14+ Unmissable Things to do in Banff National Park

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After 24 years of travel though over 50 countries, I finally made it to Canada. Could I have had a better welcome than by visiting the spectacular Banff National Park, Canada’s first national park.

caz standing on mountain ridge with Banff views
On top of Canada!

Nestled in the heart of the breathtaking Canadian Rockies, Banff National Park is a paradise for adventure seekers and nature enthusiasts alike craving exhilarating hikes, serene lake cruises, or wildlife encounters.

With its awe-inspiring landscapes, pristine wilderness, and a plethora of outdoor activities, there are plenty of things to do in Banff National Park that beckons you to embark on a journey like no other. 

When the opportunity arose to join one of my best friends – Christina McEvoy – for her annual content creator trips, I could not say no.

caz and Christina McEvoy at Moraine Lake
With Christina at Moraine Lake

Mostly because I got to meet her in real life for the first time and hang out with her on fun adventures through Banff National Park, but also because she asked me to help facilitate her business workshops at her Instasuccess Retreat.

Our group of 17 women spent five days in the Banff region hiking through the national park, hanging off mountain faces, and learning and growing together.

In this guide, I’ve shared what we got up to, 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 in Alberta Canada.

Handy Booking Checklist:

  • Car Rental: Getting around Banff National Park will be easier with your own vehicle. We recommend Discover Cars for car rental as they have an easy to use interface, great rates, and excellent customer service. See rates and availability.
  • Shuttles: You have to get a shuttle to Lake Moraine, and its recommended for Lake Louise. You must book in advance either through Canada Parks or other various operators. Prices vary. Learn more here.
  • For visiting national parks in Canada, you need to purchase a park pass, either daily or yearly.
  • Guided Tours: Some guided tours will give you the transfer/ shuttle access to the busy areas, helping you avoid the shuttles above. The prices aren’t that different to some of the affiliated park shuttle providers so may be a better deal. See options here. This hop on hop off shuttle bus is also an option for getting around to Banff’s top attractions.
  • Where to stay: Banff and Canmore are the two best places to stay to access Banff National Park. Downtown Banff is in the national park and will be the more expensive of the two places to stay.
    • We stayed at the White Spruce Lodge in Canmore. The condos were spacious, modern, self-sufficient with a hot tub and great views of the mountains. See rates and availability
    • Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise is the most well-known place to stay in Banff National Park right on Lake Louise. Of course, it comes with a high price, but for location and prestige you can’t beat it. See rates and availability.

Things to Do in Banff National Park

If you’re not sure what to do in Banff NP, then below are some of my favorite attractions and sites on my visit that you shouldn’t miss!

1. Climb the Via Ferrata at Mt Norquay

caz hanging off side of mountain on via feratta banff
Heart pumping stuff!

Feel like hanging off the side of the mountain with only a carabiner keeping your securely in place? Then the Via Ferrata course on the side of Mt Norquay in Banff National Park is for you.

This was my first-time doing a Via Ferrata. I was meant to do it on my wild adventurous trip to Otztal, Austria but my flight time home clashed with it and forced me to skip it – which I was glad about, as it looked terrifying.

There was no skipping this via ferrata in Banff. I felt braver being in a group of women, and since I’d be talking about overcoming fear in our workshops, I could hardly be rum at the first sight of an overhanging rock.

Via Ferrata is Italian for the iron path. climbing natural rock formations or cliffs using a system of fixed iron ladders, steps, cables, and bridges. It’s a thrilling way to experience the thrill of rock climbing and mountaineering without the need for advanced technical skills or equipment.

caz hanging off the side of the mountain in banff

This adventure activity is extremely popular in Europe but has only recently started catching on in North America.

Two guides from Banff Norquay took us on a four-hour adventure from the chalet at the top of the gondola high up on the Norquay cliffs, climbing the Memorial, Sunrise and Vista buttresses, and hiking along the ridgeline.

They encouraged us and helped us climb up the iron rungs of the mountain face and navigate round rocks jutting out.

As our group was large, there were times when had to hang off the mountain waiting for the line to slowly move up.

line of people on via feratta banff

We couldn’t crowd one another in a fearful attempt to hurry up to the resting ledge.

