Banff National Park in Canada

12 Things to do in Banff National Park in Canada

Given it is amongst the top destinations every traveler must visit, chances are, you have already heard of Banff National Park in Canada and the many things to do at the park

With its blue colored lakes, snow-capped peaks, spectacular glaciers, and mesmerizing landscapes, it is nature at its best.

Banff National Park was established in 1885 is the oldest park in Canada and the third oldest in the world! Located in the Rocky Mountains, west of Calgary in the province of Alberta, Banff encompasses 6,641 square kilometers of mountainous terrain, with numerous glaciers and ice fields, dense forest, and alpine landscapes. 


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When to visit

Depending on what you want to do, you can visit the park all year round. Spring is a little later than you would normally expect and is from May to mid-June. Summer is then from mid-June to August. With more than 16 hours of daylight, every summer activity is possible with hiking and biking being the most popular. There are plenty of water activities such as rafting, paddleboarding, kayaking, or even swimming in the lakes.

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Holidays like Canada Day, Heritage Day in Alberta, Labour Day and the summer holidays hotels are sold out quickly, so its best to book well in advance. My advice would be to check the Canadian Holiday Calendar and avoid weekends. Try and stay as many weekdays as possible.

With the beginning of Fall and the school year, the park becomes quite empty compared to the summer months. While the temperatures start to drop, they are still good for camping. From October onwards, Parks Canada closes down places such as Spiral Tunnel parking lot, and many campgrounds. The Banff Mountain Film Festival is also held at the end of October.

Winter which is the longest season from mid-November to mid-May brings in the skiers and Lake Louise ski resort hosts the FIS Ski World Cup. By December everything is covered with snow and if you have the ideal conditions get your skates on for some lake skating or pond hockey.

Cometh the new year (January & February) cometh the best conditions for skiing, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. March is really the best time to go skiing with the days getting longer and temperatures are no longer below freezing during the day. Between April and mid-May, the ski resorts close down as snow as gone. Good news is you have the option for shorter hikes in the valleys and if you are lucky, you could possibly get to see bears on the slopes waking up from their hibernation.

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Things do in Banff National Park

So, what things is there do for the family? Well, a lot! Let’s start with the favorite.

Hiking

The most popular outdoor activity in Banff National park by a mile or more! The best time to go hiking is between June and October, however, it is a year-round activity. For example, at Johnston Canyon, you can in the summer do a waterfall walk or ice walk in the winter!

Mountain Biking

Between June and October, the Canadian Rockies offer perfect conditions for mountain biking. Many of the biking trails are at the bottom of valleys however there are some great trails outside the park border in Kananaskis and Canmore.

Camping

The park is well equipped with campsites and I strongly advise to book in advance as campsites fill up quickly for the summer months. The campgrounds are usually open from mid-May till October.

Native Tribal History

You can learn about the culture and traditions of the native tribes living in the Rocky Mountains at the Buffalo Nations Luxton Museum.

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Horseback Riding

If you prefer to enjoy the views of the Canadia Rockies like a 19th-century explorer, then horseback riding is the way to go.

Ride the trails and enjoy the most scenic horseback riding in Banff National Park. With a Cowboy guide, learn all about life in the west while taking in the spectacular scenery. Horseback rides typically operate mid-April until mid-October

Peyton Lake

When you google Peyton Lake, most of you would assume the photos have been photoshopped but you’re wrong! The lake is actually that blue and is easily accessible. The the lookout point would is a popular place to see the color yourself. The lake thaw in June, so don’t expect to see it blue before that.

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Northern Lights

Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis is not commonly seen in Banff National Park however it is possible and you should check the spaceweather.com for more details. Winter is the best time as the nights are longer and the skies darker.

Less populated and remote places give you an opportunity for dark skies which is great conditions to make night sky/Milky way pictures.

Ice Castle & Sculptures

Lake Louise hosts the Ice Magic Festival, where a piece of art takes almost a week to create from massive ice blocks. The artists create them right on the frozen lake.

Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel

Formerly the tallest building in Canada and currently the most famous man-made landmark at Banff National Park. Definitely, a visit even if you are not a guest.

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Banff Center

Visit the center and access its’ pool, fitness center and climbing wall. You can also learn a new craft or create pieces of art. They have something to offer all year round.

Takakkaw Falls

The second tallest waterfall in Canada at 381 meters is just magnificent! Due to the height of the fall, the water falls down in the form of a spray and not a stream, presenting you with many opportunities to capture rainbows on your camera. The fall is accessible from June to October and through a set of hairpin turn and a short and easy walk.

Helicopter Ride over The Rockies

If you ever have the opportunity to fly in a helicopter, do it! It’s one of those things everyone must experience and there is no better way than flying over the Canadian Rockies. There are small airports where you can hire a helicopter between May and October to get a bird’s eye view of this beautiful park


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Logistics

Flights to Banff National Park, Canada: I recommend searching through jetradar.com They scan tons of different travel discount sites and feature special flight deals. You can fly into Calgary and then drive to the park which is 90 mins away.

