Updated for 2023!
As Banff locals, we’ve have had plenty of time to put together our highlight reel for our favourite place on Earth.
We were tempted to say, “if it ain’t on the list, it ain’t worth doing”, but even after all this time it still feels like we’re only just scratching the surface of the Rockies. Having said that, we reckon this is a great place to start if you’re planning a trip to Banff or even just looking for some new ideas: (Note: any links on this page are links to other posts we’ve written with more details!)
This post is over 5000 words, so I recommend opening the contents below and picking the things that jump out at you!
Need to find a hotel?
Check out our “Ultimate Guide to Hotels in Banff and Lake Louise“
100 Things to Do in Banff
The Best things to do in Banff and Canmore
1. Catch sunrise at Vermillion Lakes
Vermillion Lakes are probably the only place in the Bow Valley that we think it’s worth going for sunrise. On a good day, the sun rises behind Mt. Rundle, making for an absolutely breathtaking start to the day. Photographers tend to like the second lake for sunrise, as there are generally spots of open water that make reflections possible.
2. Get an amazing view from the Norquay Chairlift
There are several great lifts to choose from in Banff. The Norquay chairlift offers a less crowded, top down view of the town, for around half the price of the Sulphur Mountain Gondola.
3. If you’re looking for extra thrills try the Norquay Via Ferrata
Experience mountain climbing without the risks. An amazing high adrenaline experience overlooking the town of Banff. The Norquay Via Ferrata is probably my favourite paid activity in Banff (although it isn’t cheap).
Check out our full review of our day on the Mount Norquay Via Ferrata
4. Get the best view of the Banff Springs Hotel at Surprise Corner
Catch the iconic view of the Fairmont Banff Springs from across the Bow River at Surprise Corner. It’s a popular photography spot for visitors, and the start of several great hikes! Read our full write up of Surprise Corner here.
5. Visit Bow Falls lookout
Either walk along the river from town, all the way to Bow Falls, or park at Bow Falls and take a short stroll back upstream along the river bank. A nice Banff walk in summer or winter!
For a bigger walk, begin in town, cross any one of the bridges and follow the forest trail along the river to Bow Falls. You literally can’t miss it!
6. Catch the Northern lights from Lake Minnewanka
This is the most popular place to watch the Northern Lights in Banff when they’re on.
Northern lights do happen but are quite uncommon, so expect crowds when they’re strong! Photographers should expect constant streams of headlights causing light pollution.
There are plenty of other spots you can find the Northern Lights, but Minnewanka is great because the dam faces North. It’s a great place to just sit and admire the lights!
7. Drive the Minnewanka Loop road
A nice scenic drive around some of Banff’s most scenic lakes; Lake Minnewanka, Two Jack Lake, Johnson Lake and Bankhead mining town. Watch for Big Horn sheep licking salt off the road and Elk in the meadow. Click here to check out our Banff Wildlife Checklist!
8. Take a boat tour on Minnewanka
Learn about the wildlife in Banff as you cruise down Minnewanka. Grab the last boat of the day and find yourself on a licensed booze cruise!
This is actually a really awesome educational experience. The cruise itself is fairly uneventful, but the views are spectacular and you’ll learn a ton about Banff’s history, the local indigenous history and the natural history of the Canadian Rockies
9. Check out where Banff first started at the Cave and Basin Hot Springs
The site of the original Banff hot springs, before they discovered they were the home of the endangered Banff Springs Snail and moved them around the mountain! Visit the original hot springs cave and learn about the fascinating origins of Banff as a spa town.
10. Take a hot dip in the Sulphur Hot Springs
These are the traditional Banff Hot Springs. The very reason Banff even exists in the first place (although not the original site) – bonus points for renting an old Victorian bathing suit!
Not looking for a hot springs that looks like a swimming pool? Read our full guide to natural hot springs in the Canadian Rockies)
Expect big crowds!
11. Check out the Banff Film Festival
The Annual international film contest showcases the best mountain and outdoor short films and documentaries of the year. Check out two unbelievably epic skiing movies from the 2019 Banff film festival below:
Obviously there have been lots of movies since then, but you should really check this out if you’re in Banff in November when the film fest runs. The movies are absolutely mind blowing!
