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Summer Itineraries: A 3 Day Family Adventure in Banff National Park

Published Date
Jun 8, 2021
Family adventures in Banff National Park

This summer, adventure awaits those looking to settle in and explore a little longer. Where seekers find a spacious national park brimming with activities to entertain all ages. This three-day itinerary is perfect for families with kids and teenagers and will leave you daydreaming of your next trip to the Canadian Rockies. It can be completed over a weekend or a quieter midweek visit. Although it takes a leisurely pace, this itinerary can be easily adapted to take your adventures to the next level for those seeking an extra thrill.

Disconnect from the day-to-day and reconnect with nature and your loved ones on this family-favourite escape.

Banff Canoe Club - Family paddling Vermilion Lakes and Bow RiverBanff Canoe Club - Family paddling Vermilion Lakes and Bow RiverBanff Canoe Club - Family paddling Vermilion Lakes and Bow River

Day 1: Settle in to Your Surroundings

After checking into your hotel or campsite, spend the afternoon taking time to soak in the scenery with the kids. If you’re coming through the gates, make sure you collect a Parks Xplorer booklet, it’ll guide the kids' discovery of the park through engaging activities. Plus, they can earn an official collectable souvenir at the end of the trip.

Johnson Lake is a short drive from the town of Banff and offers a family-friendly beach right next to the parking lot. Be sure to pack your swimsuits - the water is warm enough for swimming on hot summer days! Bring along some snacks and inflatable toys (like local stand up paddleboard rentals or simple pool noodles) and soak in the summer sun.

For the more adventurous families or those with older children, consider renting a canoe from Banff Canoe Club and paddling up to Vermilion Lakes. You’ll get the best seat in the house for stunning views of Mount Rundle.

Cap off the day with a stroll down Banff Ave and along the Bow River. Don’t forget to fuel up with a treat to beat the heat from BeaverTails or Cow’s Ice Creamery.

Insider Tip: For families with younger children, let them blow off some steam at the local playgrounds. Central Park offers a conveniently located playground right downtown with fun nature-inspired features.

Banff Gondola Banff National Park Jake DysonBanff Gondola Banff National Park Jake DysonBanff Gondola Banff National Park Jake Dyson

Day 2: Enjoy the Great Outdoors

Today, the real adventure begins! From exploring mountain tops to discovering breathtaking landscapes, the wilderness is at your fingertips with these adventures, easily enjoyed by families with kids.

Treat the family to jaw-dropping views of the surrounding mountain ranges and Banff townsite. The Banff Gondola is a great option for those with younger kiddos to get straight to Sulphur Mountain’s summit in no time. Enjoy the engaging discovery centre at the top. If you travel before 12 p.m., one child (6 – 15 years) travels free per paying adult.

Looking for a challenge? Tunnel Mountain* and the Hoodoo Trail are great hiking trails for kids, with wide maintained paths. Consider hiking earlier in the morning for a less bustling trail on these popular hikes. Tunnel Mountain, also known by local First Nations as Sleeping Buffalo Mountain, offers several stunning viewpoints, while the less strenuous Hoodoo Trail starts at Surprise Corner and brings you down along the Bow River, ending at interesting geological formations. If you’re after an easier stroll, wander the Fenland Trail of Bow River Trail close to town.

*Please note the Tunnel Mountain Trailhead parking lot will be closed throughout Summer 2022. You can find more information on the town of Banff website.

Insider Tip: Happen to be here on a rainy day? You can find great indoor activities in the town of Banff, like water slides at the Douglas Fir Resort & Chalets, bowling at Fairmont Banff Springs and High Rollers, or several museums suitable for kids of all ages.

Cave and BasinCave and BasinCave and Basin

Day 3: Learn About the Local Area

Wind down your last day in Banff National Park with a more relaxed but equally intriguing activity. Learn about local wildlife by taking a drive down the Bow Valley Parkway*. The reduced speed limit on this quieter road running adjacent to the Trans-Canada Highway offers more opportunities for wildlife sightings. If you do spot wildlife, help protect them by staying in your vehicle.

Another great activity for older kids and teenagers is a visit to the Cave and Basin National Historic Site. Daily activities, guided tours, and seasonal special exhibits make learning fun at the birthplace of Canada’s first national park. For a unique perspective, consider taking a nighttime lantern tour.

*If you are visiting between May 1 - June 25, it is important to note that the eastern 17 km of the Bow Valley Parkway (Banff townsite to Johnston Canyon) will be closed to vehicle access but remain open for cyclists.

Need family-friendly accommodation options? Here’s our accommodation guide.

  • Parks Canada Camping
  • OTENTik Camping
  • Douglas Fir Resort & Chalets: Condo-style accommodation with fully equipped kitchens. For the kids, there is a waterpark and indoor play area to burn some energy.
  • Moose Hotel & Suites: Close to town, this warm elegant hotel offers suites (1- and 2-bedroom suites) with kitchen nooks. Let the kids enjoy the warm waters of either the indoor pool or rooftop pools.
  • Fox Hotel & Suites: The perfect option with 1- and 2-bedroom suites that provide kitchen nooks (mini-fridge, microwave, sink, and toaster). Relax a little and embrace stress-free mornings with a complimentary boxed breakfast.
  • Hidden Ridge Resort: A condo-style property that can sleep up to 10 people and provides full kitchens. For those with young kids, enjoy the play area and hot pool.
  • Banff Rocky Mountain Resort: Set across 8 acres of land (lots of space for the kids to play), this resort offers multiple types of self-catering accommodation including one-, two- and four-bedroom suites.
  • Tunnel Mountain Resort: Tunnel Mountain Resort offers self-catering accommodation with condos, cabins, and suites that include at least a kitchenette.
  • Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel: With the special programs such as Kids @ the Castle, childcare, and more fun and recreational activities to bring the family closer together, this is the perfect option for families in Banff.
oTENTik, Banff National Park oTENTik, Banff National Park oTENTik, Banff National Park

After more of a romantic getaway? Time to spend together reconnecting and relaxing? Check out our Four Days of Love and Romance in Banff National Park.

Tera Swanson

Tera Swanson

Tera is a freelance writer and graduate from Mount Royal University’s Journalism undergraduate program. Whether laced into hiking boots or clipped into skis, her favourite way to explore the mountains is on her own two feet. She’s always up for anything that will end in the telling of a good story; be it through photography, from pen to paper, or over a locally brewed amber ale.