If you are heading to the Canadian Rockies, you got to read this. We have compiled all of our favorite Banff photography locations, in this one handy guide. This post also includes tips and a map of the best photo spots in Banff to add to your itinerary.
Typically, when anyone says, Banff – they are referring to Banff National Park. But we know many of you are traveling from overseas or domestically within Canada/US and would like to explore and capture the entire Canadian Rockies, which by the way is a fantastic road trip idea, and it includes the likes of Jasper and Yoho National Park.
Banff Photography: 17 Best Photo Spots in Banff
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you click one of them, we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.
Banff Town and the famous hydrant in Banff Avenue
Banff Avenue is the downtown of Banff National Park. This is where you will find restaurants, shops, hotels, pretty churches and one Instagram famous fire hydrant (with gorgeous mountain views).
Depending on your photographing style, you can capture market hustle-bustle, the mountain town look, the hydrant, seasonal activities, or “looking outside the window, feeling pretty” look – endless possibilities.
Location: Banff Ave (the main street in Banff)
Best Time to capture: All seasons. November is perfect for wintertime photography, with little snow, but still bearable to walk about or pose for photos. Christmas Parade occurs in November every year.
The Banff Welcome Sign
Every city has its welcome sign, well my pretty Banff town does too. You will find one in every National Park and also Banff’s sister town Canmore. Located on the Mt Norquay Road (southbound, right side), this spot is attracting tourists like crazy! Truth be told, I still don’t have a decent photo of it in the summertime, because it is always crowded.
Wintertime is a different story. This photography spot in Banff is perfect for wintertime, actually – you can pose or capture just the letters, your call. Summertime is a tough battle, getting to park your car and waiting for your turn to get a picture taken.
The sign is near the entrance to the Fenlands Banff Recreation Center, so you will find a moderate amount of traffic passing by.
Location: Mt Norquay Road (southbound, right side) – near the entrance to the Fenlands Banff Recreation Center
Best time to visit: Ideally summer. But to capture without the crowds’ winter is better! If you are a passenger (and sitting on the right side), you can quickly snag a photo without interrupting traffic or getting down!
Cascade of Time Gardens
The Cascade Gardens are my absolute favorite best photo spots in Banff. It is located not too far from Banff downtown, you can easily walk to this easy photo spot.
The Cascade Gardens were initially created to show the cycle of life on earth, in a unique garden form – with flowers, fountains and water, and greenery. This lovely oasis looks like a fairy tale, with the gorgeous mountains and a Tudor Gothic Revival style administrative building.
The building is the Banff Administrative building (Federal property), looks very elegant with the Edwardian style gazebos, fountain sheds, and the greenery. No wonder, this location is a popular Banff wedding venue.
Location: Cave Ave, Banff. Cross the bow river bridge from Banff Ave, turn left on to Spray Ave.
Best time to visit: Summer, late spring or early fall when it’s pretty and green. There are no entry fees to the gardens.
Vermillion Lakes is often overlooked by travelers, as they make their way to Moraine or Lake Louise. But this lake should be on your list of Banff photography locations.
Firstly, it is located very close to Banff downtown, like a 5 minute drive away. Secondly, if you can venture out in the morning like even before 10:00 am, and stroll at the sidewalk by the lake, you will be welcomed by amazing views of the Mount Rundle. Vermillion Lakes is popular with locals, who like to enjoy calming and serene moments. You will understand what we mean when you head there and see the reflections of Mt Rundle on the lake.
The lake is also a popular spot for hiking (Fenland trail) and kayaking. During winters, the lake is accessible and you could be lucky chasing northern lights, dancing in pretty green colors or even methane bubbles on the frozen lake.
Location: From Banff town or the Trans-Canada highway, access Mt Norquay road and Vermilion Lakes Road
Best time to visit: All season, but pay heed to any warnings during winter months. Perfect for astrophotography, northern lights, sunrise and sunset photos.
Sulphur Mountains & Banff Gondola
Sulphur Mountains are a mountain range in the Canadian Rockies. Most popularly known for the 8 minute Banff Gondola ride to the top, you can also hike/walk the Sulphur Mountain in about 2 hours.
