Banff National Park

Year Established: 1885
Annual Visitors: 4.12 Million
Size: 1,640,960 Acres

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Every trip begins in Banff. And it’s no wonder, Banff is a must-see in Canada. This Alberta tourist town offers skiing, hiking, gastronomy, and hot springs. Summer or winter, you’ll find a variety of activities. The historical town of Banff is surrounded by rugged mountains, and downtown streets are lined with top-class restaurants, bars, boutiques, museums, and art galleries.

If you like mountain wilderness, outdoor adventures, and being close to nature, Banff National Park is a no-brainer. In fact, the only question about your visit is when.

Best Time to Visit Banff National Park

June to August for hiking | December to March for skiing

Best Experiences in Banff National Park

  • Giving skiing a try
  • Seek out iconic Canadian wildlife
  • Take a dip in the natural hot springs

About Banff

The wilderness is only two hours from Calgary, Alberta’s largest city. For adults, daily passes cost US $7.30 online or at park gates. 

Banff National Park’s original superintendent planned the town’s first street to offer the finest view of Cascade Mountain. 

Banff is geared toward high-end tourism, as evidenced by its hotels, luxury brand shops, and souvenir emporiums. After a long day in nature, the bustling pubs and restaurants, like The Fudgery, can provide a much-needed energy boost. Maple sweets are a must-buy souvenir on Banff Avenue or Bear Street.

You’ll need lots of energy to enjoy your stay. It has over 1,000 miles of hiking trails and other outdoor activities. Summer brings horse trekking, climbing, rapids, and kayaking; winter brings snowshoeing, skiing, and snowboarding.

Banff in Winter

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During winter, Banff is a great base for skiers. Three world-class ski resorts are nearby and can be reached by vehicle or bus service. These mountains offer terrains for every skill of skier or snowboarder, and they have some of the lightest snowfall. Skiing season lasts from mid-November to late-May, so there’s plenty of time to ski. Mount Norquay, Lake Louise, and Sunshine Village offer skiing. 

One of the best things about staying in this location is that you can buy one lift pass to go to all three and get free transportation from town. This package includes unrestricted skiing, free entrance to Banff Hot Springs and the Whyte Museum, plus savings on activities and restaurants.

If skiing downhill isn’t your thing, cross-country ski at Banff National Park. There are routes for all fitness levels to explore the area in the winter. Bactrax rents snowshoes and winter footwear for snowshoeing, ice-skating, and hiking.

You’ll meet trainers and dogs in the Canadian Rockies. For additional adrenaline, try ice-climbing or heli-skiing. Banff has plenty to offer in the summer as well as the winter. This area’s magnificent scenery makes hiking a popular sport.

Banff in Summer

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Early-morning hikes are the ideal way to appreciate Tunnel Mountain, Johnston Canyon, and Tea House Hikes. Consider heli-hiking, where you’ll be dropped off to explore less-explored are

If you are new to hiking or want more information, there are guided hikes in town.

Summer is the best time to explore. From road riding on the Bow Valley Highway to Lake Louise to mountain biking on the Banff Legacy Trail, there’s a biking adventure for each and every skill.

Before the water freezes in winter, enjoy water-based summer activities. Banff National Park’s lakes and rivers offer tranquility or adventure. Get on a canoe, kayak, paddleboard, or raft.

You may hire a canoe or kayak on Bow River from downtown Banff. Within minutes of setting out, you’ll be surrounded by mountains.

What You Must See in Banff National Park

Banff National Park’s stunning landscape is instantly recognizable due to its azure lakes, towering pines, and snow-capped mountains. As Canada’s first national park, it attracts visitors from all over the world, but its vastness and variety also make it a great spot for quiet contemplation of nature’s majesty.

Banff town is the starting point for many visitors to the Rocky Mountain Parks. Banff Avenue is the main drag and is lined with hotels, restaurants, cafes, and shops all contending for the attention of the city’s many visitors.

Sulphur Mountain

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Sulphur Mountain, 10 minutes from downtown and is a good place to start exploring the park.

Sulphur Mountain’s summit can be reached by gondola. This mountain, named for its sulfurous hot springs, gives a stunning perspective of the surrounding area. Take this for a view of the breathtaking vistas from the 360-degree observation deck.

The Banff gondola takes eight minutes to reach the summit at 7,484 feet. On the summit ridge are eateries, viewing decks, and interpretative boardwalks. Bring your camera because the vista is stunning.

At the base of the peak, visit Basin National Historic Site, the hot spring and grotto that inspired Canada’s first national park. Entry is only $3, which is worth it for a photo of the turquoise water alone and you’ll quickly smell how Sulphur Mountain got its name.

In addition to Instagram-worthy photos, you’ll learn about the history, geology, and endangered animals found in the thermal waters. 

