Compiled by the Road Trip Alberta team
Last Updated: January 21, 2022
This is a town that barely needs an introduction. Banff is world-renowned and well-loved, often earning top awards like Best of the World by National Geographic Traveller, and Traveler’s Choice by AFAR. There are so many incredible things to do in Banff that it deserves every accolade.
As Albertans, this is a town we visit often and know well. To our benefit, we can purposefully time our trips to avoid prime tourist season, but even if immersed in a crowd, Banff still shines as a once-in-a-lifetime destination. We all count ourselves blessed for having Banff National Park on our own doorstep.
This guide will give you a taste of all the best things to do in Banff, Canada. There is a LOT. From hiking and canoeing in summer to skiing and tubing in winter, and spa-ing (is that a word?) to wildlife-spotting all year round, this resort town is truly a destination for all seasons.
About the Town
Banff is located on the traditional lands of Treaty 7 Territory including the Stoney Nakoda Nations of Wesley, Chiniki and Bearspaw; three Nations of the Blackfoot Confederacy: the Pikani, Kainai, and Siksika; and the Tsuu T’ina of the Dene people. Banff is also shared with the Métis Nation of Alberta, Region III.
Banff National Park was formed in 1885 after the discovery of the natural hot springs (the Cave and Basin) in Sulphur Mountain. This, of course, happened after centuries of indigenous people living in this region of the Rockies. Initially, policies of excluding indigenous peoples from National Parks were enforced but over the last 50 years, they were reversed. Parks Canada is now focused on building stronger, healthier relationships with indigenous people and the land.
After the creation of the Banff Springs Hotel and the Chateau Lake Louise, roads were built to make tourism easier. The completion of the Trans-Canada Highway was the final step in creating this fantastic world-class tourism spot.
Fun Fact: The town of Banff, Canada was originally named Banffshire after a Scottish district! The town was incorporated in 1990.
Where is Banff?
The town of Banff is located on the Bow River, just off of Highway 1, and 127km west of Calgary. With an elevation of 1,383 metres, it is the highest town in Canada!
Banff is located smack-dab in the middle of the Rocky Mountains. The townsite is surrounded by Mount Rundle, Sulphur Mountain, Mount Norquay, and Cascade Mountain. From downtown Banff, you’ll have access to hikes, the best Alberta hot springs (natural), horseback riding, great shopping, and of course good food.
Getting to Banff
There are no direct flights to Banff National Park – the closest airport is Calgary International, and Edmonton International Airport is also a reasonable option. You have several options to get to Banff from either of those locations. You can either rent a car and drive, use a bus or shuttle service, and there are even rideshare options. If you do either of the last two, you can also rent a car upon your arrival in Banff to get you around the area.
The most direct route would be to leave from Calgary, and we have outlined detailed options in this post on getting from Calgary to Banff. However, brief details, including for other originating cities, are also available below.
How far is Banff from Calgary? Banff is 127km west of Calgary, driving there can either be done via the Trans-Canada (Highway 1), or Highway 1A. Although the Trans-Canada route is slightly faster and takes approximately 1 ½ hours, the Highway 1A route is slightly more scenic and will take you through Cochrane and Morley for only 15 minutes extra.
How far is Banff from Edmonton? Banff is 389km from the Edmonton International Airport (which is just south of Edmonton, in Nisku). The fastest route from Edmonton to Banff is on the AB-2 South and Trans-Canada (Highway 1). This will take just under 4 hours.
How far is Banff from Jasper? Banff is 288km from Jasper, and just over a three-hour drive if you don’t make any stops. But that is nearly an impossible assumption, as the Icefields Parkway is a very popular road trip and touted as one of the most scenic in the world. Plan for lots of time to make it, and also read up on our Banff to Jasper guide for important information about this trip.
How far is Banff from Vancouver? The drive from Vancouver to Banff is just over 9 hours long, or 870 kilometers. It is an extremely scenic route and you’ll want to take your time – stopping in Kamloops can help you split up the drive!
If traveling to Banff from Vancouver, Rocky Mountaineer has some amazing options to choose from. There is no train between Banff and Calgary and Banff to Edmonton.
