Best things to do in Banff

things to do in banff

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In the late 1800’s, a group of railway workers discovered a cave that contained a natural hot spring. Their discovery quickly led to controversy over who held the rights to exploit the resources in the area. Two years later the government solved that problem with the creation of Canada’s first national park.

Fast forward to this century and Banff National Park is now one of the leading tourism destinations in the world. It’s also holds the distinction of being a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Banff offers year-round activates for people of all ages. The park is open for everything from boating and backpacking to scuba diving and skiing. If you’re looking for one of the best places in the world to enjoy the great outdoors, look no further.

Banff is best known for winter fun. It’s a leading destination for skiers, climbers and all other sorts of winter enthusiasts. Here are just a few of the spectacular winter activities that can be found in Banff National Park:


skiing in banff

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When most people think of Banff they think skiing. There’s a good reason for that. Banff National Park is home to three resorts with 8,000 acres of skiing terrain. These world-class resorts should be at the top of any avid skier’s must-ski list. The location of Banff, on the eastern side of the Rocky Mountains, means that these resorts benefit from the dry, light powder that is perfect for downhill skiing. The best part, one lift-ticket gets you access to all three resorts.

If cross-country skiing is your thing, Banff National Park has got you covered. Lake Louise is home to ten trails with over 50km of groomed surface. The surrounding areas offer another 100 plus kilometers of ungroomed trails from easy to difficult.

More information on all three resorts, Mt. Norquay  , The Lake Louise Ski Area   and Sunset Village , can be found on their websites. Information is also available at



Some people climb mountains. Others climb waterfalls. Banff is home to some of the most spectacular waterfall ice climbing routes in the world. Climbers from around the globe are drawn to these magnificent frozen waterfalls to test their skills. The ice climbing season stretches from November to April and the park offers easy access to these challenging routes.

Banff Adventures  offers full and half-day ice climbing packages with an experienced, private tour guide.


Ice Skating

You can ice skate in a lot of places, but not many places have an ice skating season. In Banff National Park, there’s a short period of time when the temperature drops before the snow arrives. The locals call it “Skating Season”. It doesn’t happen regularly, but when it does, the lakes and ponds freeze over, creating endless stretches of clear ice with no snow. You can skate for miles, completely isolated in the shadows of the Rocky Mountains. It’s a sensation that must be experienced to be appreciated.

Several free skating areas are offered by Banff Lake Louise.


Enjoy Banff National Park Year-Round

While winter is the season that put Banff on the map, it’s far from being the only time of year to enjoy the natural beauty of the park. Summer activities are plentiful and offer activities for all ages and interests.



If you’re a camper, then Banff National Park is the perfect place for you. Home to thirteen campgrounds, the park has almost 2,500 sites.  While most of the sites are for tents, there are campgrounds that provide full hookups for trailers and RVs. Reservations are recommended, as the sites fill up quickly during the peak season, which runs from June through to September.

The climate in the summer is pleasant, with daily temperatures approaching 20 degrees Celsius. Temperatures can drop to below freezing at night and because the park is nestled in the Rocky Mountains, snow can happen at any time. Be prepared if your camping with a tent.



When the park was first created, the lakes and rivers were mostly void of fish. Thanks to an unfortunate incident involving a broken down truck from a fish hatchery, those same waters are now home to a healthy population of brown trout. The lakes are now stocked regularly and provide fun-filled adventure for all anglers.

A National Park Fishing Permit is required to fish in the park. It’s available from the information centers and a few local retailers. While most permits are only valid in the park where they were purchased, permits from Banff National Park are valid in Jasper, Kootenay and Yoho parks as well.

Banff National Park does have a no-catch policy on Bull Trout, due to its dwindling numbers. Anglers would be well advised to know how to identify this species, as all specimens must be released immediately.

Fishing is an activity that seldom requires a guide, but if you want to enlist the services of a local to help you get the most from your trip, can help you out.



Canoeing banff

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Banff National Park’s Bow River provides miles of water ideal for experienced canoeists. The river has been divided into three sections.

The first segment is 22 kilometers in length and is suitable for canoeist with an intermediate skill set. The route is straightforward with only islands and a few side channels to be aware of. Riffles and class 1 rapids will provide extra excitement.

Section 2 is 32 kilometers in length and is home to many side channels worth exploring. It carries an intermediate rating with mostly riffles and class 1 rapids, but there is a single section that contains class 3 rapids. There are tight corners and logjams are a common occurrence.

The last section spans 23 kilometers and offers a sneak peek at the tops of the famous Hoodoos in the distance. The river becomes narrow with tight corners as you exit the park. The route ends near the park gates.

The folks at Blue Canoe  can get you set up with everything you need for a fun filled day on the water.


There’s Much More to Do

That’s just six of the excellent activities that are available in Banff National Park. The official website lists 18 more in case nothing here catches your eye. Horseback riding, boating, bicycling, swimming and photography are just a few of the other attractions that are listed.

With a large park this diverse, in such an amazing location, it’s difficult to believe that anyone would be at a loss for something to do. If you haven’t had a chance to experience the awesome beauty of Banff National Park, you’re missing out on one of the most amazing places on the planet.


Here is a nice video on how to get Banff’d

 LicenseAttribution Some rights reserved by Satoru Kikuchi

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