields Parkway - Full-Day Tour
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Banff Highlights & Wildlife | Small Group Adventure
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Athabasca Glacier Snow Trip from Banff
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1 Hour Bow River Ride
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1 Hour Bow River Ride

Banff National Park Tour with Lake Louise and Moraine Lake
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Lake Minnewanka Cruise

Lake Minnewanka Cruise

1 Hour Spray River Ride
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1 Hour Spray River Ride

Small-Group Guided Via Ferrata Climbing with Banff's Best Views
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All about Banff

When to visit

Located amid the snowcapped peaks and extraordinary scenery of the Canadian Rockies, the town of Banff (and the UNESCO-listed national park of the same name) number among Canada’s top ski and snow destinations. That said, Banff is also popular among summer hikers and outdoorsy types.


People Also Ask

What is Banff known for?

The town of Banff is known for its eponymous national park—the first in Canada. It’s also known for its surreal landscapes where neon-blue lakes sit beneath high, rugged peaks and forests sprout up amongst glaciers.

How many days do you need in Banff?

You’ll want at least three full days—though four or five is better. You’ll want to time everything right with the crowds. Spend a day at Lake Louise; try to catch sunrise at Moraine Lake, explore the town of Banff; take a scenic drive along Icefields Parkway; and ride Banff Gondola.

What is the best month to visit Banff?

For the absolute best weather, July is your safest bet—June and August are popular, too. If you’re a powderhound or a snowshoer, book your trip for January or Febuary when winter buries Banff’s landscapes in layers and layers of white.

What is there to do in Banff besides hike?

Even non-hikers will find plenty to do in Banff. Explore the town, watch sunset at Vermilion Lakes, ride the Banff Gondola, drive the scenic Icefields Parkway, take a picnic at Lake Louise, admire views from the Fairmont Banff Springs hotel, and watch for grizzly bears on Bow Valley Parkway.

What is there to do in Banff for families?

Banff has family-friendly hiking trails, but beyond exploring on foot, try these ideas: Explore the Lake Louise area on a dogsled tour, ride the Banff Gondola, check out the Cave and Basin National Historic Site, stroll through the town of Banff—for restaurants, museums, and more—or canoe on the region’s lakes.

Is Banff expensive to visit?

Yes. Many consider Banff to be Canada’s most expensive destination. If you visit in summer (June–Aug.), you’ll run into high-season pricing for lodging, tours, and dining. When prices fall (Sep.–May), you can get deals, and not just at hotels. It depends on how (and when) you prefer to travel.

Frequently Asked Questions
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