12. Go bowling with your crew at High Rollers or the Banff Springs
There are two bowling alleys in Banff. One is a tiny, two lane alley at the Fairmont Banff Springs, the other is located under the Banff clocktower. High Rollers is a great place to grab a pizza and a few beers before you hit the town on a big Banff night out. They have a good selection of beers and cocktails; the cream soda cocktail is incredible.
13. Rent a canoe and paddle to Vermilion Lakes
Head to the Banff Canoe club for the cheapest canoe rentals in Banff. From there, either canoe up the Bow river or detour into Vermillion Lakes. Look for muskrats and beavers along the shore while you paddle!
If you’re not sure where you’re going to rent from, check out our complete guide to renting a canoe in the Canadian Rockies!
14. See the Hoodoos on Tunnel Mountain
Not the most exciting adventure on this list, but just a short walk will yield a great view of the Bow Valley, the famous Banff Springs Golf Course and the Bow River below. Hoodoos are a rare natural rock formation that are definitely worth checking out!
You can also reach the Hoodoos by starting at Surprise Corner and following the Hoodoos trail along the Bow river.
15. Catch Sunset at Two Jack Lake
There aren’t many great sunset spots in Banff, but this generally is one of the best places to go. It can get busy around sunset as photographers crowd to get their shots. If you’re visiting in Summer, make sure you bring plenty of bug spray!
16. Have a BBQ at Cascade Ponds
This can be really, really busy in summer, as it’s a beautiful scenic pond with blue green glacial water and several fire pits for Barbecuing. You can’t just start a fire anywhere in Banff, so these spots are sought after! It’s also a nice pond to take a SUP or Kayak for a paddle.
17. Visit the Bankhead ghost town
Bankhead used to be a bigger town than Banff, and was a mining site before the park was created. Check out a few of the abandoned buildings or sit in the mine carts!
18. Drive/Bike the Bow Valley Parkway to Lake Louise
The old Trans Canada highway will take you along the scenic route to Lake Louise. You’ll pass Morant’s Curve, Johnston Canyon, Castle Mountain, Moose Meadows and many more hidden gems along the way. Maybe you’ll even spot some wildlife!
New for 2020, the Bow Valley Parkway is closed to vehicles between Vermillion Lakes and Johnston Canyon. It’s a cyclist’s paradise. About 50km round trip from Vermillion to Johnston and back, and nothing but clear smooth roads and amazing views!
19. Watch the trains at Morant’s Curve
This is a famous scenic viewpoint where the mountains, Bow River and the trainline all line up perfectly. Time it right and you’ll get one of the most stunning photos in the National Park, all just a few steps from the road.
20. Catch the famous Rocky Mountaineer train to Vancouver
The Rocky Mountaineer is one of the most luxurious travel experiences ever. Glass roofed trains allow you to catch a panoramic view of the Rockies as you travel across the country. It’s expensive, but the only experience of its kind in Canada, and a much more relaxing experience than driving!
21. Learn about the Banff Merman at the Banff Indian Trading Post
One of Banff’s most notorious con- jobs. At the turn of the 20th Century, a local created a strange creature to attract tourists to the area. Visit the Banff Indian trading post to see this grotesque monster!
22. Take a carriage ride around Banff
This is one of the most iconic experiences in Banff, although it’s a pain to get caught behind in your car! Trot around the town with your loved one, covered in a warm fur blanket.
23. Rent a Surrey Bike and cruise around Banff
This is a relatively new experience around town. Peddle around with your crew at a cruising speed.
24. Go mountain biking/ cross country skiing at the Canmore Nordic Centre
The Nordic Centre in Canmore has courses for a variety of skill levels, ranging from the baby blue beluga trail to the Olympic downhill course. Summer is for mountain biking, winter is for cross country skiing. Equipment rentals are available on site (click the link to learn more about Banff’s winter activities).
Obviously this is in Canmore, but it’s only 20 minutes away. You can also do a heck of a lot of mountain biking right from the middle of Banff, so don’t feel like you need to go all the way over there; it’s just a good place to start if you’re a beginner!
25. Visit the Rat’s Nest Cave in Canmore
If you’re not scared of dark, cramped spaces, then this is your best opportunity to experience the hidden underground world in Canmore. Available all year round!
26. Check out the rope swings at Johnson Lake
Walk around the perimeter of the lake until you find the famous rope swing. It’s a big swing where your choice of landing is important (lots of tree stumps underwater). Not suitable for everyone! Only available in summer.
