Choose from 23 Fun Things to Do in Banff
- Moraine Lake is a must-see for photographers and appreciators of natural beauty.
- Wear sturdy shoes, as the lakeside trail can be uneven.
- Bring warm clothes. Even on pleasant summer days, weather patterns here are unpredictable and can change rapidly.
- Visitors who hike one way and ride the gondola the other way still have to pay for a round-trip ticket.
- It can be cold at the summit station, even in summer, so bring extra layers.
- The Banff Gondola is accessible to wheelchair users.
Alberta’s stunning Rocky Mountains are one of the biggest attractions in the province. Protected by Banff and Jasper National Parks, the Canadian Rockies run along the border of British Columbia and Alberta through a landscape of glaciers, snow-capped mountain peaks, hot springs, and turquoise lakes.
Outdoor adventure is the name of the game in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. The menu of activities is extensive; you can take a bus tour along the Icefields Parkway to tour the Columbia Icefield, go whitewater rafting on the Fraser River, embark on a guided hike through the alpine wilderness of Banff National Park, walk above the Athabasca Glacier on the glass-floored Glacier Skywalk, or sit back and enjoy the twists and turns of the roads from the seat of a sidecar.
Things to Know Before You Go
- The Rocky Mountains are a must-visit for nature lovers and outdoor adventurers.
- Wear comfortable hiking shoes suitable for traversing uneven surfaces.
- Dress in layers; the weather in the Rockies can be unpredictable.
- Cellphone reception outside of towns can be unreliable.
- Rocky Mountains tours typically include pickup and drop-off in Banff or Jasper.
How to Get There
The commercial airport closest to the Canadian Rockies is Edmonton International Airport, about four hours from Jasper. The easiest way to explore the region is by renting a car and driving, but you can also opt for day tours from Banff or Jasper.
When to Get There
While the Canadian Rockies are a four-season destination, winters are long and chilly (perfect for winter adventures), with snow covering the ground well into April and even May. Late June to mid September is the best season for hiking, and crowds begin to thin out in September and October. Expect crowds during the Lake Louise Ice Magic Festival (January) and the Calgary Stampede (July).
Visiting Canadian National Parks
Like their U.S. counterparts, national parks in Canada require an entrance fee paid at the park gate or visitor center. If you’re planning to visit multiple parks in the Rockies, like Banff National Park, Jasper National Park, Waterton Lakes National Park, Kootenay National Park, or Yoho National Park, consider a Parks Canada Discovery Pass, an annual pass that gets you into any of Canada’s national parks, marine conservation areas, and historic sites.
Banff National Park is one of two parks protecting Alberta’s Rocky Mountains bordering British Columbia; the other park is Jasper.
You’ll see some of the most astounding landscapes on the planet in Banff National Park: snowcapped mountains, huge river valleys, alpine forests, ludicrously blue lakes and charming mountain hamlets.
Covering 6,641 square km (2,564 square miles), Banff was the first national park to be declared in Canada, focusing on the area’s famous thermal hot springs.
Most visitors come to Banff National Park for the legendary skiing, spectacular views and peerless rock climbing and hiking. The park has information centers in Banff, Lake Louise and Upper Hot Springs.
Banff National Park is crossed by the Icefields Parkway (Highway 93), linking Lake Louise in the south with Jasper in the north.
Hire a car to come here, take an organized tour, catch a bus from Calgary or ride the sightseeing train between Banff and Vancouver.
- The elevation of Lake Louise is 5,740 feet (1,750 meters), while Banff is at 4,540 feet (1,384 meters); drink plenty of water to stay hydrated at the high altitudes.
- Some short trails in the area provide wheelchair accessibility, such as the Banff Legacy Trail and Bow Riverside Trail.
- The area’s public shuttles are not wheelchair accessible.
- A Park Pass is required to enter Banff National Park and to travel on the scenic parkways such as the Icefields Parkway; this requirement is covered in most tours.
- It can be cold and windy near the glacier, so wear warm layers.
- Pay heed to warning tape, which is designed to keep visitors away from dangerous crevasses.
- Bring an empty bottle or cup to fill up with fresh, glacial water.
- The Icefield Centre is accessible to wheelchair users, and the Ice Explorer fleet includes vehicles equipped to carry wheelchairs.