Your Ultimate Guide to Banff National Park: Tips, Hikes, and Hidden Gems

Short Guide to Banff

Banff National Park is a beautiful and popular destination located in the province of Alberta, Canada. It covers 2,564 square miles (6,641 square kilometers) and is home to some of the most stunning natural scenery in the world. Below is a short but comprehensive guide to help you plan your visit to Banff National Park.
  • Getting There: The closest airport to Banff National Park is the Calgary International Airport. From the airport, you can take a private transfer, rent a car or take a shuttle to Banff, which is about a 90-minute drive. There are also buses that run from Calgary to Banff.
  • When to Go: The best time to visit Banff National Park is from May to October when the weather is warmest and the hiking trails are open. However, it is also the busiest time of year, so be prepared for crowds. If you prefer a quieter experience, consider visiting in the shoulder seasons of spring or fall.
  • Where to Stay: There are many accommodation options in Banff National Park, from campsites to luxury hotels. Some of the most popular options include the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, the Rimrock Resort Hotel, and the Tunnel Mountain Resort. There are also several campgrounds in the park, including Tunnel Mountain Campground and Two Jack Main Campground. Do not forget to book them in advance!
  • Things to Do: There are countless activities to enjoy in Banff National Park, including hiking, wildlife viewing, skiing, snowboarding, and ice skating. Some of the most popular attractions include Lake Louise, Moraine Lake, and the Banff Gondola. You can also take a dip in the Banff Upper Hot Springs or visit the Banff Park Museum.Try the Private Tour!
  • Hiking: Banff National Park has over 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers) of hiking trails, ranging from easy walks to challenging multi-day treks. Some popular hikes include Johnston Canyon, Plain of Six Glaciers, and Larch Valley. Make sure to bring plenty of water, food, and warm layers, even in the summer months.
  • Wildlife: Banff National Park is home to a variety of wildlife, including grizzly bears, black bears, elk, moose, and wolves. Make sure to keep a safe distance from any wildlife you encounter and never feed or approach them. CARRY BEAR SPRAY!
  • Safety (BEARS!): Banff National Park is a beautiful and remote wilderness area, so it's important to take safety precautions. Always carry bear spray and know how to use it. Make sure to stay on designated trails and follow any posted signs or warnings. And always check the weather forecast before heading out, as conditions can change quickly in the mountains.
  • Respect the Environment: Banff National Park is a pristine wilderness area, so it's important to respect the environment. Make sure to pack out all your trash, and never leave food or garbage behind. And be mindful of your impact on the natural surroundings by sticking to designated trails and avoiding disturbing wildlife.
  • Permits and Fees: Visitors to Banff National Park are required to purchase a park pass. You can buy a daily or annual pass online or at various locations throughout the park. Certain activities, such as camping and backcountry hiking, require additional permits and fees.

Banff Private Tours

  • Private tailor-made tour for 8+ hours
  • No strict itinerary or tight schedule
  • Kia Sedona 2019 minivan with 5+2 passenger seats
  • Group price starts from 300 only!

Must-See in Banff

Welcome to Banff National Park, where breathtaking landscapes and stunning natural wonders abound. But let's face it, with so many incredible attractions, it can be overwhelming to decide where to go and what to do. That's why we've put together this guide to help you navigate the park like a pro. First up, the must-see attractions.
  • Banff town, often referred to as the "heart of the Rockies," is a picturesque mountain town that should be on every traveler's itinerary. From its charming architecture to its stunning mountain views, there is something for everyone in Banff. Whether you're looking for a leisurely stroll or an action-packed adventure, this town has it all.
  • Johnston Canyon is another popular destination, with its cascading waterfalls and narrow gorges. Don't miss the Lower Falls, a 30-meter waterfall that drops into a turquoise pool, creating a picture-perfect view. But be warned, the pathway can get crowded, so try to go early in the morning or later in the evening to avoid the crowds. For the more adventurous, the Upper Falls trail takes you through a narrow gorge and offers a bird's eye view of the canyon below.
  • Minnewanka Lake is the largest lake in Banff National Park and is a great place to visit for a day trip or picnic. Located just a short drive from Banff town, the lake offers stunning views of the surrounding mountains and crystal-clear water perfect for fishing, kayaking, or paddleboarding. There are also several hiking trails around the lake, including the popular Stewart Canyon Trail which leads to a picturesque waterfall.
  • Sulphur Mountain, on the other hand, offers a completely different experience. This towering mountain is home to the Banff Gondola which takes visitors to the summit where they can enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. The gondola ride itself is an exciting experience, but the views from the top are truly breathtaking. There is also a network of hiking trails on the mountain, including the popular Sulphur Mountain Trail which starts at the base and takes hikers to the summit.