27. Find all of Banff’s red chairs
A parks Canada initiative to make it easier to enjoy Banff’s most iconic viewpoints. They’re placed strategically at Lake Minnewanka, Two Jack Lake, up Tunnel Mountain, up Norquay Road and a few more awesome spots. See if you can find them all!
28. Take a Heli-tour over the Rockies
Available in Canmore or Nordegg, take a heli tour for a top down view of the Rockies. More adventurous explorers might like to add in heli hiking, heli snowshoeing or even heli yoga!
29. Have a spa day at the Fairmont Banff Springs
Ultimate relaxation at the Willowstream Spa or any number of Banff’s fantastic spas. The various mineral pools will soothe your aching muscles, and the massage treatments are expensive but so relaxing (click the link to read more about planning a romantic trip to Banff). All you can eat cookies too!
30. Eat s’mores and smokies around a campfire at Two Jack Lakeside Campground
Head to IGA in Banff, grab your s’mores supplies and hold them over your campfire for the perfect fireside treat! Two Jack Lake has plenty of great camping options, including Otentiks (a pseudo cabin/tent experience – think glamping).
31. Try Bingo night at the Banff Legion,
Win a snowboard or maybe some cash at the infamous bingo night! Rowdier than your average bingo!
This is actually so much fun and all money goes to charity. Cheap pints and rowdy bingo fanatics.
32. Hit the Dancing Sasquatch for a night out
Nothing beats a good night out in Banff! Here’s how the locals party in Banff! Dancing Sasquatch is Banff’s last remaining night club. It’s an awesome time, but be prepared to stand in line!
33. Jump into a freezing Glacial Lake
Not for everyone, but taking an icy polar plunge in one of our freezing glacial lakes is a rite of passage here. I recommend doing this in summer after a hot hike (Moraine, Louise, and Consolation Lakes are our favourites). Top tip: pack a microfibre towel and swimming shorts.
34. Play a round of golf at the famous Banff Springs Stanley Thompson golf course
One of the world’s top golf courses; play 9 or 18 holes in the shadow of the stunning Mt. Rundle. Rounds are not cheap, but absolutely worth it!
35. Try some curling and skating at the Banff recreation centre or one of Banff’s frozen lakes
Curling is a typical Canadian winter sport, so you’ve got to try it! You can also try Bavarian Curling at Lake Louise in Winter.
For those that want to try skating outdoors, check out our 11 favourite places to skate in Banff National Park!
36. Hike to Lake Agnes Tea House
This is one of the most popular hikes in Banff. Seriously, it’s insanely busy… but for good reason. The Lake Agnes Teahouse is easy to reach and you get some cake at the end!
You can also try visiting the Plain of the 6 Glaciers teahouse as well! Or hike the Big Beehive while you’re at it!
37. Rent a canoe
The most expensive place to rent a canoe in Banff National Park is Lake Louise, but worth it to say you’ve paddled there! And let’s not forget that you get to paddle on those incredible turquoise waters! If that’s not in the budget, there are plenty of other great places to rent. Check out our ultimate guide to renting a canoe in Banff
38. Walk up to Fairview lookout
A short hike for a top down view of the Chateau and the lake. Why not try summiting Mt. Fairview if you’re looking for a much bigger challenge!
39. Visit Moraine Lake and climb the Rock Pile
The most iconic view in Banff. A short 5 minute walk to the top of the famous rockpile will give you the most breathtaking view of Banff’s prettiest lake. Suitable for most abilities, but expect to be breathless!
Travel to Moraine Lake has changed in 2023, so make sure you plan in advance. Here is our guide to Moraine Lake updated for 2023!
40. Canoe on Moraine Lake
This is our favourite place to canoe. The views, the water, the snow capped peaks; everything is perfect! It’s also cheaper than Lake Louise (not much though)!
A little further
41. Drive the Icefields Parkway to Jasper
Consistently voted as one of the world’s most beautiful drives. Dozens of stunning places to pull over and explore. Make sure you check out all the lakes, waterfalls and view points!
Check out our full driving guide with all the hikes, viewpoints and places to stay along the Icefields Parkway
42. Visit the Columbia Icefields
Should you pay for the attractions at the Columbia Icefields? Or are the free activities a better use of your times. Here’s what we think!
