There are so many incredible things to do in Banff National Park. Nestled in the heart of the Canadian Rockies in Alberta, Banff is a place of unmatched natural beauty that captivates visitors from around the world. With majestic mountains, crystal-clear lakes, and a rich diversity of wildlife, Banff is a wonderland of adventure, where visitors can ski down snow-covered slopes, hike along winding trails, and soak in natural hot springs.
Whether you’re seeking a quiet escape from the hustle and bustle of city life or an adrenaline-fueled adventure in the great outdoors, Banff has something to offer everyone. Are you ready to discover the magic of Banff and Lake Louise?
Best Things to do in Banff
Banff and Lake Louise are two communities within the National Park and both make for a great base. With an area of 6,641 square kilometers (2,564 square miles), it is a massive protected area and UNESCO World Heritage site. Choosing the best things to do in Banff can be a challenge, so these are our suggestions of things we think you should not miss when visiting Banff, Alberta.
Banff Town itself is actually quite small and but the surrounding national park, which is the oldest of Canada’s National Parks, is where this region comes alive. A lot of the sights here are known around the world, like Moraine Lake, the world-famous Lake Louise, and the Columbia Icefield to name a few.
Be sure to purchase your national park pass in advance. Rangers do ticket the parking lots and there are no exceptions. You can purchase it at the kiosks on Highway 1 as you enter the park, or order it in advance online.
1. Lake Louise
Lake Louise is the most popular attraction in Banff National Park. Tourists flock here in droves in the summer months to paddle a canoe on the pristine emerald lake and take in the beauty of the Victoria Glacier which feeds Lake Louise itself. Canoe Rentals cost $145 for day visitors. If you have the budget stay at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise located directly on the lake.
We recommend the shoulder seasons here to avoid crowds. Mid-summer it can get overwhelming with all of the people. The shoulder seasons offer fewer crowds and if you are into hiking, make for a more comfortable experience around the lake. Read our full experience at Canoe Lake Louise and Banff National Park, Alberta
Lake Louise in Winter
As with most sights in Banff National Park, the world-famous Lake Louise can be visited year-round. In the winter Lake Louise freezes over and you can rent skates to do some ice skating on the world’s most beautiful skating rink.
The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise rents skates and you can rent all the equipment you need from from downtown Lake Louise at Wilson Mountain Sports. Read all about our experience at Pond Hockey on Lake Louise – Skating the Most Beautiful Rink in the World
3. Moraine Lake
You cannot come to Banff National Park and not visit Moraine Lake. Canadians know this lake as Lake Moraine was made famous as the photo on the back of our old $20 bill and let me tell you it is a sight to behold.
It is not far from Lake Louise and is just an hour’s drive from the town of Banff. The best time to visit Moraine Lake is definitely at sunrise. When the sun hits the Valley of the Ten Peaks and reflects off of the mirror-like lake you know why this is one of the most photographed locations in North America.
Unfortunately, since the change in rules for 2023 (see below) accessing Moraine Lake for sunrise is not possible via the Parks Canada Shuttle. You will have to find a tour that has access to do this. If you ride a bike or take an organized tour you can visit Lake Moraine for sunrise.
After grabbing your sunrise shot we do suggest hitting the hiking trails. There are so many great trails in this area, but you should at least do the Moraine Lake Shore Trail. It is only 2.9km long, easy, and offers some of the most incredible views of the Canadian Rockies in the park. Most people stick to the Rockpile Trails, but you will often find this one less busy. Read more: 16 Best Banff Hikes To Discover
New Moraine Lake Rules
Please note that as of Summer 2023, you can only access Moraine Lake via the shuttle service from the Lake Louise Area, with Roam Transit, or other commercial transportation. This will cost $8 for adults, seniors $4, and kids aged six and under are free. It is recommended to book in advance on the Parks Canada Website. Parking at the Lake Louise Lodge is recommended or there are also shuttles available from the Lake Louise area.
No private vehicles are allowed on the road to Moraine Lake or the Parking Lot unless you have a disabled tag. There are daily shuttles from the Lake Louise Park-and-ride
4. Lake Agnus Tea House Trail
The Lake Agnus Tea House has been serving tea since 1905 and is one of the more popular hikes in Banff. The Lake Agnes Trail which starts at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise on a paved path that takes you along the north shore of Lake Louise with stunning views of the Victoria Glacier to the Lake Agnes Tea House.
