The Best of Banff: 30 Unmissable Things to Do in and Around Banff

Whether you’re deepening your understanding through a guided indigenous learning tour, soaking in the tranquil waters of thermal pools, or trying rock climbing for the first time, this guide showcases a diverse array of activities to enrich your visit.

The Best of Banff: 30 Unmissable Things to Do in and Around Banff

Nestled in the heart of the Canadian Rockies, Banff is a treasure trove of natural wonders, thrilling adventures, and deep cultural experiences.

Whether you’re deepening your understanding through a guided indigenous learning tour, soaking in the tranquil waters of thermal pools, or trying rock climbing for the first time, this guide showcases a diverse array of activities to enrich your visit.

Get ready to explore the best that Banff has to offer, with each activity promising to be an unforgettable addition to your itinerary.

The Natural Wonders of Banff

Banff, nestled in the Canadian Rockies, offers a range of natural wonders that beckon outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers alike. Here’s a guide to some of the most exhilarating experiences in this pristine wilderness.

Top Rock Climbing at Shakakan Wall in The David Thompson, west of Nordegg, Alberta

1. Rock Climbing in Banff

Step outside and ascend the heights with rock climbing adventures in Banff. Whether you’re a novice or an experienced climber, the sheer rock faces of the Canadian Rockies offer an exhilarating challenge and unparalleled mountain views.

Try Rock Climbing in Banff

Take a selfie in banff

2. Banff National Park

Explore the splendor of Canada’s first national park. Banff National Park is a sanctuary of rugged landscapes, diverse wildlife, and endless outdoor activities set against the backdrop of awe-inspiring scenery.

Moraine Lake

3. Lake Louise & Moraine Lake

Experience the tranquil beauty of Lake Louise and Moraine Lake. These iconic turquoise lakes are best visited early morning or late evening to dodge the crowds and soak in the serene atmosphere.

Johnston Canyon Hike

4. Johnston Canyon Hike

Embark on the accessible Johnston Canyon hike, perfect for all ages. This trail leads you past cascading waterfalls and through dramatic canyon scenery, making it a favorite among visitors for its breathtaking views and easy accessibility.

Sunrise over Mt Rundle in Banff

5. Sunrise at Mount Rundle

Start your day with a sunrise hike up Mount Rundle. The early climb rewards you with breathtaking views of the sun illuminating the valley, providing a serene and energizing start to the day.

Closeup of a man putting on ice crampons, getting ready to climb a frozen waterfall in Nordegg, Alberta

6. Ice Climbing in Grotto Canyon

During the winter, experience the thrill of ice climbing in Grotto Canyon. It’s a spectacular way to enjoy the frozen waterfalls and icy landscapes, offering a unique adventure for those looking to challenge themselves in a frozen wonderland.

Grizzly Bear with Cub in Banff

7. Wildlife-watching Tours

Join a guided wildlife-watching tour to safely observe Banff’s native animals, including elk, bears, and bighorn sheep, in their natural habitat. These tours provide an intimate glimpse into the lives of wildlife and are led by knowledgeable guides who ensure a safe and respectful distance.

Horse Trail Ride in Banff

8. Horseback Riding in Bow Valley

Explore the scenic trails of Bow Valley on horseback. This relaxing ride offers a unique perspective of Banff’s beautiful landscapes and is a wonderful way to connect with nature at a leisurely pace.
Cave And Basin Banff

9. Cave and Basin National Historic Site

Discover the historical significance of the natural thermal mineral springs that led to the creation of Canada’s national parks at the Cave and Basin National Historic Site. Explore interactive exhibits and the picturesque surroundings where history and natural beauty converge.

Adventure Activities in Banff

Banff is a playground for adventure seekers, offering a variety of thrilling activities set amidst the stunning natural beauty of the Canadian Rockies. Here’s your guide to getting the most out of Banff’s exhilarating adventure scene.

Man climbing the multi pitch climb "better together" in alberta

10. Banff Multi-Pitch Climbing

Take your rock climbing to new heights with Banff’s multi-pitch routes. These climbs offer a unique opportunity to scale the majestic peaks and explore secluded spots rarely seen by others.

Book Multi-Pitch Experience

snowboard jump

11. Skiing and Snowboarding

Carve through the powdery slopes of world-renowned ski resorts like Sunshine Village and Lake Louise. Banff transforms into a winter paradise, providing a premium setting for skiing and snowboarding enthusiasts.

launching a canoe in Banff

12. Canoeing and Kayaking

Paddle the peaceful waters of Banff in a canoe or kayak. The Vermilion Lakes and the Bow River are prime spots for enjoying the calm waters and scenic views, perfect for a day out on the water.
parasailing in the mountains

13. Paragliding Over the Rockies

Take to the skies with a paragliding experience over the Canadian Rockies. It’s a thrilling way to see the stunning landscapes from a bird’s-eye view, feeling the rush of wind and freedom as you soar above majestic mountains.

Cycling the Legacy Trail in Banff

14. Mountain Biking on the Legacy Trail

Ride the Legacy Trail by mountain bike. This route offers spectacular views as it connects Banff to Canmore, providing cyclists with a scenic and invigorating way to explore the natural beauty of the area.
lake minnewanka

15.Scuba Diving at Lake Minnewanka

For a different kind of adventure, try scuba diving in Lake Minnewanka where submerged village ruins and unique aquatic life await. Dive into the clear waters to explore the mysterious underwater ruins, making for an unforgettable experience.
Rockies Heli Red Helicopter taking off from the David Thompson Highway

16. Helicopter Tours

Experience the majesty of the Canadian Rockies from above with a helicopter tour, providing panoramic views of Banff’s most remote and stunning areas. This aerial adventure offers a unique perspective on the vast wilderness and its natural splendors.

