Home Destinations Fun things to do in Banff this summer

Fun things to do in Banff this summer

by Karen Ung

Discover a new-to-you experience in Banff this year with our summer fun guide!

Whether you’re visiting from afar or are lucky enough to live nearby, Banff’s stunning scenery and world class attractions will bring you back time and time again. Here are some fun things to do in Banff this summer from e-biking and trail riding, to paddling and hiking.

Since adventuring works up an appetite, we’ve also included some delicious dining options. And when it’s time to rest, Peaks Hotel & Suites, Banff’s newest hotel, is your luxurious home away from home.

Introduction

With over 1,600 kilometres of trails, and tons of cool guided experiences, you could try a different trail or tour each weekend and never run out of things to do in Banff. After 24 years in Calgary (just over an hour from Banff), I’m still discovering new things to do! We recently tried several new-to-us experiences that were tons of fun: e-biking the Bow Valley Parkway with Banff Cycle, riding horses to Windy Knoll with Banff Trail Riders, paddling to Vermilion Lakes (rent canoes from Banff Canoe Club), and spelunking with Canmore Cave Tours. We also re-visited the Mount Norquay Sightseeing Chairlift and Via Ferrata for amazing views, awesome dining, and an exciting alpine adventure.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of all, was how much we enjoyed the guided experiences. Our guides were able to share so much knowledge – local history, flora, fauna, geography – in an interesting way. Not only did we learn a lot, we were shown the most scenic spots, and had some laughs. Although masks are still required for some activities, group sizes remain small, so this is an awesome year to try a tour in Banff!

If you prefer self-guided activities, we have recommendations for those too. Finally, don’t miss our dining and lodging recommendations for a wonderful stay in Banff.

e-Bike the Bow Valley Parkway to Johnston Canyon

Bike the Bow Valley Parkway without breaking a sweat on an e-bike! Banff Cycle offers bike/e-bike rentals and a fun e-bike tour that includes lunch at Black Swift Bistro and time to hike Johnston Canyon. It’s a super scenic 25 kilometres from Banff Train Station to Johnston Canyon, with lots of opportunities to see wildlife (we saw deer, elk, and a grouse!). While you still have to pedal, the pedal assist makes hills a breeze – and you can go up to 32 km/hr! There’s no other way my kids could’ve biked 50 km AND hiked and still been smiling at the end of the day. Chariot rentals are also available if you’d like to bring little ones. Read about our experience in our story: e-bike the Bow Valley Parkway and hike Johnston Canyon with Banff Cycle.

To book your tour, or get more information, visit Banff Cycle. They are conveniently located at the Banff Train Station where you can park your car all day for free.

Explore Banff on Horseback

Experience Banff the way early park visitors did: on horseback! “This is the best way to experience the mountains, and this is the best place to do it!” Mike Beerwald, our Banff Trail Riders guide tells us with a grin. Instead of watching where you step/bike, you can relax, enjoy the view, safely observe wildlife – and listen to your guide’s stories!



If you’ve never ridden before, that’s ok; no experience is necessary. The saddle horses are very gentle, and everyone is shown how to stop, go, and steer before leaving the paddock. My kids were stoked to ride unassisted (when they were younger, their horses were led by a guide) and were all smiles the whole time. Check out our trip report in this story: Experience Banff on Horseback with Banff Trail Riders.

Trail rides from 1-4 hours (and multi-day backcountry trips!) are available from April until October, weather permitting. To book your ride now, visit Banff Trail Riders.

Sightsee or Scale Peaks at Mount Norquay

For a bird’s eye view of Banff and delicious lunch, take the Mount Norquay Sightseeing Chairlift to the Cliffhouse Bistro. Thrill seekers can challenge themselves on the Via Ferrata and scale Mount Norquay with a certified guide. On this alpine adventure, you will hike, climb”ladders” on the cliff (metal bars set into the rock, though one route has a ladder hanging off a cliff!), or crossing narrow, lofty bridges. Each group has a certified guide to keep you safe and on the right track. Routes from 2-8 hours are available for adventurers who are 12 & up; tougher routes have a minimum age of 14.

Read our stories: Ride Mount Norquay’s Sightseeing Chairlift & dine at Cliffhouse Bistro and Alpine Adventure on Mount Norquay’s Via Ferrata for details!

To book your chairlift ride, lunch reservation, or Via Ferrata experience, visit Mount Norquay Ski Resort.

