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50+ Free Things to do in Banff National Park

Banff National Park isn’t known for being a cheap place to travel. But don’t let that scare you, if you are visiting Banff on a budget. While there are plenty of Banff activities to spend money on, there are even more free things to do in Banff National Park.

You won’t be missing out on any of the spectacular views or incredible experiences by doing these free Banff activities. In fact, we would argue that you might just get a richer experience.

We do have a small disclaimer though. While many of these free things to do in Banff are truly that, completely free, there are others that will require some outdoor equipment. If you aren’t traveling to Banff with your own equipment, then you will need to incur the cost to rent equipment in Banff.

This would include your bike, paddle board or essential winter gear, like microspikes. Scroll to the end of the post to find out where you can rent in Banff and area.

two jack lake paddle boarding in Banff

Also, while some activities will require a car, many don’t. There are still plenty of things to do if you are visiting Banff without a car. Parking fees seem to be popping up everywhere, so you can look for places with free parking in Banff to save some money.

Finally, you’ll also need a need to purchase a park pass for Banff National Park. You can either purchase daily passes or get the Discovery Pass, which is an annual pass for all Canada’s National Parks. Banff Park Passes can be purchased online or at the Banff Park Gates. Parks Canada also has a list of other places to buy a park pass.

Incredible views on Castle Lookout Trail

Free Things to do in Banff National Park

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50+ Free Things to do in Banff

1. Visit Moraine Lake

Top of almost everyone’s list when they visit Banff National Park is to get a picture of the famous Moraine Lake and its turquoise-blue color. It looks fake, but it’s really not. Even us locals can’t help but be amazed at the beauty of Moraine Lake.

Canoe Rental Moraine Lake Banff NP

For that reason, getting to Moraine Lake will probably be one of your biggest challenges when visiting Banff. If you aren’t up for getting to the parking lot before 5am (or earlier) in the summer, then we recommend booking a Parks Canada shuttle to Moraine Lake, visiting later in the day or joining a tour.

The road to Moraine Lake is only open from June to early-October each year, so if you are visiting in the winter you’ll need to add this Banff bucket list item to another visit.

2. Visit Lake Louise

It used to be completely free to visit Lake Louise, but as of 2021 there’s a parking fee in effect at Lake Louise from June to mid-October. This is due to the limited parking and the popularity of Lake Louise. The parking fee is $11.70 per vehicle per day.

the stunning lakefront setting of the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise

If you want to get to Lake Louise without a car, the Roam Route 8X is an express bus from Banff to Lake Louise.

Visiting Lake Louise is well worth the parking fee or the bus fare! This stunning lake has enough to do to occupy you for the entire day. If you don’t want to pay to canoe on Lake Louise, you can bring your own canoe, kayak or stand-up paddle board.

Lake Louise shoreline trail and Lake Anges trail on right

Alternatively, the Lake Louise Lakeshore walk is beautiful and easy. Lake Louise also has plenty of fantastic hiking opportunities.

Note: Read the Clean, Dry, Drain regulations before entering any body of water and fill out the self-certification permit.

3. Hike Plain of Six Glaciers

This might be our favorite hike at Lake Louise! The Plain of Six Glaciers hike has it all! You start by walking along the Lake Louise Lakeshore. Then you make your way up to the Plain of Six Glaciers tea house. If you have the energy, we recommend going past the tea house. There’s a rock pile where you can spot pikas, and hiking further gets you closer to the Lake Louise glaciers.

The hiking trail to the Plain of the Six Glaciers lookout in Banff National Park

This is a moderate hike at 588 m elevation gain and 14.6 km out and back.

4. Lake Agnes Tea House

Likely the most popular of the Lake Louise hikes, the Lake Agnes Tea House hike is an easy-to-moderate hike that gets quite busy in the summer. Hiking to Lake Agnes Tea House also takes you by Mirror Lake and a waterfall.

To keep costs down, pack a lunch and eat it on the rocks overlooking Lake Agnes and the tea house.

The Lake Agnes Tea House hike is 6.8 km out-and-back with 383 m elevation gain.

5. Johnston Canyon

Another of Banff’s most popular attractions is Johnston Canyon. It’s also one of the best free activities in Banff and as you’d expect the Johnston Canyon hike can get quite busy. We recommend planning your visit during off-peak hours (weekday or early/late in the day).