There are a few bus services with routes to Banff from either Edmonton or Calgary, however, Calgary to Banff by bus has the best options with the most direct routes.
Coming from Vancouver? The Rider Express has a drop-off in Banff on its Vancouver to Calgary route which currently costs $143.
Banff National Park Pass
Note that Banff National Park requires a pass in order to enter.
Effective January 1, 2022 daily fees are:
- Adult: $10.50
- Senior: $9.00
- Youth (up to 17 yo): FREE
- Family/group (up to 7 people): $21.00
- Commercial group (per person): $9.00
The daily passes expire at 4 pm the following day. If you’re looking to enter multiple times or staying longer, consider the Parks Canada Discovery Pass. It gives you unlimited admission for a year to all the national parks in Canada.
Discovery Pass fees are as follows:
- Adult: $72.25
- Senior: $61.75
- Family/group: $145.25
The park gates are 100 kilometres on Highway 1 west of Calgary, and passes can be purchased there. Alternatively, they can also be purchased online in advance. For more information, visit the Parks Canada website.
Take the guesswork out of building your itinerary for your Alberta trip!
We now offer two ways to help ease the burden of travel planning:
Banff is a small town, and if you stay near the center, you can access a lot on foot. But there is also so much to see in the surrounding area that you want to be sure to have your transportation options figured out in order to plan accordingly!
Hire a rental car: If you arrived in Banff via a shuttle or bus service and want to rent a car while you are there, there are a few rental companies in Banff to choose from:
- We recommend booking via RentalCars.com, to select the cheapest rate or to book with whichever company you prefer.
Parking: The Town of Banff has ample of both street and lot parking. Finding parking is easy to do with Banffparking.ca. Just select your vehicle type – car, bicycle or RV – then the map gives you the location of open spots.
Transit: Roam Transit will get you around the towns of Banff, Canmore, and Lake Louise. It’s important to know the differences between the routes you’re taking – some require local fare and some require regional fare. Check their website for current fares, routes, and schedules.
Shuttles: Don’t have access to a car but want to see the sites? Don’t stress! Most attractions have shuttles that make travel easy. Here are some of the most popular ones:
- Banff Gondola: Take Roam Transit Route 1, or there is a shuttle from the Elk & Avenue hotel.
- Cave and Basin: Take Roam Transit Route 4 from downtown Banff, or a short walk from the river will also get you there.
- Lake Louise: Either Roam Transit Route 8X (fast) or 8S (scenic) will get you to Lake Louise.
- Moraine Lake: Parks Canada has daily shuttled from the Lake Louise park-and-ride to the lake!
Taxi: There are two taxi services available in town – Taxi Taxi and Banff Taxi (run by the same company). They have everything from cars to full-size sedans so most groups can be accommodated.
Scooters: If walking isn’t your ‘thing’, you can ride around Banff in style on a Vespa or an e-bike! There are rentals by the hour or full-day rentals. Scooters are available at Banff By Scooter.
Walking Paths: The Banff townsite itself is incredibly walkable. There are many walking pathways on the main streets so exploring downtown Banff is easy! If you want to learn more about the town, join a guided walking tour. Banff Walk does tours of the town, food tours, and hiking tours!
Weather in Banff National Park
Enjoying your time in Banff can be significantly affected by what you wear. Even though the summer months can see daytime highs of 25 degrees C, the evenings can be quite cool. And in the winter, don’t be surprised to see a few days where the thermometer reads as low as -40 degrees C. Come prepared with appropriate layers in order to squeeze in as many beautiful moments in nature as possible without feeling chilled!
Where to Stay in Banff
The accommodations in Banff are plentiful and varied depending on how much you want to spend.
Luxury – We cannot mention hotels in Banff, Alberta without presenting the iconic Fairmont Banff Springs. For over 130 years, this luxury hotel has been the epitome of class and a must-see destination in Banff National Park. This is a once-in-a-lifetime type stay that is totally worth the experience. (We’ve stayed once, so can say that!) While you’re there, you can also “Eat the Castle” with this fun food tour. Fun Fact: Marilyn Monroe stayed at the Fairmont for eight days in 1953 while shooting the film River of No Return.
