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Kicking Horse River: Day Trips and Tours from Banff

Acting as a magnet for outdoor adventurers, partying travelers, snow bunnies and nature lovers alike, the majestic Canadian Rockies offer a wealth of unique experiences and unforgettable moments.

More often than not, they'll flock to beautiful Banff — nestled high in the heart of the rugged mountains  — to explore its picturesque trails and vibrant attractions.

Despite the Banff fandom, there's far more to the area than the Albertan ski town than just the slopes. Offering a smorgasbord of activities year-round, from skiing to mountain biking, hiking and kayaking.

Plan a day trip to Kicking Horse River from Banff and take journey through its winding rapids and powerful gorges to experience some of the best white water rafting in North America.

Here's all you need to know about Kicking Horse River, one of the most exciting day trips from Banff.

How to get to Kicking Horse River From Banff?

Kicking Horse River is located near Banff, in the Canadian Rockies. It sits about 125 kilometers directly east of Banff, just across the British Columbia border and right next to the BC town of Golden.

It's roughly a 90-minute drive west of Banff's town center, making it an easy and convenient day trip destination.

From Banff to Kicking Horse River by car

Driving from Banff to Kicking Horse River is the most popular and convenient way to get there. It takes roughly 1.5 hours, depending on traffic. Simply head west along the Trans Canada highway.

Along the way, you'll pass by postcard-worthy landmarks like Lake Louise, Mount Temple, Finn Creek and Faeder Lake. Without exaggerating, this is one of the most scenic drives in North America.

Guided tour to Kicking Horse River From Banff

Ideal for first-time visitors and those short on time, guided tours are a great way to explore the Kicking Horse River. Tour companies offer an array of packages and tailored itineraries, so you can customize your experience according to your needs.

These tours include pickup and drop-off in Banff and the surrounding area, as well as professional guides who can share insightful stories about the local history.

Most tours last around 4-5 hours and involve some sort of adventure activity, such as whitewater rafting.

What is the typical itinerary?

Most Kicking Horse River day trips and tours from Banff start with convenient morning pickup from your Banff hotel or AirBnB. From there, you'll embark on a scenic drive east towards Golden and the Kicking Horse River.

Along the way, you're in for one of the most breathtaking drives of your life. You'll pass by some of the most iconic landmarks and postcard-worthy views in North America, such as the turquoise Lake Louise, with rocky, snow-capped mountains looming in the background.

Once you arrive at Kicking Horse River, your tour guide will provide a brief safety lesson and outfitting for whitewater rafting — the main activity of the day. Then it's time to hit the rapids!

You'll start in Yoho National Park and sail past powerful gorges and deep canyons along Class 1-3 rapids as you make your way down the river, with plenty of chances to spot wildlife along the way.

After about 90 minutes on the water, you'll usually be taken to a nearby lodge to get changed, dry off, warm up and refuel with a selection of seasonal fruits and freshly baked goodies.

Then, depending on your tour, you'll either be taken back to Banff or dropped off in nearby Golden, from where you can make your own way back to Banff.

What kinds of tours are available to go to Kicking Horse River?

There is a handful of tour companies offering day trips and guided tours to Kicking Horse River from Banff, with packages ranging from beginner-friendly to more advanced options.

Most of the excursions revolve around adventure activities like whitewater rafting. While most tours also include pickup and drop-off in Banff, it's important to note that some companies may only offer drop-off in nearby Golden.

Introductory whitewater rafting tour to Kicking Horse River

Suited to beginners, these tours are designed to be comfortable and safe for all kinds of travelers. They usually involve Class I-III rapids that are suitable for all levels of experience, with a focus on scenery and wildlife spotting.

You'll have the chance to learn the basics of whitewater rafting from your knowledgeable guide — no prior experience is required!

Kicking Horse River rafting day trip with BBQ

A great option for visitors who want to spend more time in the water, this tour includes 2.5 hours on the river on Class II to IV rapids.

You'll start upstream at Yoho National Park and float your way downriver while taking in stunning views of snow-capped mountains and wildlife. Afterwards, enjoy a delicious BBQ lunch in the company of your new tour-buddy friends.

Kicking Horse River 'Double Shot Rafting' tour

Suited for daredevils and those seeking an extra adrenaline rush, this tour takes you on not one but TWO wild rides down! After getting your safety briefing and meeting your fellow riders, you'll do two different runs, in two different-sized rafts.

In total, you'll travel 24 kilometers and experience no fewer than 24 rapids along the way!

How much does a day trip to the Kicking Horse River from Banff cost?

The price of a Kicking Horse River day trip from Banff starts at around $120 per person but varies depending on which whitewater rafting package you choose.

An Introductory whitewater rafting tour to Kicking Horse River costs between US$80 and US$100 per person, while a  rafting day trip with BBQ costs around US$140 each.

Finally, a 'Double-Shot Rafting' tour costs around US$170 per person and includes two separate runs in two different boats.

These prices always include rafting gear and safety equipment, a guide, snacks and drinks. However, pickup and drop-off are not always included in the price but may be available at an additional cost.

What will you see and do?

On Banff day trips to Kicking  Horse River, you'll have the chance to experience some of Alberta's wildest rapids and admire spectacular views of snow-capped mountains.

After a brief safety lesson and outfitting for whitewater rafting — the main activity of the day — you'll start your journey in Yoho National Park and make your way downriver.

Depending  on the package you choose, you'll be guided through Class I-IV rapids — from mild to wild!

As well as navigating the river's roaring and swirling waters, you'll have plenty of opportunities to spot wildlife. Keep an eye out for bald eagles, ospreys and other birds of prey soaring above the canyon walls while your guide points out the area's diverse flora and fauna.

Some tours also include a delicious BBQ lunch at the riverside, giving you time to relax and take in your surroundings.

Not to be forgotten are the wonderful sights passed en route to Kicking Horse River from Banff. As one of the world's most beautiful drives, the scenic highway takes you through dense forests, open meadows and along the shore of picturesque Lake Louise.

When is the best time to visit Kicking Horse River?

The best time to visit Kicking Horse River is in the summer months, from late May until early September. Temperatures are warmest and perfect for outdoor activities, making it an ideal time for whitewater rafting trips.

Travel tips

  • Book your trip to Kicking Horse River in advance to make sure you get a spot.
  • Bring plenty of water and wear waterproof sunscreen.
  • Wear comfortable clothes that can get wet — and bring a change of clothes for after as well.
  • Don't forget to double-check whether or not hotel pickup is included in your package. If not, you can usually call or email your tour provider to arrange it.

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