10 Things To Do in Banff In The Summer

peyto lake alberta

Although it’s known as a winter destination, there are so many things to do in Banff in the summer that it’s difficult to know where to start.

The town with a population of 8,400 could easily be just another dot on the map, were it not for the gorgeous scenery that surrounds it.

10 THINGS TO DO IN BANFF IN THE SUMMER
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Watched over by four towering mountains – Rundle, Sulphur, Norquay and Cascade – the resort town is one of Canada’s most popular tourist destinations with around three to four million people visiting every year!

Travellers mainly come here to explore Banff National Park, a designated UN World Heritage Site since 1985. In fact, many twenty and thirty-somethings decide to stay and work for a season.

Waiters, shopkeepers, even bar managers – more people will greet you with an Australian or British accent here than in some places in their home countries.

In the winter, Banff is the epicentre of all things skiing and snowboarding. There are three ski resorts within the national park – Sunshine Village, Ski Norquay and Lake Louise Mountain Resort – and many places where you can get the party started with a proper acres ski session in the town itself.

Things to do in Banff in the summer

But that still doesn’t answer your question. What are the best things to do in Banff in the summer? Here are my top suggestions…

1. Go Canoeing

vermillion lake canoe banff

I’ve chosen canoeing as my number one tip because it’s a wonderful way to work out, get some sunshine and take in the nature all at once!

Vermillion Lake is your best bet if you want to stay relatively close to the centre – Banff Canoe Club is just off the high street, sitting quietly between Bow Avenue and Wolf Street.

All the streets in the area have animal names, like Moose, Lynx, Caribou or Bear Street. So adorable!

Lake Louise is another great option, if you’re willing to go on a 40 minute drive first – a lovely scenic drive, I should say. While there, you could also have delicious afternoon tea in Chateau Lake Louise’s luxurious Lakeview Lounge.

It’s hard to believe, but those alpine views will get even more beautiful when accompanied by English scones, miniature custard tarts and strawberry-topped shortbread.

2. Spot Wildlife

prairie dog banff

Alberta was made for wildlife spotting. All those street names I just told you about? They’re based on animals that live in the area, roaming freely from majestic mountain to crooked creek, day and night.

No one can guarantee you will see any of these stealthy creatures, but if you’re patient (and careful!) you could be going home with an amazing bear selfie!

I wasn’t particularly lucky in my animal adventures, but I still got to see a woodpecker, a coyote’s butt as it ran from me in horror and countless prairie dogs like the cute guy in the photo above.

3. Go fishing on Lake Minnewanka

lake minnewanka banff

As an honorary Brit I find its name absolutely hilarious, but minnewanka actually means “water of the spirits” in Nakoda, one of the local indigenous languages. As such, it’s the perfect fishing spot for novices and experts alike.

The lake lies about 8 km (5 miles) from the town of Banff and its the largest lake in the entire national park. I’m not sure you’ll be able to catch any spirits, but I hear the lake is full of trout and Rocky Mountain whitefish. The site is usually open from mid-May till late August, so go now!

4. Take a gondola up Sulphur Mountain

DSC_0930

Sulphur Mountain, which quietly watches over the town of Banff, is a pretty special place. It used to be home to a meteorological observatory built in 1903, which you can still see (and peek inside) on top of Sanson Peak.

Norman Bethune Sanson was the research facility’s employee who diligently hiked up to it to check the recording equipment for almost 30 years. In fact, he made the trop more than a thousand times while working as the park meteorologist until 1945, when he turned 84. What a man!

Nowadays you can simply take the gondola up to see the spectacular views. But if you’d rather follow in Sanson’s footsteps, there’s a wide trail that you can follow from the Banff Hot Springs (a place I will tell you about in just a minute) to the summit.

5. Eat at Park Distillery

park distillery banff

Banff is a wonderful place to go out and get a little wild, so don’t miss a chance to explore the place by night! My favourite place to have a drink and watch life go by was by far Park Distillery.

It’s quite literally the new kid in town as it had just been opened for a week when I visited… and all of its three levels were completely packed!

When you take a proper look at the menu, it quickly becomes clear why. The cocktails are carefully crafted – the Sazerac knocked me off my feet although I was sitting down – and the food is cooked on an open campfire in the kitchen!

6. Watch the sunset

vermillion lakes banff sunset

You can find incredible sunsets all over the world (some of the most beautiful I’ve seen were in Santorini), but it’s just one of those things that never gets old or stops being romantic. There are a few great sunset watching spot in and around Banff – three really great options in particular.

The first is going up Mount Norquay, which is a little far from the city but definitely worth it. The second is hiking up Tunnel Mountain, which will take you less than 45 minutes from the centre of Banff, and watching the sunset from the top.

