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Things to do in Banff

Things to do in  Banff

Welcome to Banff

Nestled among the soaring peaks and pines of Banff National Park in Canada, the town of Banff is an ideal base from which to explore the mighty Rockies. With Calgary 85 miles (136 kilometers) to the east and the shimmering waters of UNESCO–listed Lake Louise 36 miles (58 kilometers) to the west, Banff is a beautiful slice of Alberta. You can take in sweeping views from the Banff Gondola at Sulphur Mountain, and be on the lookout for hoodoos (tall pillars of rock_. Outdoor adventure is the name of the game, and visitors can see the sights on a guided bus tour with narrated highlights, or enjoy active pursuits ranging from horseback riding to kayaking. If you’re visiting Banff in search of adrenaline-pumping thrills, hit Kicking Horse River on a white-water rafting trip. The river swells in the summer months, providing challenging currents and exhilarating class IV and up rapids—some tours end in a barbecue lunch. Alternatively, take to the skies on a sightseeing helicopter flight for uninterrupted views over the snowy peaks of the Rocky Mountains, or tackle the heights on a via ferrata tour, in which fixed iron ropes assist climbers of all abilities. Animal lovers can trek by horseback along rugged trails through the wilderness; or spot native bears, elk, and moose on a dusk wildlife safari.

Top 15 attractions in Banff

#1
Bow Falls

Bow Falls

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Dropping off a 30-foot (9-meter ledge, Bow Falls is not particularly high though it is powerful, with the strong flow creating a dramatic frothy torrent. Easy trails along the Bow River lead to scenic viewpoints from where the falls can be observed, with the glacier-carved valley and the Canadian Rockies visible in the background.More
#2
Moraine Lake

Moraine Lake

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Hemmed in by the dramatic Valley of the Ten Peaks, Banff National Park’s glacier-fed Moraine Lake is renowned for its bright blue-green waters. The surreally vivid color results from light refracting off of tiny glacial rock particles. Stunning Lake Moraine was famously featured on the back of Canada’s $20 bill between 1969 and 1979.More
#3
Banff National Park

Banff National Park

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Within the boundaries of Banff National Park lie some of the world’s most spectacular landscapes. The park, which showcases Canada’s Rocky Mountains in all their glory, offers world-class skiing, hiking, biking, and outdoor attractions. It’s a year-round haven for day-trippers from nearby Calgary and for international visitors galore.More
#4
Yoho National Park

Yoho National Park

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The unofficial slogan for UNESCO World Heritage–listed Yoho National Park, “rock walls and waterfalls,” aptly describes the stunning Canadian Rockies scenery here. Yoho in the indigenous Cree language may not be as descriptive, but it’s more fitting—as an expression of wonder and awe, it can roughly be translated as, “Wow!”More
#5
Columbia Icefield Skywalk

Columbia Icefield Skywalk

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Jutting out from the side of a Jasper National Park cliff, the elevated, glass-bottomed Columbia Icefield Skywalk, also known as Glacier Skywalk, is an exhilarating—if somewhat unnerving—way to experience the epic, untouched landscapes of the Canadian Rockies. From this vantage point, the view of the park’s ice-hatted peaks and glacial valleys is nothing short of spectacular.More
#6
Crowfoot Glacier

Crowfoot Glacier

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Early explorers named the glacier Crowfoot because its three sections of ice looked like a crow’s foot on the mountain. While one of the three “toes” has now receded and disappeared, the glacier is no less spectacular. The Crowfoot Glacier sits above Bow Lake, providing stunning photo opportunities for those traveling the Icefields Parkway.More
#7
Icefields Parkway (Highway 93)

Icefields Parkway (Highway 93)

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Every twist and turn of the spectacular 143-mile (230-kilometer) Icefields Parkway (Highway 93) reveals cloud-piercing peaks, valley-carving glaciers, teal lakes, and dense forests. Running from Jasper to Lake Louise, this scenic Alberta drive offers stunning views of the Canadian Rockies, with lots of roadside lookouts and trailheads along the way.More
#8
Bow River

Bow River

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What starts out as meltwater from the Bow Glacier in Banff National Park turns into the stunning turquoise-colored Bow River, which winds steadily through the Canadian Rockies and the outdoor and adventure towns of Banff and Canmore. The Bow River provides a natural habitat for wildlife and several species of trout, as well as many opportunities for hiking, paddling, and fishing.More
#9
Lake Minnewanka

Lake Minnewanka

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Just outside of Banff, Lake Minnewanka is everything a mountain lake should be: crystal clear, glacier fed, and surrounded by alpine forests and imposing peaks. A visit to Lake Minnewanka is a perfect introduction to the beautiful Canadian Rockies. It’s also the only lake in Banff National Park that allows privately operated motorboats.More
#10
Bow Lake

