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Banff in the Fall: Why it is the best time to visit + tips

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Banff in the fall is the BEST to visit and explore the national park. The leaves are changing colour, the air is crisp and fresh, and the crowds have gone home. This is the time to enjoy all that the park has to offer, including hiking, biking, camping, fishing, and more. 

Fall is also a great time to see some of Banff’s wildlife, including elk, bighorn sheep, and bears. So pack your bags and head to Banff for an unforgettable fall getaway!

Banff in the fall: Reasons to visit Banff in autumn

View of Mount Rundle in Banff National Park in the fall
Visiting Banff in the fall (captured from the Cascade of Time Gardens)

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If you’re looking for a breathtaking fall holiday, look no further than Banff National Park. 

Nestled in the Canadian Rockies, Banff is known for its stunning scenery, diverse wildlife, and endless outdoor activities.

We have been living in Alberta Canada since 2015, and are just a few hour’s drive away from Banff and visit it all year round, and fall is our absolute favourite!

Girl enjoying Banff in the fall
Banff fall guide

There are several reasons why Banff makes for a perfect fall destination, but first let’s get some of the important information out of the way.

If you are planning to fly to Banff National Park, then the nearest airport is located in Calgary (about an hour and half drive away). There are buses, private transfers and car rental options that will get you there. 

  • Banff Airporter and Brewster Express runs bus/shuttle services to take you to Banff from Calgary airport. Do check the summer and winter schedules when you plan your trip. Winter schedule starts in October, and it has limited trips (as compared to summer months)
  • YYC International Airport has a car rental area where you can pick your vehicle. We recommend making a reservation prior to your visit. Although we drive to Banff using our own vehicle, but at times when we transit via Calgary Airport and need a car – we just have to take what we get at the rentals. If you have any vehicle size/type preference, we recommend that you book it early to avoid disappointment. 

Banff in the fall weather and temperatures 

Banff fall months are from September to November. 

Banff Avenue (September)
Banff Avenue (November)

Although November is almost winter with chilly temperatures and restricted access and closures to natural sites, September and the early weeks of October are the prime fall months to enjoy the foliage, scenic road trips, hikes, and views!

Fall in Banff National Park weather and temperatures are as follows 

SEPTEMBER

  • Ave temp: 17° / 2° (C )
  • Ave temp: 62.6° / 35.6° (F)
  • Rain: 7 days

OCTOBER

  • Ave temp: 10° / -2° (C )
  • Ave temp: 50° / 28.4° (F)
  • Rain: 5 days

NOVEMBER

  • Ave temp: 1° / -8° (C )
  • Ave temp: 33.8° / 17.6° (F)
  • Rain: 5 days

Advantages of visiting Banff in the Fall: 6 Top Reasons

Fall is a shoulder season in Banff National Park

Banff National Park is a world-renowned destination for its incredible natural beauty, and fall is an ideal time to visit.

Girl enjoying views in Banff National Park
Banff townsite in the fall

Starting from September, the crowds have thinned out from the summer months and the temperatures are cooler, making for perfect hiking and camping weather. 

In Canada we celebrate Labour Day in September across the country, which is a civil holiday. And it usually coincides with schools and Universities reopening for the season (some schools might open up even at the end of August), which means fewer families booking a vacation to Banff. 

In September everything is still open, from hotels, restaurants, to road access making it ideal for a visit. 

Carriage rides in Banff in the fall
Carriage rides in Banff in the fall

As we enter November (another fall and shoulder month), crowds are even far and few in between. 

We often visit the Canadian Rockies in November to celebrate birthdays before welcoming the winters…full on! Read: Banff winter activities guide

Score an awesome accommodation deal in Banff in the fall 

As the crowds have disappeared from the summer madness, hotels and restaurants are a little quieter. This is your time to book that Fairmount Deluxe Suite or stay right in the heart of Banff Avenue with views. 

Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel
Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel

In September, prices drop a bit as compared to the summer months. October is even better with special deals. 

In Banff in November you can also expect Alberta resident offers, and more for international visitors (like a spa package, or vouchers to an in-house restaurant, etc). 

Highly recommend checking the hotel website for such deals before you finalize your trip!

Here are some of the finest hotels to stay in Banff and Lake Louise

  • Fairmont Château Lake Louise: This gorgeous luxury hotel nestles along the famous lake itself making it easy for guests to stroll its shores or embark on hikes. Fall is the perfect time to make a reservation here with a spa package and enjoy fine dining at their restaurant. Check availability here
  • Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel: Just like Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, Fairmont Banff Springs is another luxury hotel. With over 700 suites (and many with mountain views), a stay at this heritage hotel will be memorable. You can book a castle food experience, walk down to the Bow Falls or the golf course here. 

