Banff in the summer is a whole different vibe than Banff in the winter. From paddling on (unfrozen) turquoise lakes to biking the Bow Valley Parkway to sipping on local craft beer on a sun-soaked patio, there are so many things to get up to in Banff in the summer (at least two dozen are mentioned in this guide!).
I love to do activities that aren’t on the typical, well-trodden tourist trail. Not that the beaten path is bad! Banff’s most popular activities receive heaps of crowds for a reason — (most) of them are worth the hype.
So, in case you’re searching for a quieter way to enjoy Banff, I’ve included several lesser-known activities in this Banff bucket list that are just as fun and scenic, in addition to the classic must-dos. A few of the activities are also eco-friendly and/or support Indigenous experiences.
Here are the best things to do in Banff in the summer! ☀️
Best Things to Do in Banff This Summer
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Top 10 Popular Banff Summer Tours & Activities — Book these top-selling tours today to save your spot!
🛥 Lake Minnewanka Boat Cruise
🚠 Banff Gondola
🌊 Whitewater Rafting on the Kananakis River
🐎 Bow River Horseback Ride
🐻 Evening Wildlife Safari Tour
❄️ Athabasca Glacier Tour
🥾 Guided Hikes to Banff Classics
💙 Lake Louise & Moraine Lake Sightseeing
🛶 Bow River Canoe Tour
🏔 Mt Norquay Guided Via Ferrata Climb
1. Stroll, Sip, & Shop on Banff’s Revamped Bear Street
Get familiar with all the animal street names, spot a few places to dine and shop at later, and begin to know your way around with a sweet stroll around Banff’s downtown, namely the pedestrian-shared streets of Banff Ave and Bear Street.
Start off your stay with a craft beer (or mocktail or tea) at one of Banff’s breweries! Three Bears Brewery has an inspiring, forest-themed atmosphere with a retractable sunroof, beer garden, and live music.
If you prefer to go where the locals go, head around the corner to Banff Ave and duck inside the original Banff brewery, the Banff Ave Brewing Co.
2. Go Mountain E-Biking & Explore Banff Off-Road
Bikescape is the only outfitter of mountain biking in Banff National Park, so if you wish to explore the trails truly off the trodden path, then book a ride with these guys!
If you’ve never been mountain biking, then you will be in for a real treat with an e-bike that’ll make those undulating hills around Banff feel like a breeze.
If you have the chance to ride with Clare, she will fill you with such positive, contagious energy and have you grinning wide.
You can also explore Johnston Canyon via e-bike on this guided tour.
3. Ride the Open-Air Mt. Norquay Chairlift
There are four gondolas that operate in the summer in Banff (Banff Gondola, Mt Norquay, Sunshine Village, and Lake Louise). Choose one and enjoy a ride up into the sky to get unparalleled panoramic mountain views you won’t find anywhere else in the national park.
The Mount Norquay Ski Resort is 100% green energy powered, and their 10-minute open-air Sightseeing Chairlift ride up into the sky will take you on a refreshing thrill ride.
4. Walk Across Mt. Norquay’s Via Ferrata
5. Cycle the Bow Valley Parkway
If you’re an avid biker and wish to get out of the townsite, you can rent a bike at Banff Adventures or rent an e-bike and cycle the 17km section of the Bow Valley Parkway — a scenic highway teeming with wildlife and mountain views.
From May 1 – June 25 and September 1–30, you can cycle this section of road without the concern of cars (only grizzlies!). Outside of those dates, the parkway is open to all vehicle traffic but you are still welcome to bike it. It’s the perfect Banff summer activity!
P.S. You can bike all the way to Johnston Canyon via the Bow Valley Parkway! Plan for at least 1h30 each way. Carry bear spray and go prepared with water and snacks. If you tire and wish to return to Banff via public transport, the Roam Transit shuttle conveniently has bike racks (Route 9). This guided e-bike tour will take you to Johnston Canyon.
6. Walk to Bow Falls From Downtown
Bow Falls is the most accessible waterfall to visit from downtown Banff as you can easily walk there in 15 minutes by following the Bow Falls Trail.
To get there, cross the bridge from downtown (past the Patagonia store). The Bow Falls trail skirts the Bow River on a multi-use trail through the forest with several cute art installations and riverfront benches and picnic tables to enjoy along the way. Overall, it’s a pleasant walk and a fun free thing to do in Banff with family!
Note: Even though you’re in the townsite, wildlife sightings such as bears and cougars can happen so be bear-wise and carry bear spray.
7. Visit the Beautiful Cascades Garden
The Cascade Gardens, hiding behind the castle-like Parks Administration Building just beyond downtown Banff, is a 4-acre beautifully landscaped park filled with flowers that bloom from June to September.
