Johnston Canyon is one of the most breathtaking and popular areas in Banff National Park. With two stunning waterfalls located in the gorge, it’s a bustling hiking spot in the summer. But winter provides an entirely unique experience, with the chance to go on an ice-walking adventure.
Join a guided ice walk where your guide will take you along steel walkways to admire the waterfalls frozen in time. You’ll discover more about the history and geology of the region, while standing in awe of the wintry wonderland.
If you’re concerned about walking on icy paths, fear not. You’ll be provided with ice cleats and a hiking pole for stability, and your guide will ensure the group remains secure and comfortable. You’ll even get to enjoy a cup of hot chocolate at the end! For an even more spectacular experience, you can do an ice walk in the evening and see the ice lit up at night.
For unbeatable views with minimal effort, take the Banff Gondola ride to the top of Sulphur Mountain. The cable car travels over 600 meters in 8 minutes, leading you to panoramic vistas of the Bow Valley. You can see six different mountain ranges from here, giving you a whole new appreciation for the majesty of the Banff region.
From the building at the summit, you can explore more of the mountain along several trails and a boardwalk leading to Sanson’s Peak, where you can see the Sulphur Mountain Cosmic Ray Station, a National Historic Site.
The summit building is an experience in itself, replete with fascinating exhibitions, a 360-degree observation deck and delicious restaurants. Kids can embark on a journey of discovery with interactive games, making this an outing for the whole family.
Spanning over 6,000 square kilometers, Banff National Park is filled with unparalleled natural sights, from its mountains to its wildlife. But the most iconic part of this haven is arguably its turquoise glacial lakes, and Lake Louise in particular.
Nestled between jagged peaks, Lake Louise is one of the park’s most serene locales and has attracted visitors for decades. While it melts by May, the hiking season kicks off in June, where you can experience some of the best trails with breathtaking views of the lake.
On a guided tour of Lake Louise, you can also visit Moraine Lake, idyllically situated in the Valley of Ten Peaks. Not to be missed is Lake Minnewanka. Its shores have been inhabited since thousands of years ago, leading to archeological findings, and it’s in fact home to a submerged village that can seen on a scuba dive.
See Banff National Park from a unique vantage point with a horseback riding tour along the Bow River. Saddle up and learn some techniques from your guide before setting off on the trail. On a 1-hour tour, you can visit the Cave and Basin hot springs, a National Historic Site and where the park was first established.
If you’re visiting in winter, why not enjoy a sleigh ride? Perfect for couples and families, these horse-driven sleigh rides will be a magical highlight of any trip to Banff. Admire views of Mount Rundle and Cascade Mountain as your guide regales you with tales of the region.
Those looking for a more immersive adventure can opt for a 2-day horse ride through the park, trotting alongside the river where you can enjoy lunch. Spend the evening in a warm and cozy lodge before returning with your trusted steed.
If you’re looking for the ultimate Canadian road trip, this is it. The Icefield Parkway is considered one of the most beautiful drives in the world, running over 200 kilometers from Lake Louise to Jasper.
Pass by the region’s most scenic offerings, from rocky mountains to glittering lakes and catch glimpses of wildlife. If you want to focus on sightseeing, opt for a tour where the driving is taken care of for you. Many Icefield Parkway tours travel halfway down the route, and make a stop at Athabasca Glacier, the most-visited glacier in North America.
You’ll drive on the ancient ice sheet, while your guide shares details about its history. Feel the cool ice beneath your hands, and even take a sip of the pure water. Then, walk along the Columbia Icefield Skywalk, which spans 1 kilometer and towers above the ground at 900 feet. Gaze beneath the glass to admire the phenomenal valley below.
Go on a thrilling journey down the Kicking Horse River, on one of the best whitewater rafting tours in the Canadian Rockies. Tackle the rapids and immerse yourself right in the wild side of Banff.
Whether you’re a novice rafter or a more experienced adventurer, there are numerous rafting tours to suit every level of skill. For an exciting introduction, hit the Class 1 and 3 rapids while learning more about the Kicking Horse River. Adrenaline junkies can raft on Class 2 and 4 rapids, tackling famous ones like Shotgun and Portage.
After your heart-pumping journey, relax back at the base and enjoy a warm beverage. Some tours even combine your excursion with a BBQ lunch, a welcome feast after working up an appetite. Rafting tours will provide you with the relevant gear, including wetsuits, booties, life jackets and helmets to ensure your safety and comfort on the river.
Teeming with bears, elk and bighorn sheep, Banff National Park is one of Canada’s most abundant wildernesses. For a chance to glimpse these majestic creatures, embark on a wildlife tour. With excursions operating in both summer and winter, you’ll have the opportunity to discover Banff’s natural beauty no matter the season.
