The Best Banff Itinerary for Families

Imagine a family adventure filled with majestic mountains, turquoise lakes, and endless outdoor activities – welcome to Banff National Park! This breathtaking destination in the Canadian Rockies is the perfect place for your family holiday. In this ultimate guide, we’ll help you plan the best Banff itinerary for families, ensuring a fantastic vacation filled with fun, adventure, and lifelong memories.

Our children have spent years exploring these mountains, lakes, and forests, so we have first-hand knowledge of what works for kids of different ages. As locals to the area, we are thrilled to be able to share our local knowledge, insider tips and family-friendly suggestions to help you make the most out of your trip to Banff National Park!

Lake Minnewanka with Kids

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Planning Your Family Trip to Banff

Organizing a family vacation to Banff National Park may initially feel overwhelming, but with our guidance, you’ll soon be ready for an unforgettable adventure. Deciding on the best time to visit, selecting transportation options, and budgeting for your trip are all essential steps in creating the perfect Banff experience for your family.

Best Time to Visit Banff with Kids

If you’re wondering when the best time to visit Banff with kids is, it will really depend on what your family likes to do!

The period from mid-June to mid-September is the ideal time to see the area at it’s best and for enjoying Banff summer activities with kids. During July and August, the park’s weather is at its finest, with long sunny days allowing you to fully appreciate the jagged mountain peaks and stunning landscapes.

Stand Up Paddle Boarding on Vermilion Lakes with Kids

Just remember that these months are also the most popular, so be prepared for crowds at popular attractions. There can also be forest fires at this time and smoky days can not only be difficult to be outside, but it can seriously impact those mountain views.

To make the best of your time in Banff in those peak summer months, I recommend starting your days early to enjoy the stunning scenery without the crowds (or worrying about parking). This is especially true to the most popular spots like Lake Louise, Johnston Canyon and Moraine Lake.

kids skiing at Lake Louise Ski Resort in Banff National Park.

If you’re up for some winter fun, late November to March is the perfect time for ski season, with the three Banff ski resorts offering fantastic skiing experiences. Even if skiing isn’t your thing, there are so many things to do in Banff in winter with kids.

Getting to Banff

Once you land at Calgary International Airport, renting a car is the easiest way for exploring Banff and area. This allows you the flexibility to discover Banff National Park at your own pace, taking in the scenic views along the way.

While it’s entirely possible to visit Banff National Park without a car, with kids it’s just easier to not have to wait on buses. Plus it’s much easier to entertain kids in your own car and have all the extra essentials you need for the day.

That being said, if you are only visiting for a short time or you really don’t want to drive, there are plenty of transportation options and tours that can still ensure you get the most out of your trip. This is especially true in the summer when there are more buses that service more areas and you don’t mind being outside waiting.

Roam Bus from Banff to Johnston Canyon

If you’re visiting during the winter, ensure your are comfortable driving in winter conditions and always check road conditions before heading out.

Banff Kids Activity Book Cover for Print

RECOMMENDED ACTIVITY BOOK

As locals and fellow family travelers, we understand the importance of keeping kids entertained in the car. That’s why we created this Banff Activity Book for Kids! Filled with Banff themed activities helping your kids learn about the area!

Budgeting for Your Trip to Banff

It’s no secret, Banff is expensive! When budgeting for your family trip to Banff, consider the different options for accommodation, activities, dining, and transportation. Stay in luxurious hotels like the Fairmont Banff Springs, opt for cozy campgrounds, or choose comfortable vacation rentals to suit your family’s preferences and budget.

If you want to keep costs down, consider camping or a vacation rental where you can cook more meals. You can also stay outside of the national park in Canmore or Deadman’s Flats, where you’ll find accommodations to be cheaper.

Vermilion Lakes in Banff National Park.

Finally, you can plan activities that don’t cost anything. Hiking and exploring the many mountain lakes is one of the best things to do in Banff, and it’s free.

When you are creating your budget, don’t forget to factor in costs for:

  • Guided tours
  • National park entrance fees
  • Rental equipment for outdoor activities
  • Eating out

With thoughtful organization, you can plan a memorable Banff vacation that meets your family’s needs without overspending.

