Banff Jasper Itinerary – Best Places To Visit In Banff, Canada

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Banff Jasper Itinerary - Best Places To Visit In Banff, Canada

The Canadian Rockies are a trip you must make at least once in your lifetime. And no, that’s not an overstatement. And a majority of the Rockies is found in Banff National Park and therefore you can plan a short Banff 3 Day Itinerary or itinerary for Banff and admire the landscape of Canada. It wows you at first glance. And that feeling of awe never leaves you while you are there. In fact, it only gets better the longer you stay. As the oldest national park in Canada, Banff National Park is a dramatic landscape formed of mountains, glaciers, canyons, turquoise lakes, and alpine forests. For outdoor lovers, there’s no shortage of activities to do making each day fly by. So let’s read about Banff Jasper Itinerary – Best Places To Visit In Banff, Canada and admire the most beautiful locations of Canada in this post. 

Banff Jasper Itinerary - Best Places To Visit In Banff, Canada

Best Time to Visit Banff | Banff Jasper Itinerary – Best Places To Visit In Banff, Canada

There really is no wrong time to visit Banff. It just all depends on what you want to do.

  • If you are there for hiking, then you definitely want to go during summer, mid-June through September. But keep in mind, this is also the most popular time to visit.
  • Going in the shoulder months means cheaper accommodations and fewer crowds but some trails may be closed either to snow hazards or bear activity.
  • Now if you are going just for the views, then any time of year will work. In the winter months, the region will be blanketed with snow adding a magical touch to an already fantasy-scape.

How to Reach Banff, Canada | Banff Jasper Itinerary – Best Places To Visit In Banff, Canada

  • The closest airport to Banff is Calgary International Airport (YYC). From there, it is about a 2-hour drive to the town of Banff, and rental cars are available at the airport.
  • But you can also take a bus from the airport to Banff. Both the Banff Airporter and Brewster Express offer this service.
  • Or, if you’re driving from the U.S. (especially if you are combining a trip to Banff with Glacier National Park in Montana), it’s a 4-hour drive from the Canadian border.
  • And if you really want to make your trip to Banff memorable, you can take the Rocky Mountaineer train from Vancouver. The trip takes two days to complete with out-of-this-world scenery along the entire route.

Banff Jasper Itinerary - Best Places To Visit In Banff, Canada

Where to Stay in Banff | Banff Jasper Itinerary – Best Places To Visit In Banff, Canada

Numerous accommodations are available in the town of Banff. But, it’s near impossible to find anything on the budget end that isn’t a campground. There are also several large hotels around Lake Louise. But again, not cheap.

If you have a tight budget, more affordable accommodation can be found in Canmore, a charming town roughly a 20-minute drive from Banff.

And an even cheaper option is the town of Golden outside of Yoho National Park. It is a longer drive (about an hour from Lake Louise), but it is a stunning drive.

Banff National Park Itinerary | Banff Jasper Itinerary – Best Places To Visit In Banff, Canada

When visiting Banff National Park, you want to make sure you have enough time to savor what you are doing and the views. You do not rush through Banff. So, to give yourself time to see all the major stops, you need three days in Banff. Presenting you with Banff 3 day Itinerary with 1 day extra for Jasper. 

And these three days include a variety of things to do in Banff National Park. There are some hiking and kayaking options beyond the walks to popular viewpoints or stops along the road. So, you can customize the itinerary to fit your fitness level and personal tastes.

IMP. TIP – Note that this 3-day itinerary for Banff National Park assumes that you arrived sometime during the previous day. If visiting Jasper National Park, then keep 4th day spare with you.

 Day 1 – Sulphur Mountain, Lake Minnewanka, Banff

HIGHLIGHTS OF DAY 1

  • Banff Town – Sulphur Mountain
  • Vermilion Lakes 
  • Lake Minnewanka 
  • SUNSHINE SKI VILLAGE(OPTIONAL) 
Banff Jasper Itinerary - Best Places To Visit In Banff, Canada
View from the top of Sulphur Mountain

There’s only one way to begin your adventures in Banff National Park, and that’s taking in the area from above. The town of Banff sits in the shadow of Sulphur Mountain. And on clear days, the views from the top stretch on indefinitely. It’s the perfect introduction to the grandeur that awaits you over the next three days. 

