Banff in October is what I would call a transition month. The month typically starts out with some pleasant fall weather then October in Banff can change quickly to what feels a lot more like winter. Don’t let this deter you from visiting Banff in October, it’s more to prepare you for anything so you have the best visit to Banff National Park!
Is October a good time to visit Banff? I don’t think there’s a bad month to visit Banff National Park. In this post, you’ll learn everything you need to know about visiting Banff in October.
We’ll share information on the typical temperatures, the best things to do in Banff National Park in October and some guidance on what to pack for October in Banff. More importantly, we’ll share what closes or changes in Banff in October, just so you can plan appropriately.
What You’ll Find in This Article on Banff in October:
This post contains compensated links.
Banff Temperatures in October
If September is a mix of summer and autumn, then October is a mix of autumn and winter. The month will start out feeling much the same as the end of September. You can still enjoy fall foliage and pleasant daytime temperatures. As the month progresses, you’ll need to be prepared for cooler temperatures.
The average daytime highs in Banff during October range from 7°C to 13°C (45°F to 55°F). As the month progresses, the average daily temperatures can fall to daytime highs of only 3-6°C (37-43°F). The nightime lows can range from -2°C to 3°C (28°F to 37°F), making early starts quite chilly. As the month progresses, the temperatures can drop below freezing so it’s important to be prepared for cold weather.
In addition, you can expect more precipitation in Banff in October. This will be a mix of rain and snow. The mountain peaks will start to be covered in snow and there will be some snow accumulation at higher elevations.
As you can see by these two pictures, the weather in October can be incredibly unpredictable and very different from year to year!
What Closes in Banff in October
You may have heard that many things shut down in Banff in October. While October in Banff is the start of shoulder season, it’s important to remember that Banff, Canmore and Lake Louise are all towns in and around Banff National Park with locals who live here year round.
Most things remain open though there are some seasonal closures. It’s also important to remember that winter is one the high seasons in Banff, so while some things start to shut down other activities are preparing to open!
Shoulder season in Banff means fewer crowds, so it’s to be expected that compared to summer peak season, there maybe some service changes. It’s can also be a transition into winter weather, which is the reason for some seasonal closures. Most of these changes will happen after Canadian Thanksgiving (October 9th in 2023), so if you visit early October you won’t experience these changes.
Here’s what you can expect for service changes and seasonal closures in Banff in October:
Moraine Lake Road
Moraine Lake Road closes after Canadian Thanksgiving. This road travels through avalanche terrain, so if there’s significant snowfall you shouldn’t visit unless you know what you are doing. If after the closure the road is still clear of snow, it is possible to bike up to Moraine Lake. Shuttles to Moraine Lake, will not operate after the closure.
Closing Date: October 10, 2023
Canoeing on Lake Louise
The Boathouse at Lake Louise operates until Canadian Thanksgiving. This is where you rent canoes for canoeing on Lake Louise. You can still bring your own canoe to Lake Louise, just remember to fill out the self-certification before putting any watercraft into the water.
Closing Date: October 10, 2023
Lake Louise Teahouses
There are two tea houses at Lake Louise that you can hike to. Lake Agnes Tea House and the Plain of Six Glaciers Tea House.
Closing Date: Both will close on October 9th in 2023.
Moraine Lake Lodge
If you ever dreamed of staying at Moraine Lake Lodge, you’ll need to do it between June 1 and October 1. The lodge closes for the winter on October 1st each year.
As such the Moraine Lake Canoeing, will already be closed since they only operate until mid-September (due to water levels).
Closing Date: October 1, 2023
Roam Transit Service Changes
Roam Transit is the public transportation that operates in Canmore, Banff, between Canmore and Banff, and between Banff and Lake Louise. Many of the routes have schedule changes in the fall, so it’s always best to check the current schedule before making plans. Some routes only operate in the summer months or from May to October.
Route 4 Cave and Basin – operates May to early October.
Route 6 Lake Minnewanka – operates May to early October (October 2 in 2023).
