After 24 years of traveling to more than 50 countries, I finally reached Canada. What could have been a better welcome to Canada than visiting Canada’s first national park, the magnificent Banff National Park?
Located in the heart of the breathtaking Canadian Rockies, Banff National Park is a paradise for adventure seekers and nature lovers who crave hiking, tranquil lake cruises or wildlife encounters.
With its awe-inspiring landscapes, pristine wilderness, and a plethora of outdoor activities, there are plenty of things to d,o in Banff National Park that will inspire you to set out on a journey like no other.
When the opportunity arose to connect with one of my best friends – Christina McAvoy -For their annual content creator tours, I couldn’t say no.
Mostly because I met him in real life for the first time and got to go on fun adventures with him in Banff National Park, but also because he asked me to help him facilitate his business workshops. InstaSuccess Retreat.
Our group of 17 women spent five days in the Banff area, hiking in the national park, admiring mountain faces, and learning and growing together.
In this guide, I’ve shared what we came up with, so you can get ready to explore a world of wonder and make memories that will last a lifetime in this iconic natural playground.
So without further ado, here are some of the most iconic things to do in Banff National Park, Alberta Canada.
Convenient Booking Checklist:
- car rental: It will be easy to get around Banff National Park with your own vehicle. We recommend Discover Cars for car rental because they have an easy-to-use interface, great rates, and excellent customer service. Cheates and availability.
- Shuttle: You will need to take a shuttle to Lake Moraine and it is recommended for Lake Louise. You must book in advance through Parks Canada or various other operators. Prices vary. Learn more here.
- To visit national parks in Canada, you must buy a park pass either daily or yearly.
- guided tours: Some guided tours will provide you with transfer/shuttle access to busy areas, helping you avoid the aforementioned shuttles. Prices don’t vary so much for some affiliated park shuttle providers so it may be a better deal. See options here. This hop on hop off shuttle bus It’s also an option for accessing Banff’s top attractions.
- Where to stay: Downtown Banff is in the National Park and will be the more expensive of the two places to stay.
- The condos were spacious, modern, and self-contained with hot tubs and spectacular views of the mountains. View Rates & Availability
- The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise is the most popular place to stay in Banff National Park, right above Lake Louise. Sure, it’s priced higher, but in terms of location and prestige, you can’t beat it. Check rates and availability.
Things to do in Banff National Park
If you’re not sure what to do in Banff NP, below are some of my favorite attractions and must-visit sites that you shouldn’t miss!
1. Climb the Via Ferrata on Mount Norquay
Feel like you’re hanging off the side of a mountain with only a carabiner at your safe spot? Then via the Ferrata course, The side of Mount Norquay in Banff National Park is there for you.
This was my first time doing it via Ferrata. I was supposed to do this on my thrilling trip to Ötztal, Austria, but my flight home time clashed with it and I was forced to skip it – which I was glad about because it sounded terrible.
The via Ferrata in Banff was not to be missed. Being in a group of women made me feel more courageous, and since I’ve been talking about overcoming fear in our workshops, I was surprised to see Hanging Rock for the first time.
Via Ferrata is Italian for the iron path. It was climbing natural rock formations or cliffs using a system of fixed iron ladders, stairs, cables, and bridges. It’s an exciting way to experience the thrill of rock climbing and mountaineering without the need for advanced technical skills or equipment.
This adventure activity is extremely popular in Europe but has only recently begun to catch on in North America.
two guides from Banff Norquay We were taken on a four-hour adventure from the bungalow at the top of the Gondola on Norquay Rocks, climbing the Memorial, Sunrise and Vista Buttresses and hiking along the ridgeline.
He encouraged us and helped us climb the iron stairs of the mountain and cross the rounded, rocks that jut out.
Since our group was large, many times we had to hang on the mountain and wait for the line to slowly move up.
We couldn’t crowd each other in a desperate attempt to hurry to the resting place.
During most of the climb, I looked straight at the mountain, refusing to look down or out and feeling left hanging from a rock with only a carabiner keeping us safe.
They are quite reliable, but you are responsible for making sure you always have a clip whenever you navigate around cables.
When we reached the ridgeline, it was time to look up and out and enjoy the reward – spectacular panoramic views.
