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How to Spend 1 Day in Banff in Summer

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Banff is the gateway to the Canadian Rockies and the famous and stunning Lake Louise and Moraine Lake. There is SO much to do in and around Banff, but how the heck do you choose what to do if you only have 1 day?! This Banff and Lake Louise Itinerary will help you plan!

Dave and I have spent a lot of time in and around Banff and we have discovered that there are some absolute MUST DOS and SEES. Now we know exactly what we would do there if we only had one day.

This 1 Day Banff Travel Guide lists the best things to do in Banff in 1 day and also includes:

  • How to get to Banff
  • A Banff 1 Day packing list
  • Information on how to get around Banff without a car
  • Bucketlist Banff things to do and see if you only have 1 day
  • Best times to visit Banff
  • Amazing places to stay in Banff
  • Restaurants you must try in Banff
  • Wildlife in Banff – Will you see bears when you are there
Couple standing at Lake Louise at sunrise

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Things to Know Before Visiting Banff

📍 Where is Banff

Banff is located in Alberta Canada in the Canadian Rockies. Most people will know about Banff because it is very close to the bright turquoise lakes, Lake Louise and Moraine Lake.

This guide will help you plan your one day in Banff around seeing the most beautiful parts of the Canadian Rockies so that you get the most out of your 1 day in Banff!

How to get to Banff from Calgary

If you are flying, you will most likely fly into Calgary International Airport which is the closest international airport and is 1.5 hours drive away from Banff.

You can rent a car from Calgary International Airport. The drive from Calgary to Banff is straight forward as most of it is on the highway.

We usually drive from Vancouver, which is about a 9 hour drive. The map below shows all of the locations listed in this 1 day itinerary.

Click here to open the map in Google Maps!

🚗 Do I Need a Car For Banff?

Having a car will give you lots of freedom and flexibility to see places and do activities when you want, however, there are options to do all of the activities in this guide without a car as well.

Tip: If you don’t have a car, I recommend joining this 1 Day Banff tour from Calgary which takes you to some of the best viewpoints in Banff National Park!

🙋‍♀️ Why do People Visit Banff

Banff is a touristy mountain town but it is also the closest town to some of the most beautiful nature in the world! I sometimes think of Banff as the natural version of Disneyworld because it really is like a big natural playground for adults!

Most people choose to visit Banff to see famous and beautiful places such as Lake Louise or Moraine Lake. Other than these famous places, people often visit Banff for its incredible hiking or backpacking or to go skiing or snowboarding in the Winter.

📆 When is the Best Time to Visit Banff?

Banff National Park is beautiful all-year-round, however Summer is the best time for outdoor adventures such as hiking as the weather is gorgeous and the lakes are thawed.

The best time of the year to visit Banff is from June to the beginning of October. In our experience, during Summer, you will never run out of things to do in Banff! You also can only visit Moraine Lake during Summer as the road to the lake closes in Winter.

Views along the Little Beehive Trail

We have also visited Banff in the Fall and we can confirm that it is somehow EVEN more beautiful in the Fall than the Summer. Visiting Banff in the Fall is a little harder to organise as you need to try to get perfect time when the larches are at their most golden which is only for about a week or 2.

There are loads of great Fall hikes to do in Banff to see the golden larches.

girl hiking Larch Valley in the Fall

The temperatures during Summer are lovely, at around 23-28C (70-80F) on average but the temperatures can get much higher during the day and cooler at night.

How Long Should I Spend in Banff – Is 1 day enough?

Lake Louise in Summer at sunrise
Lake Louise at sunrise

I’m not going to lie. 1 day in Banff will leave you wanting more but 1 day is also better than none and you can still see a lot in one day if you plan your time properly. With only 1 day, you are going to want to plan your day around seeing the absolute best of Banff!

If you do have room to add more days onto your trip, I recommend planning for 5 days in Banff. With 5 days, you will have enough time to explore Banff town centre, do some hikes, relax a little and visit some of the most famous viewpoints in the world!

🎫 National Parks Pass

You will need a national parks pass to visit places like Lake Louise in Banff National Park. You can purchase these online on the Parks Canada website or at any MEC Store or on entry to Banff National Park.

🌲 Leave No Trace

Whenever you are enjoying the beautiful nature that our world has to offer, remember to leave no trace (LNT)! Respect the beautiful places that make our world beautiful and take out everything that you take in, take only photos and respect the wildlife and other people. You can read more on the 7 LNT principles here.

🛌 Places to Stay in Banff

In Banff there is everything from camping to luxury accommodation. We have stayed at the Best Western, the Moose Hotel and Suites the HI Banff Alpine Centre, the Samesun Banff and Two Jack Lake Campground.

If you have one full day in Banff, this probably means that you will need to book a 2 nights stay. The cheapest option will be to camp in one of the Parks Canada campgrounds but the most efficient option (timing-wise) will be to get a hotel room and eat out.

