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How to Visit Banff National Park, Alberta

Banff National Park is one of Canada's most visited national parks, with nearly 5 million annual visitors. And it is an essential stop if you want to visit Alberta.

When you think of Canada, mountains that are reflected in lakes with crystal clear and sparkling waters, lush forests, trails, wild nature come to mind... You will find all this and more in Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada.

Cómo visitar el Parque Nacional Banff, Alberta

The Rocky Mountains are responsible for making us fall in love with these spectacular landscapes. They are a mountain range that extends almost 5 thousand kilometers from the north of the province of Alberta to New Mexico in the southern United States.

Banff National Park is easy to get around and its most popular points of interest are within easy reach. So all you have to do is park your car and walk a bit to reach your destination. For those who want a little more difficulty, the alternatives are endless; trekking that will take you to the covers, paths between leafy and dark forests, hidden waterfalls...

In addition, there are all kinds of additional activities for the whole family throughout the year; ski resorts and snow activities in winter. Canoes on the lakes in summer…

All the activities are outdoors, so when you prepare your suitcase you should take into account comfortable walking shoes and spare shoes, comfortable clothes and for various changes in weather, sunscreen and little else. As I was saying, the paths are simple and do not require more mountaineering elements unless you are thinking of doing a more complicated route or climbing... but let's not get ahead of ourselves, I'll tell you everything step by step later.

And now.... we start with the Complete Guide to visit Banff National Park


1. Information about Banff National Park

Banff National Park is located in the province of Alberta, 180 kilometers west of the city of Calgary. The Park was founded in 1885 and declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1984.

Banff National Park is centered around the town of the same name, a not very large 100% tourist town. Near the town there are several places of interest and practically all the important points can be done with day trips, returning to stay in the town.

The most popular point is Louise Lake, north of the town of Banff. A few kilometers away you will also find Moraine Lake. Passing Lake Louise, the Icefields Parkway route begins, the route to follow if you want to make a route through the Rocky Mountain National Parks such as Jasper National Park.

Cómo visitar el Parque Nacional Banff, Alberta

2. What to do in Banff National Park

Bannf National Park has an infinite number of interesting places to visit. You could spend days and days visiting the Park and you would still have places to discover. So to help you decide, I will tell you about some of the best activities and places to visit in the Park. And then I add more options, in case you have more time.

2.1. Take a walk through the town of Banff

The town is very touristy and has no outstanding places to visit in it. However, it is a pretty little town, with shops, hotels, restaurants... In addition, the tourist office is located there. I advise you to go to her to request maps of the area.

2.2. Visit the Cave and Basin Hot Springs

This enclosure is a place where you can walk along its paths, visit some caves and rock formations, you will see where the thermal water from the rocky mountains filters through and they have a kind of museum and visit where they explain the formation of these mountains, the minerals from the area... it is an interesting visit to do, also it is not a closed museum, it is an open place, with areas of trails, the Bow River, caves... It is not possible to bathe in them.

The caves are impressive, the environment in general, making this place a must.

23. Hike Two Jack Lake and Lake Minnewanka

These two lakes are close to the town and have very easy access. You can park and just walk a few meters until you reach the lake. If you have time, visit both, but you can visit one of them and enjoy the surroundings.

Cómo visitar el Parque Nacional Banff, Alberta

When you get to the lake you will find signs indicating the different trails that start right there. Many of these trails take you through lush forest to spectacular viewpoints.

On the shores of Lake Minnewanka there are picnic tables and even in summer there are brave people who dare to take a bath.

There are several beautiful routes with movie landscapes to do in Banff National Park. Here is a guide with the best trekking routes to do in Banff National Park.

2.4. Don't miss Louise Lake

One of the most beautiful and most visited lakes in Banff is Louise Lake. It gives crystal clear waters that look like a mirror, pointed mountains with snowy peaks, lush forests that surround the lake... It's gorgeous!

Cómo visitar el Parque Nacional Banff, Alberta

Around the lake there are countless trails to walk, you have boats to take a ride in summer and even in winter in the coldest times when the lake has a layer of ice, it is possible to skate on it.

