Banff is one of the world’s most amazing destinations that you should visit at least once in your lifetime. Located just a short 80 minute drive from Calgary, this beautiful national park is the perfect place to escape the city buzz. Although it’s considered Canada’s premier ski destination, there are way more things to do in Banff in summer than in winter.
Banff is a perfect destination to include in any road trip to Canada. There is a reason why it’s considered one of the 10 best National Parks to visit in Alberta. Everywhere you look you see dazzling glaciers, spectacular rivers, alpine meadows and snow covered peaks.
The guide below will give you all the information you need for visiting Banff in summer, including how to get there, things to do, and places to stay.
- How to Get to Banff
- Best Things to Do in Banff in the Summer
- Where to Stay When Visiting Banff National Park
- Is It Worth Visiting Banff in Summer?
- Best Time to Visit Banff
How to Get to Banff
The closest airport to Banff is in Calgary, about 80 miles away from the park. To get to Banff from Calgary you can either have to rent a car and drive there, or use the bus service from.
My recommendation would be to rent a car in Calgary, because without one you won’t be able to visit too much. The roads in Banff are very well-maintained and marked, so driving around is not a problem, even if you visit Banff and Calgary in winter.
The park is comprised of the town of Banff, Lake Louise, Castleguard Caves, more than a thousand glaciers and glacier lakes and hundreds of hotels and restaurants.
Best Things to Do in Banff in the Summer
We visited Banff for a 3 days in summer. That was just enough time to get a taste of the majestic scenery of one the most beautiful destinations in Canada. But it wasn’t enough time to be able to accomplish all the things that you can do in Banff. Even if we stayed there another week, we still could not have covered everything there is to see and do in Banff in summer.
Looking for more destinations in Canada? Read: Quebec City for First Time Visitors.
1. Stroll Through Downtown Banff
Banff is a charming small-town with a lot of shops, great restaurants and many other attractions. It is worth spending at least a day there, boating on Lake Minnewanka, or visiting the excellent Jasper Brewing Co. for a taste of craft beer brewed on the premises.
2. Ride the Gondola to the Top of Sulphur Mountain
After lunch, embark on the Banff Gondola for a short ride to the top of Sulphur Mountain. Once you are at the top, walk along the broadwalk that takes you to a 360º observation deck for some stunning views of the Bow River Valley and Banff. This is one of the best things to do in Banff with kids, as they have a great time both in the gondola and up the mountain.
3. Visit Moraine Lake
About an hour drive north of town you find one of the most spectacular lakes in Banff: Moraine Lake. Nestled in the Valley of the Ten Peaks, this picture-perfect is surrounded by snowcapped peaks and hiking trails. There is an easy 45 minute hike (round-trip) around the lake that starts near Moraine Lake Lodge.
4. Rent a Canoe
After hiking around the lake, rent a canoe and paddle on the turquoise crystal-clear water. It’s a thrilling experience that you won’t forget very soon.
5. Take a Boat Trip Down Lake Minnewanka
This is a beautiful lake right off the highway on the way to Banff. Lake Minnewanka offers lots of walking trails, easy for families with young children. Early morning light casts a soft glow on the dark water. The landscape is absolutely spectacular!
6. Visit Columbia Icefield
One of the biggest attractions in the area is the Columbia Icefield, a huge body of ice located on the southern edge of Banff National Park. Although it’s a bit of a drive from Banff Town (about 2 ½ hours), the ice field is well worth the trip.
We booked a tour on an Ice Explorer – a special bus equipped to handle the icy terrain – which took us out onto the glacier.
There are quite a few other things to do on a stop at the Columbia Icefield, besides riding the Ice Explorer. Like hiking the Athabasca Glacier, or simply driving around and take pictures of the grandiose scenery around.
7. Hike to the Lake Agnes Tea House
The hike to the Lake Agnes Tea House one of the most popular hikes in Banff. The trail starts near the Fairmont Chateau Hotel, then goes down the lakeshore. From here you continue for a few hundred meters until you will see another path that breaks off to the right. A sign post marks it as the Lake Agnes Trail.
The hike is rather long and tiring, so bring water and appropriate hiking attire. It is however one of the most spectacular ones in Banff.
8. Spot Wildlife
One of the best things to do in Banff in summer is try to spot wild animals.
Encounters with the wildlife are not accidental but almost imminent, which makes the visit even more exciting. In fact you have to exercise utmost care at all times because you can come across a huge bear with cubs, or a large caribou even on the highway.
Therefore, it’s best to respect posted notices about wildlife in some areas and to carry bear spray if hiking or biking.
Where to Stay When Visiting Banff National Park
Initially we were thinking of camping in Banff because it was summer and the weather was good. However, because it was our wedding anniversary, my husband surprised me and rented a room at one of the most luxurious hotels in Banff: Fairmont Lake Louise.
The hotel is rather expensive, but the location is out-of-this-world beautiful: right on the edge of Lake Louise.
If you are looking for luxury accommodation, another option is the Stoneridge Mountain Resort. Tucked away in the mountains, this fancy ski resort is an excellent option for traveling families. The hotel has an outdoor pool with hot tub and a library of games and movies.
There are many other accommodations in the National Park, from small cabins and Airbnb apartments, to five star hotels. But if you are on a budget, one option is to stay in the town of Banff, just a few kilometers away from the big resorts in the park.
Is It Worth Visiting Banff in Summer?
There are many great destinations in Canada that you shouldn’t miss, but most travel guides consider Banff National Park a travelers’ mecca for a good reason. It is home to an incredible diversity of animals, from small bats and rodents, to large bears, wolves, caribou, or Bighorn sheep.
Best Time to Visit Banff
The best time to visit Banff depends a lot on what you are planning to do there. If you are up for hiking, biking, paddling, and climbing, you should be visiting Banff in summer.
Peak Season in Banff is in summer, from June to August, when the lakes are warm enough and the weather is perfect for hiking. If you choose to visit Banff in summer however, you should book your hotel in advance.
Winter is equally beautiful in Banff if you love skiing and snowboarding. There are three major downhill ski resorts within the park, great for downhill and cross-country skiing. The ski season at Banff is one of the longest in North America, running from November to May.
But even if you visit Banff in summer, you should know that wether in the Canadian Rockies is very unpredictable. In a single day you can have a mix of sunshine, snow, wind, and rain, so dressing in layers is a good idea.
We were lucky that we didn’t experience any bad weather in August, but still if you visit the glaciers you can count of high winds and cold air.
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