The turquoise glow of the Bow River winds slowly through the town of Banff and a valley framed by jagged mountain peaks.
We were all happy when the difficult scaling part of the via Ferrata was over, and we headed back to the chalet for a delicious lunch at the Cliff House restaurant with gorgeous views of the mountains, along the ridgeline, and through a very steep gully. Could. ,
Enjoy those spectacular views of Mount Rundle, Banff Townsite, and the Bow Valley as you travel down the mountain via Gondola.
2. Admire the views from Mount Norquay Viewpoint
If you didn’t get enough views of the Bow River Valley and downtown Banff while hanging from Mount Norquay, there is a viewpoint on the drive down from the Mount Norquay area.
After some switchbacks, you’ll reach a stone wall and a large grassy area known as the Green Spot.
This is where you have to park and walk across the grass to reach the lookout point.
From the parking area, you can walk across the green meadow to some stunning views of the Banff Townsite, the Bow River, Vermillion Lake, and the Bow Valley.
As an extremely long freight train passed through the valley with its bright red freight boxes, we timed it right. It was a striking contrast to the yellows, greens and blues of the valley’s natural autumn landscapes.
I also heard there is the Jupiter Hotel nearby which is a great place to stop for a patio, a meal, or even a drink. As a place to live in Banff.
3. Watch the sunrise over Moraine Lake
Moraine Lake is a breathtakingly beautiful glacial lake, located in the Valley of the Ten Peaks within Banff National Park, it is often considered one of the most picturesque and iconic natural sites in the Canadian Rockies.
Moraine Lake is famous for its vibrant turquoise water, which results from fine rock particles called “rock flour” brought into the lake by melting glaciers.
Moraine Lake was my favorite of the lakes we visited in Banff National Park. It had a more dramatic feel than other lakes as three mountain peaks rose right above the lake shore.
We arrived for sunrise, and while the clouds obscured that morning glory, we were still able to see the slow unveiling of this beautiful bright blue glacier-fed lake.
We stopped for a while to take pictures, eventually, the clouds cleared and we could see the snow-covered peaks and their reflection in the water.
For the best view of Moraine Lake, walk up the short steep path up to the rock pile to the viewing platform. You can go up to the next level for a more wide-open view. Both are worth watching.
It is smaller than Lake Louise, the most popular lake in Banff National Park.
You can rent canoes to paddle on the lake. You will also get a great view from here!
Comment: You can only reach Lake Moraine via shuttle from the small town of Lake Louise. Make sure to book in advance. Learn more here. The shuttles weren’t timed well enough to coordinate with sunrise, so we were there at least an hour before sunrise, which is a bummer for early birds (like us coming from Canmore at 3:30 a.m.) or watching these Tour shuttle options to Moraine Lake.
There are also several hikes in the Lake Moraine area, one of which we did….
4. Larch Valley Hike, Climb Moraine Lake
One of the most popular hikes in Banff National Park during the fall is the Larch Valley Hike, known for the brilliant yellow colors of the larch trees.
We were lucky because these beautiful trees were lightly coated in snow as we went up, but that melted on the way down, so we got all the fantastic colors – although the leaves on many of the trees still had a hint of green.
The Larch Valley Hike rises from the shore of Moraine Lake to an extensive forest of larch trees. From this forest of larch trees, Banff hikers will enjoy panoramic views of the mountains that make up the Valley of the Ten Peaks.
The walk begins with fairly steep ups and downs before heading into Larch Valley.
The Larch Valley Hike is about 9 km/5 miles return trip, and I would call it a moderate hike (I’m an experienced hiker).
Allow 4 hours for the return trip, and be sure to take into account the shortfall in daylight hours! If hiking in the fall expect it to be busier, although I didn’t mind it at all. However, as we headed back it was getting busier.
We left for the hike around 8:30 in the morning. We spent our time going up and down to take lots of photos – a group of content creators together means many photo shoots.
The walk ends at the Minestimma Lakes which had quite fascinating reflections.
You can continue up Sentinel Pass between Pinnacle Mountain and Mount Temple, which offers some of the best views of the Lakes, Larch Valley, and the Valley of the Ten Peaks in Banff.
