Top 10 Best Things to Do in Banff National Park

Banff National Park is utterly enchanting with glistening emerald lakes, spectacular sweeping valleys, and dramatic mountainous landscapes. Nestled in the heart of the Canadian Rockies, this UNESCO World Heritage Site offers an unparalleled opportunity to connect with nature and experience the beauty of the great outdoors.

From hiking to scenic drives, here are the top ten things to do in Banff National Park that will make your visit unforgettable.

Discover the top 10 things to do in Banff National Park! This travel guide will share the best hikes, lakes, activities and more! #banff #nationalpark #canada
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1. Johnston Canyon Hike

You can find Johnston Canyon on Bow Valley Parkway (Hwy 1A), a scenic 27-mile drive between Lake Louise and Banff. The hike within the chasm is just as exciting as the waterfalls at the end.

The walkway is suspended in air and clings to the wall over the rushing water of the canyon. The lush green vegetation and crystal clear water are a delight to march along.

Crouching through a cave at the lower section leads to the base of the powerful waterfall. The hike to the Lower Falls is about .7 miles with another mile to the Upper Falls.

Read more here on our
Favorite Hikes in Banff National Park

The catwalk on the Johnston Canyon hike is a must-do in Banff National Park.
Johnston Canyon is popular for a reason. It’s one of the best easy hikes in Banff National Park.

2. Find Serenity at Lake Louise

Victoria Glacier and Lake Louise are the most popular areas in the park and it is obvious why. The milky turquoise waters of Lake Louise is hypnotic and is one of the most photographed locations in the Canadian Rockies.

We took the lake trail up to the Plain of Six Glaciers to Lake Agnes and back down to Lake Louise. It felt like endless steep climbs and took more than half a day to complete the loop, but it is one of the highlights of our time in Banff for sure.

The Plain of Six Glaciers to Lake Agnes hike is one of the unique things to do in Banff National Park.
The spectacular view of Lake Louise from the Plain of Six Glaciers hike in Banff.

3. Parker Ridge Hike

Even though it was raining and cold, the Parker Ridge Trail did not disappoint.

The 3.2-mile moderate hike tops our list of must-do trails in Banff. The trailhead is close to the border of Jasper National Park, just south of Columbia Icefields.

The 900-foot elevation gain leads to a charming lush meadow filled with colors of green grass, orange moss, and white wildflowers.

The top of the ridge delivers sensational views of staggering snow-covered peaks, the memorable Saskatchewan Glacier, and its valley below.

A misty view of the Parker Ridge Trail on the Icefields Parkway.
The Parker Ridge hike provides jaw-dropping views of many surrounding mountain peaks.

4. Tunnel Mountain Drive

Tunnel Mountain is a short scenic drive just outside of downtown.

Check out the mystical hoodoos by driving to the lookouts or hike the Hoodoos Trail to get a closer look at the peculiar pillars made from glacial material.

The white chalky hoodoos on Tunnel Mountain Drive.
The chalky spires look a little like totem poles.

The Tunnel Mountain Trail is another outstanding hike that leads to spectacular views of the town of Banff and Bow Valley.

The trail begins with long switchbacks that gradually climb the mountainside. You can either start the trail in downtown Banff on St. Julien Rd. or shave off a bit of climbing by hopping on from Tunnel Mountain Drive. The trail from here is 2.2 miles roundtrip.

The view of downtown Banff from the Tunnel Mountain Trail.
The view of downtown Banff from the Tunnel Mountain Trail.

5. Downtown Banff

Nestled among the mountains in the south section of the park, the town of Banff is a special place.

Paved trails wind through town, along the river to many of the popular sights making it easily walkable.

Take a pleasant stroll through the Cascades of Time Garden located behind the Banff Park Administration Building, one of the free things to do in Banff.

Stop by Banff Brewery to sample hand-crafted beers with a local flare. Or peruse the many items at The Banff Trading Post

Another beautiful park nearby is 
Yoho National Park

The Cascades of Time Garden is one of the free things to do in Banff.
The Cascades of Time Garden is the most colorful during the summer months.


6. Find the Secret Pub

If you can find the stealthy Waldhaus Pub & Patio at Banff Springs Hotel then you need to reward yourself with a drink!

We challenge you to locate it without asking for assistance. The Bavarian pub and restaurant is tucked away in the forest and offers a wide selection of German beer and food and is one of the unique things to do in Banff. 

The Waldhaus Restaurant sign with the mountains as a backdrop.
Banff’s best kept secret is the Waldhaus Restaurant.

7. Vermilion Lakes Drive

The Vermilion Lakes Drive is short and sweet at only 2.4 miles long, but look at these views! The spot is postcard gold and the star is Mount Rundle.

The iconic reflection at Lake Vermilion.
It’s busy, but the golden hour is the best time to visit Vermillion Lakes.

8. Icefields Parkway Scenic Drive

Along with Going-to-the-Sun Road and the Beartooth Highway, Icefields Parkway has now become one of our top ten best scenic routes we’ve ever driven.

It stretches 146 miles along Highway 93 from Banff National Park to Jasper National Park in the province of Alberta and it will blow you away!

Our favorite stops on the Banff side include Lake Louise, Peyto Lake, Crowfoot Glacier, Bow Lake, Mistaya Canyon, and Columbia Icefield (which crosses over to Jasper).

The bright blue glacier-fed Peyto Lake on the Icefields Parkway in Canada.
During the summer months, Peyto Lake is brilliant blue from the glacier rock flour retracting the light from the sun.

9. Check out the Pristine Waters of Moraine Lake

Moraine Lake is only half the size of Lake Louise but is just as or maybe even more striking.

