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Summer Musts in Banff: 11 Hot Activities

While most know of the hamlet for its world class winter attractions, we are also proud to boast a truly spectacular summer backdrop for outdoor adventure as well as indoor luxury. Our quaint Albertan mountain town goes out of its way to inspire guests and residents alike to get up close and personal with some of the unsurpassed surroundings that are at our fingertips.

Banff is a town of extraordinary diversity and excitement.

We in Banff are intimately connected to the lush environment around our fair town and show great pride in acting as ambassadors for guests from around the globe.
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If you, your companion, or your family are looking for a summer destination that is out of the ordinary and away from hordes of beach goers, then join us in our search for the ultimate summer attractions that will keep you outside and on your toes while visiting Banff.

Casting a Line: Fishing

Nothing says summer quite like spending time around the water. Glacial runoff from surrounding giants which stand sentinel around the town allow for some of the most singular visual feasts imaginable. Milky blue hued rivers and lakes not only present a stunning backdrop, but offer rich and plentiful possibilities for fresh water anglers looking for the ultimate catch. There are a number of popular locations for enthusiasts to cast their line including the Bow River, Lake Minnewanka, Two Jack Lake and Bow Lake where if lucky, you might find yourself reeling in a Brown Trout, Rocky Mountain Whitefish, Cutthrout, Brook, or Bull Trout. Before setting out however, just be sure to check local regulations and licencing requirements from the Parks Canada website.
Man fishing in the river surrounded by the Rocky Mountains
Photo Credit: No network coverage: Fishing in Banff National Park
Man fishing on a lake in the Rocky Mountains
Photo Credit: Banff Lake Louise Tourism Paul Zizka Photography

Getting Gritty: ATV Tours

When visiting a destination such as Banff, one of the absolute musts is to get out and explore some of the expansive and stunning backcountry so close at hand. Doing so is possible a number of ways, but if you are looking for means of exploring via adrenaline pumping adventure then your best bet is to check out one of Banff’s many ATV operators found easily through a number of websites such as ENJOY BANFF. With outfits offering tours spanning from two hours to overnight excursions, you are bound to find a package that suits your particular skill level and desire. Companies such as Banff Adventures and Banff Travel will help you develop an intimate understanding of our local environment, all while being guided along terrain you would have never otherwise seen without an experienced guide and naturalist on hand.
Couple enjoying the view on ATV's in the Rocky Mountains
Photo Credit: Ocean Side Post
Couple on ATV's in the Rocky Mountains, Alberta
Photo Credit: Clipper Vacations

Riding Towards the Heavens: The Sulphur Mountain Gondola

Looking for an activity that will give you a thrilling panorama of Banff and the Bow Valley with unequalled views that stretch towards the horizon? Not to be missed on your next trip is the Sulphur Mountain Gondola which after great anticipation reopened on May 1st of 2016 after undergoing a $26 million facelift to its upper mountain terminal. The upper terminal building, originally constructed in 1980 was demolished in September of 2015 and was partially reopened to the public at the beginning of May with the full world class facility coming online as of August 1st, 2016. The SMG has been one of Banff’s highlight attractions for decades offering epic views of the town as well as the six inspiring local mountain ranges. Situated just five minutes from the southern end of Banff Avenue, this one of a kind adventure will whisk you up the dominating peaks surrounding Banff and give visitors access to the inspiring sky-walk upon reaching the summit. Tickets can be purchased in advance, or upon arrival at base station. Be sure not to forget your camera!
Couple in Gondola, Banff National Park
Photo Credit: Banff Lake Louise Tourism Paul Zizka Photography
Gondola, Banff National Park
Photo Credit: Banff Lake Louise Tourism Paul Zizka Photography

White Water and Blue Skies: River Rafting

River rafting offers some of the most heart pounding adventure a person could hope to experience while on holiday. Thrill seekers come from around the world to get a first-hand glance at some utterly spellbinding runs all while trying to leave their mark amongst formidable glacial runoff. Big water in Alberta has been inspiring travellers for years and will continue to do so by luring newcomers towards the Kicking Horse and Kananaskis rivers. Outfits at both locations offer experts who are more than willing to show you the ropes all while teaching about navigation of local fresh water arteries. There are numerous well established facilities on hand with skilled and knowledgeable guides and long histories of safety as well as impeccable customer service. Get in contact with any of them and they will be eager to assist you in putting together the adventure package of your dreams.
River Rafting, Banff National Park
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Banff in the Saddle: Horseback Riding

