Banff National Park is in the heart of the Canadian Rockies and is an incredible destination for outdoor enthusiasts. With the wide range of activities, mountain lakes to visit, hiking trails to explore, you won’t run out of things to do in Banff in summer!
While Banff is a must-visit destination for anyone looking to experience the beauty of the Canadian Rockies in the summer, you can expect to find the most popular places busy and crowded. That doesn’t mean your entire trip needs to feel like you can’t escape the crowds.
As locals to the area for over a decade, we’ve become well versed in finding things to do in Banff in the summer that get us away from the crowds. In this list of what to do in Banff in summer, we’ll include both the must-see Banff summer activities (that are likely to be crowded) plus even more places to visit in Banff in summer that will take you off the beaten path.
Banff in Summer – Table of Contents
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Best Things to do in Banff in Summer
The top three things that most visitors to Banff in the summer months are here to see are the mountain lakes, wildlife and mountain scenery. And for good reason, Banff National Park has no shortage of stunning mountain lakes, impressive wildlife sightings and incredible mountain peaks surrounding the area.
With this list, we’ll help you get your fill of all three during your Banff summer holiday, plus more! One of the best things about Banff in the summer is the long days, meaning you’ll be able to fit even more in before the sun goes down!
Need Help Planning Your Trip?
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Visit Lake Louise
You can’t visit Banff National Park in the summer without a stop at the iconic lakes. A visit to Lake Louise can be as long or as short as you want it to be. You can walk along the easy shoreline path to the end of Lake Louise for different views of the Chateau Lake Louise.
Add a paddle to your adventure by renting a canoe at Lake Louise and spend some time on the water! This will give you yet another perspective of Lake Louise.
If you have the time, we recommend doing on of the Lake Louise hikes. A hike to one of the Lake Louise teahouses is the perfect way to spend a summer day. Whether you choose to the longer Plain of Six Glaciers hike or the steeper but shorter Lake Agnes hike, make sure you leave some time to relax at either of the teahouses. If you are looking for an epic day of hiking you can do both and add hiking the Big Beehive.
Visit Moraine Lake
Top of everyone’s list when they come to Banff National Park is to see the famous Moraine Lake. If you are wondering if it’s worth the hassle, I can tell you that it is!
While many people try to visit Moraine Lake for sunrise, we’ve often visited later in the day. Any time of day is a great time to visit Moraine Lake though! The hikes at Moraine Lake have some seriously incredible views, and I do love the see the lake when that turquoise hue is at it’s most brilliant!
Whether you are looking for a mellow, short hike at Moraine Lake or a you prefer an all-day hike, you can find something for everyone. The lakeshore walk or Consolation Lakes trail are both easy and short. For anyone with more time, hike to Sentinel Pass or Wenkchemna Pass.
If hiking isn’t your style, you can also rent a canoe on Moraine Lake. If you have your own paddle boards, you can bring them along on many of the shuttles for paddle boarding on Moraine Lake. Don’t forget to head up to the top of the Rockpile at Moraine Lake for that iconic view over the lake!
Travel Tip: The Moraine Lake Road is closed to private vehicles in 2023. Make sure to book your Moraine Lake shuttle or one of these other ways to get to Moraine Lake. Alternatively, an easier way is to secure a spot in a Deluxe Lake Louise & Moraine Lake Tour.
Hike Johnston Canyon
It’s on every list and you can expect it to busy, but if you’ve never visited Johnston Canyon then it will be well worth your time. Hiking Johnston Canyon isn’t difficult and it’s a hike that everyone will enjoy! The elevated boardwalks add interest to navigating through this canyon. Don’t forget to step into the cave for an up close and personal view of the Lower Falls.
If you have extra time, you can leave the majority of the crowd behind by continuing your hike to the Ink Pots. The incredible mountain scenery surrounding the Ink Pots is worth the extra kilometres.
We always recommend visiting Johnston Canyon on a weekday and as early in the day as possible. If you aren’t a morning person, you can visit later in the day too, especially in the summer when the days are extra long!
