Banff is a beautiful resort town located in the Canadian province of Alberta. Banff National Park is one of the oldest parks in Canada and is also one of the prime tourist magnets in the country. Millions of visitors come to Banff National Park to see the mighty Rockies, for relaxation or adventure activities. Read my top 11 (one bonus “must”) things to do in Banff, Canada.
Things to do in Banff
1. Sulphur Mountains & Gondola Ride
You can see the Sulphur mountains from anywhere within the Banff National Park. It is one of the prominent mountains in Banff. However, the best views of the Sulphur mountains can be seen from the Gondola ride.
A gondola ride costs about $55 CAD per return trip and it is totally worth it. You can get access to amazing views in 8 minutes. There is also an observation area, made of wooden planks and they are secured, allowing tourists access during summer and winter months. You can also walk to the Sulphur Mountain Cosmic Ray Center located at an elevation of 2,283 m.
You can dine at the Sky Bistro, overlooking the amazing greenery and the blue waters running through the forests.
How about a cowboy experience with a barbeque meal and a horseback ride? Book this tour of Banff that takes you to the Sulphur Mountains and treats you to this unique experience.
2. Mt Rundle and Vermillion Lake
Mount Rundle is a mountain range overlooking Banff and its adjacent town of Canmore. Rundle mountain summit hike in the summers is a delight, as you will encounter beautiful wildflowers along your trail.
Vermillion Lake runs at the foot of the Mt Rundle. This lake is located about 5 minutes from the Banff town site and makes for a wonderful picnic and a photography spot. Try to reach the Vermillion lakes in the late evening or at dawn for some amazing sunrise pictures.
3. Banff Town
This goes without saying that you HAVE to visit the townsite (along with all the natural wonders around you). “Downtown” Banff or the town-site is a beautiful center with tons of restaurants, stores and activity centers. You can capture amazing views of the Canadian Rockies from the center as well
4. Icefields Parkway
One of the key things to do in Banff to-do-list is taking a trip to Icefields Parkway. This 232 km stretch is filled with snow-covered peaks, glaciers and gorgeous valleys. There are hiking trails present as well. But many tourists love to board the Brewster Icefield Explorer to the Glaciers and back (to Banff Town). The round trip starts at $250 from Banff.
5. Lake Louise
Located about 50 minutes outside of Banff Town is the gorgeous hamlet of Lake Louise. I am sure you must have seen those turquoise blue lakes on Instagram. It is the glacier-fed Lake Louise. This tiny place is beautiful both in summers and winters. There are some pretty interesting hikes like the Plain of Six Glaciers Hike that you can do from Lake Louise. You can also stay here overnight if you like, as there are many accommodation options available.
Consider booking this tour of Lake Louise along with Moraine Lake with a guide. The booking will not cost you anything additional but will help me get a commission to keep this website going.
6. Kayaking in Lake Minnewanka
Another beautiful lake is the Lake Minnewanka. It is located about 25 minutes away from the town-site. Perfect place for kayaking in summers.
You can also book a 2-hour cruise at the lake, which includes a complete lap of the lake and get access to amazing views of the Canadian Rockies
7. Banff Hot Springs
Did you know that Banff has natural hot springs in the Canadian Rockies? Yes! And they are great for relaxing with a spa and amazing views. The Upper Hot Springs are one of nine different naturally occurring hot springs in the Banff area. The hot spring water flows naturally, with the source area located at higher elevations on either Sulphur Mountain or Mount Rundle.
8. Nordic Provincial Park
Located in the Kananaskis country, the Nordic Provincial Park is a skier and snowboarders paradise. It is located about 30 minutes from the Town
It was originally constructed for the 1988 Winter Olympics. This is an important destination for anyone heading to Banff in winter as the tourists can avail themselves of the world-class facilities and indulge in tons of activities like – skiing (including night skiing), snowboarding, ice-skating during winters. Summertime activities include – hiking, mountain climbing, roller skiing, etc
9.Three sisters mountain range in Canmore
The 3 sisters mountain range is gorgeous to look at, from any part of Canmore. Canmore is Banff’s sister town, located just 20 minutes away.
Canmore is a beautiful pedestrian-friendly town, with side cafes and great mountain views. Accommodation costs are cheaper in Canmore then Banff and no park entry fees.
10. Cascade Gardens
If you love manicured gardens, then you should visit this free garden in Banff. Called the Cascade gardens, located just minutes away from Banff Town is a treat to the eye.
Cascade gardens are perfect for weddings, general photography or a light stroll.
11. Farmers Market in Banff, every Wednesday
Bonus ‘to-do-item’ – if you are here on a Wednesday, take some time out and visit the local market/farmers market. This is a great opportunity to try some local berries or buy locally made souvenirs. This market is only open on Wednesdays and is set up in the main town (from May to October)
Banff Travel Tips
Banff town is serviced by Calgary International Airport. So if you are flying to Banff, most likely you will arrive in Calgary and then drive or take a shuttle to Banff. Calgary to Banff is about an hour’s drive.
For accommodations, you can either stay in Banff, Canmore or Lake Louise. These town-sites are not far from each other. And there are tons of sightseeing spots in all three places.
Peak summer season (May to August) are very busy and are prime tourist month. If you are planning your visit around this time, please plan ahead and book in advance. This includes campsites as well.
Banff is great throughout the year. I have visited Banff in both summer and winter time and I equally love both, for different reasons. Of course in winters, the weather changes without notice and roads may or may not be accessible. Hiking trails will be closed too. Here are some travel tips on the best time to visit Banff. Of course, if you are planning to explore the place just once, then I will say plan it in the summer.
If you have some extra time in Banff, you might want to consider driving down another 84 km to visit yet another national park. Discover Yono National Park right here.
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This post, including the pictures used, have been shared by my guest author - Mayuri. She is a travel enthusiast and writes about her travels on her blog - To Some Place New. Currently, settled in Canada, she loves traveling with her soulmate Salil. You can catch her on her twitter handle - @To Some Place New