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Planning a trip to Banff and the Canadian Rockies

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Need a Banff trip planning guide? Here you go! The Canadian Rockies should be on every traveler’s bucket list. Imagine driving through ice-capped mountains, scenic roads, wildlife, and yes that’s pure magic. In this post, we will share a detailed guide on planning a trip to Banff and other national parks of the Canadian Rockies. 

View of Lake Minnewanka, Banff National Park, Canadian Rockies

The Canadian Rockies comprises the Canadian segment of the North American Rocky Mountains. The Canadian Rockies mountain system consists of the Interior Plains of Alberta and Northeastern British Columbia on the east to the Rocky Mountain Trench of BC on the west. 

We have been exploring the Rockies since 2011, and live 4 hours away from Banff and Jasper National Parks. And have experienced these national parks both from a visitor/tourist standpoint and a local perspective. We have experienced all the seasons, festivals, and food.

There are some important things to know before visiting the Canadian Rockies. So here’s the perfect guide to traveling to Banff and the Canadian Rockies Trip

Planning a trip to Banff: The Ultimate Banff Trip Planning Guide

How to plan a trip to Banff and Canadian Rockies

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Banff National Park is Alberta’s pride and a national treasure. The Canadian Rockies are on display at Banff National Park and it is the popular spot for many traveling to Canada. 

In Banff, you will be mesmerized by stunning mountain views, lakes and rivers, outdoor activities, slow traveling, good food, and great hospitality. This ultimate guide to traveling to Banff is filled with essential information that will help in preparing for your trip.

Banff National Park was designated as a national park by the federal government in 1885.

Drive to Banff National Park

There are five national parks located within the Canadian Rockies, four of which are adjacent and make up the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks. They are 

  • Banff National Park, 
  • Jasper National Park, 
  • Kootenay National Park, 
  • Yoho Banff National Park
  • Waterton National Park

Waterton lies farther south, along the Canada–US border as the Canadian half of the Waterton Glacier International Peace Park. In the US, the same reputation is held by the Glacier National Park

Waterton Lakes National Park

All five of these parks, combined with three British Columbia provincial parks, were declared a single UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984 for the unique mountain landscapes found there. 

Banff Trip Planning Checklist: Step by step guide

To make it a little easier for you, we have a detailed 7 step by step guide to planning a trip to the Canadian Rockies, 

  • Step 1: Decide where you want to go – Banff, Jasper, or all the 5 parks
  • Step 2: Pick a month/season to visit the Canadian Rockies
  • Step 3: Set a budget for your Canadian getaway
  • Step 4: Create a rough Canadian Rockies itinerary 
  • Step 5: Apply for a tourist visa or any documents. Get travel insurance
  • Step 6: Book hotels/accommodation 
  • Step 7: Book tours, permits, etc.

Step 1: Know about getting to Banff and other national parks in the Canadian Rockies

As a majority of the parks in the Canadian Rockies are located in Alberta (the only exception is Yoho National Park which is in British Columbia, but it is easily accessible from Alberta), Calgary and Edmonton International airports are your best bets when flying to Banff or Jasper National Parks. 

View of Lake Minnewanka in Banff National Park: You can enjoy a nice lake trail here
  • From Calgary airport, Banff National Park is 1.50 hours, and 
  • From Edmonton airport, Jasper National Park is 4 hours away

The distance at a glance from Banff to other parks, 

  • Banff National Park to Kootenay National Park – 42 kms or 26 miles (30 minute driving time)
  • Banff National Park to Yoho National Park – 100 kms or 62.1 miles (1.15 hour driving time)
  • Banff National Park to Jasper National Park – 288 kms or 197 miles (3.75 hour driving time)
  • Banff National Park to Waterton National Park – 375 kms or 233 miles (4 hour driving time)

Step 2: When is the best time to visit Banff and other Canadian Rockies parks?

Banff National Park is open all year round. It experiences four distinct seasons. Each season makes it a different experience and special with how nature changes and festivals that take place at the Canadian Rockies. 

Summer is considered the BEST time to visit Banff and other national parks in Western Canada. During the summer months – June to August, the weather is warm and the lakes are clear blue (and not frozen). 