For most of the climb, I stared directly into the mountain face, refusing to look down or out and be hit with that sense of hanging off a rock with only a carabiner keeping us safe.

They’re reliable enough, but you are responsible for ensuring you always have one clipped on each time as you navigate around the cables.

When we arrived at the ridgeline, it was time to look up and out and savor the reward – spectacular panoramic views.

caz climbing up mountain with harness on
Photo: Gina from Driftswood Photography
Caz kissing a rock
Thank God for stable ground!
bow river running through bow valley and banff moutnains

The turquoise brilliance of the Bow River slowly meandered its way through Banff town, and the valley lined with jagged mountain peaks.

We were all glad when the hard scaling part of the Via Ferrata was over, and we could hike along the ridgeline and down through a very steep gully back to the chalet for a delicious lunch in the Cliff House restaurant with gorgeous views out over the mountains.

group of women on mountain ridge posing for photo
Our crew! | Photo: Gina from Driftswood Photography
people dining in restaurant with mountain views
Cliff House Restaurant views

Enjoy those spectacular views of Mount Rundle, the Banff townsite and the Bow Valley as you travel back down the mountain by way of the gondola.

Book your guided via ferrata tour in advance via Get your Guide. They have a 24 hour cancellation policy and easy mobile ticketing!

2. Admire Views from Mt Norquay Viewpoint

christina and caz looking at banff viewpoint
Admiring the views with Christina | Photo Krista from Our Wild Wanderers

If you didn’t get enough views of the Bow River Valley and Downtown Banff while hanging off Mt Norquay, there is a viewpoint on the drive back down from the Mt Norquay area.

After a few switchbacks, you’ll reach a stone retaining wall and a large grassy area, known casually as the Green Spot.

view of bow river running through valley
bighorn sheep on side of the road
Photo: Krista from Our Wild Wanderers

This is where you’ll pull over to park and walk out onto the grass to reach the lookout point. If you’re lucky, you might be sharing the grass with a herd of bighorn sheep that frequent the area. We saw them on the road just before we reached this Banff viewpoint.

From the parking area, you can walk out onto the green meadow for some stunning views of the Banff townsite, the Bow River, Vermillion Lakes, and the Bow Valley.

vermillion lakes in valley
Train running through valley past Vermillion Lakes

We timed it right as an extremely long freight train moved through the valley with its bright red cargo boxes. It was so striking against the yellows, greens, and blues of the natural Fall landscapes of the valley.

I’ve also heard near here is the Jupiter Hotel which is a great place to stop for a drink with a view on their patio, a meal, or even as a place to stay in Banff.

3. Catch the Sunrise at Lake Moraine

caz sitting on rock wall smiling in front of moraine lake canada
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 regarded as one of the most picturesque and iconic natural destinations in the Canadian Rockies.

Moraine Lake is celebrated for its vibrant turquoise water, a result of the fine rock particles known as “rock flour” carried into the lake by melting glaciers.

The striking color of the lake, combined with the dramatic backdrop of the Valley of the Ten Peaks, creates a mesmerizing and picture-perfect landscape.

torquoise blue water of moraine lake surrounded by snow capped peaks
Wow!!

Lake Moraine was my favorite of the lakes we visited in Banff National Park. It had a more dramatic feel than the other lakes with the triple mountain peaks rising sheerly up from the lake’s edge.

We arrived for sunrise, and while the clouds covered that morning glory, we were still able to witness the slow unveiling of this beautiful brilliant blue glacier fed lake.

We stayed awhile time taking photos until finally the clouds lifted and we saw the snow-covered peaks and their reflection in the water.

lake moraine framed by trees with snow covered mountains
View between the trees
People sitting on rock looking at view
The more open viewpoint

For the best view of Lake Moraine, take the short steep path up to the rock pile for the viewing platform. The first section will give you a view framed by trees. You can go up to the next level for the more wide-open vista. Both are worth seeing.

It’s smaller than Lake Louise, the most popular lake in Banff National Park.

kayakers on lake moraine
The view from lake Moraine shore
group of women posing in front of Lake Moraine
Nichole, Chelsea, Christina, Caroline & Me!

