Photo: Banff Jasper Collection by Pursuit

Visiting Banff in the Summer Is Just as Incredible as It Is in the Winter

Banff Insider Guides
by Clementine Affana Jun 22, 2023

It wasn’t even meant to be: the city of Banff was initially founded to support the development efforts of the transcontinental railway. Today, Banff is one of the top resort towns in Canada, a popular destination in Alberta that offers the perfect blend of serenity in nature with jaw-dropping adventures. Whilst most travelers tend to explore Banff in the colder months to see its winter beauty (along with Jasper and Lake Louise), Banff is just as charming and welcoming during the warmer months. Located within the Rocky Mountain peaks, you can feel nature’s warmth in the cold months and inhale mountainous fresh air in the spring and summer months.

The beauty of Banff comes from a perfect combination of slow living and exhilarating experiences. If you’re short on time, aim for three-to-four days to combine city tours, lake excursions, and icefield expeditions. For longer vacations, a week in Banff allows you to explore the lakes in the area, add biking expeditions along Vermillion Lake and Lake Moraine trails, and spend more time in nature.

Things to do in Banff in the summer

Banff offers a range of sustainable adventures during the spring and summer months. A lot of the activities are nature-focused and are easily accessible when you explore the city by foot, bus, or public transportation. This makes it even easier for you to have sustainable experiences when you visit Banff.

Indulge in a city walking tour

downtown banff

Photo: Sean Xu/Shutterstock

As a small town (population about 8000), Banff’s downtown is very walkable, especially during the spring and summer months. The main street, Banff Avenue (or simply Banff Ave) is a melting pot of restaurants, cafes, and locally owned stores. Catch a breath of fresh air while walking toward the city museums, or trek along the Nancy Pauw Bridge and take in the majestic views of the city without ever leaving. There are a number of trails you can explore by foot or by bicycle on either a self-guided tour or as a part of a group excursion with a company like Brewster Sightseeing.

Go on a Banff Gondola ride

banff gondola

Photo: Banff Jasper Collection by Pursuit

The astounding views of Banff’s Spray Valley and faraway mountains are best appreciated from above. This is why a Banff Gondola ride is a must. Taking you as high as 6,500 feet above ground level, this gondola ride in the spring or summer lasts an exhilarating eight minutes. The mere ability to observe such magnificent nature from up high makes every second worth it. The ride ends on top of the Sulphur mountain, where you can take in the views from the open air observatory and indulge in a fine dining experience at the Sky Bistro.

sky bistro near banff canada

Photo: Banff Jasper Collection by Pursuit

This high-end Canadian restaurant is perched on top of Sulphur Mountain and features ingredients like bison and salmon. Make sure you try the beef tartar, strawberry caprese, or duck wings as starters (all shareable portions for a party of up to three).

Banff Gondola: 100 Mountain Ave, Banff, AB T1L 1B2, Canada

Go on a Lake Minnewanka cruise

Photo: CK-TravelPhotos/Shutterstock

The deepest and largest lake in Banff National Park, Lake Minnewanka is a must add to your travel itinerary if you’re looking for what to do in Banff, especially in the spring and summer. During the winter months, the lake freezes and visitors enjoy ice skating from December up to March. But when the weather warms up, the landscape lends itself to the most scenic sightseeing cruises. Beyond the beauty that you witness in real time, the Lake Minnewanka cruise is a great way to learn about the history of the lake (named “Minnewanka” by the Stoney people, which means “Lake of the Spirits” in their language) and the ways that the Stoney people have lived in the area for more than 10,000 years.

Lake Minnewanka: Lake Minnewanka Scenic Dr, Improvement District No. 9, AB T1L 1A1, Canada

Explore the Columbia Icefield

glacier adventure banff

Photo: Banff Jasper Collection by Pursuit

Only 2.5 hours away from Downtown Banff, the Columbia Icefield is the largest icefield in the Rocky Mountains, and no visit to Banff would be complete without seeing this marvel. The icefield is located between the Banff and Jasper national parks, and travelers can access it via sightseeing tour buses or private rides. It’s also a marvel that’s disappearing due to the effects of climate change: The Columbia Icefield is made from six major glaciers that melt at a rate of approximately 15 feet per year. During a tour, you get to travel to the base of the Athabasca glacier where you can see it up close, drink glacier water, and, if you’re up for it, have a “glacial-facial” (a spontaneous dip of your face in glacier water).