Mid-Range – Rubbing shoulders with celebrities at the Fairmont is pretty pricey so a more budget-friendly option is the Canalta Lodge. Recently renovated, we really enjoyed our stay amid its eclectic design. In a small town such as Banff, the underground parking feature that this property offers is a huge perk. Additionally, this property has been recognized as the best value in Banff.
Budget – Save your budget for exploring all that Banff has to offer and stay at the Banff International Hostel. It’s located on the beautiful property of the Banff Centre, has a fully equipped kitchen for all to use, free breakfast, and is highly rated.
Home Rentals – There are lots of options available for a Banff Airbnb and in nearby Canmore.
Sights to See in Banff
The sights to see in Banff are endless and entirely up to what you want to see. Of course, there are numerous iconic nature spots, but Banff also has a unique history and lively arts scene that are notable in their own right. Here are some of our favourites:
The number of possible wildlife sightings makes Banff National Park one of the most exciting parks to visit. Just walking in the townsite and on some popular trails can reveal caribou, deer, elk, bighorn sheep, and even bears! With more than 50 species of mammals calling Banff and the surrounding Rocky Mountains home, you are bound to catch sight of at least one of the locals during your trip. We are always game for a good wildlife tour (and Banff has some really good ones – check these tours for summer and winter), and remember the best time to see wildlife is early or late in the day.
It also helps to know where certain animals frequent. For example, elk can usually be found in the valleys, while caribou and deer prefer the thicker woods and meadows. Alternatively, mountain goats and bighorn sheep are found on the higher mountain slopes. Grizzly bears and black bears are a bit harder to navigate as each forage for food depending on the season but usually prefer heavily wooded areas. If you are planning on hiking during your time in Banff, we highly suggest being safe and doing your research on proper wildlife viewing best practices.
Fairmont Banff Springs
A visit to Banff is not complete without at least setting eyes on the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, aka Canada’s “Castle in the Rockies”. There are multiple clearly marked lookout points that will help you get an Instagrammable shot of this UNESCO World Heritage Site. Even if you’re not a guest, tours of this iconic hotel are available, including this fun food tour that (almost) literally lets you “Eat the Castle”.
The luxury mountain resort is also a destination in itself with a championship golf course, an award-winning spa, multiple dining experiences, art galleries, and shopping opportunities. Tip: Challenge yourself to navigate through the tunnels that connect the conference center with the hotel!
The history of the Rocky Mountains is as tumultuous and jagged as the peaks that mark the land. Step into Canada’s oldest natural history museum or learn about the engaging cultural history of the area.
- Banff Park Museum: This is the oldest natural history museum in western Canada.
- Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies: The Whyte Museum is best described as a gathering place to engage with the evolving peoples, cultures, environment, and history of mountain cultures.
- Cave and Basin National Historic Site: When three railway workers found the natural springs here, it started a series of events that lead to Banff becoming a National Park (and the first one in Canada).
- Buffalo Nations Luxton Museum: Learn about the interesting heritage of the First Nations People of the Canadian Rockies and Northern Plains.
- The Historic Luxton Museum: Visit the historic Luxton museum, which is the home of an influential family credited with shaping Banff to what it is today. Note that it is currently closed to the public due to COVID-19 with no re-open date specified. Private tours may be available.
Bolstered by the talent that the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity brings to the area, Banff has a thriving art scene with multiple art galleries in the townsite to explore. We suggest doing a Gallery Hop to make sure you don’t miss any of them! Even if art galleries aren’t your thing, make sure you at least see one: the Carter-Ryan Gallery. This Banff art gallery has been a staple in Canmore and Banff since 2012 and showcases the work of acclaimed Indigenous artist, Jason Carter.