Accommodation Options for Families in Banff

Selecting the right accommodation is crucial for a comfortable and enjoyable stay in Banff National Park. There are Banff accommodations for every budget and travel style.

Hotels and Resorts

Hotels in Banff that cater to families provide great amenities like swimming pools, engaging children’s programs, and prime locations. Some great options include Peaks Hotel & Suites, Tunnel Mountain Resort, and Hidden Ridge Resort.

For a more upscale experience, the iconic Fairmont Banff Springs and Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise provide luxurious accommodation and exceptional service amidst the stunning Canadian Rockies.

Staying at Chateau Lake Louise with Kids

Camping in Banff with Kids

Taking your children camping in Banff is an excellent way to immerse your family in nature while appreciating the park’s beauty. Designated campgrounds in Banff National Park offer a safe and enjoyable camping experience, with options like Tunnel Mountain Village and Two Jack Main each providing excellent locations for your stay.

For those seeking a unique camping experience, Parks Canada’s oTENTiks offer a blend of comfort and adventure, with A-frame cabins that cater to families looking for something a little different.

If you are considering camping, make sure to book campsites as soon as reservations open on January 26, at 8am MT in 2024.

Camping in Banff with Kids at Two Jack Main campground.

Local Tip

Didn’t get the campsite you were hoping for? Set up a notification with Schnerp to watch for any cancellations!

Vacation Rentals

If you prefer a more private and spacious accommodation option, consider renting a condo near Banff in Canmore or Deadman’s Flats. Vacation rentals offer the comforts of home, with fully-equipped kitchens and separate living spaces, making them an ideal choice for families.

Vacation rental platforms like Airbnb, VRBO, and Booking.com provide plenty of options for finding the perfect rental property to fit your family’s needs.

7-Day Banff Itinerary for Families

This suggested itinerary assumes you aren’t combining Banff National Park and Jasper National Park into the same trip. If you wanted to do both, you would split your time between the two parks. Instead, this itinerary will focus on Banff National Park but it will also include some ideas for day trips to other nearby areas that are well worth exploring.

In this 7-day Banff itinerary you’ll find a fun mix of options that will include:

  • Exploring Banff Town
  • Hiking in the national park
  • Visiting iconic lakes
  • Exciting day trips from Banff

Keep in mind that you won’t have time to see everything that’s listed in this itinerary, but I’ve include extra options in case your family has more time or some activities aren’t suitable for your family. Finally, in this Banff itinerary, you’ll find a mix of the most popular attractions plus some places that are less visited.

This itinerary also assumes you are staying in the town of Banff. You’ll find that the days are ordered to vary the amount of driving each day.

Paddleboarding on Johnson Lake with Kids

Day 1: Arrival and Banff Town Exploration

Today, you arrive in Banff. It’s the perfect time to get settled then explore around the town of Banff. Depending on how much time and energy you have, here are several different ways to fill your time around the town of Banff.

If you only have a few hours left in your day, start your trip with a photo at the Banff Sign. This sign is found on Mt Norquay Road as you enter the town of Banff. You can park at the Fenlands Banff Recreation Centre parking lot for a quick stop here. Alternatively, you can park at the Fenland Day Use parking lot, then combine a stop at the Banff town sign with a short hike along the easy but beautiful Fenland Loop trail (2 km / 1.2 mile loop).

Kids posing on Banff Town Sign.

If you’ve had a long travel day, you may prefer to stretch your legs. Hiking up Tunnel Mountain is an excellent option.

Tunnel Mountain Hike

The Tunnel Mountain hike is an easy hike that leaves right from the town of Banff to the summit of Tunnel Mountain. As you hike the trail, you’ll be rewarded with views of the famous Banff Springs Hotel and of the Fairmont Banff Springs Golf Course. At the top, you’ll find a pair of the Parks Canada red chairs and some spectacular views over the valley.

Kids at the Tunnel Mountain Summit in Banff

The Tunnel Mountain hike is 4.6 km (2.9 miles) out-and-back with 266 m elevation. You can find the trailhead to this hike here.

If you aren’t looking for a hike on your first day, you can still get outside and stretch your lefts with a beautiful walk along the Bow River. From downtown Banff, you can walk the paved Bow River Trail across the pedestrian bridge and continue on to Bow Falls. This is an easy walk but you’ll love the views as you walk along the Bow River. This 3 km (1.9 miles) walk to Bow Falls and back is the perfect family-friendly walk.

