A complete guide to Banff

Sightseeing in Banff

Listed below are a few areas of interest Banff boasts. Banff’s evergreen nature has definitely stolen the hearts of many locals and international visitors.

Highways and Scenic Roads (4)

Many places of attractions are accessible through a few major roads that travel throughout Canada. Stated in this section are some fun facts about these highways and a few points of interest each respective route will pass.

Highway 1A
  • Spectacular view of the landscape at your own leisurely pace. This is a scenic alternative to the Trans-Canada Highway 1 (see below).
  • Detailed signs are located along the road thus making traveling convenient.
  • It passes along the majestic Bow River Valley and many other places of interests.

Icefields Parkway

  • This route will allow you to enjoy the scenery through both Banff and Jasper National Parks.
  • Named after the icefields that spread through the Rockies, this road has been agreed to be one of the world’s most panoramic highways.
  • Bow Summit, Saskatchewan River Crossing, Lake Louise, Sunwapta Falls and Athabasca Falls are just some of the places this road passes along, not forgetting the occasional view of roaming wildlife.
Bow Valley Parkway
  • This is a portion of Highway 1A that is stretched 51m (30.6mi) from Banff to Lake Louise.
  • Picnic areas are available, short hikes are a norm, and there are three lodges offering cabin accommodation and services for travelers.
  • If you’re visiting Johnston Canyon, a self- guided tour will aid you through the hike in Johnston Creek where two bountiful waterfalls are present.
  • A 5.6 km (3.5mi) hike will take you to six cool springs spurting from the ground, at the Ink Pots.

Trans-Canada Highway

  • This is the longest national highway in the WORLD.
  • The main road stretches 7604km (4725mi) from coast to coast (St. Johns Newfoundland to Victoria, British Columbia).
  • This incredulous route also passes through all ten provinces!

Cultural Attractions

Galleries, Museums & Interpretive Centres (19)

Venue: Roy Andersen Photography
Address: PO Box 1556 Banff AB T1L 1B5
Contact: 1 403 762-2691
Brief: Roy Anderson, a commercial photographer focuses his pictures on prairie landscapes and the Canadian Rockies which he has successfully sold worldwide.

Venue: Artistic Journeys
Address: PO Box 131 Banff AB CA T1L 1A3
Contact: 1 403 762-5528
Brief: Offers guided tours to the Canadian Rockies and British Columbia to artist-adventurers. Various location targeted and tour varies anywhere from 1 to 4 days where meals, accommodation and painting supplies are included. Held during the summer at various locations throughout Banff.

Venue: Canada House Gallery
Address: 201 Bear St Banff AB T1L 1B5
Contact: 1 403 762-3757
Brief: Represents a large collection of contemporary Canadian art, including paintings and sculptures. Open daily.

Venue: About Canada Gallery
Address: 105 Banff Ave (PO Box 1507) Banff AB T1L 1B4
Contact: 1 403 760-2996
Brief: Introduces the works of emerging artists in Canada which includes crafts, sculptures, paintings, photography etc. Works of the legendary Bruno Engler and well-known Douglas Leighton are also presented. Open daily from 10am – 9pm.

Venue: Walter Phillips Gallery
Address: 107 Tunnel Mountain Road, Box 1020 Stn 40 Banff AB T1L 1H5
Contact: 1 403 762-6281
Brief: Committed to the production, presentation, collection and analysis of contemporary art. Workshop/ Lessons available. Open Tues to Sun from noon – 5pm.

Venue: Aura Gallery of Contemporary Art
Address: 100 Mountain Ave (Rimrock Hotel), Box 1109 Banff AB T1L 1B1
Contact: 1 403 760-6102
Brief: Distinctive artworks and hand-crafted objects by local, regional and international artists mainly focusing on artists’ perspectives. Open daily 10am – 10pm.

Venue: Summit Gallery of Fine Art
Address: 120 Banff Ave Banff AB
Contact: 1 403 762-4455
Brief: Offers a large selection of art jewellery, ceramics and hand-blown glass—all inspired by nature. Private viewing room provide. Open daily from 10am – 9pm.

Venue: Mountain Galleries at the Fairmont
Address: Banff Springs Hotel, 403 Spray Ave Banff AB
Contact: 1 403 760-2382
Brief: A commercial gallery focusing on Canadian art. Daily 10am – 10pm.

Venue: Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies
Address: 111 Bear St Banff AB T1L 1A3
Contact: 1 403 762-2291
Brief: Located beside the Bow River in the heart of downtown Banff. Guided historic, walking tours. Mainly targets historical/cultural artistry. Daily 10am – 5pm.

Venue: The Quest Gallery
Address: 105 Banff Ave, Box 1046 Banff AB T1L 1B1
Contact: 1 403 762-2722
Brief: Native Indian (Inuit) sculptures present well-known from 6 Generations before. Carvings of Ben Henry and his three sons, Vince Bomberry and distinguished potter Steven Smith are exhibited here.

