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3 days in Banff Itinerary: 3 days Trip for first-time visitors

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Banff National Park, nestled in the breathtaking Canadian Rocky Mountains, is a must-visit destination for anyone planning a trip to Canada. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know to make the most of your 3 days in Banff itinerary.

We have been exploring Banff and the Rockies since 2011 (we even got married at the Two Jack Lake), and we are excited to share all of our tried and tested hacks and travel tips. So get ready to immerse yourself in stunning landscapes, encounter abundant wildlife, and create unforgettable memories. 

Let’s dive in!

Epic 3 days in Banff Itinerary: 3 days trip ideas for first-time visitors

Banff Itinerary 3 days
Banff Itinerary 3 days – Bucket list

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you click one of them, we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Planning your trip to Banff National Park for 3 days

Banff National Park is the oldest park in Canada and one of the most visited places in the country. You can explore the park at all times of the year, and each season comes with different sights and activities. 

Whether you hike or not, you will love the soft adventure attractions in Banff and nearby areas.

Views of Banff: Banff Itinerary 3 days
Banff Itinerary 3 days

Here is a quick snapshot of 3 days in Banff National Park:

3 day Banff Itinerary and travel guide:

  • Day 1 of 3-day Banff itinerary: Visit Banff downtown, Sightseeing gondola, Bow Falls, Cascade Gardens, Cave and Basin Historic Site, Vermillion Lakes
  • Day 2 of 3-day Banff itinerary: Two Jack Lake, Lake Minnewanka, Moraine Lake
  • Day 1 of 3-day Banff itinerary: Full day or half a day at Lake Louise and nearby

Arriving in Canada & nearest airport 

The nearest Banff airport is located 1.50 hours away in Calgary, Alberta. If you are flying to get to Banff, Calgary International Airport (YYC) is your best bet. 

You can easily rent a car from the YYC airport or use public transportation (shuttle buses or transfers such as the Banff Airporter) to get to Banff National Park.

Read: Things to do in Calgary

Banff sign
Banff National Park

Getting to Banff

Once you land in Calgary, here are the various ways to get to Banff National Park,

  • Car Rentals: You can rent a midsize car from the Calgary Airport for as low as CAD 70 per day. During the summer months, ensure you reserve your car rental ahead of time. Remember to request a ski rack if you carry winter ski gear while booking. As always, add car insurance for the duration of your trip.
  • Bus: Banff Airporter has numerous trips from the airport to the national park. You can check out the schedules here. It is an affordable option for travel to Banff from Calgary. It is a great option if you are visiting in winter and unsure of winter driving in Canada.
  • Private transfer from the airport: This is an excellent choice if you are traveling in a group and/or have tons of luggage. Or if you just want some privacy and don’t wish to drive. Click to view prices for private transfers from Calgary to Banff
  • Guided tours: It is a good idea to book a 3-day tour to Banff if you are short on time and wish someone else does the driving, parking, and finding directions for you. Without a vehicle, you will have to use public buses called ROAM, which are cheap and have a good schedule during summer. But remember, it can also get busy, as summers are peak seasons. Instead of managing bus schedules, opt for a guided tour. Use a sightseeing tour in Banff to explore the sights without access to a car.

Where to stay in Banff National Park

We enjoy staying in a nice hotel or resort in Banff or the nearby town of Canmore. Canmore is located about 20 minutes away from Banff town (Banff Avenue). 

Over the years, we have stayed in numerous hotels at different times of the year. 

Plan the perfect Banff Christmas Getaway
Falcon Crest in Canmore

If you visit Banff during the peak seasons (June to August), expect hotel rates to be expensive. Canmore and even Calgary will be good options to book accommodation. 

