Banff National Park is home to 53 species of mammals, from the small pikas that make their homes on rocky slopes, to the majestic megafauna like grizzlies that often forage near roadsides in the spring. Take your time when planning your Banff itinerary and discover the wildlife that make this place so special. Plan ahead and book your favourite hotels or other accommodation in Banff and Lake Louise to enjoy a long adventure.
Day 1: Learn about the critters that make their home in Banff
Many of the animals are elusive, keeping a low profile or living in remote parts of the park. Discover Banff Tours offers an evening wildlife safari. Hop on and take in the sights of Banff while learning about the local animals, safe ways to watch them, as well as details about how those creatures are managed and kept thriving by park staff. The type of wildlife you’re likely to see on this tour varies, but more likely than not you are bound to see something, whether a herd of majestic elk, bighorn sheep or even a bear! Broaden your stay and book a couple of nights in town to make your visit a little longer.
Day 2: Explore wildlife in and around the town of Banff
There is good reason to extend your stay in Banff. A visit to the Banff Gondola boasts one-of-a-kind vistas of the town and the surrounding peaks you won’t want to miss. Walk the boardwalk, grab a bite to eat, and don’t miss the wildlife exhibits on offer at the gondola’s interpretive centre. This is a fantastic way to start your day in Banff.
With so many scenic drives in Banff to explore, there are many ways to meander and soak in the mountain views. This is also an opportunity to watch out for wild animals. Check out these tips for roadside wildlife viewing to help keep the park a safe place for visitors and animals alike. Be a friend to the animals and give them the space they need to thrive.
Wrap your day with a visit to the Banff Park Museum, where you can learn about the park's natural history. The museum has more than 5,000 specimens, from bird eggs to taxidermied bison. Enthusiasts and budding nature lovers alike are bound to love this experience.
Day 3: Discover Banff’s flora and fauna from Lake Louise
Why not make it a long stay in Banff National Park? Book a night in Lake Louise and start your day by snagging a spot on the Lake Louise summer sightseeing gondola. At the top, you’ll find the wildlife interpretive centre, where you can enjoy life-sized displays of animals that live in the park, along with multimedia and other resources to discover more about the beloved Banff critters. Take time to enjoy the views from the top of the gondola and be sure to keep your eyes peeled, scanning for grizzlies on your ride up and back down the gondola. There is a high chance of spotting one there, so don’t forget your camera to take photos.
Day 4: Hit the trails
Looking to pack in more adventure? Hiking is a great way to explore the park and spot wildlife, from birds flitting through the trees to squirrels, marmots and more. Lake Louise is the perfect base to embark on a world-class trek. Be aware of any trail restrictions designed to keep people and wild animals safe, and read up on bear safety before hitting the trails. From easy to challenging routes with substantial elevation, there are options for everyone, no matter what your ability – from a lakeside stroll on a paved path, to a 20 km round trip. Either way, grab lunch to-go and make this a full-day experience – don’t forget your bear spray!
Loving nature means keeping it safe
The beauty of Banff includes the wondrous animals that make a life here. Caring for those animals means staying in your car for roadside wildlife viewing. A “bear jam” happens when cars pile up on the side of the road to see a bear – avoid these and give bears space. Remember to hold onto your garbage until you find one of the many wildlife-proof bins around the town of Banff and throughout the park. When a bear eats human food (often garbage to us), it often ends up being euthanized by wildlife managers in order to keep the public safe.
Binoculars offer a great way to get a very close-up look while maintaining a safe distance. Don’t forget to bring yours along, or make a stop at Monod Sports in Banff to treat yourself to a pair. It’s up to all of us to work together to ensure the creatures we love to see in the park will be here for centuries to come.
Bringing your own fluffy best friend to Banff National Park? Check out our "Summer Itineraries: 3 days of pet-friendly adventures in Banff National Park" blog, Thursday, June 24th.