Looking for the most epic Banff itinerary? Then you’ve come to the right place! After visiting Banff National Park on two separate occasions, I decided to put together this unbeatable Banff itinerary to help my Instagram community plan for their upcoming trips.
Whether you’re going to spend 3, 4, 5, or 7 days in Banff, you will have all the best things to do in summer and winter curated into an ultimate itinerary right here—it is entirely customizable, so feel free to pick and choose what you’d like to do!
If you’ve already got your flights booked to Calgary, Alberta (YYC) and car rental underway, you’re one step closer to finally seeing Banff’s turquoise blue lakes and snow-capped mountain peaks in real life. All that’s left to do is piece together the activities you will do during your time in Banff National Park.
In just 3-4 days, you could easily check off all of Banff’s highlights, such as paddling on glacier-fed lakes or taking a gondola ride in the sky. With 5-7 days in Banff, you will have plenty of time to explore the Banff Townsite fully and then go on at least two or more epic hikes and road trips!
Ready to plan your ultimate Banff vacation? Read more below for the perfect Banff itinerary!
Ultimate Banff National Park Itinerary
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Day 1: Discovering the Banff Townsite
It’s nice to arrive in Banff and get your bearings before setting off at the crack of dawn to be the first at this lake or on that trail.
The crowds combined with a sense of overwhelm with wanting to do everything all at once can cause a bit of anxiety when you first touch down in this famous mountain town brimming with glistening alpine lakes and snowy peaks.
But, don’t worry! This is why I’m curating this Banff itinerary for you.
To kickstart your adventures in Banff, enjoy your first day getting familiar with Banff Town while knocking out a few off-beat, but also bucket-list-worthy points of interest.
✨ If you would like to learn more about getting around Banff car-free, wildlife safety, unique activities to do, and more, then start with my guide on how to have a responsible vacation in Banff National Park.
I recommend staying at a green hotel such as the Banff Aspen Lodge downtown or if you’re traveling with an RV/van, going camping in Banff at Tunnel Mountain Campground (the closest serviced campground to the Banff townsite).
Banff Townsite — Beer, Sweets, Outdoor Shops, & More
Get a feel for Banff’s cozy and friendly vibes by strolling down Banff Ave and the newly-revamped Bear Street.
Don’t miss out on celebrating your arrival over a thirst-quenching craft beer at Three Bears Brewery or Banff Ave Brewing Co., before ducking inside one of the many artisanal and outdoor shops lining the streets.
On Bear Street, the cute Jolene’s Tea House is a great pitstop to pick up gifts and hand-crafted teas (it’s also housed inside the oldest building in Banff—constructed in 1888-1890).
Also, be sure to step inside the Banff Park Museum, across from the Patagonia store, as it’s the perfect place to begin learning about the natural history of the park featuring over 5,000 botanical and zoological specimens.
While you could go ahead and fill up on sweets at the Banff Sweet Shoppe or gourmet popcorn at Mary’s Popcorn Shop, save those for dessert time and instead take a leisurely walk on the Bow Falls Trail to Bow Falls located only 15 minutes by foot from downtown.
Be wildlife-wise and carry bear spray with you, even if you are walking on trails near the townsite.
On your way back, stop by the Cascade Gardens behind the castle-like Parks Administration building to take in the fresh scent of blossoming flowers in this 4-acre free park from June to September.
Buffalo Nations Luxton Museum
If you keep following the Bow River beyond this building, you’ll quickly come across the striking Buffalo Nations Luxton Museum which recounts the history and cultures of the Indigenous First Nations before Banff National Park was established.
Cave & Basin
Whether you walk the remaining way there or take the Roam shuttle, don’t miss out on the Cave & Basin National Historic Site.
This is where you can visit the natural thermal springs inside the cave that would eventually become the birthplace of Canada’s flagship national park (Banff). It’s also a special place for the Indigenous Natives who’ve been frequenting the springs for over ten thousand years.
Fun Fact: This is the only place in the world where you can see the Banff Springs Snail. 🐌
While the center closes at 5 PM, you are welcome to stroll the Upper and Lower Boardwalks outside after closing hours.
