Has Banff National Park been on your bucket list?. There are so many wonderful things to do in Banff National Park Canada that will keep you busy. We started our Alberta road trip in Jasper, Alberta before driving the Icefields Parkway and making our way to Banff. You can check out my exact four-day itinerary in Jasper, Alberta.
Banff National Park is Canada’s oldest national park that was established in 1885. Banff National Park is located in Alberta’s Rocky Mountains. Banff encompasses 6,641 square kilometers of mountainous terrain. It is famous for its turquoise-colored lakes, majestic mountains, and endless activities.
Banff Canada may be a small town, but don’t let that fool you. This little town attracts approximately 4 million visitors every year. Love the mountains as much as I do? Check out these Inspirational Quotes about the Mountains.
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HEADING TO ALBERTA? CHECK OUT THESE POSTS TO HELP YOU PLAN YOUR TRIP:
Things to Do In Jasper National Park in the Summer
Four Day Jasper National Park Itinerary
How to Get to Banff National Park Canada
The fastest way to get to Banff National Park is to fly into Calgary International Airport then make the drive from Calgary to Banff National Park. You should spend some time in Calgary before or after your Banff trip as there are wonderful things to do in Calgary in the winter as well as the summer. We flew into Edmonton International Airport as our first stop was Jasper National Park. The drive from Jasper National Park to Banff National Park is approximately 3 hours, with many great stops along the way.
The easiest way to get to Banff National Park Canada from the airport is to rent a car and drive. You can also take a shuttle service or a bus. The drive is relatively easy, especially in the summer months. I personally love driving around a new location trying to find all the hidden gems.
If you would rather not drive and arrive from Calgary, you can book a bus transfer between Calgary International airport and Banff.
Where is Banff National Park Canada
Banff National Park is approximately a 1 hour and 30-minute drive from Calgary, Alberta. Banff National Park is located in the Rocky Mountains on Alberta’s western border with British Columbia in the Alberta Mountain forests ecoregion. By road, the town of Banff is 128 kilometers (80 mi) west of Calgary and 401 km (249 mi) southwest of Edmonton.
Banff National Park Canada Park Pass
When you visit Banff National Park, you will need to purchase a Banff Park Pass, or you can purchase a Parks Canada Discovery Pass to visit any national park in Canada. The fees are as follow:
- Adult: $10.00
- Senior: $8.40
- Youth: free
- Family/Group: $20.00
Parks Canada Discovery Pass (One Year Pass)
- Adult: $69.19
- Senior: $59.17
- Family/Group: $139.40
If your visit is any longer than a week, then the best option is to purchase the Parks Canada Discovery Pass.
Banff National Park Canada Weather in Summer
Visiting Banff National Park in the summer, you will be welcomed with longer days as the sun sets around 10 PM at night. The days are fairly warm, and the mornings and evenings can be on the cooler side, so make sure to dress in layers. I went from wearing a light winter coat in the morning to short sleeves during the day. Although to be fair, I am usually cold.
Where to Stay in Banff National Park Canada
Elk + Avenue Hotel
We stayed at the Elk + Avenue Hotel during our visit. It was a great home base to explore Banff and the surrounding area. It is located steps to downtown Banff, the shops, nightlife, and restaurants. The hotel is located in the perfect location for strolling around Banff.
The Elk + Avenue Hotel brings an upscale twist to the classic mountain escape. The rooms have contemporary design rooms with cozy Rocky Mountain elements.
We loved eating at Farm and Fire Restaurant that is located in the hotel. We enjoyed our breakfasts and dinners there. We could have eaten here every day, that’s how much we loved it.
Our morning stop was at Good Earth Cafe for our cup of coffee to go before we headed out exploring Banff.
Where to Eat in Banff National Park Canada
Sky Bistro Banff
If you are looking for the ultimate dining experience then you will have to take the Gondola up Sulfur Mountain for the best dining views at Sky Bistro. The Sky Bistro is located on the third floor of the Banff Gondola summit. I would recommend visiting for dinner and staying for the beautiful sunset. This is an unforgettable mountain top dining experience.