Hiking Johnston Canyon in June

The hike to Johnston Canyon is an easy hike to the Lower Falls. There are some small steep sections as you continue the hike to the Upper Falls, but if you are able we recommend doing the entire distance.

Kids will love hiking to Johnston Canyon on the elevated boardwalk and getting sprayed in the cave looking at the Lower Falls. If you are visiting Banff in the winter, this is the best place to see a frozen waterfall in Banff.

Both the entrance to and parking are completely free for Johnston Canyon.

6. Stop at Surprise Corner

See the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel from this scenic viewpoint! Surprise Corner is a worthwhile stop in Banff. You can either drive and park at Surprise Corner or walk along the Bow River Trail to Buffalo St. From Surprise Corner, you can do a hike along the Bow River all the way to the Hoodoos on Tunnel Mountain Road.

The best spot for a picture of the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel is Surprise Corner, across the Bow River

7. See the Banff Hoodoos

Whether you hike the Hoodoos Trail from Surprise Corner or park in the parking lot at the Hoodoos Viewpoint, make sure to take the time to see these interesting rock formations. Take a moment to sit in the red chairs while you take in the great views of Tunnel Mountain and Mt Rundle.

Hoodoos in Banff - hiking in banff area

The Hoodoos Trail from Surprise Corner to the Hoodoos Viewpoint is a 10 km out and back trail that is also an easy winter hike in Banff.

8. See Bow Falls

Bow Falls is a must see when visiting Banff. This large waterfall on the Bow River is easy to visit. You can park at the lot and walk the trail above the falls. Alternatively, we prefer to walk from downtown Banff along the Bow River. It’s an easy flat walk, until you reach the stairs which allow you to look down on Bow Falls.

There's free parking at Bow Falls near downtown Banff

9. Walk Through the Famous Banff Springs Hotel

The Banff Springs Hotel has been a beacon of luxury in the Canadian Rocky Mountains for over 130 years. After a devastating fire destroyed the original hotel in 1926, the Banff Springs Hotel was rebuilt in the majestic Scottish Baronial style. Today, this historic railway hotel is known as the Castle in the Rockies and is one of the best luxury hotels in Banff.

Find deals for the Banff Springs Hotel - one of the best hotels in Banff, Canada.

Even if you aren’t staying at the Banff Springs Hotel, you can still walk through it exploring the photographs and exhibits while learning about the fascinating history of the Banff Springs Hotel.

From the hotel, you can enjoy a beautiful walk down to the nearby Bow River, where you can stand on the shore and witness the power of the majestic Bow Falls.

10. Sulphur Mountain Hike

While the Banff Gondola is far from free, you can still enjoy almost everything it has to offer by hiking up Sulphur Mountain. You’ll miss out on the actual gondola ride up Sulphur Mountain, but once at the top everything is free to hikers and gondola riders alike.

Looking at Sulphur Mountain Summit Banff

At the top, you can walk the Sanson Peak Boardwalk to get some truly incredible views. At the end, stop at the Sulphur Mountain Cosmic Ray Station National Historic Site. The interpretive centre inside the Upper Terminal is also free to hikers.

If you’ve got the budget, you can splurge at one of the mountaintop restaurants for a truly incredible dining experience in Banff. Otherwise, bring a packed lunch and enjoy it on one of the benches with the same stunning mountain views along the boardwalk.  

man walking on banff gondola boardwalk

11. Stroll the Streets of Banff

It’s easy to pack your days full when visiting Banff National Park, but make sure to leave some time to meander the streets of the Banff townsite. Whether you’re up for some shopping or looking for a delicious meal, this is where you’ll find it.

Banff's Elk + Avenue Hotel is one of the best pet friendly hotels in Alberta

12. Cycle the Legacy Trail

The Legacy Trail is a paved bike path that connects the two mountain towns of Banff and Canmore. Even if you haven’t brought your bike, it’s easy to find bike rentals to cycle the Legacy Trail.

Cycling Legacy Trail with Kids

13. Visit the Vermilion Lakes

The Vermilion Lakes are located within walking distance of the Banff townsite. You can access the lakes by driving, walking or cycling the Vermilion Lakes Road.