Bow Lake

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Bow Lake in the Canadian Rockies is one of the smaller lakes in Banff National Park. It is the source of the Bow River and lies along part of the Great Continental Divide, which creates the border between Alberta and British Columbia. As with all of the lakes lining the Icefields Parkway in Banff National Park and Jasper National Park, Bow Lake boasts spectacularly colored water and top-notch mountain scenery. One of the most interesting features of these Rocky Mountain Lakes is their differences in color. Some are green, some are bright blue, and sometimes (after a major rain) some of them are brownish. The lake’s colors might even change with the weather. As you continue north along the Icefields Parkway, you will have several different views of the bright-blue waters of Bow Lake, as it lies quite close to the highway. The lake is a great place for a picnic and a stroll, and is especially beautiful at sunrise when the sun shines off of the water and Crowfoot Mountain.More
#11
Sulphur Mountain

Sulphur Mountain

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Named after its gushing thermal springs, Sulphur Mountain rises to a height of 8,041 feet (2,450 meters), towering over the town of Banff and Bow Valley. Banff Upper Hot Springs sit on its lower slopes, while the Banff Gondola carries you up to the summit ridge for views out across the peaks of the Canadian Rockies.More
#12
Peyto Lake

Peyto Lake

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When you first see Peyto Lake, nestled in the Canadian Rockies of Alberta, the striking blue color of the water will astound you. The hue is thanks to the geologic makeup of the silt (“rock flour”) that mixes with the runoff from nearby Peyto Glacier. Take in the spectacular view from the Bow Summit or hike in for a closer look.More
#13
Johnston Canyon

Johnston Canyon

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The jewel-blue water of Johnston Creek streams through the sheer-sided canyon, foaming white as it careens down waterfalls into pools below. A well-maintained trail—including a cliff-affixed walkway with incredible views—makes Johnston Canyon one of Banff National Park’s most accessible and beloved day hikes.More
#14
Spiral Tunnels

Spiral Tunnels

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An outstanding feat of engineering, the Spiral Tunnels in Yoho National Park were the ingenious early–20th-century solution to climbing or descending the impossibly steep 4.5-percent grade to cross Kicking Horse Pass by rail. Watch long freight trains cross themselves as they travel the tunnels in different directions at the same time.More
#15
Tunnel Mountain Drive

Tunnel Mountain Drive

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This short scenic drive starts just outside the town of Banff and provides access to several popular trails and scenic viewpoints. This is where you’ll find Surprise Corner, that picture-perfect postcard view of the historic Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel. Even though the drive is just outside the city limits, it’s not uncommon to spy elk, deer, and the occasional bear on the route.More

Trip ideas

How to Spend 1 Day in Banff

How to Spend 1 Day in Banff

How to Spend 2 Days in Banff

How to Spend 2 Days in Banff

Top activities in Banff

Banff Gondola Ride Admission

Banff Gondola Ride Admission

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US$57,51
Lake Louise and the Icefields Parkway - Full-Day Tour
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Evening Wildlife Safari
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Evening Wildlife Safari

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US$49,59
Private Tour of Lake Louise and the Icefield Parkway for up to 12 guests
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1 Hour Bow River Ride

1 Hour Bow River Ride

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US$70,10
Hop-On and Hop-Off Banff Bus

Hop-On and Hop-Off Banff Bus

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US$59,26
1 Hour Spray River Ride

1 Hour Spray River Ride

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US$76,08
Covered Wagon or Horseback Ride in Banff with Western Cookout
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Athabasca Glacier Snow Trip from Banff
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Banff National Park Guided Hike with Lunch
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Operators have paid Viator more to have their experiences featured here