The Upper Boardwalk will take you to the source of the thermal springs while the Lower Boardwalk will take you on a scenic stroll through Banff’s marshland with a panoramic view of the Bow Valley Parkway. Rare flora and unique bird species thrive here due to the hot year-round thermal activity. This walk became one of my favorite memories from my time in Banff.
Banff Gondola (or Mt Norquay Chairlift)
Since you are nearby, hop on the Roam Transit Route 1 to take you up to the Banff Upper Hot Springs and Banff Gondola parking lot for your sunset ride up the Banff Gondola.
After your 8-minute gondola ride, you can take in the 360-degree views of Banff National Park on the Summit Station Sky Deck and go on a 30-minute hike on the boardwalk to the top of Sulphur Mountain to visit the weather station at Sanson’s Peak.
If you skip out on this one, the Banff Gondola, make sure you at least ride the open-air Sightseeing Chairlift to Mount Norquay and go on a thrilling guided climb of the Via Ferrata—the only iron rail in any Canadian national park.
If you decide to do the Banff Gondola, you can enjoy dinner inside their full glass-windowed Sky Bistro or take the Roam shuttle back down into town for dinner. If you enjoy Japanese and Pan-Asian food, I can highly recommend dining at Shoku Izakaya.
Before you go leave the parking lot, decide if you’d like to go for a soak in the thermal-heated outdoor pool of the Banff Upper Hot Springs. It costs $9.25/adult and the last entry is at 7:30 PM. (P.S. I don’t think it’s worth it, but just so you know!)
Day 2: Sunrise/Sunset at Lake Louise & Moraine Lake
For your second day in Banff, check off those iconic glacier-fed lakes—one of the reasons why millions of people visit Banff National Park each year.
There are several different ways you can approach visiting Lake Louise and Moraine Lake. You can visit them separately on different days, but considering they are 50 minutes away from Banff, I recommend combining your visit to both in one day.
Here’s how I recommend spending one day at both Lake Louise and Moraine Lake if you decide to visit on your own without a tour.
🚌 If you don’t want the hassle of getting to the lakes on your own, you can join Discover Banff Tours on their Lake Louise & Moraine Lake Sightseeing Tour which includes a certified guide, hotel pick-up/drop-off, plus a tasty snack and hot chocolate.
- 🎟 Purchase a Roam Transit Super Pass ($25) which will cover your round-trip shuttle to/from the Lake Louise Lakeshore, plus the Lake Connector shuttle which services transfers from Lake Louise to Moraine Lake and back.
- 🚎 Hop on the Lake Louise 8X shuttle at 7 AM to Lake Louise Lakeshore. Pack a picnic for later!
- 👣 Walk the Lake Louise Lakeshore Trail (1-hour roundtrip).
- 🥾 Optional — Hike the Big Beehive Trail to get epic views over Lake Louise (10.4km, 4-5 hours roundtrip).
- 🧺 Enjoy your picnic lunch by the lakeshore.
- 🛶 Optional — Rent a canoe and paddle on Lake Louise ($145 CAD + tax per canoe for one hour, up to three people).
- 🚠 Optional — Ride the Lake Louise Ski Resort Summer Gondola (3km from the Lake Louise Visitor Center in the Village).
- 🚃 Take the Lake Connector shuttle from Lake Louise Lakeshore to Moraine Lake (20-minute transfer).
- 📸 Hike up to the Rockpile to photograph and get panoramic views of Moraine Lake.
- 🛶 Optional — Rent a canoe and paddle on Moraine Lake ($130 CAD + tax per canoe for one hour).
- 🚃 Return to Lake Louise Lakeshore via the Lake Connector shuttle (last departures are 6 PM).
- 🚎 Catch your reservation time for the Roam 8X shuttle back to downtown Banff!
If you do this, you won’t likely get to see the sunset at Moraine Lake because of the timings of the Lake Connector shuttles. So if seeing Moraine Lake at sunset or sunrise is a priority for you, you’ll have to drive.
