Are you planning a visit to Banff for the first time? Get excited because there are outstanding things to do in Banff national park.
Canada’s first and world’s third, Banff national park, is located in the province of Alberta 128 kilometers west of Calgary and 850 kilometers northeast of Vancouver.
Banff national park is about 6,500 square kilometers of pristine Canadian wilderness. There are snow-covered mountain peaks, stunning waterfalls, glaciers, wildlife, wonderful lakes, and lush green alpine forests.
The national park is a vast land filled with inspiring scenery, wildlife, and a multitude of recreational activities for all ages and attracts over 5 million visitors every year.
Banff is known for its breathtaking natural beauty, beautiful mountains, endless outdoor recreation, stunning hiking trails, wildlife, and water activities.
Banff is part of the Canadian Rocky Mountain Park’s world heritage site. Like all national parks, Banff is dedicated to preserving a special part of Canadian natural, cultural heritage for the benefits of education and enjoyment of present and future generations.
There are so many places to visit in Banff, so be sure to spend a few days. Also, check out this detailed article of where to see the Northern Lights in Canada.
These are the Top 10 Places to Visit in Banff National Park
1- Banff Gondola Ride
This is where you need to start your trip in Banff; it is simply the most breathtaking views for the least effort.
The trip is taken in a totally enclosed gondola, and the exciting journey takes around eight minutes to climb the 2,000 feet to the top of the Sulphur Mountain. But make sure you rug as the trip can be freezing.
The Gondola rises over dense snow-covered trees, mountains and provides a spectacular view of the Banff Fairmount springs hotel in the valley below.
The mountain peak itself is a towering 7,500 feet in altitude and offers 360-degree views of the surrounding snow-capped Rocky Mountains.
From the top of the mountain, visitors can choose from many activities, including a one-mile walk along an interpretive walkway that explains the region’s fascinating history.
Furthermore, there are many options on the mountain for the more adventurous outdoor types, but if you need to warm up, why not relax in the restaurant where refreshments and great meals are served.
The Banff Gondola is the perfect place to spend a couple of hours enjoying the crisp, clean air and amazing landscapes.
2- The Town of Banff
Located in Alberta’s Rockies along the Trans Canada highway, Banff is the most popular tourist destination known for its mountainous surroundings, outdoor activates, hot springs, skiing, and many hiking trails.
The small village in the national park is picture-perfect with wooden buildings, majestic castle-like hotels rising above the tops of the hills, and the Bow River flowing through town.
At an elevation of 4,500 feet, Banff is the highest town in Canada. But, visitors to Banff primarily arrive in the city of Calgary, which provides a world-class international airport, servicing flights from around the world.
Alternately, train service from Vancouver with the Rocky Mountaineer train line is an epic multi-day journey through the cost and the Rocky Mountains terminating in Banff’s town.
While in the town of Banff, service to local attractions, ski hills, and Lake Louise is available through public transit and shuttle service.
Downtown Banff is a great place to stroll; the main street is lined with shops, restaurants, and bars catering to visitors from around the world.
Spend your time in Banff relaxing at the hot springs, walking along the Bow River, or check out nearby lakes.
Banff’s population sits around 8,000 people and is limited through a strict application process because it was literally built for tourists.
3- Upper Hot Springs
Another great thing to do in Banff national park is to take a dip in the upper hot springs on top of the Sulphur Mountain.
The hot spring has become a favorite year-round destination, modernized over the years.
The hot spring water is from the natural mineral source heated by the earth’s crust and up to 40 degrees Celsius or 104 degrees Fahrenheit.
The cool thing about this place is that when you go inside the water it’s hot and it doesn’t matter how cold it is outside you can stay warm.
The water does have a distinct sulfur odor, but most visitors will attest to the therapeutic properties after just a short dip.
There are many minerals inside, such as sodium bicarbonate, magnesium, potassium, and many others. As a result, this is a perfect place for healing processes like sore muscle rheumatism and arthritis.
The views are amazing of the surrounding mountains from the top, also offers a comfortable and effortless access pool experience for visitors of all ages.
4- Lake Louise
Lake Louise is a top-rated tourist attraction in Banff national park, famous and prestigious for its beauty as a lake.
The lake was named for the fourth daughter of Queen Victoria, Princess Louise Caroline Alberta, and yes, the province of Alberta was also named for her.
The lake’s turquoise blue is created from the rock flour or stone dust suspended in the water. The rock flour is created by the glacier’s crushing force as it melts slowly and grinds against the mountain.
Naming Lake Louise, after the daughter of Queen Victoria seems appropriate, gives that its main backdrop is the Victoria Glacier.
As you walk around the shore of the lake, it seems like the whole scenery is there just for you to enjoy, and it is the moment you will never forget in your lifetime.
Moreover, there are plenty of activities to do; hikers can hike up the side of the mountain to the tea house or around the lake on the various hiking and walking trails.
You can go boating here, and in the winter it is solid you can go ice skating.
5- Moraine Lake
Moraine Lake is a glacially-fed lake in Banff national park, 14 kilometers outside the village of Lake Louise.