The perfect 5 day Banff Itinerary for non-hikers. Enjoy a gondola ride, hot springs with mesmerising mountain views, relax by lakes & gardens in Banff!
Lake Moraine

As days are longer, you can explore the national parks late into the evenings, stay outdoors and go river rafting, kayaking, hiking, camping, etc. 

There are some downsides to visiting Banff in the summer. The towns and resorts are packed to their fullest during the summer seasons. Summer is busy with a lot of tourists.

Hotels will be expensive, and campsites are reserved months in advance. We recommend planning and booking in advance to avoid disappointment. 

The winter season, which is from November to February is best for winter activities like snowboarding, skiing, ice fishing, snowshoeing, and ice festivals. This is also perfect as the holiday season is on and it brings in extra cheer and decoration to the mountain town. 

Winter in Jasper National Park

During winters, ski resorts are busy as well and they could be pricey. As compared to peak summer months, winter is not packed with tourists.

We feel that Banff is a great place to visit any time of year but the shoulder seasons (spring and fall) offer the best weather conditions for enjoying all the outdoor activities on offer. 

Off-season hotel rates are offered with up to 75% off. You can access great deals for hotels from February to early June.

Banff in the fall, perfect for a visit

These are the months to visit in Banff to beat the crowds and prices,

  • March – April – There is less snow on the ground in March and April, in Banff and Canmore and trails closer to the center. The weather is pleasant to hike and walk outside during the day, but don’t leave your winter clothes yet. Do pack your woolens. During these months, hotels are cheaper and there are fewer crowds on the streets. Only con is that lakes might still be frozen until May.
  • September – The summer rush disappears after the September long weekend or statutory holiday (Labour Day in Canada), as schools and Universities open up for the new semester year. During this time, Banff and other national parks of the Canadian Rockies slow down tourist-wise, and there are fewer people on the streets. There is fall foliage everywhere, lakes are still clear and winter has not set in yet.

Read: Our guide to the best time to go to Banff, with a monthly breakdown of activities

Step 3: Set a budget for your Canadian getaway

Banff is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Canadian Rockies. It’s known for its alpine scenery, including mountains, forests, and lakes. Banff is a resort town, so it’s busiest during the summer months.

If you’re looking for fewer crowds and more affordable prices, consider visiting Banff during the spring or fall.

By following these tips, you can plan a trip to Banff that’s enjoyable and affordable.

Start by making a list of what you’ll need and set a budget for each item. This includes things like transportation, lodging, food, and activities.

  • Car rental: $250/week
  • Transit: $4-5/day
  • Fast food: $10/meal
  • Sit down: $45/meal
  • Hotel: $150/night
  • Hostel:$60/night

Make note that, 

  • When planning a trip to Banff National Park, it’s important to remember that there are expenses involved beyond just the cost of the park entrance fee. But let’s start with the entry fee which is $20 CAD per day for a vehicle entry
  • Compare prices for different transportation options to Banff. Flights, car rentals, and buses all offer different rates depending on the time of year and how far in advance you book. As car rental is a popular mode of travel, set aside a budget of $250 CAD for a week (for a mid-size car with unlimited miles)
  • A typical 2 or 3-star hotel will be $150 CAD per night, on a twin share basis. Consider staying in a hostel or camping instead of a hotel to save money on lodging. There are many affordable options available in Banff – hostels will be around $60 CAD, and camping starts at $20 CAD
  • When it comes to food, take advantage of the grocery stores in Banff and cook your own meals instead of eating out all the time. This can be a great way to save money and still enjoy the local cuisine. There are fast food restaurants where you can get a meal for $10 CAD, or up to $45 CAD in a sit-down restaurant
Free to visit: Cascade of Time Gardens

There are plenty of free or low-cost activities to enjoy in Banff National Park. Take a hike, go for a swim in one of the lakes, or explore the little towns and villages.

Entry Fee to Banff National Park: Important Information 

There are entry fees at both Banff and Jasper National Parks. You can purchase a day pass or an annual pass for an individual or family/group. It’s payable at the gate. Do make sure to tape the gate pass on your vehicle’s windshield.

