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Best Time to Visit Banff National Park : Find the best time to go to Banff

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Banff National Park is AMAZING at any time of the year. Trust me. If you are wondering when is the best time to visit Banff National Park, then you are not alone. In this guide, we have included a month by month breakdown on the best time to go to Banff National Park, with activities for each season, local festivities and accommodation tips and deals for you to consider before traveling to Banff.

Banff National Park is Canada’s oldest and the first designated national park. Over 4 million visitors came to Banff in 2017-18 to enjoy the mountains, its lakes, and activities.

Best Time to visit Banff with monthly breakdown

Use this – when to visit Banff guide to find out what works for you as a traveler – pristine summer lakes and hikes or ski and snowshoeing, enjoying the northern lights or fall foliage – yes, tons of options. This guide highlights the best time to go to Banff and Jasper National Park, along with Icefields Parkway, Yoho and Waterton National Park sightseeing tips.

We have explored Banff in different months and in different seasons over the years. Yes, sometimes it is unpredictable but we have also noticed a consistent pattern. At the end of this post, we have included our favorite month to visit Banff.

Best Time to Visit Banff National Park: Find the best time to go to Banff

Best Time to Visit Banff National Park with monthly information
Best Time to Visit 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.

Visiting Banff in Winter: November to February

Banff in winters turns into a vanilla frosting cupcake. So pretty and snow-flakey! You are guaranteed (almost) a white Christmas. The Canadian Rockies are covered in snow and winter activities, including Christmas festivities, start to kick in.

Find the best time to visit Banff National Park with this ulimate guide that includes Banff monthly activities, events and temperatures to plan your trip.
Banff in winter

We wrote an extensive post on Banff activities in winter. Check out this article if you are visiting in winter seasons, which is from November to February.

November is officially the start of winter and the holiday season festivities begin with the Christmas parade in mid-November, every year. Read about what to expect in November in Banff. 

With December around the corner, the Banff town is filled with holiday cheer. Red and green decorations, Christmas dinners and markets and holiday shopping fill the Rocky Mountains.

Temperatures drop to -15 degrees Celsius,  so yes expect snow, and lots of snow on some days and cold weather. We have braved the cold weather and walked the Banff downtown area to enjoy the Christmas cheer and then when the cold is unbearable, we walk into any of the street cafes for hot chocolate to warm up our hands and heart.

The week following Christmas and before the New Year is a quiet time in Banff. But winter activities and resorts are in full swing, just that you won’t see a lot of people. It is a perfect time for a cozy stay-cation in the Canadian Rockies, so take note.

Banff is truly magical in winter. Tons of snow and cold weather also means winter adventure activities like ice skating, skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing and winter hiking. The ski season starts in late November and continues to late April or May, depending on snowfall. 

Find the best time to visit Banff National Park with this ulimate guide that includes Banff monthly activities, events and temperatures to plan your trip.
Banff in Winter

These winter activities continue into January. With the new year ringing in, expect culinary and dinner events in the Banff National Park. January also brings in international ice sculptors to town to display their art (ice) work. Ice Festival called the Ice Magic Festival in Lake Louise happens every year in late January to early February.

Winter Activities – Things to do in Banff

  • For winter adventures, head to the Sunshine Ski Resort or Mount Norquay for skiing
  • Snowshoeing is allowed in the Sunshine village, Meadowlark (Gondola), Lake Agnes and Lake Pyramid (Jasper)
  • Frozen lakes like the Lake Louise and the Lake Minnewanka become solid natural ice rinks for you to skate and enjoy the winter
  • There are indoor skating rinks at Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel and Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise.
  • Experience Northern Lights from late November to January – Lake Vermillion, located close to Banff downtown is a popular spot for aurora borealis sighting.
  • Banff Gondola rides are open and special programs for winter are offered as well
  • Stargazing at Sulphur Mountain Gondola
  • Johnston Canyon is open all year round. Winter hiking is allowed. Do it with an experienced guide.
  • Winter hiking trails include – Tunnel Mountain summit, Hoodoos viewpoint, Stewart canyon, Marsh Loop to name a few
  • Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park is open. Emerald Lake Lodge is a great winter stay-cation option.
  • Icefields Parkway – The scenic road from Lake Louise to Jasper is open all year round. Winter road and driving tips apply to Icefields Parkway (Hwy #93).  However, restaurants and gas stations are closed from  November to March.
Banff winter activities dog sledging, snowboarding and more
Banff winter activities

Winter Festivals: Winter festivals include Christmas Parade in November, Christmas celebrations, dinners, and markets in December. Banff Winterstart Race happens in November as well. January events include the Ice Magic Festival.