Local Tip

From July 1 to September 30th, the Bow River Trail will have art exhibits. This self-guided Art in Nature trail has a collection of art pieces by Bow Valley artists.

As you pass Central Park, there’s a small playground that’s the perfect spot for kids to climb and play.

Central Park in Banff

Finish up with a stroll through downtown Banff, browse local boutiques and souvenir shops. Enjoy a delicious meal at one of the many family-friendly restaurants in town.

Other places to visit around the town of Banff are the Banff Park Museum, Banff Springs Hotel, Surprise Corner, the Hoodoos Viewpoint, the Cave and Basin, Vermilion Lakes and of course the Banff Gondola.

The Banff Park Museum

This national historic site of Canada, offers a unique glimpse into the rich natural history of Banff National Park. This museum offers an in-depth look into the diverse wildlife of the park with its extensive collection of regional wildlife specimens (bears, wolves, birds, etc).

Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel

Often referred to as the “Castle in the Rockies”, the hotel with it’s towering peaks is worth a see from both the inside and the outside. Sitting amidst a breathtaking backdrop of mountains, it has a fairytale-like appearance. Inside you can learn about this historic hotel that has been providing luxury accommodations to visitors to Banff since 1888.

Surprise Corner Viewpoint

This picturesque viewpoint offers a stunning perspective of the iconic Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel.

View from Surprise Corner in Banff

Banff Hoodoos Viewpoint

The Banff Hoodoos are natural pillars have been formed over thousands of years by the forces of wind and water. The interpretive signs along the trail provides interesting information about the formation and history of the Hoodoos.

Hoodoos viewpoint in Banff

Cave and Basin National Historic Site

Another important landmark that marks the birthplace of Canada’s National Park system. This site is home to natural thermal mineral springs located in the heart of Banff National Park. It offers visitors an opportunity to learn about the cultural history of the area through interactive exhibits. Around the Cave and Basin you’ll find a beautiful boardwalk system.

A boy and girl look through a telescope along the boardwalks at the Cave and Basin in Banff National Park.

Vermilion Lakes

Found just outside the town of Banff, Vermilion Lakes is a stunning set of three lakes that offer visitors a unique and serene experience. Known for their breathtaking reflections of Mount Rundle, these lakes are a haven for wildlife and a popular spot for bird watching, photography, and canoeing. The lakes are easily accessible via the Vermilion Lakes Drive, a scenic 4.3 kilometer road.

boy standing on dock at Vermilion Lakes in Banff National Park

Banff Gondola

The Banff Gondola is an unforgettable experience that takes you to the top of Sulphur Mountain. The gondola ride offers a panoramic view of the town of Banff, the Bow Valley, and the surrounding Rocky Mountains. Once you reach the summit, you can explore the interactive exhibits at the interpretive centre, take a stroll along the Sulphur Mountain Boardwalk, or enjoy a meal at the Sky Bistro while soaking in the stunning views.

kids at interpretive at Banff Gondola.

If you don’t have time to visit these on your first day, you can keep them in mind for any extra time you have later in your itinerary.

Day 2: Lake Louise

Today you’ll leave the town of Banff behind and visit the breathtaking Lake Louise. Moraine Lake and Lake Louise are often visited together in one day, which is entirely possibly by booking a Parks Canada shuttle then using the Lake Connector shuttle to get between the two lakes.

Lake Louise in summer.

In this itinerary, I’ve dedicated one day to each because I truly believe you’ll enjoy your time more. This approach allows you to get away from where most people stop and enjoy this stunning area.

Lake Louise is one of the most popular spots in Banff National Park, so you’ll need to plan ahead for your visit. Parking is available at Lake Louise, but you’ll need to be there very early to get parking. This road often gets shut down when congestion is high.

Rather, I recommend booking a Parks Canada Lake Louise Shuttle so you don’t have to worry about parking. I still recommend going as early as possible, as you’ll enjoy a somewhat less crowded experience.

The shuttle leaves from the Lake Louise Ski Resort parking lot, where there is ample parking. My recommendation is to grab some sandwiches for lunch from the Trailhead Cafe in the village or from the Ski Resort, if you haven’t already packed lunch.