In the fall months, expect average prices of $140 – $175 CAD per night for a 3 star property located around Banff Avenue (like Banff Caribou Lodge and Spa, Juniper Hotel &Bistro, etc). 

3 star Banff Caribou Lodge and Spa

It is around $200 to $350 CAD for 4 star properties with amenities on site (like Rimrock Hotel, or Grande Rockies Resort in Canmore). 

5 star luxury properties start at $350 CAD per night. 

Note that these are average prices for the fall months (September to November). 

Based on our repeated bookings and trips to Banff and Canmore, we can share that prices in November are lower as compared to September and October, especially during the long weekends (civic holidays). 

Properties in Canmore are cheaper as compared to Banff, and Lake Louise has limited accommodation (with many properties closing for the winters), so hotel prices are expensive here. Read: Best Canmore hotels with pools

Visit after the statutory holiday in Canada to beat the crowds

The crowds have gone home after the September long weekend, which happens on the first Monday of the month (Labor Day).

If you’re looking to avoid the summer crowds, fall is the perfect time to visit Banff National Park. Enjoy the park’s trails, lakes, and viewpoints all to yourself.

Girl enjoying Banff in the fall!
Enjoying Banff in the fall!

Fall festivals in Banff National Park and Canadian Rockies

When visiting Banff in the fall, make time to participate in the following events!

SEPTEMBER

  • Melissa Road Race: Melissa’s Road Race is a popular annual run event for locals. The race is known for its vibrant atmosphere. The event is geared up for runners as well as spectators, thanks to entertainers set up along the route!

OCTOBER

  • Banff Pride: Banff Pride festival kicks off in early October, celebrating diversity, love, and kindness in a fun-filled, colourful week. More here
  • Banff Centre Mountain Film and Book Festival: Each fall, the Banff Centre Mountain Film and Book Festival invites authors, photographers, explorers, and filmmakers from across the world to share their remarkable stories of incredible journeys and ground-breaking expeditions. This event starts in October and continues in November. 

NOVEMBER

Amazing Banff winter activities - Christmas parade & markets, skii, snow-shoeing, hot cocoa, ice festivals & more - Best Things to do in Banff in Winter
Banff Downtown during Christmas Parada
  • Santa Claus Parade: Santa comes to town early in the mountains. You can participate in this parade that takes place in Banff Avenue (for 2-4 hours), and where kids and adults camp in the outdoors with cocoa in hand to ring in the festive season. 

Take advantage of pleasant weather in autumn in Banff Canada

Autumn in Banff National Park is a magical time. The leaves on the trees start to change color and the air becomes crisp and cool. This is the perfect time to take advantage of the pleasant weather and enjoy all that Banff has to offer. 

Banff Avenue in the early fall months
Perfect for walks and hikes in the early fall hours

During the day the temperatures are warm and perfect for walks and hikes outside. You still have long sunlight hours until the evenings in September.

As you move to October and November, the temperatures are cooler and days shorter!

Capture the amazing fall foliage in Banff 

Fall is a magical season in Banff National Park. Visitors will be able to experience exciting activities, miles of exploring, and stunning mountain vistas for the last time before winter. 

From September onwards, parts of the forests near Banff and Lake Louise enlist nature’s help to transform into autumn colors. 

Early fall colors in Banff
Early fall colors in Banff National Park

Larch trees that were previously inconspicuous suddenly pop up in bright colors in the mountains and valleys. 

If you didin’t know, larches are needle-rich trees that thrive in the Canadian Rockies‘ rocky, and dry soil. During fall, they brighten up, and as these leaves begin to change colour, Banff National Park comes alive with hues of yellow, orange, and red. 

There’s no better place to enjoy the autumn foliage than on a scenic drive or hike through the park.

Hiking trails, campsites still open in early fall in Banff 

From easy strolls to challenging hikes, Banff National Park has something for everyone. Fall is the perfect time to hit the trails and enjoy the peace and quiet of the wilderness.

But remember, there are only a few weeks in which the larches are in full swing, and it welcomes hikers to well maintained trails. 

To guarantee an enjoyable larch experience in Banff National Park, verify the trail status and only go on hikes that fit your skills. 

Note that you can always book a guided hike with a local to view larches in the valley.

Most popular trail in the fall is the Sentinel Pass. This typical Larch Valley excursion takes you from Moraine Lake along the west side. 

You’ll be immediately immersed in the beautiful larch foliage. Take advantage of stunning views of the valley below at the pass. 