The Vermilion Lakes also make an excellent place for a kayak or stand-up paddle board in Banff. If you’re up for it, you’ll have the most stunning reflections of Mt Rundle on the Vermilion Lakes at sunrise or sunset.

paddle boarding Vermilion Lakes in Banff National Park

You can also stop at the Vermilion Lakes Viewpoint on the TransCanada Highway 1, which offers an incredible view looking down on the lakes.

14. Lake Minnewanka

Lake Minnewanka is another must visit in Banff. There is no shortage of things to do at Lake Minnewanka that are free, from a scenic hike to seeking out the red chairs.

Boat Rentals Lake Minnewanka

This is really a place where you can spend the day enjoying the scenery and marveling over yet another beautiful Banff lake. If you have the means, a boat cruise on Lake Minnewanka is a great way to get out on the lake and learn more about the history of the area.

15. Aylmer Lookout Hike

While there are other easy hikes to do near Lake Minnewanka, like the Stewart Canyon hike, we recommend the Aylmer Lookout hike for anyone that has the time and physical ability for a hike of this length.

Standing at Aylmer Lookout Banff National Park

Accessed after hiking 7.8 km on the Lake Minnewanka trail, the Aylmer Lookout offers some of the most incredible views of Lake Minnewanka. The Aylmer Lookout hike is 8 km out and back with 560 m elevation gain. If this total of 24 km seems too much for a day, intermediate mountain bikers can ride their bikes on the Lake Minnewanka trail before July 10 and after September 15.

Between July 10 and September 15, cycling is not permitted, hikers must hike in tight groups of 4 or more (carrying bear spray) and dogs are not permitted past the Stewart Canyon Bridge.

16. Bankhead Ghost Town

A visit to the Bankhead ghost town in Banff National Park is a unique opportunity to take an easy walk through a fascinating piece of Alberta history. In its heyday in the early 1900’s, Bankhead, Alberta was a thriving town of nearly 1,000 citizens built next to the operations site of an anthracite coal mine.

Explore Alberta history at the Bankhead, Alberta ghost town

What remains on the former site of Bankhead, Alberta is now the Bankhead ghost town. Today, visitors to the Bankhead ghost town can enjoy a fun, educational interpretive walk around the remains of the former Banff coal mining operation.

The Bankhead ghost town is found along Lake Minnewanka Scenic Drive just a few minutes down the road from Lake Minnewanka.

17. Johnson Lake

Johnson Lake is one of three lakes found on the Minnewanka Loop (Lake Minnewanka and Two Jack being the other two). With Cascade mountain looming above, this Banff lake not only has incredible scenery but there are plenty of things to do at Johnson Lake.

Where to see fall colors in Banff National Park - Johnson Lake, Minnewanka Loop

Johnson Lake is a locals favorite all year long. In the summer, you can paddle on Johnson Lake and kids will enjoy the small sandy beach. It’s one of the first lakes to freeze over in the winter for some wild skating. The easy Johnson Lake hike can be done during any season.

18. Two Jack Lake

Continuing with the lakes along the Minnewanka Loop, Two Jack Lake offers similar activities like a picnic or paddling on the lake. While it might seem repetitive, we highly recommend visiting all three lakes. The mountain scenery changes with each one.

Two Jack Lake in Banff National Park

Two Jack Lake has incredible views of Mt Rundle, especially on a calm day. There is also camping at Two Jack Lake (both at the Two Jack Lakeside and Two Jack Main campgrounds). If you plan to kayak or stand-up paddle board on Two Jack Lake, the canal offers calmer waters on a windy day.

19. Paddle on Herbert Lake

We’ve already covered paddling on the main lakes in Banff National Park, but if you drive a short ways up the Icefields Parkway you’ll reach Herbert Lake. The lake isn’t big, but it still makes for a fun outing on the lake.

paddle boarding lakes in Banff National Park - Herbert Lake

On a hot summer day, you might even be tempted to take a dip in this small, glacial lake.

20. Hike and Have Lunch at a Lake

Banff has so many incredible lakes to visit, though I doubt anyone gets tired of visiting one more lake. The scenery changes for each one, as does the color.