Parks Canada shuttle to Moraine Lake

Once at Lake Louise, you’ll find the immediate lakeshore to be busy. This is where most people stop to take their pictures. Now is a great time to grab some family pictures before you leave the lakeshore.

At Lake Louise, there are some really stunning hikes that are well worth it. The ones I recommend for families are the Lake Louise lakeshore, Fairview Lookout, Lake Agnes Teahouse, or Plain of Six Glaciers. Canoeing is also an excellent family-friendly activity at Lake Louise.

Canoeing on Lake Louise

This is a must-do activity when visiting Lake Louise. Rent a canoe and paddle across the emerald-green waters of the lake, surrounded by majestic mountain peaks. Be sure to get in line for canoeing early. Once the tour buses arrive around 9am, the line will grow quickly!

Dan Brewer and two kids canoeing on Lake Louise in Banff National Park

Lake Louise Lakeshore

This is a leisurely walk that is perfect for families and visitors of all ages. It takes you along the stunning shoreline of Lake Louise, providing breathtaking views of the turquoise waters against the backdrop of the Victoria Glacier. The trail is approximately 2 km (1.2 miles) long (one way) and is relatively flat, making it accessible for strollers and wheelchairs.

Lake Louise lakeshore trail

Fairview Lookout Hike

This short but steep hike is the perfect family-friendly activity at Lake Louise. The trail is about 2.1 km (1.3 miles) round trip with a moderate elevation gain of 170 meters. Once at the lookout, you’ll be treated to a stunning view of the iconic Lake Louise and the historic Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise.

Fairview Lookout hike at Lake Louise

Lake Agnes Tea House Hike

Starting from the shores of Lake Louise, this 7 km (4.3 miles) round-trip trail takes you up through beautiful forested terrain, past Mirror Lake then on to the charming Lake Agnes Tea House. Nestled next to its namesake lake and offering stunning views of the surrounding mountains, the tea house is a perfect spot to rest and grab a refreshment before heading back down (just expect it to be busy).

The hike is moderately challenging with an elevation gain of about 400 meters.

If hiking isn’t your thing, but you still want to visit the tea house, you can go to Lake Agnes on horseback.

Hiking to Lake Agnes tea house with Kids

Plain of Six Glaciers Hike

This is a more challenging but stunning hike that offers a unique perspective of Lake Louise. The 14 km (8.7 miles) round-trip trail leads you to the heart of the stunning glaciers that feed the lake. As you navigate the trail, you’ll pass through lush forests and rocky terrain, with breathtaking views of the surrounding mountain peaks.

Plain of Six Glaciers hike at Lake Louise

The hike culminates at the Plain of Six Glaciers Tea House, a historic site where you can rest, refuel, and soak in the panoramic vistas. The hike has a moderate elevation gain of about 365 meters, making it suitable for families with older children and teenagers who are comfortable with longer hikes.

Day 3: Moraine Lake

On your third day, you’ll visit Moraine Lake and be awed by it’s turquoise-blue color and surrounding mountain peaks.

Since you can’t drive to Moraine Lake, as Moraine Lake Road is closed to private vehicles, you’ll need to choose one of these other ways to get to Moraine Lake. There are options that leave directly from Banff or from Lake Louise. You can also choose if you want to visit Moraine Lake for sunrise. If you do plan to hike, I recommend the Parks Canada Moraine Lake Shuttle which will give you more time at the lake.

Celine Brewer and child watching sunrise at Moraine Lake

Plan to pack a lunch and plenty of snacks for this day.

Moraine Lake is also home to some really stunning hikes. At Moraine Lake you can hike the Moraine Lake lakeshore, the Rockpile, Consolation Lakes or further to Larch Valley. You can also canoe at Moraine Lake.

Moraine Lake Lakeshore Trail

This is a relaxed, flat trail that takes you along the stunning shoreline of Moraine Lake. It’s a 3.7 km (2.3 miles) round-trip hike that offers breathtaking views of the turquoise waters and surrounding mountain peaks.

This trail does have roots and rocks in sections, so it’s best to use a carrier rather than a stroller.