A horseback adventure is a one of a kind experience that will have you marvelling at an amazing natural backdrop all under the guide of trained ranch hands and naturalists. Trips can last from anywhere between a couple of hours for the inexperienced to overnight forays for the more stout of heart. Popular routes surrounding the area include the Sundance Canyon Trail and the Spray River Loop, both of which will give riders an exceptional look at the very best of Banff. Many different outfits exist, all of which will go out of their way to make your experience a memorable one. Horseback riding has been a long standing mode of transportation in and around Banff dating back to when the area was nothing more than a trade outpost servicing the Canadian Pacific Railroad. As far as technology may have taken us, it is still our four-legged travelling companions that are able to transport us into secluded areas that conventional vehicles are unable to reach. Despite your previous experiences with horses, it is a guarantee that such a tour will leave a lasting memory of your holiday in your mind for years to come.
Horseback riding in the Rocky Mountains
Photo Credit: Banff Lake Louise Tourism Paul Zizka Photography
horseback riding tours at Lake Louise, Banff, Alberta
Photo Credit: Banff Lake Louise Tourism Paul Zizka Photography

Above the Clouds: Local Helicopter Tours

If you have ever had a friend who has taken a helicopter tour while on holiday, you are probably aware that there is little else they seem to talk about when they get back home. Truly, sky tours of your holiday surroundings offer an experience quite unlike any other, and the more dramatic the landscape, the more rewarding that experience seems to be. This is why a Banff helicopter tour weighs in on our list of “summer musts”. With flight plans that include the “Three Sisters Peaks”, “Mount Assinboine”, “Mount Lougheed”, “Mount Sparrowhook”, “The Bow Valley” and The Kananaskis Valley, you had better be sure to have a full memory card for your camera before setting off. The Canadian Rockies have spent the better part of a geologic age shaping some of the world’s most inspiring peaks and vistas. Some of our guests make their way to our little town from the other side of the planet just to see what we are fortunate enough to have at hand every day of the year, and it is our hope that they get to experience every inch of the supernatural surroundings which make Banff as beautiful and singular as it is.
Helicopter over the Rocky Mountains
Photo Credit: Alpine Helicopter

Up for some Spelunking? Cave Tours

From high in the sky to subterranean adventure, we want to show it all off here in Banff. Unbeknownst to most visitors are the network of caves and possibilities for unique exploration while visiting us both above and below ground. The Cave and Basin historical site will get you and your guests trekking downwards after a collection of elevated boardwalks skirting our cherished thermal hot springs. If you are looking for something even more intense, while also expertly monitored, we highly recommend a short drive out of town to discover the Canmore Rat’s Nest Cave. Here you will climb through more than 4km of inspiring features and find yourself negotiating rappels and passageways all while listening to the captivating sounds of water trickling its way through cracks, crevasse, and drop-offs.

Glacial Delights: The Columbia Icefield & Icefield’s Parkway

Coming to Banff without paying a visit to the Columbia Icefield would be like a trip to Paris without a stroll along the Seine or jaunt to Istanbul that forgets to include the Hagia Sophia. Listed as one of Condé Nast’s top drives in the world, running between Lake Louise and Jasper, you will be utterly floored by the 230 km Icefield’s Parkway. A drive along the parkway (Highway 93) is an experience all to itself, and you would be advised to make a day out of your journey by packing a lunch and lots of water. Doing so, affords visitors the chance to stop whenever they feel inspired by a particularly beautiful vista or milky blue glacial lake (There are lots of them). As you are in one of Canada’s great national parks, be on the lookout for local wildlife which is healthy and abundant. Just be mindful to always keep a safe distance if you happen to see one of the park’s residents off to the side of the road and to respect their space. Upon reaching the Columbia Icefield you can make your way to the iceflow solo or as part of a guided adventure tour on a big wheeled Ice Bus! Do not miss the stunning 1 km cliff-edge walkway which culminates on the glass bottom Glacier Skybridge hanging nearly 1,000 feet above the valley floor, for those who have mastered their fear of heights.
Icefields Parkway
Photo Credit:

GRRRRRR! The Golden Grizzly Refuge

Another not to be missed experience that will take you out of town and westward through the British Columbia Rockies is the Grizzly Bear Refuge at Kicking Horse Mountain, just outside of Golden, BC. Home to the now celebrity “Boo” the bear, you are guaranteed a grizzly sighting on your visit despite the large 20-acre natural enclosure. Should you and your party not catch a visual of the sanctuary’s star attraction you will be invited back by the facility at no charge. One of the real highlights a person can experience while on holiday is an up close encounter with an animal in its natural habitat. Additional operationsout of Banff offer tours both by day and into the evening which help to create a better understanding of the conservation of life in our parks. You will never forget the feeling of spotting one of Canada’s majestic mascots for the first time whether it be a big horned sheep, black bear, grizzly, moose, elk, or one of the countless other natural treasures you are sure to find on your next visit to our town.

The ‘Other’ Great Lakes: Minnewanka, Moraine & Magog

Lake Minnewanka

Returning a little closer to the town of Banff itself is the unforgettable glacial Lake Minnewanka with utterly stunning views of Mt. Girouard, Pakakos Mountain, Mt. Costigan, and Saddle Peak. Dip your hands or feet into a real glacial body of water and see just how long you can endure the chill before departing on a stunning 1 hour boat tour. Your skipper will point out all of the most spectacular geological highlights, but honestly speaking, you will surly notice most of them before the boat ever pulls away from the dock.
Lake Minniewanka, Banff National Park
Photo Credit: Banff Lake Louise Tourism Paul Zizka Photography
Lake Moraine, friend on a hike, Banff National Park
Photo Credit: Banff Lake Louise Tourism Paul Zizka Photography

Lake Moraine

Formerly gracing the Canadian $20 bill, and certainly one of the most iconic images of the Great White Northern Wilderness is Lake Moraine located inside Banff National Park. While only half the size of Lake Louise in terms of cubic volume, Moraine is often cited as the favoured beauty spot owing to its snug location among Alberta’s Valley of Ten Peaks. So special is this natural heritage site that it is generally inaccessible during winter months owing to intense snowfall.
Aside from its overwhelming beauty, tourists are drawn to the lake for canoeing and hiking. It is important to mention that being surrounded by such dense wilderness, Moraine Lake is in the heart of what is considered to be grizzly territory. Before setting out on a hike, consult with local rangers on site and always travel with a group.

Maggog Lake

While likely one of the more challenging to reach, those who are able would be unwise to miss Magog Lake which sits in the dominant shadow of Mt. Assiniboine. This small but crystal clear body of water has been a draw for hikers and campers alike. The location, like many others in and around Banff is almost completely hewn in by expansive wilderness, so when making the journey out on foot, be sure to consult a guide and to bring all of the essentials such as water, snacks, bear repellent, bug spray and all other critical hiking accessories.
Magog Lake
Photo Credit: Victor Liu

Fishing Off the Day in the Local Lanes: Bowling

Eventually you will need to drag yourself back in from our magnificent outdoor playground to your cozy hotel, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you need to call it a day just yet. Banff prides itself on creating as much nocturnal fun as it does in helping guests to play outside in the sunshine. Dining options in the town accommodate all tastes while clubs and lounges provide a more intimate after-hours feel for the grownups. However, there is one hall welcoming guests of all ages with their lively and laid back evening atmosphere. High Roller’s is an all in one stop for those looking for some bowling, bocce, beer, and great New York style pizza. The location is a popular haunt for locals and visitors alike and sees people packing in throughout the year. For this reason, it’s recommended to book a lane or a table earlier in the day to make sure you don’t miss out on their fast rolling fun.
High Rollers Bowling, Banff, Alberta
Photo Credit: High Rollers
High Rollers Bowling Lanes, Banff, Alberta
Photo Credit: High Rollers
Couple enjoying the view, Lake Louise, Banff, Alberta
Photo Credit:

More Than One Trip’s Worth!

Banff is a destination that caters exclusively to those with a passion for life and a deep appreciation for nature at its finest. While we hold great love for coastal environments, we are somewhat biased towards our own supernatural surroundings and have an inherent desire to show them off to the world.
It is our belief that there is something for absolutely everyone in Banff and that we can boast utterly unique landscapes to the world.We hope to get all guests outside so that they might experience the breadth of our natural wonders all while inviting them back at the end of the day to real Canadian hospitality. Banff is a town of seasonal visitors, each with seasonal desires. While the winter months offer Christmas card vignettes, summer tourism lends itself to unchallenged beauty and outdoor adventure.