Here is what prices look like for a day,

  • The entry fee for Banff (car pass or family) is 19.60 CAD/day
  • The entry fee for Jasper (car pass or family) is 19.60 CAD/day

You can buy daily or annual passes to visit and explore the Canadian Rockies. Remember as you drive from one park to another, you don’t have to pay again to enter a national park – as long as it is covered for the trip duration. 

Beautiful Canadian Rockies

The daily passes expire at 4 pm the following day. Here are the prices for adult, senior and commercial groups. Note that kids under the age of 17 years enter for free!

  • Adult: $10.50 CAD
  • Senior: $9.00 CAD
  • Youth (up to 17 years): Free
  • Family/group (up to 7 people): $21.00 CAD
  • Commercial group (per person): $9.00 CAD

If you are a frequent National Parks visitor in Canada, then opt for the Discovery Pass. 

There are annual passes for national parks as well as a Discovery Pass that is valid in all Canadian National Parks, 

  • Adult: $52.25 CAD (Annual) | $72.25 (Discovery Pass)
  • Senior: $44.50 CAD (Annual) | $61.75 CAD (Discovery Pass)
  • Youth (up to 17 years): Free
  • Family/group (up to 7 people): $104.50 CAD (Annual) | $145.25 CAD (Discovery Pass)

Scenic drive via Cochrane to Banff and Canmore

Step 4: Create a rough Canadian Rockies for Banff itinerary 

There are so many things to do in Banff, and nearby areas. Here is an example, 

Suggested Canadian Rockies Itinerary

Scenic drive via Cochrane to Banff and Canmore
Scenic drive via Cochrane to Banff and Canmore

If a Canada road trip is what you fancy, here is a suggested road trip itinerary for you, to get started.

  • Day 1 to 3: Spend 1-3 days in Banff – Explore downtown Banff Avenue, Banff Gondola, Sulphur caves (Cave and Basin National Historic Site), Hot Springs, Bow Valley, Banff Park Museum National Historic Site, Vermillion Lakes, Moraine Lake. Canoe on the Lake Minnewanka, Go on short hikes, attend culinary fests, spa and yoga. Get the Banff Itinerary – for nonhikers
  • Day 4: 1 day in Canmore – Perfect for slow travel or hiking and other outdoor activities
  • Day 5: Optional 1 day at Kananaskis Country – Bow Valley, Spray Lakes Provincial Park
  • Day 6: 1 day in Lake Louise – Explore the beautiful Lake Louise, go canoeing. Hike to Agnes Tea House. Skate during winters or attend the ice festivals at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise Hotel
  • Day 7: 1 day Icefields parkway/Skywalk
  • Day 8 to 9: 1 – 2 days in Jasper National Park – Explore Athabasca Falls, Pyramid Lake, Maligne Canyon
  • Day 10: 1 day at Yoho National Park
  • Day 11 to 12: 1 – 2 days at Kootenay National Park
  • Day 13 to 14: 2 days at Waterton National Park

Read: Vancouver to Banff road trip itinerary

Step 5: Things to know before visiting the Canadian Rockies: Visas and other tourist information 

Here are some of the important things to keep in mind before visiting the Canadian Rockies,

Travel Documents and Visa to Canada

Let’s start with travel documents to enter Canada (and then Banff)

Travelers to Canada from non-exempt visa countries must apply for tourist visas ahead of time. A Canadian tourist visa must be applied from their country of residence and should provide 2 weeks to 1 month of processing times. 

Check the visa office in your country for true processing times and delays. Biometrics is an essential part of tourist visas. Always include financial proof and an address where you are heading or staying in Canada.

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

Visa-exempt countries including citizens of the USA are required to apply for an eTA – electronic Travel Authorization, prior to arriving in Canada. eTA is not a visa and can be applied the day before you arrive in Canada. 

The processing takes minutes only and is sent to you online, in an email.

Travel Insurance to Canada

All visitors to Canada should have travel medical insurance. Travel medical insurance will cover trip cancellations, accidents, and medical emergencies while traveling in Canada.

