Are you thinking about visiting Banff National Park? The park spans 6,641 square kilometers (2,564 square miles) with valleys, peaks, glaciers, forests, meadows and rivers. So, you need to make sure you know the best places to visit in Canada’s oldest national park before arriving. In this article, I want to introduce you to a number of once-in-a-lifetime activities and the best places to see in Banff. The national park can be visited all year round and the majority of the places mentioned below can be explored both in summer and winter. Banff National Park is awash with wildlife, impressive mountain peaks, and numerous glacier-fed lakes and rivers. If you want a destination that can provide something for everybody within Canada, then Banff is definitely your answer. Make sure you are as prepared as possible for your visit by reading this article outlining the best places to visit and things to do in Banff National Park. The Best Places to Visit in Banff National Park 1. Lake Louise It is difficult to imagine a place that better sums up the beauty and allure of Banff National Park than Lake Louise. Named after Queen Victoria’s 4th daughter, Lake Louise is a breathtaking destination that can be explored in any season. If you plan on visiting Banff National Park in the summer, then canoeing on Lake Louise promises to be the once-in-a-lifetime highlight of your trip. Idly floating on top of the famously blue water is an experience that cannot be beaten.…
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Best Places to Visit in Banff National Park, Canada

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Best Places to Visit in Banff National Park, Canada

Are you thinking about visiting Banff National Park?

The park spans 6,641 square kilometers (2,564 square miles) with valleys, peaks, glaciers, forests, meadows and rivers. So, you need to make sure you know the best places to visit in Canada’s oldest national park before arriving.

In this article, I want to introduce you to a number of once-in-a-lifetime activities and the best places to see in Banff.

The national park can be visited all year round and the majority of the places mentioned below can be explored both in summer and winter.

Banff National Park is awash with wildlife, impressive mountain peaks, and numerous glacier-fed lakes and rivers. If you want a destination that can provide something for everybody within Canada, then Banff is definitely your answer.

Make sure you are as prepared as possible for your visit by reading this article outlining the best places to visit and things to do in Banff National Park.

The Best Places to Visit in Banff National Park

1. Lake Louise

Best Places to Visit in Banff National Park, Canada

It is difficult to imagine a place that better sums up the beauty and allure of Banff National Park than Lake Louise.

Named after Queen Victoria’s 4th daughter, Lake Louise is a breathtaking destination that can be explored in any season.

If you plan on visiting Banff National Park in the summer, then canoeing on Lake Louise promises to be the once-in-a-lifetime highlight of your trip. Idly floating on top of the famously blue water is an experience that cannot be beaten.

If winter is your season of choice, ice-skating on top of the frozen lake is an adventure that will leave you thinking you’ve landed in a true winter wonderland.

Whenever you plan to be here, Lake Louise is undeniably one of the best places to visit in Banff National Park.

2. The Town of Banff

Banff town center
The center of Banff – Picture by Can Pac Swire

The flagship destination for the national park, Banff is arguably Canada’s most popular resort town.

And Banff might be best known for its proximity to an extensive array of world-class hiking, skiing and biking opportunities,  there are plenty of places to visit in Banff itself as well.

Walking down Banff Avenue, the town’s main street, you will find a number of cute little coffee shops, artisanal boutiques and a vast array of restaurants and bars to soak up the famous Canadian hospitality.

The Grizzly House, located in the center of Banff Avenue, is a great place to stop for dinner if you’re looking for a signature dish that you’ll be talking about for years to come – alligator, ostrich, buffalo and rattlesnake are just some of the delicacies on offer.

3. Moraine Lake

a view of Moraine Lake in Banff

Banff National Park is home to a vast collection of stunning glacial lakes and Moraine Lake is certainly no exception.

Among its many accolades, perhaps the one that best sums up Moraine Lake is that it featured on multiple editions of the Canadian 20 dollar note. Any view that is worth gracing the wallets of millions is worth seeing in person.

As one of the best places to visit in Banff National Park, Moraine Lake can quickly become overcrowded – particularly during weekends and holidays. So it’s best to avoid the tourists by arriving for sunrise (before 6am) or for sunset (7-8pm).

Remember that Moraine Lake can’t be accessed by car in the winter, so unless you want to tackle the 13 km road on cross country skis, then it’s best to visit this Banff National Park gem in the summertime.

4. Lake Louise Ski Resort

skiing at Lake Louise Ski Resort

Banff National Park plays host to the esteemed ‘Big 3’ Ski Resorts so you are spoiled for choice when it comes to skiing, snowboarding, and wintersport opportunities.

With over 4200 acres of world-class, skiable terrain, there aren’t many better places to find your ski legs than at Lake Louise Ski Resort.

When you are flying down a beautifully groomed run with the Canadian Rockies in the foreground, it is easy to see why skiing in the heart of Banff National Park is one of the best winter activities to do in Lake Louise.

Any Lake Louise Ski Resort expert will tell you to head directly to the backside of the mountain, and it is hard to disagree. Here you’ll find access to some of the best back bowl terrain in the whole of North America.

For those less inclined to try skiing or snowboarding, the ski resort is also home to a tubing park – brilliant for those wanting to experience the thrill of winter sports without dedicating time to the learning process.

5. Banff Hot Springs

Banff Upper Hot Springs
Banff Upper Hot Springs – Picture by Andrew Bowden

Back in 1883, workers for the Canadian Pacific Railway accidentally stumbled across a natural thermal hot spring. The owners of the railway company knew they had struck gold and quickly went to work on ensuring the hot springs could be easily accessible for tourists.