Moraine Lake lakeshore trail

Rockpile Hike

Also known as the Moraine Lake Rockpile Trail, this is a short, easy hike that leads to one of the most famous views of Moraine Lake. The trail is approximately 0.8 km (0.5 miles) and is mostly stairs to the top. From the top of the rockpile, you’ll have a panoramic view of Moraine Lake and the Valley of the Ten Peaks.

Rockpile trail at Moraine Lake

Consolation Lakes Hike

The Consolation Lakes trail starts from the same spot as the Rockpile Trail, but you’ll veer to the left instead of climbing the stairs the entire way (it’s well marked). It’s an easy 5.8 km (3.6 miles) round-trip hike that takes you through a beautiful forest to two crystal clear lakes nestled in a valley.

Hiking to Consolation Lakes with Kids

Larch Valley Hike

Larch Valley is a more challenging hike, but it’s worth the effort, especially in the fall when the larch trees turn a stunning golden color. The trail is 8.6 km (5.3 miles) round-trip with an elevation gain of about 535 meters. I recommend hiking all the way to the Minnestimma Lakes, which is an excellent place for lunch.

With older kids you can continue on to the top of Sentinel Pass. You’ll notice the trail that continues on past the Minnestimma Lakes (which my kids call the Harry Potter scar trail).

Two kids posing for picture on Banff Larch Hike

Lake Louise Gondola

If you still have some time left in your day, the Lake Louise Gondola is a fun activity.

This scenic ride takes you up Whitehorn Mountain to an elevation of 2,088 metres, providing stunning panoramic views of the surrounding mountains. You can even see Lake Louise and the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise across the valley.

In addition to the breathtaking scenery, the gondola ride also offers a great chance to spot local wildlife, including grizzly bears. At the summit, there’s an interpretive centre with exhibits about the local wildlife and the area’s natural history.

Lake Louise Gondola with Kids.

Day 4: Johnston Canyon Hike, Bow Valley Parkway and Banff Gondola

If you didn’t drive along the Bow Valley Parkway to get to Lake Louise over the past two days, then today is the perfect day for exploring the Bow Valley Parkway.

The Bow Valley Parkway is a secondary highway that runs parallel to the TransCanada Highway from just outside the town of Banff all the way to Lake Louise. I recommend getting out early on this day for two reasons:

  1. The Bow Valley Parkway is a great place for spotting wildlife in Banff and getting out early gives you a better chance to see wildlife.
  2. The Johnston Canyon hike is found along the Bow Valley Parkway and it’s best enjoyed before it gets too crowded.

I recommend getting the guide along app for this drive today. You’ll get to learn more about the area as you explore the Bow Valley Parkway.

There are two closures of the Bow Valley Parkway that are important to know. The first is a seasonal closure where the section from Johnston Canyon east towards Banff to Fireside Day Use (basically the start of the Bow Valley Parkway closest to Banff) is closed to ALL traffic from 8pm to 8am starting March 1st until June 25th. This closure is to give the animals more space in this critical region.

Cycling the Bow Valley Parkway with Kids.

The second closure applies to that same section of the Bow Valley Parkway, but it starts May 1 until June 25th then again September 1 until September 30th. The 17 km (10.6 miles) eastern section is closed for a pilot project that allows cyclist to enjoy this part of the Bow Valley Park.

You can still access Johnston Canyon, you just need to drive on the TransCanada highway until you reach Highway 93 (Banff-Windermere Highway). You’ll exit here (referred to as Castle Junction) and turn right on the Bow Valley Parkway to access Johnston Canyon.

Also found along the Bow Valley Parkway are several lookout points, including the famous Morant’s Curve, picnic areas, points of interest and other great hiking trails. By far the most popular stop is Johnston Canyon.

Johnston Canyon Hike

Johnston Canyon is a unique trail that takes you through a deep and narrow gorge, carved out over thousands of years by flowing water. The trail features a series of elevated catwalks, allowing you to walk along the canyon walls and get an up-close view of the rushing waters below. The hike offers two main attractions: the Lower and Upper Falls, both featuring stunning waterfalls cascading down into the depths of the canyon.

Two Kids looking over at Johnston Creek

The one-way hiking distance to the Lower Falls is 1.2 km (0.75 mile) then another 1.3 km (0.8 miles) to hike to the Upper Falls (for a total return distance of 5 km / 3.1 miles).