Temperatures & Weather in Banff winters

MonthLow AverageHigh Average
November- 8 degree C1 degree C
December- 14 degree C- 5 degree C
January- 15 degree C- 5 degree C
February- 12 degree C0 degree C

Tips for visiting Banff in Winter:

  • Daylight hours in Banff are for 7 to 7.50 hours. Make use of the daylight hours for photography.
  • Always adhere to weather alerts and warnings before heading for winter hikes or ice skating over frozen lakes.
  • Packing – Dress appropriately. Don’t forget your warm hat or toque, gloves, winter jacket (outerwear), winter boots and warm socks and your thermals or long john to layer on. Get our winter clothes guide to Canada here.
  • Be extra careful while driving. Check out the weather and traffic as well as road conditions before heading out
  • Ensure the vehicle has winter or snow tires on, has registration and valid insurance, extra warm clothes and food/snacks in case you are stranded. Use Alberta Road Assistance App 511
  • Stay or drive in designated areas or highways and don’t cross over closed routes.
  • If driving is not your thing in the winters, then take a winter tour or bus from Calgary to Banff. Check out a 5 day tour here
  • Carry travel medical insurance always. Also highly recommend it if you are not used to the cold. Get your travel medical insurance quotes here
  • Check out the avalanche report if traveling to the back-country here
Find the best time to visit Banff National Park with this ulimate guide that includes Banff monthly activities, events and temperatures to plan your trip.
Banff in Winter – December

Pros: Banff in Winter

  • Experience Christmas and the holiday season at the Banff National Park, in the midst of Canadian Rockies
  • Enjoy all winter adventure and outdoor activities (ice skating, skiing, snowshoeing, northern lights – you name it, winter heaven)
  • Winter is not as busy as summer months, so definitely you will find accommodation and holiday dinner options in the national park
  • Winter festivals – MUST visit!

Cons: Banff in Winter

What is closed for winters?

  • No camping, of course. Or canoeing or any water activities for that matter.
  • Certain routes are closed for hiking. Lake Minnewanka is closed around this season due to snow and slippery trail conditions.
  • Lake Moraine is closed and the road is used for cross country ski.
  • Peyto Lake route is inaccessible in winter.
  • Yoho National Park – The Spiral tunnels viewpoints is closed from October to April and the Takakkaw Falls is closed from October to June.
  • Icefields Parkway – The scenic road from Lake Louise to Jasper is open all year round. But Columbia Icefields (or the Ice Explorer) rides to the Athabasca Glacier are closed from October 15th to April 15th.
  • Jasper National Park – Athabasca falls and Sunwapta falls are technically not closed, but the routes going to the area is usually filled with snow. We visited Athabasca falls in winter and we couldn’t use all of the trails, just enough to see the mighty falls.
  • The same thing goes for Maligne Lake in Jasper National Park. Cruises to the Spirit Island close from early October to March.
  • Jasper Tramway is also closed from October until mid-April.
  • Most Tourist Information centers are closed.

 

Visiting Banff in Spring: March to May

Springtime in Banff starts in late March when the weather slowly starts to get warmer and the days are longer. Some years we have experienced little to no snow on the ground in springtime, especially in late March and April.

Spring is a great time to visit as the weather is NOT cold, but is cold enough to let you enjoy winter activities. It is considered a shoulder season, so you can expect great deals in flights, hotels, and tours. A great option for long term stay.

The Bow Valley Parkway (Hwy #1A) roadways are open all year round. However, the segment between Johnston Canyon and the junction with the Trans Canada Highway (Hwy #1) near Banff town is restricted for wildlife protection during spring.

Find the best time to visit Banff National Park with this ulimate guide that includes Banff monthly activities, events and temperatures to plan your trip.
Wildlife in Spring time – Banff

Springtime activities in Banff:

  • It is possible to ski and hit the ski resorts, during springtime and most likely you will score a good deal as it is shoulder season
  • Hiking is possible on some routes. Most popular routes could still be closed due to possible avalanches and sudden weather changes
  • Wildlife can be spotted.
  • Banff downtown and neighboring areas are easily accessible via car. Driving is easier than in winters
  • Culinary fests are conducted in Banff and Canmore, around this time.
  • Light stroll in Banff or Canmore is possible
  • Go ice fishing at the Ghost Reservoir/lake by Cochrane (before heading to Canmore)
  • Museums are open all year round.