There are also a couple ice caves hiding out here, but make sure you go with a plan and the right equipment!
If you have the chance, staying at the Glacier View Lodge will blow your mind!
43. Check out the views at Peyto and Bow Lake
2023 update! The lookouts are now open and bigger than ever. Plenty of room for you and your 100 best friends to stand and enjoy the view.
If you want to experience two of the most stunning lakes on the Icefields Parkway, then you have to check out Peyto and Bow Lakes. Walk to the shore of Bow Lake or get a bird’s eye view of Peyto from above. Even the pictures don’t do these lakes justice. For a full guide to exploring and planning your visit to Peyto Lake, check out our ultimate guide to Peyto Lake!
44. Jump off the diving board at Herbert Lake
Head to the back corner of the lake and you’ll find a secret diving board! Herbert is one of the few lakes here that isn’t glacial fed, so it’s (slightly) warmer than the others!
45. Visit Takakkaw Falls, the 2nd highest freefalling waterfall in Canada
You can hear the roar of Takakkaw long before you see it, and you can see it from miles away. An absolutely breathtaking natural wonder, and a popular rock climbing spot too!
As soon as you get close to it, you will get absolutely blasted by spray. Pack a rain coat!
46. Canoe on Emerald Lake,
Get the conditions right at Emerald and it’s like paddling on glass. One of the cheaper places to paddle in the area too!
47. Stop at the Natural Bridge on your way to Emerald Lake
A quick pit stop on the way to Emerald Lake. View it from the bridge above, or walk inside it in winter!
48. Watch for trains at the Spiral Tunnels
We’ve never managed to time this well, but catch it at the right time and you’ll see the front and the back of a long freight train pass each other in opposite directions!
49. Hike/camp at Lake O’Hara (if you’re really lucky!)
Reservations for Lake O’Hara are complicated in 2020, so make sure you read our blog post with all the most up to date information!
Best things to do in Summer in Banff
50. Float down the Bow River into Banff
This is a super fun adventure, although potentially a little risky. Take an inflatable dinghy and float from the Johnston Canyon turnoff into Banff. You must exit before the bridge (to avoid the waterfall). Check water level carefully and avoid when currents are fast moving and water is high. Do at your own risk.
51. Go for a float at Johnson Lake
The safer way to float around in Banff. On a beautiful summer day, Johnson Lake is the perfect place to bob around and enjoy the sun. There’s even a beach for sunbathing.
We absolutely love to bring our paddle boards here and float around with a couple beers. It doesn’t get any better!
Another great spot is Herbert Lake on the Icefields Parkway
52. Cycle from Banff to Canmore
Banff to Canmore is downhill, Canmore to Banff is uphill. Take the 22.3km Legacy Trail alongside the Trans Canada highway. A great, gentle course if you want to stretch your legs!
We did this recently, and it’s actually a very gently route that really isn’t too exhausting. Well worth the effort!
53. Check out the Canada Day Parade
Grab your seat along Banff Avenue and watch as the parade makes its way through the town. Loads of fun for kids, and a fun way to celebrate Canada day! Here’s our blog post on Canada Day in Banff.
Unfortunately this has been cancelled for the last few years, and it still remains to be seen whether it comes back in 2023. There are usually events on Canada Day anyway, and now there is more of a focus on Indigenous stories and inclusion.
54. Participate in or watch the famous Banff triathlon
A Sprint triathlon in the most beautiful place in the world! Swim in Two Jack Lake, cycle around the Lake Minnewanka loop and run through the town. What better way to experience the park! Make sure you pack a wetsuit for the freezing water!
There is also the famous Banff Marathon and half marathon each summer as well if you’re not bothered about swimming or biking!
55. Bike the Bow Valley Parkway
For the first part of the summer, the Bow Valley Parkway between Banff and Johnston Canyon is closed now to vehicles. It is probably one of the world’s best bike rides now, and it takes you about 40-50km round trip. It’s worth it for the absolutely incredible ice cream at Johnston Canyon!
100% recommend giving this a try. Bikes can be rented in town from Snowtips Bactrax
Things to do in Winter in Banff
56. Cross Country ski up the Moraine Lake Road
An 11km each way cross country ski route with easy tracks to follow. The route finishes at the avalanche path below Mt. Temple. You’ll get great views of the Valley of the Ten Peaks but won’t be able to actually reach Moraine Lake. Feels like it’s uphill in both directions!