Impressive Views at Boom Lake Banff

Hiking to a lake then enjoying a warm afternoon by the lake is one of the best free things to do in Banff. We recommend either the Boom Lake hike or the Taylor Lake hike.

21. Experience One of the Best Larch Hikes in Alberta

While Larch Valley takes the cake when it comes to the highest density of larch trees, there are plenty of other incredible larch hikes in Alberta.

Golden Larches on Larch Valley hiking trail

If you’ve never experienced Larch Valley, then it’s worth dealing with the crowds to see what makes this place such a draw in late September.

22. Picnic at Cascade Ponds

The thing about Banff is that anywhere you put your picnic blanket down will probably be an incredible spot with great mountain views. If you want more amenities for your picnic, these best Banff picnic areas have picnic tables and some even have shelters or fire pits.

View of Cascade Ponds with mountain background

Cascade Ponds is a favorite for picnics with nearby toilets, shelters and fire pits. The views are stunning and on a hot summer day, dip into the ponds to cool off!

23. Visit the Banff Farmers Market

Once a week in late-May through early-October, locals and guests to the region visit the Banff Farmers Market. The Banff Farmers Market is the perfect spot to grab some grub or a souvenir from your trip to Banff. It doesn’t cost anything to take a walk around and see if anything catches your eye.

24. Drive the Bow Valley Parkway

With incredible mountain scenery and excellent wildlife spotting opportunities, the Bow Valley Parkway is a must-visit in Banff National Park.

The Bow Valley Parkway is a 48 kilometer secondary highway that parallels the Trans-Canada Highway and connects Banff to Lake Louise. In fact, prior to the Trans-Canada Highway, this stretch was the main highway between the two mountain towns.

A black bear crosses the Bow Valley Parkway in Banff National Park

With a multitude of places to stop and things to do along the Bow Valley Parkway, leave time for this scenic drive when you visit Banff.

25. Cycle the Bow Valley Parkway

If you’d rather be on a bike than driving, then cycling the Bow Valley Parkway makes for an incredible road ride in Banff. You’ll be sharing this road with vehicle traffic but it’s at a lower speed limit.

Cycling Bow Valley Parkway in Banff

In 2020 and part of 2021, Parks Canada closed off part of the Bow Valley Parkway to vehicle traffic. This made for a cycling opportunity like no other in Banff National Park.

26. Castle Mountain Lookout Hike

The Castle Mountain Lookout hike is found along the Bow Valley Parkway. This moderate Banff hike is one of the best panoramic viewpoint hikes and it should be on everyone’s list.

Once you arrive at the Castle Mountain Lookout point, you’ll not only be treated to an up-close view of the huge rock slabs that make Castle Mountain so compelling, but a complete panorama of the Bow Valley.

The Castle Mountain Lookout hike is 7.4 km out-and-back with 567 m elevation gain.

27. Take a Picture at Morant’s Curve

You’ve likely seen the amazing pictures of the train snaking it’s way through the Rocky Mountains along the river. If you’ve ever wondered where this was taken, it’s from Morant’s Curve. Morant’s Curve is just one of the many stops along the Bow Valley Parkway.

28. Hike to the Ink Pots

The hike to the Ink Pots is also found along the Bow Valley Parkway. If you have the energy and inclination after visiting the Upper Falls at Johnston Canyon, continue your hike up to the Ink Pots.

So what are the Ink Pots? The Ink Pots are a series of 5 cool springs where spring water percolates up through the sand and gravel.

Bridge and trail around Ink Pots in Banff National Park

You can see circles in the deep blue-green pools where the water and air bubbles up.

The blue-green color of the ponds never ceases to amaze and the mountain scenery surrounding is nothing short of spectacular.

29. Tunnel Mountain Hike

We always like to start a trip doing an activity that gets us up high to see our surroundings. It’s a great way to familiarize yourself with a location. The Tunnel Mountain hike is perfect for that.

Two kids enjoying the view at the top of Tunnel Mountain - a popular kid-friendly hike in Banff National Park

From the top of Tunnel Mountain you’ll get excellent views of the Banff Townsite, the Banff Springs Hotel, the Bow Valley and the surrounding mountains.