Spring Festivals: Cochon555 and Uncorked Canmore are food festivals that happen in March/April in Banff and Canmore. Banff Yoga Festival happens in May.

Temperatures & Banff weather in the spring

MonthLow AverageHigh Average
March- 8 degree C4 degree C
April- 3 degree C9 degree C
May1 degree C14 degree C

Tips for visiting Banff in Spring:

  • We do recommend that you carry winter clothing as the temperatures might drop early morning and evenings and night.
  • Slight showers – rains and flurries are common. So pack waterproof clothing.
  • The same goes for your shoes.
Find the best time to visit Banff National Park with this ulimate guide that includes Banff monthly activities, events and temperatures to plan your trip.
Banff and Canmore in April

Pros: Banff in Spring

  • Springtime is off-season (shoulder season), so expect fewer crowds on the roads and in restaurants.
  • Great hotel prices. We have scored luxury hotels for less during March – April

Cons: Banff in Spring

  • Weather can be quite unpredictable, especially if you are visiting Banff for a day or two. You may or may not be blessed with great weather.
  • Lakes (Minnewanka, Lake Louise, Two Jack Lake) will be frozen. So no blue turquoise waters around this time.
  • Certain routes and hiking trails will be closed.
  • Up until April, the following sightseeing attractions in Jasper will be closed
    • Columbia Icefields
    • Jasper Tramway
  • Most of the attractions in Banff National Park will be open like the Banff Gondola, roadways from Banff to Lake Louise, Lake Minnewanka, etc.

Visit Banff in Summer: June to August

Summer in Banff is the BUSIEST season in the national park. The summer months in Banff are from June to August.  So much so that accommodation and campsites get filled up very quickly, so plan and BOOK everything in advance. The same goes for Jasper National Park. Accommodation gets filled up pretty fast in Jasper too.

Find the best time to visit Banff National Park with this ulimate guide that includes Banff monthly activities, events and temperatures to plan your trip.
Banff Sightseeing – Moraine Lake in July

During summers, the weather is warm, not too hot. The highest temperature it gets is 23 degrees C in July. You can experience daylight for longer hours, perfect for evening or sunset photos.

Summer is perfect for road trips in the Canadian Rockies.

Start in Banff and Canmore town, drive and explore all the lakes (Two Lake Jack, Minnewanka Lake, Moraine Lake) to Lake Louise and Peyto. Take the scenic national park Icefields Parkway route. Stop for the Icefield Explorer ride to the Athabasca Glacier and the Skywalk. Then stay in Jasper National Park for a few days. Continue on to the Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park (British Columbia). While you are at it, head to the Waterton National Park for summer festivities.

Things to do in Banff National Park in summer

Lots of great things to do in Banff in summer

  • All outdoors activity from hiking, mountaineering, canoeing, kayaking to wildlife sighting
  • Camping – Campsites and spots get filled very quickly. There are about 2400+ campsites in Banff during the peak season. You can reserve campsites by calling 1- 877- RESERVE (737-3783)
  • Special events like music and food fests and cruises are popular.
Find the best time to visit Banff National Park with this ulimate guide that includes Banff monthly activities, events and temperatures to plan your trip.
Banff Town Summer Activities – Banff downtown in August

Banff & Lake Louise

  • Enjoy the Banff Gondola or hike one way to the summit and then take the gondola ride down
  • Stroll and enjoy at the Cascade Gardens
  • Banff Farmers Market is set up in summers.
  • Enjoy a drink or food at a rooftop restaurant
  • Banff is a popular summer wedding destination as well – read about our Banff Wedding
  • Hiking trails are open – Minnewanka, Johnston Canyon, Lake Anges
  • Sunshine meadows are open for summers. Head down for a hike or picnic
  • Camping at Tunnel Mountain or Two Jack lake campsites
  • Head to Canmore for one day. Easy hike and take photographs at the Policemen’s Creek. More on Canmore here
  • Head to Lake Louise for a romantic cruise or canoe on the blue turquoise waters
  • Museums are open all year round.
  • Get an itinerary inspiration for Banff 

