Summer Banff Itinerary: 3 Days in Banff for First Time Visitors
Only have 3 days in Banff in the summer to explore the Canadian Rockies? Follow the best 3 day Banff itinerary to find out the best things to do and see in Banff along with tips on where to stay and what to eat in Banff.
Located in the Canadian Rockies, Banff is one of those postcard famous places that you must see at least once in your lifetime. Before I went to Banff I was concerned that Banff was too hyped up by social media. Having visited Banff 3 times so far, I can say with absolute certainty that Banff is not overrated and it truly is beautiful.
Follow this sample 3 day Banff itinerary to see the highlights of Banff and read my practical tips on visiting Banff like where to stay, where to eat, and other logistic details you should know.
Planning a Trip to the Canadian Rockies?
Having been to the Canadian Rockies 3 times, I have done a ton of hikes and sightseeing that I want to share with you.
This blog contains occasional affiliate links, where I receive a small commission on sales of the products/hotels that are linked at no additional cost to you. In addition, as an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
3 Days in Banff: Itinerary Overview
Here is an overview of your 3 days in Banff if you are visiting in the summer. Keep in mind that this Banff itinerary assumes you have 3 full days in Banff, not half days.
If you are traveling in and out of Banff during these 3 days, you will need to push back some of the activities on the first day and leave early on the third day.
Day 1: Johnston Canyon and explore Banff town
Day 2: Lake Louise, Lake Minnewanka & Banff town
Day 3: Moraine Lake, Icefields Parkway & Canmore
Optional Day Trip: Yoho National Park
Why is Banff National Park Famous?
Banff is famous for its natural beauty, outdoor adventure and activities all year round, easy access and history and culture. It is one of the most beautiful places on earth and worth a visit or two.
Banff National Park was established in 1885, it is the oldest national park in Canada and probably the most famous national park in Canada. It is also a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site.
How to Get To Banff National Park
Banff is located in Alberta about 126 km (78 miles) west of Calgary. Due to its proximity to Calgary, the easiest way to reach Banff is to drive from Calgary because the closest airport near Banff is Calgary International Airport.
Flying to Banff
Driving to Banff
If you are located on the west coast of Canada, you can also drive to Banff.
From Vancouver, it takes about 9 hours to drive to Banff. But there are other beautiful places in between Vancouver and Banff, making this an enjoyable road trip.
It takes about 4 hours to drive from Edmonton to Banff. Edmonton also has an airport that you can fly into.
Taking the Train to Banff
Unique Banff Activities and Tours
There are a few activities I think are worth paying attention to when you spend 3 days in Banff. While you don’t need a tour to see most things in Banff, there are a few things that require an organized tour or pre-booking.
3 Day Banff Itinerary in Details
Without further ado, let’s dive right into this Banff itinerary. Keep in mind that this 3 day Banff itinerary is meant for the summer since there are some hikes and lake hopping activities that you cannot do in the winter.
If you are visiting Banff in the winter, you will have a completely different experience. This is not to say you cannot use this for the winter, but you will need to modify the itinerary a bit (for example, do ice skating on Lake Louise instead of rowing a boat and hiking).
Day 1 of 3 Day Banff Summer Itinerary
Morning: Johnston Canyon
Afternoon: Activities near Banff Town
Evening: Dinner in Banff (the Town)
Day 1 of your summer Banff itinerary will give you an introduction of Banff National Park and you get to do a range of activities from walking to hiking or just relaxing and exploring the town of Banff.
If you are driving from Calgary to Banff in the morning then you can push the activities above to later in the day since Banff in the summer has a lot of day lights and the sun does not set till 10pm or so.
Start your morning doing a leisurely walk at Johnston Canyon to see the 2 beautiful waterfalls, then spend the afternoon exploring Banff town, going up the Banff Gondola or Norquay Chairlift, or enjoy white water rafting if you are adventurous. Spend the evening exploring Banff town and have some yummy dinner.
Morning: Visit Johnston Canyon
Start your 3 days in Banff at Johnston Canyon, located 25 km (about 30 minute drive) northwest of Banff town in the Canadian Rockies. Johnston Canyon is formed by erosion of Johnston Creek; the creek has cut through limestone rocks to form the canyon walls over thousands of years.
