Banff National Park is a summer activity paradise. Here you'll discover hundreds of kilometres of hiking trails, a plethora of lakes to explore and paddle on, some of the best summits in the Canadian Rockies, and patios with views that can’t be beaten. Here are five things you can do in Banff and Lake Louise this summer.
Go Hiking in Banff
Banff National Park is world-renowned for its incredible hiking trails that lead you to waterfalls, around lakes, and over beautiful mountain passes. Best of all, there is a hiking trail for everyone.
For an easy hike to a waterfall, try the Bow Falls River Pathway from downtown Banff to Bow Falls. This trail will take you on a well-trodden, tree-lined path alongside the Bow River to the majestic waterfall in the heart of Banff. Once you’ve finished this easy 1.2-kilometre hike, head up to the nearby Waldhaus Restaurant for a refreshing beverage and meal before wandering over to see the historic Banff Springs Hotel – our castle in the mountains.
For a more moderate adventure near Banff, try heading up Tunnel Mountain. The smallest of the mountains around Banff is a moderate 4.5 km and about 300 meters in elevation. The views make the effort worth it, as you’ll see incredible vistas out towards Mount Rundle and over the Banff townsite. Once you come back off the mountain, you’ll deserve a quick bite. Check out Maclab Bistro at the Banff Centre for incredible scenery while you refuel. For even more ideas, check out our nine bucket list hikes to inspire you for your next hiking adventure.
Looking for some history and education while on your adventure? Or want an experienced person out on the trails with you? Consider taking a guided hike from one of Banff's many professional guiding companies.
Go Paddling in Banff and Lake Louise
Few things are better than a turquoise, glacier-fed lake rippling beneath you on a hot summer day. Grab your canoe, kayak, or paddleboard and head to one of the many beautiful lakes in and around Banff and Lake Louise.
Near the Banff townsite, you have some of the best places to dip your paddle that are quick and accessible to any skill level. Johnson Lake is the warmest lake and a great place if you think you may want to go for a dip. Two Jack Lake features incredible views of Mount Rundle, and for the more adventurous, you can put a paddle into Banff’s biggest body of water, Lake Minnewanka. If you choose Minnewanka, you can even rent your watercraft of choice right at the boat launch from Minnewanka Boat Rentals.
Don’t have your own boat? Don’t worry. You can rent a stand-up paddleboard in Banff from SkiBig3 Adventure Hub, Bow Valley SUP, Black Diamond Rentals, or Radventures. You can rent kayaks, canoes, and paddleboards from the Banff Canoe Club.
Want to canoe the waters at iconic Lake Louise? Leave the car behind, hop on a Parks Canada shuttle or Roam Transit route #8X and rent a classic red canoe from the The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise Boathouse.
Looking for the best lakes to paddle on? Check out our local favourites.
Ride a Gondola in Banff National Park
Want the best bang for your effort? Check out one (or all) of Banff’s four sightseeing gondolas. Right in town, you can ride the Banff Gondola to the top of Sulphur Mountain. Once there, you can explore a ridge-line boardwalk, a mountain-top restaurant and see a historic scientific site. Save yourself the hassle of parking near the gondola (as it typically fills up fast during the day) and ride Roam Transit or take the free Banff Gondola Shuttle.
Just across town is the magnificent Banff Norquay summer sightseeing chairlift. This chairlift takes you up the side of Mt. Norquay to the Cliffhouse Bistro, where you’ll find incredible views of Cascade Mountain and the entire Banff townsite. You'll also have a high likelihood of seeing some big horn sheep while travelling up to the chairlift.
The incredible Sunshine Meadows is just 15 minutes from town, with rolling fields of wildflowers, alpine lakes, and mountain passes. Best of all? These views that are usually accessible only to advanced hikers can be enjoyed by everyone thanks to the Banff Sunshine Summer Sightseeing Gondola. Ride up over 500 meters from the base to Sunshine Village, and you are in the alpine with little effort. Once you’re up there, explore via the Standish Chairlift to the Standish Viewing Deck. After taking in the views from the Standish Viewing Deck, you can explore the hiking trails leading to beautiful Rock Isle Lake. Before you head down, stop at Mad Trappers’ patio for a bite and drink to soak up the views for a few more minutes.
Looking for a unique view of the iconic Lake Louise? You’ll want to take the Lake Louise Gondola. Once you get to the top, you have your choice of trails, all of which lead to incredible vistas. Or stay, relax on a patio and soak in the views while you enjoy world-class dining at the Whitehorn Bistro or Banded Peak Base Camp. This gondola is famous for its wildlife viewing opportunities while you ride – so keep an eye out for bears, elk, and moose on your journey.
Relax on a Patio in the town of Banff
Beautiful views, cold drinks, and sunshine. Sitting on a patio with the mountains around you has to be one of the best summer traditions in Banff and Lake Louise. The scenery from the patios in Banff don’t get much better as you can eat, drink, and enjoy views of Mount Rundle, Cascade Mountain and Sulphur Mountain all around you. Try the patios at the Rose & Crown, Elk & Oarsman, or Chuck's Steakhouse for fabulous views.
Check out our list of scenic restaurants to find out more about local favourites.
Go on a Guided Tour
Looking to take in all the sights, learn about the area from a knowledgeable guide, and not worry about driving, finding parking, and navigating? A guided sightseeing tour is just what you need. These tours will take you to iconic spots like Lake Louise and Moraine Lake, get you guaranteed access, and give you local knowledge while you’re there. Perfect for those who have never been to the park, are on a quick stop, or want to make the most out of their trip here. Check out guided adventures from Banff Adventures, Brewster Sightseeing, Discover Banff Tours, Open Top Touring, and White Mountain Adventures.