Seven days of summer adventure in Banff:
Planning a trip to Banff this summer and want some tips on what to see and things to do?
Mix and match these suggested days to create your own itinerary. But first, let’s talk a little about Banff & the National Park.
Banff National Park is a breath of fresh air. The Town of Banff is the largest and only municipality found in a National Park, and Lake Louise is a hamlet, both set within 6,641 square kilometres (2,564 squre miles) of World Heritage Site and protected wilderness. World-class accommodation, restaurants, and activity options are found throughout Banff National Park, and Discover Banff Tours’ has tours on all corners of Banff’s bordering Rocky Mountain Parks.
Four National Parks in both British Columbia and Alberta make up endless adventure options in Banff, Jasper, Yoho and Kootenay National Parks. You’ll find each has it’s own sights, adventures and activities. Countless glaciers, pristine lakes, and mountain hikes make up Canada’s first National Park. Enjoy daylight as late as 10:30 pm and make the most of your stay during out long Canadian summers.
During our summer months, many visitors enjoy a leisurely pace to sightsee our turquoise coloured lakes, mountains with hanging glaciers and icefields, wildlife on our Banff guided sightseeing tours, or aerial views high above in the skies with heli sightseeing tours. Others prefer an action paced vacation with mountain activities. Whitewater rafting on the Kananaskis River or horseback riding in Banff are two of the most popular summer activities in Banff and advanced reservations are highly recommended.
Join a small guided group on one of our signature hiking trails, golf surrounded by majestic mountains, while avoiding the elk on the fairways, or view hundreds of mountains from the Sulphur Mountain viewpoint via the Banff Sightseeing Gondola.
Many adventures await you on your trip to Banff National Park. Visit our summer activities for more information on Banff must see and things to do.
Must See Places and Recommended Things to do in Banff
While everyone will have different things that they want to see and do, there are definitely some places and activities that shouldn’t be missed!
Must see places in Banff:
- Icefields Parkway
- Lake Louise and Moraine Lake
- Yoho National Park, Spiral Tunnels, Takakkaw Falls
- In and around Banff: Banff Sightseeing Gondola, Surprise Corner, Lake Minnewanka, Hoodoos, Vermilion Lakes
- Private tours
Recommended things to do in Banff:
- Wildlife watching
- Horseback riding
- Caving tours
- ATV tours
- Via Ferrata – guided alpine climbing for the more adventurous!
- Private tours
What will your Banff itinerary look like? Create your own 3 day, 5 day or 7 day trip to Banff with these suggestions.
Day 1: Explore the Banff Townsite
Begin your vacation with the latest information and suggestions from friendly local guides at the Discover Banff Tours’ downtown reservations store on Banff Ave. Their friendly local experts will help you with things to do and see in Banff with your time. Pick up maps, brochures and what’s on guides. While you’re here, enquire about our packages that include the Banff Sightseeing Gondola and the Banff Upper Hot Springs. Taking a ride up Sulphur Mountain with the Banff Gondola is a great way to familiarize yourself with the town, its ecological facts, and the history.
Day 2: Sightseeing In and Around Banff
A day to explore the sights in and around the Banff townsite. These include Bow Falls, Surprise Corner, the Hoodoos and Lake Minnewanka on a half-day morning guided sightseeing tour of Banff, Discover Banff & Its Wildlife. If your time in Banff is limited, combine this tour with the afternoon tour of Lake Louise and Moraine Lake for a comprehensive tour that hits all the highlights in Banff.
Just five minutes from downtown Banff with a free shuttle bus running in the summer, the Banff Sightseeing Gondola with the new upper terminal station at the top. The new ‘Above Banff’ theatre, interpretive floor, rooftop viewing platform, and Sky Bistro restaurant greets alpine explorers. There’s a lot to do – rain or shine, so give yourself ample time to take in the experience. For the adventurous, the Sanson Peak boardwalk is an easy 1km self-guided interpretive walkway that leads to the Cosmic Ray Station National Historic Site and Sanson’s Peak Meteorological Station.
Day 3: Banff to the Icefields Parkway
Recently rated among Lonely Planet’s top drives of the world, the spectacular Icefields Parkway is lined with over 100 glaciers, numerous turquoise lakes, mountain peaks, and if you’re lucky, wildlife. The full-day Columbia Icefields Parkway Tour allows you to relax, watch for wildlife through the big picture windows, and enjoy guided commentary from one of our local enthusiastic guides.
The many viewpoints include Crowfoot Glacier, Bow Lake, and Peyto Lake (when access permits), but for most the highlight is the Ice Explorer tour up onto the Athabasca Glacier. This is included, so bring a water bottle to capture some of the pristine glacial ice melt. Before or after the Ice Explorer, venture out onto the Glacier Skywalk – this glass floor viewpoint offers a very different perspective to already incredible scenery.
Day 4: See Lake Louise and Moraine Lake
Simply a must do for everyone traveling to the Canadian Rockies, whether it is your first time or you are a repeat visitor. The half day (your choice or morning or afternoon) Lake Louise & Moraine Tour combines the highlights of the Bow Valley Parkway, Castle Mountain, as well 30 minutes at Lake Louise and Moraine Lake so you can take some Instagram worthy photos, enjoy relaxing at the shoreline, wander inside the famous Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise Hotel with some time for shopping. Looking for a longer visit after the crowds have left for the day? Take the Deluxe Lake Louise & Moraine Lake Tour – start with an early dinner at the charming Baker Creek Bistro and enjoy an extended evening visit at Lake Louise.
