Banff National Park is without a doubt one of the best places to visit in Canada. From amazing mountain scenery, stunning mountain lakes and so many outdoor activities, it’s a nature lovers paradise. If your family loves to get outside and explore in nature, you’ll love visiting Banff with kids.
Trust me when I say that you’ll never be wondering how to fill your time when visiting Banff. There are so many fun activities in Banff National Park with kids, you’ll probably have a hard time fitting it all into your Banff family itinerary.
Banff Family Travel Advice You Can Trust
At Travel Banff Canada, we are a real family who live just minutes from Banff National Park with our kids. What you will read in this blog post about Banff with kids are based on years of living near Canada’s oldest national park. These are our experiences in Banff with kids, and our family pictures, which we are excited to share with you for your family trip to Banff!
We’ve been visiting Banff National Park and area for decades, before and after having kids. Our kids spent the first few years of their lives visiting the mountains every weekend from Calgary, until we moved full-time to Canmore – just minutes from the Banff park gates.
Why are we telling you this? Because this is not the case for the vast majority of the other blogs you will read about traveling to Banff with kids. Look at their pictures – where are the kids?
What You’ll Find in This Article on Banff with Kids:
This post contains compensated links.
What is the Best Time to Visit Banff with Kids?
To get the most out of your time in Banff, mid-June through mid-September is the best time to plan your family trip.
The mountain lakes will be starting to show their stunning turquoise blue color in June, wild flowers will begin to appear and the hiking trails will be dry. The days will be getting warmer and the water activities will be starting to pick up.
Mid-June is when high season starts in Banff and will continue throughout July and August. Though it will be busier and prices will be higher if you visit Banff in the summer, it’s really the best time to visit. The days are long and warm, everything is open and the mountain meadows will be teeming with wildflowers.
September is when the kids head back to school. But if you can manage a trip to Banff in September, you’ll not only find smaller crowds (especially during the week) but you are in for some incredible hiking and scenery. The end of September is peak larch season in Banff.
If you are planning to visit for the Banff ski season, then late November through March is the best time to visit Banff in winter with kids.
How Many Days to Visit Banff with Kids?
How many days you visit Banff National Park with kids will be dependent on how much you want to see and how much energy your kids will have to be on the move every day.
We recommend a minimum of 5 days in Banff for a family vacation. This is a good amount to see the Banff highlights and even do a hike or two. With more time in the area you can either slow your pace or add in even more activities in Banff for kids.
Is Banff Kid Friendly?
Yes, Banff is a very kid friendly national park. With so many outdoor activities, kids will love to be out exploring in nature. From wildlife spotting to canoeing on a pristine mountain lake, your kids will love your family adventures and the raw beauty of the Canadian Rockies.
Get Your Kids Excited for Banff!
Our Banff Kids Activity Book will ignite your child’s passion for nature, exploration, and learning. Grab your copy of the Ultimate Kids Activity Book for Exploring Banff National Park and unlock a world of adventure right at your fingertips.
How to Get to Banff with Kids
The closest airport to Banff is the Calgary International Airport, located a 90-minute drive away in Calgary. For visiting Banff with kids, the best way to get to Banff is by renting a car in Calgary. For a family trip to Banff, having a rental is the best way to go as it enables your family to travel at your own pace. You can sneak back to the hotel if one of the kids forgets something, needs a nap, etc.
Insider’s Tip: Driving can get boring for kids, even in a place as beautiful as Banff. Keep your entire family entertained with the Banff audio guide by GuideAlong. This entertaining and educational GPS activated audio tour will greatly enhance your visit to Banff National Park.
Where to Stay in Banff with Kids
There are plenty of fun places to stay in Banff with kids, whether your family is outdoorsy and loves camping or prefers more space.
Camping in Banff with Kids
Make sure to get your camping reservation for Banff well in advance, especially in high season.
Two Jack Main Campground is one of our favorite Banff campgrounds for a family camping weekend. There is plenty to do around the area with Lake Minnewanka and Johnson Lake nearby, plus it’s still close enough to the Town of Banff to go into town for dinner or supplies.