Rental Cars in Calgary, Canada: Rentalcars.com is the world’s biggest online car rental service. Working with leading suppliers, they offer great prices on all car groups, including luxury cars, people carriers, minivans, and automatic cars. With a multilingual call center open 7 days a week, we can find you the best rental prices whenever you want – wherever you go.

Where to Stay: The town of Banff and the hamlet of Lake Louise have a large range of accommodations you can choose from luxurious hotels to cozy bed & breakfast, from family-friendly chalets to tent canvas. Consider staying in nearby towns like Canmore which is just outside of the park limits.

Best prices on accommodation and car rental are in April-May and September-November.

Travel Insurance: Make sure you get Travel Insurance before you fly. Travel insurance from WorldNomads.com is available to people from 140 countries. It covers for overseas medical, evacuation, baggage and a range of adventure sports and activities. You can read all about why you need it here

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13 thoughts on “12 Things to do in Banff National Park in Canada”

  1. My goodness! The pictures of this park look beautiful! 

    While i’m not much for cold weather, a visit in the summer sounds wonderful. 

    I’ve got Native American blood running through my veins and am a huge history buff so I would love to see the museum! 

    And who wouldn’t want to camp in such a beautiful place?! 

    This was a very informative article, and I could easily schedule a vacation with all of these fun things to do! 

    Thanks for the helpful info! 

    -Darci

    1. Hi Darci,

      Glad you enjoyed the post!

      You know the cold isnt all that bad if you dress appropriately! Instead of heavy, thick clothes, do layers – much lighter and easier to move about! 

      I prefer the cold to the heat anyday but spring is my favourite season!

  2. Banff National Park sounds amazing! I have never been to Canada before but I have heard that it is beautiful. I wouldn’t be too keen to come in the winter, I have heard it is way cold in Canada in winter but the summer months sounds like an awesome time to come. I love being outdoors and having lakes and mountains available is my dream vacation! 

    Thanks for all the information on activities that are available. It is always great to see what you can do when you go places. 

    1. Hi Lynne,

      most people think cold when they hear canada but they miss out on how beautiful this country is and how untouched by civilization it is.

      I recommend everyone having Banff National park on their bucket list.

  3. I will love to experience the banff national park with my family and enjoy the benefit, the features attached to it also…i really appreciate the writer for bringing this to light and i believe strongly that it going to be a good and a memorial moment with my family this summer at the banff national park in canada,especially the aspect of horseback riding and the takakkaw fall..thank you very much

  4. As a Canadian, I feel there is still so much to explore here in Canada. Banff is definitely on that travel list. I’ve always wanted to see the Northern lights there and camp. I also didn’t know you could take helicopter rides there, so that’s definitely something to look forward too. Thanks for the resources at the end too, definitely going to check it out someday.

    1. Hi Norbert,

      I envy Canadians living in Canada as they can go any time of the year or weekend! i’m honestly surprised you havent gone yet!

  5. My husband, once, had visited Banff National Park and told me beautiful stories he had experienced.

    Just a few days ago we watched “A Park For All Seasons” where Banff National Park was the focal point of the show.

    I wasn’t aware of that if you are not an employee of the National Park you can’t live in Banff. Well, not that we like to move there but it is such a wonderful place to be and I do understand it also has to be protected.

    I appreciate your information on this National Park and I also have saved your site to check out more travel information.

  6. Well, first of all, I must confess that I had not heard of Banff National park until I saw your article but it looks absolutely beautiful! I love to hike and now that my kids are independent I am able to explore the world a bit more freely. I am exploring online to see where I might want to go. Canada has always intrigued me so that’s one of the areas I am considering for next year.

    Several places you mention in your article really intrigue me. Peyton Lake looks absolutely gorgeous! Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel has me spellbound! I always thought a helicopter ride would be cool but it never occurred to me that I could take one while on vacation. That would really make it a memorable trip!

    I thought I was pretty up to date on car rentals but I had not heard of the rental car company you recommended so I took a quick peek. Wow! The price quoted for the two weeks I’m planning to be away this summer is $300 less than the lowest price I could find! Fortunately, my reservation can be canceled without penalty! Woo-hoo!

    Thanks so much for the great article. I’m moving Canada to the very top of my list of places I want to see.

  7. Wow! From this article, I can deduce that Banff National Park Canada, is an old natural beauty, having been established in 1885. For me, the best time to visit a gorgeous natural beauty like this would definitely be the summer. This is because it’s common vacation time for many and the park will herald and accommodate a large number of tourists en route the park. Getting to know people from different cultures and making new friends, is a great thing in visiting a park of this sort. 

    Hiking and Mountain biking would be my favorite when I visit. However, it is good to know that there are good accommodations and transportation to and fro the park as mobility is very important for me. 

    Finally, I would like to know if there is a health system in place for tourists at this park in case of casualties and are their well-experienced tourist guides in this park? 

    1. hi,  

      glad you liked the post. yes, being a national there are adequate systems in place in case of casualties and emergencies

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