You can hire canoes to paddle on the lake. You;’ll also get a fantastic view from here!

Note: You can only get to Lake Moraine by way of the shuttle from the small town of Lake Louise. Be sure to book in advance. Learn more here. The shuttle times weren’t great at lining up with the sunrise times, so we were there at least an hour before sunrise, which is a bummer for early bird wake up calls (like 3:30am for us coming from Canmore)  Or look at these tour shuttle options for Lake Moraine.

There are also several hikes in the Lake Moraine area, one of which we did ….

4. Hike the Larch Valley Hike, Lake Moraine

two women hiking on a snow covered trail with larch tree fall foliage
Photo: Gina from Driftswood Photography

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 as we had these beautiful trees lightly dusted in snow on our walk up, but melted away on our way down so we got the full brilliant color – although many still had tinges of green in their leaves.

The Larch Valley hike rises from the shores 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 which make up the Valley of the Ten Peaks.

The hike begins with a series of quite steep switchbacks before leveling out to the Larch Valley.

The Larch Valley hike is about 9km/ 5 miles return trip, and I would call a moderate hike (I am an experienced hiker).

Allow 4 hours for the return trip, and make sure to take the shorter fall daylight hours into account! If hiking in the fall expect it to be busier, although I didn’t find it bad at all. It was getting busier as we hiked back though.

We did leave for the hike at around 8:30am.We took our time going up and down to get lots of photos – a bunch of content creators together means many photos shoots.

person on larch valley trail surrounded by fall foliage
reflections in lake with snow covered mountains
You can see the Sentinel Pass switchback on the mountain

The hike ends at the Minnestimma lakes which had quite striking reflections.

You can continue to Sentinel Pass between Pinnacle Mountain and Mount Temple which is meant to have some of the best views in Banff over the lakes, the Larch Valley, and the Valley of the Ten Peaks.

After the via ferrata the day before, our crew passed on taking the very steep switch backs we saw zig zagging up the mountain like a lightning bolt.

group of women posing on trail
Photo: Gina from Driftswood Photography

Plus, we were running short on time and had to get back for the shuttle to go back to our condo for some workshops.

We were meant to see the sunset at Vermillion Lakes later that day, but it poured with rain, so we passed opting for a night in with pizza and conversations.

5. Visit Iconic Lake Louise 

caz sitting on a rock in front of 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 the fine glacial silt suspended in it, and it’s set against the backdrop of snow-capped mountains, including Mount Victoria and the iconic Victoria Glacier.

It’s said to be one of the most beautiful lakes in the world, but I say Lake Moraine is more beautiful.

In the summer, visitors can go hiking, canoeing, or simply enjoy a leisurely stroll along the lakeside trail.

boathouse on lake louise

In the winter, the lake freezes over, becoming a magical ice-skating rink, and the surrounding area becomes a winter wonderland for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.

Lake Louise is one of the most visited destinations in Canada so plan your visit well. The parking lot fills up quickly here, especially during the summer season.

If you miss a parking spot, you have to go back to Lake Louise town and get a shuttle bus from the park and ride center (just off the Trans Canada Highway, 6km from the Lake Louise town).

group of women posing for photo on lake louise

To avoid this issue, you may just want to pre-book the shuttle! And look at these private tours as an alternative option to avoid the public crowds.

Most visitors to the world-famous Lake Louise area don’t venture much farther than the area between the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise and the shoreline of Lake Louise. To go beyond this, you may want to stroll the flat and short Lake Louise Lakeshore Trail.

Otherwise, to get a better look at the vibrancy of the Lake Louise water, 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

caroline canoeing on lake louise
Photo: Gina from Driftswood Photography

You can of course just stay on 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 up close to the beautiful clear water.

It was only when I put my paddle in the water and saw an orange leaf float by that I truly saw how clean and clear the water is.

We rented canoes after our Tea house hike and had a fun hour paddling around. Canoe rental is expensive, so paddle with some friends! If you stay at the Fairmont located on Lake Louise, you get a discounted canoe rental rate.

canoes on lake louise in front of fairmont chateau
The Fairmont on Lake Louise

Stay: Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise

Looking for a luxury stay with unbelievable views?