Venue: Buffalo Nations Museum
Address: 1 Birch Ave, Banff AB T0L 0C0
Contact: 1 403 762-2388
Brief: Named for the historic moments when the Natives followed buffalo herds to the Bow Valley area. Displays the lifestyles of the aboriginals, including ongoing stories of their myths and legends. Souvenir shop on site. $6/student, $2.50/senior, 6-12 years; free, families $16.50. Open 11am – 6pm in summer and 1pm-5pm in winter.

Venue: Cave & Basin National Historic Site
Address: 311 Cave Ave
Contact: 1 403 762-1566
Brief: Exhibits, guided tours and the film Steam, Schemes & National Dreams recount how the discovery of the Cave and Basin springs led to the creation of Banff National Park. Along with the caves, explore the unique flora and fauna. $4/adult, $3.50/senior, $2 for 6 – 16 years, $10/family. 11am daily in summer and Sat/Sun in winter. Mid May - Sept 30: 9am - 6pm, otherwise: Mon-Fri 11am - 4pm and Sat - Sun 9:30am - 5pm.

Venue: Heritage Hall
Address: The Fairmont Banff Springs Banff AB CA
Contact: 1 403 762-2211
Brief: Heritage Hall hosts demonstrations on the western mountains above the Fairmont Banff Springs lobby. Free. 9am - 9pm.

Venue: Canadian Ski Museum West
Address: Throughout Cascade Plaza, 317 Banff Ave
Contact: 1 403 762-8484
Brief: Displays the heritage of Banff’s skiing evolution, Swiss mountain guides, development of the Alpine Resorts, memorabilia from Olympic skiers trained on local slopes and many more!

Venue: Banff Park Museum National Historic Site
Address: North of the bridge, 91 Banff Ave
Contact: 1 403 762-1558
Brief: This is western Canada’s oldest historical museum. Preservation showpieces of mammals, insects, birds and exquisite plants are proudly displayed here. Interpreters are available together with reading rooms and hands-on discovery rooms. May 15 - Sept 30 10am - 6pm; Oct - mid May 1 - 5pm.

Venue: Bankhead
Address: Lake Minnewanka Rd., 7.4 km (4.6 mi) from Banff
Brief: Historic site of an early 1900's coal mine, colliery and town including ruins and photographs of the mine and bears.

Venue: Cave and Basin Centennial Centre
Address: 311 Cave Ave. Banff AB CA
Contact: 1 403 762-1557
Brief: Visitors can walk into the cave and observe the intact basin while learning the fascinating story of the spring’s discovery. Geological videos are played to share the park’s history. Tours are available.

Venue: The Banff Centre
Address: Box 1020, 107 Tunnel Mountain Drive Banff AB T1L 1H5
Contact: 1 403 762-6157
Brief: This centre is home to many festivals that Banff throws every now and then. It is also Canada’s only learning centre that is dedicated to the arts, leadership development, and mountain culture.

Venue: Canada Place
Address: In Park Administration Building at the end of Banff Avenue
Contact: 1 403 760-1338
Brief: Catering to about 400 visitors per day, Canada Place has knowledgeable interpreters that can clarify any doubts or questions that you might have about Canadian history. Enjoy real birch bark canoes and their recording studios. Free admission for everyone.

Natural Attractions

Bodies of Water (6)

Lake: Vermilion Lakes
Address: Branches off Mt. Norquay just before the Banff/Norquay overpass
Brief: Consists of 3 lakes. A drive along these lakes would grant you the opportunity to view Banff’s flora and fauna, common to marshland areas. A favourite spot for many birdwatchers, photographers, nature-lovers, and cyclists.

Lake: Peyto Lake
Address: 190 km (118.75 mi) S of Jasper/40 km (25 mi) N of Lake Louise
Brief: The Bow summit, 2088m above sea-level, is the highest point on the Icefields Parkway. A short trail from the lower parking area at Bow Summit will take you uphill to the Peyto Lake lookout.

Lake: Lake Louise
Address: Access road is S of the Trans-Canada Hwy
Brief: Yield to the beauty of the Victoria Glaciers and Lake Louise, where visitors can also enjoy canoeing, horseback riding, hiking, riding and many more. Most popular lake out of the lot.

Lake: Bow Lake
Address: 93 km (58 mi) N of Banff just off Hwy 93 N (Icefields Parkway)
Brief: This is the original source of the Bow River. Across the lake is part of a very large ice field covering an area of the Great Divide (see below). The Bow Glacier extends from this field over the cliffs.

Lake: Hector Lake
Address: 214 km (133.75 mi) S of Jasper/16 km (10 mi) N of Lake Louise
Brief: The green waters of Hector Lake spread below a fresh carpet of lush forest. The southern part of the lake is forest-enclosed while the northern end is exposed to rugged mountains, which is typical of a lake formed in a glacial basin.

Lake: Moraine Lake and Valley of the Ten Peaks
Address: 12 km (7.5 mi) E from Lake Louise access road
Brief: This emerald green lake set before a backdrop of sharp peaks, was formerly imprinted on the back of the Canadian $20 bill. Mount Temple, the highest mountain in the Bow Range and third highest in Banff National Park, can be seen north of this lake. Many trails provided for hiking.

