moraine lake in banff national park

If you want to experience nature’s most beautiful, head to Banff National Park. Located in Albert, Canada, it’s the country’s first national park. It started as a modest hot springs reserve and today serves as an unmatched mountain destination tucked away in the Canadian Rockies. Not only for mountain lovers, Banff National Park has something to offer everyone — think skiing, fishing, golfing, plus the most luxurious in terms of accommodations.

Planning your itinerary? Here’s some of what you can expect.

The Best of Banff National Park

Hot Springs


Banff is famous for its hot springs. The geothermally heated water bubbles up to the surface from the earth’s crust, reaching a toasty 116°F in the winter and 81°F in the springtime. Soothing and packed with minerals like sulfate, calcium, magnesium, sodium, and bicarbonate, Canada’s year-round hot springs are the perfect place to unwind.

Each spring provides a unique experience, with its own balance of minerals, gases, and temperatures. Plus, the views are unparalleled: snowcapped mountains and the gorgeous sun rising or setting. Perfection.

Whitewater Rafting

Whether you’re a novice or a seasoned expert, you won’t regret whitewater rafting in Banff. Kicking Horse River is the place to be. If you’re looking for a calmer rafting opportunity, they’ve got it. Want to live life a little more on the edge? They’ve got those kinds of rapids, too.

Don’t get us wrong: the Bow River, Highwood River, and Kananaskis River also offer their own unique adventures.

Sunshine Meadows

sunshine meadows in banff national park

Considered by many to be Canada’s number one day hike, Sunshine Meadows looks like it was pulled directly from a postcard. Venture to this area and you’ll be surrounded by some of the highest peaks in the Canadian Rockies.

Take Banff’s biggest gondola up to the Village, where you’ll have awe-inspiring views of the valley down below, all the mountain peaks, and the area’s wildlife. Then, pick from the six graveled hiking trails that wind through all three alpine lakes, waterfalls, and the lush fields packed with flowers spanning more than seven miles of Sunshine Meadows. Brilliant.

Lake Louise

banff national park lake louise

If nature is calling, you must answer her. While it’s about 40 miles northwest of Banff, if you’re spending time in the park, you can’t miss visiting the emerald waters of Lake Louise for canoeing or heading into the neighboring mountains for hiking or rock climbing. Go for a short walk or challenge yourself to an off-trail excursion. You can even saddle up and ride horseback to explore the lake and park. No roads. No rushing. Just you, your horse, and nature.

Museums

It’s not all outdoor adventures, although Banff certainly doesn’t disappoint in that arena. You can also get a heavy dose of culture, history, and art while you’re there. The resort town is full of museums. The Whyte Museum, for instance, honors both the historical and contemporary art of the country. It has guided tours, archives, and even a library.

Or there’s the Banff Park Museum National Historic Site of Canada, which is home to more than 5,000 animal specimens and is an excellent opportunity to learn about Banff’s wildlife.

Camping

lake louise in banff national park

Banff National Park has most other locations beat when it comes to its camping opportunities. With multiple campgrounds in the area, you can’t go wrong. Waterfowl Lake Campground is a mere 45 miles from Banff and has 116 sites. Enjoy the Mistaya River and Waterfowl Lake, and then take the trail to Cirque and Chephren Lakes.

If you visit Lake Louise and don’t want to leave, set up camp there! Park yourself in the woods along the Bow River, just 2.5 miles from the water. Multiple biking and hiking trails are right within reach.

night camping in banff national park

Accommodations

While you should explore Banff’s stunning outdoors as much as you can, no one will blame you for wanting accommodations that might be a bit cozier. Thankfully, the town doesn’t fall short there, either. You have plenty to choose from — like the Paradise Lodge & Bungalows, the Mountaineer Lodge, Johnston Canyon Resort, and Mount Robsten Inn, just to name a few, and that doesn’t even cover it.

Cave and Basin National Historic Site

This is a must-see for both nature lovers and history fanatics alike. Many consider this the original birthplace of Banff National Park, home to the original thermal mineral springs. This is where it all began. While those springs aren’t open to the public, you’ll learn about the park’s history and local wildlife. It’s possible people first began roaming the area 10,700 years BP, helping explain the deep cultural significance the Cave and Basin National Historic Site holds.

cave and basin national historic site

This is just a brief glimpse into what Banff and its national park have to offer. We haven’t even gotten into Helen Lake Trail, Bow Valley Parkway, and Surprise Corner — home of the hidden (and quite photogenic) historic Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel. And don’t forget to make time for the park’s most picturesque waters, aside from Lake Louise, like Lake Minnewanka, Vermilion Lakes, Cascade Ponds, and Johnson Lake.

When you travel to Banff, the world is in your hands.

Have you ever been to Banff National Park? What’s your favorite thing to do there? Let us know in the comments!