Camping in Banff

  • Two Jack Lake Campground – Our main issue with this campground was that there were no showers which we did not realise when booking. Make sure you check this on all your campsites when booking!
  • Tunnel Mountain Village Campground

The Two Jack Lake and Tunnel Mountain campground are the ones closest to Banff town centre but there are many more scattered around the great Banff area. For a full list of the campgrounds and to book a site, head to the Canada Parks Website. You will also see a list of the facilities at each of the campgrounds here.

Budget Accomodation

Luxury Accommodation

Self Catered Apartments

Best Restaurants in Banff

We loved exploring the different restaurants while we were in Banff. Our favourite fancy restaurant in Banff is a place called Pacini which is located at the Moose Hotel and Suites. Dave is obsessed with their Roasted Tomato, Nuts and Shiitake Mille-Feuilles Lasagna and I really loved the Carbonara.

We also went to The Eddie Burger and Bar which had lots of fun burgers to choose from as well as absolutely delicious Oreo milkshakes!

Another solid choice for a restaurant in Banff is the Elk & Oarsman Restaurant & Bar which is a classic pub type restaurant with dishes like ribs, fish and chips, burgers and pizzas.

Banff views

Wildlife in and Around Banff

There is a lot of different wildlife living in and around Banff. Some of the animals that you should look out for are marmots, pikas (no not the Pokemon), Caribou, Bighorn Sheep, Mountain Goats, elk, black bears, grizzly bears and more!

You might be lucky enough to see a bear or two along the side of the road while you are in Banff. The times that we have seen bears when driving in and around Banff is in the very early morning when there is a lot less traffic.

Black bear on Icefields Parkway (1 of 1)-min

Banff Packing List

When you are packing for Banff, you are going to want to pack for an outdoor adventure.

  • Hiking Boots
  • Sandals or other comfy shoes
  • Merino t-shirt and an extra one to change into just in case.
  • Hiking Pants, shorts or leggings.
  • Casual shorts and tops
  • Fleece
  • Puffer Jacket
  • Raincoat
  • Sunhat
  • Beanie – If you plan on visiting Banff at the start of Summer, the weather may still be quite cold.
  • Swim Suit – for all the lake swimming that you will be doing!
  • A summer dress – for wandering around town and going out in.
  • Sunscreen
  • Bug Spray
  • Bear Spray
  • Hiking Poles – If you usually hike with poles.
  • Camera! There will be plenty of photography opportunities! We have a guide on camera gear here.

🥾 Check out our gear guide for a full list of our hiking gear!

1 Day in Banff – The Ultimate Itinerary

Your one day in Banff is going to be a day that you NEVER FORGET!

The activities in this list is exactly what we would do if we had 1 day in Banff and were seeing it for the first time. You might find that you can’t fit all of these into one day. It will depend on how fast of a traveller/hiker you are. I have also put the activities and locations in order of how I would do them to help you plan.

Morning – Lake Louise

Lake Louise is an incredible turquoise coloured glacial lake that should be on the top of your Banff bucket list. If you are visiting Moraine Lake, you could easily see Lake Louise the same day as they are right next to each other.

Unlike Moraine Lake, Lake Louise is accessible year-round and you can even skate on the lake during Winter!

Watch the sunrise at Lake Louise

You can choose between visiting Moraine Lake for sunrise or Lake Louise. This guide is based on watching the sunrise at Lake Louise, however you can always reverse it.

The sunrise at Lake Louise during Summer is a big event so don’t expect to have the place to yourself. There were probably more than 100 people gathered around the lake when we were there but it was still so worth it.

Tip: If you want to watch the sunrise at Moraine Lake, the only way to do this in the Summer is to book a sunrise tour. In the Fall, the sunrise is late enough that you can just make it in time by catching the earliest Canada Parks shuttle.

Visit the Fairmont Château Lake Louise

If you haven’t visited a Fairmont yet, then you should definitely have a snack or a drink at the Fairmont Château Lake Louise while you are there. The Fairmont is a global hotel chain with luxury hotels that resemble castles. They are gorgeous!

Go for a hike

Lake Louise has a lot of incredible hikes that you can do while you are there. With one day in Banff I would recommend doing the Little Beehive Hike or the the Fairview Lookout both of which take you above the lake so that you can see it from above.

View from the Fairview Lookout at LAke Louise
Fairview Lookout

The Fairview Lookout is the shorter of the two and takes you up the left side of the lake, whereas the Little Beehive has views from the right-back side of the lake.

couple at the Little Beehive viewpoint in Lake Louise at sunset
Little Beehive Hike
Hire a Canoe

Just like Moraine Lake, Lake Louise has canoe rentals but they are surprisingly more expensive than Moraine Lake at CAD145 for an hour and CAD135 for 30 minutes.

Late Morning – Moraine Lake

After sunrise at Lake Louise, it’s time to head over to Moraine Lake.

