Banff National Park is one of the most beautiful places to visit in Canada and maybe even the world! The high peaks of the Rocky Mountains and the turquoise waters of the alpine lakes will take your breath away. There are so many activities to do here including hiking, camping, biking, canoeing and skiing. I’ve made several trips to Banff National Park and each time I see and experience something new. This is what keeps me coming back. This place is a paradise for anyone who loves the outdoors and has a sense of adventure!! Below I will share with you 10 amazing things to do in Banff National Park. But first, did you know that 2017 is a big year for Canada?
Celebrating 150 Years
This year is Canada’s 150th birthday and to celebrate Parks Canada has allowed free admission to all national parks, historic sites and marine conservation areas. I’m so happy I was able to get out to Banff National Park and use my Discovery Pass before moving abroad with a one way ticket! And let’s be honest, is there really a better place to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday then in the Rocky Mountains?!
You can order your FREE 2017 Discovery Pass here.
10 Amazing Things To Do In Banff National Park!
On my recent trip to Banff National Park I was able to see many beautiful places. Here is my top list of amazing things to see and do for anyone visiting the park for the first time.
#1 Visit Lake Louise
You can’t go to Banff National Park without visiting Lake Louise. Get here early in the morning for beautiful photos of the calm lake. I crawled out of my tent early one morning and drove up to Lake Louise around 7am for this amazing shot! It was such a serene and peaceful moment. If you are into hiking then read my related post on hiking in Lake Louise for a one day itinerary of easy hikes to do in this area of the park!
#2 Drive the Bow Valley Parkway
This scenic 48km drive between Lake Louise and Banff is an absolute must! It’s the best place to view wildlife, have picnics and hit the trails. We drove the parkway from Lake Louise to Banff and stopped at many viewpoints along the way including Morant’s Curve. This location was made famous by Nicholas Morant, a staff photographer for the Canadian Pacific Railway. He took photographs for the company during the middle of the 20th century. We stopped at Morant’s Curve in the morning and within 5 minutes a train passed by heading east towards Banff. I rushed to get my camera out and snapped this picture of the train with the curving Bow River and the mountains in the background! Our timing couldn’t have been more perfect.
#3 See Lake Minnewanka
Lake Minnewanka is located about 5km northeast of Banff and is a wonderful place to come for a picnic or day hike. If you prefer to be on the water, there are daily boat tours on the lake.
#4 Spot wildlife
Most of the wildlife we saw was along the Bow Valley Parkway including a large elk and a black bear! We also saw some bighorn sheep on the steep slopes of the Norquay lookout and two bears on our way to Lake Minnewanka. If you want to see wildlife you will need some patience and a lot of luck! Remember to always keep your distance and stay inside the car when seeing wildlife.
#5 Photograph Moraine Lake
Moraine Lake is a stunning turquoise blue lake in the towering Valley of the Ten Peaks. Get here early to avoid major crowds!
#6 Stroll down Banff Avenue
A trip to Banff National Park is not complete if you don’t stroll down Banff Avenue and go for a coffee or ice cream!
#7 Johnston Canyon
Johnston Canyon is a spectacular natural feature located along the Bow Valley Parkway. Take a hike along the catwalk which leads deep into the canyon and brings you to the Lower and Upper waterfalls.
#8 Norquay Lookout
Head up the windy mountain road towards the Norquay Ski Area and on the last switchback, right near the top you will find a stone wall on your right. This is the popular viewpoint of the town of Banff and Bow Valley. You can see Vermilion Lakes, Sulphur Mountain, Mount Rundle and Banff. I absolutely loved this lookout and it was not busy at all. Wouldn’t these chairs be the perfect spot to watch a sunset?!
#9 Hike Stoney Squaw
This hike starts from the main Norquay Ski Area parking lot and is about 1.5hrs return. The trail passes through a forest of moss and trees covered in wispy lichen. At the top you get up close views of Cascade Mountain and the valley below!
#10 Pitch a Tent
I’m a big fan of camping and I think it’s one of the best way to immerse yourself in nature. There are numerous campgrounds in Banff National Park. Since we went in early June and mid-week we didn’t make any reservations. In the peak months of July and August I would definitely reserves sites though. There’s nothing better than relaxing by a campfire after a long day of hiking!