You can also bike this in summer. Generally the best time is before the road opens to traffic in late Spring/early Summer. Here’s our guide to cycling up the road.
57. Snowshoe across Lake Louise
A really easy place to explore on snowshoes, with multiple easy snowshoeing trails in and around Lake Louise. It’s also a popular place to experience Cross Country skiing on a perfectly flat, track set Lake. Rent XC skis from Lake Louise village or the Fairmont.
58. Ski touring to Skoki Hut at Lake Louise
A backcountry ski touring adventure into the backcountry. Start at Lake Louise Ski Resort and head off into the backcountry. Stay at Skoki Lodge for an extreme luxury backcountry cabin experience
59. Go Dogsledding in Banff or Lake Louise
There are a number of dogsledding outfits in the Bow Valley. Kimgmik is the only to run at Lake Louise. You can also go further afield and dogsled in Revelstoke; read more about our awesome experience!
60. Go tubing at Mt. Norquay ski hill
Awesome fun for the whole family, and located just a few minutes from the town of Banff. Had enough skiing? Grab an inflatable ring and fly down the mountain. Up to 4 tubes can go down at once!
If you time it right, you can also enter the cardboard box derby on the tube park. This takes place in Jan/Feb each year and is hilarious.
61. Go night Skiing at Mt. Norquay
One of my favourite activities during my ski season. Every Friday and Saturday night, the snow park opens in the evening at Norquay Ski Hill. Experience night skiing or try your luck in the park and hit some rails, boxes and kickers. Extra points if you can stomach the XXL kickers!
62. Ice skating at the Fairmont Lake Louise
Rent some skates and head to Lake Louise to skate on an actual frozen lake! There are actually plenty of alternatives in Banff National Park too, so check out our blog post for 11 great rinks to skate on in Banff
63. Ice skating on Vermillion Lakes
Much like the previous activity, take your skates to the beautiful vermillion lakes and go for a skate. You might need to clear your own area, and I’d generally recommend Lake number 1 for skating!
Vermillion needs to be skated earlier in the season as it tends to get snow covered pretty quickly in the winter.
64. Ski touring to the ACC backcountry huts
For the more adventurous visitors. Head into the backcountry for some incredible skiing opportunities and stay in some of the backcountry huts. Peyto Hut is a popular stopping point. Want an even bigger adventure? Why not try the full Wapta traverse multi day ski adventure! Book it here
65. Try ice climbing!
Arguably more intuitive than regular rock climbing, and so much fun! Try a taster at the HI hostel or book a guide to take you climbing one of the many frozen waterfalls in Banff! We went with Ridgeline Guiding up Johnston Canyon and it was absolutely incredible!
66. Ski at Lake Louise, Sunshine Village and Norquay
The reason most people visit in winter. Head to some of our world class ski hills for some of the best skiing you’ll ever experience! Of the three, Sunshine is the easiest, Lake Louise is the biggest and Norquay is the steepest! Read our guide to western Canadian ski hills here!
67. Go frozen bubble hunting near Nordegg
Head out to Abraham Lake to see the world famous frozen ice bubbles! Bring a car brush, and a shovel to clear a section if there’s snow!
68. Check out Ice Magic and the ice sculptures at Lake Louise
Once a year, the best ice sculptors in the world go head to head to create the most beautiful ice sculptures at the Ice Magic Festival! This year (2023) the event was cancelled but there are still a few awesome sculptures, not to mention an ice bar!
69. Go Heliskiing or cat skiing
Break the bank and go for a once in a lifetime experience. Pretend you’re triple X and head to the chopper for a heli skiing experience you’ll never forget! Alternatively, jump in a snow cat and plod up the mountain for some incredible untouched powder skiing.
70. New Years Eve street party in Banff
This New Year’s Eve in Banff is always an awesome time. Head to the streets and watch the pyro displays at midnight. For a classier New Years Eve, head to the Fairmont Banff Springs for their annual NYE gala.
The Best Beginner Hikes in Banff:
For a full, in-depth guide to 33 of Banff’s best easy hikes and walks, make sure you head over to our blog post!
71. Tunnel Mountain (Banff)
A very short, relatively easy hike/walk in Banff for a great view of Banff. The Tunnel Mountain Hike is perfect if you have limited time or aren’t looking to summit a huge mountain.
