Banff National Park is located in Alberta, Canada, less than 2 hours west of Calgary. Nestled in the beautiful Canadian Rockies, Banff is full of gorgeous glacial lakes- including the well-known Lake Louise, majestic mountain peaks, and plenty of wonderful wildlife. With just one look at this park’s scenic landscape, you will quickly understand why this was named Canada’s first national park back in 1885. With over 1000 miles of hiking trails, you could easily spend years exploring it all. However, if you don’t have quite that much vacation time, here is a 4-day itinerary to get your Banff adventure planning started. Please reach out if you have any questions!
Adult: $10.50 CAD/day
Senior: $9.00 CAD/day
Youth (17 & under): FREE
Family/Group: $21.00 CAD/day
I highly recommend the Discovery Pass for this itinerary if you have more than 2 adults in your vehicle and plan to see other parks while in the area. The Discovery Pass gives you unlimited admission to all Canadian national parks and national historic sites. It is valid for 12 months and will make entering the park easy and fast! Discovery Passes can be purchased here- Discovery Pass.
Family/Group: $145.25 CAD
Adult: $72.25 CAD
Senior: $61.75 CAD
Lake Louise and Lake Moraine:
Currently, the road to Lake Moraine is closed to personal vehicles, and parking spots are extremely limited at Lake Louise. There are a few ways to make your way to these beautiful lakes.
Option #1 (recommended):
Parks Canada Shuttle-
Tickets are $8 CAD for adults, $4.00 CAD for seniors, and those aged 17 and under are free but still require a ticket.
The initial shuttle tickets were released in the spring of 2023. There is a second block of tickets released at 8 am MST two days prior to the visit date.
Shuttle tickets are for a 1-hour window. You may park in the Park and Ride any time during that hour. There will be a booth at the far end of the parking lot where you can check-in.
If you plan on visiting both lakes on the same day, you only need 1 ticket per person. There is a connector shuttle between the two lakes that does NOT require an additional cost or ticket.
Once you are at the lakes, you may stay as long as you want. The last return shuttle leaves from either lake at 7:30 pm.
Roam Public Transit-
If you are staying in downtown Banff, using Roam is also a great option. Reservations are required when traveling to Lake Louise via Roam. There are both scenic and express options to Lake Louise via a one-way ticket purchase. To access the connector bus to Lake Moraine from Lake Louise, you must purchase a Reservable Super Pass. The Super Pass is the ONLY way to access Lake Moraine using Roam. Tickets to Lake Louise are $10 CAD/adult (one-way). Children 12 and under are free but still require a ticket. The Super Pass is $25 CAD/adult. Daily schedules and reservations are located here- Roam Public Transit. Reservations are not necessary when taking Roam elsewhere.
Via Lake Louise Drive- 4 km one-way.
Via Lake Moraine Road- 12 km one-way.
Both roads are narrow, with minimal shoulders and heavy bus traffic. Arrive early to secure a spot in the Lake Louise community.
Lake Louise- The Louise Creek Trail is 2 mi (3.5 km) one-way with 800 ft of elevation gain from the Lake Louise community.
Lake Moraine- 17 mi (28 km) one-way via Lake Moraine Road- NOT recommended.
There are many campgrounds in Banff National Park- Tunnel Mountain Village I, Tunnel Mountain Village II, Tunnel Mountain Trailer Court, Two Jack Lakeside, Two Jack Main, Johnston Canyon, Castle Mountain, Protection Mountain, Lake Louise Hard-sided, Lake Louise Soft-sided, Mosquito Creek, Rampart Creek, Silverhorn Creek, and Waterfowl Lakes. Reservations can be found here- Banff Camping. Camping in Banff requires a park pass, camping permit, and fire permit.
There is also backcountry camping available with a permit. Reservations can be made here- Banff Backcountry.
Reservations for camping are usually released in March, approximately 90 days before opening for the season. Check here for the current season’s guidelines and openings.
If you prefer to avoid camping, there are plenty of hotels and Airbnb/VRBO options in downtown Banff. There is also the Moraine Lake Lodge, Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, and the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. They are pricier options but come with unbelievable views.
Banff is very populated, with many food options in every part of the park. A few of our favorites include: Three Bears Brewery, Park Distillery Restaurant, and Magpie & Stump. Check out our recommendations for specific park areas throughout the itinerary below.