It is situated in the valley of the ten peaks at the height of 1,884 meters; it is about 200 kilometers from Calgary with an estimated travel time of 2 hours and 15 minutes if you are going there by car.
Moraine Lake features a large rock pile at the lake’s eastern edge with a trail leading to the top.
From this vantage point, you can see the full scope of the mountain range surrounding the lake and, on a calm day, a beautiful mirror-like reflection of the mountains in the lake.
It is one of the most photographed locations in all of Canada.
The view of the mountain behind the lake in Valley of the 10 peaks is known as the 20 dollars view as Marine Lake was featured on the backs of the 1969 and 1979 Canadian 20 dollars note.
Check out The Walter Wilcox restaurant, one of the top gourmet restaurants in Banff national park.
The Walter Wilcox dining room located within the mountain lodge offers a unique, elegant menu showcasing the region’s best cuisine.
There is a canoe dock where you can rent the canoe; it is one of the lake’s popular activities by locals and tourists alike.
Wildlife is abundant in the area; squirrels, chipmunks, and marmots are the most common types of wildlife you might encounter on your way around Moraine Lake.
With over a thousand glaciers and numerous accessible lakes, Banff national park has plenty to offer for nature enthusiasts. It is one of the greatest attractions in Banff.
6- Johnston Canyon
Located in the heart of Banff national park Johnston Canyon is one of the best Banff natural attractions and is easily accessible from the Bow Valley Parkway.
Johnston Canyon is an area that clearly shows the power of nature and time; the water carves the path in a limestone Canyon potholes have formed over the years from plunging waterfalls.
As water flows over the rocks, small waterfalls drop to the next tier of rocks, and the water continues onward until the end of its journey.
Moreover, deep pools of Johnson Creek and lush forest are sure to leave an unforgettable experience.
It can all be explored by an easy hike along smooth trails and catwalks, perfect for families and people of all age groups.
Exploring Johnson Canyon is one of the best things to do in Banff national park.
Visitors have the option of a short 600 meters paved walk to the lower falls, but if you trek another 30 minutes you will be rewarded with some spectacular scenery at the must-see upper falls.
You can then travel further up an unpaved path to reach the Inkpots, but the trail can get slippery, so it is well worth considering snowshoes and cleats.
7- Athabasca Falls
At 23 meters, Athabasca Falls is not very high by Canadian Rocky standards, but the river’s size makes it one of the most powerful falls to be found in the mountain national park.
Pouring over a hard quartzite layer, the falls have cut into the softer limestone beneath, carving intricate features, including potholes and a short canyon.
Athabasca Falls is a segmented fall, its water changing direction and folding over itself depending on water levels. There may be several different paths of falling water that shakes the like thunder.
Among the most powerful and breathtaking falls in the Rocky Mountains.
The Athabasca Falls thunder through a narrow gorge where the walls have been smooth and pat hold by the sheer force of the rushing water.
Flowing from the glacier of the Columbia ice field, the Athabasca River is the largest river system in Jasper. Athabasca Fall should be a must-add to your Banff national park bucket list.
8- Cave and Basin National Historic Site
Every one of us has a birthplace and a place that we will never forget; similarly, for the Canadian National Parks, that birthplace is here at Cave and Basin.
Some of the things to do here are the exhibits in the storied hall, viewing the cave and the bathhouse area, and there is also a marsh loop that is about 2.5 kilometers one-way or the Sundance trail that is 3.9 kilometers one-way.
The cave was discovered in 1883 by three railway workers, and over two years, they and others petitioned the government to develop the land cave and hot springs.
This is a must-stop on your trip to Banff Nationals Park; it is historically significant and features stunning views.
This should be a must-stop during your trip to Banff Nationals Park; it offers historical significance and features stunning views.
Although the initial spring is not open anymore, the Banff Upper Hot Springs is the new spot for visitors.
9- Lake Minnewanka
Lake Minnewanka is another gorgeous lake in Banff national park. There are many things to do at the lake, including beautiful scenic trails, guided boat cruises, and powered and nonpowered boat rentals.
Located in the eastern area of Banff national park, it is fed by a glacier; this lake is the 2nd longest lake in the mountain parks, which is 21,000 meters long and 142 meters deep.
Visiting this lake is surely one of the best things to do in Banff national park. It is an amazingly picturesque and colorful place to relax by water perfect for a picnic, hiking, and mountain biking canoeing.
10- Banff Trail Riders Wagon
This is definitely a must-stop place to be when you come to Banff. Join a small group of wagon ride, it is a one-hour wagon ride, and you are going to enjoy a nice scenic ride along the Bow River through the woodland to the remote BBQ site.
There you will be served with steak cooked to order, and you will practice how to rope a calf like a cowboy and play a game of horseshoes.
After your meal, jumps back in the wagon for the return trip home. Banff Trail Riders will give you an unforgettable experience in the front or backcountry of Banff National Park.
It’s a wonderful, very relaxing experience and enjoyable! There is also a vegetarian option. You can ride the wagon or go on horseback.
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