Banff Itinerary: Alternative Banff Itineraries for 5 Days for Non-Hikers & Hikers

Banff Itinerary: Alternative Banff Itineraries for 5 Days for Non-Hikers & Hikers

Follow this essential Banff itinerary to see two different ways of how to spend 5 days in Banff. This massive 5 day Banff itinerary will show you what to do in Banff if you don’t hike as well as the best hiking trails in Banff if you do hike! It also shows you where to stay, where to eat and other tips to visit Banff National Park in the summer.

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.

Banff National Park is one of the most popular national parks to visit in the summer. Most visitors are drawn to its postcard perfect scenery and famous lakes and glaciers.

There are incredible hiking trails and adventure activities in Banff for those who seek thrill and adventure. There are leisurely walks, canoe rides and hot springs for couples who seek a little romance. There are museums, sightseeing tours and gondola rides perfect for the entire family with children and elderly.

For a full list of fun things to do in Banff, be sure to check out my Best Things to Do in Banff post.

This Banff itinerary is includes 2 alternative itineraries, one hiking itinerary and one non-hiking Banff itinerary. So no matter what you like, you will find useful information in this 5 day Banff itinerary.

Pinterest Pin: Banff itinerary - how to spend 5 days in Banff for both hikers and non-hikers.

Banff Itinerary for 5 Days: An Overview

Banff Itinerary for Hikers

If you want some epic hikes, then continue to follow this 5 day Banff itinerary.

Day 1: Lake Louise, Lake Agnes, Big Beehive, Moraine Lake, Banff Gondola
Day 2: Peyto Lake, Parker Ridge
Day 3: Lake O’Hara in Yoho National Park, Canmore
Day 4: Emerald Lake, Johnston Canyon, Banff Upper Hot Springs
Day 5: Hikes in Canmore

Family Friendly Banff Itinerary for Non-Hikers

I get it if you are traveling with kids or elders and you do not want to hike. The great thing about Banff is that even if you don’t hike, you can still get amazing views since the most famous places in Banff do not require hiking. Below is a family friendly non-hiking itinerary for Banff.

Day 1: Lakes + Banff town
Day 2: Johnston Canyon + Banff town
Day 3: Canmore
Day 4: Icefields Parkway
Day 5: Yoho National Park

Where is Banff National Park?

Banff National Park is located in Alberta, in the Canadian Rockies, about 2 hours away from Calgary.

Banff National Park is the oldest national park in Canada; it was established in 1885 and it is the most popular national park in Canada.

Every year there are about 4 million visitors that make their way to Banff National Park, and most of these tourists visit Banff in the summer.

Airports Near Banff National Park

The closest airport to Banff is Calgary international Airport, about 78 miles from Banff.

Calgary is the largest city in Alberta and the closest city to Banff National Park. It takes about 2 hours to drive from Calgary to Banff, making it a convenient place to fly into if you want to visit Banff.

Another reason to fly into Calgary is that it is a lot easier and cheaper to get a rental car from Calgary Airport than from Banff town itself.

We used Discover Cars when we visit Banff in the summer and there were a lot of different car options which was great.

The second closest airport to Banff is Edmonton, the capital of Alberta.

It is about a 4 hour drive from Edmonton to Banff, so it is not people’s first choice. However, if you are planning to visit Jasper National Park first, then it is better to fly into Edmonton.

I would not recommend flying into Vancouver if you want to visit Banff because Vancouver is about a 10 hour drive from Banff. Unless you plan to do a west Canada roadtrip and visit a few towns between Vancouver and Banff, it is not the most efficient way to get to Banff.

Is 5 Days too Much for Banff National Park?

How Many Days Do You Need for Banff?

You can visit Banff for 1 day, 3 days or 5 days, but it depends on how much you want to see and do.

1 day in Banff is perfect if you want to see the “core” sights in Banff like Lake Louise, Moraine Lake and Johnston Canyon.

3 Days in Banff is perfect for those that want to see more of Banff, drive up to Peyto Lake or do one or two hikes.

5 Days in Banff is great to fully explore Banff, Canmore, parts of the Icefields Parkway and Yoho National Park.

What Months Should You Visit Banff National Park?

Summer months (mid June to mid September) are the best months to visit Banff National Park.

Why is summer the best time to visit Banff National Park? It’s because all the alpine lakes in Banff National Park thaw in mid June, so anywhere before mid June there will still be ice on some of the lakes (namely Moraine Lake) and hiking trails because of its altitude.

In general, you can expect a high of 70-80F (23-38C) during the day and a low of 5-10F early morning and at night in the summer months in Banff.

However there could be occasional heat waves in the summer.

Banff National Park has a very short fall, by the end of September temperature would have dropped a lot and it may even start snowing in early October!