Caves and Canyons (3)

Name: Hole in the Wall
Address: 1.1 km (6.8 mi) W of Banff from the Muleshoe picnic area
Brief: Once thought to fill Bow Valley, this cavern appears to have been cut away by the melting waters from the glacier.

Name: Johnston Canyon
Address: 26 km (16.25 mi) W of Banff on Hwy 1A
Brief: Observe water erosion in action as you follow the self-guided interpretative trail along Johnston Creek. 5.6 km (3.5 mi) walk will take you to the Ink Pots. Six cool springs bubble out of the ground year-round. A pleasurable sight of an array of aqua colours created by the glacial sediments in the springs can be viewed.

Name: Mistaya Canyon
Address: 159 km (99 mi) S of Jasper/71 km (44 mi) N of Lake Louise
Brief: A quick 10 minute trail lures you to this amazing canyon where the waters of Mistaya Canyon have delicately shaped the gorge, leaving many circular “potholes” in the canyon walls.

Glaciers and Hot Springs (4)

Name: Columbia Icefield
Address: Icefields Parkway AB
Brief: Composed of a massive plateau of ice, and 6 major glaciers (and numerous smaller ones), this massive field of ancient ice covers 325 sq km (125 sq mi) and reaches depths estimated at 365 m (1299 ft). Melt waters from the ice field flow to three different oceans (the Pacific, Arctic and Atlantic). Called a hydrological apex, it is one of only two in the world that feeds three oceans. Ice-walk tours are also available April 10th until October 20th.

Name: Crowfoot Glacier
Address: 197 km (123 mi) S of Jasper/33 km (20.6 mi) N of Lake Louise
Brief: Years ago, this glacier resembled a crows foot, with three large toe-like extensions. The “lower toe” of this foot has receded so much over the years that only 2 toes remain.

Name: Cave & Basin Hot Springs
Address: Banff AB
Contact: 1 403 762-4900
Brief: The centre is open year-round while the swimming pool is open from mid June to Labour Day. Geological and historical displays of how the warm sulphur water creates its effects on the flora and fauna in the area.

Name: Banff Upper Hot Springs
Address: 101 Mountain Avenue Banff AB T1L 1K2
Contact: 1 403 762-1515
Brief: Equipped with modern amenities/ facilities that of a modern spa, this historic bathhouse features an outdoor hot pool, a day spa, an email kiosk, a gift shop and cafe. Swimsuits, towels and locker rentals available. Open year-round.

Mountains and Waterfalls (2)

Name: Parker Ridge
Address: 113 km (70.6 mi) S of Jasper/l 17 km (73 mi) N of Lake Louise. T3K 5G4
Brief: This peak provides an excellent view of the largest tongue of the Columbia Icefield; the Saskatchewan Glacier.

Name: Bow Falls
Address: Banff, AB
Brief: A convenient, short walk from the Banff Centre at Tunnel Mountain or the Banff Springs Hotel. It drops approximately 30 feet near its divergence with the Spray River.

Parks and Gardens (4)

Venue: Banff National Park
Address: Banff National Park P.O. Box 900 Banff AB T1L 1K2
Contact: 1 403 762-1550
Brief: An awesome site, surrounded with nature’s wildlife, towering mountain peaks, and glaciers. Discover the history and heritage of Banff here.

Venue: Hoodoos
Address: 4 km (2.5 mi) from Banff on Tunnel Mountain Dr
Brief: Sculpted by wind and water, these spires overlook the Bow River. Wheelchair access available.

Venue: The Great Divide
Address: Follow the sign
Brief: The meeting point of where all waters flow either W to the Pacific Ocean or E to the Atlantic Ocean. The creek separates through mid-flow. Located west of Lake Louise on the border between Alberta and British Columbia. Picnic spots available.

Venue: Cascade Gardens
Address: In the Park Administration building grounds at the 5 end of Banff Ave
Brief: Enjoy belvederes, waterworks, pools and flower gardens at one of western Canada’s most historic landscapes.

Sports and Entertainment (1)

Venue: Cinema Lux Centre
Address: 229 Bear Street Banff AB Canada
Brief: This theatre shows the latest films on five screens. A good break after a long day of activities, or an alternative time-killer on a rainy day.

View “ski resorts” section for more information on winter sports.

Observation Decks/Lookouts (1)

Venue: Banff Gondola
Address: PO Box 1258, Mountain Ave (near the Upper Hot Springs) Banff AB T1L 1B2
Contact: 1 403 762-2523
Brief: World-renounced; an awesome and relaxing activity for honeymooners and first-time visitors. Hop on one of the modern gondola cars that will take you for an 8-minute trip to a spectacular summit. Provides outstanding views. An observation terrace, two restaurants, snack bar and gift shop are available. Also, indulge in a self-guided walk to Sanson’s Peak where the original 1903 stone observatory is located. Open year round. Adult: $21.50 Child: $10.75.