Our Favorite Things To Do In Banff In The Summer

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Couple smiling in Banff National Park in the summer

Have you heard of Banff in Canada? It’s not too far from the border, and many American RVers visit the national park each year. You might consider visiting our northern neighbor if you’re looking for a summer road trip or family vacation that isn’t the typical beach scene.

Let’s look at our favorite things to do in Banff in the summer, and then you can decide if this spot is the right location for your next vacation!

Where Is Banff?

Banff is in western Alberta, Canada, tucked within the Canadian Rockies. It’s only about 30 minutes east of British Columbia.

The town of Banff is one of the hottest tourist destinations in Alberta, with its mountains, hot springs, nearby lakes, and national park. Approximately 8,300 people live there, but Banff National Park welcomes four million visitors annually.

The resort town is easily accessible since it sits just off Highway 1. Calgary is less than 90 minutes east down Highway 1. The Canadian border at Idaho and Montana is about four hours away.

What Is Banff Known For?

Banff is well-known for its beautiful scenery. Travelers from all over the world come to Banff to experience outdoor recreation and scenic drives.

Banff National Park was Canada’s first national park and the world’s third national park refuge. Wildlife is abundant. Hiking, biking, skiing, and paddling opportunities are endless.

Visitors bask in the beauty of rugged peaks and majestic lakes while enjoying Banff’s arts, culture, and village life.

When Is the Best Time to Visit Banff?

Depending on what you want to do, you’ll want to visit Banff in the summer or winter months. The temperatures are pleasant in the summer, but the crowds are large. Everything is open to tourists, and the sunshine reflecting off the turquoise lakes will take your breath away.

However, to enjoy the ski resorts, you’ll want to visit December-March. You’ll experience extreme cold, with temperatures into the single digits at night. And some roads that lead to Moraine Lake and the Columbia Icefield will be closed due to avalanche risk.

If you have the flexibility, shoulder season would be the best time to visit Banff. Only some things may be open, but you can explore popular areas with fewer crowds. 

Pro Tip: No matter when you visit, check out our article What You Need to Cross the Canadian Border in an RV, so you know just what to expect!

View of Banff national park

10 Best Things to Do In Banff In Summer

There are so many things to do in Banff in the summer that it was difficult to narrow them down to ten. Here’s our list of some of our favorites!

1. Ride the Banff Gondola

You don’t want to miss the Banff Gondola on your trip to Banff. The views are incredible! And you don’t have to wear yourself out hiking to reach the summit.

For families with younger children or other visitors who can’t make such a hike, you don’t miss out on the stunning scenery. The Banff Gondola provides it for everyone as it climbs almost 2,300 feet.

2. Hike the Consolation Lakes Trail

If you’d instead tackle a difficult climb, travel the 4.6-mile out-and-back Consolation Lakes Trail. Bring your furry friend, but ensure he or she is on a leash.

This hike has a 1,059-foot elevation gain as it begins at the parking lot at Moraine Lake and ends at Consolation Lakes. You’ll climb through a very rocky section where you might see remains of snow even into late spring.

This rock pile can be dangerous with loose rocks, so proceed cautiously. But once you enter the forest, the trail levels off as you approach the glacier-fed lakes.

3. Float the Bow River

Another fun thing to do in Banff in summer is floating on the Bow River. Rocky Mountain Raft Tours offers scenic guided floats for all ages and abilities.

This wilderness sightseeing experience offers views of Sleeping Buffalo, Cascade and Tunnel Mountains, wildflowers, hoodoos, and more.

Whitewater rafting is also available through Banff Adventures if you want more thrill in your vacation!

View of the bow river in Banff

4. Soak in the Banff Upper Hot Springs

If floating or whitewater rafting isn’t enough water fun, head over to Banff Upper Hot Springs and soak in the warm waters.

High on the slopes of Sulphur Mountain, these hot springs offer a place to relax and rejuvenate after a day of exploring.

