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Best Things to Do in Banff in the Spring

Best Things to Do in Banff in the Spring

There are so many things to do in Banff all year round it can hurt your head. Most people either visit Banff in the summer or in the winter, but there are some fantastic activities to enjoy in Banff in the spring.

Banff in the spring may not be the most typical time to visit. The weather is unpredictable, and visitors may get some snow or rain, and definitely some cold temperatures. But if you visit in April, May, or early June, you’ll be rewarded with low prices and fewer crowds!

Happiest Outdoors Contributor Natasha lives in nearby Canmore and says that even after a few years of living here, she has only just begun to scratch the surface of things to do in Banff.

This guide to Banff in the spring includes:

This is a sensitive wilderness area. Learn how to Leave No Trace to keep the wilderness wild. Make sure you are prepared by bringing the 10 Essentials. Get ready for adventure with this checklist of things to do before every hike.

Hey there: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, which means I earn a small commission at no cost to you. Thanks for your support. -Taryn

Banff in the Spring Travel Map

Are you curious about where to find all the places recommended in this post? We made a custom Banff in the spring Google Map for you. Click here to zoom in and explore.

Map showing locations of activities to do in Banff in the spring
Click through to zoom in.

Best Things to Do in Banff in the Spring

Ride Up the Banff Gondola

You can hike up Sulphur Mountain, or you can ride the famous Banff Gondola to the top and enjoy epic views over the Canadian Rockies. From the top, there is a viewing platform, coffee shop, gift shop, and even a restaurant.

It’s the only mountain you’ll get to the top of in the Canadian Rockies with all these services. The Banff Gondola is open every month of the year, and we love visiting in spring when the weather is warmer, and the surrounding peaks are still blanketing in snow. Riding the Banff Gondola is also a great way for people with mobility issues to experience being on top of a mountain.

Pro tip: Since the top of the Banff Gondola is at 2,281 m (7,486 feet) it can be a lot colder up there than in the town of Banff. Don’t forget a warm jacket!

A woman walks on the boardwalk at the Banff Golda in April. Photo: Natasha Alden/The Banff Blog
Exploring the trails at the top of the Banff Gondola in April. Photo: Natasha Alden/The Banff Blog

Take a Stroll Down Banff Avenue

You can’t visit Banff and not take a leisurely walk down Banff Ave at least once. It’s one of the most scenic streets in all of Canada, and quite possibly the world. The view of Cascade Mountain towering above all the shops and restaurants is something mountain town dreams are made of.

If it’s a sunny spring day and you’re staying at a hotel in Banff, the first thing you’ll want to do in the morning is take a walk down Banff Avenue. Have a coffee at Whitebark Cafe, stroll into the art galleries on Bear Street, and grab lunch at one of the restaurants (our favorite is Ramen Arashi) before walking to Bow Falls a few minutes away.

A man holds a dog next to Bow Falls in Banff in the spring
Bow Falls in May. Photo: Natasha Alden/The Banff Blog

Bike to Moraine Lake

Getting to Moraine Lake in the summer is a bit of a pain since you have to book a shuttle bus. But if you are willing to put in the work, one of the best ways to access Moraine Lake is via bike.

It’s a 14 km paved road uphill to get to Moraine Lake, but once you are there you’ll forget all about the work it took and be taken aback by the beauty of one of the most beautiful lakes in the world. Then you get to coast down the 14km ride, which is always really fun.

The best time to bike Moraine Lake Rd is after Parks Canada plows it (typically in mid to late May), but before the shuttles and tour buses start running to it. You’ll have the road to yourself, and probably Moraine Lake as well!

Moraine Lake in May with ice on the lake and snowy mountains.
Moraine Lake might still be snowy in late May when the road first opens, but it is still gorgeous. Photo: Kameron Kincade/Unsplash

Hike Up Tunnel Mountain

Tunnel Mountain is an easy hike in Banff that allows you to summit a mountain and get stellar views of Mount Rundle nearby. It’s one of the best things to do in Banff for all ages as it’s a nice easy hike that’s under an hour up. Expect to climb 266 meters (872 feet), but once at the summit, you’ll have fantastic views of Mount Rundle, the Bow, and Spray Valley.

Pro tip: Since Tunnel Mountain isn’t that tall, it’s one of the best winter hikes in Banff. But in some years it will still be snowy in April and May. Come prepared with microspikes and hiking poles to add grip on slippery sections.

READ NEXT: Microspikes vs. Crampons vs. Snowshoes: What’s the Difference?

Have a Drink on the Docks at Vermilion Lakes

The sunsets during the spring months are some of my favorites. Every so often we get one to remember, where the sky turns hues of pink and orange. If it’s looking like this may happen, one of my favorite Banff sunset spots is at the docks at Vermilion Lakes.