Embracing the Chaos of Crowds or Finding Your Zen Amongst the Tourists?

Banff National Park is one of Canada's most popular tourist destinations, attracting millions of visitors every year. And while the park's natural beauty is undoubtedly the main draw, it also means that some of the most popular attractions can get quite crowded, especially during peak season.
The most popular attractions in Banff National Park, such as Lake Louise, Moraine Lake, and Johnston Canyon, are a must-see for many visitors. But with the popularity of these places comes a significant downside: crowds. During peak season, which runs from June to September, the crowds can be overwhelming. It's like a game of human Tetris, where finding a parking spot is the ultimate prize. And let's not forget about the endless queues, the accidental photo bombs, and the occasional struggle to keep your balance on a rocky trail while being jostled by fellow hikers!
The same goes for popular hiking trails like Sulphur Mountain. The narrow pathways can quickly become congested with hikers, making it challenging to keep a steady pace or enjoy the scenery. Moreover, the line to board the Banff Gondola to the top of Sulphur Mountain can take hours during peak season. Even in Banff town, the streets are crowded with tourists, and it can be tough to find a table at a restaurant or a spot on the patio.
But fear not! There are ways to avoid the crowds and still enjoy the beauty of Banff National Park. For example, consider visiting during the shoulder season, which runs from April to June and September to October. The weather is still lovely, but the crowds are much smaller. You can also visit popular attractions early in the morning or later in the afternoon when the crowds have thinned out. Alternatively, consider exploring some of the park's lesser-known hidden gems. These places may not be as well-known, but they offer an incredible experience without the crowds.
And let's not forget about the humor! If you do find yourself stuck in a crowd, try to make the most of it. Strike up a conversation with your fellow tourists, take a silly photo, or practice your patience skills. Remember, everyone is there to enjoy the beauty of Banff National Park, and a positive attitude can go a long way. Overall, while crowds can be frustrating, they should not deter you from visiting Banff National Park. With a little planning and patience, you can still enjoy all the park has to offer without feeling overwhelmed by the crowds. So, grab your camera, pack a picnic, and get ready to experience the natural beauty of Banff National Park – crowds and all!
Johnston Canyon: expectation vs reality

Must-See: from Banff Town to Lake Louise

Must-See Attractions

<span style="font-weight: bold;">Cave and Basin<br></span>
Cave and Basin
30 min
<span style="font-weight: bold;">Lake Minnewanka</span>
Lake Minnewanka
1-2 hours
<span style="font-weight: bold;">Johnston Canyon</span><br>
Johnston Canyon
2-4 hours
<span style="font-weight: bold;">Lake Louise</span><br>
Lake Louise
2-... hours
<span style="font-weight: bold;">Banff Town </span><br>
Banff Town
2 hours
<span style="font-weight: bold;">Sunshine Meadows</span>
Sunshine Meadows
2-5 hours
<span style="font-weight: bold;">Banff Gondola</span><br>
Banff Gondola
1-5 hours
<span style="font-weight: bold;">Bow Falls</span><br>
Bow Falls
1 hour

How to Avoid Crowds in Banff: Driving!

Let's face it, sometimes the only way to truly escape the crowds in Banff National Park is to get in your car and hit the open road. It's like your own personal escape pod, only instead of escaping from Darth Vader, you're escaping from the selfie sticks and chatty tourists. Fortunately, there are plenty of amazing destinations within driving distance of Banff that are well worth the trip! Just make sure you bring plenty of snacks, a good playlist, and maybe a few dad jokes to keep everyone entertained along the way.
  • Icefield Road is a scenic highway that takes you past glaciers, waterfalls, and some seriously breathtaking views. Just try not to get too distracted by the scenery and accidentally drive off the road.
  • If you're looking to really unwind, head to the Radium Hot Springs, where you can soak in warm, mineral-rich water and forget all about the crowds back in Banff. And don't worry, there are no lines for the hot springs – just you, your swimsuit, and the occasional floating leaf.
Driving Icefield Road

  • If you're feeling more adventurous, go even further, straight to Yoho National Park and check out the Takakkaw Falls. At 250 meters tall, they're the second-highest falls in Canada, and definitely worth the drive. Plus, you'll get to see some amazing wildlife along the way – just make sure you don't accidentally hit a chipmunk or something.

How to Avoid Crowds in Banff: Hiking!