Then you’ll want to book a room at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise situated right on the edge of Lake Louise. It’s a stunning and iconic property known for its beautiful architecture and serves as a popular destination for visitors and a venue for weddings and special events. Find the best rates for your stay here.

7. Hike the Lake Agnes Hike to the Tea House

caz posing in front of lake agnes

One of the most popular hikes in Banff National Park is the 6.8km / 4-mile return Lake Agnes Tea House hike, named for the English style tea room sitting on a small lake Agnes about 385 meters above Lake Louise.

As you ascend the gradual uphill trail, you’ll be treated to breathtaking vistas of Lake Louise peeking through the forest canopy below. 

The stunning turquoise waters of Lake Louise become even more mesmerizing the higher you climb. You can always enjoy them on the way back down if you’d rather concentrate on getting uphill with deep breaths (it’s really not that bad!)

view of lake louise from above
Good views of Lake Louise on the way up

You can take a rest at Mirror Lake, a tranquil gem nestled amidst scenic surroundings. Towering above Mirror Lake is the impressive rock formation known as the Big Beehive, and the hike to its summit ranks among the finest in Lake Louise.

Continuing from Mirror Lake to Lake Agnes, the trail gradually becomes steeper. Along this path, you’ll have a unique opportunity to witness the beauty of a cascading Banff waterfall up close.

We skipped this with the intention to see it after the Tea House, but we didn’t come back that way and I forgot! So, spend time looking at it.

wooden tea house with mountain views

It’s just a few more steps up the staircase to the charming Lake Agnes Tea House, a well-deserved reward for your mountain adventure.

The tea house gets terribly busy, so the earlier you go the less waiting in line. Tables seemed to turn over quickly, and we surprisingly got enough tables inside of all 17 of us. Many people will wait longer to get one of the few tables on the deck, so they have better views.

The menu is simple, featuring mostly soup of the day, sandwiches and some kind of dessert. Helicopters fly supplies at the start of the season, and staff hike in fresh produce.

group of women sitting at table
Lunch with India, Arika and Chelsea

Contemplate that as you are eating and be extra kind to your server – they also hike to work, but typically stay in small cabins on the mountain.

While we were waiting in line, we were able to watch a helicopter fly back and forth transporting water supplies by bucket.

I really enjoyed this break at the Tea House. We stopped by the shores of Lake Agnes for more stunning photo opportunities!

8. Do the Little Beehive Hike 

caz hiking on little beehive trail
Photo: Gina from Driftswood Photography

After your lunch, you can continue hiking another mile return on the Little Beehive trail.

You will have beautiful views along the way looking down over the milky turquoise waters of Lake Louise, Chateau Lake Louise, Mirror Lake, Mt. Fairview, and even as far as the Lake Louise ski resort on the far side of the valley. 

You’ll come to a large rocky clearing with expansive views of the Rocky Mountains across the Bow Valley and over Lake Louis and towards the town of Banff.

caz looking over at lake louise
Stunning water color | Photo: Gina from Driftswood Photography
yellow larch trees in front of snow covered mountain peaks

I preferred this section of the hike to the beginning part of the tea trail.

While not the best hike in Banff for the larch trees, you will see a few golden colored larch trees (in the Fall). I enjoyed the walk back down to Lake Louse and the opportunity to enjoy those views!

We saw horses coming up carrying tourists on the way back down, which may be another fun thing to do in Banff National Park.

In the opposite direction from the Tea House is the Big Beehive hike that is said to have some of the best 360-degree views in Banff National Park.

The 15km Plain of Six Glaciers is another trail near Lake Louise that will take you to a Tea House!

9. Visit Emerald Lake

reflections of snowy peak in emerald lake

Looking to escape the crowds of Lake Louise and Lake Moraine?

Emerald Lake is a pristine place of serenity. It’s a place I want to come back to and stay in one of their wooden cabins on the water. As soon as you arrive, you just feel peace here.

Emerald Lake is in nearby Yoho National Park, but only 30 minutes’ drive away we added it into our Banff National Park itinerary. It’s also in the province of British Columbia so on my first visit to Canada I traveled to two provinces and two national parks.

