Banff National Park is one of the oldest and most beautiful national parks in Canada. Located in the Canadian province of Alberta, Banff has a subarctic climate and has numerous glaciers and ice-fields. Banff also has a diverse wildlife population and maintains over 1600 kilometers of trails. But Banff is more than its wildlife, trails, and adventures – read our Banff Itinerary 5 days for non-hikers to find out.
Banff has beautiful turquoise lakes, amazing mountain views, great picnic and relaxation spots, restaurants that you would not want to miss. Banff offers something to every traveler. Banff is a great destination for weddings, family outings, or just a great weekend getaway.
Banff Itinerary 5 days – Planning a trip to Banff
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Banff is located in Alberta, Canada along the Trans Canada Highway, about 126km (78 miles) west of Calgary. Calgary International Airport serves as a gateway to Banff. The drive from Banff to Calgary is about 1.5 hrs.
Calgary is a major city in the province of Alberta and has international flights arriving from all major destinations. Most likely you will arrive in Calgary and you can either rent a car and drive to Banff or use a shuttle. Read our extensive transportation guide and ways to reach from Calgary airport to Banff National Park
If you happen to extend your stay to include Calgary, read this mini guide to Calgary
Arrival & park fees: 5 days in Banff Itinerary
Entry Fees – Banff National Park
For maintaining the national park, Parks Canada requires you to pay an entry fee. An adult fee is $9.80 CAD. Or you can pay for a family/group (in a vehicle) for $19.60 CAD. Youth enter free (ages 6- 17 years) and seniors (65 years +) is $8.30 CAD (2019)
You can pay at the entry gate and will need to keep a copy of it, at your vehicle dashboard. Read the things to know before visiting Banff
Banff Accommodation Guide: Hotels & More
There are lots of options to stay in Banff. You can book a cabin, motel, hotel – economical or luxurious – all in the midst of nature and gorgeous views. The only thing to keep in mind is that Banff gets fully packed during summer and this period lasts till August (long weekend). Getting accommodation around this time is pricey and difficult. Planning your trip in advance and booking the hotel online is a good option to consider.
We visit Banff about 6-8 times a year and have stayed in different hotels, most times. Sometimes it is just the 2 of us looking for a quick getaway and sometimes we take our friends and family for a weekend trip to the mountains. Read our Banff Hotels guide.
Here are some of our hotel recommendations for your Banff National Park visit.
Budget Level – Luxurious
These luxurious hotels are great options for a “once-in-a-life-time” visit to the Canadian Rockies. Like celebrating an occasion or romantic stay-cation. Both these hotels make your stay in Banff very dreamy and memorable.
- Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel – Staying at a Fairmont hotel is like living in a page of history – royal, regal and how can you ignore the amazing mountain views from your hotel window. Fairmont Banff Springs is luxurious, royalty like rooms and interiors. It has a great restaurant on site. Perfect for couples. Book your romantic stay here – Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel
- Rimrock Resort Hotel – Another beautiful hotel in Banff. It is actually quite hard to find a room here on a whim. I actually called them once while we were in Banff and they were all booked. So consider booking online and in advance. This hotel is located near the city centre. It is perfect for stay-cation as well. From the Rimrock Resort Hotel – the mountain views are amazing. More about Rimrock Resort Hotel booking here.
Budget Level – Mid to Low
Here are some of our mid-range hotels. We recommend them for a long stay or if you are traveling with a group/family.
- Elk + Avenue Hotel – Located close to Banff Town Centre, Elk Avenue hotel is a great mid-range hotel option. It is also perfect if you wish to stay close to the city centre and enjoy a resort-like stay-cation. We love walking/strolling by the hotel all the way to Banff avenue in the evenings. Book your stay here – Elk +Avenue Hotel
- Juniper Hotel & Bistro – Amazing restaurant and bistro with scenic mountain views. Perfect for a romantic stay-cation, at a great price with gorgeous views and food. Book your stay at the Juniper Hotel & Bistro here
- Rundlestone Lodge -This is like our “any-time you want to visit” Banff hotel. Beautiful hotel located very close to Banff city centre. Perfect location for you to walk down the street and enjoy a stroll surrounded by mountain views. Book your stay here – at Rundlestone Lodge
Day 1 of Banff Itinerary – Banff Town & Sulphur Mountains
On Day 01 of your Banff trip, visit the Banff town and explore its beautiful streets. There are a lot of free parking lots available in the downtown area and you can pretty much walk around the town, soaking mountain views and relishing sweet treats from Beaver Tails.