In order to avoid the crowds, remember to start early. 

Camping during this time is also possible, starting from September to mid October. 

Remember to reserve a site to pitch your tent under the stars and wake up to a breathtaking mountain view.

Note: Many of the seasonal closures take place from mid October onwards, with many sites and road access like Minnewanka Loop Road completely closed by November. 

Things to consider when visiting Banff in the fall

Here are some things to keep in mind when planning your trip to Banff in fall months

Weather 

The weather in Banff National Park can be unpredictable in the fall, with cool temperatures and occasional snowfall (September to November). 

Banff townsite with mountain views
Banff Townsite with mountain views

Many of the park’s attractions and activities are seasonal and may not be available during your visit, particularly from mid October onwards. 

Fall foliage can be beautiful in Banff National Park, but it is short-lived and can be obscured by early snowfall. For optimal viewing, plan to visit between September to mid October.

Banff Winter Activities - Lake Louise covered in snow
Lake Louise lake covered in snow in November

With November entering (sometimes late October) the roads in Banff National Park can be icy and dangerous due to the first snow showers, so be sure to drive carefully.

Look up what is closed and when

As a general guide, attractions and road access can be closed after mid October. This is mainly due to the weather conditions and low season. 

One of the most popular spots is Lake Minnewanka Loop and the cruise that takes place there. It closes in mid October.

Girl at the Lake Minnewanka Banff National Park
Lake Minnewanka in late September

Road access can be closed earlier if there are any avalanches or icy road conditions. 

Campsites and Tourist Information Office close for the season in mid October. There are only a handful of sites that operate until mid fall. 

Sites like Banff sightseeing gondola are open all year round, and they start festivities from November onwards. 

Banff Gondola Ride in late November
Banff Gondola Ride in late November

On the other hand, Jasper SkyTram in the Canadian Rockies (gondola) shuts down in mid fall. So we recommend checking the operating hours before to add anything to your Banff itinerary.

Here are some popular ones (website):

  • Moraine Lake Road access (closed for driving)
  • Minnewanka Lake Loop (closed for driving)
  • Fairmont Banff Springs Golf Course Road (closed for driving)
  • Banff Legacy Trail (closed for hikes)
  • Lake Louise Cross Country Ski Trails (closed for vehicles, but open for skiing)

9 Things to do in Banff in the fall: Hidden gems & popular sites

During your fall trip to Banff, enjoy stunning hikes and walks surrounded by foliage. This is also a great time to hit popular sites such as the Banff gondola and enjoy seasonal events (with fewer crowds)!

Lake Louise and Peyto Lake lookout are accessible all year round, and fall is perfect for a visit before winter sets in. 

Fall hikes in Banff 

One of the must do activities in Banff during fall is to embark on walks or hikes. The weather is great, there are fewer people on the trails, and gorgeous everywhere. 

Walking trail in Banff National park in the fall
Easy walks and hikes in and around Banff townsite

One of the must do hikes is in Lake Louise – Agnes Tea House. 

Agnes Tea House hike starts in Lake Louise (about 90 minute drive from Banff Avenue), and is one of the easy trails. It then ascends to Lake Agnes, a beautiful alpine lake with commanding views of the surrounding mountains. 

The legendary Lake Agnes Tea House overlooks the lake and its magnificent mountain backdrop from the lake.

If you are new to hiking, you can always book a guided hike with a local expert. Lake Louise Gondola has a summer pass and seasonal events which includes easy to moderately difficult trails. 

We recommend the 2 hour Trail of Discovery hiking path, which is absolutely stunning and is generally not accessible to public without a guide. 

Note: You can also enjoy summer activities at the Lake Louise gondola until the first week of October (hikes, gondola rides, views, etc.). 

For more hikes information check Parks Canada website 

Go on scenic drives

Not into hikes? No problem. Banff and the Canadian Rockies in general are perfect for a fall scenic drive. 

Scenice fall drive Calgary to Banff
Drive from Calgary towards Banff

Don’t believe? As soon as you leave Calgary International Airport fall colours will tease you. The further you drive, closer to Canmore and then to Banff National Park you will be delighted!

Drive from Canmore towards Banff National Park in the fall
Drive from Canmore towards Banff National Park in the fall

When in Banff, enjoy short drives to Lake Louise, or head further down to Yoho National Park in British Columbia. 

Icefields Parkway that connects Lake Louise, Banff to Jasper National Parks is absolutely stunning at this time of year too, and is worth visiting!