Tunnel Mountain Village Campground is even closer to the town of Banff.
You can also find oTENTiks at Tunnel Mountain Village Campground or Two Jack Lakeside Campground. These A-frame cabins offer families comfort camping in Banff National Park.
Stay in one of Banff’s Iconic Hotels
The Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel is the most well known luxury hotel in Banff, but that doesn’t need to preclude families from staying there. The Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel has a Kids at the Castle program with exciting Banff activities for kids aged 3 to 12, including outdoor wilderness adventures, tennis lessons, float tours and scavenger hunts.
The Banff Springs Hotel also has an indoor pool, an outdoor heated pool and even a bowling alley on-site. Plus, there’s plenty of fun activities near the Banff Springs Hotel too!
The iconic Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise is also a surprisingly kid-friendly hotel. Get all the details in our review of the Chateau Lake Louise.
Other Family Friendly Banff Hotels
A few kid-friendly places to stay in Banff which we like are:
- The Tunnel Mountain Resort is still near the town of Banff but has a natural mountain setting. It’s also one of the few hotels near Banff with cabin rentals.
- Hidden Ridge Resort has apartment-style accommodations, allowing families to easily cook some meals to save money. Other family friendly amenities include a beautiful outdoor pool and adjacent hot pool, the outdoor playground and bike rentals.
If you are traveling with your family pet as well, there are plenty of pet friendly hotels in Banff.
Need Help Planning Your Trip?
Our Banff Travel Guide has everything you need to get the MOST out of your trip to Banff!
How to Save Money in Banff with Kids
It’s no secret, Banff can be quite expensive – especially in high season, and especially with kids in tow. Don’t let this stress you out, there are plenty of ways to visit Banff on a budget. The wonderful thing about Banff is that while some of the main attractions are quite costly, there are so many incredible things to do in Banff that are free.
Two simple ways to save money while in Banff with kids are:
- Pack a picnic for lunch: Having a self-catered breakfast and lunch help keep the costs down. Packing a lunch is especially nice when you visit one of the most scenic spots in Banff for a picnic.
- Choose free Banff activities: If your family is outdoorsy, you’re likely to be doing this anyways. Many of the best hikes in Banff are kid-friendly and they don’t cost a thing!
The 29 Best Things to do in Banff with Kids
Based on our many years of living and playing in Banff with our family, we are excited to share with you this list of our favorite things to do in Banff with kids.
1. Johnston Canyon
The Johnston Canyon hike is one of Banff’s most popular attractions and for good reason. We visit Johnson Canyon almost every year with our kids as it is so beautiful and so much fun for the kids. Johnston Canyon gives visitors a chance to hike up a narrow mountain canyon on elevated boardwalks. At one point, you can enter a cave and get soaked by a beautiful waterfall. I can still remember the thrill of this cave from when I visited Johnston Canyon as a kid!
Hikers can enter a cave to get a better look at the Lower Falls while getting soaked by the spray. The Upper Falls are even more impressive. They can be seen from a lower viewing platform and from up above the falls for two different perspectives.
Johnston Canyon is one of the most popular attractions in the park and is a must for your Banff family itinerary. This is one of the best Banff attractions with kids, as they’ll love the elevated platforms so much, they won’t even notice they are hiking. Without question, it’s one of the best kid-friendly hikes in Banff.
As a bonus, Johnston Canyon is located on the Bow Valley Parkway scenic drive, which is one of the best places in Banff to spot wildlife.
Due to the popularity of Johnston Canyon, get there as early as possible, especially on weekends.
If taking transit is part of your plan, please check the Roam Route #9 Bus to Johnston Canyon – Schedule and Route before heading out.
2. Banff Gondola
Complete with a gondola ride, insane mountain views and a mountain boardwalk, the Banff Gondola is one of the best things to do in Banff with kids in summer. The mountain scenery from the top is simply jaw-dropping. The Sulphur Mountain Boardwalk is an easy walk in Banff that will feel like you’re on top of the world with the Bow Valley and six mountain ranges as your backdrop.