If your family enjoys longer hikes, you can continue past the Upper Falls at Johnston Canyon to hike to the Ink Pots, which will make the entire hike a return distance of 12 km (7.5 miles).

Other hikes along the Bow Valley Parkway that are worth considering are Silverton Falls (2.1 km / 1.3 miles out-and-back) and Castle Mountain Lookout (7.4 km / 4.6 milesout-and-back).

Banff Gondola

If you didn’t visit the Banff Gondola on your first day, then this is an excellent time for this activity! Those tired legs will appreciate getting to take in the view while riding up the gondola.

Banff Gondola up Sulphur Mountain

Take the time to explore the interpretive centre and to walk the boardwalks outside. Be sure to bring an extra layer at it does get colder at the higher elevation.

This is an excellent time to slow down and appreciate the view!

Have some extra time around Banff? You can go on a Wagon Ride with a Cowboy Cookout BBQ!

Day 5: Icefields Parkway

After a day of hiking yesterday, you’ll be spending more time in the car today. It will be worth it!

First, I recommend using the Guide Along app for this drive as well. If you haven’t already listened to the section between Banff and Lake Louise, then you can start it right away. Otherwise, be sure to start it as you drive up the Icefields Parkway.

Since this itinerary assumes you are only visiting Banff National Park and not spending time in Jasper, then you’ll only be driving a portion of the Icefields Parkway. There are several stops to make along the way, so choose the ones that your family will enjoy most and don’t forget to add in a hike. You’ll want to stretch your legs with so much time in the car.

two kids posing for a picture in front of Peyto Lake along the Icefields Parkway in Banff National Park.

Some stops to consider are Peyto Lake viewpoint, Bow Lake, Weeping Wall, and Columbia Icefields. Two hikes to consider are Bow Summit or Parker Ridge.

Hiking to Bow Summit Viewpoint on Icefields Parkway with Kids

The Columbia Icefields is just over half way along the Icefields Parkway (it’s 129 km of the 232 km) and is a good place to turn around for the day.

As always keep on the lookout for wildlife as you drive one of the most scenic drives in the world! This spectacular route offers not only breathtaking mountain views but the chance to spot wildlife.

Day 6: Lake Minnewanka, Two Jack Lake and Johnson Lake

Today, you’ll stay closer to the town of Banff. Plan for less driving and more time out of the car. You still want to turn on your Guide Along app for the drive today.

The perfect place to spend a summer day with kids is along the Lake Minnewanka Scenic Drive. Besides visiting the three lakes, there’s plenty of opportunities for hiking, picnicking and getting out on the water.

Johnson Lake in Banff National Park

Along Lake Minnewanka Scenic Drive, you’ll find Lake Minnewanka, Two Jack Lake, Johnson Lake and Cascade Ponds. This is also an excellent place for some easy hikes and even some easy mountain bike rides.

Cascade Ponds

Cascade Ponds is a picturesque spot with several small ponds and picnic areas, nestled amidst some pretty incredible mountain views. It’s a great place for a family picnic, with beautiful views and an easy walking trail.

Johnson Lake

Johnson Lake is a popular spot for swimming, picnicking, and hiking. The 3 km (1.9 miles) trail around the lake offers stunning views of the surrounding mountains. Johnson Lake is a local’s favourite for playing on the small beach, paddle boarding or even swimming.

There’s also an easy mountain bike ride suitable for kids that leaves from Johnson Lake just right past the first bridge. It will take you past the water tower to the top of the hill overlooking Cascade Ponds.

Paddle Boarding on Johnson Lake with Kids

Two Jack Lake

Found just past Johnson Lake is Two Jack Lake. Two Jack Lake is a popular spot for canoeing, picnicking, and wildlife viewing. Drive slowly as you pass by Two Jack Lake, as you’ll often find a group of big horn sheep here.

There is a short easy hike that leaves from Two Jack Lake, but it’s not as beautiful as the hike around Johnson Lake or Stewart Canyon hike at Lake Minnewanka.

Bighorn sheep in front of Two Jack Lake in Banff

Lake Minnewanka

Lake Minnewanka is the largest lake in Banff National Park, known for its strikingly blue waters. It’s home to the Lake Minnewanka boat cruise, where you’ll get to learn some interesting stories about the area while taking in the incredible mountain scenery. Lake Minnewanka is also popular for picnics, fishing and kayaking.