And how you get to the top is up to you. Most people opt to take the Sulphur Gondola. Though it’s the quickest way up with the least physical exertion, it is also the costliest. If you have the time and stamina, try hiking to the top. It’s a steep, unrelenting 8.1 km climb to the top via countless switchbacks. But it costs nothing to hike, and you certainly have a deeper appreciation of the views once at the top. Or, you can combine the two options – take the gondola in one direction and hike the other way.

The rest of the day can be spent exploring scenic spots near Banff. And this includes the views of the Vermilion Lakes, just outside of town. Or, you can enjoy any of the many activities available at Lake Minnewanka. This glacial lake is located only three miles outside of Banff.

Regardless of the time of year, there is plenty to do at Lake Minnewanka. During the summer, you can go swimming, mountain biking, hiking, fishing, kayaking, and scuba diving. And in winter, you can cross-country ski, snowshoe, or take in the northern lights.

Or, alternatively, you can go to Sunshine Village. This ski resort only 20-minutes from Banff, is a ski lover paradise in winter with multiple ski run options. And in summer, there are several easy hiking trails with jaw-dropping panorama views.

Banff Jasper Itinerary - Best Places To Visit In Banff, Canada
Sunshine Village

In the evening, stroll around the town of Banff where there are countless shops and restaurants to enjoy.

IMP TIP – And unless you are staying in Banff, parking can be a bit of a headache in the center of town.

Day 2 – Moraine Lake, Lake Louise, Emerald Lake

HIGHLIGHTS OF DAY 2

  • Sunrise at Moraine Lake 
  • Lake Louise
  • Lake Agnes 
  • Plain of Six Glaciers Trail
  • Emerald Lake &  dinner at the Cilantro Café

You’ll want to get an early start to the day and head over to the Lake Louise area, roughly an hour’s drive from Banff. One of the most stunning sights you can experience in Banff National Park is watching the sunrise at Moraine Lake. Surrounded by the Valley of Ten Peaks, the unbelievable aqua waters of Moraine Lake are one of the most iconic spots in all of Banff National Park.

Banff Jasper Itinerary - Best Places To Visit In Banff, Canada
Moraine lake

And watching the first rays of sunlight hit the many peaks is indescribable. If you’re going for sunrise, plan on getting there about 45 minutes to an hour beforehand (especially during summer). That sounds crazy, but sunrise at Moraine Lake is a popular thing to do and parking is extremely limited. The parking lot fills up quickly, and you do not want to miss out.

And besides sunrise, you can go kayaking in the lake (rentals available). Or you can go hiking on the various trails in the area, ranging from easy to strenuous. Though do keep in mind that some trails may be closed due to bear activity.

In winter, the road to Moraine Lake is closed (reopens late May). But you can break out your cross-country skis and get to the lake that way.

If sunrise is too early for you, you can still enjoy Moraine Lake during the day. However, when the parking lot is full, the road is closed to traffic. So, it’s best to park at Lake Louise and then take the shuttle bus to the lake.

Next, it’s on to Lake Louise, which is just down the road from Moraine Lake. Even if you’re skipping sunrise, you should still plan to arrive at Lake Louise early. Even with ample parking, the lots fill up quickly. And by 8 am, you could be forced to park in the overflow parking several miles away on the highway and then take the shuttle to Lake Louise.

Banff Itinerary
Lake Louise

And, it’s very easy to spend an entire day exploring the Lake Louise area. Coming from the parking lots, you come upon the famous view of Lake Louise. But that is only the start of possibilities for the day. You can rent a kayak and enjoy a few hours on the water.