Get travel insurance quotes for your trip here

Canadian Currency and use of Credit Cards

In Banff and Canada in general, we utilize Canadian dollars as our sole form of currency. Credit cards and debit cards are popular in Banff and other national parks, with debit machines available at banks, hotels, and shopping malls.

Step 6: Book your accommodation – Where to stay in Banff and the Canadian Rockies 

There are a variety of accommodation options available in Banff, from hotels and motels to vacation rentals and campsites. And you will surely find accommodation options in Banff for all budget levels, including hostels. 

We have a detailed guide on where to stay in Banff, with some of the BEST hotels in town, we do recommend checking that out. 

Here are some of the top tips, when choosing the right accommodation for Banff

Canmore rocky mountain inn
Canmore Rocky Mountain Inn (typical 2 to 2.5 star hotel)
  • Accommodation in town Banff is expensive and gets filled up very quickly during the summer months, which is from mid-May to mid-August
  • Hotels near Bow Valley Parkway are great options to stay
  • If you’re on a budget, consider staying in one of the towns nearby, such as Canmore,  Kananaskis, Cochrane, and Calgary. During busy months, these are excellent options as well!
  • During summers, you can camp outside in Banff as well. There are about 11 campsites that accept reservations and about 5 sites take requests on a first-come, first-served basis.
  • Finally, Banff is a popular destination, so it’s important to book your accommodations and activities in advance.

We recommend using Booking.com  to find accommodation. It is our favorite hotel’s website for quickly comparing the prices of multiple hotels at once.

One of the most recognizable Banff hotels is the Fairmont Banff Springs, but there are more options. Here are some of our top hotel picks in Banff and Canmore (and beyond), 

HotelFeaturesBook Here
Elk + AvenueLocated in the heart of Banff town, this is
a beautiful accommodation, close to amenities
Check here
Banff Caribou
Lodge and Spa
Great location, offers spa, pool and
restaurant on-site
Check here
Falcon Crest LodgeOur favorite in Canmore with
hot tub + views
Check here
Fairmont Chateau
Lake Louise
Landmark hotel in Lake LouiseCheck here
The Crimson JasperLocated in the heart of Jasper, this is one
of the best places to stay
Check here

Step 7: Book your tours and attractions passes

We use GetYourGuide to book our day tours and attraction passes. They have a generous cancellation policy and in many cases, you can even reserve now and pay later. 

Use it to book experiences like water rafting, or day tours from Banff to Lake Louise and Moraine Lake.

Preparing for Trip to Banff: Arriving, commuting, packing, and safety tips

How to get to Banff? Detailed tips

When planning your trip, consider how you will get to Banff. 

The nearest Banff airport is located in Calgary – YYC International Airport. It is about 145 kilometers away (90 miles) from Banff. The next closest airport is in Edmonton, the capital of Alberta, which is located 415 kilometres away (258 miles).

The most popular way to reach Banff is by flying into Calgary International Airport and then renting a car for the drive to Banff, which takes about 1.5 hours. Alternatively, you can take a bus or shuttle from the airport directly to Banff.

A Detailed guide on transportation from Calgary airport to Banff National by car, bus, tours and taxi. Calgary to Banff is only 1.50 hours from the Rockies.
Brewster Bus Station in Banff
  • Car Rental: You can rent a car from the Calgary airport or from anywhere in the city to drive to Banff. Take insurance and track the kilometres or miles covered. There are many rental companies that operate in Calgary Alberta, including the airport. We have found good deals and unlimited kms with Budget and Avis in the past.
  • Bus: Buses are available to take you from Calgary airport or major hotels to Banff Town (Banff Avenue). The shuttle buses operate between Banff and Calgary and tickets range from about $69 to $169 CAD. It can be purchased online or at the ticket counter at the airport.
  • Read our comprehensive guide to transportation from Calgary to Banff

Read about Calgary Activities that you can experience before heading to Banff

Commuting in Banff and around

Once you’re in Banff, there are a few different ways to get around. 

If you’re planning on doing a lot of hiking or other activities that require a car, then renting a car is the best option. However, if you’re planning on staying in Banff town and doing mostly sightseeing, then you can get by without a car. 

