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4 Day Banff Itinerary to Get the Most Out of Your Trip

Banff is one of the most tourist-friendly towns in the world so it’s no wonder that it attracts thousands of visitors a year.

Situated in the heart of the majestic Rockies, east of Yoho National Park and south of Jasper National Park, it’s the first and most popular national park in Canada.

Besides the main attraction, the town also has plenty of things for you to do and explore during your trip. Banff National Park is an outdoor paradise ripe with adventure and awe-inspiring beauty at every corner.

Enough with the hype though, you’re surely itching to visit by now.

It goes without saying that the best way to create unforgettable memories is through exploration.

If you’re limited to four days, here’s a Banff travel itinerary loaded with travel tips to help you get the most of your vacation.

We take all the hassle out of the equation and take you through all the great attractions with time to spare!

Note: This Banff National Park 4 day itinerary gives plenty of time to enjoy each attraction at a leisurely pace. This allows for spontaneous activities without your day getting too hectic.

Overview

Banff Itinerary at a Glance

DAY 1

Spend your first day in Banff exploring the hub of this quaint town. Take a stroll down Banff Avenue, swing by the museums and galleries, admire historic landmarks, go for a hike on one of many hiking trails or take a cruise around Lake Minnewanka.

DAY 2

Today, you’ll be visiting the birthplace of Banff National Park to learn how it all started. Soaking in a world-famous hot spring and taking a gondola to have brunch high in the sky are just a few of the highlights for the day.

DAY 3

Put on a comfy pair of shoes because you’ll be spending a lot of time on your feet today! Fully immerse yourself in the true Canadian Rockies full of stunning turquoise lakes and explore what mother nature has to offer. Yes, the famous Lake Louise is definitely part of the itinerary.

DAY 4

Take a drive down one of the most beautiful routes in the world; the Icefields Parkway. Notable stops include: Peyto Lake, Bow Lake, Crowfoot Glacier, Mistaya Canyon, and Athabasca Glacier.

Tip: Use the Contents tab on the left to quickly navigate this itinerary and travel guide!

Map of the Itinerary

4 day banff itinerary map

Getting To Banff & Pre-Trip Planning

– Highway to Banff, Alberta

Plan your trip a few months in advance. If you are wondering about what the best time of the year is, this is easy: any time of the year!

Summer months are great for sightseeing, hiking, canoeing, biking and many more outdoor activities. Winter months are perfect for winter sports and stunning frozen lakes.

Book your accommodation in advance. Banff has numerous stunning luxurious hotels and gorgeous budget accommodation, so it is hard to pick just one. Check out the perfect places to stay in Banff for more information. Don’t forget to get your park pass online before heading out!

For the ultimate scenic drive, take the Trans-Canada Highway from British Columbia. It’s about an 11-hour non-stop drive with many scenic spots and plenty of photo opportunities. Take a pit stop in Kelowna, Vernon, Yoho National Park, and Emerald Lake!

If you’re flying in, Calgary International Airport is the nearest airport.

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DAY 1 - Around the Town of Banff

– Streetview of Downtown Banff

Explore Downtown Banff

If it’s your first day here, chances are you’ve just finished traveling and need to unwind.

Make sure you grab a filling breakfast at Tooloulous restaurant to gain energy for the day ahead.

Start your 4 days in Banff in a relaxing way by meandering through museums and galleries in downtown. Banff Avenue, the main street in the town, is always bustling with activity.

To escape the crowds, make your way to Cascade of Time Gardens filled with gorgeous flowers.

Drive the Lake Minnewanka Loop

The Minnewanka Loop drive is a great way to explore a few of the alpine lakes in Banff, notably Lake Minnewanka and Two Jack Lake.

The road connects both lakes to Banff so you’ll be able to drive the loop and return to town without driving back the same route.

If you want to get out of the car to stretch your legs, go for a boat cruise! At Lake Minnewanka, you can book a leisure boat ride and see the Canadian Rockies from a different point of view.

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Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel

In the afternoon, go back in time by visiting the famous Fairmont Banff Springs.