If you do either of these, don’t forget to bring a headlamp for your trip back down – you never know in this neck of the woods! The more low key option is to go down to Vermillion Lake and watch the sun go down from the docks. Bring insect repellent though – those little buggers love to bite.

7. See Peyto Lake

peyto lake banff

Peyto Lake is one of those places that will make you want to weep with how gorgeous it is. Look at how turquoise that water is! That’s not Photoshop, my friends – that’s reality. It’s actually that shade of blue.

It gets pretty crowded up top, near where my photo was taken, but there are loads of paths leading up and down the mountain which will make you feel like you’re alone in this beautiful world and this is just your backyard… no big deal…

8. Go horseback riding

horseback riding banff

Few things will make you feel as invincible as looking at the world while sitting on horseback! I didn’t actually have time to try this out in Banff myself, but there are a few companies that will allow you to unleash your inner cowboy in the area.

For those who would rather sit back and relax, there is the option of a horse-drawn carriage ride which could be pretty romantic with the right person sitting beside you.

9. Relax at Banff Upper Hot Springs

banff upper hot springs

I completely fell in love with Banff Upper Hot Springs when I realised that they let you rent vintage-inspired bath suits from the 1900s, like the one I’m wearing in the photo above. How cool is that?

Relaxing by this pool full of warm water with incredible mountain views, I felt like a Hollywood starlet on summer vacation – and in my opinion that’s one of the most relaxing feelings ever.

10. Check out Canmore

canmore walkway

If you get a little sick of Banff – an adorable place, no doubt, but full of tourists – you might want to escape to nearby Canmore for a while. Canmore is actually bigger than Banff but an oasis away from the crowds of rowdy seasonal workers.

The town has a large network of walkways, which you can safely walk on and explore the neighbouring area. You can also go caving in Rat’s Nest Cave, explore the local Nordic Centre which was originally constructed for the 1988 Winter Olympics for cross-country skiing or go unicycling in the local bike skills park!

***

Oh, Banff! Now you can see my opening paragraph was true – there are indeed so many things to do in Banff in the summer that it’s difficult to know where to start! Hopefully this short guide has given you a few great ideas though.

If not, there’s always trekking, biking, horseback riding and a million other things you can do in this beautiful Canadian mountain paradise…

I got to visit Banff as part of a wonderful press trip to Alberta with KLM. I’ve posted this video of my flight in their World Business Class on my YouTube channel.

Have you ever been to Banff? How do you feel about visiting stereotypically winter destinations in the summer? Which would be your favourite things to do in Banff?

Disclaimer: Sunset photo via Brandon Levinger, horses via Florin Chelaru and Canmore via Dave Bloggs. Photos of me taken by Peter of Travel Unmasked

  • Mima Isono

    Thanks for sharing the tips. The sunset looks so amazing.

    • Thank you for your comment Mima! Banff is a wonderful place & I loved visiting 🙂

  • It’s absolutley gorgeous isn’t it? I definitely couldn’t stop taking photos while I was there. People had to drag me back into the car 😉 Do you think Banff is a stereotypical winter destination? In fact, when we visited in May, some areas in the Rockies weren’t open yet. For example, Moraine Lake wasn’t accessible yet due to the snow. Since I saw post cards with photos of Moraine Lake literally everywhere in Banff, I assumed Banff also must be a summer destination. How do you feel about this?

  • Dannielle

    Fab pictures! I really want to go back to Canada, so I’ll put Banff on my list!

    • Dannielle that’s definitely a clever move! Banff is an amazing place & definitely merits a visit 🙂

  • Oana Boteanu

    Love it x I was in love from the canoeing photo and I would love to admire a sunset like that xxx

    • Thanks for your comment Oana! It’s a very incredible place – I loved visiting and I’m sure you would too! 🙂 xxx

  • TravelingDASH

    Felt like I was right there with you! Have added this to my trip list can’t wait to experience it all. Thanks for the tips!! Xoxo

    • So glad you enjoyed the post – that’s exactly how I wanted you to feel while reading it 🙂 So glad Banff is now on your trip list!!! 🙂 x

  • Sabrina Barbante

    This goes in my top ten next wished destinations! Thank you!

    • So glad you enjoyed the post! Banff is definitely worth a visit – an amazing little mountain town with LOTS to do and see 🙂

  • Wow – Banff looks absolutely spectacular. I’ve heard so many good things about this place but your post has sealed the deal! In fact, I may have a flight scanner web page open as I type ;). Great post Sabina!

  • Laura Lynch

    I live in Seattle and have wanted to make it up to Banff but haven’t yet. Your post has inspired me to try to get there this summer. Canoeing on the lake looks awesome.

    • Yay Laura, that makes me so happy!!! You definitely won’t regret your decision to visit Banff, there’s so much to do in the area. Canoeing was really fun, although a bigger workout than I expected 😛

  • Hannah Logan

    So glad to hear you enjoyed canada 🙂 I need to explore more of my own country.

