Photo Credit: Travel Alberta

Looking for the best things to do in Banff in May?

It’s May and there are so many ways to catch the fresh air. The lakes have started to thaw and it’s the perfect time for whitewater rafting, lake cruises, and all kinds of water activities. But the water isn’t the only thing that comes alive in Banff this time of year–our furry neighbours are also waking up and they are sure to give wildlife watchers a show! 

Before you can enjoy all of these great things that Banff has to offer, there are a few commonly asked questions that need to be answered.

Toby Creek Adventures ATV Tour
Photo Credit: Toby Creek Adventures

What is Banff weather like in May?

The temperature high in May is usually around 15 ℃, but don’t let that fool you, the weather can be pretty unpredictable. It could be perfect spring weather one day and transition to winter weather and back again the next day. Be prepared for both sunshine and rain (and snow if at higher altitudes). You might not get a consistent spring weather experience, but that just means you get the best of both worlds!

Is May a good time to visit Banff?

Although May is still the shoulder season for Banff tourists, it is a great time to visit. Because of the lack of traffic, it will be much quieter and make it easier to be immersed in the everyday life and sights of Banff locals.

Will there still be snow this time of year?

Yes, those higher altitudes will still be covered in snow. In fact, ski resorts are usually open through mid-May. At lower altitudes, you might find some slush but not much more than that. 

Can you hike in Banff in the Spring?

You can definitely hike in Banff in the Spring, but it will be important to know where you are planning to go so that you can dress accordingly. At higher altitudes, you will need snow shoes, and at lower altitudes, you will need shoes that can handle the mud. But, no matter where you choose, you are sure to see something beautiful.

What should I wear in Banff in May?

With unpredictable weather comes the need for many layers. Keep in mind that the time of your May visit might impact what you should bring. If you are visiting Banff in early May, a good winter coat should definitely be in your suitcase. If you are visiting Banff in late May, a hardy jacket will most likely do the trick. In general, though, light layers will certainly be your best bet as the weather can vary greatly. You will also want to make sure to pack a rain jacket and shoes that fit the adventures you plan to take.

See Emerald Lake on the Discover Grizzly Bears Tour with Discover Banff Tours in the Canadian Rockies

Banff is wonderful in May if you know what to expect, and now that you do, you are ready to learn about the best things to do while you visit! 

1. Take advantage of peak wildlife season with a Banff Wildlife Tour

As Banff’s creatures and critters are coming out of hibernation, May is the best time to spot them snacking on berries and roaming around. There is no better way to see them than on a daily Wildlife Watching Safari. These tours are in full swing and in perfect timing before the snow melts and these animals gravitate towards higher altitudes. We often spot elk, deer, and bighorn sheep on this tour, and from mid-May onwards, bears will also come out to say hello (from a good distance of course!).

See bears in Banff National Park on a wildlife tour with Discover Banff Tours
Photo Credit: Colleen Gara @colleengaraphoto

2.  Embrace your inner cowboy, ride a horse and grab some grub

Speaking of animals, horseback riding is a great thing to do in Banff in May. The horses are frisky with the crisp morning air and waiting for adventure! On top of this, there are mouth-watering cowboy BBQ cookouts that make for a true cowboy experience. The combination of these two activities makes for the perfect friend or family adventure. You can tailor your time to your audience with a choice of a horseback ride or a wagon ride for younger kids or those who prefer to ride on wheels. Nothing can beat an adventure with a side of a delicious steak cooked to order!

Wagon Rides, Banff

3. See Lake Louise in Banff National Park while it’s still covered in ice

The lakes are starting to thaw and spring is a great time to visit Banff National Park’s most popular lake, the iconic Lake Louise. The lake typically thaws around late May to early June, so visiting it in May allows you to get the unique view of the lake covered in ice without having to endure quite as cold temperatures. This stunning–mostly frozen– lake in May also makes for some really great photography. Towards the end of the month, the access road to Moraine Lake re-opens and visitors can see two famous lakes on one tour!

See Lake Louise surrounded by snow on the fall tour with Discover Banff Tours
Photo Credit: Mital Patel @mitalpatelphoto

The best Banff activities in May

Banff Ghost Walk

Spend a spook-tacular evening unearthing the ghastly ghosts, ghouls and mysterious events lurking in the shadows of Banff’s streets. Take
7:00pm
1 Hour 40 minutes

Kicking Horse River Classic Whitewater Rafting

The Kicking Horse River is the Rockies' most thrilling whitewater rafting with Class 1-4 rapids. Located 1.5 hours from Banff
9:15am, 1:15pm
3 Hours
Take in the evening beauty of Lake Louise on the Deluxe Lake Louise and Moraine Lake Tour
Limited Space

Deluxe Lake Louise & Moraine Lake

This evening tour gives you more time to wander and soak up the beauty of Lake Louise and Moraine Lake
3:30pm
6 Hours
Horseback Ride to a Cowboy Steak Cookout with Discover Banff Tours
Family Fun