There are two restaurants at the top, which offer a family dining experience with views that can’t be beat. With interactive exhibits inside and a stroll along the Sulphur Mountain Boardwalk, this is a fun Banff experience for the entire family.
If your family is up for it, you can hike to the top of Sulphur Mountain and take the gondola down for half the regular price (kids aged 5 & under are free). Just be prepared to hike down, in case there are no one-way tickets available.
Strollers are not recommended for the Banff Gondola experience.
3. Visit Lake Louise
No trip to Banff National Park is complete without a visit to Lake Louise. Even kids will be impressed looking out at the turquoise blue water surrounded by the jagged mountain peaks and massive glaciers.
For summer months, you can take away the stress of parking by booking tickets for a shuttle to Lake Louise.
One of the best hikes in Lake Louise is a very enjoyable, kid-friendly walk along the Lake Louise Lakeshore trail. The trail is as flat as you can get in the Canadian Rocky Mountains, with virtually no noticeable elevation gain to contend with.
Best things to do at Lake Louise with kids:
- Rent a canoe at Lake Louise and see the lake from a different perspective.
- Walk the Lake Louise Lakeshore trail.
- Hike to the Lake Agnes Tea House (6.8 km out & back / 385 m elevation gain).
- For the extra adventurous, hike to the Plain of Six Glaciers with a stop at the Plain of Six Glaciers Tea House (14.6 km out & back / 588 m elevation gain).
*Note parking at Lake Louise will be paid parking for the 2023 summer season. Get more tips on finding free parking in Banff here.
4. Visit Moraine Lake
Moraine Lake is easily one of the most beautiful lakes you’ll visit anywhere in the world. This glacially fed lake in Banff will have you in awe with its turquoise blue color.
Just 14 km outside the village of Lake Louise, visitors flock to Moraine Lake to see the incredible water color and the stunning Valley of the Ten Peaks. You can no longer drive to Moraine Lake, so you will need to plan ahead by using one of these other ways to get to Moraine Lake. It’s worth the effort – trust us.
If you can drag your kids out of bed early enough, visiting Moraine Lake at sunrise is a bucket list item for many visitors to Banff. Don’t feel bad if you don’t though, until 2023 we hadn’t taken our kids to see Moraine Lake at sunrise yet. They’re too grumpy when tired!
Parks Canada has closed the Moraine Lake Road to private vehicles. To visit Moraine Lake in 2024, plan ahead by booking a shuttle so you aren’t disappointed.
Here are the best things to do with kids at Moraine Lake:
- Rent a canoe to head out on the lake.
- Hike the 2.6 km Moraine Lake shoreline trail.
- Climb up the short Moraine Lake Rockpile to the viewpoint for a different perspective.
- Hike to Consolation Lakes (one of the best Moraine Lake hikes for families).
- Paddle board on Moraine Lake (if you have your own paddle boards to bring).
- During larch season, hike one of the best larch hikes with kids to Larch Valley
5. Hike to Consolation Lakes
While visiting Moraine Lake, take the opportunity to escape the crowds for a bit with this kid-friendly Banff hike. It’s been one of our favorite family hikes in Banff for many years.
The beginning of this Moraine Lake hike has a bit of an uphill climb through a rock pile at the base of majestic Tower of Babel. The Consolation Lakes hike then leads hikers through a dense mountain forest.
This easy Banff walk ends at a very scenic spot along the shores of Babel Creek. Hikers who wish to reach the actual shoreline of the Consolation Lakes will need to do some minor scrambling for approximately 100 m over some medium-sized boulders. The boulders are a good spot to see a rare marmot – please help them stay wild by not feeding them.
6. Lake Louise Playground
While in Lake Louise, make a stop just for the kids. New in 2020, the Lake Louise playground is for the most adventurous kids. It’s located off Village Road at the Lake Louise Sport and Recreation Centre.
Be prepared to have to tear your kids away from this fun Lake Louise playground.
