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Summer in Banff and Lake Louise

Noel Hendrickson
Vermilion Lakes

Summer in Banff and Lake Louise

Summer in Banff and Lake Louise is filled with magical moments. Crisp early morning walks, leaving footprints through the dew-covered grass as the sun spreads over the mountain peaks. Sharing a drink with friends at the end of a golden day. Horseback riding through an alpine meadow on your way to a backcountry log cabin. Lying in the grass watching the clouds float by. Embrace the vibrancy and beauty of summer in Banff and Lake Louise.

Summer in Banff and Lake Louise is all about sunshine, mountain adventures, and moments full of vibrant beauty. It is a chance to take a break from your daily routine and find fun and rejuvenation. Try something you never have before, like rock climbing or horseback riding. Be wowed by the spectacular beauty of Banff National Park’s mountains, lakes, and valleys on a scenic drive or helicopter flight. Unwind beside a campfire under the starry sky. It is time to connect with nature and truly relax.

Summer Activities

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.

Hiking

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. Check out: Great Divide Nature InterpretationCanadian Rockies Alpine Hiking, Discover Banff Tours, Nature in Focus Hiking, White Mountain Adventures, Yamnuska Mountain Adventures and Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise.


Anthony Redpath
Biking

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.

Water Activities

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.

You could also try canoeing and kayaking the rivers and lakes. Check out our blog for eight jaw dropping paddles to explore in Banff National Park.

Fishing

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.

@thebugparade
For a fast track to the inside tips and tricks, you could hire a fishing guide who will take you to the secret spots. Or, for a really memorable fishing trip, take a helicopter ride up to the remote, high alpine lakes. Check out Alpine Helicopters Inc, CMH - Summer Adventures and Rockies Heli Tours Canada.
Scenic Drives

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.

Running

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.

Fairy-tale Castles

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.

Camping Out

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. Visit Parks Canada’s backpacking page to learn more. Be aware that campsites book up quickly, so book early or look for dates midweek.

 

Where to Eat

All the sunshine and outdoor fun is hunger-making! Whether you want a cold beer brewed with glacial water at the locals’ hangout spot, a sandwich for your alpine picnic, or cocktails and dancing, you will be able to find what you are looking for in Banff and Lake Louise.

There are so many choices for food and drinks in the town of Banff and hamlet of Lake Louise, from distilled spirits and microbrews, to delicious juices for breakfast, pizza or picnics for lunch, and Western style steak or vegan meals for dinner. Assess all your options on our Dining and Nightlife page.

Outdoor Patios

Banff prides itself on its patio scene. During the long days of summer, savour the lingering light and the opportunity to have a long lunch with friends or enjoy a beer after your hike. Many of the restaurants and cafés in town have patios - our favourites include Juniper Bistro, Park Distillery on Banff Avenue, and Baker Creek Bistro in Lake Louise.

@mackay_tyler

Or, if you’re after fresh alpine air, you could venture to the local ski resorts which show off their stunning summer scenery with outdoor patios. Mt Norquay, the closest ski resort to the town of Banff, features the Cliffhouse Bistro - it’s the perfect spot for something to eat and drink after a gondola ride or Via Ferrata adventure.

Banff Farmers Market

The Banff Farmers Market is legendary in the area for amazing local produce, delicious home-baked goods, and arts and crafts. You’ll find it on Bear Street every Wednesday during the summer between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.. Also check our guide for other healthy food choices in Banff.

Outdoor Events

Summer in Banff and Lake Louise is jam-packed with events of all types, including outdoor music concerts, sporting events, and special Canada Day celebrations.

Music

The outdoor Shaw Amphitheatre at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity hosts live concerts in the summer, and many restaurants showcase live music performed by local musicians. See what’s happening when you are in town in our Events Calendar. In particular, we recommend checking out Performance in the Park (a two-day outdoor music festival) and the summer program of the world renowned Banff Centre.

Canada Day

Canada Day in Banff and Lake Louise is full of parades, pancakes, performances, and fireworks amongst the mountains and lakes that have defined images of Canada all around the world.

Sporting

In June, Banff National Park hosts one of the most scenic running races in the world, the Banff Marathon. With 10-kilometre, half-marathon, and full-marathon distances, there’s a race for all levels of runner. And if running yourself is not an attractive option, there is no doubt that the racers will appreciate your cheers and support. See the event website for more information.

