Canada’s Banff National Park is loaded with tons of exciting and fascinating activities, from relaxing retreats to invigorating hikes.
Banff is one of the most famous National Parks in the entire world. Nestled in the Canadian Rockies in the province of Alberta, the park attracts over 4 million visitors each year. Travelers come from all over the world to ski, snowboard, and snowshoe in the winter, and hike, paddle, and play in the summer.
Banff is a picturesque and stunning destination that’s never short of activities and great things to do. And with the continued interest travelers have in outdoor destinations, Banff is certain to only get more popular. Here are eight excellent things to do during your visit to Banff National Park.
1.) Visit Lake Louise
Lake Louise is one of the most popular destinations in all of Canada. The lake gets its distinguished turquoise color from “rock dust”, which is the pulverized rock that develops after being crushed by the weight of glaciers. Lake Louise is fed by the melting water from the Victoria Glacier, which deposits the sediment into the lake, giving it its famous color.
During the summer months, Lake Louise is home to canoeing, kayaking, swimming, and hiking. In the winter, the lake completely freezes over and visitors come from around the world to ice skate, cross-country ski, and snowshoe in the surrounding hills. Another excellent addition to Lake Louise is the famous Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. Staying in the hotel is a grand and luxurious experience, but even day visitors can enjoy the hotel’s many restaurants and bars, which are great for relaxing and rejuvenating after a long day on the lake.
2.) Hike Tunnel Mountain
Compared to its siblings, Tunnel Mountain is one of the park’s smaller mountains. This is great news for casual hikers though, because it means anyone can go from street level to the peak of the mountain in an afternoon. It’s a great “first mountain” for hikers who want to start counting how many mountains they’ve fully ascended.
Plus, the views from the top of Tunnel Mountain are absolutely stunning, giving hikers breathtaking panoramas of nearby Mount Rundle, the valley below, and the snow-capped ranges that surround the town of Banff. The mountain might also be receiving an official name change as well, as ingenious communities have put forth a plan to name it “Sacred Buffalo Guardian Mountain”.
3.) Go Shopping
Unlike most National Parks in America, Banff has a bustling town located within the park. It’s a small town, with a population still under 10,000 people. But thanks to the hotels and cabin rentals, the main street is always flourishing with activity. Best of all, Banff has some excellent shopping, including popular brands like Patagonia, The North Face, and Fjallraven. There are also fun local shops that make for great one-of-a-kind souvenirs, like Rocky Mountain Soap Co., which sells handmade soaps, balms, and lotions, all locally crafted in Alberta. The company uses the aromas of the mountains and nearby meadows to create their soap’s signature scents, like cedarwood, rosehip. wildflower, and local honey.
4.) Ride the Gondola
The Banff Gondola is an excellent way for visitors to get to the top of Sulpher Mountain, which towers at over 8,000 ft. above sea level. At the top of the mountain is a cosmic ray station, lookout patios, and a stunning restaurant, Sky Bistro.
The restaurant serves delicious meals made from local ingredients found within the mountains and Alberta, like bison, squash, fish from nearby lakes, and more. Plus, you get stunning views of the Rocky Mountains out the windows. It feels like dining at the top of the world. For those who are feeling more adventurous, there’s also a hiking trail up the mountain.
5.) Relax at a Spa
Surprisingly, Banff has a wonderful collection of excellent spa activities. Guided forest bathing excursions can be booked through various outlets and allow you to experience the restorative and calming powers of nature.
For a more refined spa experience, the Willow Stream Spa at the Fairmont Banff Springs hotel is a luxurious way to unwind in the mountains. From massages and facials, saunas and steam rooms, and even a mineral-infused pool with waterfall treatments, there’s no better way to experience the lavishness of the mountains. Well, actually there is. The spa also has its own outdoor hot tub!
6.) Hop on a bike
It might be surprising to hear, but biking is actually a year-round activity in Banff. During the warmer months, there are endless biking opportunities. From easy, paved trails, to mountain biking courses, and off-road adventures, there’s no shortage of ways for bikers to explore the beauty of the park.
During the winter, fat-tire biking is a popular way to get out into the snow. In recent years, fat-tire biking has boomed in popularity. The bikes (as the name implies) have massive tires, which make them easier to ride on terrains such as snow and sand. Peddling through the snowy trails of Banff on a February morning is a unique and thrilling way to get to know the park. Places like Banff Cycle even offer tours, giving bikers the opportunity to be led by experts who can fill them in on the park’s history, the local wildlife, and the park’s unique geological formations.
7.) Ski & Snowboard
If visiting during the winter, no trip to the mountains would be complete without skiing and snowboarding. Banff has numerous ski resorts, including Lake Louise and Sunshine Village, both of which offer some of the best skiing in the entire country. From bunny hills to black diamond runs, the resorts have everything for every kind of visitor. During the summer, both are also open for gondola rides, hiking, and excellent views of the surrounding mountains.
8.) Eat Delicious Meals
Unlike most National Parks in America, where the best meal you’ll find is likely in a cafeteria or a food stall, Banff is loaded with excellent restaurants, many of which take their inspiration from the surrounding landscapes.
Diners can enjoy mammoth portions at The Bison restaurant, charcuterie and wine pairing menus at Grapes, and even unexpected but highly-praised Japanese dishes at Arashi Ramen. In Banff, there’s no shortage of excellent dining options to help you relax and enjoy the evening after spending the day playing, exploring, and having adventures in the wilderness.