Driving: Parking at Moraine Lake is free, but it is usually full from 6 AM to 9 PM. Parking at Lake Louise is full by 8 AM and is paid parking only ($12 CAD, last I remember).
Parks Canada roundtrip to Moraine Lake: Instead of using the Roam 8X shuttles to get to Lake Louise, you can get a roundtrip Parks Canada bus ticket. This means you’ll have to drive to the Park & Ride area located at the Lake Louise Ski Resort, and then get on the Parks Canada bus to Lake Louise. The ticket also includes the Lake Connector shuttle between the lakes.
(Yes, Banff & Lake Louise Tourism and Parks Canada made visiting these iconic lakes wayyy too complicated.)
Alternative Lakes in Banff: If you’re keen on visiting other lakes in Banff, try these!
- Johnson Lake
- Waterfowl Lakes
- Bow Lake
- Two Jack Lake
- Vermilion Lakes
- Herbert Lake
- Hector Lake
Day 3: Choose Your Adventure Activity
For your third day in Banff, I recommend going on a little outdoor adventure. From mountain biking to rock climbing to whitewater rafting, there are many awesome summer activities in Banff to enjoy with friends or family.
I recommend picking two tours or activities and scheduling one in the morning and one in the late afternoon, depending on your time and budget. Below, I suggest several activities for both summer and winter.
Summer Outdoor Activities in Banff
- 🚴♀️ Mountain e-biking with Bikescape
- 💦 E-bike tour to Johnston Canyon
- 🧗♀️ Rock climbing with Alpine Air Adventures
- 🌊 Whitewater rafting down the Kananaskis River
- 🏔 Guided Via Ferrata climb at Mt Norquay
In summer, we went mountain e-biking in the morning and were free around noon, just in time to grab lunch downtown!
If I had the chance to redo my Banff itinerary, I’d tack on a whitewater rafting adventure, rock climbing tour, or the guided Via Ferrata climb on Mt Norquay for the afternoon. (I actually tried to book rock climbing but it was sold out; your reminder to book your tours in advance and don’t wait!)
Winter Outdoor Activities in Banff
- 🎿 Skiing!
- 🧊 Guided ice walk at Johnston Canyon
- 🐕 Dog-sledding
- 🚁 Helicopter tour to see the ice bubbles at Abraham Lake
- 🐴 Going on a magical horse-drawn sleigh ride
🍴 Either for lunch or dinner on Day 3, head into town for a delicious meal at Nourish Bistro Banff. It’s a funky vegetarian/vegan restaurant in the heart of Banff where everyone brings their non-vegetarian/non-vegan friends. Their 27-ingredient-loaded nachos are a surprise and perfect for sharing. Not to mention, the spicy and fruity mezcal cocktail was the best I’ve had north of the Mexican border—worth every Canadian loonie!
Day 4: Road Tripping the Icefields Parkway
If you have four days in Banff or more, I recommend spending one of those on an all-day adventure road tripping the Icefields Parkway. If you only have three days or less to enjoy Banff, I’d probably skip out in favor of the above-mentioned activities (since there’s already so much to do and see in such little time).
In any case, the Icefields Parkway is an incredibly scenic highway that begins just past Lake Louise and ends at the Jasper Townsite in Jasper National Park. In total, it’s about 231km (144 miles) and takes 3 hours one-way—hence why you need a full day to enjoy all the scenic attractions along the way.
I go into detail about each of these must-see spots in my Icefields Parkway itinerary, but, in short, here’s what you can expect should you decide to do this road trip.
Lakes: Some of the more iconic lakes along this drive are Peyto Lake (the fox-shaped glacier-fed lake), Bow Lake, and Waterfowl Lakes, among others such as Herbert Lake, Honeymoon Lake, and Valley of the Five Lakes.
Glaciers: There are many striking glaciers to see along this drive, namely Crowfoot Glacier, Bow Glacier, and the ever-famous Athabasca Glacier at the Columbia Icefields, which you can actually walk on via an Ice Explorer Tour.
