The wonderful thing about Banff National Park is that you’re constantly surrounded by incredible mountain scenery and you don’t have to hike very far to get jaw-dropping views. That being said, these best Banff viewpoints are still well worth the effort.
If you’re like us and love hiking, then we’ve included some Banff viewpoints that you’ll have to put some effort into getting to. But if you aren’t, then not to worry! Included this in this list are plenty of viewpoints in Banff that you’ll want to stop at, whether you get there by car or other means!
The best part about seeing the best views in Banff is that this is one of the best FREE things to do in Banff. Aside from the occasional paid parking or the shuttle to Moraine Lake, you can see most of these viewpoints without spending a dime!
Best Banff Viewpoints – Table of Contents
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Best Banff Viewpoints by Car
1. Lake Louise
The shores of Lake Louise is probably one of the best views in Banff you can get with the least amount of effort! Aside from getting parking at Lake Louise, it’s pretty easy to walk the short distance from the parking lot to the shores of Lake Louise.
For even more impressive views in the area, we recommend one of these best Lake Louise hikes. If you don’t have time to do a longer hike, you can walk the 4 kilometre (out-and-back) lakeshore trail that stays along the shores of Lake Louise and offers stunning views.
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2. Moraine Lake
The Moraine Lake Rockpile is a short 0.8 kilometre (out-and-back) interpretive trail up a series of steps to the most impressive views of the Ten Peaks looming over Moraine Lake. If climbing the Rockpile isn’t enough, the Moraine Lake Lakeshore trail is one of the best hiking trails in Moraine Lake. It’s a 5.0 kilometre trail (out-and-back) that winds along the shoreline and gives additional views of the famous Moraine Lake.
3. Banff Avenue
The view of Cascade Mountain looming over the town of Banff is a picture you’ve probably seen before. Aside from the spectacular view, the best part about this one is that if you’re getting around Banff without a car, you’ll have no issues getting to this Banff viewpoint!
4. Bow Falls Viewpoint
Bow Falls viewpoint is an extremely popular viewpoint in the town of Banff to see the raging waterfalls amongst the mountain scenery.
You can reach the Bow Falls by walking or bike along the Bow Falls trail from downtown Banff. It’s only a 1.2 kilometre (each way) walk along the Bow River. There is a set of stairs that takes visitors up above the falls, which bikes are not allowed on. Alternatively, you can park right at Bow Falls. Keep in mind that this parking lot does get busy and it’s not very big.
Need some help planning your Banff itinerary? Check out our Banff Travel Guide!
5. Vermilion Lakes
The Vermilion Lakes offers two different perspectives. You can see it from a pull-out on the TransCanada Highway just west of the town of Banff.
This Vermilion Lakes viewpoint on the TransCanada Highway is best reached by car, since there’s no easy way to get there.
The better view of the Vermilion Lakes is from Vermilion Lakes Road. Here’s where you’ll find that image of Mount Rundle reflecting on the glass-like water of the Vermilion Lakes.
To get to Vermilion Lakes Road, you can easily walk or bike from the town of Banff. You can also drive the 4.3 kilometres of this scenic road, just be cautious of other users running, walking or biking on the road and it does have a reduced speed limit. Limited parking is available at the First Vermilion Lake or at the Fenlands day-use area.
6. Banff Gondola / Sanson Peak
The views from the Upper Terminal of the Banff Gondola are breathtaking, but we recommend walking the 0.5 kilometre boardwalk (which does include a few steps here and there) along the ridge ending at Sanson’s Peak and the Cosmic Ray Station National Historic Site. Here you’ll find some of the best views in Banff.
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.
7. Surprise Corner Viewpoint
The Surprise Corner viewpoint in Banff can be found as Buffalo Street turns into Tunnel Mountain Drive. It’s name Surprise Corner because of the surprising good views you get at this corner. The views of the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel across the river from Surprise Corner are spectacular!
You can reach Surprise Corner either by walking along the Bow River Trail then taking the stairs up to Buffalo Street. You can also drive along Buffalo Street and park at Surprise Corner in the small parking lot.
