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Things to do in Banff

Surround yourself with beautiful walking trails and glistening lakes in this protected Canadian Rockies' town.

Our most recommended things to do in Banff

Banff: Banff Gondola Admission Ticket

1. Banff: Banff Gondola Admission Ticket

Climb aboard this iconic 4-person gondola cabin with large windows and relax. During the 8-minute ride to the summit of Sulphur Mountain, take in the views of the town of Banff, Bow Valley, and six different mountain ranges. While on the mountain's peak, be amazed by 360-degree views. Explore the interactive Above Banff Interpretative Center to learn about the early explorers, wildlife, and local area. Hike across the Sulphur Mountain boardwalk to explore the Sulphur Mountain Cosmic Ray Station, a National Historic Site. Then stop at the coffee shops, restaurants, and gift shops.

Banff: Family Friendly Horse-Drawn Sleigh Ride

2. Banff: Family Friendly Horse-Drawn Sleigh Ride

Start your tour in Banff, where you will meet a member of the riding office, who will check you in for your sleigh ride. Now it's time to climb into the sleigh and get cozy with your loved ones under a cozy wool blanket. Hear the tinkling of sleigh bells, as the horses lead you on a journey through Banff's mountain meadows. Along the way, listen to stories from your guide and soak in the spectacular views of the valley and surrounding mountains, while keeping your eyes peeled for local wildlife, such as elk and deer. Finish your memorable excursion with a fireside warm-up stop after the ride with a hot drink back at the stables.

Banff: Morning or Afternoon Johnston Canyon Icewalk

3. Banff: Morning or Afternoon Johnston Canyon Icewalk

Start with pickup from Banff and travel in a modern minibus along the Bow Valley Parkway to the Canyon. On arrival at the Johnston Canyon trailhead, your guide will show you how to put on ice cleats over your winter boots, as well as give you some tips on winter hiking. From here, start the moderate 2.7 kilometer hike with 135 meter elevation to the Upper Falls. Walk along the steel catwalks built into the canyon walls which allows a spectacular view down the canyon walls to the ice and river below. Along the way you'll learn the clues to how Johnston Canyon was formed and stop at the Lower Falls, where you'll have the option to walk through a natural cave feature for a unique view. At the Upper Falls, enjoy a brief stop on the upper deck with a small refreshment break to enjoy the views. These gigantic pillars of ice are the tour highlight and ice climbers can often be seen scaling the frozen columns. Once you've finished your hot chocolate, hike back down and your guide will transport you back to Banff and drop you at your hotel.

Banff National Park: Hop-On-Hop-Off Bus Day-Pass

4. Banff National Park: Hop-On-Hop-Off Bus Day-Pass

Maximize your time in Banff National Park with this Hop-On-Hop-Off Pass and see all the main sights at your own pace. The stops include Johnston Canyon, Moraine Lake, Lake Louise, and the Lake Louise Gondola (admission is not included). There are 3 departures from Banff, so you can start early and see everything, or sleep in and enjoy a tour along the famous Bow Valley Parkway to Moraine Lake before your return to Banff. • Stop 1 - Banff - The tour departs at 07:45 AM, 9:30 AM, and 12:15 PM daily • Stop 2 - Johnston Canyon - Hop off here to hike up to the beautiful Upper and Lower Falls or even go all the way up to the famous Ink Pots • Stop 3 - Lake Louise Gondola - Soar by gondola or chairlift to the most stunning views on the Lake Louise Gondola • Stop 4 & Stop 5 - Lake Louise - Make sure to hop-off here to enjoy Lake Louise and all that it has to offer. Check out Lake Agnes Teahouse and the breathtaking Plain of Six Glaciers • Stop 6 - Moraine Lake - the most stunning lake in the Rockies. Experience the absolutely breathtaking Valley of the Ten Peaks that surround the lake. Return to Banff as early as 1:45 PM or enjoy all the stops and come back to the town at 6 PM. On your way back to Banff open the windows and watch for wildlife along the famous Bow Valley Parkway. Grizzly bears, black bears, elk, bighorn sheep have all been spotted here. Your bus will stop for photos at any sighting. Enjoy your tour on the original yellow school bus style with a professional driver and a tour guide. All the buses all guaranteed to be 5 years old or newer. Guides on board each bus will help you plan your day on a 1 on 1 basis and give you a personalized itinerary that matches what you want to do. They also have extensive knowledge of nearly everything you would ever want to know about Banff and can help you with hiking suggestions, or even just great places to eat.

