Every corner you turn in Banff National Park looks as if it came straight from a postcard. A Unesco World Heritage Site, Banff National Park spans 2,564 square miles (6,641 square kilometers) in a sea of evergreens and the world-famous Rocky Mountains. Home to dramatic glaciers, alpine meadows, an array of wildlife, towering peaks, breathtaking trails, and sheer wilderness, there’s a little something for everyone.
Those looking to relax and recharge in the serene atmosphere of the mountains or indulge in superb food will feel equally at home as snow bunnies and avid hikers in Banff. Discover the best time to visit Banff based on your interests below!
Winter: November to March in Banff
You can expect snow and a winter wonderland from November to March. From dog sledding to snowshoeing, there’s plenty to keep you busy in Banff in winter.
Skiing and Snowboarding in Banff and Lake Louise
Three world-class ski resorts, Mt. Norquay, Lake Louise Ski Resort, and Banff Sunshine are all located in the park. Powder seekers can get access to all three resorts (and others around the world) with either the Ikon or Mountain Collective pass.
Although Banff weather in February and March means loads of fresh powder on the mountain, the season stretches right from November to May—giving you months of potential fun in the snow (and one of the longest ski seasons in North America). If you prefer slightly warmer weather, try skiing later in the season, during spring (mid-March, April, and May). There’s still plenty of snow on the ground, but the temperatures are slightly higher than in the depths of winter and the days are a little longer for more time on the slopes.
Banff and Lake Louise Christmas
Hallmark movies have nothing on Lake Louise at Christmas time. Enjoy your soon-to-be most memorable skating experience by gliding around the frozen lake surrounded by the snow-capped mountains. To warm up, sip on hot chocolate or make s’mores by the fireside. From ice castles to sleigh rides, there are tons of wintertime activities to help you feel like you’re living in a snow globe.
To up the ante on Christmas cheer, head to the town of Banff. Head to the traditional Christmas market—perfect for last-minute gift shopping or indulging in festive culinary delights— or visit the Cascade of Time Garden for In Search of Christmas Spirit. This Christmas story is told by wildlife characters that call Banff home, using lights, puppets, and sound effects. Spending all that time outside is the perfect excuse to start an expedition along the Banff Hot Chocolate Trail. The route will take you past some of Banff’s restaurants to sample a limited-time, holiday-themed hot chocolate.
Spring: March to May in Banff and Lake Louise
Spring is a time of rejuvenation in Banff and Lake Louise. As the snow melts, animals emerge, and new experiences begin to open up—although you can still hit the slopes if you choose.
Relax in Banff Upper Hot Springs
You can enjoy the Banff Upper Hot Springs at Sulphur Mountain any time of the year, but the warmer temperatures during spring make it just that little bit easier to strip down to your swimsuit before jumping in. Gaze at the mountains while your body soaks in the natural minerals and heat. It’s the ideal way to unwind after a day of mountain adventure.
While you can’t make reservations ahead of time, it can get busy during peak times such as weekends and holidays. You can buy a Thermal Waters Pass, which also grants access to the Cave and Basin National Historic Site.
Go High or Low
You can have your head in the clouds in no time if you summit Sulphur Mountain with the help of the Banff Gondola. At the top, after exiting the gondola, enjoy a glass of wine inside or wander down the boardwalk to soak in spectacular panoramic vistas.
Another activity that can be done year-round but is just right in spring is caving. The Canmore Caves Tour in nearby Canmore takes you into the heart of the Rockies via Rat’s Nest Cave in Grotto Mountain. The wild cave offers 4.5-hour and six-hour tours that will take you down underground passages past ancient bones and amazing cave formations. You may even find yourself rappelling towards the center of the earth.
Summer: June to August in Banff
Banff in June through August has warm weather and plenty of outdoor activities and sights to keep you busy. Walking around town, you’ll see everyone from road cyclists to avid hikers.
Visit Moraine Lake and Lake Louise
Summer is the best season to visit Banff National Park to see the iconic turquoise-colored lakes of the Rocky Mountains. The chill sticks around much longer in Banff, and most lakes won’t thaw until early to mid-June. Once thawed, rent a canoe, kayak or SUP and glide along the clear blue waters of one of the many lakes.
Parking at Lake Louise lakeshore and Moraine Lake can fill up even before sunrise, so the best way to guarantee seeing both lakes in one day is with the Parks Canada shuttle.Reserve your seat ahead of time to secure your Insta-worthy photograph.
Go on a Day Hike
You’ll find endless hikes for all abilities in Banff and there is no shortage of trails with spectacular panoramic vistas. Take the widely popular trail at Johnston Canyon to see waterfalls and walk along catwalks. Continue onwards to reach the Ink Pots, pools of bubbling water submerged in an alpine meadow. On the outskirts of the town of Banff, you can explore the Lake Minnewanka trail and even camp overnight if you book ahead. Otherwise, stay in one of the many great accommodations around Banff and Lake Louise.
Don’t miss the tea houses at Lake Louise. Once you’ve seen the lake, continue upwards and catch a bite to eat at Lake Agnes Tea House or Plain of Six Glaciers Teahouse.
While summer is best, you can hike year-round at some locations with the right equipment. Whichever season you decide is best, it’s always great to have a guide to ensure you make the most of your mountain adventure. Banff Hiking Company, White Mountain Adventures, Discover Banff Tours, and Canadian Rockies Alpine all offer great packages.
Fall: September to October in Banff
Fall arrives early in the Rockies, with ideal fall weather coming in September and cooling quickly by October. Since many ski resorts open by November, you can bet leaves and snow will fall at the same time.
Appreciate the Fall Colors
The needles of the larch trees begin to change color as the cooler fall weather settles in across Banff and Lake Louise. This presents the perfect opportunity to hit the lesser-known trails for spectacular views and deeper exploration. Most routes to the larches exceed six miles (10 kilometers) and stretch deep into the mountains, so are best for more experienced hikers.
But if you’d like to see the fall colors with a little less sweat, you can take a helicopter tour with Alpine Helicopters or Rockies Heli Canada. Or go on horseback with Banff Trail Riders, Brewster Adventures, or Timberline Tours.
Take a Walk Around Town
You can find plenty of activities to do within the Banff townsite. Visit Bow Falls, take a horseback ride along the river, or catch a performance at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity.
Of course, you’ll need a bite to eat. Enjoy exotic meats and every type of fondue under the sun at the Grizzly House, eat delicious vegan food at Nourish Bistro, grab a drink at Park Distillery, have a Mexican feast at Magpie and Stump, or participate in Banff après ski and a steak at Melissa’s Missteak. Banff’s restaurant scene is vibrant and there’s something for every palate.
Remember to Travel Thoughtfully
Humans share Banff National Park with wildlife and a delicate ecosystem and visitors are encouraged to explore Banff and Lake Louise sustainably. Leaving your vehicle parked and exploring by bike, foot or public transit is recommended for the best experience. Roam Transit services many key attractions in Banff National Park, including Johnston Canyon, Lake Minnewanka, Moraine Lake and Lake Louise at certain times of year. Cycling around the town of Banff is also convenient, with bikes being widely available for rent.
With so much to do, it’s best to ensure you don’t have too little time. For all the planning and travel tips you need to make the most of your trip, check out our Banff Travel Guide.