8. Hoodoos Viewpoint
The Hoodoos viewpoint in Banff is found on Tunnel Mountain Road across from the Tunnel Mountain Village Campground. The parking lot is large for good reason; this is an excellent, and accessible stop for all visitors to Banff, complete with toilets and paved walking trails.
Aside from the Hoodoos (rock formations) this is also one of the best viewpoints of Tunnel Mountain, where you can see why the Stoney people used to call this small Banff peak, “Sleeping Buffalo”. Looking the other direction, you’ll enjoy unobstructed eastward views down the Bow Valley as far as Pigeon Mountain and Mount Lady Macdonald near Canmore.
Take a slow meander down the paved trails and read the interpretive signs along the way. Sit and relax in a set of Banff red chairs
You can also reach the Hoodoos viewpoint by hiking from Surprise Corner viewpoint (9.6 kilometres out-and-back). The Surprise Corner to Hoodoos Trail is one of the best hikes from Banff townsite.
9. Morant’s Curve Viewpoint
One of the more popular Banff National Park viewpoints is Morant’s Curve. This viewpoint is popular with photographers who want to capture the Canadian Pacific train winding along the river with mountain peaks in the background.
Morant’s Curve viewpoint is found on the Bow Valley Parkway, one of Banff’s most scenic highways, closer to Lake Louise. There’s a very small parking lot and a short walk on the same side to an interpretive sign. You need to (carefully) cross the road to get the view of Morant’s Curve.
10. Mount Norquay Lookout
As you drive Mount Norquay Scenic Drive, a road full of switch backs that wind up to the Mount Norquay Ski Resort, there’s a small spot to look out over Banff. As you near the top, there’s a stone wall on the right and a small area to park.
From the parking area, you can walk out onto the green meadow for some stunning views of the Banff townsite and the Bow Valley.
If you continue driving up to the ski resort parking lot, the Mount Norquay sightseeing chairlift is easily accessible. This fun chairlift ride provides some outstanding views of Banff National Park.
11. Lake Minnewanka Scenic Drive
Lake Minnewanka Scenic Drive, just outside of the town of Banff, takes drivers on a 24 kilometer loop on what is commonly known as the Lake Minnewanka Loop. From Lake Minnewanka Scenic Drive you can stop at a very small pullout overlooking Two Jack Lake and one slightly further overlooking Lake Minnewanka.
Alternatively, you can pull into the day use areas for all three lakes (Johnson Lake, Two Jack Lake, and Lake Minnewanka) and walk to the shores to see these beautiful mountain lakes. If you haven’t rented a car, you can take the Roam bus along this scenic drive and even enjoy these Banff hikes by bus!
12. Cascade Ponds
Cascade Ponds is one of the best picnic areas in Banff, it’s also one of the most scenic spots in Banff. Cascade Ponds offers some really spectacular views of Cascade Mountain from a set of the Banff red chairs and of the other surrounding mountains. We particularly like the views with the bridge in front of the mountains.
13. Castle Mountain Viewpoint
You can see Castle Mountain from two different spots in Banff. The Castle Mountain viewpoint is one near Castle Junction. There’s a second viewpoint called the Castle Cliffs viewpoint that is on the Bow Valley Parkway.
14. Mt Norquay Chairlift
The Mount Norquay Sightseeing Chairlift is another excellent way to get spectacular views of Mount Rundle, the Banff townsite and the Bow Valley! Plus the Cliffhouse Bistro at the top is worth it to stop in for a meal.
After you get off the chairlift, walk to the left to find some chairs overlooking the stunning mountain scenery! You’ll get to enjoy it on the ride back down the chairlift as well! We love all four of the Banff Gondolas to get incredible views of the Canadian Rockies!
15. Lake Louise Gondola
The Lake Louise Gondola, at the Lake Louise Ski Resort, offers visitors a chance to see grizzly bears, but it also has some pretty phenomenal views from the top. At the top of the Lake Louise Summer Gondola there’s a great viewing platform where you can see Lake Louise all the way across the valley!
You can stay to enjoy the views even longer with lunch at the Whitehorn Bistro. There’s also the option to do some hiking from the top of the Lake Louise Gondola. This is the perfect activity to include in a Lake Louise itinerary!