I would highly recommend trying the Duck Wings with thyme & citrus confit, Saskatoon berry compote, pomegranate & honey glaze. We also had the Bison Tartare. For our main course, we had the Arctic Char with truffle mash, heirloom tomato, cucumber, basil, lemon, and balsamic, and the Bear and the Flower Farm’s bone-in pork loin, birch syrup glaze, truffle mash, roasted carrot, and apple cherry chutney. Both were equally delicious.
We were absolutely full but made sure to try their desserts. I love lemon curd so I had to try the lemon dessert with lemon curd in a maple cookie base with Saskatoon berry puree and meringue. If you are a chocolate lover then you will love the chocolate dessert that is dark chocolate & almond pate, amaretto cherries, and toasted almonds with kirsch reduction.
Farm and Fire Restaurant
The Farm and Fire Restaurant is conveniently located in the Elk + Avenue Hotel. We had breakfast here every morning. Loved the breakfast bowls. I would recommend the Lox to look forward to and this little piggy for breakfast. Make sure to return for dinner. All the menu items are slow-roasted and wood-fired, giving everything so much flavor.
If you are visiting for dinner, I would recommend the catch of the day tartare. I love that they used crispy potato skins instead of crackers. They were so flavourful. I enjoyed the Forno roasted catch of the day with a side of brassicas with beet hummus and crispy chickpeas.
The Radiant Banff
The Radiant is a parlour, lounge, and stage offering boutique cocktails and drinks, a dynamic menu of shareable food options, and live entertainment in a space that is both comfortable and audacious.
I would recommend the a la carte charcuterie board and the tuna matata to start. The tuna matata is marinated ahi tuna spooned over panko’d avocado, garnished with forbidden rice, nori, prawn cracker, wasabi sprout, and togarashi mayo. For the main course, we enjoyed the Curry’s Curry dish that is beef in Sri Lankan spices, and served with jasmine rice.
Banff Gondola Ride
The Banff Gondola ride is one of the top things to do Banff National Park Canada. The ride on the Banff Gondola is an experience in itself. Nothing better than seeing Banff from a different perspective. The views are amazing. Expect to stay at least 2 hours. If you have dinner at the Sky Bistro, I would recommend arriving earlier to explore the views before sunset and then at sunset. The sunsets from the summit are beautiful.
When you get off the Gondola, you can hike up to the top of Sulphur Mountain. It is an easy hike; no hiking shoes are required as there is a boardwalk to get you to the top. Once you reach the top, there is a bit of a climb on a small rock pile. It’s super easy, but I wouldn’t recommend wearing heels.
You can explore the small museum and learn about Sulphur Mountain and the surrounding area.
There a few eating options. My favorite is the Sky Bistro for dinner and stay for the sunset. You can also eat at Norther Lights for market-style dining or Castle Mountain Coffee Co for a quick grab and go meal.
Lake Minnewanka Cruise
The Banff Lake Cruise is a great way to get a different perspective of beautiful Lake Minnewanka. Lake Minnewanka is the largest lake in Banff National Park. You will cruise through the crystal clear water of the glacier water and take in the views of the surrounding mountains. We were told to keep an eye out for wildlife spottings along the shore such as big-horned sheep, deer, mountain goats, and even the occasional bear. Sadly, we didn’t see any wildlife.
During our one hour cruise, we learned some interesting facts about the wildlife and vegetation that inhabit the Canadian Rockies. We also learned about the culture of the indigenous people who used to call the area home as well as entertaining legends of the area.
One of the coolest things to do in Banff National Park Canada is the Glacier Skywalk. The Glacier Skywalk is located 90 minutes from Banff. It is definitely worth the drive to walk the Glacier Skywalk. The Skywalk is a glass walkway hanging over the edge of a mountain. Personally, I had trouble walking across the glass floor. It is safe, but I just couldn’t do it. It is a bit scary but definitely worth checking out.
If you are driving from Jasper to Banff then you will actually pass the Glacier Skywalk and head directly to the Columbia Icefield Discovery Centre located on the Icefields Parkway (Highway 93 N)—1 hour south of Jasper and 2.5 hours north of Banff. Once you arrive you will park your car and head up the stairs into the Discovery Centre where you will wait for your shuttle to the Glacier Skywalk. Tours depart every 15 minutes. As spots fill quickly, it is advisable to purchase your tickets prior to your arrival.