When I visited mid June, the lakes just have thawed, temperature was still chilly in the morning and at night, and there weren’t as many visitors.

When I visited in July and August, I was surprised by the number of visitors. It was people everywhere! We essentially had to get up around 5:30am in order to access some of the more popular Banff attractions and also stayed out till sunset in order to avoid the crowd.

But one good thing about visiting Banff in the summer is the long day light. You can start your day at 6am and end your day at 9:30pm and do a lot of things!

You can eat dinner and then visit a lake or an attraction after dinner and avoid most of the crowds that way (which is what I did).

What’s Bad About Going to Banff In the Summer?

The crowd! There is just no way around the huge crowd of tourists every corner you turn in Banff National Park.

Due to the crowd, it is harder to take photos but most importantly restaurants and hotels fill up! It is also very difficult to find parking both at attractions and in the Banff Town during dinner time.

Flights, rental cars and hotel prices are way more expensive in the summer in Banff than any other time. I would highly recommend that you book your rental car and hotels at least 3-4 months ahead of time to get the best deal.

When I visited last summer, I booked hotels about 4 months ahead of time. I then continuously checked hotel prices to see if they go up and they did by a lot after a couple of months (same for rental car prices).

But despite all the crowds, Banff is still amazing in the summer, especially when you start hiking, you will see less people (because everyone else is just visiting Lake Louise and Moraine Lake).

Can I Visit Banff Now? Is Everything Open in Banff?

Banff is open all year round (in general) but it doesn’t mean particular roads or hiking trails (or parking lot) is accessible.

There are numerous infrastructure and road improvement projects in Banff National Park, and they are mostly in the summer (when there is no snow).

You should always check for road and trail conditions as well as area closure before you visit Banff National Park on the websites below:

What Pass or Reservation Do I need to Visit Banff National Park?

You do not need a reservation to visit Banff National Park (unlike Yosemite!), but you do need a Park Pass to visit Banff National Park.

If you are planning to park anywhere in Banff (and not just drive through to Jasper), you will need to purchase a park pass.

You can purchase the Banff Park Pass at one of the Park gates when you enter Banff National Park, at the visitor center in Banff town, or purchase online ahead of time (and print it out).

There are two types of passes you can purchase

  • Best Value
  • Discovery Passes

Best Value Pass

If you are planning to just spend 5 days in Banff, the Best Value pass is what you want. For 5 days and 2-7 adults (in one car), it will cost about CAD105 total.

You will need to enter your arrival and departure date, information about your group (max 7 people per group), information about you (name, email, number) and make the payment.

You need to print out the pass and display on the dash of your vehicle the entire time you are in Banff National Park.

You can purchase this pass up to 6 months in advance of your arrival date.

Discovery Pass

Discovery Pass is perfect for someone who is planning to visit multiple National Parks in Canada within a 12 months period.

You will be mailed a physical pass (you will get a temporary pass at the time of purchase).

Even though you do not need reservation to visit Banff National Park, you will need reservation for shuttles to Lake Louise and Lake Moraine.

Do I Need a car in Banff National Park?

Driving is the easiest way to get around Banff National Park if you want flexibility or go anywhere outside of Banff Town, Lake Louise, Moraine Lake, and Johnston Canyon.

Taking a shuttle is the preferred way of visiting Lake Louise and Moraine Lake in the summer however.

Starting 2023, Moraine Lake has banned all personal vehicles! This means you can only take a Parks Canada shuttle bus, Roam Transit, commercial transportation provider (tours or taxis) or bike 25km round trip to Moraine Lake.

You MUST reserve ahead of time on the Park’s Canada reservation page.

However outside of Lake Louise, Moraine Lake and Johnston Canyon, a car is needed to explore Banff National Park.

I highly recommend that you rent a car to explore the places mentioned on this 5 Day Banff itinerary.

We rented ours from Calgary Airport using Discovercars but we also reserved months in advance to get a good rate.

Check out the best photo spots in Banff.

5 Days in Banff in the Summer

There are many ways you can plan a 5 day Banff trip itinerary, so I am going to write two separate 5 day Banff itineraries, one for those who just want to do some leisurely sightseeing (potentially with family) and another modified itinerary for those who want some epic hikes in Banff (and the surrounding area).

How to spend 5 days in Banff without hiking
How to spend 5 days in Banff hiking epic trails

How to spend 5 days in Banff without hiking

This 5 day Banff itinerary is meant to be relaxing and can be enjoyed by the entire family with kids or grandparents. It is not intense and you can modify the exact activities you want to do.

This relaxing 5 day Banff itinerary does not have any real hikes (unless you count walking around the lake as hiking). If you want to add a small hike or two, you certainly can. You also do not need to get up at ungodly hours with this Banff itinerary.