Built in the 19th century, this fairytale hotel has beautiful grounds that you can walk through as you admire the architecture.

It’s also the perfect place to have lunch at 1888 Chop House, the on-site restaurant. If you want to start happy hour early, there’s a few bars and lounges in the hotel for you to sip on your favorite cocktail.

banff fairmont surprise corner viewpoint
Surprise Corner Viewpoint

Hike the Nearby Trails in Banff

One of the best Banff summer activities is hiking! A short distance away from Fairmont Banff Springs is Bow Falls and Surprise Corner.

Take a walk along the river to Bow Falls, the gushing waterfalls are a great sight to behold due to the width, which is 3x the height.

For different but spectacular views of Fairmont Banff Springs, go to Surprise Corner.

Got time to spare? Take a short 6-minute drive to Tunnel Mountain trail for a quick hike. If you’re an early bird this is the perfect spot to catch a sunrise with amazing views of Tunnel Mountain lush green scenery and turquoise blue waters.

If you’re an avid hiker looking to build your own Banff hiking itinerary, check out these amazing bucket list hikes.

Day 2 – Outskirts of Banff

– Sulphur Mountain Viewpoint

Sulphur Mountain Gondola

Get a 360-degree view of Sulphur Mountain from a gondola as you go up the slopes in the morning.

Go early enough and you might even see the sunrise!

If you prefer hiking up the mountain, make sure you book with a local tour company to have a professional guide your exploration to the top.

At the summit of the mountain, have brunch at Sky Bistro while enjoying one of the most beautiful views of Mount Norquay, Mount Rundle, and the majestic Canadian Rocky Mountains.

Banff Upper Hot Springs

After brunch, get back on the gondola and ride back down to walk to the Upper Hot Springs.

Take a dip in the hot spring, soothe your muscles, and enjoy that stunning view of Sulphur Mountain.

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Cave & Basin National Historic Site

Discover one of the original hot springs and a national historic site in Banff; Cave & Basin.

Being the birthplace of Banff National Park, this historic site will take you on a walk through the significance of the location and history of Banff.

The site can be accessed through a trail that takes you straight into a cave that hosted the first natural thermal spring in the area.

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Vermillion Lakes, Banff

Vermilion Lakes

A collection of three of the most amazing lakes with jaw-dropping views, end your day by watching the sunset at Vermilion Lakes.

A popular spot with the locals for sunrise and sunsets, it’s a great place to sit back and admire the view of Sulphur Mountain.

DAY 3 - Explore the Canadian Rockies

– Glacial Lake, Canadian Rockies

Sunrise at Moraine Lake

Moraine Lake is a popular attraction and receives hundreds of visitors daily. It’s home to one of the top accommodations in Banff, the Moraine Lake Lodge with the most amazing lakefront views. To make the best of your trip to the lake, plan to arrive between 6 AM and 7 AM. 

The lake is beautiful and worth admiring from its banks or on a canoe for those that want an up-close view.

There’s an easy shoreline trail right along the lake but for those that are looking for a bit more, the Rockpile Trail is a short hike up that’ll reward you with better views of Moraine Lake.

Or better yet, go out into the waters and rent a canoe on-site!

Lake Louise

Hop in your car and take a short 20-minute drive over to Lake Louise, one of the most popular sites in the world. Don’t worry about finding a parking spot, even if the lots fill up there’s plenty of overflow parking. If you raced over here and missed out on canoeing at Moraine Lake, here’s your chance! Canoe rentals are also available at Lake Louise (weather permitting).

To fix that rumbling stomach, make your way to Lakeview Lounge inside Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise for lunch.

Afterwards, take a hike up to Lake Agnes and enjoy a quick caffeine fix at  Lake Agnes tea house.

If you have spare time take a walk through Lake Louise Village and grab a bite at one of many restaurants or rent a bike and explore. 

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Bow Valley Parkway

On the way back, drive down the scenic Bow Valley Parkway. The 50 km (31 mi) long route is an excellent alternative to the many roads that connect Lake Louise to Banff.