The name “Emerald Lake” is derived from the lake’s vibrant green hue, which is caused by light scattering off the fine glacial silt suspended in the water.

boat house on emerald lake

The striking color, combined with the dramatic mountain scenery, reflections of surrounding peaks of President Range, and dense forest creates a mesmerizing and picturesque landscape.

We had intended to rent canoes at Emerald Lake, but they were closing earlier than we anticipated due to nearby construction. So, we canoed at Lake Louise instead.

group of girls posing for camera
Love this shot on the restaurant porch

Do not leave Emerald Lake without eating at a restaurant in the Lodge. Mount Burgess Dining Room is known for its seasonal menu; It was the best meal we had on our Banff trip. I was told I could not visit Alberta with out eating their Alberta Beef.

It was cooked to perfection here with a diecious herb aioli and red wine reduction.

girls looking out at emerald lake views
Taking in the views with India and Jen

There are several hiking trails that start from the Emerald Lake area, catering to various skill levels. The most popular trail is the easy and family-friendly 5.2-kilometer (3.2-mile) loop trail that circles the lake, providing picturesque views from all angles.

More challenging hikes, such as the Emerald Basin Trail, offer deeper exploration into the surrounding wilderness.

Stay at Emerald Lake Lodge

cabin in the woods beside the lake

There’s no better location for a place to stay than right on Emerald Lake. I loved the look of the cabins here and their huge dosing of serenity. The rooms of the cabin are basic but cozy with a wood-burning fireplace. There’s also an outside hot tub and three restaurants on site. Click for best rates for Emerald Lake Lodge.

10. See the Northern Lights

caz holding up arms looking at 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 screamed! It was a promising sign that good luck was here to stay on our Banff National Park trip.

It’s not easy to see the Northern Lights at this time of the year, so early in the evening, AND when there is light pollution around from the nearby homes and villages.

It’s my first time seeing the northern lights and it was mind blowing to see lights dancing around in the sky. We picked up the colors more in our photos than with our eyes.

The Aurora Borealis makes an appearance several times throughout the year in Banff. The best chance to see the Northern Lights is during the winter months from October to May, and for summer it’s around 2am

The lights are unpredictable in the Canadian Rockies so don’t plan a trip around it but take the surprise as a gift if it comes. Track what’s happening with the Aurora Borealis via the Aurora Watch. The forecast is typically accurate only a few days or hours in advance.

I would not advise out-of-province visitors to plan a trip around spotting the northern lights in Banff. The lights are too unpredictable in the Canadian Rockies, and the forecast is accurate only a few days, if not a few hours in advance.

11. Explore Downtown Banff

caz sitting on planter box in downtown banff

Downtown Banff is special as it’s located within the Banff National Park and so surrounded by the Canadian Rockies. The view of the Cascade Mountain looming over the town of Banff is one you won’t forget.

The town itself is an inviting hub, offering a variety of quaint boutiques, local art galleries, souvenir stalls, adventure outfitters, restaurants serving delicious cuisine, and cozy cafes where you can savor a warm beverage while taking in the alpine scenery.

building at end of street surrounded by fall trees

While very touristy, it’s worth a visit on your journey through the national park. We saw several elk along the side of the road driving into Banff. We also saw a lot of stupid tourists fallowing them into the forest for a photo. Don’t be a stupid tourist.

12. Walk the Bow River Trail, Banff

turquoise bow river running under bridge and framed by yellow trees
Beautiful Bow River trail

I skipped exploring the downtown area in our free time in the town, instead walking down to the Bow River.

I had seen it all day from high above, I wanted to get down low to that brilliant turquoise water and it did not disappoint. It was especially beautiful with the yellow pop of color from the trees.

yellow trees next to turquoise bow river
Stunning colors

I turned right as I crossed the main bridge. If I turned left on the Bow River trail, I would have come across the Surprise Corner and Bow Falls viewpoint and the Fairmont Banff Springs, another popular place to stay in Banff.

13. Eat at Farm and Fire Restaurant

caroline and laurence hugging
My beautiful new friend Laurence from Journey and Jaunts

We had a fantastic farm to table experience at this Banff Restaurant. Farm and Fire’s menu features only the freshest ingredients from local Canadian farmers, that’s slow-roasted and wood-fired.