Relax and Unwind

Taking a vacation is the perfect chance to allow yourself to really relax and nourish your body and soul. That is especially true in a place like Banff and Lake Louise, where just being surrounded by such majestic natural beauty is uplifting and inspiring in itself. It is a place to connect with nature, escape your everyday routine, and enjoy the simple pleasures and special treats.

There are many ways to find stillness and relaxation in Banff and Lake Louise. Here are some of our favourites:

Spas and Wellness Providers

Reward yourself with a massage after your hike or indulge in a beauty treatment at one of the many spas in Banff. It is sure to leave you feeling rejuvenated and relaxed.

Banff’s spas include: The Moose Hotel's Meadow Spa + Pools which offers hot pools and mountain top views after a treatment, the spa at Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, the Willow Stream Spa at Fairmont Banff Springs, The Grotto Spa in the Delta Banff Royal Canadian Lodge, Red Earth Spa at Banff Caribou Lodge, Rimrock Spa & Fitness in the Rimrock Resort Hotel, Cedar & Sage Co. in the Bear Street Mall, and Mountain Spa located in the Harmony Lane Mall.

Hot Springs

Follow the footsteps of First Nations and early European explorers by “taking the waters” in Banff National Park’s natural hot springs. The Banff Upper Hot Springs is a wonderful place to sit outside and savour the relaxation of the mineral-rich hot springs. Locals’ tip: visit early in the morning or late in the evening when the air is fresh and crisp for the most relaxing experience.

In the Great Outdoors

Summer is a bustling time in Banff National Park, full of the excitement and energy of people enjoying their vacations. But beyond the lively town centre and popular hikes, with just a dose of adventurous spirit you can find moments of peace in the outdoors. 

Camp out, watch the sunset at Vermilion Lakes and then count the stars as they start to sparkle in the night sky, absorb the stillness of the forest, start your hike at sunrise: there are many beautiful ways to find tranquility in Banff National Park. We have gathered together five of our personal favourite in this blog post.

Meghan Ward
 

How to Get Around Banff and Lake Louise

Banff and Lake Louise are very easy to get around by foot, bike, public transit and shuttles. By walking or riding, you can avoid dealing with traffic and parking. It’s a great way to really immerse yourself in your surroundings and mingle with the locals as well. There are also local buses and shuttles to help you get around if your legs are tired after a big day out.

Walking

Walking is a great option in both the town of Banff and hamlet of Lake Louise. Read about our tips for exploring on two feet.

Public Transit

In the town of Banff, Roam Transit operates hybrid busses with regular services throughout the town and the Bow Valley. It’s a convenient and inexpensive way to get around. For information about schedules and fares, have a look at the Roam Transit website.

Parking

Parking in Town of Banff

The town of Banff has on-street parking and four off-street parking locations. Parking is free, but subject to posted time restrictions and is in high demand during the summer months. 

Find a Banff parking map (including RVs), current capacity at Banff parking lots, and traffic cameras with estimated travel times on the Town of Banff’s parking page
 
Parking in Lake Louise
See Parks Canada’s map of parking lots in the Lake Louise area.
 
For RVs, roadside parking in Lake Louise is limited. Find RV parking in two locations: Behind the Husky gas station in the Village of Lake Louise, and the Lake Louise Overflow parking lot (located on the Trans-Canada (Highway 1), 5.5 kilometres (3.4 miles) east of the exit to Lake Louise).

Parking in Banff National Park
Visit Parks Canada’s Banff Now page to check the current parking capacity of many destinations within Banff National Park: http://pc.gc.ca/Banffnow

Free Shuttle to Lake Louise

During the summer, the roads and parking lots around Lake Louise get busy. We recommend taking advantage of the free Parks Canada shuttle bus that will pick you up from the Lake Louise Overflow parking lot (5.5 kilometres (3.4 miles) east of Lake Louise on the Trans-Canada (Highway 1)) and drop you at the Lake Louise lakeshore. Have a look at the shuttle schedule on the Parks Canada website.

For an all-in-one trip planning tool including all of the services to get around the Park click here.  

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. 

Direct Flights

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. 

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