72. Grassi Lakes (Canmore)
Incredible blue/green lakes in Canmore. Just a short, easy uphill walk with an incredible payoff. Well worth the effort, especially if you have limited time. To be avoided on busy, long weekends.
73. Sulphur Mountain
This hike takes between 1.5 and 2 hours each way. We’ve done this in just over an hour at a fast pace. Visit before peak season and get a free ride down on the gondola if you live in Banff. Not a particularly interesting hike, as you’re buried in the trees, but amazing panoramic views from the top. 11km round trip.
74. Bow Glacier Falls
The first hike I ever did in the Canadian Rockies. Perfect for beginners who are physically capable of walking long distances but aren’t short of their limits yet. 9km round trip with stunning views of Bow Lake and Bow Glacier Falls.
75. Scramble up Cascade Falls
Super, super quick and easy walk/scramble up Cascade Falls. Located just above the airstrip in Banff, it’s a really easy hike. Loose ground and potential exposure at times. Turn around when you reach the limits of your comfort zone and abilities.
76. Consolation Lakes
A stunning and easy hike that starts at the Moraine Lake Parking Lot. Very little elevation and around 2 hours round trip. Beautiful crystal clear waters when you reach Consolation Lakes. You’re in Grizzly bear country, so it’s best to travel in groups.
77. Hike Larch Valley in Larch Season
Larch Valley is one of Banff’s busiest hikes during Larch season (autumn), but oh so worth it. Steep switchbacks but totally worth it once you reach the valley of golden Christmas trees! Begins at Moraine Lake.
Harder Hikes/Scrambles in Banff National Park
78. EEOR (hike)
East End of Rundle (or EEOR) is one of the most popular hikes in the area (not actually in Banff National Park, but found overlooking Canmore). Usually around 5-6 hours round trip. Scrambling skills required at the top. Lots of slipper scree and route finding skills are helpful. Great views of Canmore below.
79. Sarrail Ridge (hike/scramble)
This used to be a hidden gem but now it’s extremely popular. Expect crowds in summer. Sarrail Ridge gives incredible views of Upper Kananaskis Lake below, but boy do you have to work hard to get there. From Rawson Lake, the route gets increasingly steep and slippery, but getting to the top is worth the struggle. Frequently closed due to bear activity. Sarrail Ridge is a Kananaskis hike
80. Eiffel Peak (hard scramble)
This is one of Banff’s few hike-able peaks above 10,000ft. It’s a bit of a beast, and although technically a scramble, not too challenging. It’s just really big. Having said that, expect to need some scrambling skills. Would not recommend as your first hike. Incredible aerial views of Moraine Lake below.
Want a bigger objective? Why not tackle Mt. Temple!
81. Sentinel Pass (easy, but long, hike)
This is the first half of the Mt. Temple hike, but reaching the Sentinel Pass saddle is a worthy objective for any hiker, particularly if you’re not too comfortable standing on top of a mountain. Around 12km round trip. You’ll begin in the Moraine Lake Parking Lot and will pass Larch Valley and Minnestimma Lakes before eventually reaching Sentinel Pass. Continue to the connecting Paradise Valley if you want a really long day.
82. Ha Ling Peak
Ha-Ling peak re-opened in summer 2019 after an $800,000 renovation. Suitable for most fit hikers, no technically ability needed (unless grit and determination counts). Great views of Canmore below (personally I prefer the views from EEOR though). Expect to take 5 or 6 hours round trip.
83. Mount Lady MacDonald ( hike)
Affectionately known as Lady Mac to locals, it’s a must do hike if you’re visiting the Canmore area. Hike as far as the heli pad or push to the summit. To summit you’ll have to traverse a knife edge ridge; not suitable for all abilities!
84. Lake O’Hara
Arguably one of the most beautiful areas in the Canadian Rockies. Actually located in Yoho National Park and highly, highly competitive. Tickets for the Lake O’Hara bus are now run through a lottery system. Find out more here
If you’re feeling strong, make sure you try and do the Wiwaxy Gap hike!
85. Mount Yamnuska (scramble)
Mount Yamnuska (or Yam to locals) is one of the most enjoyable day hikes in the Rockies. A seriously popular climbing spot, due to the enormous vertical slab it boasts. Most well known because of the huge scree field you can sprint down on the way down.