Here are our top picks in Banff and nearby areas (hotels on a mid-range budget),

  • The Rundlestone Lodge (Banff Avenue): The Rundlestone Lodge is located in downtown Banff. We stayed here once during Christmas, and it was amazing. There are many restaurants and cafes located nearby, within walking distance. The hotel has a restaurant and a swimming pool onsite. Click to view room prices.
  • Juniper Inn (Banff): Juniper Inn is a nice place located a little away from the Banff downtown area. You can stay here for the views alone – it is just gorgeous. The Inn has a bistro on-site, a great place for fine dining or romantic celebrations. Click to view room prices.
Views of mountains in Banff itinerary
Epic Banff Itinerary 3 days
  • Falcon Crest Lodge by CLIQUE (Canmore): Falcon Crest Lodge is a beautiful 3-star hotel located in Canmore. The property has a hot tub overlooking the Three Sisters Mountain Range. Parking is included in the room rate. We stayed here multiple times for romantic staycation and family vacations with our parents. Click to view room prices.
  • Hampton Inn (Calgary Airport): We love staying near the airport in Calgary. Hampton Inn is a nice bed and breakfast hotel with clean rooms and views of the YYC/Calgary airport. Parking is free, and so is breakfast. And it is located very close to the airport. Click to view room prices.
  • Read: Best Airbnbs in Banff, Canada

Entry fees to Banff National Park

There is an entry fee to enter the national parks in Canada, including Banff, Yoho, and Jasper National Park. 

The entry fee is CAD 11 per person for daily entry. When you book a hotel, they don’t include park entry fees, so you must pay for it on-site for the trip duration or book a pass online. 

Canadian Rockies Roads
Canadian Rockies Roads

Guided tours will include this entry fee. 

In this Banff 3-day itinerary, we have included an option to explore Yoho National Park in British Columbia. 

Let’s say you pay for a 3-day Banff entry, and you can visit Yoho on day 2 or 3, and you don’t have to pay again to enter the national park. Ensure you have the park pass taped to the car dashboard with the mentioned entry and exit time frames. 

Banff Downtown
Banff Downtown

Any parking fees are additional. Most natural attractions and parking lots are accessible in Banff and nearby areas. There are a few paid parking areas as well. 

Day 1 of Banff itinerary 3 days: Banff Avenue, Banff Gondola, Bow Falls, Cascade Gardens, Cave and Basin Historic Site, Vermillion Lakes

Breakfast and time in Banff Downtown

Start your day one in Banff with a warm breakfast at Tooloulou’s. Tooloulou’s is one of the most popular breakfast and lunch cafes in downtown Banff. It is also locally owned. Opt for pancakes or go big with Cheesey Omelettes. 

Evelyn Coffee Bar

This place might be super crowded during peak summer months, and if that’s the case, opt for coffee and sandwiches at Evelyn’s Coffee Bar (on Banff Ave).

After breakfast, walk Banff Avenue, take in the stunning views of the mountains, shop for souvenirs, and snap photos of the downtown area.

Banff Gondola 

One of the stunning places to soak in the views of the Canadian Rockies is to go up close and personal. And we are talking – an elevation of 2281 meters (7486ft) above sea level. 

Banff Gondola Ride
Banff Gondola Ride

Banff Sightseeing Gondola offers just that.

A ride to the top of the mountain takes about 10-12 minutes and costs $58-75 CAD (return), giving you access to the stunning valleys and mountains. At the sightseeing deck, you can stay as long as you want. 

There is a bistro, a National Historic Site of Canada (Sulphur Mountain Cosmic Ray Station), interpretive exhibits, a multi-sensory theatre, and a 360-degree rooftop observation deck. 

Banff Gondola Views
Banff Gondola Views

Gondola rides can be taken at any time of the year. However, operating hours vary by season. 

Check schedules and book here

If you do not wish to ride the Gondola, you can instead hike up to the Sulphur mountain viewing platform, it takes about 2-2.50 hours (one way). 

Bow Falls and Fairmont Banff Springs

From Banff Gondola, make a stop at the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel. This is a gorgeous 4-star hotel, originally built by and for the employees of Canadian Pacific Railway. You can book a room for $350 CAD+ or above during the off-season.

Banff Springs Hotel Complex
Banff Springs Hotel Complex

They also offer couples/honeymoon packages, weddings, etc.

Opt for a castle food tour if you are limited on time, cash, or honey. This food tour takes place in the afternoon, and you will get to experience our finest (Alberta) signature foods specially prepared for you by the culinary team at the Banff Springs Hotel. 

The guide also offers a history tour of the castle hotel and Banff National Park. Click to book your Banff Hotel Castle Food tour here

Bow Falls with rainbow
Bow Falls

The viewing area of Bow Falls is located very close to the Banff Springs Hotel. Bow Falls is a mighty waterfall on the Bow River. It is completely free to visit the falls and park your car nearby.