If dining with a group, make it a shared dining experience with your meats and side dishes. We got some rotisserie chickens to share and delicious sides of mashed potato, succotash, roasted carrots, and corn bread.

Stay in Banff: The Fairmont Banff Springs

This resort, built in 1888, is styled after a Scottish Baronial castle and is a National Historic Site. It offers 11 restaurants and 14 shops, a 32-yard lap pool and a 20-yard heated outdoor pool.

The Fairmont Spa has 27 treatment areas and offers a variety of relaxing massages and beauty treatments. Other on-site activities for guests include bowling, tennis, horseback riding, and golfing. Find best rates for the Fairmont Banff Springs.

READ MORE: Get more ideas on things to do in Downtown Banff.

14. Explore Canmore

group of women sitting under Canmore sign

While Downtown Banff felt more touristy, Canmore had more of a local, down-to-earth vibe I resonated more with. I wish I had more time to explore its cute stores and local restaurants. Canmore is about 25 minutes from Banff.

Here are a few things I can recommend:

  • Just when you think you’ve seen it all, you walk into Stonewaters in Downtown Canmore and discover a fun and inviting store with cool local home products from pottery to house plants, and unique clothing design and gifts. I loved this store, especially as it supports local artist and designers and has a distinctive Canadian Rocky Mountains adventure vibe.
  • This All in the Wild gallery in Canmore by wildlife photographer Jason Leo Bantle is a must! He’s a Canadian photography who captures iconic wildlife photos. It’s fascinating to learn the stories behind his photos, including a Polar Bear family on the ice and a raccoon with its head though a window in an abandoned car.
  • Communitea Cafe is a fantastic place to eat healthy sandwiches, wraps and bowls such as Pad Tahia and Mediterranean Bowls. Their coffees are also good. Market Bistro:
  • Market Bistro (a little outside of town in the 3 Sisters area) has delicious modern Italian and French cuisine. WE had a lovely dinner here on our first night. The pan seared flat iron steak with fingerling potatoes and mushroom and peppercorn braisage was outstanding.
  • If you love pizza, you won’t’ want to miss this Rocky Mountain Flatbread. They use local and organic produce for their gourmet pizzas. I highly recommend the fig jam, brie, and smoked bison. They have gluten free pizzas!

STAY IN CANMORE: White Spruce Lodge

three girls posing on deck with hot tub robes on
Ready for the hot tub at our accommodation

I loved our condo stay at the White Spruce Lodge in Canmore. The condos were spacious, modern, self-sufficient with a hot tub and balcony with great views of the mountains. It’s located close to Canmore town and easy driving distance to Banff. See rates and availability

Other Things to Do in Banff National Park and Nearby

caz smiling at camera surrounded by fall foliage forest

Don’t let the Canadian Rockies adventures stop there! Banff is located next to Yoho National Park, Kootenay National Park and Jasper National Park and the Icefields Parkway:

  • Johnston Canyon: A great family-friendly hike in Banff National Park is the Johnston Canyon hike (there is an upper falls and lower falls trail). It features several cascading waterfalls while walking through a deep canyon. Read more in our post on best hikes in the Canadian Rockies.
  • Also in that post is the classic Banff hike, Sulphur Mountain. Through a series of switchbacks with continual incline and an occasional view of Rundle Mountain, you reach the top of Sulphur Mountain in about two hours. The 5.5 km long trail ends at the upper gondola terminal at 2,300 meters. If you don’t want to hike, you can also take the Banff Gondola.
  • Kootenay National Park is the least visited in the Rockies because most of it is inaccessible. However, Floe Lake is a little-known hike with a well-trodden trail.
  • Drive the Icefields Parkway that links Banff and Jasper National Park. The 232 km Icefields Parkway is known to be the most scenic drive in Canada. It’s known for its breathtaking beauty, with stunning mountain vistas, glaciers, waterfalls, and turquoise lakes. Here is our Icefields Parkway Itinerary guide with unmissable stops including Columbia Icefield, Athabasca Glacier and Bow Lake.
  • Jasper National Park is a world of countless expansive glaciers, snow-capped mountain peaks, powerful waterfalls, turquoise alpine lakes, and abundant wildlife. Here are 8 of the most beautiful places to see in Jasper National Park.
  • Visit the hot springs! There are many natural hot springs in the national park which were used by workers on the railroads in the 1880s. Today you can enjoy the warm, mineral-rich waters at Banff Upper Hot Springs on Sulphur Mountain, or drive about an hour south of Banff NP to Radium Hot Springs, a village known for its hot spring pools.
  • Drive the Bow Valley Parkway. This is a lovely scenic drive through Banff NP that connects Banff town to Lake Louise. It’s 48km of paved road that’s used as an alterntive to the Trans-Canada Highway. It’s popular amongst cycling enthusiasts.
  • Go skiing in Sunshine Village. What makes this the best place to ski is that the ski season runs from last November until early May, making it the longest open ski resort in Canada.
  • Learn about the indigenous people at Cave and Basin National Historic Site, which is a beautiful cave with a lake inside.
  • Visit some of the lesser known lakes such as Peyto Lake and Two Jack Lake.
  • Enjoy a boat cruise on Lake Minnewanka.
  • Watch the sun rise from Tunnel Mountain.

Check out these popular tours of Banff National Park

For those how like multiple day tours, with a splash of luxury, consider the Canadian Rockies tours offered by our preferred tour company, Globus. See their Western Canada tours here.

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Banff National Park: Getting There & Away

Fly into Calgary and then hop on a shuttle, a 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 the wildlife bridges. They blend in with the mountain scenery, (although easily noticeable) and provide a safe crossing cross the highway for wildlife.

Banff really isn’t close to any other major city. It would be close to a 5 hour drive from Edmonton or a 9-hour drive from Vancouver.

I spent a day in Calgary before visiting Banff. Here are some of the best things to do in Calgary, if you will be stopping off there as well.

Tips for Hiking in the Canadian Rockies

caz hiking on trail
Photo: Gina from Driftswood Photography
  • Don’t forget to purchase your Banff National park pass, either daily or yearly.
  • Before heading out, make sure to check out trail conditions. Some trails might close due to avalanche danger or bear presence. For trails in national parks, see Parks Canada.
  • When hiking in the Canadian Rockies, you’re in bear habitat. Parks Canada and Alberta Parks strongly recommend carrying a bear spray within arm’s reach, learn how to use it, and make noise while hiking, so you don’t surprise any bears
  • Pack plenty of water and snacks for your hikes. And whatever you take in, bring back out with you.
  • Obtain detailed trail maps and information from visitor centers or online resources. Know the trail length, difficulty, and elevation gain to choose a hike that suits your fitness level.
  • Wear appropriate clothing and footwear for the season and terrain (dress in layers as conditions can change quickly). Consider packing essentials like a first-aid kit, multi-tool, headlamp, and extra food and water.
  • Start your hike early in the day to avoid crowds and afternoon thunderstorms. It’s also easier to find parking at trailheads early in the morning.
  • If you encounter wildlife, maintain a safe distance, and never feed or approach them. Keep dogs on a leash to protect both wildlife and your pet.

Final Thoughts

caz posing in front of lake louise
Lake Louise

Wow! What an introduction to Canada. Banff National Park has to be one of the most beautiful places in the world.

While I saw and did a lot on my five day trip to this region, there are still many more hikes, top attractions and things to do for me to return for. Not just in Banff, but other nearby places in the Canadian Rockies.

Banff National Park is a true natural wonderland that promises an unforgettable adventure for every type of traveler.

From the turquoise waters of Lake Louise to the breathtaking vistas at Moraine Lake, the exhilarating hikes, and the serene moments in the heart of the Canadian Rockies, this national park has something to offer everyone.

I hope this guide on top attractions in Banff NP and things to do will help you plan an epic trip filled with unforgettable memories. Leave any of your own suggestions, comments or questions in the comment box below!

More Western Canada Travel Tips

2 thoughts on “14+ Unmissable Things to do in Banff National Park”

  1. This is such a great, comprehensive list! Banff was amazing and the great company made it even better. Love the pic of us at the end! You’re incredible!!!

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