The lake is in the Valley of the Ten Peaks which provides a backdrop of soaring jagged mountain peaks along the shoreline. The short hike along the lake provides scenic lookouts at different vantage points along the water.

Kayakers on the top of the bright blue Moraine Lake in Banff.
What do you think would be more fun walking around Moraine Lake or kayaking across it?

10. Minnewanka Loop Road

As you embark on your journey along Minnewanka Loop Road, you will be treated to panoramic vistas of Lake Minnewanka, the largest lake in Banff National Park. This glacial lake is surrounded by towering peaks and lush forests, creating a picture-perfect backdrop for your drive.

Along the 25-kilometer loop, you’ll also come across serene picnic areas, dense pine forests, and various trailheads. Keep an eye out for wildlife such as elk, deer, and even bears that call this area home. 

Looking for a day trip from Banff?
Kootenay National Park is only about an hour south. 

The scenic and historic Lake Minnewanka.
Lake Minnewanka is just ten minutes from the town of Banff.

Have you been to Banff National Park? What was your favorite thing to do?

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Do not miss these top 10 things to do in Banff National Park! #banff #nationalpark #canada

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Angela E. is a travel writer from the Chicagoland area who has visited all 50 states in the US and has traveled extensively around the world. She is passionate about exploring the great outdoors and hiking in particular. Her love for nature has taken her to some of the most beautiful locations on the planet. She has written extensively about her travels on her own website, Dang Travelers, and has been published in collaboration with other travel websites and multiple visitor bureaus around the country.

22 Responses

  1. Alfred Chin

    In both Banff & Jasper National Park, don’t forget take a dip at hot spring. It’s a great way to relax after some hiking.

    Canoe or kayak at lake Moraine is another highlight. I also take a trip to Yoho National Park in BC. It’s about 45 mins from Lake Louise. You can see one of the highest waterfall in Canada.

    • Dang Travelers

      Will do Alfred! Thanks! We did not go to Banff hot springs because it was way too busy, but we did go to Miette & Radium. Loved it!!

  2. Chris Travels

    As usual, loved your new post on the Banff area “must dos”. Your descriptive narrative makes my own memories of that magical region come flooding back. You certainly were able to take in even more incredible views that many of us miss with all the extra hiking you do!

    • Dang Travelers

      Glad we can bring back memories from your trip. We loved the area. Wish we could have had better weather but what are ya going to do. We still managed to hike and see everything we wanted to so it worked out. Thanks for following along!

  3. Amy Birge

    My husband and I have loved reading your blog. We are currently in the midst of doing a very similar trip! We are headed up to Banff and Jasper next and were curious where you camped when you were there. Also, did you end up buying the annual pass for the Canadian parks? Thanks!

    • Dang Travelers

      Hi Amy, thanks for following along! Yes, we did. I guess the annual pass is good for 2016 & 2017 bc of the anniversary. Definitely a good idea. Banff, we camped in Tunnel Mtn Trailer Court which was really nice, but no fires (electric only). The bathrooms were nice, no wi-fi but pretty close to downtown. Although we had just come from some rough campgrounds. In Jasper, I accidentally booked Wabasso Campground that had electric but no showers. We were not fans, it was off the beaten path and had close campsites with no hot water. BUT if you are in an RV probably not too shabby for the cost savings. Can’t wait to hear about your trip! We had many rainy days in Canada so hopefully you’ll have better luck!

  4. Jenn

    Oh. My. Goodness. I have wanted to go here for ages and your photos are killing me (in a good way)! What a fun trip, I’m totally going to bookmark this for my Banff adventure… maybe this summer?

  5. Danik

    Reading this post and looking at these photos brings back so many memories of my trip there back in 2015. Summer time is best and one of the highlights is seeing wild bears (dont get too close guys!) 😀

  6. Kaylene

    Banff National Park is very high on my list to visit! I’m trying to get to as many national parks as I can this year, so hopefully I can make it to this one! The Vermilion Lakes Drive looks like something I’d have to do! Your photos are gorgeous!

  7. Tom

    What a photo-intensive post! I confess that though living in the U.S., I have never heard of this place. The interior of Canada is a blank spot for many people, including some Canadians I know, and clearly there’s a lot to see. I’m guessing these parks aren’t overcrowded? Or do all the Canandians flock there?

  8. Conor

    Awesome photos, it must be one of the most photogenic places in the world 🙂 You’ll have to do a winter road trip next time. It’s soooo different up there in the depths of winter. Johnson Canyon is magical as it’s all frozen waterfalls! And you can ice skate on Lake Louise! 😀

  9. Corinne

    We’ve done this road trip, and I have to say it was amazing. The beauty of the Canadian parks is breath-taking. I like the itinerary that you came up with.

  10. Samantha

    One of my goals when I get back to Canada (currently live in Korea) is make a trip out west! Banff, especially Lake Louise, is calling my name!

  11. melody pittman

    Wow, you have some stunning pictures! I’m in love with Lake Louise. thanks for sharing the Fairmont Banff Springs info, too. That is where I want to stay. Cool pub.

  12. Colby

    These photos are AMAZING! Every time I come across posts like this it reminds me just how much I haven´t explored right in my own backyard, so to speak. There´s so much of North America I haven´t seen/done. This has me itching to get back home and explore.

  13. Lara Dunning

    On a trip on the Al-Can we took the route through the parks and stopped in Banff. What an amazing town place. I would love to go back and do some of the hikes you mentioned and find the pub! Saving!

  14. safia

    My comment is to give you a lots of thanks for this post, it helped me to find this topic and save my time.

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