The walk to the Lower Falls at Johnston Canyon is about 1.1km (0.7 miles) and the walk to the Upper Falls is about 2.7km (1.7 miles).
The walking path to these waterfalls is mostly paved and I have seen people pushing strollers on this “trail”. During the walk to the lower falls at Johnston Canyon, the well-made trail suspends from the Canyon Walls that allows you to get close to the stream and running water.
At the waterfalls, there are viewpoint pedestrian bridges, allowing you to take a nice photo of the waterfall. There are also opportunities for you to get close to the Lower Fall (usually you have to line up).
Most people stop at the Upper Falls and turn back, but for the adventurous or avid hikers, you can continue your hike to the Ink Pots at Johnston Canyon. The Ink Pots are 5 pristine pools and is about a 3km hike from the Upper Falls.
Parking At Johnston Canyon
You should visit Johnston Canyon either really early or really late during the day because parking will fill up if you arrive late. There are 2 parking lots at Johnston Canyon and if those fill up, you will need to park on the side of Bow Valley Parkway or take a shuttle bus.
Late Morning: Castle Mountain Viewpoint
After you visit Johnston Canyon, take a short detour towards Castle Mountain Viewpoint, a nice little photo spot to admire Castle Mountain. You don’t need to hike to get the view, simply park your car, grab your camera (or phone), and take a quick photo of this majestic mountain range.
Unfortunately when I went, it was cloudy so I couldn’t see the view too well. On a clear and non-cloudy day you would be able to see the view. There is also a bridge, so you can just park your car, walk near the bridge to the lakeshore.
Lunch: Lunch in Banff Town
After your sightseeing in the morning, return to Banff Town (about a 25 minute drive). Before you reach town center, you will drive by the Banff Town Sign, a popular photo spot for tourists. Stop by here quickly, grab a photo, and get into Banff town center for lunch.
Afternoon: Activities in or near Banff Town
After lunch, you may want to stay in the town of Banff to explore the different shops or head uphill for a nice view of town. There are so many things to do near Banff town, but I will lay some out for you here
In the summer you need to book the tickets in advance as they have timed entry and sometimes you even need to wait in line to leave from the top (yup, it is THAT busy).
Once you reach the top, you will find restaurants, cafes, an interpretive center and short hiking trails at the Sulphur Mountain Boardwalk. Kids age 5 and under are free to ride the Banff Gondola but still require a ticket.
If you want to challenge yourself and save ticket money, you can actually hike up Sulphur Mountain. The Sulphur Mountain hike takes about 2 hours, covering 3.4 miles one way with rather steep switchbacks.
Many people who are moderately fit opt to hike up Sulphur Mountain and take the gondola back down but I have never done this hike. There are way prettier hikes in Banff so I suggest you save your strength for those instead.
Mt. Norquay Chairlift (Alternative to the Banff Gondola)
Hiking in the afternoon: Tunnel Mountain or East End of Rundle Hike
Tunnel Mountain Hike is a short hike near Banff Town that’s perfect for the afternoon. The Tunnel Mountain hike is a short 2-3 hour hike (2.7m round trip) with a panoramic view of the town of Banff, Bow Valley and Mt. Rundle.
If you feel like challenging yourself for an amazing view, then head south to the town of Canmore for a relatively short but difficult and steep hike called East End of Rundle. This hike involves rock scrambling and is very difficult and steep but you will be rewarded with a breathtaking view of Mt. Rundle.
White Water Rafting
Banff Via Ferrata Climb (Alternative to Rafting)
Day 2 of 3 Days in Banff
Morning: Lake Louise
Afternoon: Lakes and activities around Banff Town
Evening: Dinner and Stay in Banff (the Town)
Day 2 of your 3 day Banff itinerary is probably going to be your longest and most tiring day due to all the walking around and hiking. But these are the best things to do in Banff because you get to see the most famous lakes and hikes of the Canadian Rockies.
You will start your morning early at the world renowned Lake Louise to see the perfect reflection or do a canoe ride or a hike. After Lake Louise you have the option to explore a couple of nice lakes near Banff town, relax in the Banff Upper Hot Springs, see a waterfall in Banff town or walk around the town and grab ice cream or get a massage.
