Things to do in
Banff

Surround yourself with beautiful walking trails and glistening lakes in this protected Canadian Rockies' town.

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Our most recommended things to do in Banff

Banff: Banff Gondola Admission Ticket

1. Banff: Banff Gondola Admission Ticket

Climb aboard this iconic 4-person gondola cabin with large windows and relax. During the 8-minute ride to the summit of Sulphur Mountain, take in the views of the town of Banff, Bow Valley, and six different mountain ranges. While on the mountain's peak, be amazed by 360-degree views. Explore the interactive Above Banff Interpretative Center to learn about the early explorers, wildlife, and local area. Hike across the Sulphur Mountain boardwalk to explore the Sulphur Mountain Cosmic Ray Station, a National Historic Site. Then stop at the coffee shops, restaurants, and gift shops.

Banff: Lake Minnewanka Cruise

2. Banff: Lake Minnewanka Cruise

Admire views of the Canadian Rockies as you cruise on the largest lake in Banff National Park. Meet your guide and captain on the boat dock at Lake Minnewanka and begin your 1-hour adventure. Glide through the crystal clear water of this glacier lake and soak up the views of the mountains and blue sky above you. Keep an eye out for wildlife on the lakeshore, including big-horned sheep, deer, mountain goats, and even the occasional bear. During your cruise, interpretive guides will share interesting facts and stories about the wildlife and vegetation that inhabit the Canadian Rockies. Learn about the culture of the indigenous people who used to call the area home and hear a lot of entertaining legends of the area.

From Banff: Lake Louise and Moraine Lake Sightseeing Tour

3. From Banff: Lake Louise and Moraine Lake Sightseeing Tour

Enjoy the drive from Banff in a modern minibus after your friendly guide picks you up from the meeting point. Keep your eyes peeled for animals such as deer, elk, and bears as you drive along the scenic, winding Bow Valley Parkway. Your guide will share stories about Banff National Park, its history, and the local animals on the way. Arrive at iconic Lake Louise after a scenic stop along the Bow Valley Parkway to admire the views of Castle Mountain. Your 30-minute visit at the lake gives you plenty of time to wander the famous shoreline, take photos of the lake against the backdrop of the mountains and Victoria Glacier, and admire the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise Hotel. Next, your guide will take you to Moraine Lake, set in the rugged Valley of the Ten Peaks with waterfalls and rock piles. Enjoy a short guided walk to the famous Valley of the Ten Peaks viewpoint, or relax and take in the lake from the shoreline. After a 30-minute stop here, your guide will transport you back to Banff and drop you at your hotel.

Banff: Afternoon Kananaskis River Whitewater Rafting Tour

4. Banff: Afternoon Kananaskis River Whitewater Rafting Tour

Enjoy whitewater rafting down an idyllic stretch of the Kanaskasis River, the perfect excursion for families, groups, and newcomers to whitewater rafting. Explore the pristine waterways of the Kananaskis River. Scout for local wildlife and enjoy the unrivaled beauty of the Canadian wilderness. Meet at the Nakoda Lakeside Lodge on Highway 1A. Start your rafting adventure with a 45-minute drive from Banff or Calgary. Enjoy the short scenic ride as you wind through the Canadian countryside. Once you're fitted with your wetsuits and other safety equipment, ride in a comfortable bus a short distance to the starting point on the Kananaskis River. Here, your guides will provide safety instructions and teach your paddle techniques. Feel equipped and ready to go as you prepare for the river. Board your raft and begin your journey. Admire the views during calm parts of the river. Practice different paddling techniques with your guide. Spot local wildlife such as soaring eagles, and deer who stroll along the banks of the river. Then, get ready to be splashed as your raft through class 2-3 rapids as you travel along a lovely forested area of the river. At the end of the journey enjoy a scenic float to the finish where you can swim and splash in the water. Return to the river base for high fives and snacks to celebrate your rafting adventure. This tour operates from mid-May to mid-September and is ideal for anyone that has never rafted before or does not know how to swim.

Banff National Park: 1-Hour Spray River Horseback Ride

5. Banff National Park: 1-Hour Spray River Horseback Ride

Embark on a horseback riding adventure as you breathe in the pine-spiced mountain air. Approach the Bow Falls and enjoy spectacular views. Pass by the famous Fairmont Banff Springs Golf Course known as one of the most immaculately manicured courses in Canada. Continue along the edge of the Fairmont Banff Springs Golf Course and cross through the waters once more. A partial climb up Sulphur Mountain brings you through a wooded residential area and back to the corrals. Enjoy a unique experience and cross the Spray River. On hotter days, your horse may even decide to cool itself off by splashing water onto its belly. Have an experience unlike anything else.