Go biking in Banff  

With quieter roads and trails, fall is the ideal time to explore Banff National Park by bike. Soak up the stunning scenery as you pedal your way through the park.

Did you know? There are more than 190 km (118 miles) of mountain bike trails and numerous road riding options in Banff National Park.

Remember all trails in Banff are shared. Always stay within the designated trails, and obey all traffice rules when you are riding, and stay within speed limits. 

After mid October, all road closures, and traffic controls will also apply to bicyclists. 

Note: Bow Valley Parkway is open to cyclists only this summer (2022), and will close road access from September onwards. This new closure will continue until 2026. 

Photograph fall foliage in Banff National Park 

For your fall trip to Banff, you must see the distinctive larch trees

The best way to capture fall foliage in Banff is to pick trails, parks and valleys where larches abound. Keep in mind they last a short duration (and not the entire fall season), so typically from mid September onwards to early October. 

Larch Valley is one of the best areas to view autumn hues in Banff National Park. You can enjoy a half day hike navigating Moraine Lake soaking in the turquoise waters and making your way to the valley’s golden foliage.

Note: Access to Moraine Lake closes from mid October onwards. 

Another option is to head to the Sunshine Meadows, which is known for its wildflowers in the summer, and skiing in the winters. During the fall months, you will be welcomes to a vibrant orange hue! 

Participate in Banff Fall festivals 

With fall ambience you can expect festivals, pumpkin spice lattes and seasonal markets. Participate in a road race, film festival in the mountains or welcome Santa early in town!

Be sure to check Banff and Lake Louise Tourism website for the latest!

Check out wildlife in and around Banff

The wildlife in Banff is spectacular. Fall is an ideal time to see some of Banff’s wildlife, including elk, bighorn sheep, and bears. 

Keep your eyes peeled and you might just spot one of these amazing animals in their natural habitat.

Amazing Banff winter activities - Christmas parade & markets, skii, snow-shoeing, hot cocoa, ice festivals & more - Best Things to do in Banff in Winter #banff #banffwinter
Wildlife in Banff in late fall, early winter (Elks)

Bears are foraging during the fall months in Banff, as before winter, they must pack on as much fat as possible. The majority of bears have gone into hibernation by late October. 

Go fishing until October

In Banff you can go fishing (catch and release) as well. The season starts in the summer months and is open until October 31st. 

The cooler temperatures make for perfect conditions to cast a line and try your luck at catching trout, Mountain Lakefish, etc. 

Chase northern lights in Banff in the fall

Fall months are perfect to chase the green dancing lights in the sky, especially from late September – early October to May is ideal to chase northern lights. 

During this time, you can expect pollution free darkness after midnight or early morning hours. 

As you can still camp until October, you can be outside viewing them from the comfort of your campsite, or RV!

Opt for a brewery tour when the temperature drops 

There are micro breweries located in and around Banff that also serve delicious food! 

When the temperature drops outside, head indoors, book a brewery tour, enjoy the samples and then more. 

Canmore Brewery Tour at Grizzly Paw
Canmore Brewery Tour at Grizzly Paw (see the snowy mountains? This was in late fall)

In Banff you can visit Park Distillery or Grizzly Paw, Canmore Brewery in Canmore (about 20 minute drive from National Park).

5 Tips for Photographing Fall in Banff National Park

Autumn in Banff National Park is a photographer’s dream. The colours are incredible, the light is beautiful, and the scenery is breathtaking. 

If you’re hoping to capture some amazing photos during your fall visit to Banff, here are five tips to help you get started:

Capturing Banff with all the fall colors (without a hike)
Capturing Banff with all the fall colors (without a hike)

1. Get there early. The best light for photography is early in the morning or late in the afternoon. So plan your shoots accordingly and make sure you’re on location before the sun gets too high in the sky.

2. Use a tripod. With the beautiful colours of fall, it’s easy to get overexposed photos. 

To avoid this, use a tripod and set your camera to a lower shutter speed. This will help you capture the rich colours of the landscape without blowing out your highlights.

3. Shoot in RAW. Shooting in RAW format will give you the most flexibility when it comes to editing your photos later on. So make sure your camera is set to shoot in RAW and you’ll be able to produce some stunning results.

4. Use a polarizing filter. A polarizing filter will help reduce glare and bring out the colours in your photos. If you’re shooting landscapes, this is an essential piece of equipment.

5. Edit your photos. After you’ve taken your photos, don’t forget to edit them! A little post-processing can make a world of difference. So take some time to learn how to use photo editing software and you’ll be able to produce stunning results.

By following these tips, you’ll be well on your way to capturing some amazing autumn photos in Banff National Park.