Another best way is to take a hike. Yes, you read that right. A hike. Don't worry, it's not as bad as it sounds.
While some of the most popular trails can get quite busy, there are plenty of hidden gems where you can find solitude. And if you're traveling with children, don't be afraid to take them on a hike too. It's a great opportunity to bond with your little ones and teach them the importance of nature. Plus, listening to them whine and complain the whole way up is just an added bonus.
Once you've made it to the top, you'll be rewarded with stunning views that will take your breath away. And trust me, it's worth it. Just make sure you take plenty of photos to show off to your friends and family back home. After all, if you don't post it on social media, did it even happen?
So, grab your backpack and get ready to hit the trails. Just don't forget the bear spray, unless you want to end up as a bear's lunch. And if you happen to come across any other hikers, make sure to give them a friendly wave and a smile, because who doesn't love a little human interaction while trying to escape civilization?
<span style="font-weight: bold;">Yoho National Park<br></span>
Yoho National Park
<span style="font-weight: bold;">Glaciers of the Icefield Road</span><br>
Glaciers of the Icefield Road
<span style="font-weight: bold;">Hard and Moderate Hikes<br></span>
Hard and Moderate Hikes
<span style="font-weight: bold;">Hot Spring of Columbia River</span><br>
Hot Spring of Columbia River

How to reach hidden gems?

So, when it comes to exploring the Rockies, there are three main options to get off the beaten path and truly experience the natural beauty of the area.
The first option, and my personal favorite, is hiking. Sure, Lake Louise is beautiful, but have you seen the views from Devil's Thumb? We spent a couple of hours hiking and had a blast. Not to mention, the dopamine rush from reaching the summit and taking in the stunning views is unparalleled. Plus, even an easy hike can lead you to a spot where you'll see more deer than people!
If hiking isn't your thing, the second option is to rent a car and hit the open road. It's an amazing way to see the Rockies, but there are a couple of things to keep in mind. First, be prepared to spend hours searching for parking at popular sights. I mean, you practically need to win the lottery to find a spot at Lake Louise, and forget about even driving to Lake Moraine. Second, car reservations in North America can be a bit hit or miss.
The third and final option is to take a private tour. Yes, it's not cheap, but it's a great way to have a guided trip for a day or two, complete with personalized tips on how to make the most of your time in Alberta. Plus, the group price for several people can be comparable to a shared hop-on, hop-off bus tour. I mean, if I were you, I'd take a private tour for the first day just to have an awesome first trip in this incredible area!

Be Fit in Banff: Only For Hikoholics

<span style="font-weight: bold;">Tunnel Mount in Banff</span><br>
Tunnel Mount in Banff
Easy Hike for 2 hours
<span style="font-weight: bold;">Devil's Thumb</span><br>
Devil's Thumb
Moderate Hike from Lake Louise for 4 hours
<span style="font-weight: bold;">Johnston Canyon to Ink Pots</span><br>
Johnston Canyon to Ink Pots
Moderate Hike for 4 hours
<span style="font-weight: bold;">Castle Mountain</span><br>
Castle Mountain
HARD Hike for 10 hours: 1500 m elevetaion gain

Pros and Cons of Hop-On Hop-Off Buses in the Rockies

Let's face it, the hop-on hop-off buses are a mixed bag of nuts. On one hand, they take the hassle out of getting around and are perfect for planning your itinerary in advance. Plus, you won't have to worry about navigating the narrow mountain roads or fighting for a parking spot. And let's not forget the biggest perk: it's the only way to reach Moraine Lake without waking up at the crack of dawn or attempting a Tour de France level bike ride.
But on the other hand, you'll be at the mercy of the bus schedule and won't have the flexibility to explore on your own terms. And if you're a family with young kids, forget about it! You'll have to stick to a strict schedule or risk missing your ride and being stranded in the wilderness. And let's not forget about the price - it's not exactly a bargain at 60-70 CAD per person. You might as well hire a private tour guide and have your own personal chauffeur for the day. So, weigh your options carefully before hopping on that bus!

Banff Private Tours

  • Private tailor-made tour for 8+ hours
  • No strict itinerary or tight schedule
  • Kia Sedona 2019 minivan with 5+2 passenger seats
  • Group price starts from 300 only!


It may save your life!

Why Our Prices are so Low?

At our tour company, we are frequently asked why our prices are so much lower compared to other tour operators. While we cannot claim to have the absolute lowest prices in the market, we can definitely say that we keep our prices very affordable.
One of the main reasons why we can offer such low prices is that we are a family business with over 7 years of experience in the industry. We have learned to operate our tours without renting an office or hiring a large number of people, which allows us to pass on the savings to our customers. We do not hire guides for a season and pay them low hourly wages. Instead, we mostly conduct tours ourselves, which is a win-win situation for both you and us. You get a dedicated guide who knows the ins and outs of the destination, and we earn a fair profit without inflating our prices.
As a result, if you are traveling with a partner, family, or a group of friends, you will most likely pay less with us than with a group tour operator. We offer custom private tours with a fixed price for the entire group, which can often be more cost-effective than joining a pre-organized group tour.