Visiting Banff in September: What You NEED to Know

Author: Celine Brewer

Last Updated:

Welcome to our favourite month in Banff! What makes visiting Banff in September so great? September, while technically still summer for most of the month, is when we enjoy fall colours and temperatures.

September is often the month where we can see multiple seasons, sometime in the same day. It can snow in Banff in September or it can be summer weather, hitting temperatures around 25°C (77°F).

Bow Valley Provincial Park near Canmore Alberta.
Bow Valley Provincial Park in Kananaskis in Fall

We might also be slightly biased, since that’s the month we got married in the Canadian Rockies! It was late September with a helicopter ride into the most beautiful meadow surrounded by larch trees.

So, while September holds a special meaning to us, we are lucky that we get to enjoy the best hiking in Banff right around our anniversary every year!

Wedding in Banff.
We got married right in peak larch season in Banff!

Is September a good time to visit Banff? In this post, you’ll learn everything you need to know about visiting Banff in September and why we think September is the best month to visit Banff National Park! We’ll share information on the typical temperatures, the best things to do in Banff National Park in September and some guidance on what to pack for September in Banff.

This post contains compensated links.

Banff Temperatures in September

September in Banff is a mix of summer and autumn (with a sprinkle of winter thrown in). The average temperature in Banff during September averages from 4°C to 17°C (39°F to 63°F). In the past few years, we’ve even seen days upwards of 25°C (77°F) late in the month. With such pleasant day time temperatures, you still need to be prepared for cool mornings and evenings.

As you move further into September, you can expect the temperatures to gradually drop, so we always recommend packing layers and be prepared for varying weather conditions.

Sheol Valley is a great alternative to Larch Valley Lake Louise hike

As for rainfall, September in Banff tends to be relatively dry compared to the summer months. Rain showers are possible, but they are not as frequent or heavy as during the summer.

Instead, you’re more likely to encounter crisp, clear days with blue skies, making it a wonderful time take in all the best outdoor activities that Banff National Park has to offer. We recommend packing a rain jacket, just in case!

The drier weather also enhances the vibrant fall foliage in the area. While we may not get the variation of fall colours like our friends in Eastern Canada, we expect you’ll still be very impressed by fall in Banff!

Best Things to do in Banff in September

While we often talk about the fall colours around Banff, just know that they aren’t like what you’ll find in Eastern areas of North America. We don’t get the mix of red, orange and yellows, but we still really LOVE what we do get. The larch trees, which you’ll need to do some hiking to see, turn a striking golden yellow at their peak.

At lower levels, you can find aspen forests where the rustling yellow leaves are so enjoyable to walk amongst. The shrubs and other smaller plants (like fireweed, which turns red) add to the overall colors in the fall.

Our son enjoying a fall hike in Kananaskis.

If you are wondering what to do in Banff in September, read on because there’s really no shortage of Banff activities! Here are the best things to do in Banff in September:

Hiking in Banff in September

September is one of the best months for hiking in Banff National Park and the surrounding area. There are so many things that make hiking in Banff in September so wonderful. There are very few bugs in September, the days start cool but often warm up for the afternoon, the fall colors make hiking around Banff even more spectacular.

a dense forest of golden larches on the Healy Pass hike near Sunshine Village

If you are lucky enough to visit Banff in mid to late September, you’ll get to experience what is known as “larch madness”. The best larch hikes will be very busy and you’ll need to arrive early to get parking at some of the most popular trailheads. While this might not seem great, you can still avoid the crowds by visiting some of the less popular larch hikes (many of which are still incredible!) and by starting early.

Always check the trail reports before heading out. Trails can be closed due to bears or require groups of 4 or more.

Dan & Celine Brewer, owners of TravelBanffCanada.com, on a Flytographer photo shoot with their kids at Lake Minnewanka, Banff.

Banff Photoshoot

A Banff photoshoot is an excellent way to preserve memories from your trip! Get $25 off your first Flytographer photo shoot.