The Gondola ride is a delight in summer as well as in winter, we have taken both and enjoyed it every time. It makes photography easy, and you can take amazing photos of the town below, the summit and pretty much all the things Banff is known for!
Layer well, and dress appropriately for winter. Also remember it can get pretty windy out there.
Location: 100 Mountain Ave, Banff Gondola
Best time to visit: Open all year. Beautiful in winter for festive decorations or snowy winter-land. One of the easy and best photo spots in Banff to capture the town and the mountains.
Want an easy and convenient way to capture falls in the Canadian Rockies, look no further than the Bow Falls. They are located right by the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel (has parking and is completely accessible, without hiking). It is a major waterfall on the Bow River, and depending on the time of day/year the gushing waters of the Spray River and Bow River create pretty rainbows sometimes.
This photo was taken a little after 03:30 pm, in the month of July. The Falls are accessible all year round. During winter, the pathways will be icy and slippery. Nevertheless, it is a free Banff photography spot, and using the pathway from the nearby Banff Hotel you can get a different perspective of the falls itself.
Location: Banff Springs golf course on the left-hand side of River Road.
Best time to visit: Open all year. Ideal photography months are during summertime.
Lake Minnewanka is located 11 kilometers away from Banff town. The stunning mountains and the beautiful lake makes for more picture-perfect moments here. It is easily accessible by road with parking space. While it is one of the best photo spots in Banff, it is also a great place to kayak or take a cruise to the Spirit River and taste some wine and cheese on the go.
Lake Minnewanka is best explored in the summer to early fall months. During winters, accessibility is limited due to weather conditions. Find out what to do in Banff in winter
Did you know that Lake Minnewanka is a man-made lake?
During warmer months, it is common to see wildlife soaking up the sun, on your way in/out of Lake Minnewanka. Rocky mountain sheep or the bighorn sheep are very frequently seen here. Lake Minnewanka is a popular location for wedding photos. We got ours taken here.
Location: From Banff town, head north on Banff Ave and then continue onto Lake Minnewanka Scenic Drive to reach the lake. It is located 11 kilometers from Banff town.
Best time to visit: Summer and early fall.
Two Jack Lake
Two Jack Lake is a pristine lake located on the Lake Minnewanka Loop. Both lakes are unique and different, so we highly recommend visiting both for your Banff photography. The name Two Jack Lake was coined, as this lake is sandwiched between two lakes – Johnson Lake and Minnewanka Lake. The name “Jack” because it is dedicated to 2 Jacks who lived and worked here. Two Jack Lake is perfect for swimming and kayaking. During summer, it is amazing to sit back, picnic or just read a book.
We got married in Two Jack Lake in the summer of 2016, and it was perfect. The lake is not super crowded, unlike Lake Moraine, which we will explore next. So it is easy to take pictures of the mighty Rockies, without being photobombed.
Location: Lake Minnewanka loop road, 12 km from Banff town
Best time to visit: Summer. Early morning or late afternoon for perfect pictures!
One of the most picturesque lakes in Banff National Park is Lake Moraine. I will admit, this is yet another popular Banff wedding photography spot, and also loved by hikers and slow travel lovers. Lake Moraine is a glacier-fed lake in the Canadian Rockies.
The stunning image of the mountains, lake and colorful kayaks at the dock, is one of the most iconic images of Banff National Park – it is just so pretty! It is not very hard to take this shot, the problem is finding parking and making your way to the lake.
During summer months, especially afternoon time you can find yourself stuck in traffic aka line up to find a parking spot. Key to this is to head there in the mornings, or visit offseason when the lake is clearing up after winters, like around late April or early May (depending on road conditions). Accessibility is closed in the winters, starting from October with Canadian Thanksgiving day.
This picture was taken on July 1st Canada Day, little after 04:00 pm. The lake was not crowded that day, and visiting after 04:00 pm, as a blessing in disguise. In June, it was impossible for us to get in, without waiting for 30 minutes or so. So try getting there in the morning or after 04:00 pm. Daylight will be available, even if you visit after 04:00 pm or so.
Location: Moraine Lake is 14 kilometers (8.7 miles) southeast of Lake Louise.
Best time to visit: June and July. Visit early morning or late afternoon. Access to Lake Moraine is from May to the first week of October (closed for winter).