7. Sunshine Meadows
Hiking Sunshine Meadows offers some of the most incredible mountain scenery within Banff National Park. This spectacular hike is located within the Sunshine Village ski resort.
The entire Sunshine Meadows experience is fun for kids. It starts with a scenic 4.3 km gondola ride to the ski resort. Once at the top, you take the Standish Express Quad chairlift. If you’ve been skiing with kids at Sunshine while visiting Banff in winter, this will be a fun experience to see it in the summer.
There are several hiking trails to choose from within Sunshine Meadows. The easiest scenic route we recommend is Trail 2 (Standish Viewing Deck Loop) to Trail 3 (Rock Isle Junction) to Trail 1 (Rock Isle Road).
8. Hike Tunnel Mountain in Banff
The Tunnel Mountain trail is the easiest hike to a mountain summit in Banff National Park. Imagine your kids proudly telling their friends that they summited a mountain in Banff!
The Tunnel Mountain hike is a gradual uphill trail, so there will still be some work involved but the views are worth it. You will be rewarded with excellent views of the Banff Townsite, the iconic Banff Springs Hotel and the surrounding mountain landscape of Banff National Park.
Tunnel Mountain is one of our favorite easy hikes in Banff with our kids.
9. Vermilion Lakes
The Vermilion Lakes are just a short distance west of the Town of Banff along the Vermilion Lakes Road. You can walk the Vermilion Lakes Road, with impressive mountain views behind the three lakes that make up Vermilion Lakes. You can walk up to 4.4 km before turning back. Just be aware that this road is shared with vehicle traffic.
The Vermilion Lakes are perfect for a canoe or stand up paddle in Banff with kids.
As of June 2021, Banff National Park requires a Self-Certification Permit for any non-motorized watercraft, fishing equipment and aquatic recreational equipment.
10. Fenland Loop
Another of our favorite easy family walks near the Town of Banff is the 2.1 km Fenland Trail loop. It’s an easy kid friendly walk through the wooded marshland along the banks of the Forty Mile Creek. This easy Banff hike can be accessed right from the Town of Banff.
Don’t forget to stop for a family picture at the nearby BANFF sign. The Fenland trail connects up to the Bow River Trail which is a paved path that will take you to Central Park (0.9 km) or further to Surprise Corner (1.4 km).
11. Bow Falls
Bow Falls is a must-see landmark in Banff. This wide but short waterfall will impress you with its intense flow. You can reach the Bow Falls viewpoint by crossing the Banff Pedestrian Bridge from the Bow River Trail and following the paved Bow Falls Trail to the viewpoint.
12. See the Banff Springs Hotel
Even if you aren’t staying at the iconic Banff Springs Hotel it’s worth a visit. This European chateau tucked in the Canadian Rocky Mountains will impress you with its grandeur as you walk into the grand lobby. The public areas of the hotel are a ton of fun for kids to explore – it’ll make them feel like they are exploring a castle!
You can see the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel from a stunning vantage point from Surprise Corner in Banff. This is also the location of the start of Hoodoos Trail.
13. Hoodoos Trail
While you can see these impressive rock spires at the Hoodoos Viewpoint along Tunnel Mountain Road (which has a parking lot), doing it as a hike from Surprise Corner to the Banff Hoodoos Trail is also a lot of fun with kids.
Starting at Surprise Corner, you’ll love the vantage point of the iconic Banff Springs Hotel. From there, you’ll meander through the forest with incredible views of the Bow River and Mount Rundle. After climbing onto the ridge along Tunnel Mountain Road, the views over the river valley are equally impressive.
14. Visit the Scenic Mountain Lakes
Just 20 minutes from the Banff Townsite along Lake Minnewanka Scenic Drive are three glacial lakes that are all fun to visit with kids.
Of all the lakes on the Lake Minnewanka Scenic Loop, Johnson Lake is the one we visit most often with our kids. The closest lake to Banff, Johnson Lake has a picnic area and a small sandy beach for kids to play in. There’s also a short easy hike around Johnson Lake with impressive mountain views and an old hermit’s cabin to explore.