Tucked away inside the garden lie a series of walkways, gazebos, and picnic tables. Entry is free to the public, making this activity ideal for those visiting Banff on a budget!
8. Go Whitewater Rafting
Canadian summers aren’t known to be stifling hot, but the sun can still get quite toasty and will make you want to jump in a refreshing pool (or glacier lake, anyone?) to cool off, especially after a mid-day hike!
With Chinook Rafting or Discover Banff Tours, you can go on a gentle, family-friendly rafting trip down the Kananaskis River or get a spike in adrenaline with a whitewater rafting adventure down the Bow River through Horseshoe Canyon.
The first features easy Class II-III rapids and an optional swim, whereas the latter will feature a bit more splashing at Class III-IV whitewater and optional cliff jumping.
9. Step Inside the Banff Park Museum
Come rain or shine, there are a couple of museums around the Banff townsite worth stepping into. The Banff Park Museum National Historic Site, located just opposite the Patagonia store on Banff Ave, features over 5,000 botanical and zoological specimens.
The Banff Park Museum was built in 1903, making it the oldest natural history museum in western Canada. Journey inside and marvel at the natural history of the park! Visiting hours are from 9:30 AM to 5:00 PM.
Children and youth enter free, making this another fun family-friendly thing to do in Banff in the summer!
10. Hike and Paddle at Lake Louise
Lake Louise is one of the most beautiful lakes you can visit in Banff National Park.
While you can marvel at the vivid blue water from the lakeshore, you can also go canoeing/SUPing on it or hike around the lake to get to the top of a panoramic viewpoint. The price is pretty steep, though, so you may consider going on a guided canoe tour on the Bow River for 1/3 the cost.
There are several day hikes you can do while at Lake Louise, but the one we did that has quickly become a bucket list favorite is the Big Beehive hike.
11. Go Backcountry Hiking & Camping
Backcountry camping — wild camping away from any road access or services — is a fun summer thing to do in Banff National Park. The weather during the summer months is prime for backcountry hiking and camping!
Banff National Park has a network of 1600km (nearly 1000 miles) of trails. Some are overrun by tourists (due to their accessibility) while others are raw, wild, and untouched. Just how we like it. You can learn more about backcountry camping here.
12. Road Trip the Icefields Parkway
The Icefields Parkway, they say, is one of the most scenic driving routes in the entire world. It would be a shame to come all this way and miss out on the treasures speckled along this parkway.
If you have the chance, you can road trip the Icefields Parkway in one day. This road, Highway 93N, stretches just beyond Lake Louise and ends at the Jasper townsite in Jasper National Park. It’s about a 3-hour drive from Banff to Jasper.
You can discover all the must-see stops and viewpoints along the Icefields Parkway in my guide ✨
13. Take a Guided Distillery & Spirit Tasting Tour
The Park Distillery is at once a campfire-themed restaurant, bar, distillery, and store. It’s the only place you can go spirit tasting in Banff National Park (in fact, in any Canadian National Park), and it’s located right in the heart of downtown Banff.
Tours are offered Mon-Wed and Saturday at 3:30 PM. On your guided tour, you’ll get an exclusive look behind the scenes of the Park’s award-winning spirits made from water that originates from six glaciers in Banff National Park. Spirit flight tastings include a 1/2 oz sample of their six most popular spirits, including gin.
Summer and campfires go hand in hand, so what better thing to do in Banff in summer than take a spirits distillery tour?
14. Cave & Basin National Historic Site
The Cave & Basin National Historic Site is where Canada’s first national park was established in 1885. Here, you can observe natural thermal springs and learn about the history of the region and the birthplace of Banff National Park.
Don’t miss out on the boardwalks (Upper and Lower) which don beautiful, serene views of the marshland and the mountains beyond the Bow Valley Parkway!
These are open past the Cave & Basin closing time of 5:00 PM. So if you’re strapped for time, you should visit the cave and exhibits inside, then finish the visit off with a stroll on the Upper and Lower boardwalks.
15. Rent a Bike, Hike, Go Wildlife Watching, & More
Banff has some of the most scenic trails for hiking and biking in all of Canada. Renting a bike for a half-day or full-day allows you to explore more in less time and enjoy the summer weather.
For rentals, head to Bear Street where you’ll find the Banff Adventures team, ready to help you get on your way with gear and sample rides for you to explore beyond the Banff townsite. A mountain bike rental will cost approximately $35/half-day or $48 for a full day. You can also rent e-bikes online in advance here.
16. Horseback Ride Around Banff’s Marshland
If you love exploring via horseback, then you will love a trail ride around Banff’s marshland, past the natural thermal springs of the Cave & Basin with views of the Bow River.