Banff Larch Hikes

Larch Valley and Sentinel Pass

Golden Larches on Larch Valley hiking trail
Golden larch trees in Larch Valley in Banff National Park.

Larch Valley, nestled within the stunning Moraine Lake region, comes alive in September as the needles of the subalpine larch trees transform into a vibrant golden hue. This natural spectacle, known as the “larch season” or “larch madness” draws hikers and photographers alike to witness the breathtaking fall foliage display.

As one of the best Moraine Lake hikes, the trail begins at the Moraine Lake parking lot. As you ascend through the forested path, you’ll soon be surrounded by a sea of golden larch trees contrasting against the rugged mountain terrain, creating a surreal and picturesque landscape.

As you continue your ascent towards Sentinel Pass, the trail becomes more challenging but also more rewarding. The panoramic views from the pass are nothing short of spectacular, with the Valley of the Ten Peaks below. The golden larches provide a stunning backdrop to this already awe-inspiring vista.

Ten Peaks and Minnestimma Lakes from Sentinel Pass Trail
The view from Sentinel Pass.

The return total distance of Larch Valley is 8.6 kilometres (5.3 miles) out-and-back with 517 m elevation. Hiking to Sentinel Pass is 11.6 kilometers (7.2 miles) round trip with an elevation of 817 m.

You can always stop at Larch Valley or at the Minnestimma Lakes (found between Larch Valley and Sentinel Pass) for lunch before returning if you don’t have the energy to make it all the way up Sentinel Pass.

Read More

Read our complete guide to Hiking Larch Valley and/or Hiking Sentinel Pass in Banff .

Eiffel Lake and Wenkchemna Pass

Hiking to Eiffel Lake and then on to Wekchemna Pass during the larch season is equally as scenic and less-crowded than nearby Larch Valley. Also starting at the scenic Moraine Lake, the trail to Eiffel Lake starts on the same trail as Larch Valley and takes a left after the majority of the elevation.

Eiffel Lake is small but beautiful!

Unlike Larch Valley, you won’t spend as much time walking through the larch forest but the larches adorning the valley below shouldn’t be missed!

For those seeking a more challenging adventure and breathtaking views, continuing on to Wenkchemna Pass is highly rewarding. As you ascend from Eiffel Lake, the trail becomes steeper and more rugged, leading you to the pass, which offers panoramic vistas of the Valley of the Ten Peaks below. During larch season, the pass offers distance views of these golden larches in all directions.

Eiffel Lake and Larch Trees seen from Wenkchemna Pass
The view from Wenkchemna Pass hike.

The hike to Eiffel Lake is 12.2 kilometres (7.6 miles) and 610 m elevation. To continue to Wenkchemna Pass it will be an additional 6 kilometres for a total of 18.3 kilometres (11.3 miles) and 930 m elevation gain. It’s essential to be prepared for changing mountain weather conditions and variable terrain.

Read More

Read our complete guides to Hiking to Eiffel Lake and/or Hiking Wenkchemna Pass in Banff.

Getting to Moraine LAke

With Moraine Lake closed to private vehicles, you’ll need to make plans for your Moraine Lake Shuttle. For other options other than the Parks Canada Moraine Lake Shuttle, read our full post on getting to Moraine Lake which has all the current options for getting to Moraine Lake from Lake Louise, Banff & Canmore.

Saddleback Pass

Another of the best larch hikes that leaves from Lake Louise. You begin your ascent through a forest of coniferous trees. In September, the subalpine larches along the trail burst into vibrant golden hues. The contrast between the golden larches and the emerald evergreens is picturesque and Instagram-worthy scene at every turn.

hiking saddleback mountain in September rewards you with many beautiful larch trees
Dan walking through a golden larch forest.

The hike to Saddleback Pass is approximately 7.4 kilometres (4.6 miles) round trip with a moderate elevation gain.

Read More

Read our Complete Guide to Hiking to Saddleback Pass in Banff.