Vancouver to Banff road trips
Road tripping in Banff

There is a free shuttle that runs between the main attractions in Banff town, and you can also walk or bike around town.

  • Car: A car or vehicle is the best way to explore Banff. Driving is what we would recommend enjoying the Canadian Rockies. Renting a car during summers is fine, but for winters get an SUV or truck, with winter tires on.
  • ROAM Transit buses: Bow Valley Regional Transit Services operate ROAM buses in Banff and neighboring areas. The service routes include Banff and Canmore local, Regional routes Banff-Canmore, Johnston Canyon, Lake Louise. You can purchase fares as a single ride or a pass of 10. Learn more about fares here
  • Cycle during summers: You can rent bikes (or bring your own) to commute in the summers.
  • Tours: There are day tours, and multi day tours from Banff to explore more of the Rockies like Lake Louise or Athabasca Glacier. Check here with Get Your Guide

Banff Packing Tips – What to pack for Banff?

Here is a quick Banff Packing guide for you. Depending on the season the packing list will be different, of course.

Banff in the fall
Jasper in winter

We will start with summer and then will add the additional items for winter.

Summer Packing for Banff

  • Shirts or tops: Carry 2-5 tops (or shirts) for the duration of your trip. If you are planning to hike for days, opt for moisture-wicking material. 
  • Pants and shorts: Pack a few pairs of shorts and cotton pants or jeans. 
  • Lightweight waterproof jacket: A windproof jacket for the evening or when the temperature drops. Waterproof is better. 
  • Add a light cardigan for layering. 
  • Swimwear: Get swimwear for use at the hot springs, spa, and pools. Here is a cute swimsuit from Amazon
  • Hat or cap: Pack a cap or sunhat like this one
  • Eyewear/ sunglasses: My favorite one is here from RayBan
  • Flip flops: For the resort/hotel 
  • Comfortable shoes: Bring your hiking or running shoes for walks, and hikes. These are my absolute favorite ones from KEEN (and they are waterproof)
  • Toiletries: 
    • Sunscreen,
    • Mosquito repellent
    • Perfume or Deodorant
    • Face Mist
    • Bear Spray

Winter Packing for Banff

In addition to the list above, add

  • Winter jacket: Pack outerwear like wool jackets or down-filled parkas (recommended). We prefer waterproof winter jackets/parks for Banff and other parks. Here are some of the brands we use – North Face and Patagonia
  • Snow pants: For winter activities, pack one
  • Thermals or long johns: Grab 1-2 pairs of long johns, or a set of top and bottom for use as a base layer. This is super important so that you stay warm and protected against the winter elements. Here is a thermal top and bottom for women
  • Warm Hat or Torque: Pack colorful beanies to wear in the snow! Like this one
  • Warm Socks
  • Hiking Boots or Snow boots: Love these SOREL boots
  • Gloves: Get these tech gloves from SmartWool to use your cell phones on the go
  • Scarf

Read: Learn more about Canadian winters clothing here

Don’t forget your camera!

Be camera ready always: All of our road trips to Banff/Canadian Rockies have been filled with picturesque sights. Surprisingly all pictures have turned out great, even the ones taken from moving cars, like the one below. 

Beautiful Canadian Rockies Road trip
National Park Banf and Beyond

We use our iPhones, Sony A6000, and recently got the a new one! This is the Sony a7iii, take a look

Safety in Banff National Park

Banff National Park is completely safe for solo travel. It is also a great option for couples and family vacations. Common tourists scams and issues like pickpocketing, purse-snatching are very uncommon here.

The people of Banff and Canada, in general, are warm and welcoming.

For your bags/luggage, don’t leave them in your car. Most free parking areas are not monitored, so do not leave your valuables inside.

As always, ensure your vehicle and campervans are locked while away or sleeping. The same goes for hotel rooms and cabins.

Guide to Traveling to Banff

Nature is sometimes unpredictable and this is one thing you will have to be mindful of while traveling in Banff.

Due to high altitude, it’s hard to predict the weather conditions in the mountain ranges. It varies a tremendous amount – literally from one valley to the next and from one hour to the next.  