17. Sunrise Hike Up Tunnel Mountain
The Tunnel Mountain hike is a great summer activity to do in Banff. The mornings are fresh, the skies are (mostly) clear, and the weather is ideal for hiking.
Tunnel Mountain (or Sleeping Buffalo as it was originally named by the natives), is one of the most accessible hikes from Banff; you don’t have to travel very far to get in an epic view of the surrounding mountains. If you hike Tunnel Mountain, you can take this handy nature and trail tour with an audio guide.
From the top, you can see Cascade Mountain, Sulphur Mountain, the Bow Valley, and Vermilion Lakes, just to name a few.
The hike starts at the Tunnel Mountain Parking Lot and then ascends through the shaded forest through a series of switchbacks. If you want to make it to the top for sunrise, start out your hike at least 1–2 hours in advance.
The trail is 2.8 miles and consists of 266m elevation gain. You can read reviews on AllTrails.
18. Ride the Banff Gondola Up Sulphur Mountain
The Banff Gondola is one of the more popular things to do in Banff in the summer, but it’s understandable why.
At the top, not only can you take in 360-degree views of the surrounding snow-capped peaks, but you can also enjoy live music, dining, hiking to Sanson’s Peak, and an immersive multi-sensory theater and Interpretive Center which provides fun activities for kids.
19. Duck Inside Jolene’s Tea House for Tea
Do you enjoy organic, hand-blended tea? If so, head to Bear Street’s cutest shop, Jolene’s Tea House, where they make handcrafted, fine teas.
In fact, this teahouse is housed inside Banff’s oldest building, dating back to 1888-1890. Former occupants in this building included “a butcher’s shop, a gas station, a funeral home and a metal work studio.”
Grab some of their thirst-quenching Iced Tea for your picnics on the go or grab a gift for someone in your family who loves tea. 🫖
20. Banff Medicine Walk with Mahikan Trails
If you’re looking for Indigenous tourism experiences in Banff, check out Mahikan Trails.
Indigenous-owned, Mahikan Trails seeks to share the knowledge and traditions of the Boreal Forest in Banff.
On your walk, you will be guided around Cascade Ponds while learning and discussing the plants and medicines found in the forest.
21. Visit the Buffalo Nations Luxton Museum
No trip to Banff National Park (or Canada) wouldn’t be complete without learning about the First Nations, the Indigenous peoples of this land, and the celebratory return of the bison (buffalo) to Banff National Park.
Built in 1953 by Norman Luxton, the Buffalo Nations Museum is one of Alberta’s oldest museums and deserves a place on your summer bucket list.
On the outside, the fort-like museum might catch your eye. Inside, an incredible wealth of knowledge, artifacts, and detailed displays showcasing the cultures and traditions of the First Nations await you.
Step inside and be transported into the past, present, and future of this special place.
22. Swim, Paddle, & Picnic at Johnson Lake
Johnson Lake is where the locals go to enjoy Banff’s alpine waters and mountain views without the hoards of travelers often found at Two Jack Lake and Lake Minnewanka.
Pack a picnic, go on a scenic hike, and don’t forget to bring your bathing suit for a chilly but revitalizing swim!
Hop on the Roam Transit shuttle Route 6 to get to the parking lot car-free. Johnson Lake is the perfect summer escape in Banff!
23. Go Rock Climbing
Why hang around town with the crowds looking up at the mountains when you could be scaling the cliffsides looking down at the crowds?
For an epic adventure at a 90-degree angle, check out the rock climbing opportunities at Alpine Air Adventures.
Learn the basics of rock climbing with their Rock Experience or go on full alpine climber mode and scale Mount Athabasca over the weekend!
24. Canoeing on the Bow River
Going for an afternoon paddle on the majestic Bow River is the quintessential Canadian activity. The hues of the water in summer are a beautiful blue.
To compare, a one-hour canoe rental from the Fairmont at Lake Louise costs $155 for an hour.
25. Visit Moraine Lake & Lake Louise Tour with Indigenous Storytelling
Moraine Lake and Lake Louise are a “must” on everyone’s Banff bucket list. But parking is a nightmare and driving isn’t the most environmentally-friendly choice.
While you can go via public transit (either via the Roam Transit Route 8X to Lake Louise + the Lake Connector shuttle or via a round-trip Parks Canada ticket), you can also visit the lakes on an Open Top Explorer Shuttle with WOW Banff.
What’s unique about this experience is that you get both shuttle transport to the lakes plus storytelling from a local Indigenous host who will impart their knowledge and history of the area and answer any of your burning questions!
If you have any outstanding questions about visiting Banff in the summer, please drop a comment below and I’ll get back to you soon! Don’t forget, you can book your admission tickets and find more summer activities in Banff below.
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