However, the Lake Louise area is a hiker’s dream! A popular trail makes its way up to Lake Agnes, which is even more stunning than Lake Louise. And, there’s a tea house where you can get some freshly baked snacks and refreshments. Then you have the option of continuing to the top of either Big Beehive or Little Beehive (both with beautiful vistas from the top).

Banff Jasper Itinerary - Best Places To Visit In Banff, Canada

But if it’s hiking you come to Banff National Park to do, you cannot miss hiking the Plain of Six Glaciers Trail. This 5.5 km (one way) trail takes you around Lake Louise into the valley behind it, ending with a viewpoint of the Victoria Glacier. A moderate hike, the views make this trail a must-do! And, to help refuel you on the return trek, there’s another tea house on this trail! Again, delicious freshly baked goods are on the menu. And the aroma will have you salivating before you’re seated.

If you only spend a few hours at Lake Louise, then spend the rest of the day at Emerald Lake. Only 38 km from Lake Louise in Yoho National Park, Emerald Lake is an overlooked gem among visitors. And the color of the water is accurately described in its name. Like everything else around Banff, it is stunning.

Banff Jasper Itinerary - Best Places To Visit In Banff, Canada
Emerald Lake

Again, you can rent a kayak or canoe and spend time on the water. Or, there’s an easy trail that goes around the lake, giving you new views at every turn. And, there are plenty of benches along the trail where you can just relax and enjoy the view.

IMP. TIP – And at the end of the day, you can enjoy dinner at the Cilantro Café next to the Emerald Lake Lodge.

Day 3 – Johnston Canyon, Bow Lake, Peyto Lake, Parker Ridge

HIGHLIGHTS OF DAY 3 

  • Johnston Canyon 
  • Crowfoot Glacier View Point 
  • Bow Lake 
  • Bow Summit/Peyto Lake 
  • Parker Ridge 
  • Saskatchewan Glacier 
  • Athabasca Glacier

It’s another early start to your last day at Banff National Park. And you begin at Johnston Canyon. This is quintessential Banff. A walk into Johnston Canyon is a walk into another world. The canyon walls tower above you as you make your way deeper into the canyon. Following the Johnston Creek on walkways that sometimes hang from the side of the canyon, the river takes numerous tumbles and falls creating endless photo stops.

Banff Jasper Itinerary - Best Places To Visit In Banff, Canada

But the focus of Johnston Canyon is the lower and upper falls. Though the lower falls are first, make the effort to reach the upper falls (2.7 km, one way). And if you have time, keep hiking out of the canyon to reach the ink pots, a collection of natural springs.

It’s worth getting an early start to Johnston Canyon as it is one of the most popular spots in Banff National Park. Not only do the crowds start arriving around 8 a.m., but the narrow walkways also make it a headache to maneuver around other visitors.

After Johnston Canyon, it’s off to explore the northern part of Banff National Park on the Icefields Parkway. The first stop is the Crowfoot Glacier View Point. This stop off the Icefields Parkway offers the best look at the Crowfoot Glacier.

Just a stone’s throw away is Bow Lake. This stunning lake offers amazing reflections. It’s worth a stop just to admire mother nature. And there is an easy hike to Bow Glacier Falls.

Banff Jasper Itinerary - Best Places To Visit In Banff, Canada
Bow Lake

Next is Bow Summit/Peyto Lake. Though it’s a short walk to the viewing platform, it is a bit steep in sections. But this is one viewpoint you cannot miss. The overlook of Peyto Lake is one of the most recognized spots in Banff National Park. And yes, it is even more spectacular in person.

Itinerary for Banff
Peyto Lake

If you have the time, it’s another hour’s drive to the last stop in Banff National Park, Parker Ridge. But what a drive it is!! The further you drive on the Icefields Parkway, the more incredible the scenery becomes. Though there may not be designated stops along the drive, you will certainly be pulling over repeatedly.

Banff Itinerary
Parker Ridge Trail

Parker Ridge is a 3.2 mile, out-and-back trail that ends with a jaw-dropping view of the Saskatchewan Glacier. Though the trail is mostly all uphill via switchbacks, it’s never overly steep and most people should have no problem making it to the viewpoint. And you cannot ask for a more impressive and memorable end to an epic 3-days in Banff National Park.

