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Grizzly Bear Refuge: Day Trips and Tours from Banff

An outdoor adventure paradise flanked by towering mountains and welcoming thousands of curious travelers each year, Banff National Park is one of Canada’s most beloved destinations. While its popularity makes it a great place to find friends and have fun, there are also some hidden gems nearby.

One such best-kept secret is the Grizzly Bear Refuge – an incredible sanctuary that gives visitors a chance to observe these majestic creatures in their natural habitat. Combining entertainment with education in an animal-friendly way, this destination serves as a must-do for animal lovers and nature enthusiasts alike.

Join a Grizzly Bear Refuge guided tour from Banff to learn about the bears' history, habits, and conservation efforts, all while enjoying the breathtaking natural scenery.

Here's all you need to know about the Grizzly Bear Refuge, one of the most exciting day trips from Banff.

How to get to Grizzly Bear Refuge From Banff?

The Grizzly Bear Refuge is located in the Kicking Horse Mountain Resort, near Golden, British Columbia. You can reach the refuge by taking a scenic gondola ride up the mountain to the top — providing one of the most picturesque vistas in western Canada.

From Banff to Grizzly Bear Refuge by car

To get to the Grizzly Bear Refuge from Banff by car, you'll need to drive west on the Trans-Canada Highway for about 100 kilometers (62 miles) to reach the Kicking Horse Mountain Resort. Once you arrive, you can take a scenic gondola ride to the top of the mountain where the refuge is located. The drive takes about 1.5 hours and offers stunning views of the Canadian Rockies and Lake Louise along the way.

From Banff to Grizzly Bear Refuge by public transport

To get to the Grizzly Bear Refuge from Banff using public transport, visitors can take the Parks Canada shuttle to Lake Louise, followed by a private shuttle service to the refuge. The shuttle runs from mid-May to mid-October and reservations are recommended.

Alternatively, you can take the RiderExpress bus from Banff to Golden, which takes about 1 hour and 45 minutes, and then jump in a local taxi or ride-share service for 15 minutes to reach the refuge.

Guided tour to Grizzly Bear Refuge from Banff

The most popular and convenient option, a guided tour to the Grizzly Bear Refuge in Canada offers visitors a unique opportunity to observe these majestic creatures in their natural habitat.

With all the logistics taken care of for you, including accommodation pickup in Banff, a knowledgeable tour guide will show you the best spots for wildlife viewing and provide insight into the local flora and fauna of this unique environment. It’s an unforgettable experience to observe Grizzlies in their natural habitat, all while learning about conservation efforts to protect these animals from extinction, as well as the critical role they play in the ecosystem.

How much does the entrance ticket to Grizzly Bear Refuge cost?

The entry fee for the Grizzly Bear Refuge ranges from CAD$35 to CAD$75 (US$25 to US$55) per person.

General Bear Refuge tickets cost CA$35 (US$25) for adults, CA$30 (US$22) for teenagers (13-17) and seniors (65+) and CA$18 (US$13) for children. Family tickets cost CA$80 (US$58) for 2 adults and up to 4 kids.

Alternatively, you can also take part in the Ranger Assist Program, designed for those who want to have a more personal encounter with Boo the bear. The prices are CA$74 (US$54) for adults, CA$63 (US$45) for teenagers and seniors, CA$37 (US$27) for children and CA$170 (US$123) for families (2 adults and 2 children).

Finally, the Adventure Pass (sightseeing & Grizzly Bear Refuge) costs CA$53 (US$38) for adults, CA$45 (US$32) for teenagers and seniors, CA$27 (US$20) for children and CA$121 (US$88) for families (2 adults and 2 children).

What is the typical itinerary?

Every tour to the Grizzly Bear Refuge is unique — depending on your tour operator, you might make different stops along the way. However, since the Grizzly Bear Refuge is located at the Kicking Horse Mountain Resort, a 2-hour drive from Banff, most Banff day trips follow a similar itinerary.

Generally, day trips start with convenient pickup from your accommodation in Banff. After meeting your driver and tour guide, you’ll spend the morning driving towards the Kicking Horse Mountain Resort — often with a stop at Takakkaw Falls on the way — before taking a scenic gondola ride up to the refuge.