86. Big Beehive and Devil’s Thumb at Lake Louise (hike/scramble)
The Big Beehive is an increasingly popular hike starting from the shores of Lake Louise. Incredible views of Lake Louise from above and a hike that stays interesting throughout. If you visit in summer, don’t expect to get parking unless you get there early! Turn the hike into a loop and visit the hidden tea house by following the plains of the six glaciers hike! Alternatively, continue upwards after the Beehive and conquer the Devil’s Thumb Scramble.
Make sure you check out our full guide to all the hikes at Lake Louise as well!
87. Scramble up the Tower of Babel
To anyone scared of heights, the Tower of Babel scramble will take you to your absolute limit. A slippery scramble up loose scree. Reach the top though and you’ll be rewarded with panoramic views of Moraine Lake and Consolation Lakes.
The Best Food and Drink in Banff
For an in-depth guide, make sure you read our Local’s Guide to the Best Restaurants in Banff. You can also check out our guide to the best coffee shops in Banff here as well!
88. Go for Fondue at the Grizzly House or Waldhaus
Known for its hedonistic past as an alleged swingers’ club, The Grizzly House is one of Banff’s most unique dining experiences. Each table has it’s own telephone for harassing other diners, and the fondue is absolutely delicious!
89. Try real French Canadian poutine at Banff Poutine
Banff Poutine is genuine Quebecois poutine with all the trimmings. Located in on Bear Street, this is the perfect calorie bomb after a long hike!
90. Try a Canadian Beaver Tail (pastry not actual Beaver!)
Another quirky Canadian snack. Beaver tails are huge fried pastry smothered in sugar, nutella, gelato or whatever you feel like. Personally I think lemon and sugar is the best! 2 branches in Banff, and one in Canmore.
91. Stock up on candy at the ‘Banff Sweet Shoppe’
Actually, there are several candy stores in Banff, but this one is as good as any! Just walk down Banff Ave and you can’t miss it!
92. Go dancing at Melissa’s
Mel’s or Melissa’s Miss Steak is an awesome live music bar with a big dance floor and a pub vibe. Located downtown Banff above the Starbucks! It’s a great place to find good food and drink at reasonable prices.
93. Afternoon Tea at the Fairmont in Banff or Lake Louise
What better way to escape the crowds in Banff than to sit down to afternoon tea at the Fairmont in Banff! The best views are found at the Lake Louise Fairmont, and they’ve now introduced a dessert buffet which we can’t get enough of!
94. Sunday brunch buffet at the Fairmont, Banff Park Lodge or the Post Hotel
Brunch is a big deal in Banff, and there are several great options around town. Our favourite has got to be the Post Hotel in Lake Louise. The Vermillion Lounge at the Fairmont Banff Springs used to be our favourite but we feel like it’s deteriorated since they renovated.
The brunch menu at the new Bluebird restaurant is also worth checking out!
95. Grab a Reuben at the Trailhead Cafe in Lake Louise
Without doubt the best place to grab a sandwich in either Banff or Lake Louise. Seriously, their grilled sandwiches are unbelievable, and not too expensive. Try to Reuben or the Houston for something heavier, or try the Sockeye Slamwich for something a bit healthier!
96. Try Canadian Campfire cuisine at the Park distillery
Park Distillery is the only distillery in the world located inside a national park. Fantastic cocktails, but a fairly limited dinner menu. The food used to be amazing but one day they drastically reduced the menu and now we don’t bother eating there anymore. Great vibes here; feels very Canadian!
97. Go for a lobster buffet at the Stoney Nakoda Resort & Casino
The Stoney Nakoda Casino is a bit of a trek, but you can get a free shuttle. Friday & Saturday Night from 5pm-9pm, all you can eat prime rib and lobster for $36.95. ’nuff said.
98. Try the Key Lime Pie at Bluebird
This has to make the list because it’s by far the best key lime pie I’ve ever had in my life. We’ve been here just for pie, but the prime rib here is also out of this world.
Make sure you check it out at least once.
99. Try the home made gelato at Deer Lodge (Lake Louise)
But don’t stop there! They also serve a variety of exotic Canadian meats and their menu never fails to impress. They also have the best hot tub in the Rockies!
100. Try some local beers from the Banff Brew Co. or the Grizzly Brewery
Banff Brew Co. is super convenient, but we like the Grizzly Brewery’s food the most. A favourite place to go when friends visit from out of town.