This itinerary assumes you have 5 full days in Banff.

Overview of 5 days in Banff without hiking

Day 0: Arrival
Day 1: Lakes + Banff town
Day 2: Johnston Canyon + Banff town
Day 3: Canmore
Day 4: Icefields Parkway
Day 5: Yonho National Park

Day 1 in Banff

Start your day at Lake Louise

Lake Louise in Banff National Park with canoe

Start your day 1 out of 5 days in Banff with the world renowned Lake Louise.

Lake Louise is one of the most famous lakes in Banff National Park with its turquoise color, perfect reflection and beautiful glacier background.

It is usually the first place people visit when they go to Banff and it is not hard to see why.

Lake Louise sunset

How to get to Lake Louise

You can drive to Lake Louise or take public transit.

There are two large parking lots at Lake Louise as well as a a Park & Ride lot further away.

The two large parking lots at Lake Louise will fill up after 8am, so it is better to either take the shuttle from Lake Louise Park & Ride lot or take Roam Transit Bus (Route 8x and 8S).

You need to make reservation in advance to ride the Shuttles.

You can also do a tour or the Banff Hop on Hop Off bus to reach Lake Louise without driving.

the other side of Lake Louise in the summer

Things to do at Lake Louise

  • Canoeing at Lake Louise: see pricing
  • Walk around Lake Louise
  • Enjoy lunch or coffee at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise
  • Rock climb at Lake Louise
  • Hiking (Lake Agnes, Big Beehive, Small Beehive, or Plain of Six Glaciers)
  • Lake Louise Sightseeing Gondola: see info

To see current condition of Lake Louise, check out this webcam.

Head to Moraine Lake

Lake Moraine at sunset

When you are done with Lake Louise, take the Lake Connector shuttle to Moraine Lake.

If you have a reservation for the Moraine Lake shuttle, you can take the Lake connector for free. See this page for more information.

Moraine Lake is a must-do for anyone visiting Banff National Park in the summer. It is just as popular and beautiful (if not more beautiful) than Lake Louise.

Before Parks Canada banned personal vehicles from accessing Moraine Lake in 2023, people used to get there at 2:30am and sleep in the car just so they could get a parking spot and see Moraine Lake for sunrise.

Personally I have never done that so I always visit Moraine Lake around sunset instead! But you won’t have that problem now since you will need to take the shuttle (or bike or take a tour).

Rockpile at Moraine Lake
Moraine Lake Rock Pile

Things to do at Moraine Lake

  • Walk up the rock pile (not wheelchair accessible) to get the best view of Moraine Lake
  • Canoeing on Moraine Lake: see pricing
  • Walk around the shoreline
  • Hiking (Moraine Lake has a ton of hiking trails, but most require a group of 4 because of bear risk)

Stop by Morant’s Curve

If you are into photography, you should stop by Morant’s Curve on your way back to Banff Town from Moraine Lake.

Morant's Curve Banff summer itinerary

Why is Morant’s Curve special? It is because at Morant’s Curve you can capture the perfect photo of a Rails Canada train passing by with the mountain peeks in the background.

Explore Banff Town & See Bow Falls View Point

Bow Falls View Point in Banff

Bow Falls View Point is a quick and easy view point in the town of Banff. You can easily park in the parking lot and take a photo here.

The Town of Banff is a really nice tourist town about an hour from Lake Louise.

Banff in the summer town - banff itinerary and things to do

You will find a ton of restaurants, shops and hotels in the town of Banff. There are also various attractions and spas in Banff Town.

There is also a large super market and a couple of gas stations in the town of Banff, making it the perfect place to stock up on supplies.

Some of the most popular attractions in Banff Town include

  • Banff Gondola
  • Banff Upper Hot Springs
  • Cave and Basin
  • Mt. Norquay Chairlift
  • Visit a museum
  • Cascade of Time Gardens
  • Spa treatment

I really enjoy the vibe of Banff Town in the summer and you can check out all the cute stores, souvenir shops or simply sit down and grab a bite after a long productive day!

Day 2 in Banff

Morning walk in Johnston Canyon

Johnston Canyon is one of the most visited place in Banff besides Lake Louise and Moraine Lake.

Located only about 32km from Banff town, Johnston Canyon is a family friendly walk to see two beautiful waterfalls. Visitors can walk along the paved road and boardwalk suspended on the side of the canyon walls.

Johnston Canyon board walk

The 2 waterfalls are the Lower Falls and Upper Falls. It is 1.1km from the entrance to walk to the Lower falls and 2.7km (from entrance) walk to the Upper Falls at Johnston Canyon one way.

Johnston Canyon Lower Falls
Johnston Canyon Lower Falls
Johnston Canyon Upper Falls
Upper Falls

You can expect to spend about 2-3 hours at Johnston Canyon at a leisurely pace.