30. Spot Pikas on the C Level Cirque Hike

While there are plenty of places in Banff and surrounding areas to spot this cute creatures, we particularly like the C Level Cirque hike for a few reasons. At the base of the cirque lies a large rock that’s perfect for having lunch on a warm, sunny afternoon. With enough patience, the pikas will start to emerge and we’ve even seen a few hoary marmots here.

Pika on c level cirque hike Alberta

But there’s more to this hike than the pikas! If you enjoy the mining history of the area, you’ll see more remnants from the past along the hike. To top it off, the scenery at the cirque and above (if you choose to go that far) is simply incredible!

C Level Cirque - Banff National Park

31. Visit 4 Banff Lakes on one Hike

There’s something truly incredible about coming up to a stunning blue lake tucked in the mountains on a hike. Hiking to one of the many Banff lakes is one of the best free things to do in Banff in summer.

gold larches around Arnica Lake Banff

We recently planned to hike to Arnica Lake and couldn’t resist continuing on hiking to Twin Lakes (upper and lower).

This hiking trail starts with the trail descending to Vista Lake, then after a short hike in the forest you start to get some incredible views of the surrounding mountains. After under 5 km of hiking, you’ll arrive at the beautiful Arnica Lake. Another couple kilometers of hiking will get you to the Upper Twin Lake and just one more kilometer to the Lower Twin Lake.

A river runs from the Lower Twin Lake in Banff National Park

The entire hike is 16.6 km out-and-back with 1,171 m elevation gain.

32. Visit the Cave & Basin National Historic Site

The Cave and Basin National Historic Site in the town of Banff is the birthplace of national parks in Canada. Entry to the Cave and Basin National Historic Site is free with the annual Discovery Pass.

Cave and Basin Historic Site in Banff National Park

After learning about the area and taking in the interpretive walk through the underground cavern, don’t miss the other walking trails nearby. The Discovery Trail above the Cave & Basin is an especially interesting and historically significant walking trail.

33. Skate on a Frozen Lake

If you are visiting Banff in the winter, another must-do activity is to skate on a frozen lake. Lake Louise is your safest bet, as they clear the lake for skating in the winter. Skating on Lake Louise is one of the best free thing to do in Banff in winter.

ice skating in banff with kids

If you get lucky with timing, there are other opportunities to go wild skating on a Banff lake when it’s cold enough that the water freezes but it hasn’t been covered in snow yet. This is truly a magical experience!

34. Snowshoeing in Banff

In the middle of winter, there are plenty of places to go snowshoeing in Banff. From easy Banff snowshoes to trails that are more difficult.

Banff snowshoe trails from Norquay Ski Resort - Cascade Amphitheatre Trail

Snowshoeing to the Cascade Amphitheatre is a great workout with an incredible reward! This one leaves right from the Mt Norquay Ski Resort.

35. Nordic Skiing

Another popular activity in Banff in winter is cross-country skiing. If you are new to the sport, there are plenty of easy cross-country ski trails in Banff and the surrounding area to give it a try.

Easy Cross-Country Ski Trails in Banff, Lake Louise and Kananaskis

Lake Louise has a groomed track for cross-country skiing in the winter. There’s also the nearby Great Divide trail that is excellent for a day out Nordic skiing.

36. Banff Ice Festival

In January, an international ice carving event is held at Lake Louise. The Ice Magic International Ice Carving competition is truly something to experience. There will be an entrance fee to visit on weekends and during the time the carving is actually taking place, but if you visit mid-week to see the ice sculptures it’s free. Get all the details for Ice Magic here.

ice skating at lake louise

37. Banff Snowdays

See live snow carving in Banff during Snow Days! And there are plenty more activities taking place throughout Banff during this winter carnival. You’ll be in for a treat if you are visiting Banff in January!

38. See the Northern Lights

It’s true, you can see the Northern Lights in Banff. Keep an eye on websites like Aurora Watch to see if there’s a chance of seeing them during your visit.

39. Spot Banff Wildlife

One of the most exciting things to do in Banff is to spot the local wildlife. While elk, bighorn sheep and deer are the most common animals to see in Banff, there are so many more that you might get to see. Bears, mountain goats and wolves are less common and animals like a cougar and lynx are even more rare.

Bear in Banff National Park

Don’t discount the small animals though! We’ve gotten pretty excited to spot pikas, hoary marmots and even foxes!