Banff: Lake Louise, Moraine Lake & Banff National Park

5. Banff: Lake Louise, Moraine Lake & Banff National Park

Explore Canada's number one tourist destination on this guided tour of Banff National Park. Enjoy a tour that is tailor-made by your guide each day to factor in recent wildlife sightings, weather conditions, and crowds. Spend free time at Moraine and Louise Lake and visit a selection of other hot spots.  Be picked from select locations in Banff and board a comfortable and air-conditioned van. Get access to Banff National Park, which spans over 6,660 square meters and contains towering peaks, colossal glaciers, and neon-blue lakes.  Listen as your guide shares stories and provides you with all the great local insights you could want. Stop for 1.5 hours at lake Moraine (1st of June to the 12th or October) and lake Louise where you can relax, go for a hike, or rent a canoe or kayak.  Avoid the crowds and having to get up early just to get a parking spot. Expect to visit a selection of spots (depending on the day's itinerary) like Johnston Canyon, Lake Minnewanka/Two Jack Lake, Hoodoos Lookout, Mt. Norquay, Vermilion Lakes Road, and Marble Canyon . 

Banff: Athabasca Glacier and Columbia Icefield Parkway Tour

6. Banff: Athabasca Glacier and Columbia Icefield Parkway Tour

Discover the Athabasca Glacier on a guided tour from Banff. Journey along the scenic Icefields Parkway and climb into an Ice Explorer vehicle to explore the awesome glacier. Experience breathtaking views of the Sunwapta Valley as you step across the Glacier Skywalk. Get picked up from your Banff hotel in a modern mini bus by your friendly guide. Departing from Banff, your guide will welcome you on the tour with an overview of where you'll be headed as you sit back and enjoy the ride along the Icefields Parkway, one of the world’s most stunning scenic drives. Benefit from a tour where you don’t have to navigate or watch the road. Sit back, relax, and focus on the amphitheater of mountains towering above as you keep your eyes peeled for wildlife at the edges of the forest. Stop at the Columbia Icefield Glacier Discovery Centre and board an Ice Explorer vehicle. Drive onto the Athabasca Glacier, learn about its history, and take some free time to soak up the views. Touch this ancient sheet of ice and even drink pure, cold water straight from the glacier. Head to the nearby glass floor Glacier Skywalk and follow the 1-kilometer walkway that leads to a platform where glass is all that separates you from a 918-foot drop. Witness the giant glaciers perched above you and admire the views of the spectacular Sunwapta Valley spread out below. Enjoy a scenic stop for a hearty packed lunch of a sandwich, juice, fruit, chips, and brownies. Visit iconic landmarks along the Icefields Parkway such as Bow Lake, the headwaters of the mighty Bow River before heading back to Banff.

Banff: Mount Norquay 2.5 or 4-Hour Guided Via Ferrata Climb

7. Banff: Mount Norquay 2.5 or 4-Hour Guided Via Ferrata Climb

Join this fun alpine climbing tour that's perfect for all abilities, including those with no previous experience. Experience the thrill of climbing a via ferrata with an expert guide and delight in bird’s-eye views of Banff National Park.  Choose between a 2.5-hour Explorer Route or a 4-hour Ridgewalker Route. Upon arrival to Mount Norquay, located just 10 minutes from Banff, check in and meet your guide. Get equipped with a harness, lanyards, and helmet, then ride the sightseeing chairlift to where your adventure begins.  After an equipment check and training is complete, take a short 5-minute walk to your first via ferrata buttress to climb. The 2.5-hour Explorer Route is a great choice for those who are slightly limited on time or looking for an introduction to via ferrata. Spend some time with your guide and get introduced to the equipment before heading up a few pitches and crossing the suspension bridge.  You will reach 2,235 meters (7,332 feet) above sea level. The tour lasts 2-2.5 hours, covers 1 kilometer (3,280 feet), and involves an elevation gain of 145 meters (475 feet). Select the 4-hour Ridgewalker Route to get a greater feel for heights and experience the via ferrata in full.  Get comfortable with the equipment on a practice wall, then continue on the Norquay cliffs, climbing the memorial, sunrise and vista buttresses — and, of course, traversing the suspension bridge. The route heads up to the Ridgewalker Summit, 2,300 meters (7,545 feet) above sea level. At the top, enjoy incredible views and snap some photos before descending back to the starting point.  The tour lasts 3.5-4 hours, covers 1.4 kilometers (4,593 feet), and involves an elevation gain of 260 meters (853 feet).