How to get to Johnston Canyon from Banff

You can drive to Johnston Canyon from Banff town or take Roam Public Transit Rout 9.

The Route 9 bus has different schedules throughout the year but in general it only offers weekend services outside of Summer months.

You can also take a hop-on hop-off Banff bus or a tour to visit Johnston Canyon.

If you do decide to drive to Johnston Canyon, there are 2 large parking lots. If the lots of full, you will need to park on the side of the road so I suggest going early before 10am.

Where to eat at Johnston Canyon

There is a cafe at the entrance of Johnston Canyon that sells hot drinks and some sandwiches and snacks. There is also a standalone “shack” that sells coffee next to the cafe.

Visit view points on the way back to Banff town

After you spend your morning at Johnston Canyon, you can drive back to Banff town to grab lunch.

Vermillion Lake
Vermilion Lake

While driving back to Banff, you can stop by a few nice view points to grab some photos:

  • Castle Cliff Viewpoint
  • Castle Mountain Viewpoint
  • Backswamp Viewpoint
  • Bow Valley Parkway
  • Vermilion Lakes viewpoint
  • Banff Town Sign

The Banff Town Sign is where everyone needs to take an obligatory photo to show that you visited Banff. You will probably see a lot of families waiting to take the photo there but you usually don’t need to wait too long so be patient!

Banff town sign

Banff Gondola

After grabbing lunch in Banff town, you have a few different options for the afternoon of your 2nd day in Banff.

Banff Gondola is a popular family friendly attraction in Banff.

Banff Gondola right before sunset

The gondola is a 8 minute ride that takes you 2281m (7500ft) above sea level to the summit of Sulphur Mountain to have a panoramic view of the entire Banff area.

There are observation decks, restaurants and cafes once you are on top. You can even walk a bit to explore other areas along the boardwalk.

Banff Gondola top view at sunset in the summer

You can also hike up to the summit of Sulphur Mountain if you are very fit, but I think the Gondola is a much better experience (since there are way better hikes in Banff than this one).

During peak summer months, it is better to purchase timed tickets online ahead of time. Children age 5 & under are free and tickets are refundable up to 48 hours before travel time.

White Water Rafting in Banff

If Gondola is not your thing (or if you prefer to do it after dinner for sunset), then you can do a more adventurous activity: white water rafting.

You can book the white water rafting tour along the Kananaski River. The location is 45 minutes from Banff and the guides will give you all safety instructions and equipments needed for your adventure.

Banff white water rafting in the summer

Via Ferrata Climb

Another great option for those who are seeking a little more adrenaline rush is a guided Via Ferrata Climb on Mount Norquay.

Mount-Norquay-Via-Ferrata

Day 3 in Banff

You will spend day 3 of 5 days in Banff to explore more of Banff town as well as Canmore, another town just outside of Banff National Park.

Morning at Two Jack Lake

Banff is full of lakes and there are a lot of nice lakes besides Lake Louise and Moraine Lake!

Two Jack Lake is a beautiful emerald lake located just besides Lake Minnewanka, only about 15 minute drive from Banff town center.

two Jack Lake in Banff national Park
Two Jack Lake with reflection of Mt. Rundle

Two Jack Lake does get crowded during the day as locals and visitors love to relax by the lake shore as well as do water activities on Two Jack Lake such as kayaking, swimming, canoeing and even fishing!

Since Two Jack Lake is known for its reflective view of Mt. Rundle, it is actually best to visit early morning when the wind is calm and sun is low. This way you can get that perfect reflection while avoiding the mid day crowd.

Lake Minnewanka

When you are exploring Two Jack Lake, you can either drive 5 minutes or walk 30 minutes along the lake shore to the famous Lake Minnewanka.

Lake Minnewanka summer itinerary in banff
Lake Minnewanka

Lake Minnewanka is another popular (but not too crowded) lake where you can enjoy the beautiful scenery.

The best things to do at Lake Minnewanka include:

  • Rent motorboat
  • Rent Kayka or canoe
  • Take a boat tour
  • Walk along the lake shore
  • Picnic by the lake
  • BBQ

Lake Minnewanka is one of the only lakes in Banff National Park that allows motor boats so you can either rent your boat (see rates here) or take a boat tour.

There are also a lot of couples that take their engagement or wedding photos on the shore of Lake Minnewanka so you can imagine how scenic this lake is and why it is so popular among families in the summer.

Check out Canmore Engine Bridge

Canmore Engine Bridge is one of the most popular attractions for visitors.

It is a historical bridge built by the Canadian Pacific Railway across Bow River, you can have sweeping views of the river and surrounding areas from the bridge.

Grab dinner and see Canmore Three Sisters

The Three Sisters mountain is a series of 3 peaks in Canmore that is a photographer’s dream.