After the Ferrata the day before, our group headed up a very steep switchback we saw zig-zagging down the mountain like a lightning bolt.
Plus, we were pressed for time and had to take a shuttle back to our condo for some of the workshops.
We were supposed to watch the sunset over Lake Vermilion later that day, but it started raining, so we passed a night of pizza and conversation.
5. Visit the Iconic Lake Louise
Lake Louise is famous for its stunning, turquoise-colored waters, surrounded by rugged mountain peaks and lush forests.
The vibrant turquoise color of the water comes from fine glacial silt suspended in it, and it is set against a backdrop of snow-capped mountains, including Mount Victoria and the iconic Victoria Glacier.
It is said that it is one of the most beautiful lakes in the world, but I say that Moraine Lake is more beautiful.
In summer, visitors can enjoy hiking, canoeing or taking a leisurely stroll along the lakeside trail.
In winter, the lake freezes, becoming a magical ice-skating rink, and the surrounding area becomes a winland for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.
Lake Louise is one of the most visited destinations in Canada so plan your trip well. Especially during the summer season, the parking space here fills up quickly.
If you miss a parking spot, you will need to go back to downtown Lake Louise and take a shuttle bus from the Park and Ride Center (just off the Trans Canada Highway, 6 km from downtown Lake Louise).
To avoid this problem, you might want to Pre-book the shuttle And Check out these private tours as an alternative option To avoid public crowds.
Most visitors to the world-famous Lake Louise area do not venture far from the area between Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise and the shoreline of Lake Louise. To go further, you may want to take a walk on the flat and short Lake Louise Lakeshore Trail.
Otherwise, to better see the vibrancy of the waters of Lake Louise, I recommend the following activities. (From ground level, depending on lighting conditions, it may not pop as much!)
6. Enjoy a canoe ride on Lake Louise
You can certainly stay at the water’s edge and enjoy the views, hike any of the trails in this section of Banff National Park, or rent a canoe to get closer to the beautiful clear waters.
It was only when I put my paddle in the water and saw an orange leaf floating that I really noticed how clean and clear the water was.
After the hike to the tea house, we rented a canoe and enjoyed sailing around for an hour. Renting is expensive, so go with some friends! if you live here The Fairmont is located on Lake Louise, You get a discounted canoe rental rate.
Stay: Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise
Looking for a luxury stay with incredible views?
Then you’ll want to book a room at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, located right on the shore of Lake Louise. It is a stunning and iconic property that is known for its beautiful architecture and serves as a popular destination for visitors and a venue for weddings and special events.
7. Hike Lake Agnes to the Tea House
One of the most popular hikes in Banff National Park is the 6.8 km/4-mile return Lake Agnes Tea House Hike, named for the English-style tea room located on small Lake Agnes, about 385 meters above Lake Louise.
As you slowly climb up, you’ll be treated to stunning views of Lake Louise peeking through the forest canopy below.
The stunning turquoise waters of Lake Louise become even more mesmerizing the higher you climb. If you want to focus on the climb up with deep breaths you can always enjoy them on the way back (it’s actually not that bad!).
You can relax at Mirror Lake, a tranquil gem set amidst natural surroundings Mirror Lake is the impressive rock formation known as the Big Beehive, and the climb to its summit is one of the best rock formations in Lake Louise.
Proceeding from Mirror Lake to Agnes Lake, the trail gradually becomes steeper. On this trail, you’ll get a unique opportunity to see the beauty of cascading Banff Falls up close.
We left it with the intention of seeing it after the tea house, but we didn’t come back that way and I forgot! So, spend time watching it.
It’s just up the stairs to the charming Lake Agnes Tea House, a well-deserved reward for your mountain adventure.
The teahouse gets very busy, so the earlier you go, the less you will have to wait in line. The tables seemed to be turning quickly, and surprisingly there were enough tables inside for all 17 of us. Many people will wait longer to get one of the few tables on the deck so they can get a better view.
The menu is simple, consisting mostly of the soup of the day, a sandwich, and some type of dessert. At the beginning of the season, helicopters fly in supplies, and workers bring in fresh produce.
Be considerate of where you’re eating and be extra kind to your servers – they go to work too but usually live in little cabins on the mountain.
While we waited in line, we were able to see a helicopter flying back and forth carrying supplies of water in buckets.