Lake Minnewanka Boat Cruise
Lake Minnewanka is one of many mountain lakes to visit during your time in Banff National Park in the summer. Most lakes can involve hiking or paddling, but no other lake offers motorized boating. The Lake Minnewanka Boat Cruise is a fun alternative to hiking around the lake. You’ll love the history of the area (yes, there’s really a ghost town under Lake Minnewanka) and the mountain views from the boat are incredible.
There’s plenty of other things to do at Lake Minnewanka in the summer, from paddling on the lake to doing one of the epic hikes.
Don’t forget to stop at Two Jack Lake and Johnson Lake while you are taking in the scenery along Lake Minnewanka Scenic Drive (or the Minnewanka Loop as you might hear it referred to as).
Another popular summer activity in Banff National Park is wildlife watching. The park is home to a diverse range of wildlife, including grizzly bears, black bears, elk, moose, bighorn sheep, and mountain goats.
You can take guided Banff wildlife tours or explore the park on your own to catch a glimpse of these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat. Whether you’re an avid photographer or just love being in the presence of nature’s most majestic creatures, Banff National Park is a must-visit destination for wildlife enthusiasts. Getting to see wildlife in their natural habitat is one of the best things to do in Banff National Park in summer.
To spot wildlife in Banff National Park, the early mornings and dusk are the best time of day to see the animals. Just remember to always stay in your vehicle, RESPECT THE WILDLIFE and NEVER FEED any of the wildlife.
Take in the Many Banff Viewpoints
While you can get impressive mountain scenery from just about anywhere in the park there are many Banff viewpoints that are worth the extra effort. While we prefer the mountain vistas seen at the top of a hiking trail, there are plenty more that can be seen from viewpoints close to the parking lot or from a short walk.
Even if you aren’t able to walk far, you can find places that offer impressive views without much effort.
Take a scenic drive up to the Mount Norquay lookout for breathtaking views. Park at Surprise Corner for a view of the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel. The Hoodoos viewpoint is a short walk from the parking lot with some spectacular views. Even Morants Curve is an easy stop along the Bow Valley Parkway.
Meander Through the Town of Banff
A walk through downtown Banff is great any time of day. Along Banff Avenue, there is plenty of shopping to do, coffee shops to grab a coffee (or ice cream on a warm summer afternoon) or restaurants with patios to take in the mountain scenery.
From downtown Banff you can walk the paved pathway to see the impressive Bow Falls.
In the other direction, you can enjoy a pleasant forest walk on the Fenland Trail or continue on all the way to the Vermilion Lakes.
Further outside of downtown Banff is the Cave and Basin National Historic Site, where you can learn more about the birth of Canada’s first National Park.
Another option is to do a self-guided walking tour of Banff with the Whyte Museum Banff walking tour app!
Enjoy a Scenic Drive
While even the TransCanada Highway can offer some scenic mountain views, it’s worth the time to take a scenic drive around Banff. An early morning start even gives you an opportunity to see more wildlife. You can enjoy the drive itself with slower speed limits and decide which places you want to stop at along the way.
The best scenic drives in Banff National Park are up the Icefields Parkway, along the Bow Valley Parkway and along Lake Minnewanka Scenic Drive. If you can’t get enough of those scenic drives, you can head east and drive down Highway 40 into Kananaskis Provincial Park.
Insider’s Tip: Before you begin your scenic drive to Banff, we recommend you buy the Banff audio guide by GuideAlong. This entertaining and educational GPS activated audio tour begins in Calgary and covers all the main scenic drives in Banff, including the Icefields Parkway and the Bow Valley Parkway.
Stand-Up Paddle Board in Banff
Whether you prefer to stand-up paddle board or kayak, you’ll easily find places to paddle in Banff National Park in summer. If you want a relaxing and calm paddle, visit Johnson Lake. Lake Minnewanka is a nearby option as well, just be careful how far out you go because the strong winds that are often present can make it difficult to return to shore.