The Lake Agnes Tea House itself was built by Canadian Pacific Railway in 1901 as a place where hikers could stop and rest as they hiked to see the turquoise lakes of Lake Louise and Lake Agnus. In 1905 it started serving tea and hasn’t stopped since. Read more about the best hikes in Banff
4. Banff Upper Hot Springs
The Banff Hot Springs is the most famous natural hot springs in Banff, and you can even rent an old-timers bathing suit to feel like you are in a bathhouse of the roaring twenties. This is also one of the cheaper things to do in Banff at just $10-15 CAD.
Not far from the Banff Gondola, is the Banff Upper Hot Springs. Located at an elevation of 1585 m the views of Mount Rundle and the surrounding valley are to die for. Couple that with soaking in the natural mineral water springs that are kept at a comfortable 98-104 F and you have a perfect afternoon activity.
5. Take the Banff Gondola to Sulphur Mountain
One of the top things to do in Banff is to take the gondola up to the top of Sulphur Mountain. The views from here really make you appreciate the location and beauty of Banff. There is a restaurant at the top and a fun interactive museum. There are also viewing platforms to take in different views of the Canadian Rockies and the Bow River Valley below.
Once at the top of the gondola, you can take a short hike out toward the summit of Sulphur Mountain on the boardwalk. You will be rewarded with stunning views over the Bow River Valley as well as the surrounding peaks. The gondola ride itself is pretty expensive at $62 CAD per person, but you can definitely spend half a day up at Sulphur Mountain to get your money’s worth.
6. the Legendary Fairmont Hotels
The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise and Fairmont Banff Springs Hotels are the Grand Dames of Banff. The old hotels were originally built for CP Rail passengers connecting Canada and have transformed over the years into luxurious properties. Even if you are not staying in these hotels, they are worth stopping in for a look.
Both hotels were founded by the Canadian Pacific Railway to attract tourists to the West. They have been renovated over the years and are a luxurious experience in Banff.
Banff Springs Hotel
The Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel is not far from Downtown Banff and makes for a great base. It is also close to the Gondola, Upper Hot Springs, and Cave and Basin. From here it’s easy to take a hike to the Bow Falls Lookout to view Bow Falls. Book a night to stay here for dinner or just stop in for a coffee.
Chateau Lake Louise
Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise is located directly on Lake Louise and you can enjoy all its amenities like ice skating on the lake in winter or canoe rentals in the summer. We always pick up a coffee at the Fairmont Lake Louise to take with us on a hike around the lake. But we highly recommend booking a night in this historic hotel.
7. Johnston Canyon
Walking the path through Johnston Canyon is one of the most exciting things to do in Banff. You can do this year-round and it takes on a whole different feeling in the different seasons. We loved doing the Johnston Canyon Ice walk in the wintertime.
The full walk of Johnston Canyon in the winter will take you to six different frozen waterfalls and a deep pool of swirling water that is reached by walking through a stone arch. It is a winter wonderland like you’ve never seen.
Johnston Canyon is also beautiful in the summer as well. The trail features iron walkways overhanging the canyon, which offer some great views. There are two trails at Johnston Canyon and we suggest doing both.
The Upper Falls, where at the end of the trail you are rewarded with the magical scene of the falls plunging down into a pool that is surrounded by the canyon walls. And the Lower Falls which puts you right down in the canyon itself, with magnificent walls surrounding you as well as the falls.
The hike itself is pretty moderate and is about a 5 km round trip. If you are driving the Bow Valley Parkway, then make sure to add this to your itinerary.
8. Sunrise or Sunset at Vermillion Lakes
Vermillion Lakes is a series of three small lakes located in Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada. These lakes are known for their stunning views of Mount Rundle and the surrounding mountains. This is a very popular destination for watching sunrise and sunset.
The best time to see the sunrise or sunset is during the summer months when the days are the longest, and the sun rises early and sets late. It is also important to check the weather forecast, as the view can be obscured by clouds or fog. It is also a good idea to arrive at Vermillion Lakes early, at least 30 minutes before sunrise or sunset, to secure a good viewing spot and to take in the peaceful atmosphere of the area.