Jasper 

  • Take the Jasper Tramway
  • Kayaking at the Lake Patricia. Explore Pyramid Lake
  • Hike at the Sulphur Skyline, Bald hills or the stunning valley of the five lakes
  • Head to Columbia Icefields – take the Icefield explorer to the Athabasca Glacier and Skywalk
  • Read about Jasper activities 
Jasper Skytram - Get the ultimate Edmonton to Jasper Itinerary and guide, with a comprehensive list of things to do in Jasper and places to visit in Jasper National Park.
Jasper Skytram

Summer Festivals: Banff Marathon occurs in June. Canada celebrates Canada Day on July 01, every year. So definitely expect parades and fireworks in the mountain town. Waterton National Park celebrates Parks Day on July 20. Glacier and Science and History events happen in Waterton National Park in July as well.

Temperatures & Banff weather May to July

MonthLow AverageHigh Average
June5 degree C18 degree C
July7 degree C22 degree C
August6 degree C22 degree C

Tips: Visit Banff National Park in summer 

  • Book your flights, tours, and hotels in advance
  • If Banff hotels are expensive and all booked, check accommodation in Calgary or Canmore. Check out hotels guide to Calgary
  • Read our hotels guide to Banff National Park here
  • For alternate accommodation for Jasper National Park, look for hotels in Hinton
  • Camping: Campsites are in high demand from June through September, with July and August being the busiest. So arrive early. Most sites are assigned on a first-come, first-served basis unless reserved ahead of time.
  • Packing Tips – Summer clothing – shorts, t-shirts, walking or hiking shoes, and socks.
  • Always carry a light jacket or cardigan (or a waterproof jacket to layer on)
  • Sunscreen and sunglasses a must
Find the best time to visit Banff National Park with this ulimate guide that includes Banff monthly activities, events and temperatures to plan your trip.
Best Time to visit Banff

Pros: Banff in Summer 

  • You can see all the lakes in its true pristine colors.
  • All hiking trails are open
  • Camping, cruises, and water activities are open
  • Great for photography
  • Great for outdoors

Cons: Banff in Summer 

  • Hotels and flights are expensive
  • Peak tourist season – expect delays in service at restaurants

If you are planning to visit Banff just once (or at least if you are not planning frequent trips to the Canadian Rocky Mountains), then choose to visit Banff in summer. In spite of the cons, nature is at its BEST during summers especially if the blue waters, camping, and hiking trails are calling you.

Visiting Banff Autumn: Banff in September and October

Autumn in the Canadian Rocky mountains brings in lovely fall colors and wonderful evening glow. The month of September is a perfect trade-off with the busy summer months. The temperature is still warm, with a high of 17 degrees C and a low of 2 degrees C. Rarely does the temperature go below 0 in September. And remember, it is off-season, so you can HAVE the national park to yourself.

Find the best time to visit Banff National Park with this ulimate guide that includes Banff monthly activities, events and temperatures to plan your trip.
Banff in Autumn

Visiting Banff in September, especially right after the Labor Day long weekend will greet you with accommodation options in Banff town as well fewer tourists (especially because the new school semester starts in September in Canada).

So you can partake in all of the summer activities from hiking to canoeing and enjoy the warm weather. Camping sites are closed towards the end of September. So you can still camp outside. Some of the camping sites like the Mosquito Creek and Rampart Creek are open till mid-October.

In October, the weather starts to get colder and days shorter, which means winter is almost here. The lowest temperature in October is around – 2 degrees C, with a high of 10 degrees.  Just like springtime, there are fewer crowds on the road, and accommodation is affordable.

Yoho National Park in October
Yoho National Park in October

Most of the summer seasonal activities will be closed down for the winter (late October). And winter festivities and decorations will start to kick in. Autumn is the perfect transition period, where you can experience summer activities.