Lake Louise is THE most recognizable images of Canadian Rockies, globally. It is located about 90 minutes outside of Banff town, in the hamlet of Lake Louise, Alberta. A glacial-fed lake, Lake Louise sparkles its pristine blue turquoise waters in the summertime, making it perfect for memorable holiday shots, nature photography and for outdoor activities.
Accessible all year round, Lake Louise is a frozen paradise in winter. In the month of November, the crowds have receded and you can enjoy some tranquil moments by yourself or your pet. Late December to early February, the lake becomes a natural skating rink, and an ice sculpture paradise (Ice festival in February).
Location: 60 kilometers west of Banff (Improvement District No. 9 Banff)
Best time to visit: All Season. Visit in June – August for summertime photos. Late November – February for winter photos. Winter activities start in mid-December, or when the weather permits. Be wary of thin ice warning on the lakeside. This is one of the most popular and best photo spots in Banff National Park.
As much as I love Banff, I adore places in and around Banff National Park, which makes for perfect road trip stops. And one of them is our favoritest – Canmore. Located only 20 minutes outside of Banff, Canmore is perfect for all travelers – there are walking and hiking trails, amazing restaurants, and affordable accommodation, and add majestic mountain views to that.
Home to 3 Sisters mountain range, Canmore is a heavenly bliss – you don’t have to try too hard to get mountain views here. Of all the stunning places in Canmore, Policeman’s Creek Trail and boardwalk is an absolute must-visit.
Policemen’s Creek is named after the NWP Police Barracks located nearby. There are a wooden boardwalk and a connecting bridge that you can use to reach the other end of the/ apartments. You will find some perfect photography shots here, in the morning or late afternoon.
And right in front of the creek is the Big Head sculpture, if you fancy some cute-sy Instagrammable spots.
Location: 18 min (24.0 km) via Trans-Canada Hwy/AB-1 E
Best time to visit: Late spring, summer, fall for autumn colors. Policeman’s Creek is not super crowded at any time of the year. Although open in the winter, check for slippery sidewalks and boardwalk. Pay attention to slips/trips/fall warnings.
The Emerald Lake
The Emerald Lake is the most stunning attraction in the Yoho National Park, located in Field British Columbia. It is perfect for day trips, and as an extension to your Banff National Park road trip. Banff to Yoho is an hour’s drive away.
The lovely Emerald Lake lodge here makes for amazing picture-perfect shots, summer or winter.
The Emerald Lake is enclosed by mountains – President Range, Mount Burgess, and Wapta. This area is prone to heavy snowfall in winter, making it a cross country skiing paradise. And in the summertime, rain is frequent. June and July are perfect to capture wild flora and fauna.
There is a hiking trail near the lake, which is accessible for differently-abled and strollers (first half of 5.5 km circuit). During summer months, you can also rent a canoe or go on walks. This is also the perfect time to capture the turquoise color of the lake (especially in the month of July).
Location: Columbia-Shuswap A – Yoho National Park.
Best time to visit: June and July to capture the blue turquoise waters. Lake is accessible in winters – it was frozen from November to early June.
Natural Bridge in Yoho National Park is a convenient and easy spot to capture the nature-scape of Canadian Rockies. Natural Bridge is a unique phenomenon, where two rocks create a bridge-like structure. The turquoise blue water that passes through it, makes it super unique. You don’t have to hike or spend hours over here. The bridge is easily accessible by Trans Canada Highway, and there is parking right in front of it.
Location: On the Trans Canada Highway towards Emerald Lake, Yoho National Park.
Best time to visit: Late spring, summer, and fall
One of the most powerful waterfalls in the Canadian Rockies is the beautiful Athabasca Falls, located in Jasper National Park, just west of the popular Icefields Parkway. Banff to Icefields Parkway drive is about 3 to 4 hours.
The surrounding quartzite makes the falls even more stunning to look at. With such powerful falls, it is common to see mist and splash by the falls areas. This makes for great photos, but always be mindful of slippery viewing platforms and steps.
The main Athabasca River takes its water from Columbia Icefield.
Athabasca is accessible in summer and winter. Summers are perfect for walks along the concrete bridge to see the canyon closely, or to go hiking. During winters, the falls are frozen, but it glitters in sparkling white ice. Be mindful when you are walking or hiking in the area. Cross skiing is opened in and around Athabasca in the winter. There are many winter tours to take you there.