Always make sure you are following the rules for using watercraft in the mountain lakes. This is crucial to avoid the spread of invasive species. You must clean, drain and dry all watercraft and obtain a self-certification permit (or inspection permit). You must dry your watercraft and water gear for 48 hours before entering another body of water in the park. Read more on the rules here.
Hiking in Banff in the Summer
One of the best things to do in Banff National Park in the summer is hiking. With over 1,600 kilometers of trails that wind through valleys, over mountains, and along lakeshores, the park has something to offer for hikers of all abilities. From easy strolls through the forest to challenging multi-day treks, the park’s hiking trails provide visitors with a chance to experience the stunning beauty of the Canadian Rockies up close.
The hardest part will be choosing which hikes to do! Know your abilities then read through our post on the Best Hikes in Banff National Park and these easy hikes in Banff, this will help you choose the best hikes for your visit to Banff in summer.
Extra easy hikes might include the boardwalk at the top of the Banff Gondola. For an easy hike with impressive views over the town of Banff, hike up Tunnel Mountain.
Traveling Banff National Park without a car? Don’t worry, you won’t miss out on incredible hiking opportunities! We have listed all the hikes you can do in Banff without a car!
If you are traveling to Banff with kids, choose from this list of kid-friendly hikes in Banff National Park. Since we’ve done all of these with our kids, we share what makes these hikes interesting for kids.
If you want to learn more about the park’s ecology, consider taking a guided interpretive hike like the one to Hidden Lake.
Want to hike with a group? Discover Banff Tours has a very popular Signature Hikes tour, where they lead guided tours of a different iconic Banff hike each day of the week.
Get a Birds Eye View with a Gondola Ride in Banff
There are 4 gondolas/chairlifts in Banff that each offer a unique experience. But how do you know which one to choose?
Here’s a quick breakdown for each to help you make the tough decision:
This gondola takes you up Sulphur Mountain, providing stunning views of the town of Banff and the surrounding landscape. At the top, visitors can enjoy a boardwalk, the Sky Bistro restaurant, and interactive exhibits about the area’s geology and wildlife.
At Lake Louise Ski Resort you have the choice of a gondola or chairlift. The Lake Louise gondola takes you up the mountain to an elevation of 6,893 feet with the opportunity to spot grizzly bears as you pass over the wildlife corridor. The views include the stunning Victoria Glacier and even Lake Louise.
At the top, visitors can explore hiking trails, take guided tours, visit a wildlife interpretive centre or enjoy the incredible views at the Whitehorn Bistro.
This chairlift offers a more rustic experience, taking visitors up the mountain to an elevation of 6,840 feet. At the top, visitors can enjoy panoramic views of Banff and the surrounding peaks. The Norquay chairlift also provides access to the Cliffhouse Bistro mountaintop restaurant.
The Sunshine Village Gondola is followed by a ride on the chairlift to reach Sunshine Meadows. Visitors can enjoy spectacular views of the surrounding peaks and explore some incredibly scenic hiking trails.
We discuss all the best things for each Banff gondola or chairlift in this post on the Best Banff Gondolas.
Looking for the PERFECT Banff Souvenir?
If you love Banff National Park as much as we do, you’ll want to bring a piece of it home with you. This View from Sulphur Mountain illustration by Diana Boyle at Rooftop Illustrations is the PERFECT souvenir!
See more Banff Souvenirs by local artists here.
Via Ferrata at Mount Norquay
For something a little more adventurous, head to Mount Norquay for the assisted climbing experience at the Via Ferrata. With four routes, taking you across suspension bridges and up ladders, you’ll need some courage to get you through but you’ll love this exhilarating experience!
Experience the Thrill of Whitewater Rafting in Banff
While you won’t find whitewater rafting in Banff National Park specifically, you can do it in nearby locations.
One option for class 4 rapids is to drive 90 minutes from the town of Banff to do whitewater rafting on the Kicking Horse River out of Golden, BC.
Alternatively, you can do more moderate whitewater rafting through the Horseshoe Canyon on the Bow River or on the Kananaskis River in Kananaskis. The Kananaskis river rafting is the only one available to children under 12 years old. These options are only a 45 minute drive from Banff.