Waterfalls: The Icefields Parkway is loaded with waterfalls—roadside, cliffside, you name it! On your drive, you’ll see The Weeping Wall, Bridal Veil Falls—and if you go all the way near Jasper—Sunwapta Falls and Athabasca Falls.
If you are only vacationing in Banff National Park and aren’t planning to visit Jasper next, then an all-day Icefields Parkway road trip from Banff is a good idea.
Otherwise, if you can and have time, I would save this road trip for the day you actually leave Banff to go to Jasper and visit these points of interest along the way. Less driving = less gas = more money saved.
Day 5: Leg Day! Go on an Epic Day Hike
Hiking in Banff National Park is a must!
While you will (hopefully) get to hike the Big Beehive on Day 2 at Lake Louise, there are many more bucket-list-worthy hikes to discover. With a 5-day Banff itinerary, you definitely have time to add in one or two of these must-do hikes.
Easy Hike 🥾
- Johnston Canyon / Ink Pots — This is one of the most popular hikes in Banff, so you will need to go early to avoid the crowds. Reserve your seat on the Roam Transit Route 9. Once there, it takes about 1h30m hiking to the Upper Falls. From there, you can continue on to the Ink Pots for scenic views of the forest, mountains, and colorful pools. Plan at least 3-4 hours round trip.
Moderate Hike 🥾 🥾
- Sentinel Pass — Get a backcountry-like experience hiking to this view over the Ten Peaks and Paradise Valley. Plan at least 4-5 hours to do this 11.6km roundtrip hike with 725m elevation gain.
Challenging Hike 🥾 🥾 🥾
- Copy Pass / Mt Edith Circuit — One of the more challenging yet rewarding day hikes in Banff. Make sure to pack a lunch to conquer this 13km loop through Cory and Edith Passes featuring 1000m elevation gain (6–7 hours).
If you don’t want to set out hiking alone, you can join a small group on a guided hike with lunch to either Constellation Lakes, Larch Valley, Stanley Glacier, or the Plain of Six Glaciers with Discover Banff Tours.
Day 6: Enjoy a Picnic & a Paddle
If you are planning 6 or 7 days in Banff, then I recommend spending a relaxing day on (or near!) the water at one of Banff’s less crowded lakes.
There are many lakes in Banff that are suitable for paddling and lakeshore picnics, such as Vermilion Lake and Johnson Lake—the local’s go-to!
You can rent a kayak, canoe, or SUP (stand-up paddleboard) at one of the outfitters in town (e.g. Banff Canoe Club, Radventures, Bow Valley SUP) and enjoy a leisurely paddle on the Bow River.
Another option for spending your sixth day in Banff is to do the popular Lake Minnewanka Boat Cruise on Lake Minnewanka—the largest of the lakes in Banff National Park. If you’re heading to Jasper next, this is similar to the Maligne Lake/Spirit Island Boat Cruise there.
Day 7: Wind Down & Departures
As vacations go, the last day is usually reserved for packing and preparing for your departure. Make sure to leave in time for your flight out of Calgary or get an early start if you’re driving to your next destination!
If you have enough time to squeeze in one last activity, I would go with something close to the town and that’s not going to last too long.
Here are some final activity suggestions for your last day in Banff:
- 🥃 Go on a guided PARK Distillery and Spirits Tasting tour
- 👀 Get panoramic views at the Hoodoos Lookout or Surprise Corner
- 🐴 Go on a 1-Hour Horseback Ride
- 🍱 Treat yourself to a slow and delicious meal in town
- 🌱 Go on an Indigenous-led medicine walk with Mahikan Trails
- 🏡 Step inside the artistic and cultural Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies
- 🍻 Enjoy a craft beer at one of the Banff breweries
- 🏰 Visit the luxurious Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel
- 🍭 Stock up on fudge, sweets, and gifts for the return trip home!
If you have any questions or need help piecing together your own Banff itinerary, please drop a comment below and I’ll get back to you. Have a wonderful (and responsible) vacation in Banff National Park!
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