Must Know Before You Go:
- Bring lots of layers and rain jackets-even if rain isn’t forecasted. At the end of June, we saw all 4 seasons in the same day!
- Start your days as early as possible. Crowds are significantly better at 8 am.
- Expect travel time to and from Lake Louise and Lake Moraine to take a little time. You will often have to wait for shuttles plus travel time to and from the lakes.
- Banff is home to lots of wonderful wildlife. Always carry bear spray with you and know how to safely use it and please review all wildlife safety here- Wildlife Safety.
- And as always, please remember to Leave No Trace.
Service is decent in downtown Banff; however, service is limited elsewhere in the park and on the trails.
4 Day Itinerary
Johnston Canyon- This family loves waterfalls, so while the glacial lakes and mountain views are stunning, this was one of our favorite areas of Banff National Park. This entire hike is waterfall after waterfall, so it is one you won’t want to miss! To hike to both Lower Falls, Upper Falls, and the Upper Falls second viewpoint is 3.5 miles (5.6 km) roundtrip with approximately 700 ft of elevation gain. Please do not skip the second viewpoint of Upper Falls. It is spectacular!
This trail is well-labeled and paved most of the way. You could bring a stroller, but I wouldn’t recommend it. The trail is narrow and gets VERY crowded after 10 am.
There are restrooms at the trailhead and food options just across the first footbridge- Market Café, Blackswift Bistro, and The Shack.
Inkpots- After the second viewpoint of Upper Falls, continue the Johnston Canyon Trail to the Inkpots. The Inkpots are 5 beautiful, bubbling, green and blue pools that are definitely worth the extra trip past Upper Falls. This route will add another 4 miles (6.4 km) and 400 ft of elevation gain onto your hike.
Two Jack Lake- Two Jack Lake is about 20 miles (32 km) from the Johnston Canyon Lot, not far from downtown Banff. There is plenty to see and do at Two Jack Lake, depending on what your crew is up for. The stunning emerald lake has a 3-mile (4.8 km) hiking trail, picnic tables if you bring lunch, and it is a great place to swim or paddle board.
Lake Minnewanka- After exploring Two Jack Lake, head further down Lake Minnewanka Road. Look for wildlife and incredible views of Lake Minnewanka along the way. Like Two Jack, Lake Minnewanka has plenty of outdoor activities to explore, depending on your preference.
I highly recommend the Lake Minnewanka Cruise. It will give you plenty of information about the lake and some of the best lake views while giving your legs a bit of a break. Plus, who doesn’t love a boat ride😊 If you are interested in the boat cruise, book tickets in advance here- Lake Minnewanka Cruise. If you want to explore the water independently, they also have kayaks, canoes, and motorboats available to rent.
If you want to pass on boating, consider hiking a small portion of the 36-mile lakeshore trail.
And that’s the end of a very busy day 1😊
Lake Louise- Lake Louise is one of the most beautiful lakes I’ve ever seen. However, the lakeshore looks a lot like Disney World from June through September. I still think it is absolutely worth the trip, but want to prepare you for the fact that Lake Louise and the surrounding trails are busier than any other place in the park. And while you will still find crowds in the early morning, I recommend arriving at the lake as early as possible.
Lake Agnes- After checking out your first views of Lake Louise, take the paved path to the right until you see signs for the Lake Agnes Trail. The Lake Agnes Trail is 4.6 miles (7.4 km) roundtrip with over 1400 ft of elevation gain. This trail is ALL uphill, and the first portion of the trail is the steepest. Make sure to bring plenty of water and take frequent breaks. On the way to Lake Agnes, check out Mirror Lake. You won’t be able to miss it, since it is right off the main trail😊
On the shoreline of Lake Agnes is the Lake Agnes Tea House. Despite the lack of electricity, they are known for their delicious sandwiches, soups, and sweets. Be prepared to wait in quite the line at any time of day. The Tea House is open daily from 8 am to 5 pm, June to October.
After exploring the lake and checking out the Tea House, you can head back down to Lake Louise.
Optional Add-on: If you are looking for more stunning views of Lake Louise, consider hiking to one of the Beehives from Lake Agnes before heading back down.
Little Beehive- Hiking to the Little Beehive after Lake Agnes will add 1 mile (1.6 km) and 200 ft of elevation gain onto your hike. This route was less crowded than the Big Beehive for views that were just as stunning.
Big Beehive- Hiking to the Big Beehive from Lake Agnes will add 2 miles (3.2 km) and 500 feet of elevation gain.