Banff Sightseeing Gondola
After exploring the Banff town, head to the Sulphur mountains. The Banff Sightseeing Gondola is located 5 minutes from the Town of Banff.
If you don’t hike, but wish to see amazing views of Sulphur mountains and lakes in the Canadian Rockies, it is worth taking the Banff gondola ride and seeing all the beautiful sights from the top.
You can marvel at the Banff mountain ranges and the Bow Valley including a 360-degree view of six scenic mountain ranges from 7,486 ft above sea level.
There are ample places to take scenic shots of Banff. There are places to sit as well as a secured stairway to climb further up if you ware feeling adventurous. There is a Banff Skywalk that leads you to the Cosmic Ray Station National Historic Site and Sanson’s Peak Meteorological Station.
Banff Sightseeing Gondola center has parking facilities right in front of the centre. There is a gift shop, restaurant, and Starbucks coffee in its lobby. Ride to the top of the summit takes about 15 minutes one way. You can easily spend 4-5 hours photographing or enjoying the day, soaking in all the scenic views.
Tickets for an adult will cost about $58-62 CAD (10% off if you book in advance and online). The Sightseeing is managed by Brewster Canada.
Summer Time: The hours during summer and winter time varies. Want to try something unique, participate in the Banff Sunset Fest Tour
Winter Time: The gondola ride is offered during winters as well. The observation area might be slippery, so follow warnings and dress warmly. At a high altitude, you can expect icy cold winds.
Bow Falls & Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel
On your way back from the Banff Gondola, stop by the Bow Falls. The Bow Falls is a stunning waterfall on the Bow River, and you can access it without a hike. Head to the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel and you will see signs/parking lot to access the falls.
You can visit Bow Falls at all times of the year. During winter, be mindful of the slippery surfaces.
As the Fairmont Hotel is located nearby you can pop by for a castle food tour or just admire this historic hotel.
In the evening, head back to Banff Town for dinner. Magpie and Stump is one of my personal favorite restaurants in Banff for lunch or dinner.
Day 2 Banff Itinerary – Vermilion Lakes, Sunshine Meadows & Johnston Canyon Banff
Bright and early in the morning head to Good Earth Coffee House for some breakfast.
Head to the Vermilion Lakes after breakfast. Located about 6-10 minutes from Banff Town, you can view Mount Rundle from the Vermilion Lakes. The reflection of Mount Rundle ripples on the surface of this lake, making it one of the most scenic and beautiful things to see in Banff. Access to the lake viewpoint is free.
You can visit the Vermilion Lakes at dusk as well for some great photography moments.
The lakes are easily accessible by walking, cycling, or driving from Banff town.
Summer Time – During summers, you can enjoy the spectacular views of Mount Rundle or enjoy a picnic or a canoe ride in the lakes.
Winter Time – In the winter, you might get lucky and see the magical Northern Lights lighting up the night sky.
Sunshine Meadows is popular with hikers. Lonely Planet has rated the Sunshine Meadows as the #1 day hikes spot. So why did I add this to the itinerary for non-hikers, you ask? During Summers, Sunshine Meadows offers stunning views of the 3 pristine alpine lakes.
There is a gondola ride and a chairlift (all for $42 CAD) to carry you and your family (up to 8 members in 1 cabin) to over 7800 ft above sea-level to access stunning views of the Sunshine meadows, creek, and trails.
Summer Time – One of the reasons to visit the Sunshine Meadows (in summertime) is for your taste buds, other than sightseeing. There are amazing restaurants and cafes in the meadows, that offer stunning views and great taste. Find out more here
Winter Time – Gondola services is available during winters as well. You can get a guide and your snowshoes on and head to the ski lifts to access the stunning valley with views to die for, sans the crowds and experience utter peace.
If you are visiting Banff in winter, here is an awesome way to experience the frozen Johnston Canyon. This option involves hiking, but it is a guided ice walk trip. So don’t have to do this alone.