We spent the night in Louise Lake because it seemed to us that it had a lot to discover. Also, the nights here are spectacular, I have never seen such a starry sky.

Cómo visitar el Parque Nacional Banff, Alberta

2.5. Visit Morraine Lake

One of the jewels of Banff National Park is Moraine Lake. It is a real beauty. Also, not being as popular as Louise Lake, it is a place that few visit.

2.6. Don't miss Johnston Canyon

This Canyon wonder is located just a few miles off the Bow Valley Parkway. This Canyon is the Johnston. It is a natural Canyon that you can explore on foot passing through the rock formations and impressive walls.

There is a marked and railed trail to follow for a stretch for those who want to enjoy the canyon more quickly. But if you feel like seeing places off the beaten path, you can take any of the trails and walk between the river, the canyon and the trails along the river.

Parque Nacional Banff, Alberta, Canadá

2.7. Drive down the Icefields Parkway

This route that leads from Banff to Jasper is incredible. They are about 300km with a lot of places to visit. So do not trust that you are going to do it in 3 hours... keep in mind that you will spend the whole day to know the different points. There are several lakes, glaciers and waterfalls.

Many of the stops already belong to Jasper National Park. And you will find all the information in the Complete Guide to Visiting Jasper National Park.

2.8. Museums in Banff

If you feel like making a visit that does not have to do with so much nature, you also have the option of visiting some museums in Banff.

The Whyte Museum: It has exhibitions of painting and photography, and a collection that tells the history of the park from its beginnings to the present day. It is a quick visit that you can do once the afternoon arrives.

The Banff Park Museum: It is a wooden cabin from the beginning of the 20th century with several relics of the past inside.

2.9. Cascade Of Time Garden

This is a beautiful garden that is located in the center of the town of Banff. The Banff National Park Administration Building is also located here.

This garden has a wide variety of plants and flowers, and if you travel in spring or summer you can't miss it.

3. Lookouts in Banff

If you want to take the best panoramic photographs of Banff and its surroundings, you have several options for viewpoints:

Banff Pedestrian Bridge: It is a pedestrian bridge that crosses the Bow River and is located in the heart of Banff town. From it you will have some beautiful visits, it gives you some of the river and the surroundings of the town.

Bow Falls Viewpoint – This vantage point is located on the other side of the Bow River and gives you a prime view of Bow Falls.

Surprise Corner Viewpoint: This is a small viewpoint that is at the end of Buffalo Street and from it you can see the ornate Fairmonts Spring Hotel, the lush forests and the mountains.

4. What is the best time to visit Banff National Park

Like any other destination, there is no best time to travel to a destination. Any season is good if we know how to get the most out of it.

We are going to analyze the different times of the year and what can be done at any time.

We did our 2 week trip to Alberta in May. When we visited the city of Calgary and the Banff National Park we had incredible weather for these dates, during the day it was between 18-22 degrees and with very sunny days.

As we got closer to Jasper the temperatures were dropping and we had some clouds, but in general (except the glacier) it was between 15-16 degrees during the mascalor hours of the day. At night it is cold and warm clothing is essential. In addition, since the mountains are still snowy or it is possible that it rains or snows even in early June, you should take this into account to prepare a well-varied backpack of types of clothing.

Although the temperature was not high, the weather was pleasant and we were practically alone during our entire route through the Rocky Mountains, a great advantage, from my point of view.

4.1. Traveling to Banff National Park in summer

The months of June, July and September are the hottest months. The temperatures range from 20-25 degrees on average. Although there are dates that can reach up to 28ºC on the hottest days. At night the temperatures are much milder and it can even cool down to 5ºC. It must be taken into account to prepare the luggage well.

The advantage of traveling at this time of year is that all roads are open and you can access many trekking routes that are dangerous in winter due to frost and snowfall.

The least good thing is that it is the time of year when there are more tourists. So the rates are also higher.

IMPORTANT: Accommodations in Banff are very scarce, so if you are going to travel during holidays or high summer season, you must make your reservation well in advance.