Prime Photo Spots in Banff
The iconic photo spots from Banff National Park are what put the park on the map and made it a must-see destination! Get your camera (or phone) ready for these views:
- The turquoise waters of Banff’s glacial lakes are likely what you will see first when googling ‘Banff’. The intense blue colour is a result of sunlight reflecting off of glacier silt suspended in the water, so the best time to see the stunning blue is when the glacier and subsequent silt has had a chance to melt and feed the lake. In terms of timeline, the months of July and August are when the flow of the meltwater levels are at their highest and thus when the lakes have the most intense colour. It should be no surprise that two of the most popular photo spots in Banff National Park are lakes, specifically Moraine Lake and Lake Louise. Other best lakes in Banff National Park that are worth a ‘shot’ are Vermillion Lakes, Peyto Lake, Bow Lake, Lake Minnewanka, Maligne Lake. (Note that some of these are on the way from Banff to Jasper, so if you are making that trip as well, you can save them for that journey!)
- The blue-green water of Lake Louise leading to a ‘V’ in the mountains is the most famous photo op in Banff National Park. Unfortunately, most people don’t know that there is also a beautiful luxury hotel called the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise just on the other side of the lens! Getting both the hotel and lake in on the photo? Magic.
- Cute and cozy but bursting with flavourful food, souvenir shops, and unique stores just begging to be explored, the Banff townsite offers great photo ops to capture your time in the Rockies.
Want more? We have an entire guide to the best photo spots in Banff, contributed by an exceptional local photographer.
Things to Do in Banff
For a small town, there are a monster number of things to do. Some of the best views in the country can be found in Banff National Park, and the outdoor activities are endless depending on the level of activity that you like!
See the History of the Lands
Why not infuse some important learning into your experiences in Banff and area? There are several Indigenous-led tours that will offer another lens of seeing the true history of these lands. Whether it’s via a guided hike, or a visit to the gallery of an exceptional Indigenous artist, don’t miss out on your chance to gain a deeper understanding of the area. (See our guide on Indigenous experiences in Alberta for more information.)
It is no wonder that the Banff Gondola is the town’s #1 attraction. The glass-encased lift offers the ultimate view of the dynamic landscape of the Rockies as it ascends up Sulphur Mountain along the 1-mile line (a one-way trip takes approximately 8 minutes). At the top, take in the interpretive centre, walk along the scenic boardwalk, or dine at one of the two delicious restaurants found on the summit. It’s open year-round and you can buy tickets here in advance. Until March 12, 2022, see “Nightrise” – a display of vibrant lighting, video projections, and music that honours the magic of the sacred mountains.
With a max capacity of 8 people, the biggest gondola can be found at Banff Sunshine Village! Conveniently, the Sunshine Village Access road is only 8 km west of Banff and they offer a daily shuttle service to and from the Banff townsite. You can ride the gondola up to the top Village terminal at 2,159 m and take in the views. From there you can take the 8 minutes Standish Sightseeing Chairlift to the Standish Viewing Deck at 2,385 m and gaze out to the Banff Sunshine Meadows.
Mount Norquay Sightseeing
Technically not a gondola, but still offering spectacular sightseeing opportunities, Mt. Norquay chairlift in the summer is the best seat in Banff National Park! With panoramic views that sometimes include the wildest locals (most notably black and grizzly bears), take a ride up to 7,000 ft elevation and dine at the historic Cliffhouse Bistro.
Other Rocky Mountain Gondolas that are also worth a visit include: Lake Louise Gondola and Kicking Horse Gondola (the highest gondola in the Rockies!).
There are plenty of cycling and mountain biking trails to take advantage of in Banff National Park.
The Banff Legacy Trail connects the Town of Banff and Canmore. It’s a very popular route and activity with the entire trail spanning a distance of 26.8 km and a 30 m elevation gain taking a cyclist an estimated 2 – 3 hour round trip. There are numerous rest stops along the way and countless photo opportunities.
Another popular cycling route is the Bow Valley Parkway. The parkway winds from Banff and all the way to Lake Louise, and is an extremely popular with cyclists. From May until the end of August, Banff National Park has introduced the “Enhanced Cycling Experience” for visitors. 17km of the Bow Valley Parkway starting at Fireside Day Use area to Johnston Canyon will be restricted to public vehicles. Bicycles, e-bikes, and hikers are all welcome to take advantage of this.