Morning: Lake Louise
Lake Louise is located about 1 hour away by car from the town of Banff so unless you are staying near the lake the night before, I would recommend arriving no later than 8am on the day you are visiting Lake Louise to avoid crowds.
Another advantage of getting to Lake Louise early is to see the postcard perfect reflection; you will not see this perfect reflection later in the day (there will be some reflection, but not as nice as the early morning ones).
Parking at Lake Louise
Since Lake Louise allows you to drive there unlike Moraine Lake, the parking lots (2 of them) do get full by 8am, if not earlier. Therefore if you want to avoid having to take a shuttle, you absolutely need to get there early and pay for parking.
Things to do at Lake Louise
The majority of visitors to Lake Louise take photos of the lake and leave. But there are many great activities at Lake Louise that you should add to this summer Banff 3 day itinerary.
- Walk around the lake (take about 1-2 hours if you want the whole thing)
- Rock climbing around Lake Louise
- Hike around Lake Louise (see more below)
Hiking around Lake Louise
There are several famous hiking trails at Lake Louise. Some of these hikes are super easy, essentially a walk in the park whereas other hikes require you to bring water and snacks and wear hiking shoes. Below is a list of the best hikes at Lake Louise:
- Lake Louise shoreline trail is a family friendly easy walk along the shores of Lake Louise
- The Plain of Six Glaciers is moderate a 4-5 hour hike at the end of Lake Louise shoreline to see a tea house and glaciers; even though it is longer, it is not very steep.
- Little Beehive (via Lake Agnes) is a short & steep hike from Lake Agnes to have a panoramic view of Lake Louise
Other hikes at Lake Louise include Saddleback Trail and Fairview Mountain trail, which are not as popular.
Both Lake Agnes trail and Plain of Six Glaciers lead to a tea house (different tea houses). You can relax, grab a drink and light meal at these tea houses. They prefer Canadian cash, sometimes they do take credit cards, check more information on their websites.
If you don’t want to hike, you can just spend an hour on the canoe then walk around Lake Louise to see the lake from different angles and avoid the crowd this way. You can also enjoy a nice breakfast or brunch at the Fairmont while enjoying the view of Lake Louise.
Afternoon: Lake Minnewanka, Two Jack Lake & Banff Upper Hot Springs
After getting a bite at the tea houses or at the Fairmont (or in the town of Lake Louise) drive back to Banff town to relax.
One of the lakes near Banff is Lake Minnewanka, it is located about 3 miles from the town of Banff. Lake Minnewanka is 13 miles long and 142 meter deep, popular for picnicking, mountain biking, canoeing, and cruise tours.
Two Jack Lake
Located right next to Lake Minnewanka is Two Jack Lake, another beautiful alpine lake that is popular among visitors and locals.
Two Jack Lake is a popular spot for canoeing, kayaking, and stand-up paddle boarding. The calm waters make it an ideal location for water activities, and the surrounding scenery adds to the sense of tranquility and natural beauty.
If you do not feel like looking at more lakes, then you can stay in the town of Banff and relax at the Banff Upper Hot Springs.
Banff Upper Hot Springs
The hot spring is open from 10am to 8pm in the summer with the last entry at 7:30pm, no reservation needed. You are expected to limit your visit to 30-60 minutes. You can rent swimsuits, towels and lockers at the hot spring.
There is one big pool at the Banff Upper Hot Springs and also a café, locker rooms, and towel and bathing suit rental.
The water temperature at the pool is between 37-40C (98-104F), which makes it an amazing treat for your body after a long day of exploring and hiking at Lake Louise.
If you just want to relax then Banff Upper Hot Spring is a great choice to spend the afternoon.
Bow Falls is a small waterfall in the town of Banff. The falls are formed by the cascading waters of the Bow River as it tumbles over a series of rocky ledges.
It is a popular spot for families since you can just drive there (or walk there) in Banff town to look at this cute little waterfall. No hiking is required!
Alternative Option: Spa at the Fairmont Springs
If you don’t care for the Banff Upper Hot Spring, an alternative way to relax in Banff town is to spend the afternoon at the Fairmont Banff Springs, which is known for its spas. It is located super close to the Banff Gondola and it is popular among visitors all times of the year.