In this soft adventure, a guide will pick you up and take you via the Bow Valley Parkway to Johnston Canyon. You will be mesmerized by stunning – scenic drive through a wildlife-rich habitat. The guided hike begins at the Johnston Canyon trailhead and is for half a day adventures exploring frozen lower falls and spectacular upper-falls of the Canyon. Find more about this winter guided ice-walk on Johnston Canyon.
And of course, you can hike in Banff summer months.
Day 3 Banff Itinerary – Day of Lakes
Dedicate the third day of Banff Itinerary to the amazing lakes located in Banff National Park
Two Jack Lake
Located about 20 minutes from Lake Louise is Two Jack Lake. Less visited lake, you can set up a tent or enjoy on a picnic table. Or a better idea – get married here? Read Banff Destination Wedding Guide
Lake Minnewanka is a glacial lake located in the eastern area of Banff National Park, about 15 minutes from Two Jack Lake. Lake Minnewanka means “water of the Spirits”. You can enjoy the view, with pretty animals on the way, right from the national highway!
Access to the lake is free. Cruise packages start from $45 CAD upto $110 CAD
Summer Time: You can go kayaking in the lake. You can also opt for 1- 2 hours of a boat cruise to complete the entire Lake Minnewanka loop. It is an ideal picnic spot. Read about summertime cruise activities at lake Minnewanka Other summer activities include camping, picnics, and fishing.
Winter Time: You can drive towards Lake Minnewanka, where you will see herds of elks grazing in the sun beneath Cascade Mountain. During winters, the main road north, past Upper and Lower Bankhead is closed to traffic between November 15 and April 15 to protect an important winter wildlife corridor.
40 minutes from Banff is the beautiful Lake Louise. Lake Louise is known for its turquoise, glacier-fed lake ringed by high peaks and overlooked by a stately chateau (Hotel Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise). Access to the lake is free.
Summer Time: Take a canoe ride across the lake, enjoy the backdrop of the Rockies and the stunning Fairmont hotel nearby. Or just sit and enjoy the sunshine.
Winter Time: The lake is completely frozen in the middle of winter. You can skate or admire the white sparkly winter of Lake Louise. The tourism board also organizes many ice-craving activities in Lake Louise during winters.
Lake Louise Gondola and Ski – The Lake Louise Ski Resort is open all year round, and it also features a 14-minute gondola ride. There is a wildlife interpretive center at the top of a gondola.
Moraine Lake is a glacially-fed lake located about 14 kilometers outside the Village of Lake Louise. It is situated in the Valley of the Ten Peaks, at an elevation of approximately 6,183 feet.
There is no shortage of outdoor experiences to be had here in the Rockies, and there is no shortage of incredible dining experiences either. Lake Moraine with its stunning mountain backdrop is an amazing spot for weddings as well.
Moraine Lake Lodge offers great packages and experiences in the lakeside, ideal for honeymoons, get-together and of course sightseeing
Summer Time: Go kayaking, walk, or take a stroll in the trails. Sit and relax and see the sun go down.
Winter Time: During the winter, cross-country skiers take a 15-kilometer adventure to the lake. Parks Canada sets tracks for skiing which end at the viewpoint for the Consolation Valley and Ten Peaks. Access to the lake itself is not permitted during the winter due to the high avalanche risk from November to late April.
If you only have 3 days in Banff, then these sightseeing activities will be perfect for a quick itinerary.
Day 4 Banff Itinerary – Town of Canmore
Located about 30 minutes outside of Banff is the beautiful town of Canmore. The thing we love about Canmore is that everywhere you look, you can see amazing mountain views.
A very pedestrian-friendly town, Canmore has a very resort and laid back type of vibe to it. Tons of great restaurants, bars, and cafes to choose from to indulge in fine dining. Canmore downtown is less frequented by tourists (as compared to Banff), and we love hanging out here.
Great hospitality from hotels and cabin stays. There are many short trails in and around Canmore, that are excellent for long walks and strolls – soaking the beauty of the Canadian Rockies. Like the Policemen’s Creek Broadwalk for example, with the backdrop of the Three Sisters Mountains (or if you are feeling adventurous head to the Upper Grassi Lakes Trail Loop – a 4.3-kilometer loop trail located near Canmore).