Vermillion Lakes has several scenic viewpoints and walking paths that offer panoramic views of the lakes and mountains. Some popular spots include the Vermillion Lakes Drive, which offers views from the road, and the Vermillion Lakes Trail, which offers views from the shore of the lakes.
9. Lake Minnewanka
Lake Minnewanka is located just outside the town of Banff and makes for a great day tour. You can enjoy the hiking trail around the lake, or get on the water. It is a relatively large lake at 27km long making Lake Minnewanka the perfect place to take a cruise. It gives you a great insight into the history of the area and is the perfect way to appreciate the beauty of this lake.
For those who are a little more adventurous, we suggest hopping on one of the many hiking trails that surround Lake Minnewanka. Some of our favorites are the Lake Minnewanka to Devil’s Gap trail and the hike to Stewart Canyon.
If you don’t have a lot of time here you can take a drive along the Lake Minnewanka Scenic Derive, which takes you right along the edge of the lake before making its way back to the town of Banff. This is one area of Banff that you don’t want to miss.
10. Cave and Basin National Historic Site
The Cave and Basin National Historic Site is a really cool experience in Banff. It was the original Banff Hot Springs. This national historic site takes you on a tour through a cave towards an underwater hot spring.
Unfortunately, you can’t swim in the spring anymore, but it is amazing to walk on the path to the original hot pool. Cave and Basin National Historic Site was where the Canadian National Parks system was born. It was the discovery of this original spring that lead to Banff being a protected area.
You can learn all about how and why Banff became the first Canadian National Park being the birthplace of the Canadian National Parks system., which gives you a lot of appreciation for the ones who discovered this area.
11. the Bow Valley Parkway
There are a couple of drives you shouldn’t miss when visiting Banff and the Bow Valley Parkway is one of them. Located off the Trans-Canada Highway this two-lane scenic drive offers some spectacular viewpoints. There is the Castle Mountain Trail, Johnston Canyon, and the famous Morant’s Curve.
Morants Curve is a popular spot for photographers. If you time it right, you may have a photo of a train coming around this famous curve. If you are looking for an alternative way to explore Banff National Park which is not the typical highway that everyone takes, the Bow Valley Parkway is the perfect road to take. This scenic drive is great in both the summer and winter
12. Downtown Banff
When looking for things to do in Banff, there are plenty of things to do downtown. Cascade mountain towers over this beautiful town creating a picture-perfect scene that is famous around the world. This world-class destination is unique in the fact that it sits inside the national park. Most people base themselves in downtown Banff to experience all the great things to do in Banff Nationational Park and for good reason.
Downtown Banff has a great food scene, terrific shopping, and hotels that can be a little easier on your budget than staying at places like the Fairmont Lake Louise. Don’t miss taking in some of the local cultures at the Whyte Museum and the Mount Royal Hotel which has a small museum inside and a great art display outdoors.
Things to do in Downtown Banff
- Stroll along Banff Avenue and explore the many shops, restaurants, and galleries.
- Visiting the Banff Park Museum, which features exhibits on the history, geology, and wildlife of the area.
- Soaking in the natural waters at the Banff Upper Hot Springs.
- Enjoying a performance or event at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity.
- Exploring the local art scene at the Whyte Museum
- Banff Park Museum
- Hiking or biking on the many trails that start right from the edge of downtown.
- Relaxing with a book in Central Park or watching the world go by from one of the many outdoor patios.
13. Drive the Icefields Parkway
The Icefields Parkway is one of the most beautiful drives in Canada. It starts in Banff National Park and takes you to some of the most incredible scenery on earth. It ends in Jasper National Park with a stop at the Columbia Icefield Discovery Center at the mid way point. This drive connects the two national parks and you must make this part of your bucket list when visiting Alberta. Read our full post: Driving the Icefields Parkway from Banff to Jasper Alberta
You can drive The Icefields Parkway in one day, but we suggest giving yourself 2 and spending some time in Jasper as well. On the drive you’ll see bighorn sheep, you may spot grizzly bears and you’ll have awe-inspiring views of glaciers. Check out all the things to do in Jasper here.