However, if there’s still daylight, only a 10-minute drive away is the Columbia Icefield Discovery Center. Though it’s outside the boundary of Banff National Park, it’s an amazing place to stop. Here you can walk to the foot of the Athabasca Glacier. It’s a short trail for an amazing view. Sadly, this glacier is rapidly receding so it’s best to see it now.

Best Places To Visit In Banff, Canada
Athabasca Glacier

Day 4 – Icefields Parkway & Jasper National Park (Optional)

HIGHLIGHTS OF DAY 4 (Optional) –

  • Icefields Parkway to Jasper National Park 
  • Sunwapta Falls 
  • Maligne Canyon 
  • Spirit Island

But…if you have time to spend another day in the area, continue your way up the Icefields Parkway to Jasper National Park. If you didn’t have time to do Parker Ridge or Athabasca Glacier the previous day, now you can enjoy them.

Heading north on the Icefields Parkway towards Jasper National Park, Sunwapta Falls is your first stop. These stunning falls are a must-see during any season. And don’t rush through and just see the main chutes. There’s a trail that leads to more falls downstream that’s well worth a look.

And the highlight of Jasper National Park is Maligne Canyon. This limestone canyon is not as pristine as Johnston Canyon, but still so stunning. The first part of the canyon walk is through the deepest and most remarkable part of the canyon. It’s easy to lose yourself in your surroundings. If you can, follow the trail to Bridge #5 so you can see the changing landscape of the canyon.

The perfect way to cap off four days in some of the most unforgettable scenery in the entire world is a boat cruise on Maligne Lake to Spirit Island. Surrounded by mountains, the cruise takes you through epic scenery to the small Spirit Island on the far side of the lake. Though you cannot step foot on the island, it’s the view of the island with the mountains and glaciers behind it and the aqua waters surrounding it that make Spirit Island one of the most photographed spots in all of Jasper.

Banff Jasper Itinerary - Best Places To Visit In Banff, Canada
Peyto Lake

Information about Banff National Park Pass | Banff Jasper Itinerary – Best Places To Visit In Banff, Canada

  • Any visitor to Banff National Park is required to have a valid national park pass. The daily pass is valid for entry into Banff, Jasper, Yoho, and Kootenay National Parks. The pass expires at 4:00 p.m. the day after scheduled use.
  • If you are stopping at any of the viewpoints, attractions, or are even driving one of the scenic parkways in the area (Icefields Parkway between Lake Louise and Jasper, Bow Valley Parkway between Banff and Lake Louise where Johnston Canyon is located), you must have a pass with you.
  • You can purchase your tickets online or at numerous locations around the national parks. If you purchase your pass online before your trip, make sure that you have a printed copy with you. Only printed tickets are accepted.
  • For purchasing the park pass at Banff National Park, you can buy at any of the park entrance gates and national park visitor centers.
Banff Jasper Itinerary - Best Places To Visit In Banff, Canada
Sunshine Village

Things to know before you plan for BANFF 3 DAY / 4DAY ITINERARY | Best Places to visit in Banff 

  • Banff is located in National Park and so for staying inside Banff, you need to pay for Park Pass.
  • The lake in Banff are really turquoise and splendid.
  • Banff trip is expensive as it is very popular tourist attraction.
  • Banff National Park has lots of bears, so beware of bears.
  • Apart from Banff, there are 5 National Parks of Canada which are located nearby to Banff.
  • If you are visiting in Summer, then you can plan for activities like – Kayaking, Golf, Fishing, Gondola Ride, Skateboarding, Hot springs, Canoeing, white water rafting, Carriage / Horseback rides, Scuba diving, boating and Hiking. 
  • If you are visiting Banff in Winter then you can plan for winter sports or adventures like skiing, ice-skating, snow-sledging and all snow fun.
  • Start your day early and catch sunrise at any of the beautiful lakes. 
  • You will get vegetarian / vegan food restaurants in Banff at Nourish Bistro, Indian Curry House, Nesters, Fairmont, Fairmont Chateau, Pad Thai, Masala

I hope you loved Banff Jasper Itinerary – Best Places To Visit In Banff, Canada and will soon plan for Banff 3 days or 4 days itinerary with your loved ones. I would love to know more about your favorite spot in Banff National Park in the comments below.