Route 8S Banff to Lake Louise Scenic Route – already done operating for 2023. Use Route 8X instead.
Route 9 Johnston Canyon – switches to only on weekends after October 9, 2023.
Route 10 Moraine Lake Express – operates mid-September until October 9, 2023.
Moraine Lake Shuttles
The Parks Canada Moraine Lake Shuttle only operates until the Moraine Lake road closes. Once Moraine Lake closes, the shuttles no longer operate. This applies to all shuttles including Parks Canada shuttles and private operators.
Closing Date: October 10, 2023
Shuttles to Lake Louise
The Parks Canada Lake Louise Shuttle will only operate until early October. Typically the Lake Louise parking lot can accommodate visitors to Banff in the shoulder season and winter months.
Closing Date: October 10, 2023
Yoho Valley Road to Takakkaw Falls
While this in Yoho National Park, it’s proximity to Banff National Park makes it an easy visit for most visitors. The road to Takakkaw Falls closes seasonally due to avalanche risk.
From October 1, travel in British Columbia requires snow tires (indicated on the tire by a snowflake or “M+S” symbol).
Closing Date: October 10, 2023
Emerald Lake Canoeing
Emerald Lake is open year round, but canoeing at Emerald Lake is only until early October. From October 1, travel in British Columbia requires snow tires (indicated on the tire by a snowflake or “M+S” symbol).
Closing Date: October 9, 2023
Lake O’Hara Bus
If you were hoping to visit Lake O’Hara (Yoho National Park), it’s one of the most difficult places to secure a shuttle for and the shuttles only run until very early October. The shuttle tickets are very sought after and are scooped up in April every year. Previous years it’s been done by lottery, which it may return to in future years. Sometimes you can get lucky and pick up a cancellation if you keep an eye on the Parks Canada reservations page.
From October 1, travel in BC requires snow tires (indicated on the tire by a snowflake or “M+S” symbol).
Closing Date: October 4, 2023
Lake Louise Gondola
The Lake Louise Gondola offers visitors a chance to spot grizzly bears, view Lake Louise from a completely different perspective, enjoy short larch hikes plus eat at the Whitehorn Bistro. This sightseeing gondola only operates until Canadian Thanksgiving.
Closing Date: October 10, 2023
The chairlift at Norquay takes visitors up to an incredible viewpoint or to the Via Ferrata. At the top you’ll also find the Cliffhouse Bistro. The Norquay Chairlift only operates into early October before it closes to begin winter preparations.
Closing Date: October 9, 2023
Lake Minnewanka Cruise
The Lake Minnewanka Cruise only operates until early October each year.
Closing Date: October 10, 2023
The Icefields Parkway is open year round, but may have closures in the winter. Always be prepared and check for any closures before heading out. From November 1 to April 1, cars are required to have snow tires for driving the Icefields Parkway (indicated on the tire by a snowflake or “M+S” symbol).
Jasper National Park
If visiting Jasper National Park is part of your itinerary, visit Parks Canada Road Updates to see the seasonal road closures.
Banff Wildlife in October
Visiting Banff in October, you’ll still have a chance to see Banff’s wildlife which might include deer, elk, bighorn sheep and even bears. Bears will typically be out until late October and into November. Some of the big grizzly bears can be out of hibernation even later and into December.
While it’s less likely you’ll see a bear in these shoulder season months, it’s still important to carry bear spray and follow all the precautions for hiking in bear country. Bear encounters can still happen and especially in early October when the bears are working hard to fatten up for winter.
Equally important is to keep your distance from the elk. Elk rutting season lasts until mid-October. During this elk breeding season, the male elk (bull elk) are extremely protective over their harem of female elk and can become very aggressive. Always keep your distance (30 m at a minimum) and never get between a male elk and the female elk.
Best Things to do in Banff in October
Early October offers visitors to Banff an opportunity to see stunning fall colours. In addition to the beautiful fall colours, you can enjoy the unfrozen lakes and mountain peaks with a dusting of snow.