Make sure to take time to enjoy its views and be sure to stop at the Columbia Icefield Visitor Center to enjoy views of the Athabasca Glacier. There is a restaurant and you can book tours to see the Glacier Skywalk, Athabasca Glacier and Columbia Icefield.
The drive itself starts in Lake Louise and heads north for 293 km. It passes turquoise lakes and high lookouts with famous stops such as Bow Lake, Peyto Lake, the Athabasca Glacier, and the Glacier Skywalk just to name a few.
You can rent a car in Banff and we highly recommend it for having the freedome to see all the top attractions. Not only will you be able to experience cool things to do in Banff but you will also end your journey in the beautiful Jasper National park where you can explore the Sunwapta Falls, Lake Annette, and check out the incredible Jasper Park Lodge.
14. Bow Lake
Bow Lake is probably one of our favorite places to visit when we are in Banff. Located along the Icefield’s parkway and fed by the Bow Glacier, Bow Lake is a picturesque stop you won’t want to miss.
It is a great stop when driving up to Jasper National Park from Banff and we suggest hiking along the shoreline, or taking the Bow Glacier Falls Trail in the summer and getting yourself some snowshoes in the winter. You can then drop into the Num-Ti-Ja Lodge to grab a drink or to take in the history of the area.
We recommend spending a little time here if you are really into hiking. The hike up to Bow Glacier Falls not only takes you around the lake itself it offers spectacular views of the valley and you are rewarded at the end with the beautiful scene of Bow Glacier falls. It is a relatively easy hike and well worth it.
15. the Athabasca Glacier
The Athabasca Glacier, which is part of the Columbia Icefield is the most-visited glacier in North America. Every year thousands of people flock here to get a chance to walk on the famous glacier and witness the beauty of the surrounding mountains.
Located around the halfway point of the Icefield’s parkway between Banff and Jasper, the Athabasca Glacier is one of those things to do in Banff that you can really brag about.
But we suggest jumping on a tour that takes you out to walk on the glacier, gaze into crevasses, and feel the power of mother nature beneath your feet. There are a couple of options, a 3-hour tour, and a 5-hour tour, depending on how much time you have and how fit you are. It does take an average fitness level but it is an experience you will never forget.
16. Hit the slopes at Lake Louise Ski Resort
IOne of the best things to do in Banff is to hit the slopes and go skiing or snowboarding. Banff has 3 ski resorts (Sunshine Village, Lake Louise Ski Resort, and Norquay) that are relatively close together and the conditions here are ideal.
The most famous of all the ski resorts in Banff is Lake Louise. This is the premier ski destination in Alberta and when you see the views surrounding you on the slopes you know why. Lake Louise hosted the 1988 Winter Olympics and its world-class slopes have terrain for everyone from beginner to expert.
Soaring mountain peaks surround you as you enjoy the over 400 acres of skiable terrain on the 10 chair lifts. The trails here cater to all levels and if hitting the slopes is what you love to do then we suggest adding the Lake Louise Ski Resort to your list.
Lake Louise Gondola
In the summertime take the Lake Louise Summer Gondola is open for wildlife viewing. It is one of the best places to safely view grizzly bears. But you may also see black bears, lynx, moose, elk, and mountain goats. You can book guided hiking tours,
17. Sunshine Village Ski Resort
Sunshine Village is only a 30-minute drive from downtown Banff and is usually the first to get snow, so it naturally has the longest ski season. It has 12 Chairlifts and over 3000 acres of skiable terrain, making it perfect for every level of skier or snowboarder.
When we snowboarded here we stayed right on the mountain at Sunshine Mountain Lodge which has Banff’s largest hotel hot tub so, after a day on the boards, we could soothe your aching muscles in the tub. Not a cheap option but definitely worth it if you want to splurge.
In the summertime, Sunshine village transforms into one of the premier hiking destinations in the park. There are so many hikes in this area, that you will want to give yourself a few days to explore a few for yourself.
If you are looking for family ski resorts in Banff, Norquay is an excellent choice. Norquay is the closest ski hill to Banff Town and is great for a day trip or for families.
If you want to try something different, head over to do some snow tubing. It’s the ultimate couch potato thrill ride. You ride the magic carpet to the top, let them put you on the tube, and push you down the hill. All you have to do is hoot and holler all the way down!