Mountain biking is extremely popular in Banff National Park, but it should be noted that mountain bikes are only allowed on certain trails. There are over 190km of designated mountain biking trails in the park for riders of all levels. Some popular trails include:
- Bow River Loop (Easy) – A 7.1km easy loop that’s perfect for families and beginner riders. The trail winds alongside the Bow River and is a short, easy ride. The trail starts at the Lake Louise campground.
- Spray River Loop (Easy) – Another easy loop for beginners or families, this 11.3km trail runs along the Spray River. Start off at Bow Falls parking lot and don’t forget to bring a lunch for along way.
- Tunnel Bench Loop (Moderate) – Starting at the Hoodoos parking lot, this 5.7km loop is a moderate track for mountain biking. It’s one of the most popular trails in Banff and rewards cyclists stunning views of Mount Rundle and Cascade Mountain.
- Morraine Lake Highline Trail (Hard) – This trail is rated as one of the best trails in the Lake Louise area and will test the skills of any advanced rider. With the tough efforts cyclists will be rewarded with gorgeous views of Moraine Lake and the Valley of the Ten Peaks. Note that this trail is closed mid-to-late summer due to berry season and bear activity.
Soak in Hot Springs
Marveled for their soothing and healing properties, visitors have been flocking to the multiple hot springs found on Sulphur Mountain to “take the waters” for over 100 years.
Banff Upper Hot Springs is the highest operating hot spring in Canada and is the only one open to the public for bathing in Banff National Park. The water is geothermal heated and bubbles to the surface from a fracture in Sulphur Mountain. The temperature is dependent on the season and varies between 47°C (116°F)- 27°C (81°F). Conveniently, the Banff Upper Hot Springs facility has towels and lockers you can rent, plus a cafe! Aim to arrive at the hot springs first thing in the morning for the most relaxing experience.
Hiking in Banff
The hiking opportunities in and around Banff are plentiful, and world-class. A few of our favourite hikes include:
- Johnston Canyon is a popular hike where you can see spectacular views of either the lower or upper falls depending on the distance you want to trek. Tip: We recommend following the trail past the upper falls viewpoint and see the Ink Pot anomaly! These Ink Pots are found in a meadow past the falls and are the result of water bubbling from deep below the Earth’s surface. It is open year-round, but be extra careful if trekking it in winter – and if you want an informative guide to help you on the icewalk (the canyon freezes!), try this one for during the day, or be extra brave and take a night tour! As of July 2021, vehicle access to Johnston Canyon is via the Castle Junction only.
- For a moderate and less busy hike, Tunnel Mountain is a quick 2-hour hike that is accessible from downtown Banff. The trail switchbacks to a low summit, offering amazing views of the town, Bow Valley, and Mount Rundle along the way.
- For an adrenaline-pumping, unique hiking opportunity, Via Ferrata is an assisted climbing experience along four routes on the cliffs of Mt Norquay. This jaw-dropping hike crosses suspension bridges and climbs ladders while taking in rarely seen views of Banff. Don’t fret though, you are securely fastened in a harness attached to the mountain at all times and led by a certified guide.
For the ultimate list of places to trek, check out our guide to the best hikes in Banff!
Have we mentioned how much we love the lakes in Banff? More than just a backdrop for a picture, we recommend getting out on the water on a canoe, kayak, or paddleboard! There are even some fun guided tours available that we have added to our itinerary the next time we are in Banff, including this one in a big canoe (you can’t get much more Canadian than that).
Are you a pro and looking to head to the waters unguided? Then you can also rent kayaks, canoes, or paddleboards that come fully equipped for your adventure.
Explore by Horse
You are planning to visit Alberta, after all, and to keep with the wild wild west aesthetic, consider exploring the beautiful Canadian Rockies on horseback.
We love this option to enjoy a charming horse-drawn sleigh ride in winter (get a quintessential Canadian selfie)! And if you are not that handy on a horse but want a rustic experience, the kids will love this 3-hour covered wagon tour that will cruise you along the Bow River. It comes complete with a hearty cook-out meal.