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This is a guest post and read About the AUTHOR – April B. is a guest writer for this Banff National Park Itinerary post on Travel with me 24 x 7 blog and is the founder of her travel blog, The Unending Journey.She is a solo traveler inspiring other people to explore the world on their own and showing them how easy it is to do. You can also follow her on Instagram and Facebook.

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Banff Jasper Itinerary

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58 Comments

  1. Canada is definitely on my list for a road trip sometime this year. I did Banff last year and it was so beautiful. Lake Louise was crowded but we went off on some of the hiking trails and there was no one around. Thank you for so many other ideas on things to do in Banff National Park…cannot wait to visit again.

  2. I have not tarvelled a lot in Canada and have this high on my list of countries to explore. You cant think of Canada and not be a lover of nature and all the natural beauty this country has to offer. I was not aware that majority of the Rockies was actually found in Banff National Park. A 3 day seems just right to enjoy it but if you enjoy nature why not extend it. Your photos add life to this post and I wonder how stunning they would be in real life if photos painted such a grand picture. I wouldn’t want to miss the views of the Vermilion Lakes for anything. Thanks for sharing a great itinerary .

  3. Truly Canada is so beautiful with all the lakes and mountains that I would love to visit someday.Banff National Park would be so nice to spend three days.Parker Ridge the last stop looks stunning. Thanks for this elaborate plan for this trip.

  4. I can’t believe I haven’t been here yet. From when I was young, my mother always said Banff and Lake Louise were the most beautiful places in the world. And your photos confirm that.

  5. Banff is such a beautiful part of the world I am yet to visit. Your photos paint it perfectly and your itinerary is so practical for any visitor. Every visitor to the park needs a pass but extremely useful to know that only a printed copy is acceptable.

  6. Banff National Park has long been on my bucket list! I see photos all the time and they just look absolutely stunning! The tips you provided are great-I always wondered how accurate the photos I have seen were and it’s great to know the lakes are really turquoise and as beautiful as they look in the photos! The Johnston Canyon hike sounds like a great way to spend the day, I am a big hiker!

  7. The Canadian Rockies and exploring Banff National Park are high up on my want-to-go list, it looks just like a postcard. It must be fabulous to go hiking round Lake Louise and seeing the summit views. The swimming, kayaking and scuba diving at Lake Minnewanka would be my perfect trip.

  8. I have heard of the beauty of Banff but did not realise how beautiful the destination is. Your photos are incredible and so beautiful. Thanks for this perfect itinerary with all your great tips on where to stay, the hikes, where to get the best views and parking. After reading your article I will hire a car when we visit.

  9. Thank you for this wonderful tour of the Banff area. This has been on my bucket list for years and I hope to get there soon. Those turquoise lakes and rugged mountains are just so magical. Kayaking on one of the lakes would be a dream come true. Wow!

  10. Oh my the lakes of Banff National Park look like a dream! Similar to the ones I have explored in the Italian Alps. As a hiking addict, visiting Banff is near the top of my travel wish list. Thank you for such detailed itinerary options. Will be bookmarking this for a future trip!

  11. The color of the water is so inviting! This is i very detailed and focused itinerary for Banff and Jasper, I will pin it for my trip there!

  12. I did the Rocky Mountaineer and visited these awesome places many years ago. Your photos and post makes me want to do that tour once again! Your pictures are stunning:-)

  13. Truly Canada is so beautiful with all the lakes that I would love to visit. Peyto Lake looks just out of the world. Your pictures are stunning and attracting me to make a trip soon.