19. Via Ferrata at Mount Norquay
Besides skiing and snow tubing at Mount Norquay, try your hand at its Via Ferrata. This thrilling and unique climbing experience allows visitors to scale the rugged cliffs of the Canadian Rockies while safely harnessed to steel cables and iron rungs. This guided climbing route is perfect for both novice and experienced climbers, offering a one-of-a-kind adventure with stunning views of the surrounding mountains and valleys.
The Via Ferrata route at Mount Norquay is a multi-pitch climb and the route is divided into several sections, with each section offering a different level of difficulty and challenge. Climbers are outfitted with a harness, helmet, and climbing gear, and are attached to the steel cables at all times, ensuring maximum safety.
As climbers ascend the mountain, they are treated to breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape, including the Banff Town, the Bow River Valley, and the snow-capped peaks of Rocky Mountains. The climbing route also includes several suspension bridges and a heart-pumping freefall swing.
20. Helicopter Tour over Banff National Park
If there is one helicopter tour that you do in your life, do it over the Rocky Mountains. It’s even better to see them in winter. Dave and I have had the privilege of taking scenic flights on 6 continents, but our flight over Banff National Park offered the most breathtaking views of our lives.
Seeing Banff National Park in winter from above was the most striking scene we’ve ever witnessed. The peaks covered in snow looked like the perfect winter wonderland. Each pass offered one magnificent view after another. Rockies Heli uses are state-of-the-art helicopters with bubble windows and plenty of space to give everyone the best possible views.
Regardless of whether you visit in the winter or the summer this is the best way to get a real appreciation of the beauty and vastness that Banff National Park has to offer. Book your Heli experience here.
21. Snowshoe the Rocky Mountain Trails
We killed two birds with one stone during our helicopter flight with Rockies Heli, by booking the Heli Snowshoe experience. We landed on a mountain peak and hiked through the trails showcasing extraordinary mountain views.
We’ve done a few snowshoeing experiences in Banff, and this one was by far the best since it started at altitude and we were already high in the mountains. Nothing could compare to these views!
- Read more about our heli-snowshoe tour here.
- Watch our amazing video here
- Book Your Own Heli Snowshoe Experience here.
22. Take photos of the Starry Nights in Banff
Winter in Banff is the best time for night photography. The days are short so you can find dark skies as early as 6 pm.
The nights are clear revealing the milky way and the Aurora Borealis (The Northern Lights). Banff is known for its dark skies and places like Vermilion Lakes, Lake Minnewanka, and Bow Lake are just a few places to capture the imposing night skies.
We recommend jumping on a tour as it gets you to the best places at the right time. This sunset and stars tour is great as it runs year-round.
22. Mountain Biking
There are mountain biking trails for all skill levels in Banff. Ride on everything from single tracks to easy riverside rides. There are plenty of places to bike rentals and gear in both Banff and Lake Louise.
23. Dog Sled to British Columbia
There’s only one place you can go dog sledding in Banff National Park and that is with KingMik Dog Sled Tours. Their team of dogs is fast and filled with pep and zip as they run through the Great Divide Trail all the way to the border of British Columbia.
As you are snuggled up inside a warm sleeping bag and zipped into the windproof canvas, you glide through the forest looking for lynx tracks while your guide tells you about the area, the dogs, and the scenery. On the way back, it’s your turn to drive the sled and you’ll feel like a true explorer as you mush through the old Trans Canada trail.
Read all about Dogsledding in Banff: There are videos and pictures too!
24. Stay in a Back Country Lodge
If you ever make it to the Rocky Mountains, you must make sure to go to a backcountry lodge. This is the epitome of things to do in Banff in winter. Why? Because it is where you completely get away from it all. Don’t fret too much about bears or cougars in the winter.
For the most part, they’re hibernating and if you are a party of two or three, they’ll be more afraid of you than you are of them. Imagine sitting in a log cabin heated by a wood-burning stove as the snow falls around you outside.
That is pure heaven. Sundance Lodge has an executive chef, hot water for showers, solar power, and cozy bedrooms. This is where luxury meets rustic living and if you go home and tell everyone that you trekked 16km into the Rocky Mountains to stay at a lodge, you will be the hero of all your friends. You can get to the Banff Alberta Back Country by snowshoeing or cross-country skiing.