Johnson Lake is a perfect spot to spend the day in the mountains with your family. It’s also a great place for stand up paddle boarding with kids.
Two Jack Lake
Two Jack Lake, home to two popular campgrounds in Banff, has similar offerings to Johnson Lake. There’s an easy walk along the shores of Two Jack Lake and it’s perfect for Banff watersports like canoeing, kayaking or stand up paddle boarding.
Two Jack Lake is also ideal for anyone looking for a picnic spot near a lake or to do some swimming (if you can brave the freezing glacial water).
Lake Minnewanka, Banff’s largest lake, is where you can go on a scenic boat cruise. If a boat cruise isn’t your style, you can also rent a motorboat, canoe or kayak and get on the water on your own.
For anyone hoping to get in some fishing in Banff, there are guided fishing trips at Lake Minnewanka.
Lake Minnewanka is also a popular Banff picnic spot. For hikers, the Stewart Canyon trail is a fun kid-friendly hike, but the longer Lake Minnewanka trail is also a fun family hiking option. The Lake Minnewanka trail goes on forever, so simply turn back when you feel ready.
15. Cascade Ponds
If you are looking for the perfect family picnic spot in Banff, look no further than Cascade Ponds, which lies at the base of Cascade Mountain. Complete with fire pits, picnic tables, Cascade Ponds is the ideal spot to have a relaxing day. Our kids love getting to run around and explore this fun Banff recreational area.
You can also find another of Banff’s easy hikes at Cascade Ponds. This kid-friendly Banff hike is a 1.5 km loop over footbridges and between the ponds.
Cascade Ponds is also reached along Lake Minnewanka Scenic Drive and it makes a good starting point for biking the Legacy Trail with kids.
16. Bike the Legacy Trail
The Legacy Trail is a 26 km paved cycling trail that connects Canmore to Banff. While at times you have the highway noise to contend with, this is still a fun way to get between the towns.
If you plan to bike the Legacy Trail with your kids only one way, ride from Banff to Canmore as it’s mostly downhill the entire way then hop on the Roam Transit Canmore-Banff Regional (Route 3) to get back to Banff. Keep in mind the bus can only accommodate six bikes at a time.
Alternatively, start the bike ride on the Legacy trail from the Canmore Information Centre and ride to Banff for lunch before returning back to Canmore.
When biking the Legacy Trail with kids, we recommend going early in the morning as it will be far less busy.
17. Lower Bankhead Ghost Town
Also located near Lake Minnewanka is the Lower Bankhead Ghost Town. Bankhead was a coal mining town near Banff in the early 1900’s. The remnants of this old mining town are still there and an interpretive trail will tell the story as you complete the 1.1 km loop.
We absolutely love this easy Banff hike with our kids as they get so excited to explore the ruins of the Bankhead Ghost Town. (We must admit, we love it too!)
18. Cave and Basin National Historic Site
The discovery of hot springs at the Cave and Basin site led to the creation of Banff, Canada’s first national park. Visitors to the Cave and Basin will walk through a narrow tunnel to see the mineral rich water in an atmospheric cave. Then spend some time watching the movies and learning from the interactive exhibits at the Visitor Centre.
There are plenty of outdoor activities to enjoy at the Cave and Basin, which include easy hiking trails along the Bow River, like a walk along the Marsh Loop or the kid-friendly bike ride to Sundance Canyon.
19. Sundance Canyon Bike and Hike
The Sundance Canyon can be reached along the paved trail from the Cave and Basin. It’s 3.7 km one way from the trailhead to the start of the Sundance Canyon. There are some impressive mountain views as you bike along the Bow River. Once at the Sundance Canyon, there’s a place to lock up bikes before completing the 1.6 km loop on foot.
Though Sundance Canyon is a short Banff hike, there are some challenging spots where younger kids will need some help. The incredible waterfall at Sundance Canyon is a must-see on your family trip to Banff.