I enjoyed this break at the tea house. We stopped by Lake Agnes for more amazing photo opportunities!
8. Take a short hike to the beehives
After your lunch, you can continue hiking another mile on the Little Beehive Trail.
Along the way, you’ll have beautiful views of Lake Louise, Chateau Lake Louise, Mirror Lake, the milky turquoise waters of Mount Fairview, and even the Lake Louise Ski Resort on the far side of the valley.
You’ll come to a large rocky outcrop with expansive views across the Bow Valley to the Rocky Mountains over Lake Louise and toward the town of Banff.
I preferred this part of the walk compared to the initial part of the tea trail.
Although not the best hike in Banff for larch trees, you will see some golden-colored larch trees (in the fall). I enjoyed the opportunity to walk back to Lake Luz and enjoy those views!
We saw the horses coming up on the way back carrying tourists, which might be another fun thing to do in Banff National Park.
In the opposite direction from the Tea House is the Big Beehive Hike which is said to have the best 360-degree views in Banff National Park.
The 15 km field of six glaciers is another trail near Lake Louise that will take you to the Tea House!
9. Visit Emerald Lake
Want to avoid the crowds at Lake Louise and Moraine Lake?
Emerald Lake is a pristine place of peace. This is a place I want to come back to and stay in one of their wooden cabins on the water. As soon as you reach here you just feel peace.
Emerald Lake is in nearby Yoho National Park, but only a 30-minute drive away so we included it in our Banff National Park itinerary. It is also in the province of British Columbia so on my first trip to Canada I visited two provinces and two national parks.
The name “Emerald Lake” is derived from the vibrant green color of the lake, caused by the scattering of light from fine glacial silt suspended in the water.
The striking colors, combined with the dramatic mountain views, the reflection of the surrounding peaks of the President Range, and the dense forest create an enchanting and picturesque landscape.
We had intended to rent canoes at Emerald Lake, but they were closing earlier than we expected due to construction nearby. So, we went canoeing in Lake Louise instead.
Don’t leave Emerald Lake without eating at one of the lodge’s restaurants. The Mount Burgess Dining Room is known for its seasonal menu; This was the best meal of our trip to Banff. I was told I couldn’t go to Alberta without eating Alberta beef.
Here it was cooked to perfection with a delicious herb aioli and red wine reduction.
Several hiking trails start in the Emerald Lake area, which caters to different skill levels. The most popular route is the easy and family-friendly 5.2-kilometer (3.2-mile) loop trail that circles the lake and provides picturesque views from all angles.
More challenging hikes, such as the Emerald Basin Trail, offer a deeper exploration into the surrounding wilderness.
Stay at Emerald Lake Lodge
I loved the look of the cabins here and the abundance of peace they exude. Cabin rooms are basic but cozy with a wood-burning fireplace. There is also an outdoor hot tub and three restaurants on site. Click for the best rates at Emerald Lake Lodge.
10. See the Northern Lights
Imagine our surprise when we walked out of the Canmore restaurant on our first night and saw a faint dancing light in the sky.
“It’s the Northern Lights,” someone shouted. This was a promising sign that good luck was here to stay on our Banff National Park trip.
At this time of the year, so early in the evening, and when there is light pollution from nearby houses and villages, it is not easy to see the Northern Lights.
This is my first time seeing the Northern Lights and it was mind-blowing to see the lights dancing around in the sky. We chose the colors in our photos more than our eyes.
The Aurora Borealis is visible in Banff several times throughout the year. The best chance to see the Northern Lights is during the winter months from October to May, and in the summer it occurs around 2 p.m.
Light in the Canadian Rockies is unpredictable, so don’t plan a trip around it, but if a surprise comes, take it as a gift. Track what’s happening with the Aurora Borealis via aurora watch, The forecast is usually accurate only a few days or hours in advance.
I would not advise visitors from outside the province to plan a trip to Banff to see the Northern Lights. Light in the Canadian Rockies is very unpredictable, and forecasts are only accurate a few days, if not a few hours, in advance.
11. Explore Downtown Banff
Downtown Banff is special because it is located within Banff National Park and surrounded by the Canadian Rockies. The view of the Cascade Mountains looming over the city of Banff is one you’ll never forget.