On your tour, you’ll see some of Banff’s most scenic spots, including Lake Minnewanka, Bow Falls, Surprise Corner and Hoodoos Lookout. Your guide will share fascinating insight into the ecology and history of the region, and provide details on the habitats and behaviors of the animals.
If you want to combine your wildlife watching with an adventure, opt for a canoeing tour on the Bow River. Paddle your way down the waters while keeping your eyes peeled on the shore. In the water, you may even meet some of the resident beavers.
One of the best ways to fully immerse yourself in Banff’s beauty is to go exploring on foot. On a Banff National Park hiking tour, you can go off the beaten path and discover the heart of Canada’s first national park. With numerous hiking trails to choose from, walking in the park is suitable for people of all levels of experience and ability.
Go on one of Canada’s most beautiful hikes through Sunshine Meadows, an area replete with lakes and summer flowers. Covering 12 kilometers roundtrip, you can reach the trail easily with the help of a gondola.
If you’re looking to see more in less time, you can combine your hiking experience with a biking tour. Hop on an e-bike and journey through the region toward Johnston Canyon, where you can enjoy a guided walk to the falls. Alternatively, take a bike tour along the Bow River and go hiking in Sundance Canyon.
Experience Banff from a unique perspective on a big canoeing tour on the Bow River. With your life jacket and paddle, hop aboard a 12-seater canoe and embark on a serene journey along the waters, traveling deeper into the mountains where hiking trails don’t go.
These canoe tours are suitable for anyone to join, with no previous experience necessary. As you glide through the waterways, your guide will provide you with insight into the natural and cultural heritage of the Banff region.
Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife as ospreys and eagles soar above, and elk and deer hide among the trees along the river banks. At the end, you can enjoy a light refreshment as you recount your sightings. This is an ideal activity for the whole family to enjoy and discover Banff’s splendor from the water.
To see even more of Canada’s natural abundance, take a multi-day tour from Banff through the Rocky Mountains. Starting in Banff National Park, see its top attractions from Lake Louise to Crowfoot Glacier. Then, travel down the Icefield Parkway to Jasper National Park.
In Jasper, you can embark on a scenic hike through Maligne Canyon and explore more of the town. On a 3-day tour, you’ll journey back to Banff and stop by Athabasca Falls and search for mountain goats at the Goats and Glacier Lookout.
You can extend the journey to last 6 days, giving you more time in both Jasper and Banff. You’ll continue the tour from Jasper to Yoho National Park, where you can stand in awe of Takakkaw Falls, the second highest in Canada. Travel from Kelowna to the end of your tour in Vancouver, stopping at lakes and an Indigenous heritage site along the way.
Few towns are located in national parks, which is what makes Banff such a unique and thrilling destination. Situated in Banff National Park, this resort town is the ideal jumping-off point for a range of outdoor activities and experiences.
With the Bow River running through it and the Rocky Mountains towering above, Banff appeals to wilderness enthusiasts, adventurers and those seeking a tranquil escape from the city. It’s the highest town in Canada with less than 10,000 residents, but it attracts up to 4 million visitors every year seeking to discover the beauty of its park.
Banff can be visited year-round, with the summer months beckoning hikers and campers, and the winter months offering ideal conditions for skiers and snowboarders. Be aware that you may encounter wildlife within the town, from elk to bears, so it’s important to follow guidelines for behaving safely and responsibly.
An important thing to note about Banff is that you are required to purchase a National Park Pass if you plan on visiting or staying there since it forms part of a national park. You can purchase this either online or at the gate upon arrival.
Banff is located a 1.5-hour drive from Calgary, making it easy to reach after a flight that lands at Calgary International Airport. While you can rent a car to explore the town and park at your own pace, some roads may be closed to personal vehicles. Instead, there is an efficient bus system that covers the region as well as hop-on hop-off bus tours.
Numerous accommodation options are available, ranging from camping under the stars within the park to luxurious 4-star hotels equipped with spas and restaurants, and everything in between. Temperatures can fluctuate in Banff, and even the summer months can get chilly. Make sure to pack layers for any season, as well as sunscreen, a hat and sunglasses.
With so much to see and do in Banff, you can fill up your days traveling across the expansive park and still only see a handful of sights. Must-see locations include Lake Louise and Johnston Canyon, and the Banff Gondola provides an excellent way of seeing the park if you’re short on time.
If you’re looking for some lesser-known experiences, opt for a walking tour in Banff town, where you can learn more about history or even ghostly legends. Alternatively, go for an evening of stargazing in the national park with a professional guide.
To get closer to wildlife, go on a day trip from Banff to the Grizzly Bear Refuge, where you can meet their resident bear, Boo. For a spot of culture, enjoy a food tour at the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, a National Historic Site.