Cascade of Time Gardens

Next on the Banff itinerary is to explore and stroll the beautiful Cascade Gardens. These gardens are completely free to enter and are filled with manicured flower beds, lined trees, and gorgeous mountain views. 

Cascade of Time Gardens
Cascade of Time Gardens

The administrative building inside the gardens adds a romantic and English vibe to the scenery. A must-stop as this is located near Banff town and Banff Springs Hotel.

Cave and Basin Historic Site

Did you know Banff also has hot springs and sulfur pools? Yes, it does. The Cave and Basin National Historic Site has been preserved since the National Park was born. This is the site of natural thermal mineral springs around which Banff National Park was established. 

Inside Cave & Basin Complex

There is an entry fee to the Site, and you will have access to interpretative displays and exhibits, plus get to view the pools.

You can easily spend 1-2 hours at the Cave and Basin Site and take a small stroll to the Marsh Loop. The Marsh Loop Trail can be accessed via the historic site, and it takes only 45 minutes to complete the entire loop.

Cave & Basin Historic Site
Cave & Basin Historic Site

It is an easy trail, with no elevation gain, and can be done as long as you wear comfy walking shoes.

Banff Hot Springs

After an informative session at the Cave and Basin Historic Site, it’s time to enjoy a soothing time at the Upper Banff Hot Springs. In the entry ticket to the historic site, you can also add a ticket to the hot springs. (You can rent swimwear on-site).

If hot springs don’t excite you, skip that for the Vermillion Lakes.

Vermillion Lakes for sunset

Vermillion Lakes comprise three lakes; you can access one just by the Trans Canada Highway. Although you won’t be able to canoe in the evening, you can surely go on a short hike and wait for the sun to go down to capture some amazing blue light photography shots.

Vermillion Lakes in the evening

(Optional: The Fenland Trail is a leisurely walk/loop of 2-kilometre (1.2-mile)that takes you through the marshlands near the Vermilion.)

Finish the day with dinner in Banff town. If you are staying in Juniper Inn, head to their bistro for dinner. We love this bistro, although a little pricey the ambiance and the views are worth a visit there!

Day 2 of Banff itinerary 3 days: Two Jack Lake, Lake Minnewanka, Lake Moraine

On day 2 of Banff Itinerary, get ready for a long day of road-tripping through the national park, stopping at pristine lakes for canoeing, short hikes, or just taking in those mesmerizing views.

Breakfast at Juniper Bistro - Juniper Inn
Breakfast at Juniper Bistro – Juniper Inn

We recommend grabbing some breakfast on the go to hit the roads early. Banff town has Seven-Eleven, McDonald’s, Starbucks, and many local cafes to order breakfast and take them with you. 

Head to Two Jack Lake

From Banff town, your first stop is at the Two Jack Lake. It is located only 15 minutes from Banff Town. This lake is known for scenic views of Mount Rundle, canoeing, and picnics, as well as the campground that is located nearby. 

The lake is perfect for first-time paddleboarding and great for skating in the winter. The water is too cold for swimming, even on the warmest days. We love strolling along the lakeside and soaking in the stunning views.

If you fancy a hike, there is a 2-mile loop trail that you can enjoy. It is suitable for all hiking skill levels. 

Pro tip: If you plan a 3-day camping-only Banff trip, reserving a spot at the Two Jack Lake is worth it, as it will give you access to other sightseeing attractions without having to drive long hours.

Cruise at Minnewanka Lake

Located close to the Two Jack Lake is the Lake Minnewanka. The lake literally means ‘spirit of the waters’ in Nakoda. This stunning glacial lake is one of the longest lakes in the Canadian Rockies. 

Lake Minnewanka Loop offers scenic views, and walkable trails are located nearby. 

Lake Minnewanka, Banff National Park
Lake Minnewanka, Banff National Park

Summers are busy here, with visitors and wildlife enjoying a warm day (on the roadside).

During winters, the lake road is not always accessible. The lake does freeze from January through early March. 

Minnewanka Lake
Minnewanka-Lake-Most-beautiful-lakes-in-Canada

At the lake, you can spend anywhere from 1 to 3 hours. Here is what you can do. If you are interested in strolling or taking a light hike, you can do so in 1 to 1.50 hours. 

Aylmer Lookout Hike can be done at the lake. Mount Aylmer is the highest mountain in this area of the park. For this itinerary, opt for a 45-minute loop of the Aylmer Pass Junction if interested. 

