Backpackers Guide to Banff – Canada


Banff is a small town located within Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada. Banff is a popular destination for mountain activities such as hiking, skiing, snowboarding and rock climbing. If you love nature and the great outdoors, you will LOVE Banff.

What to do

Banff Gondola: Offer incredible views of Banff and the surrounding mountains.

Banff Hot Springs: Located up Sulpher Mountain, overlooking Banff National Parks spectacular alpine scenery. A great place to relax after a day of hiking or skiing.

Drive up Mount Norquay – the view is amazing, and there is a high chance of spotting wildlife. I found these guys up Mount Norquay, look at them posing.

Mountain Sheep Banff a travellers footsteps travel blog

Party: Banff is renowned for its nightlife. Some popular clubs include Dancing Sasquatch, Aurora and Hoodoo.

Explore Bow River and Bow Falls: within walking distance from downtown. Follow the trails for 1-4 hours exploring Banff.

Explore Vermilion Lakes: Also within walking distance from Banff. The Vermillion lakes are commonly photographed with Rundle Mountain in the background (below).


Drive along the Bow Valley Parkway: A scenic drive connecting Banff and Lake Louise. There is always wildlife along this road and incredible scenery.

A travellers footsteps Lake Lousie Canada working holiday in canada travel best travel blog

Explore Lake Louise: Located 40 minutes from Banff is the picturesque town of Lake Louise. See more on Lake Louise here. 

What to do in the Summer

Hiking: Banff has endless hiking trails with views of electric blue glacier fed lakes, rocky mountains in every direction and if your lucky, wildlife.

Recommended hiking trails around the area:

Johnstons Canyon/ Inkpots, located along the Bow Valley Parkway. Tunnel Mountain trail, in Banff, Fairview Lookout and Fairview Peak in Lake Louise and Consolation Lakes Trail, Moraine Lake.

 Fairview peak picture above

White water rafting: Banff National Park forms a perfect destination to go white water rafting due to its perfect scenery and flowing glacier fed rivers.

Explore Lake Minnewanka – About 10 kms out of Banff. Hike, rock jump or hire a boat and explore for the day.  

Mountain biking: The Rocky Mountains surrounding Banff make mountain biking a popular activity, but one strictly for dare devils.

Canoeing: Hire a canoe on Lake Louise or Moraine Lake, unbeatable views but slightly expensive on a backpackers budget.

Horseback riding:  If you don’t feel like hiking, see just as much on horseback.

What to do in the winter

Skiing/Snowboarding: You can easily access 3 ski areas; Lake Louise, Sunshine Village and Mount Norway, listed in order of preference.

Snowboarding Lake Lousie best travel blog mountains a travellers footsteps

Snowshoeing: I led snowshoe tours through this area for a winter winter season (13/14), it was always very adventurous and a great way to explore.

My favourite snowshoe adventures include:

Johnstons Canyon on the Bow Valley Parkway.Johnstons Canyon Banff national park best travel blog working holidays in canada 

Saddleback Peak in Lake Louise.

Snowshoes Lake Louise free tour Hi Lake Louise A travellers footsteps

Fairview Look out  in Lake Louise

Peyto Lake 20 minutes out of Lake Louise towards Jasper.   Peyto Lake

Lake Agnes in Lake Louise.

Ice Skating: Nothing beats ice skating in the fresh air on a frozen lake, pond or river. In Banff itself you can ice skate Downtown in the rink at Banff High School and on the Bow River… both for FREE.

Cross Country Skiing: Not as much fun as downhill skiing, but a great way to get around hiking trails and through the mountains.

Dog Sledding: A unique experience that shouldnt be missed if this is your first trip to the snow. Sit back and relax as you are pulled through the rocky mountains by a pack of huskys.

Dog sledding lake louise canadian rockies travel blog a travellers footsteps

Ice Climbing: Has been on my bucket list forever. Johnstons Canyon makes the perfect place to Ice Climb, but you must take a tour as it can be extremely dangerous.

Ice climbing Johnstons Canyon


Summer: June August

Winter: December – February

Summer is Banff is unbeatable.  With warm temperatures and sunlight until 11 o clock, summer is definitely the time to visit Banff.

Winter can get really cold, however if you are visiting to ski or snowboard this wont bother you. Spring is a great time to ski/snowboard.

Recommended trip length

I recommend staying for 4-7 Days.

Getting to and around

You can get to Banff from any location in Canada via Greyhound.

If you arrive via Calgary Airport… Brewster bus service takes you directly to Downtown Banff or your hotel.

The town of Banff is relatively small and most things are within walking distance. There is however a public bus service connecting the town.

During the winter, additional bus services are ran to help connect people to the Ski Areas. You can easily get a bus to Lake Louise Ski Area, Mount Norquay or Sunshine Village from downtown Banff.

Where to stay

For budget travellers, there are a number of hostels available:

Samesun hostel: Is centrally located, has a bar onsite and is my personal favourite. Samesun have a great activity program, free breakfast and in winter you can get a bus to the ski hill from the front door.

HI Banff: Is located 2 kms out of town (however is easily accessible via public transport). I would avoid staying at the HI due to its location, but it does have a great activity program and ice climbing wall set up during winter.

YMCA Banff: I have never stayed in the YMCA but it is central and the cheapest hostel. The YMCA offers weekly and monthly rates.

Cheap Hotels

King Edward: Located in the centre of Banff and costs around $60 a night for a standard hotel room with a double bed.

Search for accommodation options here.

Places to shop

Shopping in Banff consists of a ridiculous amount of souvenir stores. I recommend avoiding the shops in Banff and spending your money on activities instead. Take photos for souvenirs.

See more on Canada here. 

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