Paddle to Vermilion Lakes

Did you know you can walk to the Banff Canoe Club dock from downtown Banff and be on the water in minutes? From the dock, you have a couple options: 1) paddle up the Bow River or 2) paddle up Echo Creek to Vermilion Lakes. Whatever you do, don’t go down the Bow River or you’ll end up going over Bow Falls!

Echo Creek winds through woods and wetlands before entering Vermilion Lakes. Keep an eye out for wildlife – on our trip we saw elk resting in the shade, Canada Geese, and a Bald Eagle! From the lake, there are stunning views of Mount Rundle and surrounding peaks. Allow two hours to explore Vermilion Lakes at a leisurely pace.

For more information on canoe, kayak, and stand up paddleboard* rentals or guided canoe trips, visit Banff Canoe Club. *Note that Echo Creek is not recommended for SUPs as it’s very shallow.

Package deals: Save money when you book a canoe/kayak rental with a trail ride, Banff Gondola ride, bike rental, sightseeing chairlift, or white water rafting adventure at The Banff Canoe Club | Canoe Packages! Activities can be done on different days.

Where to hike (and forest bathe!) in Banff

From waterfalls and lakes, to mountain tops and multi-day treks, there is no shortage of gorgeous hiking trails in Banff National Park. Some of the best short hikes in Banff include the following:

  • Tunnel Mountain: Also known as Sleeping Buffalo Mountain, Tunnel Mountain is a fun, short hike you can do from town that offers awesome views of Mount Rundle and the Bow Valley.
  • Johnson Lake: Hike around the lake to a swing, hoodoos viewpoint, or old hermit cabin; then picnic and play at the small beach, or paddle.
  • Johnston Canyon: Hike a catwalk along the canyon’s edge to beautiful Lower Falls, then walk through a small tunnel to a lookout where you can feel the mist of the falls on your face. Going further: 30-metre Upper Falls is most people’s destination, but the Inkpots are an interesting destination (small colorful pools in a meadow). See Parks Canada | Johnston Canyon for more info.
  • Sulphur Mountain and Sanson’s Peak: Whether you take the Banff Gondola to the top or hike up, the boardwalk to Sanson’s Peak is one of the best short walks in Banff.
  • Sundance Trail and Sundance Canyon Loop: Bike Sundance Trail to the canyon trailhead, then hike up stairs, and across footbridges past cascading waterfalls.
  • C-Level Cirque: Hike past coal mining ruins to two scenic viewpoints near Lake Minnewanka, Banff National Park.
  • Johnston Canyon: One of the jewels of Banff, this popular trail takes you over a catwalk to several waterfalls, the most prominent being Lower Falls and Upper Falls.

If you’d like to get more in tune with nature, try Forest Bathing (Shinrin Yoku) with Forest Fix. This form of nature therapy was developed in Japan in the 1980’s to help people deal with stress. Through a series of invitations to experience nature in different ways, a guided forest bathing session will “reset your mind, body, and brain.” We recently tried forest bathing with Ronna of Forest Fix and found it relaxing but refreshing at the same time. Recommended for individuals and corporate / school groups who would like to unplug and reconnect with nature (no swimsuit required – dress for hiking). Ronna also offers “Guided Hikes, EcoYoga, Retreats and a unique Coaching experience in nature.”

Where to Eat in Banff

Soak up the sun on a patio, get takeout from Banff Hospitality Collective (nine great restaurants to choose from!) and go for a picnic, or enjoy in-room dining. It’s all good – and it’s all delicious! Here are a few delicious dining options in Banff:

Breakfast

Lunch

  • Three Bears Brewery & Restaurant (205 Bear St) is your place for a pint and an eclectic menu including lettuce wraps, tuna tostadas Thai curry, and pizza; but not just any pizza – the dough is made with a special 72-hour reverse ice water ferment for extra flavor.
  • Stock Food & Drink at the Banff Springs Hotel (405 Spray Ave) has tasty treats and a gorgeous patio.

Dinner

  • For delicious Italian food “with an Alberta twist”, try La Terrazza at Banff Park Lodge (222 Lynx Street). Their Rosellini (hand-rolled pasta roses in rosé sauce) is as tasty as it is beautiful, and they do a great steak too!
  • For great Greek, visit The Balkan (120 Banff Ave). I usually get the chicken souvlaki because it’s gluten free.
  • Farm + Fire at Elk + Avenue Hotel features fire roasted goodness, creative cocktails, and awesome rotisserie chicken. See our story: Farm + Fire Restaurant: Classy Comfort Food in the heart of Banff for more info!
  • If you still have room, go to Beavertails for dessert! There are two locations: 120 Banff Ave & 201 Banff Ave.

