Banff national park is one of the most visited spots in all of Canada and there`s no question why. home to iconic places like Lake Louise, Johnston Canyon, and moraine lake; Banff has got a ton of adventurous activities for all ages and abilities.
First & foremost, I CAN’T STRESS THIS ENOUGH: get your butt out of the town of Banff!
Going to Banff National Park and not leaving the town of Banff is sort of like going to an all-you-can-eat taco bar and only having the complimentary chips and salsa. LAME!
This is where you will find the largest crowds of tourists, the highest prices, and the least amount of adventure. We recommend spending no longer than 1 day in Banff before branching out and exploring the rest of the park! Keep reading for a list of our favorite things to do in Banff during the summer.
A Helicopter Ride
I understand that this might not be in your budget, but if it is I strongly recommend making the splurge! Rockies Heli Canada offers 20, 30, and 55-minute tours. All of them show off a birds-eye view of spectacular mountain ranges, glaciers, and waterfalls. Seeing the Canadian Rockies from above is extremely unique and although somewhat pricey, it`s so worth it!
Canoeing & SUP
Hopping into a canoe or onto a SUP (stand-up paddleboard) is an awesome way to explore the park and get some peace and quiet. There are several places where you can put your own non-motorized boat in the water. Local favorites close to the town of Banff include Johnson Lake, Two Jack Lake, and Vermilion Lakes. Moraine Lake and Lake Louise both offer canoe rentals right on the shore in the Lake Louise area. Herbert, Hector, Bo, and Waterfowl Lakes are some other great options that are located right along the Icefields Parkway.
This is an incredible, once-in-a-lifetime experience if you are interested in exploring the Rockies by horseback! Several companies offer tours ranging from 60 minutes long to multiple days depending on what you`re looking for. After riding across emerald streams and through jaw-dropping scenery, you can even stay in a backcountry cabin or a rustic tent camp. Most tours include meals and accommodation.
Banff National Park is world-renowned for its massive peaks, turquoise blue lakes, and remarkable glaciers. Hiking is one of our favorite ways to explore the mountains, get some exercise, and connect with nature. You can find everything from easy paved pathways to intense multi-day climbs. We would encourage you to get out there and try it, even if you haven`t done much hiking in the past. Trust us, the scenery will be well worth your effort.
Hot Springs & Hot Tubs
Banff is a popular ski destination in the winter which means several killer hot springs and hot tubs are available all year long! Trust us, there is nothing better than getting into a hot tub with a view after a long day of hiking or exploring.
The Banff Upper Hot Springs are probably the most popular public pools where you can even rent a towel and a bathing suit if needed. These natural springs have been developed into an outdoor pool with beautiful views of the surrounding area. Entry costs around $8.50 CAD per adult and they have showers and changing rooms on site.
There are also several hotels in the park that offer incredible indoor and outdoor hot tubs and spas. The Fox Hotel, which is a cave-themed replica of The Cave and Basin, and The Fairmont Banff Springs are two of our favorite indoor pools to visit. The best outdoor hot tubs in the area are Hidden Ridge Resort(don’t miss this one!), Deer Lodge, Sunshine Mountain Lodge, Emerald Lake Lodge, and Moose Hotel & Suites.
The Banff Gondola
Taking you all the way to the top of Sulphur Mountain, the eight-minute ride on the Banff Gondola boasts incredible views the entire way. Although touristy, this is an enjoyable thing to do at least once while visiting Banff National Park. At the top, there are restaurants, cafés, short hiking trails, and an interpretive center. You can also walk along the ridgeline of Sulphur Mountain to see the Cosmic Ray Station, a historic site of Canada built to study cosmic rays.
When it comes to biking in Banff, there are endless options! If you`re new to the biking scene or are looking for somewhere to take your road bike, The Centennial Trail between Banff and Canmore is a great way to go. Another option that we really enjoy is biking along the always beautiful Highway 1A! There are also heaps of mountain biking trails throughout Banff National Park. For a full list of trails and up-to-date trail conditions, click here.
White Water Rafting
Rafting on the Kicking Horse River is a popular and thrilling activity in the area. Located about 90 minutes west of the town of Banff, Wild Water Adventures runs several sections of the river with trips perfect for first-time rafters, families, those seeking the most exciting white water rafting experiences, and everything in between!
There are many large fisheries in Banff including the Bow River and Lake Minnewanka. Many of the beautiful blue alpine lakes, like Peyto Lake, actually hold very few fish because of the cloudy water. Bringing a variety of flies and small heavy lures is a good idea since you never know what the fish are going to be biting. Be sure to always use a single barbless hook to minimize catch and release mortality and don’t forget to buy your annual Parks Canada fishing license for $34.00 at a visitor’s center.
Stay in A Log Cabin
There are a ton of incredibly unique places to stay in Banff National Park. These historic cabins are a great option for adding a little cozy luxury to your trip, especially if you`ve been camping the entire time! Three of our favorite places to go are Baker Creek Resort, Storm Mountain Lodge, and The Johnston Canyon Lodge & Bungalows.
TIP: If you are looking for a fantastic, one-of-a-kind, romantic dinner idea, you won’t want to miss the Storm Mountain Lodge Restaurant!