You should definitely save one day of your Banff itinerary exploring Canmore. This little town has great views for your camera lens and hence is every photographer’s delight!
How to get to Canmore from Banff? Drive 20-30 minutes. You can reach Canmore from Banff by public transport as well. There are buses that take you to Canmore from Banff for $6 CAD. Canmore has no admission fees to enter the town. You can access Canmore without going through the Banff National Park as well.
Day 5 Banff Itinerary – Cave & Basin, Cascade Gardens, Banff Upper Hot Springs
On your final day of Banff Itinerary- explore something unusual, something pretty, and top it off by relaxing in hot springs, with amazing views.
Cave & Basin National Historic Site
The Cave & Basin National Historic Site is located at the site of natural thermal mineral springs. It is located at an elevation point of 4610 ft. The historic site consists of an artificial tunnel to the natural grotto, a replica of a boathouse, a restored 1916 swimming pool, interpretive displays, hiking and snowshoe trails.
Many of the early structures were built by detainees held at World War I.
It is a pretty interesting site. These sulphur pools reminded me of cenotes in Mexico. The smell of sulphur is very strong in the entire site, something to be mindful of when visiting.
In the lobby of the Cave & Basin Historic Site, there are interactive guides and photo displays. Apart from the tunnels, there are great photography spots from the site’s balcony/patio. Entrance fees apply.
There are 2 trails that can be accessed from the Cave and Basin Historic Site
- Marsh Loop: It is an easy hike/walk, with no elevation and takes 45 minutes to complete, offering views of Mount Norquay and the Bourgeau Range.
- Sundance Canyon Trail: It a paved walking and cycling trail, with 145 meters of elevation gain. It takes about 1.5 hours – 2 hours. There is a picnic area at the end of the trail.
Cascade Gardens is located just minutes from Banff Avenue. It is a nicely curated garden, which offers great mountain views. The administration office of the Gardens acts as a beautiful background for your photography ventures.
There are beautiful pools, stone structures (some dates back to the 1930’s), gazebos, etc It is a nice little oasis away from downtown Banff to enjoy a relaxing walk.
These gardens are missed by most tourists because why visit gardens when the whole town of Banff is available? But trust me, it is a beautiful place that is worthy of a visit.
Entrance to the garden is completely FREE
If you staying at the Fairmont Hotel, you will be driving by these gardens. YMCA Hostel is located opposite to these gardens. If you are craving Chinese food, there is an oriental restaurant right across the street Silver Dragon Restaurant
Banff Hot Springs
We left the best for the last – Banff Hot Springs. Hot springs were discovered in Banff by railway workers in the late 1880s. And since then they have been pulling tourists and explorers to Banff. The water in the Banff Upper Hot Springs is heated geothermally – bubbling up to the surface from three kilometers (1.8 miles) into the earth’s crust.
There are 3 popular hot springs located in the Canadian Rockies – Upper Banff, Radium, and Miette Springs.
Upper Banff Springs is a personal favorite and they are located just a few minutes away from Banff downtown. There are options to book packages for hot springs and enjoy or relaxed or romantic evening. The Upper Banff Springs location has a cafe and a store. You can purchase or rent swimwear from here too.
Radium hot springs are located in British Columbia, about a short 1.5-hour drive from Banff (entrance of Kootenay National Park). Miette hot springs are situated in Jasper National Park. The outdoors pool offers stunning views of the Fiddle River Valley.
If you do not wish to drive that way, we have an alternative for you. Located an hour away from Banff is the town of Kananaskis. They have recently opened a spa (similar to the Blue Lagoon fancy) called the Kananaskis Nordic Spa. You can enjoy a luxurious spa with amazing views right from their hot pools.
Optional 6 day Banff Itinerary – Yoho National Park British Columbia
You can swap these 2 day Banff itinerary ideas (day 6 and 7) for any of the days above. These two options are best for summer and fall months (until mid-October). During winters, many of the attractions are inaccessible and closed for the season. Find out more about visiting Banff in different seasons.
The first one is to Yoho National Park. Located in Field British Columbia, Yoho National Park makes for an ideal day trip option from Lake Louise or Banff.
Lake Louise to Yoho takes less than 10 minutes. Or 45 minutes from Banff.