I didn’t go to the spa but our friend did. She essentially spent the whole afternoon at the spa in different pools and treatment rooms and just relaxed in the hotel until we picked her up to see Bow Falls.
Day 3 of 3 Day Banff Itinerary
Morning: Moraine Lake
Day: Icefields Parkway & Peyto Lake
Afternoon & Evening: Banff Town or Canmore
After a whole day of hiking on your 2nd day, the last full day of your 3 days in Banff will be mostly lake viewing and relaxing before you have to leave or catch your flight from Calgary.
You will start your morning at the beautiful Moraine Lake, then continue onto Icefields Parkway and stop by the famous Peyto Lake or go as far as Columbia Icefields before heading back south. If you have time, you can explore the town of Canmore on your last day in Banff.
Morning: Moraine Lake
Lake Louise may have already taken your breath away but Moraine Lake is another gem that you cannot miss in Banff. In my opinion Moraine Lake is even more stunning than Lake Louise because of the drastic backdrops of glaciers and mountains.
If you were not planning to hike at Lake Louise the morning before, you can visit Moraine Lake right after Lake Louise via Parks Canada shuttle and go to Yoho National Park on your 3rd day instead.
Moraine Lake is located slightly under 1.5 hours from Banff town; it is actually not far from Lake Louise. On your drive to Lake Louise from Banff, you will see signs pointing to Moraine Lake.
Moraine Lake Shuttle (Reservation Required, Fee Required)
Commercial vehicles cannot reach Moraine Lake as in the previous years. It used to be that people would camp out in the parking lot at 2:30am just to catch sunrise at Moraine Lake! That is pretty insane so Banff National Park decided to ban all commercial vehicles at Moraine Lake.
In order to get to Moraine Lake, you will now need to take a Park’s Canada shuttle, Roam Transit, commercial transportation provider or bike 25km round trip to Moraine Lake.
Best things to do at Moraine Lake
Rock Pile Viewpoint
To get the postcard perfect view of Moraine Lake, you need to walk up the little hill next to the parking lot called Rock Piles.
The walk takes about 10 minutes with steps all the way up, but it is easy and very family friendly.
Once on top, you will find several vantage points to take photos of Moraine Lake. Be warned that during the day it is super crowded so it’s best to go at sunrise or even sunset.
Canoeing At Moraine Lake
You are required to wear a life jacket when canoeing, but many people do take it off for photos.
I seriously loved canoeing on Moraine Lake, I think the scenery is better than Lake Louise and it wasn’t as crowded. But make sure to bring sunscreen as it does get really hot on a hot sunny day.
Hiking Around Moraine Lake
Aside from the hike to the view point, there are several other day hikes at Moraine Lake ranging from easy to strenuous. Some of the hikes require a minimum of 4 hikes due to bear risk.
Consolation Lakes Hike: 6km return easy hike starting at the rock pile trail to Consolation Lakes
Moraine Lake Shoreline Trail: easy 3 km return hike walking along the shorelines of Moraine Lake
Eiffel Lake Hike: 11km round trip moderate hiking trail starting near the Moraine Lake Lodge that takes you high along the valley for a panoramic view of Eiffel Lake and the Valley of the Ten Peaks
Larch Valley/ Minnestimma Lakes: 8.6 km round trip moderate hiking trail that takes you to a higher point to see Moraine Lake and the ten peaks.
Sentinel Pass: 11.6 km round trip difficult hike with steep switchbacks that lead to Larch Valley and Paradise Valley. This hike requires at least 4 people per group due to bear risk. But Sentinel Pass is perhaps the most famous and best hikes in Banff due to its drastic backdrop.
Wenkchemna Pass: 20 km round trip difficult hike that travels the entire valley of the Ten peaks. The Wenkchemna Pass and the Eiffel Lake hike share the same trail as the Larch Valley Trail for the first 2.4km. There is a group size restriction due to bear risks.
Late Morning: Drive the Icefields Parkway
You won’t have enough time to drive the entire Icefields Parkway and most people drive an hour to the Peyto Lake viewing point on Icefields Parkway or further down to Columbia Icefields, but there are some other stops you can take.
Peyto Lake is a beautiful glacier-fed alpine lake located off the Icefields Parkway, about 40 km northwest of Lake Louise. Most people don’t visit the lake itself but rather walk up to the viewpoint to admire the lake from above.