25. Take Sleigh Ride
The Fairmont Lake Louise offers sleigh rides along the edge of Lake Louise in the winter taking you out to the base of Victoria Glacier. It’s a beautiful ride through the forest offering mountain views and a romantic experience. Sip hot chocolate as your driver takes the reins and tells you the history of Alberta and Banff.
26. Visit Park Distillery
Park Distillery is a standout for drinks and dinner in Banff. Located in the heart of downtown Banff, Park Distillery produces a variety of handcrafted spirits using only the finest natural ingredients. You can book a tour for a look into their on-site working distillery.
One of the standout features of Park Distillery is that it is one of the few distilleries in the world to use 100% mountain glacial-fed water in its production process. This pristine water source comes from six glaciers high up in the Canadian Rocky Mountains and is piped directly to the distillery, ensuring that the spirits are of the highest quality and taste.
In addition to the tours, Park Distillery has an on-site restaurant that serves up delicious, locally sourced food, much of which is prepared using the same glacial-fed water used in the spirits. The restaurant features an extensive cocktail menu that showcases the distillery’s spirits in unique and creative ways.
27. Spot wildlife in Banff National Park
Great skiing, hiking, and outdoor activities are not the only things that Banff is famous for. A lot of people flock to the park to catch a glimpse of its abundant wildlife.
You are almost guaranteed to see deer wandering around the town of Banff itself, but if you are looking for the best wildlife experiences we suggest heading into the park to have the best chance of wildlife sightings.
Grizzly bears, wolves, and cougars are all in the park and you be able to see one if you are lucky and patient. We found that by going up to Jasper National Park we saw more wildlife than in Banff. Up there we saw plenty of elk walking through Jasper Park Lodge, two grizzly bears and bighorn sheep on the side of the road and mountain goats in the distance.
Watch our Best of Banff Video
If you are looking at upping your chances of seeing wildlife in Banff then we do suggest jumping on an organized tour. We took the Banff Highlights and Wildlife tour and saw quite a bit of wildlife that I know we would not have seen if we were just on our own.
28. Two Jack Lake
First off, Two Jack Lake offers breathtaking scenery. The lake is surrounded by towering mountains, lush forests, rolling hills, and crystal-clear waters. Whether you prefer to take a leisurely stroll around the lake or explore the surrounding hiking trail, the views from Two Jack Lake are gorgeous.
The lake is a popular destination for paddling and picnicking, and there are several nearby hiking trails that offer panoramic views of the surrounding landscape. Whether you prefer to relax and take in the views or to be more active, Two Jack Lake is sure to leave a lasting impression.
The lake is located just a few kilometers from the town of Banff, and it is easily accessible by car or bike and there is ample parking available near the lake.
29. Ice Climbing
One of the most adventurous things to do in Banff is to go ice climbing. Did you know that you can go ice climbing eight months of the year around Banff and Canmore, Alberta? The town Canmore is located just outside Banff National Park in Alberta between Calgary and Banff and you can book ice climbing tours with experienced guides at Yamnuska Mountain Adventures.
When you go ice climbing here, you’ll be climbing with the best mountaineers in the world! Our Guide, Pat of told us there are three places in the world that are the best for Ice Climbing, and the Canadian Rocky Mountains of Alberta are the tops! You don’t need experience, just a zest for adventure and a lack of fear of heights. Read all about it at Ice Climbing in the Rockies
30. Enjoy the Food Scene in the Town of Banff
The Town of Banff has an excellent food scene. Nothing beats Alberta Grade A beef, so head out for the night and try some local cuisine. Most eateries serve farm-to-table and ingredients are all locally sourced.
Our recommendations for where to eat in Banff are:
- Sleeping Buffalo Dining Room at Buffalo Mountain Lodge
- Fine Dining at Buffalo Mountain Lodge
- The Bison Restaurant Downtown
- Park Distillery – Downtown
- Block Kitchen
Hotels in Banff
The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise and Fairmont Banff Springs hotels are definitely high on the list of places to stay if you have the budget. Located right next door to the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise is Deer Lodge and we found this to be excellent to explore the famous Moraine Lake and Lake Louise.