Lake Minnewanka Cruise in Banff with Kids.

Lake Minnewanka is also home to the easy Stewart Canyon hike and the much longer Lake Minnewanka trail which will take you past several backcountry campgrounds and to other hiking trails.

Hiking Stewart Canyon at Lake Minnewanka in Banff with Kids

Also found along the Lake Minnewanka Scenic Drive are the Lower Bankhead and C-Level Cirque hikes.

Lower Bankhead

Lower Bankhead is a ghost town located just below Lake Minnewanka. Bankhead was once a bustling coal-mining town, but now, only remnants of the old buildings remain. A self-guided interpretive trail takes visitors through the old townsite, providing a glimpse into Banff’s mining past. It’s an easy walk that kids will love exploring.

Visiting Lower Bankhead with Kids

C-Level Cirque Hike

C-Level Cirque is a moderately challenging hike located on the slopes of Cascade Mountain. The trail is named for the coal mining operations that took place in this area. The hike takes you through old-growth forest, past remnants of Banff’s mining history, and up to a beautiful alpine meadow. With kids, I love to stop at this meadow and watch for pikas or hoary marmots.

With older kids, you can continue on the much steeper, final section for some incredible views of Lake Minnewanka.

C Level Cirque Hike with Kids in Banff.

Day 7: Town of Canmore

Spend your final day exploring the charming town of Canmore, just outside Banff National Park. Canmore offers a relaxed atmosphere with beautiful mountain views, fun playgrounds (with the best views), and a variety of family-friendly restaurants and shops.

Three Sisters Mountain range in Canmore.

There’s a ton to do in Canmore with Kids and one day probably isn’t enough. The most popular hike near Canmore is the Grassi Lakes hike. You can also take a leisurely walk or bike ride along the town’s scenic pathways. Locals flock to Quarry Lake in the summer to enjoy a picnic and swim in the lake.

This picturesque town is a perfect spot to wind down your Banff adventure and create some final family memories.

Legacy Trail

If you are up for a day of adventure, you can bike to Canmore from Banff along the Legacy Trail. The Legacy Trail is a paved path that connects the towns of Canmore and Banff. It’s an excellent option for families who enjoy cycling, offering stunning views of the surrounding mountains. The length of the Legacy Trail from the east of Banff to Canmore is 20.3 km (12.6 miles) long.

The easiest way to cycle it, if both ways aren’t feasible, is from Banff to Canmore since it’s more downhill in this direction.

Cycling Legacy Trail with Kids.

Grassi Lakes hike

This family-friendly hike near Canmore takes you to two stunning turquoise lakes. The trail offers two routes – the easier one is perfect for families and less experienced hikers, while the more challenging one offers some fantastic views. Regardless of which trail you take, it’s a round trip distance of 3.4 km (2 miles).

I recommend taking the more difficult route up, then take the easier trail down to make a loop.

Hiking Grassi Lakes trail in Canmore with Kids.

Local Tip

You are not allowed to swim in Grassi Lakes. Please help keep this pristine area as it is.

Quarry Lake

Quarry Lake is found on on the Spray Lakes Road, just on the edge of Canmore. Aside from a small sandy beach to play on or a picnic, there’s also a really nice walking trail that goes all the way around Quarry Lake.

Around Quarry Lake, there is a network of easy mountain bike trails that are perfect for kids.

Mountain reflection on Quarry Lake in Canmore.

Local Tip

Paid parking is in effect for Quarry Lake all year long and it is actively enforced, especially in peak summer season. Make sure you pay.

For parking at any locations outside of the town of Canmore (including the Canmore Nordic Centre and Grassi Lakes) a Kananaskis Conservation Pass is required.

Optional Day Trips or for Extra Days

Yoho National Park

Yoho National Park, a short drive from Banff, showcases awe-inspiring landscapes and provides a range of family-friendly activities. Walk to the impressive Takakkaw Falls, or spend a relaxing day at the picturesque Emerald Lake, where you can enjoy canoeing, picnicking, or simply soaking in the views.

Girl walking towards Takakkaw Falls in Yoho National Park.