How to reach Peyto Lake
As you drive towards Jasper on Icefields Parkway, after about 50 minutes from Lake Louise, you will see a stop called “Bow Summit”. Exit into Bow Summit and you will come across a huge parking lot with maps and a public bathroom.
Peyto lake is so blue that I often thought people photo-shopped their pictures but after seeing it myself, I learned that what makes the water so blue is the large amount of glacier rock flour that flows into the water in the summer.
There are two viewpoints at Peyto Lake, with the first one about a 15 minute walk from the parking lot.
After seeing Peyto Lake, you can continue on Icefields Parkway to go to Columbia Icefields.
Ice Explorer is a family friendly activity that lets you ride on a massive all terrain vehicle with a guide to go on an actual glacier!
The guide will let you know where you can and cannot walk on the glacier and you even get to drink the water from the glacier. I did this the first time I visited Banff and it was super fun and unique.
Skywalk is the newest adventure at Columbia Icefields. This glass bottom bridge protrudes from the side of a cliff 280m above ground. If you are not afraid of heights you should definitely add this to your Banff itinerary.
Quick Stop at Bow Lake
On your return drive to Lake Louise and Banff, you can stop by Bow Lake to take some photos and walk around another beautiful lake.
There isn’t too much else to do at Bow Lake, so it’s a pretty quick photo stop to stretch your legs.
Afternoon: Explore the town of Canmore
If you decide to come back to Banff in the early afternoon, you have a few options to explore Banff and even Canmore.
Quick stop at Lake Vermilion
On your drive back to the town of Banff, you will drive by a nice view point at Lake Vermilion. It is another short stop to take a break and take some photos of the lake with a backdrop of towering peaks.
See the Town of Canmore
Canmore is a town about 20 minutes away from Banff. Many people choose to stay in Canmore as it is a little cheaper and more quiet than Banff itself.
If you happen to be in Canmore around dinner time, you should stop by the Canmore Three Sisters to grab a photo of the sunset there. It is one of photographers’ favorite spots to capture sunset in Banff.
Other things to do in Canmore include:
- Bow River Loop trail
- Grassi Lakes
- Quarry Lake Park
- Policeman Creek Boardwalk
- Larch Island loop
- Hiking in Canmore
- Bike around Canmore
- Relaxing in a spa in Canmore
But given you probably will arrive in Canmore quite late in the afternoon, you probably won’t be able to do most of these. It’s best to just arrive in Canmore for an early dinner and explore the Three Sisters photo spot.
Optional Day Trip from Banff: Yoho National Park
Yoho National Park is a much smaller national park located in British Columbia next to Banff National Park. Most first time Banff visitors do not know about Yoho National Park but it has some amazing lakes and waterfalls such as the Emerald Lake, Takakkaw Falls, Wapta Falls, Kicking Horse River and Natural Bridge.
Emerald Lake is a quieter lake compared to Lake Louise or Moraine Lake but it is beautiful nevertheless. Most visitors come to Emerald Lake first when they visit Yoho National Park.
You can walk around the shoreline or go on a canoe, which is also cheaper than the canoes at Lake Louise or Moraine Lake. The boat house opens at 10am and you should aim to get there 20 to 30 minutes before it opens because there is usually a long line waiting for it to open.
Many families and couples come to Emerald Lake to canoe and relax (I mean it is really really nice since it is quieter than Lake Louise and Moraine Lake).
Lake O’Hara is one of the most pristine lakes in Alberta and Yoho National Park limits the number of visitors. The lake is only accessible by shuttle (or walking) and only very lucky few people can win the lottery to get this bus ticket.
Many people who do not win the bus ticket end up walking 3 hours on a flat access road to reach Lake O’Hara just so they can hike to the Lake O’Hara viewpoint.
Is 3 Days in Banff Enough?
3 days in Banff is the perfect amount of time to see the highlights of Banff and explore the most postcard-famous places.
Where to Stay in Banff During Your 3 Days in Banff?
Most people stay in one of the three areas when they visit Banff National Park:
- Banff Town
- Lake Louise
Banff Town is the most popular and central location and there are a lot of restaurants, shops and accommodations in Banff itself. Banff town is about a 1 hour drive to Lake Louise.