Recent reviews from experiences in Banff

star-5
Fun family excursion!
Michael_O, Jul 2022
Evening Wildlife Safari
We were able to see several animals and cool sites around Banff.
star-5
Well worth it!!
Marie_W, Jun 2022
Lake Louise and the Icefields Parkway - Full-Day Tour
Lovely relaxing way to see the beautiful scenery of Banff, our guide was very knowledgeable and gave us plenty of relevant and interesting information.
star-5
Lovely Lake Louise
Angela_S, Apr 2022
Discover Lake Louise (Spring & Fall Sightseeing)
A stunning place even in winter, the lake was frozen but you were able to walk across it, wonderful to have Andrew "The Oracle" as our guide again, a fountain of knowledge, and we saw a female moose and her calf on the journey back to Banff 🦌
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Nature up close
Angela_S, Apr 2022
Evening Wildlife Safari
Told some great stories and we got to see wildlife even before we left Banff town.
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Enjoyable tour
Tricia_B, Mar 2022
Winter Tour: Banff and Its Wildlife
We did get to see some wildlife and all the information about Banff and all the sites we saw was great.
star-5
Fantastic trip with an incredible guide. Thumbs up!
Anita_B, Jul 2022
Banff National Park Tour with Lake Louise and Moraine Lake
He gave us a lot of information about the park and lakes, bears in the area, what was going on in Banff, other worthwhile places to visit, and basically anything that could be interesting to the group.
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A Perfect Tour of Banff
Douglas_W, May 2022
Banff Area 1-Day Tour from Calgary or Banff
We rode a gondola to the top of the mountain, saw elk and waterfalls, shopped in downtown Banff, and hiked the most beautiful trail along a river to a waterfall.
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A Wonderful Day exploring!
Christopher_B, May 2022
Lake Louise and the Icefields Parkway - Full-Day Tour
We got to see Bow Falls, The Hoodoos, Lake Minnewanka, Surprise corner, Lake Louise, Emerald Lake, Kicking Horse river, the Natural Bridge etc.
star-5
Storrm.. the Private tour Guide to use when in Banff!
Lorene_D, May 2022
Full Day Private Tour Banff
We never got to use the snorkel on his car as April is in between Summer and Winter and much was still frozen over.
star-5
Dale/Radventure is awesome
Kayla_D, Feb 2022
Full Day Adventure Tour | Banff, Lake Louise & Johnston Canyon | Winter
Lots of freedom to make additional stops and tones of information about local sights and attractions.
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Beautiful darkness with diamonds on a sky
yuki_o, Feb 2022
Banff Sunsets & Stargazing Tour - Headlamp Included
It’s recommended to dress up as warm as possible and wear a mitten with a heat pad for a cold winter as Feb.
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Must do hike in winter!
Elizabeth_C, Feb 2022
Yoho National Park Waterfalls & Lakes | Small Group Active Full Day Adventure
It was an amazing activity to do in winter.
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We really appreciated our...
Jeanric_B, Apr 2022
Evening Wildlife Safari
He also knew great spots to see animals.
star-5
This tour is worth the...
Armando_A, Dec 2021
Banff Area 1-Day Tour from Calgary or Banff
You get to see the best of Banff in 1 day!
star-5
Beautiful!
Andrew_S, Aug 2021
Lake Louise & Yoho N.P & Moraine Lake 1-Day Tour from Calgary or Banff
Beautiful and easy way to see some of the top attractions in Yoho NP and Banff NP.
star-5
the best lakes tour
Lourdes_H, Aug 2021
Lake Louise, Moraine Lake & Emerald Lake Yoho Day Tour
He speaks english very well.
star-5
You want to take this tour!
Jamieson_D, Aug 2021
Lake Louise & Yoho N.P & Moraine Lake 1-Day Tour from Calgary or Banff
It took us to all the main lake attractions in Banff along with a few other hidden hens.
star-5
Must do !
Brian_K, Aug 2021
Discover Grizzly Bears from Banff
Lots to see and discover ..
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Exercise & relax @ same as sightseeing
Dwight_S, Jul 2021
eBike and Hike Banff to Johnston Canyon small group guided program
A great way to see hidden treasures of the Banff area & get just enough moderate exercise for a relaxing vacation.
star-5
A fun evening out
Angela_R, Sep 2020
Banff Ghost Walks
It was a great way to see a different side of Banff.
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All about Banff

When to visit

Located amid the snowcapped peaks and extraordinary scenery of the Canadian Rockies, the town of Banff (and the UNESCO-listed national park of the same name) number among Canada’s top ski and snow destinations. That said, Banff is also popular among summer hikers and outdoorsy types.

Time Zone
MDT (UTC -7)

People Also Ask

What is Banff known for?

The town of Banff is known for its eponymous national park—the first in Canada. It’s also known for its surreal landscapes where neon-blue lakes sit beneath high, rugged peaks and forests sprout up amongst glaciers.

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How many days do you need in Banff?

You’ll want at least three full days—though four or five is better. You’ll want to time everything right with the crowds. Spend a day at Lake Louise; try to catch sunrise at Moraine Lake, explore the town of Banff; take a scenic drive along Icefields Parkway; and ride Banff Gondola.

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What is the best month to visit Banff?

For the absolute best weather, July is your safest bet—June and August are popular, too. If you’re a powderhound or a snowshoer, book your trip for January or Febuary when winter buries Banff’s landscapes in layers and layers of white.

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What is there to do in Banff besides hike?

Even non-hikers will find plenty to do in Banff. Explore the town, watch sunset at Vermilion Lakes, ride the Banff Gondola, drive the scenic Icefields Parkway, take a picnic at Lake Louise, admire views from the Fairmont Banff Springs hotel, and watch for grizzly bears on Bow Valley Parkway.

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What is there to do in Banff for families?

Banff has family-friendly hiking trails, but beyond exploring on foot, try these ideas: Explore the Lake Louise area on a dogsled tour, ride the Banff Gondola, check out the Cave and Basin National Historic Site, stroll through the town of Banff—for restaurants, museums, and more—or canoe on the region’s lakes.

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Is Banff expensive to visit?

Yes. Many consider Banff to be Canada’s most expensive destination. If you visit in summer (June–Aug.), you’ll run into high-season pricing for lodging, tours, and dining. When prices fall (Sep.–May), you can get deals, and not just at hotels. It depends on how (and when) you prefer to travel.

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