Arnica Lake & Twin Lakes

Another of our favourite larch hikes in Banff is Arnica Lake. Arnica Lake is less travelled hiking trail that leaves from the Vista Lake parking lot on Highway 93. The trail meanders through dense evergreen forests and across pristine alpine meadows.

It’s the contrast of the beautiful Arnica Lake adorned with golden larches that will get you taking your camera out! You’ll also see some along the hike on nearby mountains.

Arnica Lake with golden larches - best Banff Larch hikes
Glowing larch trees around Arnica Lake.

We find the best part to be the larch forest in the meadow just past Arnica Lake, which makes it worthwhile to continue your hike on to Twin Lakes.

meadow full of golden larches near Arnica Lake trail in Banff
The meadow just past Arnica Lake.

The hike to Arnica Lake is 9.3 kilometres (5.8 miles) round trip, and we’d consider it a moderate to challenging trek due to its elevation gain and uneven terrain. To continue to Twin Lakes, you’ll add on an extra 7 kilometres for a total of 16.6 kilometres.

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Taylor Lake

Taylor Lake is another well known larch hike. The important thing to know about larch viewing at Taylor Lake is that it’s not just the larches that surround the lake, but continue past the lake to a meadow filled with larch trees for the most spectacular views!

Larch trees reflect on a still Taylor Lake in Banff.

While many call the hike up to Taylor Lake boring as it’s all in the trees, we think it’s quite beautiful and peaceful and well worth the effort!

walking through golden larches in meadow just past Taylor Lake in Banff National Park
Celine hikes amongst the golden larch trees in the meadow near Taylor Lake.

The hike to Taylor Lake is approximately 13.7 kilometres (8.5 miles) out-and-back with an additional 2-3 kilometres to enjoy the larch forest. The Taylor Lake hike has a gradual incline that is considered moderate in difficulty.

Read More

Read our complete guide to Hiking to Taylor Lake in Banff.

Lake Agnes and Big Beehive

While not as dense in larch trees as the previously mentioned hikes, we love the hike to Lake Agnes and the Big Beehive in the fall. The larch hikes that hug the back of Lake Agnes add that color variation we look for in the fall.

The top of the Big Beehive also has enough larch trees plus incredible views that we believe it’s one of the best Lake Louise hikes to do in the fall.

golden larch trees reflect in the water of Lake Agnes near Lake Louise, Banff
Lake Agnes adorned with golden larch trees.

The hike to Lake Agnes and the Big Beehive is approximately 10 kilometres (6.2 miles) round trip and is of moderate difficulty, making it accessible to a wide range of hikers looking to immerse themselves in the beauty of larch season in Banff. If you only want to hike to Lake Agnes, then it’s only 6.8 kilometres (4.2 miles) round trip.

Read More

Read our complete guide to Hiking to Lake Agnes and/or Hiking To the Big Beehive in Banff.

Getting to Lake Louise

The Lake Louise parking lot can fill up, especially during peak larch season in Banff. We recommend avoiding the stress of getting a parking spot and booking a Parks Canada Lake Louise Shuttle. We also have a post on how to get to Lake Louise with other alternatives.

Healy Pass

Healy Pass has quickly become our favourite Banff larch hike. Not only do you get the larch forest to walk through but the mountain vistas with their brilliant golden hues are spectacular!

A massive forest of golden larch trees rests in front of the Monarch and Mt. Assiniboine as seen from the Healy Pass Trail
Healy Pass in Banff at peak larch season.

The trailhead for Healy Pass is located at the base Sunshine Village Ski Resort, and as you begin your hike, you’ll be surrounded by dense forests of coniferous trees. Enjoy the time in the trees, you’ll be rewarded soon enough!

The hike to Healy Pass is 18.3 kilometres (11.4 miles) round trip and offers a moderate level of difficulty, making it suitable for experienced hikers or those who are up for a full day of adventure.

Read More

Read our complete guide to Hiking to Healy Pass in Banff.