Canmore three sisters view point sunset

You can visit any time of the day but sunset is an amazing time to visit because you can see a perfect reflection of the Three Sisters mountain from the pond.

Where is the Three Sisters photo spot in Canmore?

The location is a little hard to find but you can google “Off Leash Dog Area“, there will be a small parking lot. You will walk under the underpass to cross Bow Valley Trail and follow the not-too-obvious trail through the pebbles and wooded area to the “Three Sisters Viewpoint” (on Google map as well).

canmore three sisters sunset reflection

The trail looks really sketchy (I was actually a little scared) but it’s quite short and totally safe.

Be warned there are swarms of mosquitoes around sunset but the view is incredible.

Day 4 in Banff

After exploring Canmore and Banff the last 3 days, it is time to go north and explore part of Icefields Parkway.

In my opinion Icefields Parkway is one of the most beautiful drives in the world and I have driven on many scenic roads throughout New Zealand, Patagonia, Norway, Switzerland and the Dolomites.

There are many stops on Icefields Parkway if you were to drive all the way to Jasper but I really think Jasper warrants a whole separate trip.

However if you really want to spend the day driving up to Jasper and coming back you could, but it will be a really long day! You can check out my Icefields Parkway post to see all the most beautiful spots.

Peyto Lake

Peyto Lake is about 1 hour north of Lake Louise and it is a popular spot since you don’t really need to hike so it is super easy to visit.

Peyto Lake second viewing spot

You can walk about 15 minutes from the parking lot to a newly built boardwalk viewing platform to admire the beautiful turquoise lake.

However there is another photo spot about a 15 minute walk from the viewing platform that has no railing (and also not many visitors). There you can get even better photos of Peyto Lake.

Read this post on how to find the second viewpoint at Peyto Lake.

Big Bend

Continue the drive down Icefields Parkway and you will come across a spot where all the cars pull over. This is the Big Bend where you can see the valley you just drove up from. Take in the views!

Big Bend Photo Stop on Icefields Parkway Banff National Park

Columbus Icefield & Skywalk

A popular family activity on Icefields Parkway is Columbus Icefield.

Columbia Icefield Icefields Parkway Jasper National Park Itinerary
View of Athabasca Glacier

At Columbus Icefield you will be riding in a giant vehicle onto the Athabasca glacier and walk on the glacier with a guide.

The Columbia Ice Field is a very family friendly activity and as a kid when I first visited it was actually one of my favorite activities in Banff/ Jasper.

Skywalk-at-Columbia-Icefield

In addition you can do a Skywalk on a glass bridge overlooking the glacier above the valley floor. It is a short but thrilling experience and can be purchased together with your Athabasca Glacier adventure on the official website.

Other view points on Icefields Parkway

Depending on the time and how ambitious you are, you can continue to drive down Icefields Parkway to check out other spots, some of the more famous photo spots you can check out on the way to Jasper include:

  • Tangle Creek Falls
  • Goats & Glacier Lookout
  • Athabasca Falls
  • Athabasca Pass Lookout

For a complete list, be sure to check out my Icefields Parkway guide.

Glacier View Lodge

You can either drive back to Banff after your adventure on Icefields Parkway or stay at the scenic Glacier View Lodge.

If you decided to drive all the way to Jasper and back, I highly recommend staying here so it is easier to get to your adventure the next day instead of going all the way back to Banff town.

Another reason I recommend staying here is the view from the hotel. Even from the hotel terrace you can have the sweeping view of Athabasca Glacier. The lobby area also has a huge floor to ceiling window with the view of the glacier, making it the perfect photo spot.

Day 5 in Banff

Yoho National Park

You will spend most of your last day in Yoho National Park, one of the lesser known yet equally beautiful national parks right next to Banff. Note that you need to have your Park Pass in order to visit Yoho National Park.

After getting breakfast from Glacier View Lodge, start heading towards Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park.

3 days or 5 days in Banff Icefields Parkway Bow Lake
Bow Lake

Assuming you are driving over from Glacier View Lodge, you will be back on the Icefields Parkway and pass by the following photo spots:

  • Waterfowl Lakes Viewpoint
  • Bow Lake
  • Crowfoot Glacier View Point

The reason I did not put them on the previous day’s itinerary is because they will be on the right side of Icefields Parkway when you drive south, making it a lot easier to visit (maybe you don’t mind but I hate turning left on Icefields Parkway or any road…).

Most people know Lake Louise, Peyto Lake and Moraine Lake, but not as many people know Emerald Lake, which is a pristine lake in Yoho National Park.

As the name suggests, Emerald Lake is a beautiful emerald colored lake. There are hiking trails around the lake and you can rent a canoe on the lake.