Lake Louise Lakeshore Trail- After making your way down from Lake Anges, turn right onto the Lake Louise Lakeshore Trail from the Lake Agnes TH. The lakeshore trail is 2.8 miles (4.5 km) roundtrip with 300 ft of elevation gain.
If you are looking for more food options on the way out, there are several restaurants inside the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. Browse the food options here- Dining at Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise.
Lake Moraine- The bright blue of this gorgeous glacial lake is unreal, and the massive mountain views were just as impressive. It’s a sight you don’t want to miss!
Rockpile- This trail starts right off the parking lot. It is 0.5 miles (0.8 km) roundtrip, with 40 ft of elevation gain. This trail is short but steep. You climb up a set of stone stairs to the top of a large “rockpile” overlooking Lake Moraine. And the views from the top are some of the best in the park!
Consolation Lakes- The trailhead for Consolation Lakes is on the right, on your way back down from the Rockpile. To reach both lakes, this trail is 4.5 miles (7.2 km) roundtrip with 1000 ft of elevation gain. The park rates this trail as “easy”- which it is- to the shore of the first lake. If you want to see both lakes, you will need to do some serious scrambling over large boulders along the shoreline of the first lake. It is completely doable; I just wouldn’t call it easy😊 And our kids thought it was so much fun- even in the pouring rain.
After hiking the Consolation Lakes Trail, I would check out one of the two options below before calling it a day😊
Lake Moraine Lakeshore Trail- This trail is 2.5 miles (4 km) roundtrip with 600 ft of elevation gain. There’s not one second of this trail that isn’t stunning, and it is perfect for all ages and skill levels.
Rent a canoe and get out on the breathtakingly beautiful lake. There is only one rental company, so the prices are steep, but you only live once, right?? Prices start at $140.00 CAD/hour, 9:30 am- 5:00 pm.
There are food options inside the lodge at Lake Moraine. Dining menus and hours can be found here- Lake Moraine Dining.
If you are staying in or near downtown Banff, the first stop- Peyto Lake- is about an hour north of town. Completing this itinerary in the order below will have you slowly working your way south until you end the day back in downtown Banff.
Peyto Lake- From the main parking lot, there is a paved, uphill path to the stunning overlook of Peyto Lake. The path is 1.5 miles (2.4 km) roundtrip, with 300 feet of elevation gain, and the views are amazing! We visited in the pouring rain, and it was still stunning😊
Bow Lake/Bow Glacier Falls- After Peyto Lake, head about 5 minutes south on Icefields Parkway to Bow Lake and the Bow Glacier Falls TH- right by the lodge. The hike to Bow Glacier Falls is 5.5 miles (8.8 km) roundtrip with over 500 ft of elevation gain. You can easily see this 500 ft waterfall from the parking lot but the closer look is even more incredible!
There are also food options at The Lodge at Bow Lake. Check out the lodge dining options here- Lodge Dining.
Crowfoot Glacier Viewpoint- Just another few minutes south on Icefields Parkway is a pull-off for another beautiful view of Crowfoot Glacier.
Silverton Falls- About 40 min south of the Crowfoot Glacier Viewpoint is the parking lot for Silverton Falls. This trail is 1.2 miles (2 km) roundtrip with 300 ft of elevation gain.
Start at the Rockbound Lake Trail, then head right when the trail splits onto the Silverton Falls Trail. As you near the overlook of the falls, the trail does follow a cliff ledge for a short period of time. If you have little ones, you will want to be careful the last 0.25 miles. This is the perfect trail if you are trying to escape the crowds. We did not see one other person the entire time we were on the trail.
Vermillion Lakes- After your hike to Silverton Falls, head to the Vermillion Lakes area. There is an overlook off the main highway, but I would also recommend making your way down to Vermillion Lakes Drive. It’s a gorgeous drive with plenty of places to get out and take in the stunning scenery. If you have your own bikes or if you are up for renting them, this is a great place to ride them. If you have your own paddle boards, I would definitely suggest making your way onto the water. The beautiful lake and mountain views in this area are a great way to end your trip to Banff and possibly get one more look at some Banff wildlife 😊
Hope you have a wonderful adventure!
Check out our hiking gear and apparel below!
Looking to explore more gorgeous glacial lakes? Check out our 5-day Glacier National Park Itinerary here- 5 Days in Glacier.