Moraine Lake is the crown jewel of the Canadian Rockies and would be first on the list if you could still get there for sunrise easily.

As of 2023, no private vehicles are allowed on Moraine Lake road, so you have to book a Canada Parks shuttle or a tour to get there.

If we only had 1 day in Banff, Moraine Lake and Lake Louise would both be at the top of our list and the first places to visit to make sure we didn’t run out of time and miss out.

📑 Note: As of 2023, you can no longer drive to Moraine Lake as the road in is now closed to personal vehicles. The road is now only open to Parks Canada shuttles, Roam Public Transit, and commercial buses from June to October. The rest of the year the road closes due to the amount of snow it sees. Therefore, if you are dying to see Moraine Lake, go in Summer and make sure you are organised and book a way in well ahead of time.

The Rockpile Viewpoint

Once you reach Moraine Lake, I recommend you hike up to the Rockpile Lookout. It is a really short walk to get there and gives you that classic view of Moraine Lake that you would have seen in all of the photos.

Hire a Canoe

One of the popular things to do at Moraine Lake is to take a canoe out on the unnaturally turquoise water and paddle around the lake. The rental prices are a bit hefty at CAD130 for 1 hour but I mean.. it’s Moraine Lake so I guess they can charge what they want.

Dogs are not allowed in canoes and bookings are first come first serve at the dock. To find the canoe rental, once you arrive at Moraine Lake, walk around to the right of the lake. You will see the café and gift store on your right and the lake should be on your left. Walk for about 2-3 minutes and you will reach the canoe dock.

Walk Around Moraine Lake

You can walk around Moraine Lake via the Moraine Lake Shoreline Trail which is 5.1km / 3.2 miles with 275m / 902ft elevation gain and is an out and back so you can turn around whenever you want.

Moraine Lake Shoreline Trail
Moraine Lake Shoreline Trail

This trail usually takes people around 1.5-2 hours to complete. We walked a little of the way around the lake and found it lovely to get away from the crowds.

Afternoon – Johnston Canyon

Your third stop of the day is Johnston Canyon! Johnston Canyon features a hiking trail alongside a deep canyon with lots of stunning waterfalls

The two main viewpoints at Johnston Canyon are the Lower Falls and the Upper Falls which you can walk to along the easy trail. There is also an ice-cream stand and a café at the entrance to Johnston Falls which makes for a nice treat post hike especially on a hot day.

Tip: If you would prefer to hike with a group, you can book a Johnston Canyon Tour here!

Bonus – The Banff Gondola

If you are anything like us and you take way longer than you plan to at each scenic location, you have probably run out of time by this point. However if you still have the time and energy, I recommend purchasing a ticket for the Banff Gondola to get views over Banff from the top of Sulphur Mountain.

From the top of the gondola you can see the incredible surrounding mountains and even try to spot your Banff hotel!

There is also a café and gift shop at the top. You can drive and park in the gondola parking lot, or alternatively catch the free shuttle from town which runs every 40 minutes from town.

❗ Due to high popularity, I recommend purchasing a ticket in advance so that you don’t miss out!

Are you Planning 2 Days in Banff?

Check out this Ultimate 2 Day Banff Itinerary for more things to do in Banff once you have seen the must see spots!

Join a Tour

If you want to see the beautiful sites of Banff yourself and don’t have a car, you could book one of these fun tours!

Hop on Hop Off Bus

If you want to see Banff independently but don’t have access to a car, you could purchase a ticket for this Hop on Hop off bus tour. The stops include Johnston Canyon, Moraine Lake, Lake Louise, and the Lake Louise Gondola.

🎟 Purchase tickets for the Hop on Hop off Bus Tour here!

From Banff: Lake Louise and Moraine Lake Sightseeing Tour (Half Day)

This half-day tour will take you to Moraine Lake and Lake Louise with a group and a guide where you will learn about Banff National Park, its history, and what animals you should look out for. Your guide will also take you on a short hike.

You then have the rest of the day to explore Banff on your own.

🎟 Purchase tickets for the Lake Louise and Moraine Lake Sightseeing Tour here!

Best of Banff | Lake Louise, Moraine Lake & More (Full Day)

This full day tour is perfect for 1 day in Banff! It is a full day (10 hours long) and takes you to the most incredible spots in Banff National Park. You will get to visit Moraine Lake and Lake Louise and then a number of other beautiful spots which may vary depending on the days itinerary.

These spots could include: Johnston Canyon, Lake Minnewanka, Bow Falls and Surprise Corner.

🎟 Purchase tickets for the Lake Louise and Moraine Lake Sightseeing Tour here!

Our Thoughts

Banff is one of our favourite Summer holiday destinations and a place that we will keep going back to because there is so much to see! In my opinion if you even have only 1 day to see Banff, it is still so incredibly worth it because you will see some of the most beautiful places in the world in that 1 day.

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