There is also a large variation between daytime and nighttime temperatures. Be mindful of the weather warnings at National Park entrances. This includes avalanches, wildfire, humidity, snow/hailstorms, etc. Please follow weather precautions as outlined by authorities.

Wildlife is prominently seen in the Banff and Jasper National Parks. Use precaution while driving on the road or on solo and group hikes. While driving look for “wildlife” signs and slow down if you see any animal. (This is more common on your way to Jasper National Park from Banff).

While hiking, use the suggested trails. Do not try to fight bears or go near them to feed them. Leave them alone. Use appropriate hiking gear to stay safe and well.

In recent years, wildfires have become a cause of natural disasters in Banff. As soon as you enter Banff, you will see the “wildlife” meter, letting you know of the possibility of catching wildfire. 

Do your bit and adhere to these signs and avoid pit fires or leaving your cigarettes burning in the forest or hiking trails when alerts are high.

Traveling during winters, has its challenges in Banff. Certain freeways or routes could be closed due to snowfall or avalanches. Exercise caution while driving to and in Banff. Use all-wheel drive vehicles with snow tires on. Follow weather and traffic alerts, issued by the Town of Banff.

Stay safe while going on winter hikes, snowboarding, or snowshoeing. Depending on the time and season, sometimes the lakes may not be frozen for winter activities. Signs like “thin ice”, “black ice” are common before and after the winter season.

What to see in Banff and other towns of the Canadian Rockies?

There are many things to see and do in Banff and other parts of the Canadian Rockies, 

Banff and Canadian Rockies Map

Sightseeing in Banff and beyond

We have also included a map of towns and hamlets (in this post above) that are close to Banff, along with other National Parks that are worth visiting from Banff as a day trip or as part of your Canadian Rockies road trip itinerary.

Calgary is usually the starting point to Banff, but many also travel here from Vancouver.

However, don’t stop at Banff and Jasper, explore areas nearby like Canmore (no entry fee), Kananaskis, Lake Louise, Hinton, Athabasca Falls to name a few.

Top Banff Attractions and activities

There are tons of activities and things to do in Banff and other parks. Although most of them will be outdoors, you don’t have to ONLY hike or canoe or ski and skate. There are options for non-hikers and slow travelers well. Here are some of the listed activities.

Banff Avenue (with the hydrant): More photo spots in Banff
  • Banff Gondola: See the Canadian Rockies without a hike by riding the sightseeing gondola and soaking in Sulphur Mountain views. Dine at the Sky Bistro
  • Honeymoon at Lake Louise or Banff, by staying at an epic hotel with a pool. Banff and Lake Louise are amazing for hospitality, honeymoon, weddings, and cuisines. Our Banff wedding guide here
  • Hot springs: Get into a Nordic Spa (Kananaskis) or Sulphur Hot Springs (Banff)
  • Waterfalls: Admire the Bow Valley falls (Banff), Takkakaw Falls (Yoho), or Athabasca Falls (Jasper)
  • Columbia Icefield and Skywalk: Enjoy a ride to the ice-fields – Icefield Columbia and see glaciers (Athabasca glacier)
  • Wildlife: Watch wildlife in Jasper National Park
  • Hikes: Enjoy many hiking trails from Banff Lake Louise to Jasper national park and beyond
  • Winter activities: Participate in winter activities like skating, snowshoeing and cross country skiing in Banff Jasper and Lake Louise!
  • Slow travel: Cabin living and slow travel, relaxation at Yoho National Park
  • Enjoy lake life: Take a cruise at Lake Minnewanka, picnic or watch the sunset from Two Jack Lake, or hike to take in views of the Peyto Lake
  • Scenic road trip: Go on a scenic drive along the Icefield Parkway, whilst connecting from Lake Louise to Jasper National Park
  • Seasonal events: Attend ice festivals, food fests, farmers market and more in Banff and the Canadian Rockies

Canadian Rockies Trip: What to eat in Banff?

Banff is also a foodie paradise. There is a distillery in town, lots of bars and steak restaurants, coffee shops, and sweet and candy stores. Some of the finest meat and vegetables are served on the platter, with an awesome ale to go with it!

