Moraine Lake Viewpoint

Your Guide to Banff National Park

Home Destinations Americas Canada Your Guide to Banff National Park

A designated UNESCO World Heritage site, Banff National Park is Canada’s oldest national park, encompassing over 2500 square miles of pristine alpine wilderness. It sits in the heart of the Canadian Rockies, a collection of emerald lakes, snowcapped peaks, glaciers and verdant forests provide the backdrop to a wealth of wildlife encounters and outdoor adventures.

With a massive three million visitors every year, Banff National Park has become one of Canada’s most sought after destinations. In this guide, we answer a few key questions about Banff and give you some insight into what you can expect from this incredible exciting location.

What is the best time to visit Banff National Park?

Banff National Park is undoubtedly a year round destination, the alpine landscapes providing the backdrop for a wide range of activities during each season.

The summer months, particularly from June to August are the most popular time to visit when the park comes to life. The weather is mild and the wildlife is at its most active. It is also the time when the glacial lakes are at their fullest meaning the famous turquoise waters are at their brightest.

These summer attractions make it is the busiest time to visit, so it’s worth considering a visit to Banff National Park during May for the spring bloom or September as the autumn colours begin to appear.

In winter the resort towns of Lake Louise and Banff provide access to a trio of popular ski areas as well as other winter activities and the enticing prospect of seeing the northern lights.

How many days do you need in Banff National Park?

Depending on what you wish to do during your trip to Canada, between two and six days should be enough to experience a wealth of activities and sights that are available in Banff National Park.

The vibrant resort town of Banff, where your journey will most likely start, is in itself a lovely place to explore. You can get everything you need as far as supplies for your adventure in the park in Banff, as well as get fed and watered at one of the many bars and restaurants. This is also the spot to book any guided activities and pick up trail maps.

What activities are in Banff?

As well as hiking, boating, canoeing, fishing, and horse riding are all popular summertime activities in Banff National Park. The many lakes – Moraine Lake, Lake Louise, and Peyto Lake are among the most popular – offer a wide range of opportunities to get out on the water and enjoy the atmosphere.

A great way to take in the gorgeous landscape straight from the off is via the gondola which takes you to the top of Sulphur Mountain from the town in just eight minutes. For a different viewpoint, enjoy a Voyageur Canoe tour out onto the Bow River where you will learn about the history of the river and its historic role in transporting cargo and furs.

The Cave and Basin is also a popular attraction that sparked off Canada’s national park system after a hot spring was discovered there in 1883. Traverse the boardwalks, explore the tunnel and natural grotto, and see a replica of the original bathhouse from 1887.

canada alberta horse riding banff national park ta

Can you swim in Moraine Lake?

Unfortunately, swimming in Moraine Lake is not recommended. As the lake is filled by water created by a glacier, it is too cold for swimming – but there’s plenty of other water-based enjoyment to have like kayaking and canoeing.

Where should I stay when visiting Banff National Park?

Finding somewhere to stay is easy as there are a number of lodges and hotels to choose from. From the iconic Fairmont Chateau on the shores of Lake Louise to the rustic and cosy Moraine Lake Lodge, which is hidden in a beautiful valley, each accommodation offers something different.

View more accommodation in Alberta.

Do I need a National Park Pass for Banff?

If you want to visit Banff National Park, you will need to have a valid National Park Pass which you can purchase online. You can buy a day pass which will cover a full day in the park until 4pm the following day, or a Discovery Pass which is valid for one year for all Canada’s National Parks.

These passes and fees help towards conservation efforts and park maintenance.

What airport do you fly into for Banff Canada?

To visit Banff National Park, you should fly into Calgary airport in Alberta. It is just 144km from the Banff town.

Banff and Cascade Mountain

What are the best hot springs in Banff?

There are a few great hot springs in Banff National Park and soaking in the warm waters is a great respite for tired muscles from a long day of exploration. Banff Upper Hot Springs has natural flowing waters of around 37-40 degrees Celsius and is the closest spring to Banff town meaning minimal travel time.

If you are looking for somewhere a bit less developed, the Radium Hot Springs Mineral Pools is a top choice. Nestled in amongst the lush forest, these mineral pools are the largest in Canada and have a toasty temperature of around 36-40 degrees Celsius.

Can you drive through Banff National Park?

Yes, you can. The Icefields Parkway mountain road runs 230km through Banff and Jasper National Parks, connecting the town of Jasper and Lake Louise. It takes around three hours to drive the whole road, not including any stops.

The Icefields Parkway is a scenic road with a whole host of historical markers along the way. From the natural glory of Tangle Falls to the unbelievably blue waters of Peyto Lake, there are beauty spots to enjoy up and down the parkway.

There are also several other minor roads looping through the park providing access to other popular locations like Lake Minnewanka.

canada alberta icefields parkway towards mount sarbach istk

What is there to do in Banff for free?

Although entry to the park does cost money, there are things you can do for little to no money while you are there are numerous. From hiking and cycling to swimming in Johnson Lake (which is one of the only lakes in the park that is warm enough for swimming in the summer), there are lots of fun activities that cost very little.

Wildlife spotting is another activity that you can generally do for free. Grizzly bears, deer, bighorn sheep and elk can all be seen in the park throughout summer. Find a spot and be on the lookout for Canada’s animal life in its natural habitat.

If visiting Banff National Park is high on your travel wish list, consider exploring at your own pace on a self-drive, or benefit from the insights of an experienced guide by getting off the beaten track on a hiking adventure.

Whether you choose a winter wonderland or a summer playground, discover more about our Alberta holidays or speak to our Canada Travel Specialists on 01737 214 250 to start planning.