If you are wondering what to do in Banff in October, read on because there’s really no shortage of Banff activities! Here are the best things to do in Banff in October:
Hiking in Banff in October
Early October is an incredible time for hiking in Banff National Park and the surrounding area. While the average daily temperatures are getting colder, there’s still time to do some of the best Banff larch hikes (typically the larch needles will hang on for the first week of October.
Aside from larch hikes, there’s plenty of deciduous trees that will be showing off their fall foliage. Don’t just think about Banff National Park for fall hiking. Nearby Kananaskis and Canmore have some great fall hikes that are worth the time!
As the month goes on, there will be more snow at higher elevations. This is a good time to do some lower elevation hikes. Banff has plenty of easy hikes that turn into incredible winter hikes.
Always check the trail reports before heading out. In October you’ll want to make sure there is no avalanche risk. In addition, trails can be closed due to bears or require groups of 4 or more.
Banff Larch Hikes
Here are our recommended larch hikes for early October. You can find all our recommended Alberta larch hikes here.
- Larch Valley – The Larch Valley hike is one of the best larch hikes in Banff. In early October, you should still have time to see the golden larch trees before the needles drop.
- Healy Pass – Easily one of our favourite larch hikes is the Healy Pass hike.
- Big Beehive – The Big Beehive hike isn’t one of the best Banff larch hikes, but we include it because it’s an amazing hike with incredible views. You’ll still see larches along Lake Agnes and at the top of the Big Beehive.
Banff Fall Hikes
Aside from Larch hikes in Banff, there are many other hiking trails that offer different fall foliage. Typically you’ll find mixed forests or shrubs that provide those fall colours. Here are our recommended fall hikes in Banff:
- C-Level Cirque – C-Level Cirque hike will get your heart pumping, but the amphitheatre and views of Lake Minnewanka are well worth it!
- Bourgeau Lake – The Bourgeau Lake trail is beautiful in the fall!
- Johnson Lake – Johnson Lake hike is a short hike, but catching the fall colours around the lake makes for stunning views.
- Johnston Canyon – Johnston Canyon hike is good any time of year!
Kananaskis Fall Hikes
Kananaskis will also impress with the changing fall colours. From larch hikes to stunning mountain reflections, here are some excellent fall hikes in Kananaskis:
- Wedge Pond – You will absolutely love the mountain reflections on Wedge Pond! Trust us!
- Yates Mountain – Yates Mountain hike to Jewel Pass takes you along Barrier Lake and the views from the top are incredible!
- Raven’s End – You don’t have to complete the full Mt Yamnuska hike to get one of the best views of fall colours in Kananaskis!
- Hay Meadows – Troll Falls hike in Kananaskis is one of the best easy hike. Make sure you take Hay Meadows trail on the way back for the best fall foliage!
Easy Fall Walking Trails
If hiking isn’t your style, don’t worry because you can still find walking trails with stunning fall colours! Here are some easy walking trails in Canmore, Banff and Kananaskis that offer some beautiful fall colours:
- Lake Louise lake shore trail is a beautiful walk around the side of Lake Louise.
- Vermilion Lakes Road and the paved trail that leads to Sundance Canyon.
- Quarry Lake in Canmore, has a trail that goes around the lake and offers pretty fall colours contrasting with the lake and mountains.
- Rundle Forebay Reservoir in Canmore, you’ll love the changing trees reflecting in the water.
- Policeman’s Creek in Canmore is a beautiful Canmore walking trail any time of year! As is the Bow River trail.
- Mt Lorette Ponds in Kananaskis has a paved trail that weaves around the ponds surrounded by trees.
- The paved trails around Kananaskis Village can also offer some impressive views of the fall colours.
Mountain Biking in Canmore and Banff
Mountain biking is still possible in Canmore and Banff in October. While it’s more likely that you’ll enjoy snow free trails in the first half of October. The cooler weather and changing leaves just add to the whole experience!