40. Find the Banff Red Chairs

Parks Canada has sets of red Adirondack chairs in 11 places around Banff National Park. These red chairs in Banff give visitors an opportunity to slow down and take in their surroundings.

Red Chairs in Banff at Lake Minnewanka

41. Cycle Lake Minnewanka Loop

Parks Canada has been piloting a couple of different ideas on Lake Minnewanka Scenic Drive for cyclists. In the spring of 2020, they had one lane closed to vehicle traffic and open for cyclists.

Banff Road Cycling - Lake Minnewanka

In 2021, Parks Canada conducted a 3-week pilot project on the Lake Minnewanka Road where it was closed to public vehicles Monday through Thursday. This pilot project ran from May 1 until May 21st. The Lake Minnewanka Scenic Drive was open to vehicle traffic on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays throughout the month of May.

Cycling the Lake Minnewanka road without vehicle traffic was another incredible cycling opportunity in Banff that we hope will continue!

But even if it doesn’t this road is still popular with road cyclists in the spring, summer and fall.

42. Visit Sundance Canyon

Plan some extra time during your visit to the Cave and Basin to go see Sundance Canyon. There is a paved pathway, called the Sundance Trail, that leads to the Sundance Canyon. The Sundance Trail is 4 km each way and the loop section that passes through Sundance Canyon is just under 2 km, for a total of 10 km round trip.

Entering Sundance Canyon Banff

We recommend riding bikes on the Sundance Trail, especially if you are visiting Banff with kids. This is a fun kid-friendly bike trail in Banff!

At the entrance of Sundance Canyon, you’ll find bike racks to lock your bike as you complete the short loop hike. Visiting Sundance Canyon is a fun experience for the whole family!

The paved Sundance Canyon biking trail in Banff National Park is great thing to do with kids in Banff

43. Hike to a Frozen Waterfall

While Johnston Canyon has already been mentioned in this list, it deserves a second mention. As much as we love Johnston Canyon in the summer, it’s equally impressive in the winter. Johnston Canyon is the perfect place to see a frozen waterfall in Banff!

Frozen waterfall at Johnston Canyon Banff

44. Walk through Cascade Gardens

Cascade Gardens offers visitors a bit of tranquility amongst the bustle of the town. Walk through the terraced garden, with plenty of places to stop to relax along the way.

45. Swim in a Mountain Lake

I’m not going to lie, you’ll likely never find me in one of the lakes in Banff National Park. Especially one of the glacier fed lakes, but taking a quick dip in mountain lake finds it’s way onto many bucket lists for Banff National Park.

Beach at Johnson Lake in Banff

In all honesty, the glacier-fed lakes are much too cold for swimming. If you are looking to beat the heat in the summer, try Johnson Lake, Cascade Ponds or Herbert Lake. Just know that the water is cold (rarely above 10 deg C) and being in them can result in hypothermia.

46. Drive the Icefields Parkway

The Icefields Parkway is a scenic drive in Banff that should not be missed. The Icefields Parkway links Banff National Park and Jasper National Park. You’ll find stunning lakes, waterfalls, sweeping views and glaciers along this 232 km stretch of highway!

The incredible blue color of Peyto Lake is often seen on a luxury Banff tour

47. Take a Stroll Through the Forest

Easy hikes in Banff are the perfect way to unwind. Grab a coffee and enjoy a stroll through the forest on the Fenland trail. Make your way to Vermilion Lake Road and enjoy the stunning reflection of Mt Rundle on the Vermilion Lakes.

easy hike in Banff with kids - Fenland Loop trail

If you are looking for kid-friendly hikes in Banff, try Johnston Canyon, Fenland trail, Johnson Lake or the easy hikes to Copper and Smith Lakes.

48. See a Sunrise in Banff

I’m still in awe of the beauty of the sunrises we get here in the mountains. Granted, this is much easier for anyone who is visiting Banff in the fall or winter, but if you can stand the early mornings then you should make an effort to see a sunrise in Banff.

Vermilion Lakes in Banff National Park

Better yet, experience the sunrise at one of the many lakes like Vermilion Lakes or Two Jack Lake. You won’t be disappointed.

49. Try Fat Biking

Gaining popularity in Banff is riding a fat tire bike in the winter. It’s impossible to keep the smile off your face while fat biking in Banff! Just be prepared with extra warm clothes!