The Emerald Lake Canoe Rentals and Boathouse opens at 10am in the summer (although the website says 8am, when we went there they opened at 10am).

Natural Bridge

Natural Bridge Yoho National Park

After spending a lovely morning at Emerald Lake, head towards Natural Bridge, a natural limestone rock bridge formed over Kicking Horse River.

Natural Bridge is a quick photo spot and you can walk over from the parking lot.

Takakkaw Falls

Takakkaw Falls Yoho National Park

Takakkaw Falls is another quick stop in Yoho National Park.

After a short walk from the parking lot, you can see this 370m tall powerful waterfall right in front of you. In fact Takakkaw Falls is the second tallest waterfall in Canada (Della Falls in BC).

After spending a relaxing day in Yoho National Park, it is time to drive back to Banff and finish your awesome 5 days in Banff this summer.

How to spend 5 days in Banff if you want to hike

Banff is an amazing place to hike, and every time I go to Banff I end up doing different hikes and finding out even more hikes!

If you want to really understand how amazing Banff is, I really think you have to hike to experience its beauty (and get away from the crowd).

This 5 day Banff hiking itinerary is modified from the non-hiking itinerary above. Instead of going around sightseeing different lakes, I will replace those with some amazing hikes that you won’t forget.

This Banff hiking itinerary will require earlier morning wake ups and long days. This itinerary also assumes you are hiking everyday (but you can of course modify it).

Day 1 in Banff with Hiking

Lake Louise

Start your first day in Banff at Lake Louise. You should arrive early to get a parking spot (unless you are planning to take the bus).

Lake Louise early in the morning

After your obligatory photos at Lake Louise, there are a few trails that you can choose from:

  • Lake Agnes Tea House (2-3 hours round trip)
  • Plain of Six Glacier (5 hours round trip)
  • Big Beehive via Lake Agnes (4-5 hours round trip)
  • Little Beehive via Lake Agnes (3-4 hours round trip)
  • Lake Agnes to Big Beehive to Plain of Six Glacier (8 hours)

I have done the first 3 hikes and I think Plain of Six Glacier and Big Beehive (via Lake Agnes) are both awesome.

Banff Itinerary Banff hiking plain of six glacier
Plain of Six Glaciers

If you are very fit and not crunched for time, you can do the last hike and see all 3 highlights.

Lake Agnes Tea House in banff National Park
Lake Agnes Tea House

I don’t necessarily recommend Lake Agnes by itself as the hike itself is pretty boring (walking uphill in the forest) although Lake Agnes is nice.

If you were to go to Lake Agnes you definitely should combine it with either Big Beehive or Little Beehive.

Big Beehive view from top in Banff National Park in the summer
Big Beehive

If you are hiking to the Lake Agnes or Plain of Six Glacier tea houses, be sure to bring some cash. Even though credit cards do work sometimes, it is the safest to have cash (either CAD or USD).

Read my post on how to hike to Lake Agnes and Big Beehive from Lake Louise.

Moraine Lake

Assuming you are NOT planning to hike at Moraine Lake, you will take the Lake Connector shuttle to Moraine Lake after your hikes at Lake Louise.

3 or 5 days in Banff Moraine Lake

There actually are some pretty awesome hikes at Moraine Lake, so if you do plan on hiking there then I would move Moraine Lake to day 2 of this 5 day Banff itinerary so you can fully enjoy it.

Some of the best hikes at Moraine Lake include:

  • Consolation Lakes Trail (2.5-3 hours)
  • Larch Valley (4 hours)
  • Sentinel Pass (5 hours)
  • Eiffel Lake Trail (4-5 hours)
  • Wenchemna Pass (7 hours)

You will most likely not see many people on these hiking trails near Moraine Lake. However keep in mind that due to bear risk, trails starting at Moraine Lake require minimum 4 people in a group (you can group with strangers).

It is not recommended to hike these without a group.

You will probably be pretty tired after your first full day of hiking Lake Louise and visiting Moraine Lake.

Banff Gondola

Banff Gondola

After hiking around Lake Louise and seeing Moraine Lake, head back to Banff to enjoy a nice dinner.

For sunset, you can ride the Banff Sightseeing Gondola up Sulphur Mountain to enjoy the view of the Canadian Rockies from above.

Day 2 of Hiking in Banff – Icefields Parkway

Peyto Lake

Start your Icefields Parkway day at Peyto Lake.

Peyto Lake View Point - Banff itinerary

As mentioned above, there are 2 view points at Peyto Lake, one has railing and is where most visitors go, but if you walk for 15 minutes, you will come across a second viewpoint with very few people.

But yes, you can “hike” this with a skirt like I did. It really is just a walk.

Parker Ridge Trail or Wilcox Pass

As you continue to drive north on Icefields Parkway and exploring some of the nice view points and photo spots, you will eventually come across Parker Ridge.