For those looking for an easy float down the Bow River in Banff, that is possible from within Banff.
Banff Upper Hot Springs
A visit to Banff National Park wouldn’t be complete without a dip in one of the park’s natural hot springs. The Banff Upper Hot Springs are the ideal way to rejuvenate after a long day of hiking or exploring. The Banff hot springs offer stunning views of the surrounding mountains and are a perfect way to cap off a day spent in the great outdoors.
Enjoy a Picnic Surrounded by Mountains
Summer is made for picnics. While there are plenty of Banff restaurants that are well worth the time, we think those are best reserved for end of the day, sitting on the patio after a day exploring the mountain landscape. Lunch time is the ideal time to pack a picnic and enjoy eating outside.
You won’t have any trouble finding a picnic spot in Banff, but in case you are looking for more alternatives, we’ve listed some of the best Banff picnic spots here. You really can’t beat a picnic at Cascade Ponds, just outside the Banff townsite. For a spot in Banff town, try the Central Park or Banff Recreation Grounds.
Cycling in Banff National Park
Getting on two wheels is one more fun thing to do in Banff in summer. You can cycle between the Banff townsite and Canmore on the Legacy Trail. For another fun cycling experience in Banff National Park, those visiting before June 25 or after September 1, can bike the Bow Valley Parkway.
The eastern section of the Bow Valley Parkway (from Banff to Johnston Canyon) is closed to private vehicles from May 1 to June 25 then again from Sept 1 to 30 as part of a 3 year pilot (2023 will be the second year).
For anyone visiting Banff with kids (or even anyone looking for easy riding), check out these kid-friendly bike trails in Banff and the surrounding area.
Mountain Biking in Banff
While you won’t find any downhill mountain biking in Banff National Park, there are still some great mountain biking trails to test your skills on. The Tunnel Mountain trails is the perfect warm-up loop. For anyone looking for more difficult mountain bike trails, head over to Star Wars and Topp Notch.
Nearby Canmore has plenty of fun trails to mountain bike at the Canmore Nordic Centre and others around town.
Banff E-Bike Tour
Another incredible biking experience is to take an e-Bike tour around the Banff townsite. With this guided tour you’ll not only get to try an e-bike but you’ll enjoy many Banff spots you may not have otherwise experienced.
Canyoning in Canmore
If doing rappels and sliding into cold pools sounds exhilarating to you, then join a canyoning tour in Canmore. This might just be the perfect activity to cool off on a hot summer day!
There are options for beginners to advanced based on your canyoneering experience.
Once in a while it the summer temperatures in Banff soar! While there are a plenty of ways to cool off, one unique experience is a cave tour! Getting underground is bound to offer some cool air, plus you’ll love crawling through the cave and learning more about what goes on underneath us.
You can choose between a 4.5 hour or 6 hour tour exploring the Rat’s Nest Cave out of Canmore.
Horseback Riding in Banff
What better time to go horseback riding than in the summer in Banff National Park. You can choose between 1-2 hour rides or plan a multi-day trip to a series of backcountry lodges with Banff Trail Riders.
If riding horseback isn’t your style, you can choose from wagon and carriage rides as well.
If you are staying in Lake Louise you can choose from two different outfitters for your horseback riding adventures. Both have options for multi-day tours into the backcountry or just for a couple of hours.
Visit Nearby Mountain Town of Canmore
Nestled just east of Banff National Park, still in the stunning Canadian Rockies, is Canmore. Canmore is a mountain town like Banff, but that’s less commercialized. It offers a bunch of different opportunities for hiking, stunning walking trails around Canmore and plenty of exceptional restaurants to eat at.
We recommend spending a least a day in Canmore. Walk the scenic Policeman’s Creek then stop in town for some of Canmore’s best ice cream. Meander main street and stop in the many shops for souvenirs. We really love Alberta’s Own for unique souvenirs made from local artists.
If you want more of a challenge, hike up the popular Ha Ling Peak trail for incredible mountain scenery looking down over the town of Canmore.