  14. A good friend of mine had Canada on his bucketlist, Canada and Ireland. When he passed away, I made a promise to visit the places that he wanted to see, in his memory.
    So Canada – I am comming for you!

  15. The Canadian rockies national parks are some of the most incredible I’ve seen. I’ve visited the area twice, seeing Jasper, Yoho, Mt Revelstoke, Glacier, and Banff. I could go back and spend months just in that area.

  16. This is great information as Banff has been on my list for a while. I’ve wanted to go in winter because I think it looks more beautiful but it’s good to know that the road to Moraine lake is closed then as I may not want to go until it opens again in May. I knew I wanted to visit Lake Louise and Peyto Lake but hadn’t heard of Bow Lake and it looks very beautiful as well! I also hadn’t considered coming up from Glacier National Park, I figured I would need to come from Vancouver. That is a good idea!

  17. What an amazing collection of photographs. That’s stunning scenery for sure, and I’d love to spend some time hiking that landscape. I wonder how many photos you took altogether! I bet hundreds. There’s so many national parks in the US and Canada I’d love to visit, but this one is nudging further up the list now, thanks to your article. Thanks!

  18. It has been far too long since we were last in Banff and Jasper. But we do have great memories. Your blog post brought them all back! The Rocky Mountaineer is indeed a very scenic way to visit. But you do want time to enjoy Banff through Jasper. We are sorry we did not make it to the Vermillion Lakes or Lake Minnewanka on our visit. While we visited Lake Louise, we missed Lake Agnes. This looks far less touristy. That overlook at Peyto Lake looks totally stunning! All good reasons to return. I have saved this for our next trip!

  19. Love this. Ive wanted to visit Banff forever, didn’t realise it was Canada’s oldest national park. Great itinerary suggestions. Probably wont get there this year, but I’ve saved this post. I have next spring in mind for this trip!

  20. This is such an amazing informative post. I would have never guessed there are so many things to see and trails to hike in Banff. I had heard of it before but I had never known that it is so beautiful until I saw your amazing photos. I think I’d like to start with the Plain of Six Glaciers Trail – I love that scenery and it is a trails that gives you a glimpse of everything.

  21. I did a lot of this itinerary when I did a trip to the Rockies and I got to go up Sulphur Mountain and see lake louise and the glacier too. I would love to go back though and visit this stunning area again it is one of the most beautiful places I have been to. I would also love to see Peyto lake it looks stunning.

  22. I love Alberta and Banff is amazing! I have not rode the gondola and from your images it is gorgeous from up there. I would love to hike to Lake Agnes and take a break at the tea house. The view of Peyto Lake is gorgeous too, so much more for me to do in this park!

  23. It is my dream to visit Banff, and you have further stoked that dream! What a fantastic overview of the destination. Hmm, I’m not sure which time of the year I’d prefer to go – you’ve listed so many awesome activities for both seasons! It’s good to know that only printed tickets are accepted at the park – I’m the type of person who would just show up with the tickets on my phone and expect to get in. Great tip!

  24. We were in Banff and Jasper in September 2019 during our road trip. We visited places you described, and it’s worth seeing all of them. I love these parks. Nature is fantastic there. There was so many moose, bears on our route, that I want to back. Peyto Lake is one of my favorite places. It’s a pity that the trail is closed now. I love Emerald Lake too. It is a great itinerary and photos.

  25. Banff is incredibly beautiful and somewhere I’d love to see in the future. From the list, Lake Moraine and Bow Lake are probably my favorite, simply for that marvellous scenery. There’s so much to see here, that this itinerary breaks it down really well. Sunshine Village also sounds wonderful!

  26. I have been living in Canada for a couple years and went to many places. But I wasn’t able to make a trip to the Banff. It was a pity that this place is such a nature wonder and really worth a visit. Thanks for the detail description. It is very useful for the first timers.

  27. Banff National Park is so picturesque and such a beautiful place to visit. It has always been on my Canada itinerary. And I so want to visit it during the winters when a thick blanket of snow envelopes all of it. A true winter wonderland!

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