Horseback Ride + Cowboy BBQ Cookout

Ride along the base of Sulphur Mountain to a delicious cowboy BBQ cookout at 3 Mile Cabin. First you'll ride
11:30am, 4:00pm, 5:00pm
3 Hours
Class 4 rafting rapids fun on the Horseshoe Canyon in the Canadian Rockies
Limited Space

Horseshoe Canyon Whitewater Rafting

Calling all adventure lovers - there’s no better way to get the adrenaline flowing than big waves! Jump into a
8:15am
4 Hours
See elk and other animals on a Banff wildlife tour with Discover Banff Tours
Most Popular

Evening Wildlife Safari

Where do you find the animals of Banff when the sun goes down? Your guide will know! So keep your
5:30pm, 6:30pm, 7:30pm, Varies seasonally
2 Hours
Banff Covered Wagon
Family Fun

Wagon Ride + Cowboy BBQ Cookout

Take a relaxing wagon ride along the Bow River and join the horseback riders for a BBQ cookout. After a
11:30am, 4:00pm, 5:00pm
3 Hours
Family friendly rafting rapids on the Kananaskis River in the Rockies
Family Fun

Kananaskis Whitewater Rafting

You'll get splashed by the frothy swells of the rushing river but it won’t wash the smile off your face
1:30pm
4 Hours
See turquoise Moraine Lake and the Valley of Ten Peaks on the Lake Louise and Moraine Lake Tour with Discover Banff Tours
Most Popular

Lake Louise & Moraine Lake

See two of the world's most beautiful lakes including iconic Lake Louise - famous for its jewel-like water nestled between
8:00am, 1:00pm
4.25 Hours

4. Experience whitewater thrills on a Banff rafting tour

Rafting season is finally here! Yes, I know we just finished talking about the mostly frozen Lake Louise, but as May progresses, the snow melts away and the rivers start to rise, beginning the Banff rafting season. There are three whitewater rafting rivers near Banff to choose from, and you can’t go wrong because fun is guaranteed. The other awesome thing about rafting in Banff in May is that it’s actually the perfect rainy day activity, so our unpredictable weather can’t stop you! You would be surprised how much fun it is to be out on the river in the rain!

Family friendly rapids fun on the Kananaskis River in the Canadian Rockies

5. Cruise on Banff’s Lake Minnewanka

Banff’s largest lake, Lake Minnewanka, is also the only lake in Banff National Park open to public motorized boating. You can take advantage of this by booking an interpretive 1-hour Lake Minnewanka cruise. The lake’s emerald waters are surrounded by forested pine and spruce trees with towering peaks on every side. If you want to catch more than one perspective of the lake and its surrounding beauty, you can combine your cruise with a ride up the Banff Gondola in a package deal

Lake Minnewanka Banff Lake Cruise
Photo Credit: Mike Seehagel / Pursuit Banff Jasper Collection

6. Learn about Banff’s haunted history

No, ghost stories aren’t just for October! You can spend a spooktacular May evening unearthing ghastly ghosts, ghouls, and mysterious events lurking in the shadows of Banff’s historic streets. Taking an evening ghost tour is the best way to make sure you don’t miss a single spooky detail.

Banff ghost walks with an interpretive guide
Photo Credit: Canmore Theatre Productions

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Have More Questions About Traveling to Banff in May? We have Answers.

What is there to do in Banff in spring?

As summer inches closer and lakes start to thaw, spring is a great time to experience whitewater rafting, see Lake Louise covered in ice, spot local wildlife, and admire snow-capped mountains in Banff National Park.

What is Banff like in May?

With daytime highs around15 ℃, the ski season is winding down, but not yet over. Although the mountains will still be covered in snow, you won’t encounter much elsewhere. The temperature in Banff can still fluctuate a lot, so be prepared for some warmer and some colder days, even within a short period of time.

Is Moraine Lake open in May?

The road to Moraine Lake opens in late May, once the snow has been cleared. With limited parking, this popular lake can be easily visited on a guided tour from Banff.

Is Lake Louise open in May?

Lake Louise is open year-round and is a 45-minute drive from Banff. In May, the lake will still be covered in ice, which is a great time for interesting photography.

Is Lake Louise frozen now?

Yes, Lake Louise is still frozen in May but will continue to thaw throughout the month. It is a great time to see Lake Louise in all of its frozen glory without having to deal with extremely cold temperatures.

Are there boat cruises in Banff?

Banff’s largest lake, Lake Minnewanka, has daily scenic cruises from May to October. Many lakes permit water sports, although Lake Minnewanka is the only lake where motorized boats are permitted.

Is there whitewater rafting in Banff?

There’s lots of whitewater rafting near Banff, however none within the Town of Banff. The closest whitewater rafting is on the Kananaskis and Bow Rivers which are approximately 45 minutes from Banff.