With longer days and warmer weather, spring is a wonderful time of year to visit the mountain town of Banff. Here’s how to spend a fun weekend in Banff this spring!
In Banff, spring is that wonderful in-between season where you can ski and bike (or hike) on the same day, then enjoy a cold one on a patio. Whether you seek a day of adventure, or just wanna chill in a gorgeous mountain setting, Banff has fun for everyone, only 1.5 hours from Calgary. Here are six fun things to do in Banff this spring.
Disclosure: This story was sponsored by Pursuit Banff Jasper Collection, but all words and opinions are my own.
Fun things to do in Banff this spring
1. Ride & Dine at Banff Gondola
Ride the Banff Gondola to the top of Sulphur Mountain and enjoy sky-high dining at Sky Bistro. The menu and wine list are divine! While Sky Bistro is a perfect date spot with floor to ceiling windows (go at sunset!), they also have a kids’ menu. While you’re at the Upper Terminal, take in the panoramic views from the rooftop observation deck, then hike the boardwalk and 368 stairs to Sanson’s Peak (500 metres one way).
Current deals and packages: 1. Did you know kids 5 & under ride free? 2. Kids 6-15 rid free with a regular-priced adult until May 13, 2021 AND get a free treat (one kid per adult, additional kids at 50% off adult rate). 3. Alberta residents get 15% off for a limited time. 4. Book the Sky Experience Lunch to save when you ride and dine. Visit Pursuit Banff | Banff Gondola | Deals & Packages for details.
***If you’d like to hike up and ride the gondola down, you will need to purchase a one-way ticket in advance.***
2. Hike to an old hermit cabin
Billy Carver, known as The Hermit of Inglismaldie, built a log cabin near beautiful Johnson Lake in 1910 and lived alone in it for 27 years. If you know where to look, you can discover this relic from the past. For directions to the hermit cabin, hoodoos lookout, and swing, read our story: Exploring Johnson Lake. Please use caution near the cabin – there are rusty nails and cans – and leave artifacts in place.
For more short trails in Banff that are perfect for this time of year, see our story: The Best Short Spring Hikes in Banff.
3. Picnic in the park
Get takeout from your favorite restaurant (Farm + Fire has amazing flatbread and rotisserie chicken), and have a picnic at Banff Central Park, located at Banff Avenue and Buffalo Street. The park has picnic tables and a cool nature playground, and is walking distance to Bow Falls (1.3 km).
Cascade Ponds, five kilometres from downtown Banff, is a pretty picnic area with firepits. Roast some hot dogs and marshmallows, then explore Lake Minnewanka Scenic Drive. Two Jack Lake, Johnson Lake, and Lake Minnewanka are all worth a visit.
4. Discover Banff’s rich history with Open Top Touring
Open Top Touring offers scenic and historic tours in vintage-style open top coaches (*glass roofs are put on in cold/wet weather). Visit some of Banff’s most instagrammable places and learn about the local movers and shakers of the 1920s. Fun for all ages! For more information, see our story: Discover Banff’s History & Scenery in Style with Open Top Touring.
5. Ski Banff
Banff National Park has three amazing ski resorts: Mount Norquay, Sunshine Village, and Lake Louise Ski Resort. Mount Norquay is Banff’s oldest and closest ski hill. Established in 1926 and just minutes from downtown Banff, Norquay has terrain for all levels and an awesome ski school. Sunshine Village boasts “Canada’s Best Snow and three mountains of diverse terrain.” You’ll find one of the gnarliest runs in the world at Sunshine’s renowned Delirium Dive (experts only, avalanche gear required and helmets strongly recommended). Lake Louise Ski Resort was voted Best Ski Resort for Families in 2018, but it’s probably best known for its killer views!! Don’t let the family-friendly rep fool you either – with four mountain faces and 10 lifts, there is some challenging terrain here in addition to beginner runs.
Need rentals? Black Tie Ski Rentals of Banff can outfit you with performance skis, snowboards, and ski wear, AND deliver the gear straight to your hotel! Black Tie delivers to Canmore, Banff, and Lake Louise.
6. Bike Lake Minnewanka Scenic Drive and the Bow Valley Parkway without cars
This May (May 1 – May 20, 2021), you can bike Lake Minnewanka Scenic Drive Loop without cars from Monday to Thursday. Park at Cascade Ponds Day Use Area and bike to Two Jack Lake and Lake Minnewanka! The loop is 24 kilometres long and has about 180 metres elevation gain.
In late May, you’ll be able to bike from Banff to Castle Junction via the Legacy Trail (bike to Vermilion Lakes and head west) and Bow Valley Parkway / Highway 1A. This section of the 1A is expected to remain closed to vehicles (except public transit so watch for buses!) all summer. Parks Canada recommends parking at Fenlands Recreation Centre or the train station parking lots in Banff. It’s 31.3 kilometres from Fenlands Rec Centre to Castle Junction. Bring a bike lock and hike to Johnston Canyon if time allows! This popular hike is only 1.2 km to Lower Falls, or 2.4 km to Upper Falls.
Where to Stay
Elk + Avenue Hotel, conveniently located on Banff Avenue, has spacious, stylish rooms – including suites if you’d like more space. With fantastic dining onsite (see our review of Farm + Fire Restaurant for more info), and a grocery store across the street in case you forgot anything, you can park the car and relax after a day of adventuring. We love the loft suites because the adults can hang out downstairs while the kids sleep upstairs.
What to Bring
Spring in the Rockies can be sunny and warm one day and snowy the next, so bring warm clothes, winter boots, traction devices, and bear spray (yes, the bears have woken up!). We have more information on the blog in the following stories:
- Traction Devices for Winter Walks and Hikes
- 10 Bear Safety Tips for Hikers
- The Ten Essential Systems (gear to bring on every hike)
Banff is located 1.5 hours (129 km) west of Calgary on the Trans-Canada Highway.