Banff: Banff National Park Guided Tour with Snowshoeing Hike

8. Banff: Banff National Park Guided Tour with Snowshoeing Hike

Journey along the famous Icefields Parkway, the undisputed world heavyweight champion of scenic roads, where jaw-dropping scenery is punctuated by more than 100 ancient glaciers, waterfalls cascading from dramatic rock spires, and frozen lakes set in sweeping valleys. Stop at the awe-inspiring Abraham Lake, where your local expert guide will show you where to find the lake's famous frozen ice bubbles, a natural phenomenon that you ice-skate or walk on. This tour also includes an easy (1.5km return) snowshoeing hike to the jaw-dropping Peyto Lake viewpoint, where you can gaze upon the vastness of the Canadian Rockies deep in the backcountry of Banff National Park. Along the way, make stops at all the well-renowned must-see spots as well as some spots that only locals know about.

Banff: Sunsets and Stars Evening Walking Tour

9. Banff: Sunsets and Stars Evening Walking Tour

Take an evening sunset walk and watch the stars come out while experiencing nature at remote trail locations. Watch a stunning mountain sunset and feel the awe of seeing the first stars appear. Explore Banff National Park like never before and see nature by night. Be escorted by professional mountain guides and see more of the area with the use of headlamps and lanterns. Hike along local trails around Banff and take the unique opportunity to watch the nocturnal world come to life.

Canadian Rockies: Helicopter Flight with Exploration Hike

10. Canadian Rockies: Helicopter Flight with Exploration Hike

Get ready for an awe-inspiring experience of the Rocky Mountain with this scenic helicopter flight and hiking tour. See the Rockies from a bird's-eye view. Admire the stunning views of the mountains, lakes, and glaciers from above. Then explore the region’s natural beauty on foot. Choose from a 20, 30, or 55-minute scenic flight. Each option includes incredible panoramas of waterfalls, emerald-green lakes, and mountain ridges. With the 55-minute flight, approach the Columbia Icefield, the largest expanse of ice in the Rocky Mountains. After the flight, land at the confluence of the Cline River and Waterfalls Creek. Continue to explore the wild beauty of this region on foot, hiking to the Twin Falls waterfall. Then climb back on board the helicopter and fly back to the heliport, enjoying the fantastic views of Abraham Lake.

Available activities

  • Canadian nature & wildlife gems
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  • Sleigh & horseback rides
  • Alberta lakes & waterfalls
  • Exploring Banff
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Frequently asked questions about Banff

What are the best day trips and excursions from Banff?

The best day trips and excursions from Banff are:

Banff National Park

Insider tips: Planning a trip to Banff

Mayuri is the founder of ToSomePlaceNew, which covers European destinations and cultural travel. A history graduate and an MBA by qualification, she found her true calling in digging a city’s past and discovering their unique nuances. She is based in Canada, and travels with her husband. Find more on her blog about Banff.

What should I do on my first trip to Banff?

For your very first trip to Banff, consider booking a centrally located hotel - maybe a suite with mountain views. Do check out the town centre, and thereafter ride the Banff Sightseeing Gondola to soak the entire valley, and its iconic landmarks from an elevation of 2,281 m (7,486 feet) above sea level. From Banff, embark on hikes, or enjoy a canoe ride on Vermillion Lakes, or the picturesque Lake Louise. Don’t miss out on a sightseeing cruise on Lake Minnewanka.

What are some hidden gems to see in Banff?