Columbia Icefield Adventure: Departure locations vary

The Columbia Icefield Skywalk experience

Photo: Banff Jasper Collection by Pursuit

Within a 10 to 15 minute ride from the icefield, the Columbia Icefield Skywalk is the perfect experience to complete your visit. The 100-foot-long glass skywalk bridge gives you a sweeping view of the Sunwapta Valley at more than 900 feet above ground level. Walk on the edge of the cliff and marvel at the ice-topped mountain peaks and valleys that surround you to feel on top of the world. This is truly a breathtaking experience for those who are not afraid of getting close to nature, or could use the added thrill of looking down and seeing how high above ground level you truly are. Also known as the Jasper Skywalk, Banff Skywalk or the Glacier Skywalk, the bridge is only open from May to October, depending on weather. Wheelchair accessible tours and tours that combine the Columbia Icefield experience can be booked with Pursuit Jasper Collection’s Columbia Icefield Adventure.

Columbia Icefield Skywalk: Highway 93, Icefields Pkwy, Improvement District No. 12, AB T1L 1J3, Canada

Where to stay in Banff, Canada

We hope you love the spaces we recommend! Just so you know, Matador may collect a small commission from the links on this page if you decide to book a stay.

Mount Royal Hotel (Downtown Banff)

mount royal hotel banff

Photo: Expedia

This is the perfect hotel to stay in Banff if you’re looking to explore downtown. The Mount Royal Hotel is at the heart of Banff Avenue, which makes it close to everything at the core of the city. Its subtle and elegant design makes for a warm welcome when you step in, and the corridors that are labeled according to different chronological eras enhance its historical appeal. While there, make sure you take some time to enjoy the hot tub in the mornings and evenings, as a warm dip is a great way to power up or power down your day in Banff.

brazen restaurant in banff

Photo: Banff Jasper Collection by Pursuit

For dining, Mount Royal Hotel’s Brazen offers a combination of old flavors with a new contemporary twist — a sort of ode to the spirit of the city and the pioneers who founded it. This is a great place for classic Canadian breakfast options with a modern spin. Try out the smoked salmon toast or the classic breakfast, and indulge in a glass (or two) of the traditional Brazen Shaft Cocktail (a boozy coffee drink) or any of the monthly mimosas.

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Glacier View Lodge (Columbia Icefield)

Photo: Expedia

When visiting the Columbia Icefield, stay a bit longer and spend a night or two at the Glacier View Lodge. The 32-room lodge offers breathtaking views of the Athabasca glacier 24/7. Added to that, the lodge has an elegant and minimalistic feel that makes you embrace the simplicity of nature and infuses you with serenity throughout your stay. For the warmest welcome, indulge in the complimentary charcuterie boards and cocktails offered every day from 5:00 PM to 7:00 PM at the Moraine Lounge.

Keeping on brand with the “spectacular views” theme, the Altitude Restaurant at the Glacier View Lodge offers an unparalleled fine dining experience at the Columbia Icefield. Even if you don’t spend the night at the lodge, you can still make a lunch or dinner reservation. The restaurant is airy and expansive, offering amazing views of the Athabasca glacier and delectable flavors made with ingredients from Alberta and all across Canada. Delight your taste buds with the lamb, beef or pasta dishes for dinner, and opt for the breakfast croissant, french toast or breakfast bowl for the morning.

For a quick and filling meal on a busy afternoon after your Columbia Icefield Adventure, the Lodge’s Chalet is a great stop. It offers a few options of ready made meals, salads, and wraps to go, as well as local favorites (such as chicken and chips) that are just enough to satisfy a hungry appetite until dinner time.

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How to get to Banff

Getting to Banff is easy. Major airlines operate direct flights from San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, New York, and Atlanta, to name a few. AirCanada and Westjet are popular options that service Canada daily. All flights land at the Calgary International Airport, where you can take the popular Brewster Express shuttle bus to Banff (a two-and-a-half hour ride).

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