There is a lifetime of adventures and experiences to be had during summer in Banff and Lake Louise. You can jam pack your day with action and adrenaline or choose to embrace the tranquility of Banff National Park’s quieter spots. We have put together a list of our favourite things to do and see, including locals’ tips for experiences off the beaten path.
Banff and Lake Louise boasts some of the most incredible hiking in the world, ranging from scenic strolls to rugged backcountry epics. For our pick of the bucket list hikes in Banff National Park, have a look at this blog post.
One of our favourite things to do in the summer is get up early with the sun and start our hike when the air is crisp and the dew is still hanging on the grass - the beauty and quiet of the early morning is something special. It’s also a good way to savour a more peaceful experience on the most popular hikes, such as the Tea House hikes, Johnston Canyon, and Tunnel Mountain.
For a real treat, try heli-hiking. A stunningly scenic helicopter ride will drop you high in the alpine, far from other hikers or signs of civilization, for whatever type of hike you desire. Top tip: the high alpine wildflowers bloom the brightest in late July.
Guided hikes are a great option to ensure a fun and safe hiking adventure. A local guide can show you the best trails for people of all abilities, the most breathtaking viewpoints, as well as teach you all about the natural history of the area. Several organizations offer guiding services.
Two wheels are a fantastic way to explore the valleys and hills of Banff National Park. If you are a keen road cyclist, the locals’ classic test is riding the rolling Bow Valley Highway from the town of Banff to the iconic Lake Louise - we recommend leaving early and enjoying lunch and coffee in the hamlet of Lake Louise. The Icefields Parkway (Highway 93N) is another favourite for a challenging ride along one of the world’s most scenic highways.
If you prefer dirt under your wheels, Banff National Park has more than 190 kilometres (118 miles) of mountain bike trails for riders of all levels. One of our favourite rides is Tunnel Mountain, a five-minute pedal from the town of Banff. It features fun single track winding through the woods and stunning views of Mount Rundle and Cascade mountain from the top.
And if a gentle cruise is more your style, rent a cruiser bike and roll along the Banff Legacy Trail to the Vermilion Lakes to watch the sunset.
Take a look at our Biking page for more information on routes and trails.
Imagine that you are sitting in canoe in the middle of a turquoise-coloured lake. All is still and quiet except for the sounds of water gently lapping against the boat and birds singing. Sounds rather nice, doesn’t it? Taking to the rivers and lakes of Banff National Park by canoe, kayak, stand up paddleboard, or raft can offer you peaceful tranquility or an exhilarating adventure, whichever you are looking for.
Early risers should try stand up paddleboarding on a lake at sunrise. Watching the sun rise over the mountains while paddling through a perfectly still lake is a magical experience. If you’re staying in the town of Banff, Vermilion Lakes are a great choice for easy access, or try Lake Louise or Moraine Lake for the iconic views. Rentals are available.
If you’re into more thrills and adrenaline whitewater rafting is the adventure for you.
In Banff National Park you have the chance to fish in some of the most picturesque and fish-filled waters in the world. For easy-access fishing spots, we recommend trying your luck in the upper Bow River, which is world-famous for its lunker (large) trout, or at Lake Minnewanka, a very pretty lake a few minutes drive from the town of Banff. You will need a fishing permit which can be purchased from the Parks Canada offices in the Banff and Lake Louise townships.
Postcard views, wildlife, gently winding roads, scenic picnic spots: it’s worth dedicating a few hours or even a whole day to a scenic drive through Banff National Park. The Icefields Parkway (Highway 93) has been named one of National Geographic’s fifty drives of a lifetime: it’s a must do if you like the idea of driving beneath towering mountains and besides dozens of enormous glaciers.
The Bow Valley Parkway parallels the Trans-Canada Highway between the town of Banff and Lake Louise - it’s a good choice if you would like to make the trip at a slower pace and take in the views, look out for wildlife, or stop for a picnic.
