If you’re visiting Banff you’re going to want to use your time wisely and see as much as possible in the days you spend there! There are a ton of options and definitely something for everyone – not to mention stunning, picturesque views no matter where you look. Here I’ve put together a Banff National Park Bucket List to help you make the most of your trip!
Explore the Town of Banff
The Town of Banff is beautiful, and if you are in the National park you should definitely spend at least a little bit of time exploring the town! Find a parking spot and take a walk down Banff Ave!
Canoe on a Lake
A classic thing to do while in the mountains. I have seen so many instagram shots of people canoeing on lakes in Canada – and it does make a really pretty picture! It’s also a really peaceful activity to do while in Canada and a great way to take in the nature and beauty Banff has to offer.
Non-member price: $45 CAD/boat for the first hour. $25 CAD/boat for every additional hour.
Member price: $50 CAD for a membership which includes your first hour of renting and $25 CAD for every additional hour, and $25 CAD/boat for every additional rental for the rest of the season.
Lake Louise Rentals: (still waiting for 2020 prices to be released)
The Vermillion Lakes are a great (and cheaper!) option to canoe on and still get beautiful mountain views – plus the Banff Canoe Club Rentals are right nearby! Otherwise the Vermillion Lakes are another great option if you want to explore one of Canada’s lakes but don’t have a lot of time (it’s only a 5 minute drive from town).
This lake is huge and it’s one of the only lakes that allow power boats in the National Park. Here you can take a scenic boat ride, explore some of the trails by walking/hiking or biking, rent a boat, snowshoe, even scuba dive!
Banff Upper Hot Springs
These hot springs are a commercial hot spring, but are the closest springs you’ll find to Banff! If you’re looking to enjoy the hot springs while in Banff, I would suggest getting there right when it opens because the crowds get pretty busy as the day goes on!
Entry price for adults: $8.48 CAD
Two Jack Lake
Another lake in Banff – the lakeside campground is my favourite campground! You can visit the day use area though to picnic, take in the views, if you have a stand up paddle board you can do that here, or float in the lake!
Tip: Buy tubes from the Great Canadian Dollar Store (203 Bear St.) and use them to float on the lake!
Ride the Banff Gondola
The gondola is very touristy, but offers stunning views of the town and mountain landscapes the National Park has to offer. You can hike up to the top and pay for a one-way ticket down (or vise versa) to save some money and enjoy nature!
Price: $53 CAD – $57 CAD depending on the day of your visit and season.
Beautiful in any month, Johnston Canyon is an iconic trail in Banff National Park – and because of this it can super busy (so like always – arrive as early as possible!). But the canyon has a few waterfalls to enjoy on a well-marked trail, and there is the option to continue on to the ink pots (small fairy pools on a less-marked trail).
Tip: If visiting in the winter wear shoes with grips or bring/rent some ice cleats – the trails can get very slippery!
Castle Mountain Viewpoint
A great viewpoint to stop at on your way from Banff to Lake Louise! There is a cattle gate you can go through to get down to the riverside for even better views (just make sure to close the gate behind you).
Kananaskis & The Black shale Suspension Bridge
Kananaskis is a region outside of Banff National Park, but it’s close enough to visit if you have access to a car (no public transportation goes to Kananaskis. The region of Kananaskis has amazing hikes, and a super simple one leads you to the incredible (and free!) Black shale Suspension Bridge.
READ MORE: How to Visit the Blackshale Suspension Bridge
This is the famous photo location spot where you see the train coming around a curve with the mountains in the background. A great spot if you’re into photography – it can be hard to get the timing right though, so be patient!
Another iconic spot in Banff. Ice skate here in the winter, visit the small ice castle they build and see the ice sculptures at the end of January at the Ice Magic Festival, or canoe on the lake in the summertime! A very popular hike to do in the area is the hike to the Lake Agnes Teahouse as well.
A classic spot on any Banff National Park Bucket List. The road up to Moraine Lake is open from mid-May to mid-October (depending on the snowfall) and the parking lot fills up incredibly fast. Sometimes they fill before the sun even rises – so like a lot of hot spots, arrive early. A “must-do” on any Banff National Park Bucket List.
Surprise Corner Viewpoint
If you type this viewpoint into google maps you’ll be able to find it right away, but this offers a great view of the Banff Springs Hotel and the Bow River!
A delicious dish to try while in the town of Banff. They offer fried pastries with different toppings you can choose from, like oreo, skor, lucky charms, and so many others! You can also find other types of food here as well!
Enjoy Tim Hortons
Another Canadian classic. If you’ve never had Tim Hortons, you have to try it at least once while in Canada! Grab some breakfast or lunch here, or grab some dessert/snacks while exploring or to enjoy for your road trip!
