Banff National Park, located in the province of Alberta, Canada, is a stunning natural wonderland that attracts visitors from all over the world. With its towering mountain peaks, turquoise lakes, and abundant wildlife, Banff is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers. In this travel guide, we’ll explore the best things to see and do in Banff, where to stay, and how to make the most of your visit to this breathtaking destination.
Getting to Banff National Park
Banff National Park is located in western Canada, about 80 miles west of the city of Calgary. The nearest airport is Calgary International Airport, which is well-served by both domestic and international airlines. From the airport, you can rent a car or take a shuttle bus to Banff. The journey takes around 1.5 hours by car or 2.5 hours by shuttle bus.
When to Visit Banff National Park
Banff National Park is open year-round, but the best time to visit depends on what you want to see and do. The peak tourist season is from June to August, when the weather is warm and most of the park’s attractions are open. However, this is also the busiest time of year, so expect crowds and higher prices. Spring and fall can be quieter and less expensive, but the weather can be unpredictable. Winter is a great time to visit if you enjoy skiing and snowboarding, but many of the park’s attractions are closed or have limited hours.
Things to See and Do in Banff National Park
Banff National Park has something to offer everyone, from outdoor adventures to cultural experiences. Here are some of the top things to see and do in the park:
Visit Lake Louise – Lake Louise is one of the most photographed lakes in the world, and it’s easy to see why. The lake’s turquoise waters are set against a backdrop of snow-capped mountains, making it a truly breathtaking sight. You can hike around the lake, rent a canoe, or simply relax on the shore and take in the scenery.
Take a Gondola Ride – The Banff Gondola takes you to the top of Sulphur Mountain, where you can enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. At the top, you’ll also find a restaurant, interpretive exhibits, and hiking trails.
Soak in the Hot Springs – The Banff Upper Hot Springs are a popular spot for relaxing and rejuvenating. The hot springs are located in a beautiful setting, with views of the mountains and forest.
Go Hiking – Banff National Park has hundreds of miles of hiking trails, ranging from easy walks to challenging multi-day treks. Some of the most popular hikes include Johnston Canyon, Plain of Six Glaciers, and the Larch Valley.
Visit the Columbia Icefield – The Columbia Icefield is the largest icefield in the Canadian Rockies, covering an area of over 200 square miles. You can take a guided tour onto the glacier or hike to the toe of the glacier on your own.
Go Wildlife Watching – Banff National Park is home to a wide variety of wildlife, including grizzly bears, elk, bighorn sheep, and moose. You can take a guided wildlife tour or simply keep your eyes peeled while hiking or driving through the park.
Explore the Town of Banff – The town of Banff is a charming mountain town with a vibrant arts and culture scene. You can explore the town’s shops, restaurants, and galleries, or take a guided tour of the historic sites.
Where to Stay in Banff National Park
Banff National Park has a variety of accommodations to suit every budget and preference. Some of the most popular options include:
Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise – This iconic hotel is located on the shores of Lake Louise and offers luxurious accommodations with stunning views of the lake and surrounding mountains.
Tunnel Mountain Resort – This family-friendly resort offers cabins and suites with fully-equipped kitchens, as well as amenities such as an outdoor pool and hot tub.
HI-Banff Alpine Centre – This budget-friendly hostel offers dorm rooms and private rooms, as well as a communal kitchen and lounge area.
Camping – Banff National Park has several campgrounds, ranging from primitive sites to RV-friendly sites with full hookups. Reservations are recommended, especially during peak season.
Tips for Visiting Banff National Park
Respect the wildlife – Banff National Park is home to many wild animals, and it’s important to keep a safe distance and never feed or approach them.
Leave no trace – It’s important to follow the principles of Leave No Trace and pack out all trash and waste.
Be prepared for changing weather – The weather in Banff can be unpredictable, so it’s important to dress in layers and bring rain gear and warm clothing.
Purchase a Parks Canada Discovery Pass – The Discovery Pass gives you access to all national parks and historic sites in Canada for a year.
Book in advance – Banff National Park is a popular destination, so it’s important to book accommodations and activities in advance, especially during peak season.
Banff National Park is a truly spectacular destination that offers something for everyone. Whether you’re looking for outdoor adventures or cultural experiences, you’re sure to find it here. With its stunning natural beauty, abundant wildlife, and world-class amenities, Banff National Park is a must-visit destination for any traveler.