The entire excursion can be done by walking, but it makes for an excellent bike ride in Banff with kids. On the way back, you can go off the paved trail by finishing along the Marsh Loop.
20. Banff Upper Hot Springs
It’s easy to be on the go all the time, with so many things to do in Banff with kids. Take some time to relax and soak those tired muscles at the Banff Upper Hot Springs.
Banff Upper Hot Springs are located near the top of Sulphur Mountain and 4 km from the Banff townsite.
21. Icefields Parkway
From Lake Louise you can drive north up the Icefields Parkway. The Icefields Parkway is one of the worlds most scenic drives as it winds itself up through both Banff and Jasper Nationals parks over 232 kilometers.
Visiting the Icefields Parkway is worth spending an entire day on this drive and stopping at the many attractions along the way. A journey on the Ice Explorer onto the Athabasca Glacier cannot be missed!
Peyto Lake, Mistaya Canyon, Sunwapta Falls, Columbia Icefield and the Athabasca Falls are all great spots to stop with your kids.
22. Lake Louise Summer Gondola
The Lake Louise Gondola is another opportunity to get some of the most stunning views in Banff National Park. Even more exciting is the possibility of seeing grizzly bears down below. There are two short hiking trails at the top as well.
23. Spot wildlife
One of the main attractions of Banff National Park, besides the mountains themselves, is spotting the Rocky Mountain wildlife in their natural habitat. Save some time for viewing wildlife or join an organized tour like this evening wildlife safari.
24. Horseback riding
See Banff from the back of a horse as you join a trail ride for an hour or for the afternoon. With so many options and no experience required, this is a fun Banff activity for the entire family.
*Kids must be 8 years or older for the horseback riding in Banff.
25. Raft tour
Take the kids on a scenic float down the Bow River with Rocky Mountain Raft Tours. You’ll get a different perspective seeing the mountains from the water and with any luck spot some wildlife along the way.
26. Banff Avenue
With so much to do during the day, spend the evenings walking along Banff Avenue where your family can try the many different restaurants and visit all the shops.
The kids will be excited to stop in the Banff Sweet Shoppe or the Fudgery for some amazing treats.
27. Hike to Silverton Falls
If your family decides to enjoy the Johnston Canyon hike, why not add on the short & easy hike to Silverton Falls? Just a few minutes down the Bow Valley Parkway from Johnston Canyon, the Silverton Falls hike is a very enjoyable 1 km walk through a lush forest to a beautiful 3-tiered waterfall.
28. Visit Nearby Canmore with Kids
Whether you are staying in Banff National Park or saving some money by staying in Canmore, you’ll still want to leave some time to explore this scenic mountain town (our hometown!). There’s tons of great things to do in Canmore with kids!
Hike to Grassi Lakes
Grassi Lakes is one of the most popular kid-friendly Canmore hikes and once you do it you’ll see why. Hiking to Grassi Lakes is an easy 2 km hike on a wide trail through the forest that ends at the stunning blue-green lakes. The pictures don’t do this place justice, especially if you catch it on a sunny, blue sky day.
Explore Canmore Walking Trails
Canmore has an extensive pathway system where you can enjoy an easy walk while taking in the mountain scenery. The Bow River Loop Trail is one of the most popular Canmore walking trails that is 2 km long and takes walkers across the impressive Canmore Engine Bridge, built in 1891 by Canadian Pacific Railway. Starting at Riverside Park, enjoy the views of Mount Rundle, Ha Ling Peak and the Three Sisters.
Especially for kids, when you get back to Bridge Road continue on the pathway, instead of crossing the bridge, which will turn into a wide gravel path. You’ll soon end up at West Canmore Park playground. Kids can play while parents can enjoy the incredible scenery.
For an especially hot summer day, visit Quarry Lake. This small Canmore lake has a nice 1 km loop around it plus a small beach where kids can play in the water. Quarry Lake is a fun place to stand up paddle board in Canmore.