READ: Amazing hikes to do in Banff National Park

There is also a 1-hour sightseeing Lake Minnewanka cruise, which is highly recommended in the summertime. On this tour, you will take in the views of the Rockies and the lake and see sheep, mountain goats, and deer along the way.

Lake Minnewanka

During the cruise, we learned interesting facts and stories about the area’s wildlife and vegetation and the indigenous people’s culture. 

You can enjoy a lovely drink on the cruise as you learn about the place and its people.

Moraine Lake in the late afternoon

After Lake Minnewanka, head to Moraine Lake. Reaching Moraine Lake will take about 45 minutes to an hour. 

Moraine Lake access is closed in the winter, and during summers, it can be quite difficult to find parking or even to access the lake without huge crowds. 

We recommend visiting Lake Moraine in the afternoon or early morning. Considering a short trip of 3 days, reach Moraine Lake a little after 3:00 pm; that way, parking won’t be a pain, and most crowds will be leaving for Banff or Lake Lousie. 

Canadian Rockies Moraine Lake
Canadian Rockies Moraine Lake

We have been lucky to find parking around 3:00 to 4:00 pm, even during summer statutory holidays. If you prefer to arrive at Lake Moraine in the morning, start here and keep Two Jack Lake for last on your way back to your Banff hotel. Without driving to Moraine Lake, you can hop on a Parks Canada shuttle to the lakeside. 

Moraine Lake and the colorful kayaks at the dock are iconic images of Banff and the Canadian Rockies worldwide. Besides the jaw-dropping views, lake Moraine also offers hiking and camping opportunities. 

Moraine Lake Shoreline Trail is a popular trail suitable for all skill levels. You can hike, walk, or just stroll to capture the natural beauty (2.9 kilometers long and open from June to October).

Late evening, drive back to Banff town and stop at Magpie and Stump for dinner before calling it a day.

Day 3 of Banff itinerary 3 days: Lake Louise and beyond

For day 3 in Banff, set aside a full day or half for Lake Louise. We will provide 4 samples, all combining Lake Louise, and depending on personal interests and time on hand, you can pick one itinerary.

One day in Lake Louise 

Lake Louise is a glacial-fed lake located in the hamlet of the same name. 

Lake Louise views
Lake Louise

The driving time from Banff town to Lake Louise is 40 minutes, one way. Although very popular, Lake Louise doesn’t get super crowded like Lake Moraine, and it is easy to find parking near the lake.

The lake entry and parking are completely free. There are washrooms near the lake, and canoe rentals are available in the summer. 

During winter, the lake is also accessible, and you can skate there or walk on the frozen lake. 

Lake louise short hikes in winter
Lake Louise short hikes in winter

Every January (last week), there is an Ice Festival that takes place on the lake. Lake Louise Ski Resort is open during winter and offers ski lifts to the resort area in winter. 

Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise is located nearby, and you can see the hotel peeking from the parking lot and the lake itself. We loved our time at the Fairview Restaurant, overlooking Lake Louise and enjoying afternoon tea in the winter.

Girl at the Fairmont Lake Louise Afternoon Tea

You can reserve a table for tea at all times of the year.

You can set aside time to hike to the Lake Agnes Tea House in the summer. Open during summers, the Agnes Tea House is a rustic cafe stop originally built by the Canadian Pacific Railways for hikers! 

The tea house is located at an elevation of 2,135 meters. 

Calgary to Lake Louise Drive
Lake Louise in the summer

You can easily spend a day at Lake Louise, combining time at the lake, canoeing, hiking, strolling, and the hamlet center (Salil’s favorite spot for candies, food, and coffee).

Read: Detailed guide to Lake Louise in winter

Combine Lake Louise and Yoho National Park (summer)

If you are only interested in exploring Lake Louise, making a stop for food and photography (minus canoeing and hiking), you can easily add a trip to Yoho National Park.

Lake Louise to Yoho National Park is about a 35-minute drive via Trans Canada Highway.

Yoho National Park is located in the Canadian province of British Columbia, and the park entry fees you paid at Banff apply at Yoho as long as the day of travel is covered. 

You can start at Lake Louise and then drive to Yoho. Stop at the scenic Spiral Tunnel Lookout to view canyons and trains traveling through it. 

The Nature Bridge is next, a natural phenomenon where stones create a beautiful bridge. To access these views, no hiking is required.