Where to Stay

Peaks Hotel & Suites, Banff’s newest hotel, is hard to miss with its stunning design. Shaped like the peaks that surround Banff, the luxurious rooms it houses are equally stunning. Choose from standard rooms and junior suites, to loft suites and top floor suites. After a day of exploring, relax on your deck or balcony (some suites even have private entrances and gas fire pits)!

Excellent in-room dining is available from the Peaks’ sister hotel, Banff Park Lodge, across the street (we recommend La Terrazza!). The Banff Park Lodge fitness centre, pool, hot pools, steam room, and sauna are also available to Peaks’ guests. We have used these amenities before as Banff Park Lodge guests and love them! On our most recent trip, however, we took advantage of the Peaks’ location and played outside. We walked to the Banff Canoe Club, Banff Train Station (for our e-bike tour), and downtown Banff. Everything is so close!

Service is impeccable as you would expect from a hotel of this calibre. From valet parking to special occasion decorating/requests, Peaks goes to great lengths to ensure you have a wonderful stay. For my daughter’s birthday, they had a birthday cake put in the room before we arrived, and decorated the bedroom beautifully. We loved staying at Peaks and will definitely be back!

For more information, or to book your stay, visit: Peaks Hotel & Suites.

Know Before You Go

If you drive your own vehicle into the park, you will require a national park pass. Daily passes are good for the day of entry until 4 pm the next day. If you are staying for multiple days or anticipate making several trips to National Parks, you can purchase the Parks Canada Discovery Pass, which is good at all national parks for one year. Purchase your pass from the park gates, Banff or Lake Louise Visitor Information Centres, online (allow 7-10 days for delivery), or AMA. AMA members get a discount on annual passes.

You are in bear country! Bears have been spotted near the townsite of Banff (even on busy trails), so it is essential you carry bear spray and keep it accessible. If you are traveling in a group and making noise, it is highly unlikely you’ll have to use it, but it’s good to carry just in case. For tips on staying safe, see our story: Bear Safety Tips for Hikers and Backpackers. If you see a bear in Banff National Park, please call Banff National Park dispatch at 403-762-1470.

You should stay at least three bus lengths from moose and elk. Although these animals are usually quite peaceful, males can be aggressive during mating season (late August until mid-October), and females are very protective of their calves (especially in early summer).

The weather changes quickly in the mountains, so you should always bring a midlayer and waterproof/breathable shell. When you go hiking, pack The Ten Essential Systems so you have what you need in case you are delayed due to weather, injury, or getting lost. Good footwear is a must so you don’t slip and fall. We recommend mid-height waterproof hiking boots with a Vibram or similar sole.

Getting Here

Driving: Banff is located 1.5 hours from Calgary, Alberta (where the nearest international airport is); 45 minutes from Lake Louise, Alberta; and 3.5 hours from Jasper, Alberta. We highly recommend driving the Icefields Parkway from Lake Louise to Jasper if you have time!

Bus transportation is also available. Several options available from the Calgary Airport or downtown Calgary are listed on Banff Lake Louise Tourism | Getting Here.

Getting Around

During peak season, parking can be tricky around the Banff townsite, Lake Louise, Moraine Lake, and popular trailheads. You can save yourself some time and hassle by taking public transit, or the Parks Canada shuttle to Lake Louise and Moraine Lake.

  • Roam Transit has routes from Banff Avenue to Sulphur Mountain (Banff Gondola), Tunnel Mountain to the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, Banff Avenue to Cave and Basin National Historic Site, Banff to Lake Minnewanka; and routes from Banff to Canmore, Johnston Canyon, and Lake Louise. Rates are very reasonable. Children 12 and under ride free, and registered campers departing from Tunnel Mountain or Two Jack Lake campground can get their outbound trip free on certain routes.
  • The Lake Louise and Moraine Lake shuttles can be reserved online for your convenience.

For more information, visit Banff Lake Louise Tourism | Explore the Park.

Partnership Disclosure

This story was written in partnership with Banff Lake Louise Tourism, Peaks Hotel & Suites, Mount Norquay Ski Resort, Banff Trail Riders, Banff Cycle, Banff Canoe Club, Banff Hospitality Collective, Canmore Cave Tours, and Forest Fix, but all words and opinions are my own.

Fun things to do in Banff this summer
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