Banff is all about the iconic views, but you can make it unique. Like you can soak in mountain views from Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel whilst enjoying an afternoon tea or castle food experience. Another favorite attraction in Banff town that often gets missed is the Cascade of Time Gardens. These beautifully manicured gardens are located just a few minutes away from the town centre, and it is a stunning place to admire the mountains and greenery (and it's all for free!)

How much time should I spend in Banff?

A weekend is perfect to enjoy the highlights of Banff National Park. Set aside a day to wander the town centre, cultural sites like museums and walking trails nearby. On the second day, go hiking. There are a lot of easy to challenging hikes near Banff to choose from. If you are not into hiking, enjoy a day of lakes and explore Minnewanka, Two Jack and Lake Louise on a quick day trip from Banff!

What food is Banff known for?

You must try a good steak or bison when you visit Banff National Park. You can easily order Alberta steak in any of the restaurants at the town centre. For drinks, try a local brewery such as Park Distillery Restaurant and Bar. There are a lot of cafes and bistros inside the national park to enjoy coffee, bagel and cakes.

What is the best way to get around Banff?

The best way to explore Banff is by car. Rental cars can be picked up at the Calgary International Airport (nearest airport), and then you can drive to Banff. There are transit buses (called ROAM buses) that you can use to get to various attractions inside the national park. One way tickets start at $2 CAD for adults.

What are the best months to visit Banff?

Summer and fall are the best times to visit Banff National Park. In the summer months, all the outdoorsy activities are open from camping, canoeing, hiking to easy road tripping. Only thing to be mindful of is that Banff gets super busy in the summers - so plan ahead to make reservations. Visiting Banff in the fall is also perfect as you can go on hikes and see all the fall foliage, minus the crowds and expensive accommodation!

What is Banff Avenue known for?

Banff Avenue is the central hub of the national park. This is where you will find restaurants, resorts and hotels, shops, and tour agencies. Many of the iconic photo spots are located in Banff town - you won’t have to try too hard to get a glimpse of the mountains!

What are the best neighborhoods for food?

The best place for food in Banff is in the Main Street neighbourhood. This area is home to local breweries, amazing bistros, restaurants and shops. For restaurants with mountain views, reserve a table at the Banff Gondola - Sky Bistro or the Juniper Bistro & Hotel. For those who love to check local produce and crafts, plan to visit the Banff Mountain Market, which is held in the summer months in the heart of Banff town.

What are the best neighborhoods for shopping?

Banff Avenue is the Main Street for all things souvenir and essential shopping. Banff Avenue is lined with athletics, fashion, local crafts, and souvenir shops.

What neighborhood should I stay in when I visit Banff?

For quick access to amenities and sightseeing, staying at the main street of Banff is a good idea. During summers, it can be a little expensive to find accommodation inside the National Park. In that case choose to stay in Canmore, which is located 20 minutes outside of Banff or in Calgary - situated 1 hour’s drive away.

Other Sightseeing Options in Banff

Want to discover all there is to do in Banff? Click here for a full list.

What people are saying about Banff

Overall rating

4.7 / 5

based on 2,300 reviews

My wife and I decided to take this up as "start the honey moon with a bang" idea, and these guys did not miss the mark. Hands down one of the best experiences I've had touring in a helicopter. Our pilot, Kyle, was such a cool dude and full of so much humble knowledge about landscape and the history of Canada. And Danielle, our guide for the bubbles tour was the coolest and nicest woman, it was truly a pleasure to meet her and she took such good care of us while out on the lake. Needless to say, we made memories for a life time with those guys. Oh...and the food they provide, the cook, oh my God. It was fantastic. She even accomadated my wife's food allergies to make sure she could have the same food. It truly was an experience. If you guys read this, good shit.

Was only in Banff for one day so this was the perfects way to see all the important attractions in the park without the hassle of driving or trying to find parking. Would 100% recommend this to anyone visiting the park

The people who run the stables are very friendly and knowledgeable about the area. It’s also walking distance from the hotels.

We enjoyed our private family sleigh ride. Our guide was awesome and the atmosphere impecable.

Enjoyable experience and the Johnston Canyon is a must-see!