One of the top places to mountain bike in the area is the Canmore Nordic Centre Provincial Park. You’ll find a network of well-maintained trails suitable for riders of all levels at the Nordic Centre.
The best place for fall riding to experience the changing leaves is the Horseshoe / G8 Loop in Canmore which will take you through a glowing yellow aspen forest. In Kananaskis, the Terrace Trail offers some pretty beautiful fall riding!
In Banff in the fall, the Tunnel Bench Loop is a popular trail for mountain biking. This moderate route takes you through lush forests and offers stunning viewpoints.
Scenic Drives in Banff
Scenic drives are perfect for a chilly October day in Banff National Park!
Insider’s Tip: Before you begin your scenic drive along the Bow Valley Parkway, we recommend you buy the Banff audio guide by GuideAlong. This entertaining and educational GPS activated audio tour will greatly enhance your visit to this special part of Banff National Park.
Here are the best scenic drives in Banff:
Bow Valley Parkway
The Bow Valley Parkway in Banff National Park is renowned for its stunning beauty, and taking a scenic drive along this route in the fall is a must-do for the changing leaves. Driving the Bow Valley Parkway in the fall offers numerous opportunities for wildlife viewing as well. Keep a lookout for elk, deer, and occasionally bears, as they frequent the area during this season in preparation for winter.
Along the route, you can find plenty of stops along the Bow Valley Parkway like a hike at Johnston Canyon, get impressive views of Castle Mountain, or catch a train passing through the valley at Morant’s Curve.
Highway 40 in Kananaskis
Highway 40 in Kananaskis offers a picturesque scenic drive that’s especially stunning during the fall season. Especially in the first half of October, you’ll be immersed in a landscape bursting with the vibrant colors of autumn.
This route offers numerous opportunities to stop and enjoy the autumn beauty of Kananaskis.
The scenic drive along the Icefields Parkway in Banff National Park is one of the world’s most beautiful drives. This iconic route is renowned for its jaw-dropping beauty year-round, but the fall season takes it to another level.
Canoeing at the famous lakes, like Lake Louise and Emerald Lake, is still possible until Thanksgiving. This is typically the last day for canoeing on Lake Louise and at Emerald Lake.
Minnewanka Boat Cruise
The Minnewanka Boat Cruise continues to operate in the first week of October. There are plenty of things to do at Lake Minnewanka and the boat cruise is an excellent way to get out on the water and enjoy this stunning Banff lake.
Cycling in Banff
October in Banff is a great time for cycling! The best place for a ride is along the Legacy Trail. The fall foliage will be in full swing as you cycle the Legacy Trail. The Legacy trail runs along the TransCanada highway between the two communities of Canmore and Banff.
While you are in Canmore, you can also cycle along the many paved pathways that run throughout the town.
View Banff Sunrise & Sunsets
Another great thing about October in Banff is that while the days are getting shorter, it’s easier to catch a sunrise or sunset! Here are our recommended places for catching a sunrise or sunset in Banff:
- The Vermilion Lakes are an excellent place to catch either a sunrise or a sunset. The calm waters reflecting Mount Rundle is one of the most iconic views of Banff.
- Lake Minnewanka is another ideal spot for a sunrise or sunset. The morning offers calm waters with a beautiful mountain backdrop.
- Moraine Lake is one of the most popular places to catch a sunrise when the road to Moraine Lake is still open in early October. You might even catch it with a fresh snowfall adding to the beauty of Moraine Lake at sunrise. Plan your visit with these best ways to get to Moraine Lake.
- Another excellent location for a sunset is the Banff Gondola. The observation deck provides an excellent vantage point to watch the sun dip below the horizon.
- Drive up to the Mount Norquay Road to the Mt Norquay Lookout viewpoint. From here, you can enjoy panoramic sunset views of the town of Banff, the Bow River, and the surrounding peaks.