Drive the Icefields Parkway
If you have Jasper National Park included in your Banff summer vacation itinerary, then you’ll have the opportunity to drive one of the most scenic drives in the world. Make sure you leave plenty of time for this drive as there are plenty of stops to make along the way.
Bow Lake and Peyto Lake are both glacial lakes worth a stop. For impressive falls, stop at Sunwapta Falls and Athabasca Falls.
The Athabasca Glacier is part of the massive Columbia Icefield Area, the largest Icefield in the Canadian Rockies. You can go for a walk on the glacier with Athabasca Glacier Ice Walks, or take the Ice Explorer and drive out to a safe spot on the glacier where you’re able to get out and walk around for a few minutes. The Columbia Glacier Skywalk is a great way to see the Athabasca Glacier from up high.
Visit Nearby Parks of Yoho, Kootenay and Kananaskis
While there’s no shortage of Banff summer attractions, if you have extra time you can enjoy some of the incredible mountain scenery in the nearby parks during your Banff trip.
If hiking to mountain lakes is something you love, you’ll find even more opportunities in nearby Kananaskis Provincial Park. Two popular hikes are hiking to Rawson Lake and the Chester Lake hike. We also enjoy mountain biking in Kananaskis.
Kootenay National Park is home to Radium Hot Springs. We also really enjoy hikes like the Stanley Glacier trail.
Popular attractions in Yoho National Park are Takakkaw Falls, Emerald Lake and Wapta Falls. If you are lucky enough to get bus reservations to Lake O’Hara, we highly recommend spending the day hiking around Lake O’Hara!
Golfing in Banff
If golfing is your thing, the Fairmont Banff Springs Golf Course has panoramic mountain scenery and a challenging course. It’s the only golf course in Banff National Park.
You can find equally impressive golf courses with breathtaking views in Canmore and Kananaskis.
Fishing in Banff
While we aren’t experts on fishing or fishing in Banff for that matter, we know plenty people get excited to go fishing in one of the park’s many rivers or lakes. The Bow River is world renowned with anglers who enjoy fly fishing.
Explore the Banff Park Museum
Found along Banff Ave, the Banff Park Museum is an excellent place to learn about the area’s natural history. It’s housed in a building from 1903 and filled with botanical and zoological specimens.
Banff Photography Tours
There are so many iconic pictures of Banff. There are several incredible photographers in Banff who can take you on a guided photography tour to capture the beauty of the park. From capturing the perfect Banff sunset to wildlife images, you’ll return home with the best Banff Notional Park images.
These are just a few of the many amazing things to do in Banff National Park in the summer, and there is truly something for everyone to enjoy.
Be Prepared for Visiting Banff in the Summer
Banff Summer Weather
Summer in Banff National Park truly is a spectacular time to visit.
In the summer months in Banff, you’ll experience mild to warm summer weather. Banff summer temperatures usually range from 15C to 25C, although this is the mountains and anything can happen. We’ve seen it snow in every month of the year and on the flip side, seen temperatures soar above 30C.
The days are usually sunny with clear blue skies, making it an ideal time for outdoor activities such as hiking, biking, and kayaking. However, we get the occasional rain showers and thunderstorms, especially in the afternoon or evening.
Another benefit of visiting Banff is summer is that the days are long, allowing for plenty of time to explore the stunning natural beauty of Banff National Park.
Where to Stay in Banff in Summer
There are so many great options for places to stay in Banff in the summer. Just make sure to book your Banff accommodations early to avoid disappointment!
Best Luxury Hotel in Banff
If you are looking for 5 star luxury for your Banff summer vacation, stay at the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel. Since 1888, the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel has welcomed kings, queens, prime ministers, presidents, celebrities and more to its world-class Rocky Mountain location in Banff National Park.
Best Budget Hotel in Banff
Banff is expensive, we know! So if you are traveling to Banff on a budget, you are probably looking to save some money on accommodations.
The Dorothy Motel is the best affordable hotel in Banff. Newly renovated, guests have given it some of the best guest reviews of any hotel in Banff.
