The thrill of the mountains is shared by all who cross paths in Banff National Park. Those willing to stay a little longer and push the bounds of exploration a little further will find a wealth of exhilarating activities. Adventure is abundant here, for the experienced thrill-seeker and the curious explorer alike.
DAY 1: Begin below ground
To truly understand the forces of nature that have sent the peaks of the Canadian Rockies high into the sky, take a tour deep inside them. Canmore Cave Tours guides guests into an underground world that’s remained untouched by civilization for thousands of years.
The heart-pumping action begins with a 30-minute hike up to a sudden, secret opening in the mountainside. Venturing into the cave, feel the pulse of the earth as you explore ancient mountain formations and come across prehistoric bones buried deep below Grotto Mountain.
The adventure builds consistently as you explore cavern upon cavern of this underground network. Adrenaline junkies will delight in optional narrow passageways and a six-story rappel through the darkness. The thrill of hearing your caving guide introduce “the Box” and “the Laundry Chute” increases as you squeeze your way through these extraordinary corridors in the rock.
After you emerge on the other side of the mountain into the bright sunshine, head further west into Banff for dinner with a view and let your newfound knowledge sink in.
DAY 2: FOLLOW THE WATER
Grab a freshly brewed coffee in town and swing by the Parks Canada Visitor Centre for a morning hike recommendation. The Marsh Loop, Sundance Canyon and Tunnel Mountain trails all begin within the Banff townsite and skirt the edge of the wilderness. Each route provides the invigorating thrill of stretching your legs in the fresh mountain air, and also introduces you to the creeks and rivers that wind through the Canadian Rockies.
In the afternoon, get up close and personal with these powerful waterways on a whitewater rafting tour. Within a short distance east or west of the park, you can see the mountains in a whole new way from the water’s lively surface.
Suit up in the provided safety gear and take to the waters on board a specialized raft, designed to surf every wave and curve of a rushing river. A rush of adrenaline accompanies every splashing wave as you careen down nature’s mighty channels through the mountains.
Cap off your day with a locally-inspired cocktail, made with the very same glacial water that flows down the rivers.
DAY 3: COVER MORE GROUND
After housemade quiche or granola at a local bakery, go further and higher at the wheel of your own adventure. Toby Creek Adventures and Banff Adventures offer the opportunity to explore old mountain roads and alpine meadows on All-Terrain Vehicle tours.
Leaving the wooded valleys of the Canadian Rockies, your heart rate will be climbing as quickly as the elevation as you cruise upwards on routes rarely taken. These are the pathways of miners and foresters and you can still feel their grit and determination on the trails.
Follow your local guide across bubbling creeks, spot wildlife in lush forests and emerge among wildflowers high up in the alpine. Keep your eyes peeled for remnants of the human history of the Canadian Rockies, still on display for those who know where to look.
Day 4: To the mountaintops
To feel the thrill of exploring the mountains on your own strength, engage an ACMG-certified mountain guide from Yamnuska Mountain Adventures. They will unlock the secrets of the Canadian Rockies and lead you further than you thought your mountain legs could take you.
Opt for a guided hike or strap into a harness and rope for the excitement of rock climbing. Discover firsthand how a seemingly sheer rock face is actually full of grooves and edges that form a delicate route skyward. Listen to tales of mountain adventure from your guide as you climb upwards and write your own.
For an experience unlike any other among mountain peaks, follow the “iron road” on Mt. Norquay's Via Ferrata. Iron ladder rungs, thick cables and suspension bridges have been integrated into the rocky faces of this impressive mountain in a winding route along ridges and summits.
Your experienced guide will secure you safely and lead the way, but it’s up to you to climb upwards and step onto a three-line suspension bridge across a chasm in the mountain. As you scramble across narrow traverses and up steep faces, the explorer inside you will come to life.
From high up amongst the peaks of Banff National Park, revel in true adventure and the new perspective it’s given you on the mountainscape of the Canadian Rockies.
Day 5: Roped in for One Final Adventure
At this point in your trip, you've had the chance to rappel into caves, immerse yourselves in glacial waters, explored in all-terrain vehicles, and reached new heights through climbing. What if we told you that you could combine all of these experiences for one final peak adventure? Bow Valley Canyon Tours offers trips in a handful of handpicked canyon locations in and around the Bow Valley.
These all-day adventures offer mixtures of slides, rappels, and phenomenal pool jumps. Whether you are an adventurous veteran canyoneer or a thrill-seeking beginner, you can choose your own adventure from a wide range of opportunities.
For a truly unique experience, we recommend the Ghost Canyon Tour. The stunning and remote Ghost Wilderness area just north of Banff National Park is a signature location that requires 4x4 vehicle access (they provide the shuttle). An adventure-seeking itinerary would not be complete without this once-in-a-lifetime experience.
If you're in need of a relaxing escape, read our "Summer Itineraries: 3 days of Relaxation and Bliss in Banff and Lake Louise".