Location: Highway 93A, west of Icefields Parkway. (Located 33 km from Jasper town)
Best time to visit: All year-round. Icefields Parkway route is open all year. The Columbia Icefield tour closes in October and reopens in April.
Maligne Lake is located in Jasper National Park. This lake is popular for its azure color water, surrounded by stunning peaks, glaciers and of course the famous Spirit Island – which is a photographer’s favorite.
Did you know – Maligne Lake is the largest natural lake in the Canadian Rockies?
And the image of Spirit Island in the middle of Maligne Lake is quite photographed scene and easily recognizable as the Canadian Rockies. Maligne Valley is quite popular with hikers and paddlers. To access the Spirit Lake, private tours or cruises are available.
Location: Maligne Lake is located 47 kilometers (30 miles) outside the town of Jasper.
Best time to visit: All year-round. During winter, Maligne valley turns into a winter wonderland. Seasonal driving restrictions apply. Check parks Canada website for avalanche warnings.
Scenic Bow Valley Parkway
The Bow Valley Parkway is a scenic highway that runs parallel to the Trans-Canada Highway. It runs between the town of Banff and the village of Lake Louise.
This is like your free ticket to soak in the scenic alpine views with the majestic Canadian rocky mountains. The Bow Valley Parkway is a lot calmer and quieter than the Trans-Canada highway, and you will easily find pit-stops to take photos (or go slower to enjoy the views).
Driving slower is also advisable as the parkway is home to large carnivores, including wolves, cougars, and bears.
Note: For wildlife sustainability at the Banff National Park, personal vehicles are not permitted March 1st to June 25th between 8 p.m. and 8 a.m. on the 17-kilometer section of the parkway from Johnston Canyon Campground to the Fireside Picnic Area.
Location: The Bow Valley Parkway (Hwy-1A), 50 kilometers stretch, north of Banff, the route to Lake Louise
Best time to visit: All year-round.
BONUS: Best Photo spots near Banff – Abraham Lake
The bubbles on Abraham Lake has been taking Instagram by storm! A man-made lake and a reservoir, Lake Abraham is located in the Kootenay Plains area of Canadian Rockies. The bubbles on the lake are formed by methane from the nearby reservoir.
The best time to capture the bubbles is in the winter, particularly from January to mid-February. The chances of seeing bubbles are higher at this time. Also, it is super cold this time, so dress appropriately. Outside of these months, the possibility of slightly bubbles is slightly less. Be mindful when you are stepping on to the frozen-icy lake.
Location: There is only one road leading to the lake, David Thompson Highway. It is an isolated route, so ensure you have gas and warm clothing during your visit. Banff to Abraham Lake is 2 hours one way.
Best time to visit: Optimal time to visit for photographing the bubbles – January to mid-February. Daylight hours.
Map of Best Photo spots in Banff: Photography Guide
Our Banff Photo tips:
We use our iPhone and Sony mirrorless camera for travel photography. Both are super compact, lightweight and easy to carry all day long. We are not a fan of huge cameras/DSLRs hanging out on our necks. Lightweight is better.
- Most photos were shot on Sony A500, we currently have Sony A7III (for capturing low light photos)
- And iPhone 6 and 7 plus
Natural light is always better for photos, whether you are using it for social media, blogging for mid-size photo prints. It is equally important to visit these places, where parking is not a battle and it is not super crowded so that you can place your tripod or find a nice spot to be creative and take pictures.
Theft is very rare in Banff National Park, but it is also a nuisance to other travelers if you are stopping people from walking by, while they enjoy the beautiful views. So plan to visit the pristine lakes in the early morning or late afternoons when it is not crowded.
Editing – We edit all of our photos, but we never Photoshop them. Our editing is done on Abode LightRoom on our phones (free app) and desktop. The most common edits we do is brighten the picture, as we are sharing in on social media and blogs, followed by single color pops. We also re-size them (and add our copyright symbol) so that it doesn’t weigh down the website.
We hope you enjoyed this list of best photography spots in Banff and around. Use our travel photography planner to note down the locations and plan your itinerary.
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you click one of them, we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.