Hope you enjoyed our list, sorry it had to end! Our list is always growing, so we might have to bring out a part 2 to give you a few more ideas. Watch this space! We’ll keep adding links as we add more posts, so keep checking for updates!
Every single item on the list is something we’ve experienced ourselves and would wholeheartedly recommend. All opinions are our own. Feel free to get in touch with suggestions or questions!
You might also like:
5 incredible hikes from Moraine Lake
Seeing the Northern Lights in Banff
Where to go when Banff is full: The Kootenays
The Ultimate Lake O’Hara Guide
The best places to see fall colours in Banff
I would love to get to visit someday. Growing up hiking and visiting National Parks, this seems right up my alley.
You gave a great list of things to do in an area that I’m not that familiar with, Now I know more about it, thanks
What a great list of things to do in Banff. I mean it has everything for everyone and all seasons! Pinning it so I know what to do if and when I visit!
Wow there’s so much to do here! I’d love to visit one day!
Great Itinerary with all details. Your itinerary tempted me to book tickets to Banff
I love your blog and want to nominate you for the Liebster Award 2017.
Read my post to find out what you need to do 🙂 https://atravellersfootsteps.com/nominated-liebster-award-2017/
PS How amazing is Banff, I lived in Lake Louise for two years so know the area well.
Hey, thanks for the nomination and for reaching out, these awards are an awesome idea!
Oh nice you lived there? That’s awesome! How could you ever bring yourself leave!? Yeah we’re loving life here right now while the weather’s warm and the sun’s out! Give us a shout if you’re ever back in the area!
Hey! When would you recommend as the best time to go?? I was going to wait until next summer as I’m not the biggest fan of cold weather unless I’m snowboarding (very amateur level) as I’ve mainly lived in SC and Phoenix. However, your list is making me wonder if it might actually be a great trip even in winter. I hike and such frequently, but I haven’t done anything in icy or snowy conditions. I’m assuming the list prior to stating specific seasons could be done anytime?? If there is any specialized gear needed for the listed hikes, are there reasonable rentals nearby?
Winter is stunning in the mountains and A LOT of fun but a lot of people are not prepared for the cold that comes with it. If you’re interested in milder winter temperatures I would recommend March as a good time to visit. There are plenty of rental options in the Banff area 🙂
My friend and I are finishing up hiking the white mountains in NH and wanted to take a hiking adventure trip. I have found myself obsessed with Banff! In a perfect world, we’d love to rent a teardrop trailer and explore from a centralized location (with a rental car). Where would be a good location for this? I am just starting my research and your outline has been a great help. Any other hiking specific details would be great. We are 4 season hikers, and I’d like to think that New England winters in the mountains have prepared us at least somewhat. But I am not sure what your definition of a mild winter is! LOL
Hi Lisa, when are you planning to visit? Obviously hiking recommendations will depend on the time of year you’re planning to visit! How far afield are you planning to travel? Banff is fairly centralised if you’re only exploring locally, but if you’re going further afield then you might need to look at other options as a base. A mild winter is probably around 0 to minus 10 (centigrade), but it can drop to minus 30 on a cold day! Maybe if you could get back to me with some more details about what you’re thinking, I can give you some more specific advice! Thanks, Rob
Will be going to Banff and Jasper National Parks the first part of September 2018 for 12 days with my husband. We are interested in doing a lot of hiking in these areas but there will only be 2 of us. Are there any real safety issues in hiking most of the marked trails with just 2 of us?
You should be fine! There’s always a slight risk of wildlife but if you carry bear spray and make lots of noise, that should be enough. I’ve only ever come across a bear once after hundreds of hikes and it simply turned around and walked away when it saw us coming. We’re just not in their food chain and most animals will walk away if they hear you coming. Also the government goes to great lengths to haze the animals that come near humans, so they tend to be fairly scared of us. If you were going into the backcountry then perhaps you’d have cause to be more wary, but anything closer to civilisation shouldn’t be an issue.
If you’re seriously concerned about wildlife risk then I would suggest trying to join a bigger group (of 4 or more ideally) and avoid areas with the most bear activity (Lake Louise, Waterton).
Many thanks for your reply and advise, Robin!
Looking most forward to doing a lot of hiking but didn’t want to be stupid!