Check out our guide to the best scenic drives in Banff National Park, from quick drives to full day jaunts.
If you’re a keen trail runner, summer is dream time for you in Banff and Lake Louise. Take a break from jogging around your local park and venture out onto the alpine trails for a killer workout with views to match. Tunnel Mountain is a good option if you only have time for a quick blast up and down a hill early in the morning or at the end of the day - it’s around a five-kilometre (3.1-mile) loop with 300 metres (984 feet) of vertical.
If you’re up for a proper adventure involving scrambling up to mountain summits and cooling off in alpine lakes, the options are endless. Our resident alpine runner has gathered together some of the favourites in this blog post.
If you prefer pavement running, we suggest heading out at first light and jogging alongside the Bow River and through town before others stir. If you are out and about early, it is not uncommon to catch sight of a herd of deer or elk heading up Main Street.
Where to Stay
Banff and Lake Louise has a full range of accommodation options, whatever your budget or preferences. From cozy log cabins and budget-conscious hostels to fairy-tale castles and boutique hotels, there are many choices. To explore all the accommodation options in Banff and Lake Louise, see our Places to Stay page.
Take a look at the Fairmont Banff Springs if you like luxury and the idea of staying in a fairy-tale castle (who wouldn’t). You may even catch a glimpse of the famous Bow Falls outside your hotel window. The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise might have the most spectacular setting ever, nestled beneath mountains and glaciers and overlooking the iridescent Lake Louise.
Family-friendly or Romantic Getaway
If you’re visiting with your family, there are many family-friendly condos and chalets available. For a romantic break, a cozy bed & breakfast could be a good option.
If you like the idea of going to sleep with just canvas between you and the millions of stars in the sky, explore camping in the backcountry. Banff National Park has an extensive network of backcountry campsites that’ll enable you to experience natural wonders not seen by most park visitors. If you want to enjoy camping under the stars, but a little closer to town, Parks Canada also has many frontcountry campsites available.
Visit Parks Canada’s backpacking page to learn more. Be aware that campsites book up quickly, so book early or look for dates midweek.
Banff and Lake Louise are very easy to get around by foot, bike, public transit, and shuttles. With just a bit of planning, you can use these modes of transit and avoid dealing with traffic and parking. It’s a great way to immerse yourself in your surroundings and mingle with the locals as well.
Getting around Banff National Park is easier than ever, just make sure you plan ahead! With several shuttle and Roam Transit options, find the easiest routes around Banff, Canmore, Johnston Canyon, Lake Louise, and Moraine Lake. For more information visit explorethepark.ca.
Walking is a great option in both the town of Banff and the hamlet of Lake Louise. There are always the local buses and shuttles to help you get around if your legs are tired after a big day out. Read about our tips for exploring on two feet.
Banff National Park provides some of the most scenic backdrops for your cycling adventures. Jump on two wheels to get around town, or even out of town. Whether you are wanting to stay on the road, or get off the road and do some mountain biking, there is something for everyone. For trail suggestions or rental options, out biking page has more information for you.
How to Get Here
Getting to Banff and Lake Louise is easy. There are direct flights from all the key international flight hubs to Calgary International Airport. From the airport it’s a scenic and straightforward drive or shuttle bus to Banff National Park.
There are direct flights from all the key flight hubs around the world to Calgary International Airport (YYC). Get on the plane, then after a glass of wine, a film or two, and a little nap you will find yourself flying overhead the snow covered peaks of the Canadian Rocky Mountains. It's truly stunning.
Getting From the Airport
It takes around 90 minutes to drive from the Calgary International Airport to Banff depending on traffic. If you're heading to Lake Louise add another 40-45 minutes. It’s a very scenic and straightforward trip. You could rent a car from the Calgary airport or city centre or take one of the shuttle buses or scheduled coach services. Find out more information about trip planning.
Getting From Calgary
There are two options to get from downtown and parts of the city of Calgary. Visit our Explore the Park page for more information.