Best Time to Visit Banff and Lake Louise

One summer day in Banff & Lake Louise

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There's no bad time to visit Banff and Lake Louise. This part of the world is spectacularly, mind-bogglingly beautiful at any time of the year, whether it's blanketed in snow, awash with golden leaves, or bathed in lush green. Each season here has something to offer, something to enjoy.

These well-defined times of year do, however, lend themselves to certain activities in Banff and Lake Louise. There are ways to get the best out of the region, to enjoy the attractions both natural and man-made, and those ways are often dictated by the weather. From skiing to hiking, canoeing to festival-going, these are the best activities to suit the seasons.

One winter day in Banff & Lake Louise

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Summer

Being a mountain destination, Banff National Park is probably best known for its winter activities – however, summer is an ideal time to soak up the natural beauty. Perhaps the best way to explore this time of year is on two feet – there are almost limitless options for scenic walks and easy hikes. Or, take it up a notch with the Canadian version of "backpacking": loading a tent and all your supplies onto your back and heading out into the wilderness. Lake Minnewanka is a local favourite location for summer backpacking, a stunning place to hike by day and camp by night surrounded by mountains, forests and water.

Banff National Park.

That water – throughout the area – is also begging to be explored, which is why canoeing is also huge. Rent a vessel and a few paddles at Lake Louise or Vermillion Lakes and strike out on the crystal-clear waters. Or, for adrenalin chasers, there are plenty of opportunities to go whitewater rafting in nearby rivers, or be wowed by the scenery on a helicopter flight.

Autumn

Fall around Banff National Park is all about colour, and you can't fail to miss it. This already spectacular area explodes into a million shades of yellow as the leaves on the larch trees in Banff National Park change colour. There are several ways to appreciate the majesty of fall foliage, including scenic drives almost anywhere (though try the Lake Minnewanka Scenic Loop or Bow Valley Parkway), as well as hiking and biking, particularly around Tunnel Mountain, Peyto Lake, and on the Banff Legacy Trail. One of the local favourites is the Larch Valley, where the eponymous golden larches provide a stunning backdrop.

Larch Valley, Lake Louise.

Larch Valley, Lake Louise. Photo: Banff & Lake Louise Tourism

Autumn here is also festival season, which is great for meeting locals. Banff Centre Mountain Film and Book Festival is an internationally renowned celebration that attracts famous faces from around the world; and the Banff Craft Beer Festival is an opportunity to sample food from the area's best pubs and restaurants and share a beer and story with local brewers.

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Banff Hotspring

Fall is also a great time to relax: try soaking in a hot tub (the rooftop at the Moose Hotel in Banff is perfect), kicking back at a natural, open-air spring like the Banff Upper Hot Springs, taking a spa treatment at the Fairmont Banff Springs, or doing a full wellness retreat at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise.

Winter

Banff Sunshine.

This is the Canadian Rockies the way you've probably been picturing it, blanketed in snow, and alive with ski fanatics either heading up to the slopes, or winding down after a long day of action. Those ski fields are some of the world's finest too, including Banff Sunshine, home to the area's only ski-in, ski-out mountain lodge; Lake Louise Ski Resort, host of regular World Cup events; and Mt. Norquay, famous for its steep terrain.

Johnston Canyon, Banff National Park.

There's also plenty to do without skis or a snowboard strapped to your feet. Learn to ice-climb in Johnston Canyon, using crampons and axes to ascend a frozen waterfall. Appreciate the quiet that only winter can bring with a snow-shoeing trek around Lake Louise. Go dog-sledding through the forest. Try your hand at ice-skating at one of Banff's public rinks. Or, simply relax with an Australian-style flat white at Whitebark Café in central Banff, a cosy spot that brews the best coffee around.

Spring

Sentinal Pass, Banff National Park.

There's a feeling of excitement in spring around Banff and Lake Louise, as the snow begins to melt, the days start to lengthen, and the temperatures rise. This is the time to embrace the change in seasons, to switch off from digital life and head out into nature. Hiking is popular this time of year, though for those after a more sedate experience, there are four dedicated sightseeing chairlifts and gondolas open during spring. If you really want to disconnect, however, it's possible to utilise mountain lodges that can only be reached on foot or horseback. Lodges such as Skoki and Sundance will take your breath away.

Spring skiing is also popular here, as the longer days provide more chance to hit the slopes, and the warmer weather is also ideal for attending one of the regular outdoor concerts held at Banff Sunshine, Lake Louise Ski Resort and Mt. Norquay. For those who'd prefer a little peace and quiet, meanwhile, spring is a great time to drive the Icefields Parkway, a spectacular road that leads up to the Athabasca Glacier.

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