For those looking for a more challenging day, hike the Plain of Six Glaciers at Lake Louise (Wednesdays and Fridays) which follows the trail at the back of the lake to the family-run Plain of 6 Glaciers Teahouse. This iconic teahouse operates without electricity! Rest and have a delicious pastry while listening to sections of the glacier carving and crashing down the cliffs. During other days of the week the guided hiking tours venture to other spectacular locations, Stanley Glacier (located in neighbouring Kootenay National Park) and Consolation Lakes and iconic Larch Valley at Moraine Lake. All hikes include a packed lunch and after a day of fresh air building a mighty appetite; there are a number of excellent Banff restaurants featuring local produce to suit all tastes and budgets.
Day 5: Lake Cruise and Wildlife Spotting
Looking for a lake cruise in Banff National Park? Lake Minnewanka, the largest lake in the park, is also the only one where power boats are permitted. See a different view of the Rocky Mountains on a one-hour interpretive boat cruise that runs daily in the summer, throughout the day. Beginning from the western end of the lake, the cruise sets sail under towering peaks and takes in breathtaking mountains and emerald-green water as you keep a watchful eye on forested slopes and rocky shorelines for wildlife and waterfalls. The highlight of the tour is the Devil’s Gap; a glacial path carved through Lake Minnewanka from the foothills of the Rockies. Want to spend more time at the lake? This is the perfect location for picnicking with picnic tables, a cooking shelter and a small cafe open in the summer.
One of the best time to spot wildlife is in the evenings as animals become more active after resting during the heat of the day. Take the Evening Wildlife Safari for your best chance to see these animals and learn about the local wildlife, their habitat and needs. We often see elk, deer, coyotes, bighorn sheep and osprey on this tour and a lucky few can also spot bears or other large animals.
Day 6: Visit Yoho National Park & a Grizzly Bear Refuge
Take in a variety of landscapes and wildlife and head out towards Yoho National Park and Golden in British Columbia on the full day Discover Grizzly Bears Tour. Along the drive stop at the Spiral Tunnels, hailed as one of the engineering wonders of the day. Still in use today, watch for trains as they loop in and out of the tunnels, gaining elevation.
Continue further to Takakkaw Falls, one of the highest waterfalls in Canada. Then, passing through the Kicking Horse Canyon we head towards Golden and Kicking Horse Mountain Resort, home to the world’s largest enclosed and protected grizzly bear refuge. Take their interpretive tour to view ‘Boo’, an orphaned grizzly bear. Watch him interact much as they do in the wild; foraging, hunting, playing, swimming, snoozing and exploring. Learn about their efforts in establishing a protocol to rehabilitate future orphaned grizzles. After a busy day of exploring, head back to Banff and enjoy the scenic drive with a brief stop at picturesque Emerald Lake, keeping an eye peeled for wildlife during the dusk hours.
Day 7 and 8: Choose your own Adventure!
No matter what your level of adventure, there is an activity perfect for you to experience the outdoors. Mix and match any of the below adventures and span them over one, two, or more days to get the most out of the Canadian Rockies.
Glacial melt from the snow in the mountains makes whitewater rafting on the Kananaskis River and Horseshoe Canyon section of the Bow River, just 45 minutes from Banff. Choose from the gentle Kananaskis River, perfect for first timers or young children, or the Horseshoe Canyon, with an optional cliff jump mid rafting tour for the more adventurous.
Take an Cowboy Cookout Horseback Ride in Banff along the Bow River to a frontcountry cabin and have cowboys serve up a BBQ steak dinner, complete with beans, baked potatoes and salad, while you practice your roping and horseshoe techniques. On the ride back, climb Windy Knoll for picturesque views of the mountains that surround Banff. Traveling with children under 8? Try the wagon ride and meet up for your delicious steak dinner.
Imagine a tour that will take your breath away. Whether it is the thrill of flying above towering mountain peaks or glimpses into the pristine backcountry, or glaciers as far as the eye can see. Stretch your budget to the jaw-dropping Mt Assiniboine 30 minute heli-sightseeing tour of the Canadian Rockies, bound to give you treasured lifelong memories. Come eye-level with towering pillars of glacial ice in a perspective rarely seen.
Rock climbing is good for anyone who can hike. Located just 5 minutes from Banff, the Mt. Norquay Via Ferrata is an accessible adventure that gives guests a taste of what it’s like to be a rock climber. Harnessed in with the gear, you’ll climb up a series of ladders, across bridges, up pathways, and to the top of the mountain, giving you panoramic views of the Rockies. If you’re lucky, you might even pass some resident bighorn sheep. End the trip with a visit to the Cliffhouse Bistro for some après bites and brews while overlooking Mount Rundle and the Bow Valley.
Caving in the Canadian Rockies is a hidden gem and rewards those who discover it – limestone mountains create some of North America’s largest cave systems that stay a constant warm temperature throughout the year. Climb, slide, and crawl through the Grotto Canyon cave systems on a guided tour that takes visitors as deep as they’re wanting to go with various tours to choose from. For those who venture to the deepest depths, the grand finale of the cathedral will create perfect photo ops and stories to share.
ATV riding in the Panorama area of neighbouring British Columbia is an adventurous and unique way to discover the area – guided tours start with pickup in Banff and take visitors on one of two tour lengths. Explore an old silver mining town, waterfalls, and have a mountainside BBQ. Rugged and wild, ATV tours in the Canadian Rockies with Discover Banff Tours literally get you off the beaten path.