If you’re taking your first trip to Banff this year, you’re certainly not alone; Banff receives an estimated 23,000 visitors each day in the summer. And like many of these visitors, you might be feeling slightly overwhelmed by planning and preparing for your adventure.
If so, you’ve come to the right place. Whether the Banff area is your one-and-only destination or simply a stop on a greater tour, you want to ensure you have everything organized before you set off to avoid disappointment and get the most from your visit.
Here, we’ll give a big-picture overview of your time in Banff with some tips and pointers that will help you sit back and enjoy the sights while you’re there.
Remember Your Park Pass
Visitors to any national park in Canada need to purchase a parking pass — whether it’s an individual pass for your vehicle or whether you’re part of a group. Make sure you check in with Parks Canada to secure your Day or Discovery Pass; you can do this online before you set off, upon your arrival at the park gates, or from information centers in Banff and Lake Louise.
Transport in Banff
If you’re driving within the area, know that Banff Townsite has implemented a new parking system to control heavy traffic. You can now conveniently locate both spaces and pay stations through the Banff Parking website.
While you can commute to most scenic outlooks yourself, the top tourist destination of Moraine Lake has closed access roads and parking to private vehicles. Visitors interested in seeing this famous location must arrange transportation from a local shuttle service provider.
Moraine Lake Bus Company, for example, offers an incredibly convenient and efficient service. They provide transportation to and from Moraine Lake starting as early as 4 a.m. — for early risers eager to catch a glimpse of the mountain and crystal lake in all their pre-dawn glory — with always-on-time services running later in the morning and into the afternoon.
Activities in the Area
There’s no shortage of things to do in Banff. As mentioned, Moraine Lake is an absolute must — trust us. In addition to taking in the sightseeing opportunities, visitors can experience a variety of other activities that can cater to both interest and ability:
- Visit Banff’s, Hot Springs. Relaxing sore muscles in a hot spring is ideal following a day of hiking on the trails (a note here that entry first comes, first served).
- Go hiking. There’s an abundance of world-class hiking adventures in Banff. Eiffel Lake, Sentinel Pass, and Wenkchemna Pass — to name just a few — are all nearby.
- Rent a canoe, kayak, or SUP and explore Bow River — just one paddling location.
- Treat yourself to dinner at the world-renowned Banff Springs Hotel.
- Get a bird’s eye view of the landscapes below at an elevation of 2,101 m on the Lake Louise Summer Gondola. A bonus tip — if you book your gondola through the Moraine Lake Bus Company, you get $15 off the price of your ticket!
With so much to do, we recommend spending at least three days in the area. You could easily fill a couple of weeks with adventure, relaxation, and sightseeing activities.
Pack for Seasonality
The temperatures in the Canadian Rockies can fluctuate rapidly between months and from day to night. Regardless of the time of your visit, bring layers — and lots of them. Even if you don’t plan to traverse peaks or canoe over the lakes, layers and comfortable waterproof walking shoes are key.
Ultimately, Banff is an outdoor destination and being prepared for every weather event can turn a good trip into an amazing one — and one where you’re dry, cozy, and comfortable at all times.
Both the Canadian Rockies and Banff itself are very special places. A series of blog posts could be dedicated to the topics of hiking, canoeing, sightseeing, and dining in the area — we’re that confident you won’t run out of things to do, or wonderful sights to see. Enjoy!