Banff Avenue, in the heart of the national park, is perfect for lazy evenings, night-outs, fancy dinners, and morning juice and coffee. You will also find a lot of organic, vegan, and wellness cafes in town.

Read: Our guide to where to eat in Banff

Here are some of the TOP things to try in Banff

  • Specialty coffee and tea at one of these restaurants – Whitebark Cafe, Evelyn’s Cafe
  • Ale or beer at Park Distillery
  • Chicago Popcorn at our favorite Mary’s popcorn
  • Steak at Saltik Steakhouse or Melissa Steakhouse
  • Fine dining at Juniper Bistro or Sky 360 (Banff Gondola)
  • Family dinners at Balkan Banff or Magpie and Stump
Food in Banff
Food in Banff
Heading to Banff? Get the guide to BEST places to eat in Banff for every meal, occasion and budget. This is your one stop where to eat in Banff planner!
Places to eat in Banff Canada

We DO recommend each of the above places, as they are a MUST. In Banff, you will also find a lot of fast food and grocery stores for budget and cheap eats. There are Asian food take-outs, Greek, Canadian and Pizza places in Banff as well.

Most resorts will have a restaurant on-site. 

If you are staying away from Banff town, you will find dining options in Canmore and aplenty in Calgary. Cochrane and Lake Louise don’t have as many options for food as Banff does.

Seasonal Activities and Festivals in Banff

Parks Canada and Alberta Tourism organize a lot of seasonal events. Definitely lookout for local calendar events like – hiking events, food fests, stargazing events, etc. Find out more information here about local events

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best month to visit Banff?

The best times to visit Banff (to escape the crowds) are in September and late April to May. During this time, you can enjoy moderate temperatures, fewer crowds (as compared to peak seasons), and also enjoy the outdoors and decent hotel prices.

Summer months from June to August and winter from December to March are a good time to visit if you are looking for a seasonal activity (certain hike, glacier tour that happens only in summer, or ice/snow-related activities that take place in winter months only).  Expect to pay a little more for accommodation during these months.

How many days do you need in Banff?

Ideally, 5 days in Banff is perfect to explore the little town and lakes and attractions in the National Park with ease. You can enjoy hours of hikes, kayaking, and even relax in hot pools or at a local brewery in Banff!

Can you see the northern lights in Banff?

Yes, you can see the northern lights in Banff. You can see them in the winter months from October to May. It shows up after 1:00 am usually in areas surrounding Banff town. We have seen it by the Vermillion Lakes often. 

We recommend downloading an aurora app (like this one) to get a forecast update on the Aurora Borealis sighting.

Do you need a car in Banff?

Having access to a vehicle will allow you to visit remote areas inside the Banff National Park, and you also have the added flexibility to start as and when you like.

Having said that, you can still have a good time in Banff with public transport and guided tours to the best and the popular destinations in Banff.  Many Banff hotels offer their guests complimentary shuttle service within the Banff townsite.

Is Banff or Jasper better?

That’s a tough question. As an Alberta resident (and most of our friends who are born and raised here), we will say that Jasper is slightly better as it is not commercialised like Banff. Jasper doesn’t get a lot of attention like Banff does, as far as international tourists go, and that has helped to keep many attractions a little low key. 

It is also a little difficult to access this national park without a car – like many lake and trailheads are located 10-15 minute drive from Jasper town, and hence having a car for sightseeing is essential.

Banff, on the other hand, is popular with international visitors, and the international airport is located just 90 minute drive away (as compared to 4 hour drive from Edmonton)

Banff town can be navigated without a car – using ROAM buses, tours or walking to attractions located in and around the townsite.

Where do you fly into when going to Banff?

The closest international airport is in Calgary International Airport.

Banff, Alberta is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Canada, and for good reason. From its beautiful mountain setting to its plethora of activities and attractions, there’s something for everyone in Banff. 

We hope to see you soon in the Rockies!

Additional Resources:

Pin for Later – Guide to traveling to Banff and Canadian Rockies Trip 

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Guide to Traveling to Banff Canadian Rockies
Canada Banff Travel Planning Guide

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