What to wear in Banff in the fall?

It is important to pack well to enjoy the perfect fall getaway in the Canadian Rockies. Here is our tried and tested packing list for Banff!

Girl wearing hat, scarf, booties for fall in Banff National Park
Banff packing tips for fall: Scarf, hat, booties, and a warm pull over
  • Tops: Carry long sleeve shirts, and tops. They are perfect for layering, to wear during walks and hikes, or indoors
  • Bottoms: Pack 1-2 pairs of jeans, leggings 
  • Dress: You can wear warm sweater dresses in the fall in Banff (for dinners out, or walking in and around town. It is okay not to be in hiking gear all day!)
  • Sweater or cardigan: For layering, morning or evening walks, indoors, etc.
  • Jacket: A warm jacket for layering is perfect in the early weeks of fall. But after September, do check the temperatures and pack a thick winter jacket or parka. 
  • Scarf: Carry a stylish scarf with you
  • Hat: Pack a woolen hat or fedora
  • Comfortable walking shoes or ankle length booties. If visiting after October, pack an insulated boots as the temperatures do drop significantly.
  • Socks: Don’t forget warm socks. Pack a few pairs
  • Read: Packing tips for Canadian winters

For accessories, note that our power plugs and sockets are of type A and B. And the standard voltage is 120 V and the standard frequency is 60 Hz. 

Don’t forget your camera. Here are our camera essentials – Sony Mirrorless Camera and Sony A7iii. Carry extra storage cards to back up all the photos you will be capturing in Canada. 

Do check the validity of the passport, make sure it is not expired. 

Also secure travel insurance. Get travel insurance quotes for your trip here

Is fall a good time to go to Banff Canada?

To wrap this post, we will share our recommendation for if visiting Banff in the fall is worth it? 

The fall season is definitely one of the best times to visit Banff National Park. 

The fall foliage in Banff is simply stunning. Think brightly colored leaves, towering mountains, and pristine lakes. It’s the perfect time to go for a hike or a scenic drive.

The weather in Banff in the fall is perfect for outdoor activities. The days are sunny and crisp, and the nights are cool but not cold.

Fall is prime time for wildlife watching in Banff National Park. Elk, bighorn sheep, and bears are all active at this time of year as they prepare for winter.

Most importantly, remember this is the perfect time to enjoy the park’s attractions without the crowds. After the summer rush, Banff is much quieter in the fall. 

Plus the prices are lower too. Fall is shoulder season in Banff National Park, which means that prices for accommodation and activities are lower than they are in peak season.

Additional Travel Tips: Banff Fall Guide 

Is Banff pretty in the fall?

The fall season in Banff begins officially in September. In addition to the cooler temperatures, September also brings about a shift in color. You’ll be blown away by the amazing colors of Banff National Park during late September to early October, when you enter the park. Its unique larch trees are particularly lovely.

Is September a good month to visit Banff?

We personally love Banff in September. It is definitely one of the best times to visit minus the crowds and better weather!

Is Lake Louise blue in September?

Yes, in September Lake Louise is still blue. But not for long. To view the turquoise colors visit in the summer, when the possibility of sighting it is 100%. 

Is October a good time to visit Banff?

The month of October is a fantastic time to visit Banff National Park, especially during the fall season when it is less crowded.

Can you still hike in Banff in October?

Yes you can. Banff in October is amazing! 
 
The air temperature is chilly and crisp, and the leaves remain for the most part of the month. It’s the off-season in Banff, so there are less people but no snow has fallen, allowing you to easily go out and enjoy mountain trekking among unfrozen lakes.

Is it cold in Banff in October?

Yes it is cold in Banff in October. Although winters have not set in, you can feel the chill in the air. Daily temperatures range from 10°C to -2°C (50°F to 28.4°F). 

Is Lake Louise frozen in October?

In October, Lake Louise is not solid frozen yet. Although the region receives a lot of snowfall, and the Lake Louise Ski Resort generally opens up in early November, but October is hit and miss when it comes to seeing the lake partially frozen with peaking blue waters. 
 
The month of November is usually the first time that Lake Louise freezes. You can walk on the frozen lake, but can still find patches where there is thin ice (so exercise caution if visiting the lake around this time). 

Can you see the northern lights in Banff?

Yes, the northern lights can be seen in Banff in the fall. The Aurora Borealis appears several times a year. 

From late September-October to May, you have the best chance of seeing the lights. Jasper National Park in the Canadian Rockies also celebrates a dark sky festival which is worth visiting!

Read more of Banff travel guides

Pin: Complete guide to visiting Banff in the fall

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