If you want to take the reins yourself, saddle up for this two-hour tour with a cowboy leading the way. Or if you really want to go for it and pretend you’re a rancher in the Rockies backcountry, this two-day tour includes a night at a luxurious lodge and delicious meals.
Cave and Basin Tour
As the birthplace of Canada’s National Parks, the Cave and Basin National Historic Site has an extraordinary Discovery Tour that delves into the history of the hot springs and how the various visitors from First Nations people over a millennia ago to railway workers in the 19th century used the hot springs and subsequently shaped the area of Banff National Park into what it is today.
To get a full perspective of this unique spot, we highly recommend taking the tour, but there are also options to explore the site by yourself at your own pace. Note that swimming is not allowed because the basin is a museum.
Hit the Slopes
One of the most popular things to do in Banff National Park during the winter months is shred some pow on the “Big Three”. The Big Three includes the three ski resorts found in Banff National Park: Sunshine Village Ski Resort, Lake Louise Ski Resort, and Mt. Norquay Ski Resort.
Conveniently, through SkiBig3, you are able to buy one lift ticket and have access to all three resorts. Between the three resorts, the Banff ski season typically runs from November all the way until May. (For more information, including prices and current ski conditions, see our complete guide to skiing in Alberta.)
Fun fact: the Banff resorts have the longest non-glacial ski season in North America!
Tired of strapping on skis or a snowboard but still want to play in the snow? Mt Norquay also offers a tubing slope which is fun for all ages!
Ice Skating in Banff
Skating in Banff National Park is one of the most popular and picturesque winter activities to partake in. Keep in mind that Parks Canada does not monitor these locations for safety so you will be skating at your own risk. This is a helpful list of popular locations to skate and also gives some safety tips.
Snowshoe or Cross-Country Ski
These quintessential winter activities hit their prime late in the year and extend to early spring. Keep in mind, however, that this coincides with avalanche season. Before even thinking about hitting the trails, check in with local conditions and these tips to prepare yourself. Parks Canada has great resources for where to snowshoe and where to cross-country ski.
If conditions are favourable, then don’t hesitate to get out there! Winter walking and skiing can take you to places and views that you wouldn’t anticipate. There are plenty of trails for you to partake on your own, but also consider a guided tour to an elevated place like Sunshine Village where the views will be unparalleled.
Play a Round of Golf in Banff
Playing a round at the Fairmont Banff Springs Golf Course will challenge any golfer along with providing breathtaking views on every hole. Originally built in 1911 and expanded to an 18 hole golf course in 1924, Stanley Thompson designed and created one of the world’s most stunning courses.
It’s a traditional links style course which winds its way through the Bow Valley and gives emphasis to the surrounding mountain landscape. It will thrill any golfer who plays 18 here.
Planning a golf vacation? Check out our guide to the Best Golf Courses in Alberta.
If nature is not your jam, then Banff also offers some great pampering experiences that don’t require too much strenuous activity.
Enjoy a Spa Day
The pampering options in Banff are abundant! If the ultimate relaxing experience is what you are looking for, the best place to start is the Willow Stream Spa located at the Fairmont Banff Springs. For a more central option, Cedar and Sage Co. is located right in the downtown and pride themselves for offering the perfect massage. If you prefer your pampering with a side of adventure, make your way 14km into the backcountry to visit the sauna at Shadow Lake Lodge!
Explore the Townsite
For a small town, the Banff townsite has a plethora of shopping opportunities for all different price points. From clothing to candy and all the way from art galleries to tacky souvenirs, shopping is a fun thing to do in Banff National Park in any season.
Where to Eat in Banff
Banff is a foodie paradise with a little something for everyone, from fine dining to classic Canadian comfort food.
- The best fine dining (in our humble opinion) is found at Three Ravens Banff. Tucked away in the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, Three Ravens has a seasonal menu that utilizes fresh, sustainable, and local ingredients. The creativity and unique flavour combinations is a must experience for any foodie coming to Banff. There’s a good reason why it is consistently one of Banff’s top-rated restaurants on TripAdvisor.
