Looking for the best things to see and do in Banff in September?
September is a month to remember in the Canadian Rockies – continuing warm summer weather with crisp morning air creates a perfect (and slightly less crowded) environment for exploring as the leaves and weather starts to change.
1. See fall colours on a hike
As fall sets in, it’s the perfect weather for hiking. Our Lake Louise and Banff guided hikes explore the best accessible hikes in the area, showing guests the wild and rugged environments of Banff and Kootenay National Parks. Each of the hikes offers something different but seeing the larch trees change to a bright golden yellow around mid to late September on the Larch Valley hike is truly a special experience and one of our favourites at this time of year.
2. See golden larch trees on an ATV tour
Another option for seeing the larch trees is on an ATV tour! While ATVs aren’t permitted in Banff National Park, there are fully guided ATV tours located just two hours from Banff on the edge of the Canadian Rockies. Our pick? Take the full-day ATV tour for free transport from Banff and lunch at an alpine cabin.
3. Visit Moraine Lake before the road closes
While many lakes in the Canadian Rockies are accessible year round, the access road to Moraine Lake closes in early October every year. September is the perfect time to visit this famous lake! Parking is extremely limited and so if you’re not planning on driving in at the crack of dawn, you can see this iconic lake on the Discover Lake Louise and Moraine Lake Tour. Or, to get the best photos at Moraine Lake and other Instagram worthy locations, join the daily small-group InstaBanff Tour.
4. See bull elk fight in rutting season
Every fall, the rut happens during breeding season as mature bulls gather cows and their calves into harems. During this time of year it’s common to see the elk bulls fighting over the cows, and also to hear their unique ‘bugle’ noise (sounds like a high pitched roar). Our daily Evening Wildlife Safari is a great tour to spot elk during this important time of year.
5. Dine at 6,900 feet
The Banff Gondola is the number one attraction in Banff, but did you know that the Banff Sightseeing Chairlift at Mt Norquay offers similar sky high views for almost half the price? Plus, there’s the Cliffhouse Bistro waiting at the top with charcuterie, wine and more. This 1950s tearoom turned modern bistro is one of the best mountain gazing lunch spots in Banff.
6. Meet a grizzly bear
As the fall weather begins to cool, it’s a great time to see Boo the grizzly bear as he prepares for hibernation. The full-day Discover Grizzly Bears Tour takes you to Kicking Horse Mountain Resort in Golden to meet Boo, and includes a sightseeing Gondola ride up to Eagle’s Eye Restaurant, for lunch at Canada’s highest restaurant.
Many refer to September as one of the best times to visit Banff, with continuing warm weather and less crowds it’s the perfect time to see the changing colours.
There are a few short weeks when larches’ needles turn golden in fall, typically from late September to early October.
The popular Larch Valley hike at Moraine Lake is stunning throughout the summer, but is truly spectacular in fall when the larches turn golden yellow in colour.
The trailhead for Larch Valley is at Moraine Lake, which has extremely limited parking. Head in before sunrise to grab a parking spot or join a small group guided hike.
From late September to early October, larch needles turn a bright golden yellow which can be seen on hiking trails such as Larch Valley and on ATV tours.
The road to Moraine Lake is typically open from late May to early October, although with limited parking it’s recommended to visit early in the morning, in the evening or on a guided tour.
The elk rut occurs in fall, from late August to mid October, when male elk (bulls) vie for harems of female elk (cows) during elk breeding season.
Banff Gondola is the number one attraction in Banff, but the lessor known Banff Sightseeing Chairlift at Mt Norquay offers similar sky high views for almost half the price.