But Sunshine Mountain Lodge at Sunshine Village has Banff’s largest hotel hot tub located right on the side of the ski hill where after a day on the boards, you can soothe your aching muscles in the tub. We also stayed at Deer Lodge located right next door to the Fairmont Lake Louise and it was excellent.
If you want to stay in the town of Banff, Buffalo Mountain Lodge and Fox Hotel and Suites are great options. And for a romantic winter getaway in a luxurious yet rustic cabin complete with a fireplace, we recommend Storm Mountain Lodge.
Most hotels have outdoor hot tubs and an affordable option is the Juniper Hotel
Want recommendations for the best accommodation in Banff – Read our post: Where to Stay in Banff – 17 Best Banff Hotels
Frequently Asked Questions about Things to do in Banff
How Far is Lake Louise From Banff?
Many people think that Lake Louise is next door to Banff, but in fact, it is a bit of a drive. Lake Louise is 57km (35 miles) from Banff. It is an easy drive along Highway 1 or The Bow Valley Parkway which is the more scenic route.
Should You Stay in Banff or Lake Louise?
It depends on what you want to do. Lake Louis is better for skiing and activities on the lake. The hotels are fully functioning with eateries and shops. But the town of Banff offers more amenities and it is closer to Banff’s main attractions like the Hot Springs and Banff Gondola. We have an entire guide on Where to Stay in Banff
Is Everything Open in Banff in Winter?
Banff and Lake Louise are fully functional in the winter. Everything is open save for hiking trails to lakes that are snowed in and many lake and hiking parking lots are closed.
How far is Banff from Calgary?
Banff is 130 km (80 miles) from Calgary or an hour and a half drive. It is 145 km (90 miles) from the Calgary Airport.
How Many Days do I need in Banff?
There are a lot of things to do in Banff and we suggest a minimum of three days in Banff. However, five days is ideal to visit Banff and be able to see its top attractions from the Icefields Parkway to the town of Banff. You’ll need one day alone to visit Lake Louise and Lake Moraine, another full day for downtown Banff and its nearby attractions and a full day for the Icefields Parkway and The Columbia Icefield.
Getting To Banff
Getting to Banff By Train
Getting to Banff by train is a great way to experience the stunning beauty of the Canadian Rockies while avoiding the stress of driving. Banff is located in the province of Alberta, and the nearest major city is Calgary, which is a 90 minute drive away.
We have traveled to Banff on the Rocky Mountaineer, which is a bucket list journey. This luxury tourist train has several different routes, including a route from Vancouver to Banff and Vancouver to Jasper that takes two days and includes overnight stays in Kamloops and Jasper. This option provides an opportunity to see some of the most scenic parts of the Canadian Rockies while enjoying comfortable accommodations, gourmet meals, and panoramic views from the train’s dome cars.
Another option for getting to Banff by train is to take the VIA Rail Canada service from Calgary to Jasper. This route takes approximately eight hours and passes through the heart of the Canadian Rockies, offering views of the stunning mountain scenery along the way. Once you arrive in Jasper, you can continue your journey to Banff by taking a bus or renting a car.
Regardless of the specific train you choose, there are several things to keep in mind when planning your trip to Banff by train. It is important to book your tickets well in advance, as the trains can fill up quickly during peak travel seasons.
It is also important to allow yourself enough time in Banff to fully enjoy the natural beauty we met people on the train who only gave themself one day in Banff and that simply is not enough.
Getting to Banff By Bus
Getting to Banff by bus is a convenient and budget-friendly option for those looking to experience the beauty of the Canadian Rockies. Banff is about two hours by bus from Calgary.
One option for getting to Banff by bus is to take a shuttle service from Calgary International Airport. This is a convenient option for those who are flying into Calgary and want to directly head to Banff. The shuttle service usually takes about two hours and provides a comfortable and hassle-free journey to Banff. The shuttle drivers are knowledgeable and can provide information about the area and its attractions along the way.
Another option for getting to Banff by bus is to take the public transit system in Calgary, which includes both buses and trains. From Calgary, you can take the Calgary Transit bus number 300 to Banff Park and Ride, which is located just outside the town of Banff. From there, you can take a shuttle bus or a taxi to your final destination in the park.