The Banff Upper Hot Springs are open from 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., and all participants over age 3 require a ticket.

View of Banff Upper Hot Springs

5. Participate in the Banff Marathon, Half Marathon, and 10K

One of the highlights of the summer in Banff is the marathon. If you’re visiting in June, consider registering for this event.

You’ll run past Vermilion Lakes, up the Bow Valley Parkway, and finish in downtown Banff. What a way to explore the beautiful landscape of Banff this summer!

This trail may just be one of the most beautiful marathons in the world.

6. Visit the Cave and Basin National Historic Site

The Cave and Basin National Historic Site is near Banff Upper Hot Springs, so you could easily combine your visit.

There are trails to explore the area, the famous red Adirondack chairs overlooking the Bow Valley, and interpretive exhibits that highlight the history and significance of this place.

You can take a Natural History Tour, Cave and Basics Tour, or Lantern Tour for even more adventure.

View of the sign for the Cave and Basin National Historic Site

7. Spend the Day at Banff National Park

Going to Banff without visiting the national park is like visiting Gardiner, Montana, and not exploring Yellowstone National Park.

Canada’s first national park is breathtaking. Not only does it have hiking, biking, paddling, camping, and other outdoor recreational opportunities, but it also has scenic driving with picnic areas, pull-offs, and overlooks.

People of all abilities will enjoy visiting Banff National Park and its turquoise glacial lakes and rugged mountain peaks.

8. Drive the Icefields Parkway

You won’t want to drive the entire Icefields Parkway and back in one day. It is 144 miles long and takes about three hours one day.

However, if you want to go out for a scenic drive during your stay in Banff this summer you can drive part of it. You’ll see turquoise lakes, mountain peaks, and glaciers.

The drive starts at Lake Louise and ends in Jasper, connecting Banff National Park and Jasper National Park. Try to make it over the Bow Pass; the highest elevation reached on a public road in Canada at over 6,700 feet.

To drive the entire distance (which we do recommend), make this your exit route from Banff as you move on to explore Jasper National Park. 

View of the ice fields parkway in Banff National Park

9. Scramble Up Mount Norquay

Via Ferrata, Italian for “iron road,” is an assisted climbing experience on the cliffs above Mt Norquay. A guide will take you up ladders and across suspension bridges as you marvel at the grandeur of the surrounding mountains.

You must wear a harness that is permanently attached to the mountain’s steel cable pathway. There are five routes to choose from, all offering spectacular views you’ll get nowhere else in Banff.

However, if you’re afraid of heights, this may not be the adventure for you. 

10. Rent A Canoe At Lake Louise

Finally, another fun thing to do in Banff in the summer is getting out on the water at Lake Louise.

It’s one thing to marvel at the lake’s beauty from the shoreline. It’s another to be on the water gazing up at the Victoria Glacier and the panorama of the mountains. You can rent equipment from the Fairmont Chateau.

View of a person kayaking in Banff national park in the summer

How Many Days Do I Need In Banff In Summer?

If you want to complete everything on our list of things to do in Banff in the summer, you will need at least a week. Two weeks if you’d like to do it more leisurely. If you have the time, it’s well worth it. Banff won’t disappoint!

But if you only have a week or less, soak up all the time you can to explore this majestic place in Alberta, Canada. People pass through on road trips with just a few days to spare, but to enjoy and appreciate all Banff offers, try to give this place at least 4-5 days.

Is Visiting Banff Worth It?

There’s a reason Banff National Park was named Canada’s first national park. This area is awe-inspiring. The town of Banff has so much to offer, with plenty of outdoor recreation, shopping, dining, and touring opportunities. 

So if you’re looking for somewhere to spend your summer or a family vacation that isn’t the norm, consider heading north of the border to Alberta, Canada. It might be one of the most memorable trips you’ll ever take!

Have you ever visited Banff in the summer? What would you add to our list of best things to do?

Explore More: If you’re interested in visiting other national parks in Canada, check out our article about these unique places!

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