Nearly 140 years later, visitors continue to flock to Banff National Park to experience the rejuvenating and replenishing qualities of the Banff Hot Springs water.

The outdoor, naturally heated pool allows guests to relax while looking out across the valley to Mount Rundle.

Banff may never have been granted National Park status without the discovery of the hot springs, so it’s easy to see why they are considered one of the best places to visit.

6. Peyto Lake

a view of Peyto Lake

Named after an early trail guide in Banff National Park, Peyto Lake is perhaps the most quintessential example of the stunning color that emanates from glacial lakes in Canada. The rock flour sediment enters the lake from the surrounding glaciers, to give it the uniquely beautiful turquoise color.

Peyto Lake is best viewed from above, so head towards the Bow Summit trail and see the lake in all its splendor from the Peyto Lake Lookout.

As is customary in Banff National Park, the trails surrounding the lake provide a great platform for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing in winter, on top of the ample opportunity for hiking all year round.

7. Johnston Canyon

the Lower Falls at Johnston Canyon
The Lower Falls

This incredibly beautiful canyon is located directly between Banff and Lake Louise, along the scenic Bow Valley Parkway.

The wonderful natural phenomenon is caused by thousands of years of water erosion, creating dramatic canyon gorges that are waiting to be explored in Banff National Park.

The climax of any trip to Johnston Canyon is undoubtedly the two waterfalls found at the end of the trails (Lower and Upper Falls). The Upper Falls stand at an impressive 40m high, creating an intimidating sound as the water crashes into the gorge below.

In winter, the waterfalls freeze over as the canyon descends into silence. The tapping of ice-picks and cleats echo throughout the canyon as eager ice-climbers battle to conquer the frozen falls.

8. Fairmont Banff Springs

a view of the hotel in winter
Picture by Fairmont Banff Springs

Often referred to as the ‘Castle in the Rockies’, the Fairmont Banff Springs has been welcoming guests for more than 130 years and represents the pinnacle of luxury in Banff National Park.

The lavish hotel resort boasts an impressive 18-hole golf course situated beneath the Rocky Mountain peaks, a state-of-the-art spa facility and a wonderful aquatic and fitness center where guests can unwind after a busy day hiking around the stunning Alberta landscape.

For dinner, make a reservation at the 1888 Chop House if you want to sample some of Canada’s prime steak cuts, or head to The Vermillion Room to experience the signature seafood platter. But whatever your taste fancies, the chances are that the dining options at the Fairmont will be able to provide.

The Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel is truly the height of luxury and truly deserves its place amongst the best places to visit in Banff National Park.

9. Lake Minnewanka

Lake Minnewanka

This 21km (13 miles) glacial-fed lake can be found 5km outside of the town of Banff and is one of the National Parks most popular destinations.

The most fascinating aspect of any visit to Lake Minnewanka is certainly learning about the history of what lies deep below the surface. In the mid-1800s, there was a thriving resort town directly where Lake Minnewanka now sits.

At the beginning of the 20th century, work on a dam in the area raised the water levels of Devil’s Creek by 3.5m, causing the entire area to be flooded. Minnewanka Landing, as the town was known, succumbed to floodwater and resigned to history.

Throughout the summer, scuba divers regularly visit Lake Minnewanka in the hopes of catching a glimpse of the famous underwater ghost town.

For those wanting to stay a little dryer, the lake is also home to a popular beer cruise where guests are treated to an interactive tour of the area while sampling local beers and ales.

Banff National Park is brimming with secrets and mysteries, and beneath the surface of Lake Minnewanka is certainly no exception.

10. Banff Gondola Ride

a gondola in Banff National Park
Picture by Jack Borno

The Banff Gondola is one of the best all-season activities in Banff National Park. It offers timeless views of the town of Banff, as well as the surrounding valleys and mountains.

Located at Banff Sunshine Ski Resort, the gondola ascends for 8 minutes and 698m (2,292 feet) up Sulfur Mountain.

Once you reach the summit, you are able to stroll across the boarded walkway and head towards the award-winning Sky Bistro – one of the most signature dining experiences in Banff National Park.

Even for the more faint-hearted visitors, the Banff Gondola offers a truly once-in-a-lifetime opportunity in the Canadian Rockies.

11. Morant’s Curve

a train passing at Morant's Curve
Picture by Briyyz

Morant’s Curve is perhaps one of the best photo opportunities in Banff National Park and is criminally under-represented in Canadian Rockies travel guides.

The curve itself is actually a section of the Canadian Pacific Railway line just outside of Lake Louise, along the Bow Valley Parkway.

The easily accessible viewpoint provides the platform for catching the perfect shot – a train sweeping round the tracks in the foreground with the Bow River and dramatic Rocky Mountain peaks in the background.

Morant’s Curve is named after Nicholas Morant, a 20th century Canadian Pacific Railway photographer who brought fame to the spot. It is a brilliant place to visit in Banff National Park and is equally stunning in summer and winter.

Enjoy Visiting Banff National Park!

I hope this article has given you a good idea of places to visit in Banff and I’m sure you’ll love this national park!

For more information about Banff National Park such as facilities, fees, regulations, camping options, etc. visit Canada’s official page about Banff.

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The best places to visit in Banff National Park

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