Banff National Park: Hop-On-Hop-Off Bus Day-Pass

6. Banff National Park: Hop-On-Hop-Off Bus Day-Pass

Maximize your time in Banff National Park with this Hop-On-Hop-Off Pass and see all the main sights at your own pace. The stops include Johnston Canyon, Moraine Lake, Lake Louise, and the Lake Louise Gondola (admission is not included). There are 3 departures from Banff, so you can start early and see everything, or sleep in and enjoy a tour along the famous Bow Valley Parkway to Moraine Lake before your return to Banff. • Stop 1 - Banff - The tour departs at 07:45 AM, 9:30 AM, and 12:15 PM daily • Stop 2 - Johnston Canyon - Hop off here to hike up to the beautiful Upper and Lower Falls or even go all the way up to the famous Ink Pots • Stop 3 - Lake Louise Gondola - Soar by gondola or chairlift to the most stunning views on the Lake Louise Gondola • Stop 4 & Stop 5 - Lake Louise - Make sure to hop-off here to enjoy Lake Louise and all that it has to offer. Check out Lake Agnes Teahouse and the breathtaking Plain of Six Glaciers • Stop 6 - Moraine Lake - the most stunning lake in the Rockies. Experience the absolutely breathtaking Valley of the Ten Peaks that surround the lake. Return to Banff as early as 1:45 PM or enjoy all the stops and come back to the town at 6 PM. On your way back to Banff open the windows and watch for wildlife along the famous Bow Valley Parkway. Grizzly bears, black bears, elk, bighorn sheep have all been spotted here. Your bus will stop for photos at any sighting. Enjoy your tour on the original yellow school bus style with a professional driver and a tour guide. All the buses all guaranteed to be 5 years old or newer. Guides on board each bus will help you plan your day on a 1 on 1 basis and give you a personalized itinerary that matches what you want to do. They also have extensive knowledge of nearly everything you would ever want to know about Banff and can help you with hiking suggestions, or even just great places to eat.

Kicking Horse River: Whitewater Rafting Half-Day Trip

7. Kicking Horse River: Whitewater Rafting Half-Day Trip

Enjoy an exhilarating whitewater rafting tour on the Kicking Horse River as you brave Class 2 to Class 4/4+ waters with a guide. Take on rapids such as Hopi's Hole, Cable Car, Table Saw, and the famous Portage and Shotgun. Your experience begins at the local partner's day lodge, conveniently located on the TransCanada Highway. After a warm welcome, your crew distributes top-of-the-line rafting gear (wetsuit, wetsuit booties and gloves, spray jackets, life jackets, and helmets). In the comfort of heated change rooms, change into the provided gear before taking a quick shuttle to the "put-in" (starting point), where you receive your extensive safety briefing before jumping in the river. This is the biggest whitewater river in the Rockies. Prepare to hold on and get wet. Enjoy the canyon environment and possibly get a glimpse of a mountain goat, wolf, or bear. Following your trip, another quick shuttle returns you back to the warmth of the base. Once changed back into dry and comfortable land clothes, enjoy snacks and a selection of hot and cold beverages. Stop by the gift shop for a souvenir or photo of the trip to take back home.

Banff: Evening Wildlife Safari Guided Tour

8. Banff: Evening Wildlife Safari Guided Tour

Go on an evening wildlife safari tour and discover the animals of Banff. Led by your expert guide, experience twilight wildlife encounters.  As the sun sets behind the craggy peaks, the wildlife of Banff National Park become more active in the cool hours before dark. Get the chance to be up close with some of Banff’s wildest residents. Spot an elk sauntering across a clearing or a bighorn sheep grazing in an alpine meadow. Sometimes, you may even see a grizzly bear snuffling through a berry bush.  Have your guide take you on a paved road bus tour where you are most likely to see Rocky Mountain creatures. Learn about how the park protects these animals and their natural habitat from many threats to the ecosystem.

Banff: Mount Norquay 2.5 or 4-Hour Guided Via Ferrata Climb

9. Banff: Mount Norquay 2.5 or 4-Hour Guided Via Ferrata Climb

Join this fun alpine climbing tour that's perfect for all abilities, including those with no previous experience. Experience the thrill of climbing a via ferrata with an expert guide and delight in bird’s-eye views of Banff National Park. Choose between a 2.5-hour Explorer Route or a 4-hour Ridgewalker Route. Upon arrival to Mount Norquay, located just 10 minutes from Banff, check in and meet your guide. Get equipped with a harness, lanyards, and helmet, then ride the sightseeing chairlift to where your adventure begins. After an equipment check and training is complete, a short 5-minute walk takes you to your first via ferrata buttress to climb. The 2.5-hour Explorer Route is a great choice for those who are slightly limited on time or looking for an introduction to via ferrata. Spend some time with your guide and get introduced to the equipment before heading up a few pitches and crossing the suspension bridge. You will reach 2,235 meters (7,332 feet) above sea level. The tour lasts 2-2.5 hours, covers 1 kilometer (3,280 feet), and involves an elevation gain of 145 meters (475 feet). Select the 4-hour Ridgewalker Route to get a greater feel for heights and experience the via ferrata in full. Get comfortable with the equipment on a practice wall, then continue on the Norquay cliffs, climbing the memorial, sunrise and vista buttresses — and, of course, traversing the suspension bridge. The route heads up to the Ridgewalker Summit, 2,300 meters (7,545 feet) above sea level. At the top, enjoy incredible views and snap some photos before descending back to the starting point. The tour lasts 3.5-4 hours, covers 1.4 kilometers (4,593 feet), and involves an elevation gain of 260 meters (853 feet).

