In today’s post I’m sharing the perfect Banff itineraries for how to experience everything that Banff National Park has to offer. 


If you only have one day in Banff, I’d recommend getting an early start. Banff is busy all year long, but particularly in the summer when there are more tourists. Getting a head start on popular hikes or even getting a parking spot can mean all the difference between enjoying the outdoors and doing laps of a parking lot to try to find a spot. Alternatively, if you like to sleep in while travelling, go to the most popular places in the late afternoon once crowds have died down. 

Banff has great public transit as well as shuttles to get you to most places you’ll want to go. Since parking is limited in both the townsite and at hiking trailheads, if you can leave your car at home or at your hotel, you’ll be ahead of the game. No one wants to get stuck in traffic while on vacation. 

There’s honestly no best time to visit Banff. If you’re going in the summer you have all kinds of hiking, camping, and boating options to take advantage of. If you’re going in the winter you have some world class skiing and snowboarding to take part in. No matter what time of year you’re planning a trip to Banff, you’ll be sure to have lots of things to do.

Things to do

Check out Lake Minnewanka. It’s one of the longest lakes in the Canadian rockies and is absolutely beautiful. It’s a glacier fed lake so it’s particularly clear and blue. There are paths for hiking and mountain bike riding, as well as quite a few backcountry camping sites (which require reservations to camp at). You can also book a Lake Minnewanka cruise. I haven’t been on one yet, but I can only imagine how pretty it would be. 

Another couple lakes to check out are Lake Louise and Moraine Lake. Both are pretty famous, so I’m sure you’ve seen photos of the views from their shores. Parks Canada has recently changed the parking situation at Lake Louise (you have to take a shuttle there as of summer 2023), so be sure to check out the website for information to get there. If Lake Louise is too busy, try Moraine Lake. It’s close by and although it used to be less busy, it seems to now be the fallback spot when Lake Louise is full. There are hiking trails along the shore of Lake Louise that will take you higher up and give you amazing views of both the lake and the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. 

The Bow Falls viewpoint is a great option if you’re not much of a hiker, but still want to see some beautiful scenery. Not far from the Banff Springs Hotel, you can park pretty close to the water. It gets busy mid day, so if you want to check it out when it’s a bit quieter, head out right at sunrise or late afternoon or evening. 

If you’re wanting to take in more gorgeous views, be sure to check out the Banff gondola that goes up to the summit of Sulphur Mountain. I’d recommend booking tickets online ahead of time. Once you get to the top, there’s a couple choices of places to get food, as well as an interpretive center. Alternatively, you can also hike up Sulphur mountain. It’s an hour and a half to three hour hike up depending on the weather and your fitness level.

My last tip is to keep your distance from any and all wild animals. It’s always so cool to see mountain goats, elk, bears, and buffalo, but it’s so important that we make sure to appreciate them from a safe distance. If in doubt about how close you are, it’s always a good idea to back up and give the animals some extra space.

Where to stay

If you’re spluging on a hotel while in Banff, I highly recommend staying at the Fairmont Banff Springs hotel. While I haven’t stayed overnight there, I have been a few times to visit my parents when they were staying there and to eat at one of the restaurants in the hotel. If you’re staying in Lake Louise, the Chateau Lake Louise is equally as luxurious. Both hotels are gorgeous to walk through and have so much history – including some good ghost stories. 

Just like any other tourist destination, there are  places to stay at all price points, from hostels to luxury hotels like the Rimrock. Booking in advance is mandatory, as holidays and long weekends book up fast. I’d book as far in advance as possible to get your preferred room. 

Where to eat

One of my favorite places to eat in Banff is at The Grizzly House. It has the most amazing fondue that reminds me of what I ate in Switzerland. The Italian restaurant at the Banff Springs Hotel is also really delicious.

For lunches I like to pop into pubs. There are lots to choose from on Banff Avenue on the Banff town site. Many of the pubs have some great live music. In fact, I was able to see a friend of mine perform with his band 15 years ago. Banff has an amazing art scene with everything from artwork to music to writing.

If you’re wanting to take something to eat on a hike, check out coffee shops for sandwiches to take with you. There’s something about eating after reaching the end of a hike with mountain views in front of you that just makes it taste better. You can also stop by the grocery store to make your own food if you have a kitchenette in your hotel room or if you’re staying in a cabin with a kitchen.

A big thing to remember when eating in the mountains is to be sure to take all garbage home with you and to not feed the wildlife. It’s always sad to hear about an animal that has to be put down because they’ve become accustomed to human food and therefore prowl garbage cans and around buildings to look for something to eat. It makes it much more likely that there will be a wildlife/human conflict and someone could get seriously hurt or even killed by the animal.

Have you visited Banff before? If you’re a local what’s something you’d recommend for Banff itineraries?

Banff Itineraries
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