Banff is a beautiful destination in Western Canada, in the province of Alberta. Located approximately 1.5 hours from Calgary, Alberta, by car, Banff is a quaint mountain town in the Canadian Rockies that is full of Swiss influence. Travelers can base themselves in the town of Banff while exploring Banff National Park and the Icefields Parkway.
Best Time To Visit
The best time of year to visit Banff depends on what type of activities travelers are interested in participating in. For peak hiking conditions, consider visiting during the summer (between May-September) when temperatures are warm and the weather is dry.
The high during summer is typically around 22ºC while the low is an average of 6ºC.
Hiking conditions can also be pleasant in the fall, particularly in October, before heavy snowfall. This is one of the most beautiful times to visit when the leaves are changing colors.
Hiking the Larch Valley Trail during this season is ideal because the larches are a vibrant yellow.
Travelers can also visit Banff during the winter for unique seasonal experiences like ice skating on Lake Louise or soaking in hot springs. The average high in January in Banff is -3ºC while the average low is -13ºC.
Although it’s possible to have a fantastic time exploring Banff during the winter, travelers seeking photos of vibrant blue glacial lakes will want to reconsider visiting during this time. Lake Louise is typically frozen from December to early May while Moraine Lake is closed to the public during the winter.
The road to Moraine typically closes after Canadian Thanksgiving Weekend, at the beginning of October.
Where To Stay In The Town Of Banff
Banff is a charming mountain town with plenty of accommodation options to suit every budget and travel style. Those looking to splurge on their stay in Banff can find high-end hotels (like the infamous Fairmont Banff Springs) with an abundance of amenities and stunning views of the Canadian Rockies.
For budget travelers, hostels and motels in the area offer a comfortable and convenient base for exploring Banff National Park.
Best Spots For Food And Drinks
The town of Banff has an exceptional culinary scene with lots of options for every palate. Swiss fondue is a must-try while in Banff since the town has drawn so much inspiration from the Jungfrau region of Switzerland.
Besides the many delicious restaurants, there are some exciting festival events and markets that take place annually in the town of Banff.
During November, Banff hosts its annual Banff Craft Beer Festival at the Cave & Basin National Historic Site. The festival features Alberta craft beers exclusively and has more than 40 vendors.
- Date: November 24-26, 2022
- Address: 311 Cave Ave, Banff, AB T1L 1K2, Canada
- Entry fee: From $15 ($19.99 CAD)
Another annual culinary event to attend during the holiday season is the Banff Christmas Market. This market boasts more than 100 seasonal vendors selling artisanal goods, warm drinks, and treats.
- dates: November 18-20, November 25-27, December 2-4, 2022
- Address: 100 Sundance Road – Warner Stables, Banff, AB
- Entry fee: $7.50 ($10 CAD) + 5% GST
Besides the festivals and markets taking place in the city, there are plenty of incredible restaurants to try while staying in the town of Banff.
- Best restaurants for breakfast: Wild Flour Bakery, Coyotes Southwestern Grill, Evelyn’s Coffee Bar
- Top eateries for lunch and dinner: The Grizzly House, The Bear Street Tavern, La Terrazza, Nourish Bistro Banff
- Greatest bars: The Beaver Bar, Pump & Tap Tavern, St. James Gate Irish Pub, Banff Ave. Brewing Co., Park Distillery Restaurant + Bar
How To Get Around Banff
Getting around the town of Banff is perfectly possible on foot. The town itself is small and walkable, with many of the popular shops, restaurants, and bars, concentrated in one area.
However, Banff is the gateway to exploring the Canadian Rockies, so any traveler visiting the town is sure to require transportation to more rural areas of Banff National Park where they can access hiking trails or visit Lake Louise.
For those who prefer to explore at their own pace, renting a car is the best option for exploring Banff. Travelers can stay in a cozy lodge in town at night and venture out at their leisure in their vehicle during the day.
Driving around Banff National Park also presents many opportunities to spot wildlife.
For those who don’t drive, it’s possible to book tours that provide hotel pickup to explore the area. When staying within the town, travelers can take advantage of the bus system to cover further distances.
Park Fees And Exploration
Banff is Canada’s oldest National Park. As part of the National Park system, travelers must pay a fee for entry. They can purchase a daily entrance pass for ~$8 ($10.50 CAD) if they are interested in a single day of hiking.
Travelers who are planning to visit multiple National Parks within Canada in a single year may find better value in purchasing the Parks Canada Discovery Pass which grants access to all of Canada’s national parks for ~$54 ($72.25 CAD).
Banff National Park is well known for its many hiking trails, which people travel from all around the world to explore. Some top trails to check out when visiting the park include:
Lake Agnes Trail
This trail starts from Lake Louise and takes travelers up to a beautiful teahouse where they can have lunch and a cup of tea.
Fun fact: the tea is made with water from a glacially fed lake next to the teahouse.
- Distance: 7.4km
- Difficulty Level: Moderate
Sentinel Pass Via Larch Valley Trail
The Larch Valley Trail is best hiked during autumn when the larches have vibrant yellow leaves. The hike features challenging switchbacks but offers stunning views of Moraine Lake.
Then, the trail increases in difficulty as it turns into the Sentinel Pass, taking travelers to higher elevations.
- Distance: 11.1 km
- Difficulty Level: Hard
This is a fairly short hike with tremendous reward for little effort. While the trail is short the views at the end of the Saskatchewan Glacier are incredible.
When hiking here during the fall or winter, travelers should come prepared with crampons to prevent slipping in the snow.
- Distance: 4 miles
- Difficulty Level: Moderate
Estimated Costs And Budgeting For A Week In Banff
The cost of spending 1 week in Banff amounts to approximately $1500 for a solo traveler or around $2,700 for a couple. A week in the town of Banff is plenty of time to explore the national park along with the hamlet of Lake Louise and drive the Icefields Parkway.
Many of the activities in this area are free, such as hiking or simply driving. However, the costs to factor in include the parks pass, rental car fees, gas, accommodation, and food.
The hotels in Banff range significantly with hostels and motels averaging approximately $70 per night while high-end hotels can exceed $250 per night.
The restaurants in Banff range from fast food, like McDonald’s, to fancier fondue venues. A multi-course fondue meal at The Grizzly House (minimum of 2 people) starts at ~$38 per person.
Roam Public Transit, which can be used to shuttle between Banff and the nearby town of Canmore, offers affordable fares starting from just $2 one-way.
Q: Is Banff Expensive?
The town of Banff can be expensive for travelers who want to stay in a high-end hotel. These luxury accommodations come at a premium price, especially during the peak seasons (July/August and December/January).
However, for travelers on a budget, it’s possible to find relatively affordable hostels and motels in Banff and enjoy free activities within the park, such as hiking the many beautiful trails.
Activities like canoeing on Lake Louise or Moraine incur additional expenses; A 1-hour canoe ride at Lake Louise costs ~$108.
Q: What Is Banff Known For?
The town of Banff is best known for being the gateway to the Canadian Rockies and Banff National Park. This area offers stunning mountain views, chance encounters with wildlife, hiking trails for every fitness level, and beautiful glacial lakes.
In the winter, it’s a fantastic place to relax in hot springs, go snowshoeing, and look for the Northern Lights.