Banff National Park: 2-Hour Sundance Loop Horseback Ride

10. Banff National Park: 2-Hour Sundance Loop Horseback Ride

Explore stunning sections of wilderness on this two-hour trip and spot wildlife that you might not get to see on foot. Learn a few cowboy tricks along the way from your experienced guide.  Pass by natural sulphur hot springs as you make your way to one of Banff’s national historic sites, the Cave and Basin. Trek along the tranquil Bow River and take in magnificent views of the Bow Valley before pressing through thick marshes as you climb Sulphur Mountain. Continue up to Windy Knoll where you can take striking photos of the sweeping landscape

Insider tips: Planning a trip to Banff

Mayuri is the founder of ToSomePlaceNew, which covers European destinations and cultural travel. A history graduate and an MBA by qualification, she found her true calling in digging a city’s past and discovering their unique nuances. She is based in Canada, and travels with her husband. Find more on her blog about Banff.

What should I do on my first trip to Banff?

For your very first trip to Banff, consider booking a centrally located hotel - maybe a suite with mountain views. Do check out the town centre, and thereafter ride the Banff Sightseeing Gondola to soak the entire valley, and its iconic landmarks from an elevation of 2,281 m (7,486 feet) above sea level. From Banff, embark on hikes, or enjoy a canoe ride on Vermillion Lakes, or the picturesque Lake Louise. Don’t miss out on a sightseeing cruise on Lake Minnewanka.

What are some hidden gems to see in Banff?

Banff is all about the iconic views, but you can make it unique. Like you can soak in mountain views from Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel whilst enjoying an afternoon tea or castle food experience. Another favorite attraction in Banff town that often gets missed is the Cascade of Time Gardens. These beautifully manicured gardens are located just a few minutes away from the town centre, and it is a stunning place to admire the mountains and greenery (and it's all for free!)

How much time should I spend in Banff?

A weekend is perfect to enjoy the highlights of Banff National Park. Set aside a day to wander the town centre, cultural sites like museums and walking trails nearby. On the second day, go hiking. There are a lot of easy to challenging hikes near Banff to choose from. If you are not into hiking, enjoy a day of lakes and explore Minnewanka, Two Jack and Lake Louise on a quick day trip from Banff!

What food is Banff known for?

You must try a good steak or bison when you visit Banff National Park. You can easily order Alberta steak in any of the restaurants at the town centre. For drinks, try a local brewery such as Park Distillery Restaurant and Bar. There are a lot of cafes and bistros inside the national park to enjoy coffee, bagel and cakes.

What is the best way to get around Banff?

The best way to explore Banff is by car. Rental cars can be picked up at the Calgary International Airport (nearest airport), and then you can drive to Banff. There are transit buses (called ROAM buses) that you can use to get to various attractions inside the national park. One way tickets start at $2 CAD for adults.

What are the best months to visit Banff?

Summer and fall are the best times to visit Banff National Park. In the summer months, all the outdoorsy activities are open from camping, canoeing, hiking to easy road tripping. Only thing to be mindful of is that Banff gets super busy in the summers - so plan ahead to make reservations. Visiting Banff in the fall is also perfect as you can go on hikes and see all the fall foliage, minus the crowds and expensive accommodation!

What is Banff Avenue known for?

Banff Avenue is the central hub of the national park. This is where you will find restaurants, resorts and hotels, shops, and tour agencies. Many of the iconic photo spots are located in Banff town - you won’t have to try too hard to get a glimpse of the mountains!

What are the best neighborhoods for food?

The best place for food in Banff is in the Main Street neighbourhood. This area is home to local breweries, amazing bistros, restaurants and shops. For restaurants with mountain views, reserve a table at the Banff Gondola - Sky Bistro or the Juniper Bistro & Hotel. For those who love to check local produce and crafts, plan to visit the Banff Mountain Market, which is held in the summer months in the heart of Banff town.

What are the best neighborhoods for shopping?

Banff Avenue is the Main Street for all things souvenir and essential shopping. Banff Avenue is lined with athletics, fashion, local crafts, and souvenir shops.

What neighborhood should I stay in when I visit Banff?

For quick access to amenities and sightseeing, staying at the main street of Banff is a good idea. During summers, it can be a little expensive to find accommodation inside the National Park. In that case choose to stay in Canmore, which is located 20 minutes outside of Banff or in Calgary - situated 1 hour’s drive away.

Other Sightseeing Options in Banff

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What people are saying about Banff

Overall rating

4.7 / 5

based on 724 reviews

Well worth the money. Brent was a awesome tour guide and it was an epic experience. Definitely recommend doing it while in Calgary/Banff area, and recommend doing the Abseil.

Fair weather, scenic views and first class guide Mackenzie who gave insightful knowledge of the lake and its history.

We still had to get tickets once we got there but our spot was reserved.

Expensive, but worth it. Beautiful view from the top, almost 360°

Thank you Jacob! Such a nice night walk, we loved it!