4.2. Traveling to Banff National Park in Spring or Fall

If you want to avoid the times of more tourism, but still do not want to travel in the snowy season, it is advisable to travel in May, September or early October. These months we could consider spring and autumn.

Since, although spring and autumn are longer, the other months are already very cold and with snowfall.

In these months, daily temperatures are between 15 and 18 degrees and drop to 1 or 2 degrees at night. Although we traveled in May and as I mentioned before, we were lucky and had relatively high temperatures for several days.

In spring the landscape is beautiful, everything starts to be very green and with flowers, but at the same time the mountain peaks are still covered in snow.

In autumn, the passage becomes warmer tones in the woods, a beautiful print.

4.3. Traveling to Banff National Park in winter

For ski lovers, the winter season is the best to enjoy winter sports.

From mid-November to mid-April snowfalls are frequent, being more concentrated in the months of December, January and February.

If you travel at this time and you don't know or don't like to ski or snowboard, you can do trekking with suitable footwear or snowshoe routes.

Many of the trails close due to danger, since the frosts tend to cause constant falls for tourists. However, there are many well-adapted paths to continue enjoying nature.

Temperatures usually range from -5 to -20 degrees. Quality warm clothing and good footwear are essential.

IMPORTANT: If you are going to rent a car you must take into account that it has 4-wheel drive and you must have chains.

Parque Nacional Banff, Alberta, Canadá

5. How many days does it take to travel to tour Banff National Park

Banff National Park is almost 7,000 square kilometers in area, expect to tour all of Banff National Park. So if you are planning to visit the entire Park in a few days... it is not something very realistic. The ideal would be about 5 days. We, on the other hand, stayed for 4 days and in order to see the most important places we had to give ourselves a hard time.

In our case, we spent the night in the town of Banff, arriving very early from Calgary to take advantage of the first day.

The second day we continue touring the National Park and its places of interest and at night we arrive at Louise Lake to spend the second and third night there. Our fourth night was already in Jasper National Park.

6. Banff National Park Entrance Fees

To enter Banff National Park you will need to pay an entrance fee, it can be for as many days as you want or with an annual pass (The Discovery Pass) to visit all the parks in the country for a whole year.

There are individual and group tickets. The latter are used by up to 7 people traveling in the same vehicle.

6.1. Daily admission prices for Banff National Park

  • Adult (Over 18 years old): $10

  • Senior (over 65 years): $8.40

  • Minors (Under 18 years): Free

  • Groups (Up to 7 people in a single vehicle): $20

6.2. Annual pass prices for all National Parks of Canada (Parks Canada Discovery Pass):

  • Adult (Over 18 years old): $69

  • Senior (over 65 years): $59

  • Minors (Under 18 years): Free

  • Groups (Up to 7 people in a single vehicle): $139

*All rates are in Canadian dollars. And they may have varied.

Parque Nacional Banff, Alberta, Canadá

7. How to get to Banff National Park

The most common route to visit Banff is to travel to Calgary and from there rent a car to get to Banff.

From Calgary to Banff there is a little less than 1 hour and a half by highway (127 km), you must take the Trans-Canada Hwy/AB-1 W highway towards Banff.

It is best to rent a car to do this little Road Trip through the Rocky Mountains of Alberta. However, if you do not want this option, there are transfer companies that leave from the Calgary airport or from the city center. You also have the option of hiring an organized circuit of several days, which, apart from transport, includes guided tours, accommodation... You can see all the information from this link.

8. Where to stay in Banff

I recommend you visit Banff on the road and not stay in the same place. But if you decide to stay in a single accommodation and from there make daily excursions, you can stay in the town of Banff or Louise Lake.

Both the town of banff and louise lake are very popular areas and quite expensive. Especially in the high season. And if you travel during this season and you don't want to spend so much, there are many accommodations on the outskirts or campsites where you can stay.

If you travel in the middle or low season, I recommend that you stay in the town of Banff or Louise Lake, since you will find good deals and you will be well located.



I hope you enjoy your trip to Canada a lot and that this article has been useful to you. You can continue reading many more related articles on the blog

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A hug and see you soon!


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