Parker ridge Icefields Banff National Park Icefields Parkway Drive HIke

Parker Ridge Trail is a 5km round trip hike with moderately steep switchbacks and a 250m elevation.

Part of the trail is shaded in the forest and the last part is quite exposed.

This is one of the most popular trails on the Icefields Parkway so you can expect some crowd during the summer.

At the summit you will be rewarded with an awesome view of Saskatchenwan Glacier.

Another pretty cool hike on Icefields Parkway is Wilcox Pass.

Wilcox Pass is 8km round trip that takes about 2-3 hours with a gentle incline.

You will have a pretty awesome view of Athabasca Glacier from this trail while avoiding the crowd at Columbia Icefield.

To save time on driving the next morning, I suggest staying either at Glacier View Lodge or in Lake Louise area again.

Day 3 of Banff Hiking Itinerary

For your third day in Banff, I highly recommend that you spend the day hiking in Yoho National Park at Lake O’Hara area.

Now before I go into details, I know that bus ticket to Lake O’Hara is extremely difficult to get. The Lake O’Hara bus runs from June 18th to October 3 in 2023 and reservation is required.

If you are lucky enough to get the Lake O’Hara bus tickets, especially the 8:30am bus, you will practically have the lake and the hikes all to yourself like we did (yes we got lucky).

Lake Ohara Opabin Plateau view
Opabin Plateau

Lake O’Hara best hiking route

The hiking route I would suggest if you can get on the earliest bus is East Opabin Trail -> Opabin Plateau (for the epic view of Lake O’Hara from above) -> Yukness Ledges (not scary) -> Oesa Lake -> Lake O’Hara lodge.

This loop is about a 6-7 hour walk and covers all the highlights in the Lake O’Hara area.

You can read more about this hike on my hiking guide.

Opabin Lake Lake O'hara Hike Yoho National Park Banff Itinerary
Opabin Lake
view from Yuckness ledge Lake O'Hara hike Yoho National Park Banff itinerary
Yuckness Ledge
Yuckness Ledge Lake O'Hara Hike Yoho National Park
Yuckness Ledge
Lake Oesa Yoho National Park Lake O'Hara
Lake Oesa

If you don’t have a bus reservation then you will need to walk 11km (one way) to Lake O’Hara, then start your hike.

Most likely you will only make it to Opabin Plateau (and maybe Opabin Lake) before heading back (you can take the bus back down).

To read more about how to hike to the Lake O’Hara view point, see this detailed hiking guide to Prospect Point.

Canmore Three Sisters

After a long day hiking around Lake O’Hara, drive back to Banff town or Canmore for dinner.

If you still have energy, for sunset, be sure to check out the Canmore Three Sisters for a perfect sunset reflection shot.

Canmore Three Sisters sunset

Day 4 of 5 days in Banff

After a pretty busy three days of hiking in Banff, day 4 of this 5 day Banff hiking itinerary will be a little more relaxed.

Emerald Lake

We will go back to Yoho National Park again this morning to visit Emerald Lake, a beautiful alpine lake in Yoho that is easily accessible for everyone.

Emerald Lake Yoho National Park canoe

You can row a boat here or enjoy some hiking around the area. I really liked rowing a boat on Emerald Lake because it is not as crowded as Lake Louise and it’s still super beautiful and cheaper!

Johnston Canyon

After visiting Emerald Lake in the morning (the earlier the less crowd), it is time to head to Johnston Canyon.

You can hike just to Lower Falls or also to Upper Falls (1.1km to Lower Falls, 2.7km to Upper Falls.

There used to be a secret cave right before Johnston Canyon Upper Falls but since it is off trail that has been banned in recent years.

Enjoy View Points

Depending on what time it is, you can drive back towards Banff and enjoy a few view points along the way such as Backswamp Viewpoint and Vermilion Lakes.

You can also check out Bow Falls view point in Banff Town and enjoy Banff Upper Hot Springs to relax. Or you can check out Two Jack Lake and Lake Minnewanka in the afternoon.

Day 5 of Hiking in Banff

On your last day in Banff, you can decide what you want to do.

If you want to do another epic hike, then I actually suggest hiking in Canmore area.

The hikes here are not as well known or crowded as the hikes in Banff but they are incredible nevertheless.

The two hikes I think are the most impressive in Canmore are Ha Ling Peak and East End of Rundle (scrambling).

Both hikes are difficult but the view is amazing.

Or if you are feeling adventurous you can even go to Kananaskis (one hour south of Canmore) and hike the epic Smutwood Peak.

Mt. Smutwood Trail Kananaskis
Smutwood Peak

Another option is to go back to Moraine Lake and hike Larch Valley or Sentinel Pass. But you will need to reserve another Moraine Lake bus ticket in order to go.