Once at the top of the mountain, at a height of 2,345 meters (7,700 feet), you'll have a chance to observe and learn about grizzly bears in their natural habitat. Here is usually where you'll also enjoy a hearty lunch at the Eagle's Eye Restaurant, Canada’s highest eatery.

After coming back down the mountain, you'll have time to explore the Grizzly Bear Refuge's fascinating exhibits. From there, you'll make your way back to Banff, stopping at enchanting natural attractions like Emerald Lake along the way. With transport included, Grizzly Bear Refuge Day Trips from Banff typically last around 10 hours.

What kinds of tours are available to go to Grizzly Bear Refuge?

There are several kinds of guided tours available to the Grizzly Bear Refuge. Here’s a quick look at the various tours that you can choose.

Grizzly Bear Refuge tour with lunch

With knowledgeable guides, visitors can learn about the biology and behavior of grizzly bears while respecting their space, as well as their feeding habits and the conservation efforts to protect these majestic, misunderstood creatures.

Tours typically include transportation, admission to the refuge and a guided walking tour. Some tours also offer the chance to see other wildlife, such as elk and bighorn sheep.

The tour also includes a visit to the interpretive center and lunch for a complete day out. On most of these tours, you'll also have Lunch at Eagle's Eye Restaurant, take a gondola ride up the mountain at Kicking Horse and visit fascinating natural landmarks like Emerald Lake, Takakkaw Falls and the Spiral Tunnels throughout the day.

How much does a day trip to the Grizzly Bear Refuge from Banff cost?

The cost of a guided Grizzly Bear Refuge tour starts at around US$180 per person but depends on the type of tour that you choose. Private tours will naturally cost a bit more and you can expect to pay US$200 to US$250 per person.

What will you see and do?

At the grizzly bear refuge in Canada, you can witness the majestic grizzly bears in their natural habitat. The 20-acre refuge is home to several rescued grizzlies who cannot survive in the wild due to injury or abandonment.

During a guided tour, you'll have the rare opportunity to observe the bears roaming, foraging and playing in their natural environment while learning about their behavior, diet and habitat from the expert staff. You'll also get a chance to listen to the caretakers' stories about each bear's unique history and the challenges they faced in the wild.

The refuge's resident grizzly bear, Boo, is a main attraction, having walked these fields for close to two decades. The massive creature can often be seen foraging and playing in his natural habitat.

Additionally, a day trip to the refuge offers a chance to explore the beautiful alpine landscape of Banff National Park, as it is located within the park's boundaries. Along the way, you'll be greeted by scenic vistas of the Rocky Mountains — especially from the scenic Banff Gondola — and possibly spot other wildlife, such as elk, deer, and even the occasional moose.

Takakkaw Falls is a popular stopover and the magnificent Emerald Lake is also worth visiting. Sitting in the northern half of Yoho Park, the former is famous for being one of the tallest waterfalls in Canada, at a whopping 254 meters (833 feet). The latter, meanwhile, is known for its stunningly vibrant turquoise waters surrounded by lush forest and snow-capped peaks.

What are the opening times?

The opening times of the grizzly bear refuge in Canada depend on the season. During the summer months, from May to September, the refuge is usually open daily from 8:30 AM to 6 PM.

The refuge is usually closed during the winter months, from October to April. It's important to check the specific opening times before planning a visit to the refuge to ensure that it's open during the desired time of the year, since hours change.

When is the best time to visit Grizzly Bear Refuge?

The best time to visit the grizzly bear refuge in Canada is during summer, from May to September. During this period, the bears are more active and visitors have a higher chance of spotting them.

However, it is important to note that the peak tourist season falls in July and August, and it may get crowded during this time.

As for time of day, it’s recommended to start early in the morning so that you can make the most of your day trip from Banff.

Travel tips

  • Wear comfortable and sturdy shoes for walking on uneven terrain.
  • Dress in layers as the temperature can vary throughout the day, especially as you head up the gondola.
  • Book your tour online and in advance, as this popular activity can sell out quickly.
  • Keep in mind that grizzly bears are wild animals, so it's important to follow safety guidelines and instructions from the refuge staff.