Johnston Canyon

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One of the most popular views In Banff National Park is Jonnston Canyon. It’s a must-see natural site with daunting canyon walls, waterfalls, deep pools, and lush forests. In the spring, summer, and autumn, it’s a beautiful area to wander and enjoy the deep-blue creek. In the winter, it’s a popular destination for ice-climbing and ice walking.

Johnston Canyon, 30 minutes from Banff, is always beautiful. The walk consists of forest trails and suspended catwalks above Johnston Creek. You’ll first see the Lower Falls, which show the power of water and gravity as they cascade into a plunge pool. Upper Falls, another 30 minutes up the trail, are arguably more spectacular; less powerful but higher.

Beyond the Upper Falls, you can hike for two to three hours to the emerald-colored “Ink Pots” hot springs, which most visitors miss.

Winter conditions are trickier, so bring long crampons, waterproof shoes, and pants.

If you’re all adventured out, end your journey at one of the town’s spas. Or go to Banff National Park’s hot springs any time of year – locals suggest a morning visit for the most relaxation and crispest air.

In summer, if you wanna go hiking, Johnston Canyon is a great place for hikers of all skill levels. The journey to the lower falls is a short and simple one. Those who seek a greater challenge, on the other hand, can make their way to the top of the falls and on into the canyon.

Banff Upper Hot Springs

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For a more leisurely trip, take the gondola from Banff Upper Hot Springs. You can actually bathe in the water. It can soothe sore muscles after a day of hiking. Gondola prices vary, but a return ticket costs US $45. On a clear day, Sulphur’s summit offers views of six Rocky Mountain ranges, Banff, the Bow River, and Bow Valley lakes.

Most famous vista in Banff National Park is Lake Louise, about 40 minutes from Banff. The boardwalk-fronted mouthwash blue water is a scene from countless holiday photos and screensavers. If your memory card or device is full, why not recharge in one of the bars or restaurants at the Fairmont Lake Louise Castle Hotel on the lake’s edge?

Moraine Lake

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If you want more mountain-circled lakes, take a 20-minute detour to Lake Moraine. You won’t regret it.

Lake Moraine, which is nine miles away and is fed by glaciers, is another option for introspective strolls. Canoeing on either lake is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and you’ll find the waterways much less crowded in the evening when daytrippers head home.

Lake Louise

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Lake Louise exemplifies the region’s natural splendor like no other, its emerald surface serving as the backdrop for countless Instagram-worthy snapshots. Banff National Park is home to a number of stunning lakes, with Louise being the most well-known.

Lake Louise is known for its turquoise lake. In summer, it shimmers and glistens while in winter, it freezes almost solid, creating a winter wonderland.

The lake is by far the main attraction here. In summer, a canoe dock is on the water’s edge, and in winter it becomes an ice rink. You may hire ice skates from the nearby striking hotels.

Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise creates a beautiful ice sculpture that can be skated around. To add to the magical winter experience, ride a horse-drawn sleigh into the frozen lake to see the glacier that feeds it.

Bow Falls

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Bow Falls, a beautiful hike less than an hour away on foot and one of many of Banff’s best attractions that are easily accessible from town. Even if you can’t afford a tent or a palace for your trip to Banff, you’ll still have a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Columbia Icefield

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The northern tip of Banff National Park is the Columbia Icefield, one of the largest outside polar regions. If you’re okay with heights, start by swigging vista from the glass-bottomed skywalk US $26, then take a fun, bumpy ride ‘snow truck up to the Athabasca Glacier.

Protecting Yourself and the Local Wildlife

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Wolves, black bears, coyotes, elk, and cougars have flocked to this protected haven. It’s a privilege to see these amazing creatures in their natural habitat, but we must also protect it. Keep to designated paths and dispose of trash in bear-proof bins.

As a precaution, be loud during your hike, especially if you’re alone (though it’s best to avoid walking alone if possible). Make your steps heavy, whistle or sing, and stay alert — you’re not on your morning jog! Announcing your presence gives animals around a bend a chance to escape, avoiding any surprise encounters. Don’t try to take a selfie with baby bears or deer – mothers with young are the most dangerous.

Indoor Activities Near Banff

Although the great doors are the highlight of any trip to Banff National Park, don’t feel discouraged if the weather is bad or you need a break from exercise.

  • One of Banff’s top indoor cultural offerings is the Whyte Museum, which houses local and far-flung artists inspired by the region. It also showcases the park’s historical heritage with a permanent exhibit on First Nation tribes, pioneers, and other notable figures from this region.
  • Banff Center is located just outside of town on Tunnel Mountain, though it’s surrounded by bigger brothers, you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s a hill.
  • The world-famous Banff Mountain Film Festival is held every autumn wherein themes focus on mountain culture, action sports, the environment, and some quirkier topics. Check out the lineup if you’re in town for this prestigious film festival.