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Located within Banff National Park, Canada’s oldest national park, Banff is a resort town that attracts visitors from across the world. Marvel at the area’s incredible natural beauty, from sublime mountainscapes to beautiful lakes and trails. If you’re planning a trip to this scenic region, be sure to consult our list of the 12 best attractions that you can’t miss.
For a more relaxing way to experience the area’s impressive views, Banff Gondola is a fantastic option. Situated just 5 minutes outside of Banff, the gondola takes you 2,281m (7484ft) above sea level to an observation point overlooking six mountain ranges and the Bow Valley. Once at the top, you’ll find a small range of other attractions, including a self-guided 1km (0.6mi) walkway, several restaurants and the Sanson Peak Meteorological Station, where you can track the region’s weather patterns across the last 30 years and learn more about Banff National Park.
If you’re looking to appreciate Banff’s natural beauty but want to avoid the crowds or a particularly arduous hiking trail, head to Bow Falls. This area is especially popular with film fans, with many recognizing it from appearances in Hollywood movies, such as Marilyn Monroe’s River of No Return. This impressive waterfall occurs just before the junction of the Bow and Spray Rivers, making it accessible by car as well as via a relatively short trail – 1.2km (0.7mi) from Bow River Bridge.
Founded in 1933, the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity is a cultural venue in the region, which describes itself as ‘the intersection between art and ideas.’ Through innovative programs, the center aims to inspire everyone who visits to unleash their creative potential. It’s worth keeping an eye on its website for a multitude of events, including music, dance, film and theater performances, as well as information on the scheduled program of annual festivals, such as the Banff International String Quartet Competition and the Banff Mountain Festival, celebrating local literature and film.
Located in the Bow River Valley of Banff National Park lies Tunnel Mountain, the region’s smallest summit and one of the best hiking options for novices all year round. Despite its relatively easy incline, the mountain offers expansive views of the Bow and Spray River valleys, the Banff Springs Golf Course, and Banff Hot Springs on Sulphur Mountain. The highway that traverses the mountain is currently also used as the main access route into Banff and makes for an exceptionally scenic drive and introduction to the area.
Located 5km (3mi) outside of Banff, Lake Minnewanka is the largest body of water in Banff National Park. This glacial lake — coined ‘Water of the Spirits’ by First Nations tribes — has a rich history, with people camping and hunting along its shores for over 100 centuries. It’s a popular spot year-round, offering an abundance of summertime activities, including mountain biking and diving, as well as cross-country skiing and snowshoeing during winter. Keep your eyes peeled for grizzly bears who flock to the area to feast on berries.
After three railway workers stumbled upon this cave and its hot springs in 1883, Canada’s national parks system was founded, and this National Historic Site became one of the country’s most significant landmarks. Learn more through a series of interactive exhibits, including a four-screen visual experience showcasing Canada’s network of protected places, or take a guided tour of the original cave where you’ll hear about the history and culture of this historic area. Lantern Tours are also offered for those keen to experience the cave’s after-dark allure.
Additional reporting by Emma Gibbins