Nestled in the Canadian Rockies and framed by a spine of stunning peaks, pristine glaciers and turquoise lakes, Banff is revered as a thrill-seeker's paradise. Banff offers plenty of attractions and activities, whether you're looking for an adventure-packed family vacation or a romantic getaway.
Banff Town & National Park – An Overview
The first national park established in Canada, Banff is the springboard for outdoor adventures and nature-based wellness retreats. The small and compact town is the highest in the country, sitting at an altitude of 1,382masl. Within the park's boundaries is the most iconic peak in the Rockies, Mt Assiniboine, while the town's most legendary highlight is the century-old Springs Hotel.
Why Visit Banff?
Given the sheer number of spa retreats and outdoor activities, Banff attracts active and pleasantly inactive visitors. All agree that the stunning landscapes and insane array of wildlife in the park are reason enough to visit. Banff National Park is famously home to around 500 grizzlies and thousands of elk and mountain goats. This is also a prime bird-spotting haven if that's more your thing.
Banff is a year-round destination with a cacophony of options for hiking in summer and snow-based adventures in winter. What you love doing most will likely determine what month of the year you visit.
Here are a few insider tips you ought to know before planning your visit:
Banff has two peak seasons – Given the info detailed above, it won't surprise you that Banff enjoys two peak travel seasons: the summer rush in July and August and the winter one in December and January. The shoulder months are a fantastic option to save on flights, activities and accommodation and to avoid overcrowding.
Explore the park with a rental car – Although you can hike in Banff for days and weeks, you don't have to. Take a drive along the scenic Bow Valley Parkway, an easy loop drive that offers some of the most breathtaking views in the park. Stop along the way and enjoy some of the numerous hiking trails, where you can witness nature in its most pristine form. Explore the Hoodoos, a spectacular rock formation at the base of the mountains, or spot bighorn sheep, elk, and black bears from the highway. Exploring by rental car grants you blissful independence, but if you don't wish to drive…
Make good use of Banff’s excellent public shuttles – There aren't many corners of Banff's reserves that you can't reach with a shared shuttle. Here's a handy link for transport options in winter and summer.
Pack warm clothing for summer – Wild temperature fluctuations are not rare in Banff, so even if visiting in summer, pack a few extra layers.
Don’t forget the bug spray – Forget high prices and crowds: the worst thing you’ll have to contend with if visiting Banff in summer are the unrelenting mosquitos and horseflies.
Go for a hot spring dip – Banff is well-known for its hot springs, serving as a hub for relaxation and rejuvenation. A few crowd favourites:
- Miette Hot Springs: With soothing mineral-rich waters, beautiful mountain views, and a temperature of up to 40 degrees Celsius, Miette Hot Springs is the perfect place to relax and rejuvenate.
- Bow River Hot Springs: Located on the edge of the Bow Valley, this historic pool is still one of the most popular places to soak in mineral-rich waters and enjoy breathtaking views of the Rocky Mountains.
- Radium Hot Springs: Nestled in Kootenay National Park, this natural landmark features water temperatures up to 25°C and limestone terraces, making it a unique experience.
- Johnson Lake: A natural lake-based hot spring located on the outskirts of Banff National Park.
- Upper Hot Springs: Located in the heart of Banff, the Upper Hot Springs offer bathers the chance to relax and soak up the spectacular views of the Bow Valley and Rocky Mountains.
Kootenay National Park - Image Credit : https://unsplash.com/@toxilicity
Explore the Cave and Basin National Historic Site: This historical site marks the birthplace of Canada's national parks system and offers the chance to learn about the area’s rich cultural heritage.
Plan your trails ahead of time – Download this trail map of Banff, and you can plan your activities before you even arrive. You'll find numerous bike rental outlets in town.
Whatever your reasons for visiting Banff, we’re sure you’ll find something to thrill and enchant you.
Have you visited Banff and have an insider’s tip to share? Pop in the comments below!