The Icefields Parkway, also known as Highway 93 N., is a 230-kilometer mountain road that runs through Banff National Park and Jasper National Parks. It connects between Lake Louise and the town of Jasper. It will take approximately 3 hours to drive from Jasper to Lake Louise. Expect the drive to take longer than that as you will want to stop at every scenic spot along the way. Expect a higher amount of traffic during the summer months. The Icefields Parkway is known to close down for several days at a time during the winter months due to avalanches and ice storms.
Peyto Lake is a glacier-fed lake in Banff National Park in the Canadian Rockies. The lake itself is near the Icefields Parkway. It was named for Bill Peyto, an early trail guide and trapper in the Banff area. Sadly Peyto Lake was closed during our visit.
Two Jacks Lake
Two Jack Main is on the Lake Minnewanka loop road 12 km from downtown Banff. I loved visiting Two Jacks Lake during sunrise and sunset hours for those beautiful reflections.
Don’t let the size of Banff fool you. Although it is small, the stretch of street that runs through Banff is lined with hotels, restaurants, and shopping and is surrounded by mountain views.
The most popular thing to do in Banff in the summer is hiking, and I can see why. There are so many great hiking trails for all fitness levels. There are different hike lengths that range from one hour, half-day, full-day hikes, and even multi-day hikes. There is no better way to explore Banff than lacing up your shoes and hiking the area.
For your safety, I would not recommend hiking alone. This makes you an easy target for bears. Hike in pairs, it is actually recommended to hike in a group of 4 or more and make noise during your hike. The last thing you want to do is startle a bear. Talking loudly or playing music. I actually saw a lot of people had bells hanging from their backpacks
The Fairmont Banff Springs is often referred to as the Banff Castle. I can see why it does look like a castle and worth a visit. It does look like a castle. Even if you’re not staying there, it’s well worth the visit. You can book a food experience tour at the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel.
Bow Valley Parkway
We drove to Lake Louise from Banff via the Bow Valley Parkway. It is a beautiful scenic drive with many viewpoints stops along the way. It is a nicer drive than the Trans-Canada Highway. My favorite stop was Morant’s Curve, where you can get a view of the Canadian Pacific Railway. We were lucky and got to see the train go by.
You can’t visit Baff and not visit the most famous lake in Canada. This beautiful turquoise lake is usually surrounded by tourists but lucky for us, during our visit there were not international travelers. We were really lucky to be able to experience Lake Louise without the huge crowds. You can also enjoy lunch or drinks at the famous Chateau Lake Louise, a Fairmont hotel that sits right next to the lake with amazing views.
If you enjoy hiking, then make sure to pack your hiking shoes and hike to Agnes Tea House. There are many hiking trails around Lake Louise.
Moraine Lake is located close to Lake Louise. I actually think it is more beautiful than Lake Louise. It is also a busy lake to visit, especially in the summer. There is limited parking, so I would highly recommend arriving in the early morning. When I say early, I mean before sunrise early.
This is when you will see most of the photographers here trying to get the perfect Moraine Lake shot. They usually leave shortly after sunrise so you make be able to scoop up a parking spot then. We visited Moraine Lake for sunrise and sunset, and we were able to find parking. The road that leads to Moraine Lake is closed In the winter, so you would have to snowshoe or cross-country ski to get to it. It is a long, windy road to Lake Moraine.
Canadian Rockies: Helicopter Flight
This is one experience that I wish we had time for. I would love to fly over the Canadian Rocky Mountains and see glaciers, waterfalls. Flying over the Canadian Rockies is a bucket list thing to do in Banff National Park Canada.
Things to do in Banff National Park Canada Conclusion
This is just a taste of some of the things you can do in Banff National Park Canada in the summer. You can spend months here and still not see everything Banff National Park has to offer. I’m sure there are so many things I have missed due to not having enough time. I would like to return during the winter months to experience a winter wonderland. I’m sure it is magical. What should I add on my next return?