Find more cheap hotels in Banff
Best Family Friendly Hotel in Banff
Traveling to Banff with kids? The Tunnel Mountain Resort is an ideal place to stay in Banff with kids. In addition to the beautiful natural setting, families at this kid-friendly Banff hotel will enjoy the indoor pool, the fitness room, a sauna & steam room, bike rentals and an outdoor playground for the kids.
Find more family-friendly hotels in Banff
Best Hotel for Visiting Banff Without a Car
Not everyone wants to drive when they visit Banff National Park. The Moose Hotel is located right on Banff Avenue. It’s only a three-minute walk from the Banff High School Transit hub. As a bonus for visitors to Banff without a car, the Moose Hotel & Suites offers guests complimentary Banff Roam passes!
The Moose Hotel & Suites is also one of our top pet-friendly hotels in Banff.
Banff Comfort Camping
While camping in Banff is truly a wonderful experience, we also enjoy staying in the Parks Canada Otentiks, especially in June or September in Banff when the mornings are chilly! Comfort camping in Banff is a great alternative to setting up a tent!
Getting to Banff National Park
With a Rental Car
It is possible to visit Banff’s best attractions without a car, but for more convenience and flexibility, most people plan on renting a car. Due to the intense competition for parking spots, make sure your Banff hotel has parking.
There are ten rental car companies operating out of YYC, including all the usual international brands. Find the best deal for your Calgary rental car by browsing the offerings of all ten companies at once using RentalCars.com.
Without a Car
It’s entirely possible to visit Banff without a car. You can easily take a shuttle right from the Calgary Airport to your hotel in Banff. We have tons of advice on how to get around Banff without a car too!
There are three main companies which offer a Calgary to Banff shuttle service:
- Banff Airporter: The Banff Airporter offers transportation from the Calgary Airport to Banff. The Banff Airporter will drop you to any hotel in Banff or the Canmore Coast Hotel.
- Brewster Express: The Brewster Express offers a wide variety of pick-up and destination options. In the peak summer season, you can take the Brewster Express shuttle from Calgary to additional Canadian Rockies destinations including Saskatchewan Crossing, the Columbia Icefields and Jasper.
3. Discover Banff Tours: Discover Banff Tours offers shuttles originating from downtown Calgary and/or the Calgary International Airport with drop-offs in Canmore, Banff and Jasper.
You can get to Banff by train on the luxury Rocky Mountaineer train from Vancouver. Enjoy glass-dome coaches as you enjoy your all-daylight trip through the Canadian Rocky Mountains.
None of these options for getting from Calgary to Banff include admission to the Banff National Park. You will need buy a Banff Park Pass at the Banff Visitor Centre, shortly after you arrive. Alternately, you can buy a National Park Pass online before your visit.
Read more on Getting to Banff National Park
What to Pack for Banff in the Summer
If you’re planning to visit Banff in the summer, it’s important to pack for a variety of weather conditions. Here are some items you should consider packing for Banff in the summer:
- Light layers: Temperatures in Banff can fluctuate, so bring lightweight clothing that you can easily layer. Shorts and t-shirts are what you’ll wear most, but you’ll be glad to have a light sweater and pants for the mornings and evenings.
- Rain gear: It’s likely to rain at some point during your trip. While it probably won’t rain for long, you’ll be glad to have a rain jacket with you.
- Comfortable shoes: As you’ve seen in our list of the best things to do in Banff in summer, most of it requires walking or hiking. If you plan to do a lot of hiking, pack your hiking shoes or boots. If you’re planning on staying on the pathways and not doing any serious hiking, sneakers will do.
- Sun protection: The sun can be intense at high altitudes, so you’ll want to pack sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat.
- Insect repellent: The mosquitoes can be a pain, especially in June and July. Having insect repellent is a must.
- Swimsuit: While the lakes are still terribly cold in the summer, you might find yourself inclined to take a quick dip to cool off!
- Camera: Banff is known for its stunning natural beauty, while your iPhone can take some great shots, you ight want to consider bringing your camera for this trip.
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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.