Vermilion Lakes is super close to the town of Banff and has the best view of Mount Rundle and it’s an iconic spot in the park. One of my favorite things to do is bring some wine, or even hot chocolate, and enjoy the ducks swimming by on the thawing lakes as the sun sets.

A person stands on the dock at Vermilion Lakes in Banff
Vermilion Lakes dock. Photo: Edward Koorey/Unsplash

Bike the Bow Valley Parkway

The Bow Valley Parkway, or 1A, is a road that every visitor to Banff National Park should experience once. It’s a great alternative to the Trans-Canada when connecting Banff to Lake Louise, as it runs parallel to the highway. It’s paved and a great road to bike once all the snow starts to melt.

From May 1 to June 25 (2024 dates tbd) Parks Canada has approved a three-year pilot that restricts vehicles every day along the eastern 17-kilometer section of the parkway. This allows for vehicle-free cycling – it’s my favorite time to bike in Banff!

Visit Lake Minnewanka

Lake Minnewanka is a beautiful lake that is just a ten-minute drive away from the town of Banff. The lake is 21 km long and 142 meters deep and helps power Banff with hydroelectric power, making it one of the largest in the Canadian Rockies.

In the spring one of the best things to do in Banff is head here for a hike, picnic, or get out on the water in a canoe once the lake thaws.

Lake Minnewanka in May - one of the best things to do in the Canadian Rockies in spring
Lake Minnewanka in May. Photo: Felipe Freitas/Unsplash

Soak in the Banff Upper Hot Springs

If the weather is chilly on your trip to Banff in the spring, warm up with a visit to the Upper Hot Springs. These hot springs are the whole reason the town exists. The first pools were built here in the 1930s. The outdoor pool is naturally heated to 39°C (102°F). It also has a great view of the surrounding mountains.

Psst! I’ve got a whole guide to the Best Hot Springs in Canada

Hike Johnston Canyon

Visiting Johnston Canyon is one of the best things to do in Banff in the spring. It’s an easy hike that is well-maintained for all visitors and is great to hike year-round. The hike winds 5km through the canyon gaining minimal elevation throughout the way. At the end, you’ll be rewarded with epic waterfalls.

Pro tip: Pack microspikes for this hike if visiting in April or early May, this trail is one of the iciest in Banff!

People look down from a walkway into Johnston Canyon in Banff.
Exploring Johnston Canyon in June. Photo: Stuart Davies/Unsplash

Ride the Legacy Trail from Banff to Canmore (or Vice Versa)

One of the best things to do in Banff come May is ride the Legacy Trail between Banff and Canmore. The Legacy Trail connects the two towns along a fantastic paved trail for 26 km. One of my favorite things to do on a sunny spring day is a ride to Banff for a drink on the Banff Ave Brewing patio and then head back home! You can rent bikes from Rebound Cycle in Canmore or Banff Cycle & Sport in Banff.

A cyclist poses on the Banff Legacy Trail - one of the best things to do in Banff in the spring
Riding the Banff Legacy Trail in May. Photo: Natasha Alden/The Banff Blog

Drive the Icefields Parkway

The Icefields Parkway is a 232 km stretch of double-lane highway taking you along the Continental Divide. It runs from Lake Louise to Jasper, which are both fantastic places in themselves. The Icefields Parkway has been deemed one of the most beautiful road trips in the entire world, and for good reason.

Not only are you in the Canadian Rockies, but each and every turn on this road is met with mountains, icefields, waterfalls, and tons of glorious stop-offs like Peyto Lake, Bow Lake, and Waterfowl Lakes that will have any visitor beaming with delight. No trip to the Canadian Rockies is complete without at least driving a portion of the Icefields Parkway.

If you don’t want to drive the Icefields Parkway on your own, you can take an Icefields Parkway tour that includes a stop at Lake Louise.

Driving the Icefields Parkway near Banff.
Driving the Icefields Parkway is spectacular. Photo: Ryan Stone/Unsplash

Take the Views of Peyto Lake

Peyto Lake is a turquoise-blue glacier-fed lake 40 km north of Lake Louise and a popular stop on the famous Icefields Parkway. Right after Lake Louise and Moraine Lake, it’s likely the most popular lake in Banff. The best part is you can get a great lake view with a short hike to the viewing platform.

The view of Peyto Lake near Banff in spring
The view from the Peyto Lake viewpoint. Photo: Aleesha Schmidt/Unsplash

Hike Up Parker Ridge

Parker Ridge is one of the most memorable 2-3 hour hikes near Banff. Located along the Icefields Parkway, Parker Ridge is a hike gaining 269 meters that ends with magnificent views over the Saskatchewan Glacier. It’s located just before the Columbia Icefields Discovery Center before entering Jasper. Keep your eye out for the trailhead as it’s easy to miss!