    • I know the feeling! I’ve seen so little of the UK despite living here for the past 4 years… Ah. So much to see! But fear not, we’ll make it 😉 xx

  • Are you kidding me with that sunset photo?!? I have always wanted to visit Banff, and am kicking myself for not getting there sooner! What a gorgeous area of the planet – I need to book a flight there ASAP.

  • Awesome article! Totally wanna go there now, Canada has been long on my bucketlist and the weather doesn’t seem so cold either. Is going in May a good time?

    • Thanks so much for your comment Annemarie! Canada is amazing – at least the little I’ve seen in Alberta. Stunning nature. May sounds like a great time to visit – there will likely still be some snow in the mountainous areas, but that’s likely not an issue! 🙂

  • Great photos. Although the town of Banff is one of my least favorite mountain towns in the area, I would agree that it’s worth the visit. We hiked those mountains for 10 years, such beauty. Can’t wait to be back in the area this summer! Thanks for posting this and making me even more excited to get back to the mountains!

  • I absolutely love Banff!! I worked in a little diner there about 10 years ago while I was on a working holiday! I don’t think it exists anymore 🙁
    The hot springs are definitely a must!!
    Great photos!

  • Sue Oxley

    I visited Banff in the wintertime and thought it was absolutely beautiful but I love all your suggestions for summer visits. You make Banff sound like the perfect place to visit, thanks for the inspiration Cheers Sue @NoFixedAbodeForSue

  • It looks so beautiful! That blue water, amazing!

    • Thanks for your comment Kaelene! Banff is SO beautiful – and the colours look like they’re #filtered in real life 😛

  • Loved this post, and Peyto Lake is such an amazing hue of blue. Thanks for the canoeing tip too! I’d really like to visit Canada one day.

    Suze | LuxuryColumnist

  • Exploring Canada has never been very high on my bucket list, mostly because it’s close enough to home that I take it for granted, but this makes me want to visit asap! Your photos for #6 and #7 are amaaazing.

  • Vicky Torrillas

    Your trip looks super fun! Peyto Lake is officially on my bucket list now!

  • Michelle Anderson

    Fabulous blog post. Certainly makes me want to visit Banff.

  • Wow, great post and stunning pictures! Canada is not really on my bucket list, but might have to reconsider 🙂

  • Megan

    Banff is absolutely gorgeous! I take it for granted, since it’s so close to home for me (I live in Calgary). There’s even more beautiful scenery if you keep going west into British Columbia. Towns like Golden and Invermere are also gorgeous.

    I also recommend visiting the candy store in downtown Banff. Always a highlight for someone with a sweet tooth like me.

  • Emma Hart

    I thought I was being a bit childish sat here giggling when I read Minnewanka, so I’m glad I’m not the only one that thought that name was a little funny. Back to the serious stuff though, just how gorgeous is Banff?! I like snowboarding, so I’d probably be more inclined to go in winter. Saying that though, I feel like I’d miss out on an awful lot if I didn’t visit in summer too!

  • Emma

    Banff is no do doubt an amazing sort of place to explore all around the United States. I have been visited the place and right now i’m going on the tours from boston to washington dc, I will try my best to explore the place once again and surly i’ll have so much fun there.

  • Banff looks very beautiful! I’m not so keen about canoeing but I’d do everything else! Love the sunset photo!

    • Yeah I’m not sure canoeing is for everyone! I enjoyed it but it was definitely quite the workout 😀 Glad you like the look of Banff, it’s an amazing place!

  • Erin Toews

    I have never ben to Banff, but have enjoyed watching some select film from their film festival! — I have seen so many posts about Banff lately. Maybe it’s a sign…

  • The Nomad Notes

    Banff is friggin epic every day of the year. I’ve been in summer and winter. I hope to do a ski season there one day!

  • I find myself more-and-more attracted to Canada. After this post, it might have to make it onto my itinerary soon.

  • Fingers crossed I’ll be going to Canada next year – although I think I’m going to have to allow extra time there than I originally panned. There’s so much to see and do!
    http://www.feetmeetworld.com

  • beautiful photos and glad you had a great trip! I’m from Canada, but the Eastern part of it. Banff and the Rockies in general is absolutely stunning, and definitely a huge tourist destination here in Canada. I love that you went canoeing, that’s definitely a great way to see more of the scenery. I’ve only skied and hiked in Banff, but next time I go I think I’ll hop in a canoe. Glad to hear you loved your visit to Canada and hopefully you’ll be back to see more soon! 😀

  • Geebetraveling

    Banff is pretty close to me and its a shame I don’t visit more since there is so much to see and do. It is one of my favorite mountain destinations. And the hot springs are ahhhhh… Divine ?