To make the most of your experience, be sure to check the sunrise or sunset times for your visit and plan to arrive at your chosen location a bit in advance. Don’t feel you need to go far though, you can find a pretty spectacular sunrise from just about anywhere!
Banff Gondolas & Chairlifts
If hiking isn’t your thing, then we recommend taking one or more of the Banff Gondolas and Chairlifts during your visit to Banff in the fall.
The Banff Gondola offers impressive views over the town of Banff. You’ll love the walk along the boardwalk at the top. If it’s a chilly day, you’ll enjoy being in the gondola and grabbing a meal at SkyBistro while enjoying the view from the coziness indoors.
The Lake Louise Ski Resort Summer Gondola and the Mt Norquay Chairlift are also open for the first week of October. After Canadian Thanksgiving and until ski season starts, the Banff Gondola will be the only remaining gondola/chairlift open in Banff.
Best Banff Viewpoints and Red Chairs
Another great activity in fall in Banff is to stop at the many incredible Banff viewpoints. You can also seek out the Parks Canada Red Chairs for a place to relax and enjoy the scenery at a slower pace.
We know that hiking isn’t for everyone, but that doesn’t mean that you need to miss out on the best views of the Canadian Rockies.
With the days being shorter in October, that means more hours in the dark. With any luck, you can see the Northern Lights while in Banff.
Cave and Basin
Enjoy the birthplace of Banff National Park! What makes the Cave and Basin an especially great place to visit in October is that you can spend some of the time indoors viewing the Cave and other indoor areas. Don’t miss out on a walk on the boardwalks too!
Banff Upper Hot Springs
What could be better than warming up at the Banff Upper Hot Springs after a day outside hiking! If you prefer something a little more intimate, check out these Banff hotels with a private hot tub.
Festivals in Banff
Celebrating Pride and the diversity in Banff, the Banff Pride Festival takes place in October. In 2023, the Pride festival will take place from October 6 to 15th.
The Taste for Adventure Food Festival is from October 26th until November 9th in Banff. During this foodie festival, select restaurants will offer special set menus plus there will be other special events that foodies will love!
Celebrating mountain culture, the Banff Centre Mountain Film and Book Festival takes place at the end of October and into November.
Skiing in Banff in October
While unlikely, it is possible that the ski hills get enough snow to open up a run or two before the end of October! With some luck, you might just get to ski in Banff in October.
What to Pack for Banff in October
Packing for Banff in October requires preparation for changing weather conditions as fall settles in and temperatures start to drop. Here’s a list of essential items to pack for October in Banff National Park:
- Layered Clothing: Weather in Banff during October can be unpredictable, so packing layers is essential. Bring a mix of short-sleeve and long-sleeve shirts, along with fleeces and packable down jackets for warmth. Don’t forget a waterproof and windproof jacket for sudden rain or chilly evenings.
- Warm Layers: As the month progresses, temperatures can drop significantly, especially at higher elevations. Warm layers are especially important if visiting Banff with kids. There will be a lot less complaining if everyone is warm! A packable down jacket will get a ton of use, especially those chilly mornings or evenings.
- Warm Hat & Gloves: You will get a lot of use out of out a warm hat and gloves! Maybe even a scarf! These are essential to have in your backpack for fall hikes!
- Hiking Boots: Comfortable, waterproof hiking boots with ankle support are essential if you plan to explore the best Banff hiking trails. Make sure they’re well broken in to avoid blisters.
- Micro-Spikes: If snow is falling the trails can get icy and slipper. You’ll be glad you have micro-spikes to avoid any falls!
- Rain Gear: Given the possibility of rain or snow, a compact, packable rain jacket or poncho is a smart addition to your packing list.
- Hat and Sunglasses: Protect yourself from both rain and sun by bringing a wide-brimmed hat and you’ll be glad to have sunglasses on those blue sky days.
- Backpack: A daypack is handy for carrying essentials while exploring the parks, including water, snacks, a map, and extra clothing layers.