For all the best larch hikes in Alberta, we recommended reading our full post. While many of the best Banff larch hikes are long and at higher elevations (since these subalpine larches grow at elevations above 1800 m), we understand that isn’t for everyone.

Read More

Read our guide to the Best Larch Hikes in Alberta.

There are still easy Banff hikes that will get you that fall foliage. Easy Banff fall hikes we recommend are Johnston Canyon, Johnson Lake, Vista Lake and Sunshine Meadows (prior to September 10th).

For a downloadable list, click here to get our Larch Hiking Bingo page (complete with list, distances & journal pages).

Larch Hiking List for Banff (Download)

Banff National Park isn’t the only place to experience incredible fall colors. Kananaskis Provincial Park also has many hiking trails where you can experience aspen forests that glow yellow in the sun. There are also several amazing Kananaskis larch hikes (both easy and hard) to experience.

Kananaskis Larch Hikes

Kananaskis has some of the best larch hikes around. The great part about Kananaskis is that you can drive up to Highwood Pass that has an elevation around 2200 m, so you’ll find larch trees without much effort! That being said, you’ll find quieter trails if you can get further away from the most popular Kananaskis larch hikes.

Here are some of the best Kananaskis larch hikes:

Burstall Pass

Burstall Pass in Kananaskis is one of the best larch hikes. You’ll find the trailhead for Burstall Pass along the Smith-Dorrien Trail. As you embark on this journey, the trail winds its way through dense evergreen forests and lush meadows, offering glimpses of towering peaks in the distance.

Amazing views of golden larches at the top of the Burstall Pass trail in the Spray Valley Provincial Park in Kananaskis Country
Posing at Burstall Pass for a picture!

The hike to Burstall Pass is 16.3 kilometres (10.1 miles) round trip and is considered moderate in difficulty. Along the way, you’ll pass by a crystal-clear creek and have opportunities to enjoy stunning views of the Spray Valley and surrounding peaks. As you ascend towards the pass itself, the landscape becomes increasingly vibrant with golden larches carpeting the slopes.

This hike is a favourite among both locals and visitors during the larch season, offering a peaceful and less crowded alternative to some of the more popular trails around Banff National Park.

Pocaterra Ridge

The trailhead for Pocaterra Ridge is located in the Highwood Pass area, where the larch hikes rival Larch Valley in their splendor and crowds.

The Pocaterra Ridge hike begins with a gentle ascent through lush meadows and dense coniferous forests. However, you’ll soon reach what you came to see as the golden larches golden larches contrast vividly against the emerald green of the surrounding landscape.

a larch forest in front of mount pocaterra alberta
Celine entering the larch forest on the Pocaterra Ridge trail.

The hike along Pocaterra Ridge is approximately 9.8 kilometres (6 miles) one way and offers a moderate level of difficulty, making it accessible to a wide range of hikers. As you progress along the ridge, you’ll be rewarded with stunning vistas of the Highwood Pass area, including views of surrounding peaks and valleys.

Golden larch trees in Kananaskis on Pocaterra Ridge trail

If the full ridge hike isn’t possible, you can always hike the South Pocaterra Ridge which involves hiking to the top of the ridge then turning back (8.4 km / 5.2 miles to summit and back). Alternatively, you can hike to Pocaterra Cirque (6.9 km / 4.3 miles) for an equally spectacular display of larches.

Read More

Read our complete guide to Hiking South Pocaterra Ridge in Kananaskis.

Ptarmigan Cirque

The best bang for your buck! Ptarmigan Cirque is located along Highway 40 at Highwood Pass. Ptarmigan Cirque is so popular because it’s one of the most family friendly larch hikes given its short distance of 3.6 kilometres (2.2 miles) round trip

Hiking Ptarmigan Cirque with a baby
Our son’s first of many trips to Ptarmigan Cirque in Kananaskis.

It’s a relatively easy hike, making it accessible to hikers of various skill levels. As you ascend towards the cirque, you’ll be treated to breathtaking views of the surrounding peaks and valleys. Upon reaching the cirque itself, you’ll be greeted by a bowl-shaped amphitheater filled with golden larches.

