What to Do in Banff with Two Days

Have two days to spend in Banff National Park? Here’s how to make the most of your time.

Johnston Canyon in Banff National Park.
Johnston Canyon in Banff National Park. Photo © Peter Wey/123rf.

Get oriented with a walk around the town of Banff, with stops at some of its historic sites and museums: the Cave and Basin National Historic Site, which tells the story behind Canada’s first national park; the Banff Park Museum, in a historic log building; or the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies, which traces the area’s cultural and artistic roots.

When you’re done at the museums, take a lunch break. Have soup, salad, or a sandwich at the Wild Flour Artisan Bakery, but don’t leave without a fresh-baked sweet.

If you’re feeling adventurous in your quest for the best mountain views, book a tour on the Mount Norquay Via Ferrata, an exciting guided climbing experience that requires no previous rock-climbing expertise; the vistas from the top of the ridge are spectacular. Or go for a hike: The three-mile (4.8-kilometer) Tunnel Mountain Trail is close to town and climbs up to a lookout point with views across the Bow Valley.

Catch your breath at glacier-fed Lake Minnewanka, the largest lake in Banff National Park, where you can take a leisurely one-hour narrated cruise.

Have an early dinner at the Park Distillery, perhaps a vodka cocktail (they brew their own) and the flaming raclette, then see a concert, play, or other event at the Banff Centre. For a post-performance nightcap, stop into the Wine Bar at the Banff Centre’s Three Ravens Restaurant.

The next day, get up early and fortify yourself with breakfast at the Juniper Bistro, where the views from the terrace help get your morning off to a good start. Then pack a picnic lunch and drive along the scenic Bow Valley Parkway. You want to get to Johnston Canyon, a dramatic rock canyon with cantilevered walkways through the gorge, to hike to the Lower Falls before the crowds descend on this extremely popular trail. Continue your hike to the Upper Falls and if you have the time, keep going toward the Ink Pots, a series of colorful pools. Have your picnic along the trail or at another quiet spot along the parkway.

Back in town, drive up Sulphur Mountain for an afternoon ride in the Banff Gondola. Walk the boardwalk trail and make plenty of stops to take in the mountain panoramas.

Just down the road from the gondola base, have a relaxing soak in the mineral pools at Banff Upper Hot Springs. Then, to wrap up your two days in Banff, sit down for a leisurely evening meal at The Sleeping Buffalo, which specializes in game meats, or try one of the dining spots like the Austrian-themed Waldhaus at the grand Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel.

Banff National Park

Carolyn B. Heller

About the Author

A travel writer based in Vancouver, Canada, Carolyn B. Heller has celebrated spring in the Canadian Arctic, swapped fairy tales with a Druze family in the Golan Heights, studied Spanish in Ecuador and Costa Rica, and road tripped throughout North America. She writes about cultural, culinary, and offbeat adventures for Travel + Leisure, Atlas Obscura, Verge Magazine, Explore, The Takeout, Roads & KingdomsMontecristo, Canadian Traveller, and many other publications. And she’s the author of three Moon guidebooks: Moon Vancouver, Moon Toronto and Ontario, and Moon Vancouver and Canadian Rockies Road Trip.

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