- Camera Gear: Banff is a photographer’s dream, so don’t forget your camera equipment, including a tripod for those stunning landscape shots.
- Reusable Water Bottle: Staying hydrated is crucial, especially at higher elevations. A reusable water bottle helps you reduce waste and stay eco-friendly.
- Sunscreen: Even in the fall, you can still get sunburned, so pack sunscreen with a high SPF.
- Chargers and Power Banks: Since you’ll be taking A LOT of pictures, a power bank is worth having to make sure you can keep your phone charged!
- First Aid Kit: A basic first aid kit with essentials like bandages, pain relievers, and blister treatment can be a lifesaver on the trails.
- Maps and Guides: While digital maps are helpful, it’s wise to carry physical maps and guidebooks as backup, as cell phone reception can be unreliable in some areas.
- Bear Spray: If you plan to hike in bear country, it’s a good idea to carry bear spray and know how to use it safely. Bears are still around in October.
Where to Stay in Banff in October
Banff offers a range of accommodation options, from cozy lodges to luxury hotels, making it possible to find the perfect place to stay in October. Here are some of the best areas and places to consider for your stay in Banff:
Where to Stay in Town of Banff
Staying in the town of Banff itself provides convenient access to shops, restaurants, and amenities while being close to the stunning natural surroundings. You can find a variety of accommodations here, from budget-friendly hostels to upscale resorts.
Fairmont Banff Springs
The Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel is world-renowned as the luxury Castle in the Rockies. This iconic hotel offers a historic and opulent experience, with stunning views of the surrounding mountains.
The Rimrock Resort Hotel
Perched on the side of Sulphur Mountain, this upscale hotel boasts incredible mountain views and luxurious amenities.
Find even more Luxury Hotels in Banff here.
HI-Banff Alpine Centre
A great budget-friendly option, this hostel provides dormitory-style and private rooms, perfect for travelers on a budget.
Find even more Budget Friendly Hotels in Banff here.
Where to Stay in Lake Louise
Staying in the village of Lake Louise or at the shores of Lake Louise will save you some time on driving, especially if you plan to visit Moraine Lake, the Icefields Parkway and even into Yoho National Park. You could even split your time between two hotels.
Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise
For a serene stay surrounded by the pristine beauty of Lake Louise, consider accommodations in this area. The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise is a renowned luxury option right on the lake’s shores.
Find even more Best Lake Louise Hotels here.
Where to Stay in Canmore
Located just outside Banff National Park, Canmore offers a quieter and more budget-friendly alternative to Banff town. You’ll find a range of hotels, lodges, and vacation rentals in Canmore.
Widely known as one of the best Canmore hotels, you are sure to enjoy fine luxury and splendid views of the mountains and the creek in any of its 120 rooms and suites.
Pocaterra Inn & Waterslide
Look only as far as Pocaterra Inn & Waterslide if you seek a Canmore budget accommodation that’s comfortable as it is affordable. This charming Canmore hotel extends a warm welcome to all its guests with freshly baked goodies and superior hospitality services. Plus, if you are staying in Canmore with kids, they’ll love having the waterslide at the end of the day!
Find all the best places to stay in Canmore.
Don’t Forget Your Banff Park Pass & Kananaskis Conservation Passs
A Banff Park Pass, also known as the Parks Canada Discovery Pass, is required for exploring Banff National Park. You can pick it up as you enter at the Banff Park Gates.
For any of the areas around Canmore and Kananaskis you require a Kananaskis Conservation Pass. This includes the parking lots closest to Canmore like the Canmore Nordic Centre and Grassi Lakes.
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Celine Brewer, a local Canmore resident, is the co-owner of Travel Banff Canada. She has a passion for being out in the mountains any time of year. In the summer, you'll often find her hiking or mountain biking. In the winter, she enjoys cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and winter hiking the most.
As much as she loves the mountains, she also loves travel! When she's not playing outdoors at home, she's either traveling the world with her husband and two kids or working on their other two travel sites: Family Can Travel and Baby Can Travel.