At Yoho National Park, spend a day chasing waterfalls – the mighty Takakkaw Falls and the Wapta Falls on the Kicking Horse River, Spiral tunnels, Natural stone Bridge and the gorgeous Emerald Lake. Set aside some time to enjoy a meal in the town of Field.
The Lake O’Hara area has amazing viewpoints overlooking trans-Canadian trains entering Kicking Horse Pass and the Spiral Tunnels.
Optional 7 day Banff Itinerary Ideas – Icefield Parkway to Jasper National Park
The Icefields Parkway is one of the most scenic drives in the world. The entire drive takes about 3+ hours (allow extra time for peak summer weekends).
This 181 mile stretch of road links Banff National Park to Jasper National Park (Called Highway 93) – so you can include this driving tour (or drive) to explore Jasper’s highlights.
As part of your drive, you can make pit stops at Herbert Lake (north of Lake Louise), the Bow Lake and Peyto Lake (both glacial lakes), explore Mistaya Canyon, or hike Parker Ridge Trail and Wilcox Ridge Trail – before arriving at the Columbia Icefield.
At the Columbia Icefield, get on to the Skywalk for some breathtaking views of the Athabasca glacier. Here is a tour to Icefield Parkway adventure with pick up from Banff.
Sightseeing Map: Banff national park itinerary 5 days (to 7 days)
Alternative Banff Jasper Itinerary 5 days
The itinerary listed above is perfect for slow travel and allows you to enjoy beautiful Banff town and its natural wonders. We understand that many travelers to Banff wish to explore more than just “Banff”, and preferably in a road trip format.
So here is a fast-paced 5 days in Banff and Jasper itinerary, let’s go!
- Day 1: Arrive in Calgary, drive to Banff. Head to Banff Gondola and enjoy a ride to the Sulphur Mountains. Take a stroll, and finish the day by dining at any of the local restaurants in Banff town.
- Day 2: Explore all the lakes nearby – Vermillion Lakes, Two Jack Lake, Minnewanka Lake (don’t forget the cruise tour), Moraine Lake (add a short hike if interested)
- Day 3: Head to Johnston Canyon in the morning. And then drive to Lake Louise (30 minutes driving time from Johnston Canyon). If Johnston Canyon is not on your list, skip it and drive straight to Lake Louise, and in the afternoon to Yoho National Park British Columbia (visit Spiral Tunnels lookout, Takakkaw Falls, and the stunning Emerald Lake)
- Day 4: Head to Jasper via scenic route (Icefield Parkway takes 3.50 hours to arrive from Banff). It will likely take you more than 3.50 hours of driving time, as you will encounter wildlife on the way. In half a day, you can explore Pyramid and Patricia Lakes (canoe, short hike/walk/stroll)
- Day 5: Explore Athabasca Falls and Sunwapta Falls in the morning, drive back to Banff late afternoon.
These activities will give you a good glimpse of the Canadian Rockies.
FAQ – 5 day Banff Itinerary – National Park Banff Trip Guide
Is Banff, Jasper, Lake Louise, and Yoho all in the same place?
Yes and no. All these places are located in the western part of Canada, spread across 2 provinces. Banff National Park, Lake Louise, Jasper National Park are situated in the province of Alberta. Yoho National Park, although a part of the Canadian Rockies is located in British Columbia.
All of these places and national parks make for an excellent road trip idea.
Need a Banff Jasper Yoho Kootenay itinerary
You can use the 5 day Banff itinerary above, and add Yoho and Jasper to the mix (optional day 6 and 7 listed above). Allot 2 days at least for Jasper National Park. You can drive from Lake Louise to Jasper (can also take a detour to the Icefields Parkway in summertime). Read our itinerary and activities guide to Jasper National Park.
Jasper to Kootenay is 3.50 hours, and we recommend 2 days there as well. It will be hard to combine Banff, Yoho, Jasper, and Kootenay in 5 days, but it is doable in 7 days. You will have to skip Canmore and pick and choose the lakes you wish to explore or only visit the lakes on the way to Jasper.
Can you do a 4 day itinerary Banff and Jasper from Edmonton?
Absolutely! We have done this ourselves many times. We recommend starting from Edmonton towards Jasper. The route may not be as picturesque as the one via Banff National Park, but nevertheless you will come across many small Canadian towns.