Quarry Lake parking fees: Effective May 14, 2021 visitors will have to pay to park at Quarry Lake. Quarry Lake paid parking will be in place the entire year, seven days a week from 7am to 10pm. In peak season, parking at Quarry Lake will cost $20 for 4 hours ($10 for 4 hours in non-peak season).
Hike Heart Creek
While technically in Kananaskis Country, but only 17 km from Canmore, is the very popular and kid-friendly Heart Creek trail. Hikers follow the path of the gently flowing Heart Creek into the belly of a dramatic mountain canyon, filled with large evergreen trees and boulders on the canyon floor. The best part of hiking Heart Creek trail for kids is crossing fun, little wooden bridges over Heart Creek time-and-again.
Canmore Ice Cream Bus
Every Canmore adventure should end at the popular Canmore Ice Cream Bus.
Check out our other favorite Canmore ice cream spots!
29. Hike in Kananaskis Country
Kananaskis Country, or K-Country as you’ll also see it referred to as, is made up of several provincial mountain parks to the west and south-west of Calgary. Kananaskis borders Canmore and Banff National Park. Kananaskis is also home to even more incredible outdoor recreation in the area.
For anyone staying in the area longer, there are some incredible kid-friendly hikes in Kananaskis that even parents will love. The best place to start is with these Easy Kananaskis Hikes.
Some of our favorite kid-friendly hikes in Kananaskis are:
- Chester Lake Hike
- Blackshale Suspension Bridge
- Troll Falls Trail
- Grotto Canyon Hike
- Bow Valley Provincial Park hiking trails:
A Banff Family Itinerary
As you can see, there are so many things to do in Banff in summer with kids. It can feel overwhelming when trying to build your Banff family itinerary, so to give you a starting point, here is an example 5 day itinerary for Banff with kids:
Day 1: Familiarize yourself with the Town of Banff. Visit Bow Falls, Surprise Corner, the Hoodoos, Fenland Trail and Vermilion Lakes. Hike up Tunnel Mountain or take the Banff Gondola for a different perspective.
Day 2: Visit the birthplace of Canada National Parks at the Cave and Basin National Historic Site. Take the time to bike to Sundance Canyon and hike the loop. Finish your day by relaxing in the Banff Upper Hot Springs.
Day 3: Visit Lake Louise and Moraine Lake. See the lakes and plan on one amazing hike in the area. Be prepared with Moraine Lake shuttle tickets as the road is closed to private vehicles.
Day 4: Visit Johnston Canyon in the morning. Spend the day in the area hiking up to the Ink Pots. If you have time afterwards, visit one of the scenic mountain lakes (Johnson Lake, Two Jack Lake or Lake Minnewanka).
Day 5: Bike the Legacy Trail and spend some time exploring the town of Canmore.
If you have more time on your family trip to Banff, you could add on more fun activities in Banff for kids: play at the beach at Johnson Lake, enjoy a raft tour, or go horseback riding.
Other areas that shouldn’t be missed are a drive up the Icefields Parkway or doing fun kid friendly hikes in Kananaskis.
What to Pack for Visiting Banff with Kids
One of the most difficult things about packing for a trip to Banff is how to deal with the highly variable mountain weather, even in summer. Whether you are visiting Banff in the summer or in the spring/fall seasons, you’ll want to pack the following for your family trip to Banff:
- Warm layers: Yes, even in the summer it can be chilly and you’ll be glad you have them. Choose warm layers that pack small and that you can carry around with you. As you hike to higher elevations, the air will get much colder and you’ll be glad you have them.
- Rain gear: You don’t want to miss getting outside, even if it is raining. Rain gear is easy to pack and doesn’t take a lot of space.
- Hiking shoes: Hiking shoes or boots are much better than regular shoes for hiking in the mountains. Sure, you can get by with runners on the easy hikes, but for anything more challenging we recommend a good hiking shoe for the whole family. You’ll get more ankle support and more traction on slippery trails.
- Backpack: Have a good backpack for when you’ll be inevitably taking layers on and off. You’ll also need room for your packed lunch and plenty of water.