Read More

Read our Complete Guide to Hiking to Ptarmigan Cirque in Kananaskis.

Arethusa Cirque

Arethusa Cirque is also located near the Highwood Pass area. It doesn’t take long on this hike before you are walking amongst the larches. The best part of this hike is the view down on the larches with the mountain landscape as the backdrop.

You'll enjoy an excellent view of Pocaterra Ridge from Arethusa Cirque - two of the best larch hikes in Alberta
Dan looks down on the golden larches along the Arethusa Cirque trail in Kananaskis.

The hike to Arethusa Cirque is a relatively short 4.5 kilometre (2.8 mile) loop, and is considered moderately easy, making it suitable for hikers of various skill levels. There’s really just one section that’s steep on the loop where you’ll want to take more caution.

Read More

Read our Complete Guide to Hiking Arethusa Cirque in Kananaskis.

Chester Lake

Probably one of the most popular hikes in Kananaskis year round, Chester Lake is a worthwhile larch hike. The mountains as a backdrop with the lake and larches is truly beautiful! Don’t miss hiking past the lake to the Elephant Rocks to see even more larches.

A golden larch tree on Chester Lake near Canmore
Chester Lake in the fall.

The hike to Chester Lake is 9 kilometres (5.6 miles) round trip and is a great hike for the entire family.

Read More

Read our Complete Guide to Hiking to Chester Lake in Kananaskis.

Rummel Lake

Rummel Lake, also found along the Smith-Dorrien Highway, is another of the best Banff fall hikes. You’ll find the majority of the larches right at Rummel Lake. The beginning section of the hike offers some pretty incredible views of the Spray Lakes Valley and the shrubs offer some beautiful fall colours.

kids running down Rummel Lake hiking trail - Kananaskis hikes
Our kids run along Rummel Lake trail in Kananaskis.

The second section through the trees can feel a little monotonous, but the lake is beautiful!

Rummel Lake in Kananaskis
Rummel Lake surrounded by golden larch trees.

The hike to Rummel Lake is 10.3 kilometres (6.4 miles) round trip and is considered moderate in difficulty, making it accessible to a variety of hikers.

Read More

Read our Complete Guide to Hiking to Rummel Lake in Kananaskis.

Tent Ridge Horseshoe

Tent Ridge Horseshoe is an amazing hike! The views of the Spray Lakes just can’t be beat; however it does involve some scrambling so you’ll need to be prepared and experienced for that.

View from Tent Ridge in Kananaskis.
The view from Tent Ridge.

While you won’t find any larches on the ridge, the bowl below will be teeming with stunning golden larches.

The hike along the Tent Ridge Horseshoe is approximately 10 kilometres (6.2 miles) in length, and it’s considered a moderately challenging trek due to the elevation gain and uneven terrain.

Tent Ridge Horseshoe Hike in Kananaskis.
Larch trees are well past the peak but still visible along the sides of the ridge.

Wildlife Safety

When hiking in Banff National Park, you are responsible for your own safety. Before hitting the hiking trails we highly recommend you read our 10 Essential Banff Hiking Tips for information about bear safety, trail conditions, wildlife warnings and possible closures.

Easy Kananaskis Fall Hikes

One thing I love about Kananaskis is the changing leaves. There are a few spots in Kananaskis that are pretty spectacular and that we recommend for all colours.

Bow Valley Provincial Park, found just off the TransCanada highway, has some of the best easy Kananaskis fall hikes. Two I would recommend are Flowing Water Interpretive Trail and Middle Lake Interpretive Trail. They are each around 2 kilometres (1.2 miles) and offer some beautiful fall hiking.

view from Middle Lake trail from Bow Valley Provincial Park Kananaskis
Middle Lake in Bow Valley Provincial Park offers fall colours and a stunning reflection.