From Edmonton, you will arrive in Jasper in 4 hours. Stay overnight in Jasper and next morning explores their highlights like the Pyramid and Patricia lakes, Athabasca falls, Skytram (summers only), Maligne Canyon trail, etc. In the evening, start for Lake Louise – stay overnight.
Day 3 explore Lake Louise area and in the second half of the day drive to Banff Town. You can stay in Canmore too if you prefer – as hotel rates are cheaper.
Can you suggest a 10-day itinerary Banff and Jasper?
You can do so much in 10 days! Use the above 7-day itinerary for Banff. Swap day 3 (day of lakes) to day 5 and stay in Lake Louise for the night. Take a day trip to Yoho National Park on day 6. Day 7 head to the Icefield Parkway and Peyto Lake.
If you are visiting in Banff summer months, you can enjoy all the activities at the glacier exploration.
Winter months – those activities will be closed for the season but you can still drive by and enjoy the snow-capped winter mountains!
Stay in Jasper on days 8 and 9. Head back to Edmonton or Calgary to fly out on day 10. Or you can stay in Jasper on day 10 to enjoy more adventures.
Is it possible to do a Vancouver Banff Calgary itinerary?
Absolutely! Calgary is the nearest airport to Banff National Park, so we say that you start there. Explore Banff and drive to Yoho National Park in BC. Yoho National Park to Vancouver city is a 7+ hour drive via Kamloops.
Or if you prefer a shorter trip, fly to Vancouver – explore for 2-3 days, then fly to Calgary and visit Banff.
Banff itinerary with a toddler?
This 5- 7 day Banff itinerary is kid-friendly and is suitable for those who don’t like/wish to hike. Walking is required to access Lake Louise, Lake Emerald, and many areas mentioned here – mostly on uneven lanes/access trails.
Is it possible to do all the lakes in one day itinerary?
Yes, it is. All the lakes mentioned here are located in 15- 50 minutes to each other. From Lake Louise, you can access Moraine Lake, Peyto Lake, and head to Yoho National Park for Emerald Lake, BC.
Note: Peyto Lake lookout area is closed until winter 2020. The lower parking lot, restrooms, and access road will close in spring 2020 until winter 2020. Source: Parks Canada
Can we find vegetarian or vegan restaurants in Banff town?
Yes, there are many options for vegetarian and international/local cuisines in Banff town. Read our guide to restaurants and cafes in Banff and nearby areas.
What to pack for Banff National Pack?
Here are packing essentials for Banff National Park for summer, spring and fall seasons.
- Essential Jacket – Carry an essential travel jacket for all times of the year. These are packable and lightweight.
- Shoes: Carry one pair of sturdy, comfortable walking shoes for downtown walks, short trails to hiking.
- Socks: Recommended socks include ones made of SmartWool and Icebreaker merino wool socks. Click here to find the perfect socks
- Sunscreen: Get yours here Vichy sunscreen
- Daypack to carry your essentials. > Buy yours here
- Sunglasses (all seasons) >Buy my favorite Ray-Bans here
- Universal Adaptor: Buy your adapter here to charge electronics overseas
- Power Bank to charge electronics on the go.> Buy yours here
- Travel Document: Organize your travel documents in an RFID protected organizer > Buy a travel document organizer wallet here
- Camera: Shop our favorite mirrorless camera here
Click here to read our Winter Packing Guide for Banff Canada
Banff has so much more to it than adventure sports or hiking and camping. If you are planning a visit to Banff and you think there is nothing much other the mighty mountains – think again!
Use this 5 – 7 day Banff Itinerary to plan yours – We are certain you won’t be disappointed.
Additional Reading – 5 – 7 day Banff Itinerary
- Find the Best time to visit Banff National Park
- Visiting town Banff in Winter? Get the Winter Guide to Banff
- Visiting Banff in November – read this to plan your trip
- If you are visiting Banff, for hiking – read this Banff Hiking Guide
- Calgary Downtown Sightseeing guide
- Looking for hotels in Calgary? Read this guide
- More on National Parks in Alberta? Read an itinerary to Jasper National Park
- Or the Elk Island National Park activities guide
- Don’t forget the capital city of Alberta – Edmonton and check out these wonderful winter activities