Kananaskis Country

Kananaskis Provincial Park is easily accessed from Canmore and is home to even more incredible mountain views, easy hikes, picnic areas and stunning mountain lakes.

If you have extra time in the Banff area, I highly recommend spending some time in Kananaskis. Nearby Canmore, you’ll find the fun kid-friendly Grotto Canyon hike. Between Canmore and the Highway 40 exit, you’ll find the Heart Creek hike and even more easy hikes in the Bow Valley Provincial Park.

Many Springs easy hike in Bow Valley Provincial Park

Just a 30 minute drive from Canmore, you can reach Barrier Lake in Kananaskis. An excellent place for a walk, kayaking or playing on the rocky beach.

Near the Kananaskis Village, the popular and kid-friendly Troll Falls hike is well worth it!

In all honesty, you can spend weeks exploring Kananaskis!

two kids looking at waterfall on Troll Falls hike in Kananaskis.

Kootenay National Park

Between Banff and Lake Louise, you’ll find the Banff-Windermere Highway (Highway 93) which will take you into Kootenay National Park. Along this highway, you’ll find some great kid-friendly hikes like Marble Canyon and the Paint Pots.

Paint Pots in Kootenay National Park

Family Friendly Restaurants in Banff

Banff has something for everyone, depending on what you feel like eating. This is a list of restaurants in Banff that are easy to eat at with kids, however I would just go with whatever cuisine everyone is feeling that night!

  • Hankki (Korean Street Food)
  • The Keg
  • Magpie & Stump
  • Boston Pizza
  • The Old Spaghetti Factory
  • Balkan Restaurant
Hankki - Family Friendly Restaurants in Banff

Don’t forget to treat your family to a sweet dessert at one of Banff’s many dessert shops and ice cream parlors.

Banff Park Pass

A Banff Park Pass is required for visiting Banff National Park. If you are visiting for at least 7 days, the annual Discovery Pass will give you the best value. The annual Discovery Pass gives you access to over 100 National Parks and sites across Canada.

The day pass includes access to Banff National Park, Jasper National Park, Yoho National Park and Kootenay National Park (plus a few others). It will expire at 4pm on the day after you purchase it (regardless of what time you purchase it)

Annual Discovery Pass for National Parks in Canada

Kananaskis Conservation Pass

A second pass is required for parking at any spots within Kananaskis Provincial Park. This Kananaskis Conservation Pass is required even for some hikes close to Canmore and the Canmore Nordic Centre. The only place it’s not required is for parking in the town of Canmore.

Tips for Spotting Wildlife in Banff with Kids

Encountering wildlife in their natural surroundings is one of the prime attractions when visiting Banff National Park with kids. The park is home to an incredible array of wildlife, including bears, elk, moose, deer and a ton of cute little critters.

The best times to see animals are during the early morning hours at dawn and in the evening at dusk, particularly during the fall and spring seasons when the park is less busy.

bear in Banff National Park

To ensure a safe and enjoyable wildlife spotting experience, remember to give animals plenty of space, never approach or feed them, and always follow park guidelines. Never get out of your car or try to pose your children with the animals. You’d be surprised at how many people do this. It’s dangerous for both the animal and your child.

For any hiking you do with kids in Banff, you should carry bear spray and know how to use it. Most importantly is to hike together (don’t let your kids run ahead or fall behind) and make plenty of noise (which is pretty easy with kids).

Packing List for Banff with Kids

While packing for your family vacation in Banff, remember that even in the summer it can get chilly in the mountains. Here’s what I recommend packing for your trip to Banff:

  • plenty of layers
  • waterproof hiking shoes
  • swimsuit
  • sun protection
  • rain gear
  • hat
  • backpack for layers
  • reusable water bottle or water bladder
  • hiking backpack carrier for babies and toddlers (with sun shade and rain cover)
  • a first aid kit for the trail
About the author

Celine Brewer, a local Canmore resident, is the co-owner of Banff with Kids. She has a passion for being out in the mountains with her kids any time of year. In the summer, you'll often find them hiking or mountain biking. In the winter, they enjoy cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, skiing, skating and winter hiking.

As much as she loves the mountains, she also loves travel! When she's not playing outdoors at home, she's either traveling the world with her husband and two kids or working on their other three travel sites: Travel Banff Canada, Family Can Travel and Baby Can Travel.

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