I’ve stayed at several different hotels in Banff Town during my multiple visits, and I would recommend:
Canmore is a quieter town 20 minutes south from Banff (making it almost 1.5 hours to drive to Lake Louise). It is slightly cheaper than Banff and there are a lot of restaurants and hotels in Canmore as well.
Lake Louise is the town right next to Lake Louise, but it is quieter and there are fewer accommodations and restaurants in Lake Louise. If you do stay there, you will be able to get to Lake Louise very quickly, making it ideal for visiting the lakes and Icefields Parkway.
Best Months to Visit Banff National Park for 3 days
The best time to visit Banff is between mid June to mid September when the lakes are thawed and hiking trails are open. Some of the lakes are frozen in early June (especially the ones in higher elevation like Moraine Lake) so you will not be able to see the turquoise colors that lakes in Banff are so famous for.
The temperature in Banff in the summer is pleasant, with a high of 70-80F (23-28C) and low of 5-10F (yes it gets chilly in the early morning and at night). You will get more sunny days and dry weather in the summer and early fall, which makes it great for all outdoor activities on your Banff summer itinerary.
Another advantage of visiting Banff in the summer is the long days. Sunrise in Banff is around 5:30am and sunset is around 10pm. The long days in the summer mean you can see way more things in Banff National Park and do longer hikes without having to worry about it getting dark.
Downside of visiting Banff in the Summer
Because the lakes in Banff are only thawed during the few months in the summer, everyone else will also want to visit Banff National Park in the summer. Therefore you should expect crazy amounts of crowds in Banff in July and August at the lakes and on the hiking trails during the day.
Hotel prices during the summer also tend to be 1.5-2 times what they cost in low season and rental cars get booked up fast.
In addition, you can expect thunderstorms and even wildfires in Banff in the summer, which can really ruin your trip.
What other times can I visit Banff?
Early fall is also a great time to visit Banff National Park if you want fewer crowds. However keep in mind that by early fall I mean by early October because fall is quite short in Banff and weather can be unpredictable.
But if you get lucky, you will see the trees changing color in Banff National Park in early fall or even catch the first snow! Banff is insanely beautiful just with a little snow!
Do try to avoid Labor Day weekend because both Americans and Canadians get that long weekend.
Winter is beautiful to visit Banff National Park if you want to window sports. There are 3 ski resorts in Banff and you can ice skate on Lake Louise, ice climb up frozen waterfalls, take a sleigh ride or just relax in a hot spring while watching the snow fall.
Best Way to Get Around Banff and Canmore
Driving in Banff
Driving is a great way to get around Banff National Park when there is no shuttle access.
I find driving in Banff and the Canadian Rockies enjoyable as the road is wide and well maintained. Google Maps works very well in Banff although you don’t have cellular signal when driving on Icefields Parkway so be sure to download an offline map.
It’s best to rent a car a couple of months before your visit because cars will get sold out and prices will increase.
Parking can be an issue in Banff during peak summer months although there are numerous parking lots and street parking in Banff town. If you want to visit famous lakes and sights in Banff you should try to arrive early.
Many visitors to Banff also rent RVs to drive around the park. There are many designated RV Parking lots for those who wish to stay overnight or camp.
Taking a Shuttle Bus in Banff National Park
Many hotels offer complimentary shuttles to different areas in Banff, check with your hotel for more information on that.
What to Eat in Banff National Park?
Banff Town is where you will most likely eat when exploring Banff National Park. You can also find restaurants in Canmore and the Lake Louise area or even cafes at Johnston Canyon. Some of the best restaurants I would recommend in Banff Town include:
- Tooloulou’s: a brunch spot during the day and Cajun seafood & burgers restaurant at night. They have an extensive brunch menu and the lines are long
- Eddie Burger & Bar: a cute burger joint that offers specialty burgers and beers. When you walk by the restaurant you will definitely be drawn in by the delicious smell of their truffle fries.
- Seoul Country Korean restaurant: If you are craving good Korean food then this is the spot to be at. The food tastes really good (similar to the Korean food I had in LA and New York City). We ordered BBQ, Kimchi pancake, cold noodles and other typical Korean dishes and they were all tasty!