As fall sets in, explore the best accessible hikes in the Banff and Lake Louise area in the Banff and Kootenay National Parks. In your hikes, you will see fall foliage – bright golden yellow leaves around mid to late September. The Larch Valley hike is truly special experience at this time of year (Taylor Lake, Sentinel Pass, or Arnica Lake for hikes)

Banff Autumn Activities

  • Camping options are open for the whole of September and some weeks in October.
  • Take a fall hike to capture the stunning fall leaves. Perfect photography opportunity.
  • Banff Gondola, Cascade gardens, hot springs, museums are all open this season
  • Take one last look at Lake Moraine before it closes down in mid-October
  • Elk Sighting – Every fall, it’s common to see the elk bulls fighting over the cows. We have seen that many times on our way to Jasper via Lake Louise.
  • Visit Columbia Icefields before they close for the winter

Banff Autumn Festivals: Banff September events include Banff Whisky Experience, Ringette In The Rockies, Melissa’s Road Race (Melissa Missteak). October events are Banff Ekiden Relay (at Cave and Basin National Historic Site), Banff Centre Mountain Film and Book Festival.

Find the best time to visit Banff National Park with this ulimate guide that includes Banff monthly activities, events and temperatures to plan your trip.
Banff in Autumn

Temperatures & Banff weather in the Fall

MonthLow AverageHigh Average
September2 degree C17 degree C
October-2 degree C10 degree C

Tips for visiting Banff in autumn

  • We do recommend that you carry warm clothing as the temperatures might drop early morning and evenings and night. Just like springtime.
  • Slight showers – rains and flurries are common. So pack waterproof clothing.
  • Packing Tips: Carry boots, leggings, and jeans. Don’t forget a light jacket to layer on. Take a scarf, warm soaks, light mittens/gloves
  • The fall season can be quite dry, so carry lip gloss and moisturizer.

Pros

  • Shoulder season – Expect fewer crowds in hiking trails, restaurants, and town sites.
  • Great deals for hotels, flights, and tours.
  • Perfect transition period – you can explore the summer attractions and activities without the crowds, traffic or hassle
  • The weather is perfect for great photos. Fall and golden skies – what else!

Cons

We love the FALL season here, so no cons according to us. September to mid October are PERFECT months to visit Banff National Park.

We have compiled additional information to help you plan your trip to Banff.

When is the best time to go to Banff for hiking

June to August are perfect for warm summer activities like hiking, canoeing, camping in the mountains. The weather is nice and warm during these months, all the trails and campgrounds will be open for visitors. 

Mayuri at Vermillion lakes and Mt Rundle
Vermilion Lakes and Mt Rundle

When is the best time to go to Banff Hot Springs

The popular Banff Upper Hot Springs are open year-round, including on Canadian holidays. The same goes for Radium hot springs.

Miette Hot Springs, near Jasper National Park, is open from early May until mid-October only. 

Spring and fall are off-seasons, so they are perfect for a visit to the hot springs. 

If visiting during the summer months, opt for early mornings. The weather is nice and warm at that time, and you can expect fewer crowds. Late afternoon or evenings, expect it to be busy as visitors love to soak in after a day hike.

During winters, certain sections of the Hot Springs or the entire complex could be closed due to icy surface and/or snow winter conditions, so check-in prior to visiting. 

Is December a good time to visit Banff Canada

We have visited Banff during winters – from December to January, and it is an amazing time for those who LOVE snow or winter activities like skiing, snowboarding, winter hiking, festive staycations, etc.

Amazing Banff winter activities - Christmas parade & markets, skii, snow-shoeing, hot cocoa, ice festivals & more - Best Things to do in Banff in Winter

Banff town is decorated for the holidays and New Year in December. You will be welcomed with a snowy white backdrop with stunning red and green colors!

In Banff, from mid to end of December there is enough snow in the valley for outdoor activities. 

We hope you find this post helpful in deciding when to visit Banff and Jasper National Parks. Whichever month and season you choose, we are sure you will have a great time. Banff has something for everyone, so just come and enjoy nature’s wonderful creations!

Additional Reading for Banff National Park 

  • Where to Eat in Banff Guide? Read here
  • Transportation Guide to Banff here

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you click one of them, we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

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Best time to go to Banff: Find the best time to visit Banff National Park with this ulimate guide that includes Banff monthly activities, events and temperatures to plan your trip.
Best time to go to Banff

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3 Comments

  1. Fantastic post!
    I think the Rockies are addictive. I have only been during the shoulder season so far (in Spring and Autumn) but I am really keen to go back in the summer to see what it is like with less snow, when the trails are open. However if I do I am pretty sure I’ll just find MORE places that I want to explore near Banff! 😉

  2. It’s a great, in-depth vacation direction to Banff. Readers with a through reading can easily be able to decide when to visit. Thank you for sharing. It’s a beautiful place to visit indeed and good prior information must be valuable.

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