The town itself is a charming hub, offering a variety of unique boutiques, local art galleries, souvenir stalls, adventure clothing, restaurants serving delicious dishes, and cozy cafés where you can sip a hot drink while enjoying the alpine views. Can take.
Despite being very touristy, it is worth your journey through the national park. We saw several elk along the road heading toward Banff. We also saw a lot of foolish tourists taking photos in the forest. Don’t be a stupid tourist.
12. Walk the Bow River Trail, Banff
I gave up exploring the downtown area during my free time in the city, heading to the Bow River instead.
I had been looking at it from above all day, wanting to get down into that spectacular turquoise water and it did not disappoint. It was especially beautiful because of the pop of yellow from the trees.
As soon as I crossed the main bridge, I turned right. If I turned left on the Bow River Trail, I would have a view of Surprise Corner and Bow Falls. Fairmont Banff is another popular place to stay in Banff.
13. Eat at Farm & Fire Restaurant
We had a great farm-to-table experience at this Banff restaurant. field and fire The menu features only the freshest ingredients from local Canadian farmers, slow-roasted and cooked over a wood fire.
If eating with a group, make it a shared dining experience with your meat and side dishes. We got some rotisserie chicken to share and delicious dishes of mashed potatoes, succotash, roasted carrots, and cornbread.
Stay in Banff: Fairmont Banff Springs
The resort, built in 1888, is designed in the style of a Scottish Baronial castle and is a National Historic Landmark. It offers 11 restaurants and 14 shops, a 32-yard lap pool, and a 20-yard heated outdoor pool.
14. Explore Canmore
While downtown Banff felt more touristy, Canmore had more of a local, down-to-earth vibe, which I was more impressed by. I wish I had more time to explore its beautiful shops and local restaurants.
Here are some things I can recommend:
- When you think you’ve seen it all, you move into Stone Thrower in Downtown Canmore and discover a fun and charming store with local home products ranging from pottery to house plants, unique clothing designs, and gifts. I love this store, especially because it supports local artists and designers and has a distinctly Canadian Rocky Mountain adventure vibe.
- it’s All at Wild Gallery in Canmore by wildlife photographer Jason Leo handsome necessary! He is a Canadian photographer who captures iconic wildlife photographs. It’s interesting to know the stories behind his photos, which include a polar bear family on the ice and a raccoon with its head stuck through the window in an abandoned car.
- Community Cafe is A great place to eat healthy sandwiches, wraps, and bowls like Pad Tahiya and Mediterranean Bowls. Their coffee is also good. Market Bistro:
- Market Bistro (A little outside of town in the 3 Sisters area) Offers delicious modern Italian and French cuisine. We had a wonderful dinner on our first night here. The pan-cooked flat iron steak with fingerling potatoes and mushroom and peppercorn braises was excellent.
- If you love pizza, you won’t want to miss this Rocky Mountain Flatbread, They use local and organic products for their delicious pizzas. I highly recommend the fig jam, brie, and smoked bison. They have a gluten-free pizza!
stay In Canmore: White Spruce Lodge
I loved our condo stay at White Spruce Lodge in Canmore. The condos were spacious, modern, and self-contained with hot tubs and balconies with spectacular views of the mountains. It is located close to the town of Canmore and within easy driving distance of Banff. View Rates & Availability
Other things to do in and around Banff National Park
Don’t let the Canadian Rockies adventures stop there! Banff is located next to Yoho National Park, Kootenay National Park Jasper National Park, and the Icefields Parkway:
- Johnson Canyon: A great family-friendly hike in Banff National Park is the Johnston Canyon Hike (there’s an Upper Falls and Lower Falls trail). Passing through a deep valley, many waterfalls are visible in it. Read more in our post The best hiking in the Canadian Rockies.
- Also in that post is a classic Banff hike, Sulfur Mountains. Through a series of switchbacks with continued descent and occasional views of Rundle Mountain, you reach the top of Sulfur Mountain in about two hours. The 5.5 km long trail ends at the Upper Gondola Terminal at an altitude of 2,300 meters. If you don’t want to make the trip on foot, you can also take the Banff Gondola.