- Serving exceptional vegetarian and vegan fare, Nourish Bistro may be plant-based but their food is a favourite in Banff! Nourish Bistro’s food is extremely thoughtful and satisfying while also sustainable, local, seasonal, GMO-free and served in an intimate and unique setting. Located two blocks off Banff Ave, we urge you to step outside your comfort zone and give it a try.
- As the tagline for Grizzly House Banff says, it’s “for lovers & hedonists”. Many are taken aback by how much of a time warp stepping into this restaurant is but they have been an institution in Banff since 1967! Famous for their fondue and sizzling rock selections and one-of-a-kind protein choices (anyone for rattlesnake?) the decor may be dated but the experience is a must-try!
- Being featured on the Food Network’s “You Gotta Eat Here” put Bear Street Tavern on the map. But regular visitors and locals already knew where to go to find the best pizza in the Rockies. With a relaxed atmosphere and great food, Bear Street Tavern is the perfect spot to recharge after a day of hiking. Tip: pair your pizza with a bear-sized cocktail!
- Need more suggestions? We’ve got a whole blog post on Banff restaurants that you need to try!
Bonus: A trip to Banff is not complete without satisfying your sweet tooth with a treat (or two) from the Banff Candy Store. We also recommend trying a famous Canadian beaver tail during your visit!
Other Things to do in Banff (In the Area)
There is absolutely no shortage of things to do in the area, either. When you’re in the midst of the Rocky Mountains, adventure is always on your doorstep (or just a short drive away).
People lump Banff and Lake Louise together so commonly that you would think they are only a street apart. Alas, there are almost 60 km apart, but don’t let that stop you. This hamlet is famous for its turquoise lake fed by a glacier against a backdrop of jagged peaks and anchored by a large but elegant chateau. You can get there with your own wheels or via a shuttle, but this popular tour is designed to give you time to explore the area before escorting you along the Icefields Parkway as well.
In summer, the colour of the lake causes sheer awe, but when it’s frozen in winter, the area becomes a pure snowy playground. In summer, canoe the lake or hike to the Lake Agnes Tea House for bird’s-eye views.
In winter, you can also enjoy one of the largest ski resorts in North America. (For more ideas, see this post on things to do in Lake Louise). While it can all be taken in via a day trip, at least one night at the Chateau Lake Louise will prove a memorable one.
Just 20 minutes down the highway from Banff is Canmore! This adventure-filled town is full of art, amazing Canmore restaurants, culture and the great outdoors. Visit the Canmore Nordic Centre in all seasons for world-class skiing, mountain biking and more. Another great adventure from Canmore is Mount Yamnuska. This large picturesque mountain on the edge of the Rockies is a popular (but difficult) hiking spot. Stay overnight at one of the Canmore hotels to give you more time to explore.
Read more in our detailed guide of things to do in Canmore.
Kananaskis Nordic Spa
Another popular stop is the Kananaskis Nordic Spa, the first of its kind in Alberta. This Nordic Spa has a more relaxed atmosphere than other similar facilities and its bistro is licensed. Follow along the spa’s five-step relaxation process: hot, warm, cold, rest and repeat!
A beautiful stretch of 288km between Banff and Jasper is known as the Icefields Parkway. It is often ranked one of the most breathtaking road trips in the world for good reason.
It’s important to plan your day carefully with all the sightseeing stops to make along the way. We’ve made it easy for you in our guide about getting from Banff to Jasper! Want someone else to take the wheel? This popular tour is designed to let you enjoy sightseeing along the Icefields Parkway as well as a stop at Lake Louise.
You may start your trip here by flying into the Calgary International Airport, and “Cowtown” is definitely worth some of your time. Being the largest city in Alberta, it offers many activities for many tastes! Explore the city’s growing foodie and brewery scene, experience local art projects, and take in the brand new National Music Centre or the award-winning Public Library. We’ve covered all the options for you in our guide of things to do in Calgary.
ALSO, don’t forget that while you’re on the road, you can download our FREE Road Trip Alberta bingo cards, to make it just that much more fun!