Head to the Takakkaw Falls next; these are one of the mightiest waterfalls in North America. Once you arrive at the parking lot, the falls are just a short walk away. 

Emerald Lake Yoho National Park
Emerald Lake Yoho National Park

After the falls, visit the small town of Field for lunch or snacks. Finish the day by visiting Emerald Lake. Just like Lake Louise, parking and lake access is free.

During winters, Spiral Tunnels and road access to Takakkaw Falls are closed. 

Combine Lake Louise and Peyto Lake (summer)

Additionally, you can also visit Peyto Lake in the second half of your day. This stunning glacial lake is just a 40-minute drive from Lake Louise and offers spectacular views of its turquoise waters and surrounding mountains.

Peyto Lake - Most beautiful Lakes in Canada
Peyto Lake

The hike to the Peyto Lake viewpoint is short and easy, making it perfect for families or anyone looking for a leisurely activity. 

After taking in the beauty of Peyto Lake, you can head back to Banff. 

Combine Johnston Canyon and Lake Louise (summer & winter)

Another option for a 3rd-day itinerary is to combine a trip to Johnston Canyon and Lake Lousie. 

Banff to Johnston Canyon is 30 minutes away, and Johnston Canyon to Lake Louise is another 30 minutes. 

Girl in Johnston Canyon in winter

Johnston Canyon is free to enter and popular with hikers in summer and winter.

The hike through Johnston Canyon along the Bow Valley Parkway to the Upper Falls takes about 2-3 hours (return trip). It’s an easy trail, suitable for all skill levels, with a gentle elevation gain through the canyon. 

Johnston Canyon in Banff with Winter Snow

If this is your first time hiking, choose this guided hiking tour.

During winter, opt for an ice hiking tour with an experienced guide. In this Icewalk, the tour guide will pick you up from Banff hotels and provide trekking poles and a warm cup of cocoa. You can arrange this tour in the morning or the evening. 

Click to pick a tour spot at the Johnston Canyon in winter

Alternate 3 days in Banff and Jasper itinerary

Generally, when we think of Banff, it is the Banff National Park only. Many travelers wish to explore more than just Banff, including Icefields Parkway, Athabasca Glacier, and the famed Jasper National Park.

Best hikes in Banff National Park
Banff Gondola Views

Throughout our travels and road trips to the Canadian Rockies, we always feel we need more time (and this is after visiting it for 13 years straight!). At a minimum, 2 days in Banff and 2 days in Jasper are recommended to experience the main sights, not including leisure or hiking time. 

Jasper National Park

If you wish to combine the Banff and Jasper itinerary in 3 days, here is what you can

  • Day 1: Arrive in Banff, head to Banff Gondola, hot springs, Bow Falls, and maybe Vermillion Lakes
  • Day 2: Start en route to Icefields Parkway, one of the most scenic drives in the world. This road connects Banff and Jasper National Park. It takes about 3 hours. Plus additional sightseeing time. You can stop at Lake Louise before arriving in Jasper town
  • Day 3: Take a return trip to Banff via the Icefields Parkways and stop at Athabasca Falls, Bow Lake, and Peyto Lake. 

Visiting Columbia Icefield, Jasper Skytram, and Athabasca Waterfalls hiking trails requires additional days.

Sightseeing Map: 3 days in Banff Itinerary

Here is a Google sightseeing map with all the stops and attractions listed in this Banff Itinerary. Red icons are for the 3 days in Banff, and the yellow icons are for additional sightseeing spots in Jasper National Park and Icefields Parkway.

Additional Tips for Banff 3 day Itinerary

Here are some additional things to remember for your trip to Banff

Best time to visit Banff

We have enjoyed Banff at all times of the year. However, you should choose an optimal time or season as a first-time visitor (or if this will be your trip to the Rockies).

Here are some tips to help you make a decision.

Summers (June to August): Summers are busy in Banff, and this is the time when campsites are open; all the hiking trails, lakes, and roads are accessible too. 

During July and August, the lakes are pristine – oozing the lovely turquoise colors. You can also go canoeing on the lake or enjoy a lovely lakeside walk. Days are longer, allowing you to maximize your visit and stay outdoors. 

View of Banff town - Alberta towns
View of Banff town – Alberta towns

It is peak season, so expect hotel rates to be expensive, and reservations should be made for campsites and hotels in advance. You can pack light as it’s warm, but remember to add bug spray and sunscreen.