16. Sunshine Meadows
To get to the Sunshine Meadows you take the Banff Sunshine Sightseeing Gondola to Sunshine Village followed by the Standish Chairlift to the Standish Viewing Deck. From here you get some of the best 360-degree views in Banff National Park. From the viewing deck you’ll be looking down on 3 alpine lakes.
17. Peyto Lake Viewpoint
Peyto Lake viewpoint is found along the Icefields Parkway. Peyto Lake is a lake in the Canadian Rockies well known for it’s blue color and shape that resembles a fox. It’s just a short hike from the parking lot.
Best Viewpoints in Banff by Hiking
The best views in Banff National Park are found from the Banff hiking trails. These are a few of the best viewpoints in Banff from hikes that are suitable for most hikers.
18. Big Beehive
People flock to Lake Louise in the summer to see the incredible blue color. A portion of those people continue past the lake and hike to Lake Agnes Teahouse. While the views from the teahouse are impressive, if you continue past the teahouse on the Big Beehive hike you’ll get some jaw dropping views over the valley, across to the Lake Louise ski resort and down on Lake Louise itself!
19. Fairview Lookout
Another exceptional Banff viewpoint option for visitors to Lake Louise is to do the short but steep hike up to the Fairview Lookout. It offers some of the best views of the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise.
- Trailhead: Fairview Lookout Trailhead
- Distance: 2 km out-and-back
- Elevation: 166 m elevation gain
20. Sentinel Pass
Similar to Lake Louise, the majority of the visitors to Moraine Lake visit the shores of the lake and do the short hike up the Rockpile trail. From the shores of Lake Louise you can continue on to hike to Larch Valley, which is one of the best larch hikes in Banff. Sure the views in Larch Valley are much more impressive in the fall when the larch trees turn to their gorgeous golden color.
Don’t worry, this is still a beautiful hike during the summer. From Larch Valley, we recommend continuing to hike Sentinel Pass. The views are breathtaking.
- Trailhead: Larch Valley Trailhead
- Distance: 11.6 km out and back
- Elevation: 817 m elevation gain
21. Tunnel Mountain
Right from the Banff townsite you can hike Tunnel Mountain. It’s a great hike that most people should be able to do with some great views over the town of Banff.
- Trailhead: Tunnel Mountain Trailhead
- Distance: 4.6 km out and back
- Elevation: 266 m elevation gain
22. Johnston Canyon
Johnston Canyon is an easy hike through a canyon on elevated boardwalks. Along the Johnston Canyon hike, you can stop at the cave to see the Lower Falls. From there, continue past the Lower Falls for an exceptional viewpoint over the Upper Falls.
- Trailhead: Johnston Canyon Trailhead
- Distance: 5 km out-and-back
- Elevation: 260 m elevation gain
23. Castle Mountain Lookout
The Castle Mountain Lookout hike is another great hike in Banff National Park that offers some of the best views in Banff for anyone looking for panoramic views over the Bow Valley. This hike is found along the Bow Valley Parkway.
- Trailhead: Castle Lookout Trailhead
- Distance: 7.4 km out-and-back
- Elevation: 567 m elevation gain
24. Aylmer Lookout
It’s one of our favorite Lake Minnewanka hikes, but Aylmer Lookout hike isn’t for everyone. It’s a long hike that requires you to have both the time and the stamina to hike the 23.6 kilometres. However, if you are looking for a long day-hike with amazing views, this is it! The views across Lake Minnewanka on a clear blue-sky day are unparalleled.
- Trailhead: Aylmer Lookout trailhead
- Distance: 8 km out-and-back (PLUS 15.6 km out-and-back on Lake Minnewanka trail for total of 23.6 km out-and-back from Lake Minnewanka Day Use)
- Elevation: 560 m elevation gain
There are plenty of hikes in Banff and Lake Louise that offer incredible views. Nearby Canmore and Kananaskis also have several hikes with the best views in those areas. The ones we’ve chosen here are great hikes in Banff to do because they are near the places where most people already plan to visit.
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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.