- Battery Pack: Taking plenty of pictures will make your phone battery die faster, be prepared with a portable battery pack. Also, if your family ever gets lost, having battery left on your phone could make a big difference.
- Hats: Did you know that your skin will burn faster due to the thinner air in Banff? You’ll be spending a lot of time outside, so you’ll be glad to have some sun protection. Especially if heading out on the water, make sure to pack a sun hat.
- Water Bottles: Make sure you always have plenty of water on hand, especially for hiking in Banff in the summer. An easier solution is to fill a water bladder, so you have enough water for everyone.
- Other items to pack: Bathing suit, sun screen, and bug spray.
Tips for Hiking in Banff with Kids
1. Be wildlife smart.
- Never approach wildlife for a picture and always keep a safe distance.
- Travel in a group and make a lot of noise.
- Unfortunately, hiking in Banff means keeping kids nearby and not letting kids run up ahead.
- Bring bear spray and know how to use it. If you don’t own bear spray, rent or purchase bear spray in Banff.
2. Choose hikes within your abilities.
- There are plenty of Banff hikes for kids or walks that are perfect for families.
- Don’t attempt a mountain scramble if you don’t have the experience or knowledge to do it.
- Know when to turn back. It’s better to live to hike another day than to do something you aren’t prepared for or knowledgeable about.
3. Plan ahead.
- Use an app like AllTrails to download maps before heading out on the trails. While not always perfect, it’s very useful to record your hiking path in case you need to take a wrong turn and need to backtrack.
- Have a backup plan for your phone in case the battery dies. A portable charger is perfect for this.
- Know that most areas away from the towns don’t have cell service, so you can’t depend on it to call for help if you need it.
Enjoy map downloads and many more premium features with a 7-day free trial of AllTrails+!
4. Pack hiking essentials for the day.
- The weather can change quickly in the mountains. Always pack warm layers if heading out on a long hike.
- Bring plenty of water and snacks with you.
- Don’t forget the bear spray and carry it in an easy to reach place with a Scat Belt.
5. Have the right hiking gear.
- While expensive gear isn’t necessary, having the right hiking gear can make all the difference.
- Proper footwear makes a big difference on harder and longer hikes.
- Have a good backpack to carry all your warm layers.
- Always use life jackets when heading out on the water.
- Bring a baby carrier or a toddler carrier. Little legs can get tired and you’ll be able to see much more. Our preference was always for using a hiking backpack carrier.
Gear Rentals in Banff & Area
When packing for your family trip to Banff, be aware that you don’t need to bring everything from home. You can rent a lot of important mountain gear when you get here.
Don’t let the lack of camping gear stop you from camping in Banff with kids. Rent camping gear in Banff from:
Parks Canada also offers equipped camping experiences, which include the all the camping essentials for your family.
Rental Bikes for Kids
It can often be hard to find kids rental bikes, but they can be rented in Banff. You can find kids bikes with 20″ or 24″ tires for rent. A 20″ tire bike should fit kids around 5 and half years old to about 8 years old. A 24″ tire bike will fit 8-11 years old. For kids younger than 5 years old a chariot trailer or trail-a-bike is another option.
For any bike rentals, make sure they will also have a appropriately sized helmet for both you and your child.
- Lake Louise: Wilson Mountain Sports
- Banff: Ultimate Sports or Snowtips Bactrax
- Canmore: Gear Up Mountain Sports
You can’t bring bear spray on an airplane, but it can be purchased when you arrive in Canmore or in Banff. Alternatively, bear spray can be rented at the following places:
Remember – bear spray is completely useless if it’s inside your backpack. Ensure you have a proper external bear spray holster with you.
Stand Up Paddle Board Rentals
- Banff: Banff Canoe Club or Ski Big 3 Adventure Hub
- Canmore: Bow Valley SUP
- Kananaskis: Kananaskis Outfitters
Enjoy Your Trip to Banff with Kids!
We hope that you found our post about traveling to Banff with kids useful and inspirational. Banff is an incredible mountain playground and we’re confident that your family will create memories which last a lifetime!
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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.