Further in Kananaskis along Highway 40, you’ll find a few other easy Kananaskis hikes that offer some spectacular fall colours.

Troll Falls is one of the best Kananaskis hikes in the fall. While the waterfalls are the best part of this hike, the aspen forest you walk through is pretty spectacular in the fall.

an easy hiking trail in Kananaskis Country
Troll Falls hike is the perfect fall hike in Kananaskis.

Read More

Read our Complete Guide to Hiking to Troll Falls in Kananaskis.

Wedge Pond on a clear, calm day has some incredible fall scenery with the trees and mountains reflecting in the water. The walk around the pond is only 1 km and it’s best to visit in the morning before the winds pick up.

Wedge Pond in Kananaskis.
Wedge Pond offers stunning reflections in the fall.

The easy path along Barrier Lakes leads you to the Stoney Trail, which has some of the prettiest fall colours! You can make this as short as you want, and just stop at the bench up the hill overlooking Barrier Lake.

Alternatively, you can continue to the left and walk along Stoney Trail (which runs along the banks of Barrier Lake) to the Jewell Bay campground (3.9 km each way).

Fall colours in Kananaskis on Stoney Trail from Barrier Lake.
Stoney Trail is lit up with fall colours.

If you are visiting Canmore, you can’t miss the Grassi Lakes hike. You’ll get an impressive view over the valley with it’s fall colours plus the stunning emerald-green lakes.

The green-blue water of Grassi Lakes is incredible.
You never tire of the colour at Grassi Lakes in Canmore!

Read More

Read our Complete Guide to Hiking to Grassi Lakes.

Moderate Kananaskis Fall Hikes

For more moderate Kananaskis fall hikes, we recommend hikes that will get you some stunning views over the valleys.

We’ve always loved hiking Yamnuska, but the best part of this hike in the fall can be experienced by hiking to Raven’s End. The hike through the aspen forest followed by the views over the valley are just breathtaking!

View of Bow Valley from Ravens End (Mount Yamnuska).
Fall colours in Kananaskis - Aspen forest along Yamnuska Hike.
Our son hiking to Raven’s End in Kananaskis.

Read More

Read our Complete Guide to Hiking Yamnuska.

Other hikes that over incredible summit views are Ha Ling trail, Wind Ridge trail and the hike up Yates Mountain from Barrier Lake. If you hike up Yates view Prairie View, we highly recommend coming back down Jewell Pass so you can also experience the fall foliage along Stoney Trail.

Fall colours in Kananaskis along Stoney Trail to Barrier.

Fall colours are not guaranteed. Some years it can get very cold and snow early in the month, this usually means our deciduous trees will lose their leaves before they turn those brilliant fall colours.

Read More

Here are even more Kananaskis Hikes you shouldn’t miss!

Easy Fall Walking Trails

If hiking isn’t your style, don’t worry because you can still do plenty outdoors that will give you some beautiful mountain scenery in the fall. Here are some easy walking trails in Canmore, Banff and Kananaskis that offer some beautiful fall colours:

Quarry Lake in Canmore in the fall.

Lake Louise lakeshore trail is a beautiful walk around the side of Lake Louise. While you won’t walk through the larch forest, you’ll still see them at a distance on the sides of the mountains.

Other Banff walking trails that will be beautiful in the fall are the 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.

Along the 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.

Hay Meadows can be done as a portion of the Troll Falls hikes or just as it’s own as a flat, easy walking trail that takes you through an aspen forest to the banks of the Kananaskis river.

The paved trails around Kananaskis Village can also offer some impressive views of the fall colours.

Mountain Biking in Canmore and Banff

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, September is our favourite month for so many activities and that includes mountain biking! The cooler weather and changing leaves just add to the whole experience!

Mountain Biking in Canmore at Nordic Centre.
Celine mountain biking at Canmore Nordic Centre.

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. In the fall, the changing foliage adds a vibrant backdrop to your ride as you cruise through dense forests and open meadows.

