Nestled within the heart of the Canadian Rockies, Banff is a picturesque paradise for nature enthusiasts, adventure seekers, and those seeking a taste of the great outdoors. As a traveler, I had the privilege of exploring this stunning destination and I’m thrilled to share with you the best things to do in Banff, Canada.
The top 10 best things to do in Banff
1. Marvel at Lake Louise
Begin your journey with a visit to the world-famous Lake Louise. The emerald-green waters, surrounded by snow-capped peaks, create a postcard-perfect scene. The area has become very popular recently and can be quite crowded. I would recommend going early in the morning.
Take a leisurely stroll along the shore or head up to the historic tea house. The hike to the Lake Agnes Tea House is steep and will take about 1-2 hours depending on your speed. A long line will form the closer you get to lunch time, but it is all worth it for a pot of their tea and apple crumble. Note: bring cash, because their credit card machine is frequently down.
After your hike, you can rent a canoe to explore the area by water. The surrounding look like a Bob Ross painting and make for a peaceful paddle. But brace yourself, this activity has become quite pricey! Canoes now cost $145/ hour.
2. Get an adrenaline rush on the Via Ferratta
The Via Ferrata in Banff offers an exhilarating and unique adventure for thrill-seekers and nature enthusiasts. This guided climbing experience allows participants to traverse the rugged cliffs of the Canadian Rockies while securely harnessed to a steel cable fixed into the rock. With awe-inspiring views of Banff National Park, climbers ascend vertical sections, cross suspension bridges, and navigate cliffside trails.
The Via Ferrata provides an adrenaline rush while ensuring safety, making it an accessible yet thrilling way to explore the stunning mountain landscapes and feel the raw beauty of the Banff region. I will add that I am terrified of heights. If I can do it, anyone can!
3. watch the sunrise over Moraine Lake
Moraine Lake, with its stunning turquoise waters, is another must-see in the area. It’s a bit less crowded than Lake Louise and, in my humble opinion, more spectacular. Hike around the lake or simply take in the view from the shore.
You have to take a shuttle to reach the lake. We went an hour before sunrise and hiked up the Rockpile Trail which only took about 20 minutes. Bring a flashlight because it is pitch dark that early in the morning. This is the best spot to watch the sunrise, so there will be photographers set up everywhere. Find a spot and settle in for the show that nature is about to put on.
After the sun came up, we head to the Larch Valley Trail. We were there during the brief window when the larch trees turn a stunning golden hue in late September.
The start of this trail seemed like never ending switch backs that I thought were going to kill me. The trail ascends through evergreen forests, opening up to expansive vistas of towering peaks and the serene, turquoise Moraine Lake below. Entering the Larch Valley felt a bit like finding Narnia. It even started snowing!
The Larch Valley Trail will give you the best taste of what the Canadian Rockies has to offer. You can also canoe on Moraine Lake and it is a bit cheaper that Lake Louise.
4. Ride the Banff Gondola
For sweeping panoramic views, don’t miss the Banff Gondola. It whisks you to the summit of Sulphur Mountain, offering 360-degree vistas of Banff and the surrounding mountains. This is especially breathtaking at sunset.
5. Explore the Town of Banff
The charming town of Banff is not to be missed. Stroll down Banff Avenue, lined with quaint shops, art galleries, and restaurants serving local cuisine. We enjoyed a farm to table meal at Farm & Fire Restaurant which serves up delicious food family-style.
6. Wildlife Watching
Banff is home to a diverse range of wildlife. Keep your eyes peeled for elk, bighorn sheep, and the occasional bear as you explore the national park. Just remember to maintain a safe distance. We carried bear spray on all of our hikes and many people wear bells as to not startle any wildlife.
7. Relax in the Upper Hot Springs
After a day of adventure, soothe your muscles at the Banff Upper Hot Springs. These natural hot springs provide a relaxing soak amidst the rugged mountain landscape, creating the perfect apres-hike experience.
8. Take a Scenic Drive
The Icefields Parkway, one of the world’s most beautiful drives, connects Banff to Jasper. It offers jaw-dropping vistas, glaciers, and the opportunity to stop at numerous scenic viewpoints along the way.
9. Stargazing in the Dark Sky Preserve
Banff National Park is designated as a Dark Sky Preserve, making it an ideal location for stargazing. On clear nights, the Milky Way and countless stars illuminate the sky. We were so fortunate to see the Northern Lights!
10. Stroll the village of Canmore
Canmore offers stunning mountain views and a welcoming atmosphere. With a vibrant outdoor scene and a charming downtown, I actually preferred Canmore to Banff. I found the shops in downtown Banff very touristy and over-priced while Canmore had really nice boutiques. The hotels in Banff are extremely expensive while Canmore was more affordable and equally as nice.
Banff, Canada, is a destination that truly captures the essence of natural beauty and outdoor adventure. Whether you’re exploring its pristine lakes, hiking its rugged trails, or simply taking in the stunning vistas, you’re sure to create lasting memories in this Canadian gem. These activities are what I believe are the best things to do in Banff. Do you agree?
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