Winters (December to February): Winters are the next busy season in Banff. It is popular with skiers and winter hikers. January and February are colder months, so pack your wollens. 

By late January, the ski resorts will not be super busy but still optimal for skiing.

Planning the perfect Christmas in Banff
Planning the perfect Christmas in Banff

Lakes are frozen; you can go ice skating, snowshoeing, or sleigh rides by the lake. Winters also welcome ice festivals from Christmas on mountaintops to Xmas markets, Beer fests, and ice sculpture fests. 

Indoor spas, fine dining, staycations, Banff sightseeing gondola (with special events), and winter hikes are also available during winter. 

Fall (September to November): Fall is our favorite time to visit Banff. The summer rush is gone in September, and hotels are cheaper again. Also, it’s easy to find a seat in popular restaurants without waiting. 

Banff fall view

And not to forget stunning fall hikes in Banff’s Larch Valley. Most of the hiking trails are open until the end of September. 

In November, experience a winter staycation with snow and a Christmas parade. You will love road trips in the fall and soak in the fall foliage without a hike. 

Spring (March to May): Spring is not a peak season, and it is an excellent time to wander Banff town and enjoy slow travel. Hotels will be affordable, and attractions will be less crowded. The only thing to remember is that springtime is very unpredictable, so pack warm clothes and rainwear too. 

Lakes will be half frozen, so you won’t see the pristine blue or pure whites (as it happens in winter!). Many of the roads and trails won’t open until late May. 

Tip: If you prefer fewer crowds and lower prices, consider visiting during the shoulder seasons of May or September. Winter sports enthusiasts will also enjoy visiting from November to early April during the ski season.

Special Events in Banff

Banff Summer Market
Banff Summer Market

If you are visiting Banff during certain months, you can participate in many local events such as 

  • November: Christmas Parade takes place on Banff Avenue. Craft Beer Festival held near Cave and Basin Site
  • December: Christmas events in Banff Gondola, Banff Springs Hotel and Lake Louise
  • January: Ice Festival in Lake Louise. Snow Days Festival
  • Summer Market: Banff Summer Market from May to October
  • September: Canmore Uncorked Food Festival

Packing for Banff National Park

Packing for a trip to Banff can be overwhelming, especially if you are unfamiliar with the area’s weather and activities. To help make your packing process easier, we have compiled a list of essential items you should consider bringing on your next visit to Banff.

Girl in Banff: Canada trip planner

Clothing:

  • Layers are key when it comes to dressing for Banff’s ever-changing weather. Pack warm and light layers, including sweaters, t-shirts, and jackets. This will allow you to adjust your clothing according to the temperature throughout the day.
  • Don’t forget to pack comfortable walking shoes or hiking boots, as Banff is known for its stunning trails and breathtaking views.
  • If you plan skiing or snowboarding, pack appropriate gear, such as waterproof pants and jackets, gloves, and a beanie. You can also rent ski equipment and related items from local shops in Banff.
  • For those who plan on enjoying Banff’s hot springs, don’t forget to bring a bathing suit and a towel.

Weather Protection:

  • Sunscreen is essential as Banff’s high altitude can increase the risk of sunburn. Make sure to pack a high SPF and reapply throughout the day. Don’t forget to bring your sunnies.
  • A hat is also a nice addition to your packing gear.
  • If you spend much time outdoors, bringing bug spray to protect yourself from mosquitoes and other insects may also be beneficial.

Camera and Binoculars:

  • Banff is known for its stunning scenery and wildlife, so pack a camera or binoculars to capture and appreciate the area’s beauty.
  • Don’t forget to bring extra batteries and memory cards for your camera, as you will likely take lots of photos.
  • It’s also helpful to have a portable charger for your phone or camera, as you’ll likely be using them frequently to capture all the amazing sights in Banff.

Backpack:

  • A sturdy backpack is essential for carrying essentials and exploring Banff’s trails. Choose one with comfortable straps and enough space to fit all your belongings.
  • Consider packing a reusable water bottle and snacks in your backpack to stay hydrated and energized during your adventures.

Personal Items:

Don’t forget to pack necessary personal items such as toiletries, medication, and first aid. Pack other essential items such as your passport or ID, travel documents, cash and credit cards, and a map or guidebook of Banff. 