Book a Helicopter Tour

Cultural and Relaxation Experiences in Banff

Discover the rich cultural tapestry and serene relaxation opportunities Banff has to offer. From insightful indigenous hikes to tranquil hot springs, here’s how to enrich your visit with both relaxation and cultural depth.

Man climbing the multi pitch climb "better together" in alberta

17. Indigenous Learning Hike

Embark on an enlightening Indigenous Learning Hike that fosters a deeper appreciation for native traditions and viewpoints. This guided journey through nature is both an educational experience and a spiritual reconnection with the land.

Book Indigenous Hike

Steamy hot springs

18. Banff Upper Hot Springs

Immerse yourself in the soothing waters of the Banff Upper Hot Springs. These naturally heated mineral pools offer a picturesque mountain backdrop, making it a perfect spot for relaxation and rejuvenation.
Steamy hot springs

18. Banff Upper Hot Springs

Immerse yourself in the soothing waters of the Banff Upper Hot Springs. These naturally heated mineral pools offer a picturesque mountain backdrop, making it a perfect spot for relaxation and rejuvenation.
creative Dance

19. Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity

Experience the artistic heart of Banff at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity. This cultural hub hosts a vibrant array of performances, exhibitions, and workshops, showcasing both local and international talents.

Cascade Mountain from Banff Town Main Street

20. Exploring the Town of Banff

Spend a relaxing day wandering through the charming town of Banff. Stroll along Banff Avenue where you can shop for unique local crafts, dine at cozy eateries, and visit galleries that reflect the area’s rich artistic heritage.
movie watching

21. Evening at the Lux Cinema

Spend an evening enjoying a film at the Lux Cinema, Banff’s only movie theater. This cozy venue offers a selection of mainstream, independent, and foreign films, providing a relaxing night out and a chance to unwind after a day of adventure.
two women enjoying live music

22. Music and Folk Dancing at the Banff Legion

Spend an evening at the Banff Legion, a local hub for cultural events, including live music and folk dancing nights. These events often feature local bands and provide a lively, friendly atmosphere perfect for experiencing local culture and meeting residents.

Day Trips and Excursions from Banff

Expand your exploration beyond Banff with these enticing day trips and excursions. Whether it’s scaling via ferratas, driving through scenic landscapes, or discovering nearby parks and cities, there’s an adventure waiting around every corner.

Woman and man climbing the Fox Via Ferrata West of Nordegg, Alberta

23. Nordegg Via Ferratas

Challenge yourself on the Nordegg Via Ferratas, featuring routes like The Fox and From Nordegg with Love. These exhilarating climbs offer stunning views and thrilling ascents, perfect for adventurers looking to test their limits.

Book Via Ferrata

icefields parkway

24. Icefields Parkway

Take a road trip along the Icefields Parkway, one of the world’s most breathtaking highways. Stretching from Banff to Jasper National Park, this route is lined with majestic peaks, massive glaciers, and pristine lakes.
icefields parkway

25. Yoho National Park

Plan a day trip to Yoho National Park, where natural wonders like Takakkaw Falls and Emerald Lake await. The park offers a plethora of scenic spots and hiking trails that showcase the beauty of the Canadian Rockies.
Calgary Skyline

26. Calgary

Consider a quick jaunt to Calgary, just a short drive from Banff. This vibrant city offers a mix of urban attractions and events, making it a great addition to your travel itinerary if you’re seeking a taste of metropolitan life alongside your mountain adventures.
K Country

27. Kananaskis Country

Spend a day in Kananaskis Country, known for its rugged mountain terrain ideal for hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding. This area offers a less crowded alternative to Banff with equally stunning natural scenery and a plethora of outdoor activities.
K Country

28. Ghost Town Exploration

Venture out to the nearby ghost towns around Banff, such as Bankhead, for a glimpse into the area’s coal mining past. These abandoned towns offer a haunting yet fascinating exploration of what life once was like in these remote parts.

29. Visit Canmore

Explore the charming town of Canmore, just outside Banff, known for its artisan shops, cafes, and stunning views of the Three Sisters mountains. This friendly town offers a welcoming atmosphere and is a great place to experience local culture and cuisine.
Athabasca Glacier

30. Columbia Icefield Adventure

Explore the Columbia Icefield, where you can walk on the Athabasca Glacier or journey on the Glacier Skywalk to see breathtaking vistas of the icefield. This adventure is perfect for those looking to experience the power and beauty of nature’s ice architects up close.

Start Your Banff Adventure with Girth Hitch Guiding

As we wrap up our exploration of Banff’s 30 unmissable activities, it’s clear why this spectacular destination is a must-visit for travelers seeking diversity in their itinerary. From the breathtaking sunrise hikes on Mount Rundle to the cultural richness of indigenous hikes and local music nights, Banff offers an unparalleled blend of natural beauty, thrilling outdoor activities, and deep cultural connections.

For those eager to discover all that Banff and its surroundings have to offer, start your experience with Girth Hitch Guiding. Offering expert-led tours that cater to a variety of interests and skill levels, we can help you safely explore the rugged beauty of the Rockies, engage in exciting adventure activities, and connect with the rich cultural tapestry of the region.

So pack your bags, set your sights on Banff, and prepare for an unforgettable adventure with Girth Hitch Guiding.

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