For more advanced riders, the Highline Trail in Canmore is a must-try, offering challenging terrain with rewarding views of the Bow Valley and surrounding peaks.

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, the Tunnel Bench Loop is a popular trail for mountain biking in the fall. This moderate route takes you through lush forests and offers stunning viewpoints.

Mountain Biking Terrace Trail in Kananaskis.
Celine mountain biking Terrace Trail in Kananaskis.

Scenic Drives in Banff

While September has some great temperatures for outdoor activities, it will also have it’s share of cooler days. Those are perfect days for a scenic drive or even if your legs just need a break!

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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.

A car drives on the Bow Valley Parkway in Banff National Park with Castle Mountain in the background

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 and tranquil scenic drive that’s especially enchanting during the fall season. As you embark on this journey, you’ll be immersed in a landscape adorned with the vibrant colors of autumn.

kananaskis highway 40 in autumn with fall colors.

This route offers numerous opportunities to stop and enjoy the autumn beauty of Kananaskis. You can stop in Kananaskis Village for a stroll offering views of the valley or take a leisurely stroll by the shores of Upper Kananaskis Lake, where the reflections of the surrounding mountains are so worth it.

Icefields Parkway

The scenic drive along the Icefields Parkway in Banff National Park is one of the world’s most beautiful drives and is home to the incredible Columbia Icefields. This iconic route is renowned for its jaw-dropping beauty year-round, but the autumn season takes it to another level.

The Icefields Parkway in the fall is not just about the scenery; it’s also a chance to encounter wildlife preparing for winter. Keep your eyes peeled for elk, bighorn sheep, and possibly even grizzly bears as they forage and migrate through the area.

Canoeing / Paddle Boarding

Canoeing and paddleboarding in Banff and Canmore during the fall provide a unique opportunity to experience the Canadian Rockies from a tranquil and picturesque perspective.

Stand up paddle boarding at Moraine Lake let’s you enjoy the towering peaks of the Valley of the Ten Peaks which serve as a dramatic backdrop, creating a scene of unparalleled beauty that’s simply mesmerizing.

Paddling on Lake Louise offers a similar experience, where you can explore the pristine waters amidst a palette of golden larches and evergreen forests, all while gazing upon the iconic Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise nestled at the lake’s edge.

If you don’t have your own paddle boards, canoeing on Lake Louise is a great alternative. You can find canoe rentals at Moraine Lake and Lake Louise.

Sunrise Paddle on Moraine Lake
Paddle Boarding with Kids at Moraine Lake.

Closer to the town of Banff, paddleboarding on Johnson Lake allows you to peacefully float atop emerald waters surrounded by the vibrant fall foliage. The serene setting is perfect for leisurely exploration, with opportunities for wildlife spotting and birdwatching.

Two Jack Lake, just a short drive from Lake Minnewanka and just past Johnson Lake, is another serene spot for paddleboarding in the fall. Mornings, while chilly will offer the best mountain reflections.

In Canmore, paddleboarding on the Canmore reservoir’s still waters reflect the surrounding peaks and autumn colors, creating an incredible fall experience.

Fall colours in Canmore along the reservoir.
Rundle Forebay Reservoir in the morning.

Cycling in Banff

September in Banff is a great time for cycling! The eastern section of  the Bow Valley Parkway closes to private vehicles, making it the ideal place to see some fall foliage and enjoy cycling on a car free road.

This closure of the Bow Valley Parkway from September 1 to October 1 is part of a 3 year pilot project by Parks Canada. You can read all about cycling the Bow Valley Parkway here.

Cycling Bow Valley Parkway in Banff National Park
Dan cycling the Bow Valley Parkway in Banff.

Another popular option for cycling in Banff is to 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.

Cycling Legacy Trail with Kids
Dan and our son on the Legacy Trail – one of the best Banff activities / September

View Banff Sunrise & Sunsets

Another great thing about September in Banff is that while the days are getting short, 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. While the wide-open views are perfect for watching the change colours of the sky as the sun goes down.