Wildlife Viewing

Banff National Park is home to diverse wildlife, including bears, elk, moose, and bighorn sheep. To view these animals in their natural habitat, join a guided wildlife tour or drive along the Bow Valley Parkway or Icefields Parkway.

Wildlife in Banff winter

Remember to keep a safe distance and never feed or approach the wildlife.

Leave No Trace

Banff National Park is a protected area, and it’s everyone’s responsibility to help preserve its beauty for future generations. When visiting, remember to leave no trace by properly disposing of waste, staying on designated trails, and respecting wildlife and their habitats.

Safety Tips

While Banff National Park is a beautiful and safe destination, it’s important to be prepared for potential hazards. 

Always check weather conditions before heading out on any outdoor activities, carry bear spray when hiking, and be aware of your surroundings when viewing wildlife. It’s also important to respect the park’s rules and regulations to ensure the preservation of this natural wonder.

Frequently Asked Question: Banff National Park itinerary

Do you need a car to visit Banff National Park?

The best way to get around Banff National Park is by car. However, parking during peak season at popular sites like Lake Louise and Moraine Lake can be challenging. To avoid this, consider taking the Roam public transit system, which operates throughout the park. 

Another option is to join a guided tour or rent a bike to explore the park. 

How many days do you need in Banff and Jasper National Parks?

Banff and Jasper National Parks are two of the most stunning parks in Canada, and they offer a wide variety of activities for nature lovers. With breathtaking mountain views, turquoise lakes, and abundant wildlife, it’s no wonder that these parks attract millions of visitors each year.

But with so much to see and do, you may wonder how many days you need to experience Banff and Jasper National Parks fully. 

At a minimum, we recommend 2 days in each park to check out the iconic attractions. However, depending on your preferences and travel style, you may cut it down to 3 days (with one travel day included).

To help you plan your trip, here are some factors to consider when deciding how many days you need in Banff and Jasper National Parks.

  • Activities and attractions: Banff and Jasper offer various activities, from hiking and camping to wildlife spotting and hot springs. If you’re an avid hiker or photographer, you may need more time to see all the major sights and trails. On the other hand, if you prefer a more relaxed pace, you can still enjoy the scenic drives and stop at the popular viewpoints without dedicating too much time.
  • Distance between attractions: While both Banff and Jasper are stunning, they’re not exactly close to each other. Driving from one park to another can take 3+ hours, depending on traffic and road conditions. So, if you want to visit both parks, you must factor in travel time when planning your itinerary.
  • Weather: The weather in Banff and Jasper can vary significantly depending on the season. Summer is the busiest time, with warm temperatures and clear skies perfect for hiking and camping. However, if you plan to visit during winter, you’ll need more time as some roads and attractions may be closed due to snow and ice.

We recommend spending at least 3-4 days in Banff and Jasper National Parks to get a taste of everything these stunning parks offer. However, if you have the time and budget, we suggest spending a week or more to immerse yourself fully in the natural beauty of these parks.

Is three days enough in Banff?

If you’re short on time or simply looking for a quick getaway, 3 days in Banff National Park can be a fulfilling experience. We recommend planning and making hotel and car rental reservations in the peak tourist seasons and leaving some room for relaxation (like soaking in the hot springs, having an afternoon tea experience, or just strolling by the lakeside or Banff Avenue). 

Set aside one day for active sightseeing (whether a day-long road trip, hike, or day at the slopes). And use another day for cultural and soft adventure activities in Banff town (such as sightseeing gondola, Cave and Basin Historical site, Whyte museum, etc.). This will give you a well-rounded experience of what Banff has to offer!

So that’s a wrap. We hope you enjoyed our 3 day Banff Itinerary packed with tips to make your Canadian Rockies trip a reality!

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10 Comments

  1. Great post… I learned so much about Banff. Been wanting to visit for some time now, just wasn’t sure what time of year to visit, so I’m pinning & saving your blog for future Banff planning.

  2. I seriously cannot wait to visit Banff and the Calgary area. I had planned on visiting this September, but you can guess what got in the way of those plans. I’ve pinned this for later so I can do all these terrific Banff recommendations when it’s safe to travel!

  3. Oh this brings back memories. We visited Banff in June of just last year! We had planned to go back again but when there is a bit of snow. Hopefully we still can.

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