There’s just so much to see that it’s pretty much guaranteed that you’ll be making multiple stops along the way.

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Johnston Canyon, Banff

Johnston Canyon

One of the popular stops along the Bow Valley Parkway route is Johnston Canyon. You may want to pack hiking boots for this one!

In the summer months the day-hikes at this national park are heavily trekked but this is for good reason – you definitely shouldn’t skip out!

Weave through the canyon trails to reach the lower and upper falls If you have extra time, continue your hike to the Ink Pots, it’s well worth the effort for the breathtaking views of  7 natural turquoise springs.

Day 4 – The Icefields Parkway

– Icefields Parkway

The Icefields Parkway is a scenic drive filled with over a hundred glaciers. As your 4 day Banff itinerary comes to an end, make sure you stop at the following attractions:

peyto lake viewpoint banff SP
Peyto Lake Viewpoint

Peyto Lake

Peyto is a stunning turquoise glacier lake that you absolutely must-see along the Icefields Parkway route.

The blue-green water changes hue depending on the weather, so try to visit on a clear and sunny day if you want to see the lake at its best.

This stunning lake can be reached by driving up to the parking lot and a quick hike up to the viewpoint with the most wonderful panoramic views.

There are tons of tour buses that stop here but the hoards can be avoided by waking up early and making this your first stop in your day.

bow lake banff alberta SP
Bow Lake, Banff

Bow Lake

Bow Lake is a beautiful lake surrounded by high mountain ranges and is an easy stop just off the highway.

This serene and breathtaking lake offers the perfect backdrop to a quick lakeside picnic before heading to your next stop.

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Crowfoot Glacier

The Crowfoot Glacier resembles the shape of a crow’s foot and there’s no way you can miss this massive glacier since it’s visible from your drive down the Icefields Parkway.

There are several places for you to stop along the route to get incredible views of this impressive glacier nestled in the rocks of Crowfoot Mountain.

Mistaya Canyon

As you near the end of the Icefields Parkway, you’ll come across Mistaya Canyon, formed by a river with the same name.

The canyon has distinctive curvy walls carved by the powerful river and worth a visit since it’s easily accessible just off the highway. A short trail will lead you to incredible views of the canyon.

athabasca glacier ice explorer banff
Ice Explorer at Athabasca Glacier

Athabasca Glacier

End your 4-day trip to Banff by walking up to the toe of the Athabasca Glacier.

This is totally free to do but if you want the full experience, there are many tour guides that will bring you for an up-close look at the massive glacier.

Sadly, this natural wonder is gradually retreating and will likely disappear in a few years due to global warming.

Where to Stay in Banff

– Lake Minnewanka, Banff

Being such a popular tourist town, it’s important to book as early as possible to get the best selection and rates.

So where’s the best place to stay in Banff, you ask? Well, that depends.

Are you in Banff for a ski-in ski-out vacation?

Did you bring your furry cuddly buddy with you?

Or perhaps you’re traveling with kids.

Finding the best hotel to stay in Banff is highly subjective and really comes down to what you’re looking for.

We’ve made a list of the best hotels to stay in Banff and summarized what each hotel is best for.

Homework done – now you can rest easy, sit back and wait for your vacation to come around!

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DINING GUIDE

Where to Eat in Banff

– Gourmet Pizza

From casual quick bites to full-on fancy dinners at award-winning restaurants, Banff has a lot to offer when it comes to dining options.

You’ll never be left without choices when it comes to finding a restaurant to eat in Banff.

Tooloulous is a popular local eatery for a heartwarming breakfast but if you had a long night and slept in, stop by the Bison Restaurant or the Maple Leaf Grill for brunch instead.

For more ideas, check out our guide on the top places to eat in Banff.

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Conclusion

As with any vacation, planning the trip properly is the first step in avoiding stressful situations or disappointment.

This 4-day Banff itinerary includes a list of the best attractions and is arranged in a way that will help you make the most out of your vacation.

Make sure you also check out our ultimate travel guide to Banff before you visit.

Which part of Banff are you looking forward to the most? Let us know in the comments!

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