- Kootenay National Park The Rockies are the least visited because much of it is inaccessible. However, Flo Lake is a little-known hike along a well-worn trail.
- Drive the Icefields Parkway which connects Banff and Jasper National Parks. 232 km known as the Icefields Parkway The most beautiful drive in canada, It is known for its breathtaking beauty with stunning mountain landscapes, glaciers, waterfalls and turquoise lakes. here is our IcefieldsCanadaay Itinerary Guide With unforgettable stops including the Columbia Icefields, Athabasca Glacier, and Bow Lake.
- Jasper National Park is a world of countless vast glaciers, snow-capped mountain peaks, mighty waterfalls, turquoise alpine lakes, and abundant wildlife. Jasper National Park beautiful place to visit in Jasper National Park.
- Take a trip to the hot springs! The national park contains several natural hot springs that were used by workers working on the railroads in the 1880s. Today you can enjoy warm, mineral-rich water from Banff Upper Hot Springs to Sulfur Mountain, or drive about an hour south to Banff NP Radium Hot SpringsA village known for its hot water spring.
- drive on Bow Valley Parkway, It’s a beautifully scenic drive through Banff NP that connects the town of Banff to Lake Louise. It is a 48 km long paved road that is used as an alternative to the Trans-Canada Highway. It is popular among cycling enthusiasts.
- Go skiing in Sunshine Village, What makes it the best place to ski is that the ski season runs from last November to early May, making it the longest open ski resort in Canada.
- Know about the original inhabitants here Cave and Basin National Historic SiteWhich is a beautiful cave which has a lake inside it.
- Visit some lesser-known lakes like Peito Lake And Two Jack Lakes.
- enjoy a boat trip to Lake Minnewanka.
- watch the sunrise on That Mountain.
Check out these popular tours in Banff National Park
For those who prefer multi-day tours with a touch of luxury, consider the Canadian Rockies Tour offered by our favorite tour company, Globus. Watch their Western Canada tour here.
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Banff National Park: getting there and getting away
fly to Calgary and then board a shuttle Bus (Free WiFi on Brewster buses) or rent a car.
The drive from the airport to Banff takes about 1¾ hours and is gorgeous! Keep an eye out for wildlife bridges. They blend in with the mountain scenery (though are easily noticeable) and provide a safe way for wildlife to cross the highway.
Banff is not close to any other major cities. It will be about a 5-hour drive from Edmonton or closer to a 9-hour drive from Vancouver.
Before traveling to Banff I spent a day in Calgary. here are some Best things to do in Calgary you also stay there.
Tips for Hiking in the Canadian Rockies
- don’t forget to Buy your Banff National Park either daily or yearly.
- Some trails may be closed due to avalanche danger or the presence of bears. Look for trails in national parks Parks Canada,
- When hiking in the Canadian Rockies, you are in a bear habitat. Parks Canada and Alberta Parks strongly recommend carrying bear spray within arm’s reach and learning to use it to make noise while hiking, so you don’t surprise any bears.
- And whatever you take in, bring out with you.
- Get detailed trail maps and information from visitor centers or online resources. Know the length, difficulty, and elevation gain of the route to choose a trip that suits your fitness level.
- Wear appropriate clothing and footwear for the weather and terrain (dress in layers as conditions can change quickly).
- Start your hike early in the day to avoid crowds and afternoon thunderstorms. It is also easy to find parking at trailheads early in the morning.
- If you encounter wildlife, keep a safe distance and never feed them or approach them. Keep dogs on leash for the safety of both wildlife and your pet.
Very good! What is the introduction to Canada? Banff National Park has to be one of the most beautiful places in the world.
Although I saw and did a lot on my five-day trip to the region, there are still plenty of hikes, top attractions, and things to do for me to return. Not only in Banff but also in other nearby locations in the Canadian Rockies.
Banff National Park is a true natural wonderland that promises an unforgettable adventure for travelers of all types.
From the turquoise waters of Lake Louise to the breathtaking views of Moraine Lake, to exciting hiking and tranquil moments in the heart of the Canadian Rockies, this national park has something for everyone.
I hope this guide on the top attractions and things to do in Banff NP will help you plan an epic trip filled with unforgettable memories. Leave any of your suggestions, comments, or questions in the comment box below!