My favourites include timbits, donuts, the vegetable soup, and chocolate milk ice caps!
The Frozen Bubbles of Abraham Lake
If you’re visiting in the wintertime, you may want to add a stop at the Abraham Lake frozen ice bubbles! As the lake freezes over, methane bubbles from decaying plants are trapped in the ice below to make the lake look super cool. This spot is a little bit of a drive from Banff, but it’s close enough that it’s possible to fit into your itinerary.
Visit Bow Falls
Another site to add to your Banff National Park Bucket List is Bow Falls. You can visit easily from a trail that starts in the town of Banff and is about a 1.7 mile journey to the viewpoint of the falls!
If you’re visiting Banff in the winter time, you can’t not ski or snowboard while in the mountains. You’ll get amazing views while having a ton of fun.
If you’re not into skiing or snowboarding, you can go snow tubing down a designated area at the ski hills specifically designated for tubing!
Visit the sled dogs and/or go dogsledding
In the summertime, you can take a tour of the dog sled kennels and hang out with the sled dogs even though there’s no snow! You can also book a tour with Snowy Owl dogsled tours to visit the kennels and go white water rafting!
In the winter, go dog sledding for an amazing experience and hang out with the sled dogs as well!
Wild Ice Skate
Wild ice skating is skating on a frozen lake – something that is so incredible and memorable to do if you are visiting Banff in the winter time! There is a sweet spot – around late November and early December when most lakes are completely frozen, but it hasn’t snowed yet so the ice so super clear. As winter progresses, it gets snowy and you can’t see the bottom or even really the lake – but it is still so fun and something to add to the Banff Bucketlist!
READ MORE: 12 Places to Wild Ice Skate in Banff
Hiking in Banff is free and there are so many different hiking trails to choose from! A few of my favourites are:
Lake Agnes Teahouse hike
Starts at Lake Louise and can be super super busy. Start early and bring change so you can buy a snack at the teahouse! (The carrot cake is really good!).
East end of Rundle
This is a more difficult hike that takes a good chunk of the day, but it offers stunning views. If you’re up for the challenge, I highly recommend this hike!
Larch Valley/Sentinel Pass
If you’re visiting Banff in the autumn you have to do this hike. It is so picturesque when the larch trees turn golden. Whatever season though, the views will always be beautiful!
Camping is a great way to experience nature and really enjoy everything the mountains have to offer. You can back country camp or front country camp, whichever you feel more comfortable with. Reservations open in January and do fill up fast, but you can always watch for cancellations or try for one of the first-come first-serve sites!
Visit or Stay in Canmore
A 20 minute drive from Banff – Canmore is like Banff’s little sister! It’s another mountain town where a lot of hiking trails start from, and it can typically be a lot cheaper to stay at hotels in Canmore rather than staying in the heart of the town of Banff, and it’s usually where I stay in the winter months!
Check out the Rocky Mountain Bagel Co for delicious bagels and sandwiches!
Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary
So the Wolfdog Sanctuary isn’t actually in Banff National Park, but I thought I would mention it anyway! It’s an hour drive from the town of Banff and is located just outside of the town of Cochrane, AB. It’s a sanctuary where you can visit wolfdogs and learn about them, walk with them, and even adopt them. If you do visit, make sure you check out their website and dress properly or a great visit!
Price: $26 CAD – $58 CAD per person depending on the type of visit you’re interested in.
Drive the Icefields Parkway to Jasper
If you have time, you have to drive the Icefields Parkway. It’s known as one of the most scenic drives in the world and I would completely agree. You’re constantly looking at beautiful landscapes, there are a bunch of amazing viewpoints and sites to stop at along the way (Peyto Lake, Bow Lake, Mistaya Canyon…), and it’s just so worth your time. You don’t have to drive all the way to Jasper, even seeing a little bit is better than none!
READ MORE: Where to Stop Along the Icefields Parkway
Take a day trip to Emerald Lake Lodge
An hour from the town of Banff is where you’ll find the insta-famous Emerald Lake Lodge in Yoho National Park. If you’ve always wanted to visit this lake and you’re in the Banff area – add this to your list of places to stop!
Day trip to Radium Hotspring, BC
Another possible day trip if you’re in Banff is the Radium Hotspring in BC. It’s a commercial hotspring and about an hour and 45 minute drive from the town of Banff. It’s always an option if you’re looking for a day trip from Banff!
Hopefully, this Banff National Park Bucket List helps you plan your trip to the area or inspires you to visit!
Comment below with any questions or other recommendations for fellow travelers to see, and send me an email if you have any requests, questions, or just want to say hi!
* This post is not sponsored *