10 Top Attractions in Banff National Park

Martina Rosado
Written by
Last update:

Bow Falls

Banff National Park is Canada’s oldest national park, making it a great refreshing stop on your vacation. The main feature of this 400-square-mile border is the 11,000-foot granite monolith Mount Rundle. These mountains are an important feature in the park, because they protect the valley from the flooding waters of the North Saskatchewan River, which rolls through the valley.

There’s a variety of activities to enjoy in Banff, like swimming, hiking, and camping. One of the most popular features in the park is Bow Falls, which, according to National Geographic, offers a boat ride, which takes you close enough to touch the spray from the 167-foot fall and to learn about water dynamics.

Whyte Museum

The Whyte Museum was constructed with reinforced concrete to anchor it to the ground. It is located on Columbia Avenue on the west side of Pine Lake in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada.

The Whyte Museum opened in 1928, three years after the National Park of Canada was created. It was the second museum in Canada to be built on this site. The first museum on this site was built in the 1890s and remained until it burned down in 1923.

After its construction in 1928, the Whyte museum consisted of two separate buildings. The smaller of the two buildings was home to the Natural History collection, which was moved and replaced with the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies with the opening of the new Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies in 1996. The larger of the buildings is used for the permanent exhibition.

Banff Upper Hot Springs

(outside of town)

Located just north of Banff along the Trans-Canada Highway, the Upper Hot Springs offer a place to unwind surrounded by trees covered in snow.

The natural pools are open mid-June to mid-September and are best visited after the freeze thaw period.

These natural hot springs are man-made and have been maintained as a historical attraction since the early 1900s.

You can also enjoy views of Mt. Nautilus and a small mountain lake from the open-air bistro at the top of the springs.

Bring your own food and picnics, or pick up a snack at the small market located in the adjacent shopping centre.

The Mineral Basin, a short walk from the hot springs, is a fantastic spot to observe the unique rock formations created by the acidic water flowing through the area.

The Leighton Icefield is located half an hour north of the Upper Hot Springs in the Columbia Icefields.

This beautiful piece of ice was one of the last local ice fields to freeze over in the winter, forming an ice bridge in the summer.

To get a great view of the ice, travel north on Highway 1 where the ice fields begin.

Johnston Canyon

Dr. Johnston, a physician and a member of the Palliser expedition, named the canyon after his family, the Johnstons. It is one of the most beautiful places to visit in Banff as it is a sheer granite cliff opening up into a stunning, deep, narrow gorge. The Rockies are full of such special places. Tremendously formed, they are strung on a ribbon of water, from the crags of the Superior, to the huddled mounds of the Lake Louise area.

Along with others in the area, Johnston was interested in the glacial origin of the majority of the valleys in the Rockies. He had spent the greater part of his life studying the glacial history of the coulees and valleys when he finally arrived at the shores of Lake Louise in the late summer of 1883. He was greatly surprised and pleased to find that, ''the tradition was correct, the lake is in the shape of the profile of a diseased prairie dog sitting up on its haunches, the outlet being an immense nut in the eye which flows out through the main channel, passing a little to the south of Bridal Veil. Henceforth the name Lake Louise.'' The two most striking features of Johnston Canyon are the view from the top of the Suspension Bridge and the railway trestle.

Lake Minnewanka

Banff Gondola

Overview:

The Banff Gondola is a fun, family friendly attraction that will satisfy the young at heart. The gondola runs from the bottom of the mountain, over the glaciers, and up to the top. From the top, you can visit the Lookout to see Banff National Park on one side, and many cascading waterfalls on the other. This attraction is popular with many people looking to enjoy the views and get a bit of exercise.

For fitness enthusiasts, this attraction can be a great way to see some beautiful scenery and do some light hiking. This is the type of hike that you can take the kids to as well. We know that there will be something you see that will make them smile, and bring them closer in their joy of being outdoors.

Do not be discouraged if the kids are tired by the time you reach the top. This is the last leg of your journey up the mountain, and they are likely to get a bit worn out. It’s a great attraction and a nice family activity, but it shouldn’t be your main workout.

Good to Know:

If you and your kids get tired before you finish the hike, this attraction does have a guaranteed way to exit the building. You can take the gondola down the mountain or walk around the base of the mountain.

Peyto Lake

The lake is the largest alpine lake in Canada. View the lake from on top of the Lookout Mountain, the highest point in Banff National Park at an altitude of 1,843 meters (6,046 feet). The lake is a popular tourist destination with the main pull being the lake cruise.

The lake cruise boats take you around the lake to different scenic locations. The boat has 21 benches around the edges of the boat so guests can get a nice view of the lake. The boat can go as fast or as slow as you want. It’s a nice way to get a glimpse of the lake without having to hike.

Mountain Valley Paradise is located next to Peyto Lake. In the past, this was a small campground but it has since grown to include multiple motels, ice cream and restaurant. The whole area takes you back to the era of “The Wild West” with the name as well as the surrounding scenery.

You can also go horseback riding or try your luck by going fishing in the lake. Banff’s annual “Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival” takes place at Mountain Valley Paradise.

5. Entrance Plaza

Sunshine Meadows

This family-friendly attraction is a smaller version of the outdoors. Inside, the structure offers the same scenery that you would enjoy if you were looking at it from outside, in a smaller scale. Weather permitting, there is a small pond, with lilypads surrounded by plants and yellow and red ducklings.

Inside, there is also a petting zoo where you can feed the goats and sheep.

This feature is a favourite amongst visitors with many remarking that the kids especially enjoyed spending the day with these animals.

There is even a natural play area for the littlest of Banff’s visitors. This feature is free of charge and not inside of the structure itself.

This feature is a grassy area where you can run, wrestle, and play with your friends and family.

This attraction is located along the Bow River and you able to take a boat ride through the scenic wildlife area.

This activity is located within metres of the facility’s parking lot, making it an ideal and cost-effective way to explore Banff in your free time.

This is one of the tallest waterfalls in Canada with the water pouring from bottom to top. The amazing views make this attraction even more special.

This attraction can be found along the way to to Moraine Lake. It provides incredible views of Mount Rundle, a stratovolcano.

Lake Louise

One of the top attractions in Banff is Lake Louise, a 7.5 kilometre long lake in the middle of the town, Banff. It’s a popular destination for sightseers and is also one of the ten major attractions in Banff. The lake has an average depth of approximately 40 feet and is known for its tranquillity, views of the surrounding mountains, and the Golden and Crystal Peaks on the eastern shore.

The lake is situated within the Icefields Parkway, a 51 kilometre long drive that provides a view of the mountains. Near the lake are Cliff, Peyto and Bow Lake and winding the road are picturesque lookouts that provide dramatic views. There are several trails that can be used to access the peaks that overlook the lake.

Another attraction for sightseers is Stewart Lodge, an appealing hotel in the snow-covered valley by the lake. The hotel is a memorial to Lord Mount Stewart, who was the Provincial Secretary for the North West Territories, in the late nineteenth century. The park location has a population of caribou and marmots and is home to bog woodpeckers, golden eyes, and the yellow-bellied marmot.

The town itself is a great place to soak up the atmosphere and enjoy everything from shopping to dining.

Moraine Lake