And don’t worry if you don’t have your own, there are place to rent fat bikes in Banff!

Fat Biking in Banff

50. Visit Neighboring Mountain Town of Canmore

Canmore is just 25-30 minutes from Banff. You’ll find plenty of things to do in Canmore and equally impressive mountain scenery! Take a walk through town and treat yourself so some of Canmore’s best ice cream. Then head towards the Bow River to see the Engine Bridge and walk along the Bow River Trail.

The best canmore ice cream shop - Scratch Rare Ice Cream

If you have extra time, Canmore has some incredible hikes just outside the town.

51. Mountain Bike at the Canmore Nordic Centre

The Canmore Nordic Centre held the cross-country skiing and biathlon events of the 1988 Winter Olympics. It has a multitude of trails for mountain biking in the summer and cross-country skiing in the winter.

While there is no charge to use the trails for mountain biking, you are required to purchase a pass for cross-country skiing in the winter. You can find rentals for all the equipment at Trail Sports at the Nordic Centre.

As of 2021, parking at the Canmore Nordic Centre requires the purchase of a Kananaskis Conservation Pass.

52. Swim in Quarry Lake in Canmore

Do as the locals do and cool off with a swim in Quarry Lake. Just get here early on weekends as it gets quite busy!

Quarry Lake paddle boarding in Canmore

Note: As of 2021, paid parking is now in effect at Quarry Lake.

53. Hike Grassi Lakes

If you do just two hikes in Canmore, it should be Grassi Lakes and Ha Ling Peak.

Grassi Lakes is one of the most popular Canmore hiking trails. Hiking to Grassi Lakes is an easy stroll through an evergreen forest to a pair of stunning mountain lakes. When the sun is shining, you simply won’t believe the incredible color of the water.

The Grassi Lakes in Canmore have an incredible deep blue-green color

The round-trip distance from the parking lot to the Grassi Lakes is approximately 4.0 km with 170 m elevation gain.

Note: As of 2021, parking at the Grassi Lakes parking lot requires the purchase of a Kananaskis Conservation Pass.

54. Hike Ha Ling Peak

If you love Canadian Rocky Mountain scenery, hiking Ha Ling Peak trail is a very rewarding hike. It’s a difficult hike and is not for everyone, but if it’s within your physical capabilities, chances are good that you’ll love it. The Ha Ling Peak trail is one of the best hikes in Canmore.

ha ling peak elevation 2408m above sea level

The round-trip distance of the Ha Ling trail is 8.0 km with an elevation gain of 801m.

Note: As of 2021, parking at the Goat Creek parking lot requires the purchase of a Kananaskis Conservation Pass.

55. Visit Nearby Kananaskis

We could easily make this list much longer with all the incredible hikes in Kananaskis. If you are spending enough time in the area, you’ll want to pack your hiking essentials and get on the trail in Kananaskis.

Hiking Wasootch Ridge Kananaskis

Note: As of 2021, vehicles parked in Kananaskis require the purchase of a Kananaskis Conservation Pass.

Where to Stay in Banff

Regardless of how you get to Banff National Park, you’ll want to find a spot that makes it easy to get out and explore! As you’ll quickly find out, there are options for every budget whether you are looking for the best Banff hotels with a private hot tub or the best family-friendly hotel in Banff.

For those traveling to Banff on a budget, here are some of the best options:

Banff Rentals

While there are many incredible free things to do in Banff National Park, many of them do require some outdoor equipment like bikes, snowshoes or skis. Here’s where you can rent in Banff if you aren’t bringing your own.

Snowshoe Rentals in Banff

Snowshoe rentals are available at Mount Norquay as well, in the North American Lodge (near the Norquay Tubing area).

Snowshoe Rentals in Lake Louise

Bike Rentals in Banff

Cross-Country Ski Rents in Banff

Stand Up Paddle Board Rental in Banff

Note: Read the Clean, Dry, Drain regulations before entering any body of water and fill out the self-certification permit.

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Visiting Banff on a budget? Don't worry, there are so many incredible free Banff activities! Click to see this list of over 50 free things to do in Banff National Park!

Mt Norquay Chairlift with view of Mt Rundle and Town of Banff in distance
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