Sentinel Pass Moraine Lake Hike
Sentinel Pass

What Should You Bring to Banff National Park?

If you are planning to spend 5 days in Banff, especially if you are planning to hike, then you should be prepared.

We actually forgot our sunscreen, food and snacks and bug spray on the day we hiked Lake O’Hara so don’t be like us!

Water, Food, Snack: This should be a no brainer! Bring a backpack and don’t forget food water and snack. You may end up picnicking in Banff! Depending on where you go, you can’t just get water and snack everywhere, so best to shop in Banff the night before and have everything ready with you.

Bug Spray: If you are planning to visit any wooded area or anywhere after sunset (like the Canmore Three Sisters), you should have bug spray with you. We got bitten so much even with bug spray, the mosquitoes were vicious.

Layers: Even when we visited in August during a heat wave, it was really chilly early in the morning up the mountain. Be sure to bring layers/ thin jacket with you since temperatures change a lot throughout the day.

Hat, Sunglasses, Sunscreen: Not much need to be said here. Sunscreen is essential especially if you plan to hike. I love using physical blockers like this one.

Bear Mace: If you are planning to hike in Banff, you definitely should have bear mace with you. You can purchase bear mace from the Banff visitor center. When we were on the bus to Lake O’Hara, we saw bears on the road (the same road you have to walk on if you don’t have a bus ticket).

Comfortable Shoes: Plan to walk a lot in Banff! Wear comfortable shoes or even hiking shoes (if you are planning to hike). Ditch the high heels at home unless you are planning to do a photoshoot.

Where to Stay in Banff

Banff Town

Most visitors stay in Banff Town, which is the most populated and happening town in Banff.

There are visitor centers, tons of stores, restaurants, bars, and lodging options in Banff town.

Banff Town is about 1 hour drive from Lake Louise.

I have stayed at several hotels in Banff town before, and I would recommend:

  • Moose Hotel and Suites: centrally located in Banff town, this hotel has a spa center and onsite bar
  • High Country Inn: I stayed here before and really liked it. The hotel is conveniently located and it offers an indoor pool, sauna and hot tub
  • Dorothy Motel: I stayed here last time I was in Banff. The hotel is cute and the rooms are large. You can do a self-check in and check out and also avoid all the bus tours that we saw arriving at other hotels
Dorothy Motel in Banff as one of the best places to stay in Banff

Lake Louise

The Village of Lake Louise is another great place to consider when you are spending 5 days in Banff.

If you want to minimize driving back and forth (saves you 2 hours a day) while visiting Banff National Park then you should consider staying at Lake Louise.

The famous Fairmont Château Lake Louise is a fairytale coming true with its direct view of Lake Louise and that you can access Lake Louise before anybody else.

Moraine Lake Lodge is the hotel at Moraine Lake, which gives you priority access to Moraine Lake and free canoe rental.

Other options you can consider is Lake Louise Inn and Canadian Rockies Inn in Yoho National Park.

Canmore

Canmore is a cheaper option for those visiting Banff National Park.

The lodging in Canmore is generally cheaper than Banff Town but the draw back is that Canmore is another extra 20 minute drive to Lake Louise.

The 2nd time I visited Banff I stayed at Canmore and it was actually really nice and quiet and there are stores and good restaurants in Canmore as well.

The two hotels I recommend in Canmore are The Blackstone Mountain Lodge and the Malcolm Hotel.

Best Place to Eat in Banff

Banff has a number of excellent restaurants (or you can always venture out to the nearby town of Canmore). Having been to Banff a few times allowed me to try different restaurants and give you recommendation on the best places to eat.

Tooloulou’s: One of the most popular restaurants in Banff! They serve excellent brunch during the day and at night they offer Cajun seafood and burgers. Expect a wait during the day

Seoul Country Korean restaurant: Excellent Korean food. It’s great if you want Korean food after a long day of hiking. We eat a lot of Korean food in the US and this place is just as good.

Banff Korean Restaurant

Eddie Burger & Bar: Specialty burger joint in Banff. They serve burgers with bison, elk (and of course beef) patties as well as beers. Expect a wait during peak meal time because they are that good!

Masala Authentic Indian Cuisine: Great Indian food if you are craving Indian food!

Cows: Cows is the most popular and best ice cream spot in Banff. They have great flavors and also sell souvenir in the store. You can expect a long line at Cows in the summer.

Cows Banff Ice Cream

Other Banff Resources

I have written a lot about Banff since I keep going back. To help you plan your Banff summer trip, check out the following resources:

Like this post? Pin this 5 day Banff Itinerary to Pinterest!

Essential 5 Day Banff Summer Itinerary
How to spend 5 days in Banff in the summer for hikers and nonhikers