Be safe out there. This trail is usually snowy in the spring. But you can still hike it if you’re prepared with microspikes, hiking poles, and winter clothing. It can be tough to spot the trail in the snow, so make sure to use a GPS app like AllTrails or Gaia GPS to stay on track.

Psst! Want to save 20% off a premium Gaia GPS annual membership, which includes the maps I use on my trips? Use this link.

Check Out Mistaya Canyon

Mistaya Canyon is another popular stop on the Icefields Parkway. To reach the canyon you’ll have to hike down the easy 0.5 km trail to a well-maintained fenced bridge. It’s here you can see the roaring canyon around you. Watch intensely as the powerful water churns through the rock beneath your feet.

While it will be snow-free in June, if you go in April or May, you may encounter ice and snow. Microspikes are a good idea to keep you from slipping.

MIstaya Canyon in the spring.
Mistaya Canyon in the spring. Photo: Natasha Alden/The Banff Blog

Catch the Train at Morant’s Curve

Morant’s Curve is one of the best photography spots in Banff. It’s a scenic overlook along the Bow Valley Parkway. The train tracks run right beneath it and if you are patient and are there at the right time you may even catch the train for the perfect photograph.

A train passing Morant's Curve in Banff
If you time it right, you’ll get a great photo of Morant’s Curve. Photo: Ezra Jeffrey-Comeau/Unsplash

Watch the Northern Lights

If you’re lucky, and I mean really lucky, you may catch the Aurora while visiting Banff. It’s rare, and I wouldn’t plan on seeing the northern lights while visiting. But if the sky is clear and the aurora forecast looks promising it’s best to make plans to not sleep.

The northern lights are visible all year round in Banff, but the best time to see them is between October and May when the sky is the darkest. Last year we had the best show of our life in April. The lights danced the entire night through the sky!

Have a BBQ at Cascade Ponds

Cascade Ponds is an awesome spot near the town of Banff and is where you’ll find visitors and locals alike chilling by the water with a drink in hand. There are picnic tables around the pond and plenty of BBQ pits. Head here with grill food and get ready for a delicious meal. Please remember to throw everything away in the bear-proof garbage cans around the ponds, and always Leave No Trace in the park.

SUP on the Canmore Reservoir

This is a Canmore local’s favorite thing to do as it’s so close to town. While it’s not the warmest in the springtime, it’s still possible to get out on the water. Taking a stand-up paddleboard out on the calm Canmore Reservoir while the sun sets is one of the things I love to do in the Canadian Rockies the most.

Pro tip: You need a Kananaskis Conservation Pass to park at the reservoir.

Mountain Bike at the Canmore Nordic Centre

One of the best places to go mountain biking in Canmore is at the Canmore Nordic Center, just outside of town. The trails may still be a bit snowy and muddy in April – May and June are much better months for mountain biking.

There are plenty of trails ranging in difficulty. They are all well-maintained and enjoyable. My favorite trail is the Odyssey Trail and Soft Yogurt, they are both manageable blue runs that any intermediate biker can get down!

Pro tip: You need a Kananaskis Conservation Pass to park at Canmore Nordic Centre.

Mountain biking in Canmore
Mountain biking in Canmore. Photo: Devon Hawkins/Unsplash

Enjoy the Shops of Main Street in Canmore

Main Street, or 8th Street, is well…the main street of Canmore. It’s where you’ll find many of the boutique shops, cafes, and restaurants that make up the town. I love walking up and down the main street as the warm weather rolls around in April and May. It’s much quieter than nearby Banff, and in my opinion has better shops. Make sure to step into Stonewaters as they have some very unique finds.

Downtown Canmore, Alberta
Take a stroll through Canmore.

Climb Ha Ling Peak

If you want a little activity, it’s best to start hiking in the mountains rather than looking up at them. Hiking up Ha Ling Peak is one of the best things to do in Canmore and a favorite hike in the area. It’s an accessible hike but still gains serious elevation.

Once at the top, you’ll have fantastic views over Canmore and back at the East End of Mount Rundle. Though it’s accessible, don’t underestimate this one though. Hikers still gain 745 meters in under 4km! Snow lingers near the summit in spring, so bring microspikes and hiking poles for traction.

Pro tip: You need a Kananaskis Conservation Pass for this hike.

Ha Ling Peak Trail in May
Ha Ling Peak Trail in May. Photo: Natasha Alden/The Banff Blog

Walk Through Grotto Canyon

One of the best easy hikes in Canmore is Grotto Canyon. It’s popular for families seeking to enjoy the narrow slot canyon and climbers looking to scale its walls in the spring. At only 4km in length, you can check this one off the list in an hour or two.