Moraine Lake is one of the most popular places to catch a sunrise. The Valley of the Ten Peaks surrounding the turquoise lake creates a stunning backdrop for the early morning light. We recommend taking a sunrise shuttle with Moraine Lake Bus Company (who we have personally used). If you can make your return time work, we also recommend adding on a hike to Larch Valley.

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There are many great options for catching the sunrise at Moraine Lake.

Another excellent location for a sunset is the Banff Gondola. Taking the Banff Gondola to the summit of Sulphur Mountain offers an elevated perspective for sunset views over the town of Banff and the Bow Valley. 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.

Seeing Moraine Lake at Sunrise with Kids
Watching the sunrise at Moraine Lake.

Banff Gondolas & Chairlifts

If hiking isn’t your thing, then we recommend taking one or more of the Banff Gondolas and Chairlifts during your fall visit to Banff.

The Banff Gondola offers impressive views over the town of Banff. You’ll love the walk along the boardwalk at the top.

Cable Car - Gondola in Banff

At the Lake Louise Ski Resort Summer Gondola, you can enjoy a meal at the Whitehorn Bistro with an amazing view from a different perspective of Lake Louise. If you are up for a short hike, you can view some larch trees with minimal hiking. The Kicking Horse Pass Viewpoint is only 1.5 km return, making it one of the shorts Banff larch hikes.

Unfortunately, the Sunshine Village Gondola and Chairlift which takes visitors up to Sunshine Meadows for one of the best viewpoints in Banff only operates until early September. It’s still more than worth it for the views even though you won’t get the changing larches at that time.

Finally, the Mt. Norquay Chairlift should be paired with a meal at the Cliffhouse Bistro. If you are up for an adventure, you can do the Via Ferrata at Norquay!

two glasses on table with mountain view in background - Mt Norquay Chairlift 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.

locations of the red chairs in Banff

What to Pack for Banff in September

Packing for Banff in September requires preparation for changing weather conditions as fall approaches and temperatures start to drop. Here’s a list of essential items to pack for September in Banff National Park:

Layered Clothing: Weather in Banff during September can be unpredictable, so packing layers is essential. Bring a mix of short-sleeve and long-sleeve shirts, along with lightweight sweaters or fleeces 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! Even a packable down jacket will get a ton of use, especially those chilly mornings or evenings.

Warm Hat & Gloves: You may not get a lot of use out of them, but you’ll be really glad you have them at those mountain peaks or when the winds pick up! 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.

Rain Gear: Given the possibility of rain, 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.

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For more detailed information on how to dress in Banff in the fall, check out our guide on what to wear hiking in Banff.

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.

family hiking Rummel Lake trail Kananaskis Alberta

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For more details on many of these recommended items to pack for Banff in September, check out our post on essential Banff hiking gear.

Where to Stay in Banff in September

Banff offers a range of accommodation options, from cozy lodges to luxury hotels, making it possible to find the perfect place to stay in September. Here are some of the best areas and places to consider for your stay in Banff during this beautiful autumn month:

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.

As the temperatures cool, you may also want to look for a hotel in Banff with a private hot tub or better yet, cozy up next to a fire in one of these best Banff Cabins.

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.

Banff Springs Hotel as seen from Surprise Corner Viewpoint

The Rimrock Resort Hotel

Perched on the side of Sulphur Mountain, this upscale hotel boasts incredible mountain views and luxurious amenities.

best luxury Banff hotels - Rimrock Resort Hotel

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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.

The Hi-Banff Alpine Centre is one of Banff's best hostels

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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.

The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise hotel as seen from a canoe on the lake.

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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.

Malcolm Hotel

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.

The outdoor heated pool makes the Malcolm Hotel one of the best hotels in Canmore in January

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!

top hotels in canmore with waterslide - Pocaterra Inn is family-friendly

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Keep in mind that September is still a popular time to visit Banff, so book your accommodations well in advance!

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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Visiting Banff in September
Celine Brewer - Travel Banff Canada

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.