Getting to Banff By Car
Getting to Banff National Park by car is the best way to visit Banff. Banff is a 90 minute drive from Calgary. Driving to Banff from Calgary is straightforward and relatively easy, as the trip follows the Trans-Canada Highway, which is a well-maintained four-lane highway. The drive from Calgary to Banff takes you through rolling hills and scenic countryside, and as you get closer to Banff, the scenery becomes more dramatic and mountainous.
Before you begin your drive to Banff it is important to check the weather and road conditions, as the roads can be icy and slippery in the winter months, and heavy snowfall can make driving difficult. It is also important to bring a map and a GPS navigation system, as cell phone coverage can be spotty in some parts of the park.
When driving to Banff, it is important to purchase a Parks Canada Discovery Pass, which is required to enter Banff National Park. Be aware of the wildlife in the area and take precautions. Keep an eye out for wildlife on the road and avoid keep your distance from the animals. There are grizzly bears and mountain lions in the area.
After visiting Banff at least a dozen times, we always find something new to do. Banff is one of the most beautiful national parks in the world and when you lay eyes on Lake Louise for the first time you will agree. It’s no wonder Banff National Park was the first national park in Canada. Our forefathers knew what they were doing when they decided to protect this little slice of paradise.
Read More about travel to Alberta and Banff
- Where to Stay in Banff – 17 Best Banff Hotels
- A Helicopter Tour with Snowshoeing in Banff
- Discover Banff Canada – 24 Photos Inspire Wanderlust
- The Rocky Mountaineer Experience – Vancouver to Banff
- The Best Place to Go Dog Sledding in Banff National Park
- Ice Climbing in Banff – The Ultimate Winter Adventure
- Things to do in Alberta Canada – The Ultimate Guide
17 thoughts on “The Best Things to do in Banff, Canada In 2023”
Have you visited thee Banff Springs? I read it was magical in the winter and want to go!
We have and we have visited it in winter. It’s beautiful at that time. And Canadians love sitting in hot springs in the winter.
Hi, how do you get to lake Louise in winter from Banff? And it’s ok to do a day tour? It seems accommodation is a lot cheaper in Banff? I will be travelling solo with no car.
You can easily drive to Lake Louise from Banff and there are shuttles from Banff to Lake Louise. The best way to explore Banff really is by rental car though. Here is a link to information about the shuttles and you can also visit the Park’s Canada Website. https://www.skilouise.com/getting-here/by-shuttle/
Thanks for sharing these tips. I am super excited for my winter holiday!
Hey guys – Amazing site! Are you guys on Instagram? Love to connect with you on there through all your travels and what you do… That aside, planning Banff Dec 12-15 and after reading this (Back Country Snowshoeing, Dogsledding, Heli-Tour + Snowshoe, Photo Tour, and Ice Walk are all happening in that time frame! Wanted to ask, how easy and or accessible would Moraine Lake be at this time of the year? Any thoughts or insights? I know it’s nearby but not mentioned here – it probably freezes over by then no?
superb article. I like that ice walk is awesome & Canada is most adapt place to have fun in winter.
Thanks for share it! I really like your blog thanks a lot for your posting.
Dog shed is awesome and i would like to try that its my dream 🙂 Thank You alot for sharing
Wow!! Canada is always a great place for tourism. Awesome photography of all the photo’s .
I love the first photo! Look at that awesome view of the stars- It’s wonderful!
Hey Guys, I wished I could do Canada and Alaska in winter! One day! Awesome pictures, hope you guys are well!
I totally love winter and snow. May be because we don’t really get cold cold cold winter and snow in my hometown Cagliari (though it does snow in the centre of Sardinia). I just like the idea of feeling all cozy inside when it is all white outside. And of getting in a hot jacuzzi or hot springs when it is snowing outside. I would love to go to Banff!!
Great Things to do in Winters i am going to try…… this
Awesome! Have fun!!!
Canada , I wish it was closer to where I live I would be there every other year, so many things to see , perfect touring holiday in a campervan especially in the summer months , as I believe it can get cold with road closures in the winter months
You are right, I wouldn’t recommend a campervan in the winter months. Most campgrounds close up and the roads can be treacherous. But it’s a great destination for winter if you have a car or truck with good winter tires and a sence of adventure!