- Elk and Oarsman Kitchen and Bar: A restaurant with a rooftop that offers a variety of burgers, pizzas and salads as well as drinks.
- The Bison Restaurant: known for its fine dining, the Bison Restaurant features locally grown, organic and sustainably farmed protein & produce. It is on the pricier side but with its amazing review it’s definitely worth trying.
- Mumbai Local: located in Canmore, this Indian restaurant offers really tasty Indian food. We ordered a bunch of dishes and really loved the Tandoori Gobi (roasted Cauliflower) and Bengali Prawn Curry.
- Cows: THE ice cream spot in Banff town. There are tons of flavors including unique ones (our favorite was the Wowie Cowie (Vanilla ice cream with English toffee marble, chocolate flakes & moo crunch) in a chocolate dipped cone. They also sell souvenirs. There is always a line but well worth the wait.
- Beaver Tails: a Canadian pastry shop that puts various toppings on fried dough. I tried the Nutella one with banana which was extremely rich and delicious. The fried dough is a bit salty, which went well with the sweetness of Nutella.
- Whitebark Café: The best cafe in Banff with free wifi and lots of pastries. You can sit indoors or outside under the umbrellas.
Banff National Park Trail and Road Conditions
Banff National Park is not only affected by weather but also road and infrastructure improvement projects all year round. It is best to check for road, trail, and area closure before you visit Banff National Park to avoid disappointments.
Below are some of the best resources to check if Banff National Park areas and trailheads are open:
Banff National Park FAQs
Are there bears in Banff National Park?
There is a huge population of grizzly bear and black bear in Banff National Park and the number of bears double in Jasper National Park because Jasper National Park is further up so it receives way fewer visitors a year compared to Banff National Park.
Do I need bear mace in Banff National Park?
If you are planning to hike on less touristy trails (like the ones at Moraine Lake and Lake O’Hara), you need to have bear mace with you.
Although generally you will not see a bear during your visit because bears tend to avoid people, there have been sightings of bears even in front of the Fairmont Hotel in Lake Louise.
To avoid bear risk in Banff, make sure you have bear mace with you when you are hiking and always hike in groups and make a lot of noises on the trail.
In fact many Moraine Lake hikes require a group of 4 because of bear risk. If you see a bear cub, back away and leave. Usually people get attacked because the mama bear thinks their cub is in danger.
Is Banff Family Friendly? Can Kids Enjoy Banff?
Banff is an excellent place to bring kids. There are plenty of things kids can do in Banff.
You can visit the lakes in Banff, ride the gondolas and chair lift, see waterfalls and row boats in Banff with kids and older adults.
Even some of the hiking trails in Banff like Johnston Canyon and Lake Agnes are easy and perfect for young children.
There are also museums for kids as well as the Banff sign, which kids can climb up!
Packing List For 3 Days in Banff National Park
- Park Pass: You will get fined without having a valid park pass displayed in your car.
- Canadian Dollars: you can are in Canada, bring Canadian dollars. But in all seriousness, if you are planning to go to the tea houses at Lake Agnes or Plain of Six Glaciers, it’s better to have cash. Their credit card machines don’t always work.
- Bear Mace: If you are planning to do any hiking or visit less frequently visited areas, you need to have bear mace with you.
- Jackets and Layers: Even if you visit Banff in the summer, you should still pack layers as the evenings can be chilly. The weather can change drastically throughout the day in Banff.
- Insect Repellent: There are a lot of bugs and mosquitoes during the hikes and near the lakes.
Other Useful Information Before You Visit Banff National Park
- Most stores and restaurants in Banff take credit cards and offer bill splitting services. But bring cash to all the tea houses on the hikes near Lake Louise
- Most restaurants, hotels and shops offer bilingual services (English & French)
- There are bathrooms EVERYWHERE in Banff, usually in parking lots or at the start of a hike
- Toilet papers are provided in these public bathrooms, sometimes there are also hand sanitizer
- Some parking lots in Banff offers 2 hour parking, find the parking structure that allows you to park for unlimited amount of time on Bear Street
- There are super markets in Banff so you can stock up on food, water and snacks
- There is only one gas station between Lake Louise and Jasper National Park, so if you are planning to drive Icefields Parkway, fill up in Banff beforehand!
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