Pro tip: You need a Kananaskis Conservation Pass for this hike.

Hike to Grassi Lakes

Grassi Lakes is another well-known hike in Canmore that is easy and great for all. If you’re new to hiking in the Rockies, we recommend starting with Grassi Lakes. There are two trails: an easy trail and a hard trail. But honestly, both are very simple.

You’ll only gain moderate elevation and at the end, your reward will be stunning views over Canmore and even better bright blue lake views that will just make you want to take a dip immediately (although that would be quite cold and it’s not allowed here!)

Pro tip: You need a Kananaskis Conservation Pass for this hike.

Walk Along Policemen’s Boardwalk

If you want a nice, easy walk in Canmore, a great one is the Policemen’s Boardwalk. It’s a lovely boardwalk that is four-kilometres-long, well-marked, easy to follow, and will take you past The Malcolm Hotel where you can stop in at The Pulse for a coffee.

Catch the Sunrise Over Barrier Lake

Visitors can choose to either enjoy the lakeshore of Barrier Lake, or go for a moderate hike to the Prairie View lookout point, head up Jewell Pass via the Prairie View trail, or continue up to Yates Mountain and check out the Barrier Lake Fire Lookout. There are a lot of options here depending on how long you’d like to hike!

Pro tip: You need a Kananaskis Conservation Pass for this hike.

Sunrise at Barrier Lake near Canmore
Sunrise at Barrier Lake. Photo: Haley Truong/Unsplash

Travel Tips for Banff in the Spring

Since temperatures vary in the spring, you’ll need to pack layers. Expect temps of -3 to 9°C (27-49°F) in April. May is a bit warmer with temperatures of 1-14°C (34-58°F). June gets a bit warmer at 5-19°C (41-65°F).

To visit Banff, you’ll need a National Park Pass or Discovery Pass, which you can purchase online. You can buy one for daily or yearly visits. If you plan to spend seven days in a national park, the annual pass saves money and covers up to seven people in one vehicle. Plus, the Discovery Pass covers multiple parks across Canada.

If you plan to visit any of the hikes and nature spots near Canmore, you will also need a Kananaskis Conservation Pass. It costs $15 per vehicle per day. You can also buy a yearly pass for $90 that lets you register up to 2 vehicles. You can buy one online.

Cell phone coverage is non-existent once you leave Banff or Canmore. However, if you plan to explore the Icefields Parkway, there is only one road, so you won’t get lost.

Lastly, remember you’re in bear country, and that bears are very active in the spring as they wake up from hibernation and raise their cubs. Make noise, carry bear spray, and hike in groups to avoid an encounter.

PSST! Read these Bear Safety Tips before you go to Banff

Where to Stay in Banff

Banff offers a variety of accommodations, from camping to hotels. However, nothing is really budget-friendly unless you’re camping.

Camping in the spring is best if you have a hard-side camper with heating due to chilly temperatures at night.

Some campgrounds don’t open until late May or even mid-June. Located close to downtown, Tunnel Mountain Village II Campground remains open year-round. Tunnel Mountain Village I Campground, Tunnel Mountain Trailer Court, and Two Jack Lake Campground are the first campgrounds to open in early May each year.

Psst! Going camping in the spring? Read these tips for staying warm in a tent!

If you’re seeking a luxury hotel stay, you can’t beat the service and rooms at the Fairmont Banff Springs and Chateau Lake Louise. Owned by the Fairmont brand, they offer opulent accommodations, many with splendid views.

Banff Springs Hotel
Banff Springs Hotel. Photo: Kieran Taylor/Unsplash

For budget-conscious travelers, the Ptarmigan Inn offers free parking and an excellent complimentary buffet breakfast that’s hard to beat. Located within walking distance of downtown, you won’t have to walk far to reach top Banff restaurants for dinner.

Another great choice is the Moose Hotel and Suites. It features a lovely rooftop pool and hot tub with mountain views. Its suites can sleep up to four, ideal for groups or families. With a living area and cozy fireplace, it’s a great place to wind down on a cold evening.

If you find Banff prices too high, you can try staying in nearby Canmore instead. It’s an easy 20-minute drive from Banff. Many of the accommodation options are suites with kitchens, which can help you save more money since you won’t be eating out as much. The Solara Resort has gorgeous (and huge!) suites. MTN House by Basecamp has reasonably priced rooms with modern mountain decor.

Thanks to Natasha for sharing this gorgeous guide to the best things to do in Banff in the spring. You can read more about Natasha’s Canadian Rockies adventures on her website, The Banff Blog.

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