Planning A Canadian Rockies Road Trip: What To Do In Banff In Fall

Banff is beautiful in every season. In the summer, warm temperatures and long daylight hour allow easy access to natural attractions and better chances for wildlife viewing. While in the winter, Banff transforms into a winter wonderland, perfect for sleigh rides, dogsledding, snowshoeing and ice walk. But the best time to visit Banff is in late September when the crowds have mostly gone home and when the leaves show off their golden colours. Last month, my friend Monica and I took a week-long road trip to the Canadian Rockies and had the time of our lives! This post highlights the best things to do in Banff in fall AND our discovery on the perfect locations for amazing photos.

What to do in Banff in fall - Canadian Rockies road trip

Seeing the Best of Banff in Fall

Planning a road trip to the Canadian Rockies? Put these 10 things on your Banff bucket list.

1 | Watch Sunset From the Top of Sulphur Mountain

What to do in Banff in fall - Canadian Rockies road trip

Taking the Banff Gondola up the Sulphur Mountain is a must when visiting Banff in fall. Even though I’ve been up there a couple times already, the views from the top of the mountain never get old!

What to do in Banff in fall - Canadian Rockies road trip

Standing high at 7,486 feet above sea level, the upper terminal offers panoramic views of the town of Banff, the Bow Valley, and the surrounding mountains in the far distance. The sunset there is one of the most unforgettable moments we’ve had on our Canadian Rockies road trip. Throw in a dinner at the Sky Bistro and you’ve got an experience worth remembering!

Best picture spots: 1) Take the Sulphur Mountain Boardwalk to Sanson’s Peak. The 1 km trail leads to the Sulphur Mountain Cosmic Ray Station – a National Historic Site of Canada. The viewpoints along the way give spectacular vistas across the town of Banff and the six mountain ranges. 2) If you don’t have time for the 1 km hike, at least stop by the Rooftop Observation Deck. At the 360-degree rooftop terrace, you can embrace the breathtaking beauty of Banff National Park in every direction!

What to do in Banff in fall - Canadian Rockies road trip

view from Sulphur Mountain Boardwalk

What to do in Banff in fall - Canadian Rockies road trip

view from Rooftop Observation Deck

 

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2 | Take a Leisurely Cruise Along Lake Minnewanka

A short 15-minute drive from Banff town will take you to Lake Minnewanka – the largest and deepest lake in Banff National Park. Take a 1.5-hour interpretive boat tour and discover the spectacular scenery found nowhere else. On the Lake Minnewanka cruise, you will learn about the history, geology, wildlife, and vegetation that inhabit the nearby mountains. You might even see wild animals on the shoreline!

What to do in Banff in fall - Canadian Rockies road trip

Best picture spot: Stroll along the lake and you’ll find some benches looking at to the snow-capped mountains!

What to do in Banff in fall - Canadian Rockies road trip

3 | Chase Waterfalls at Johnston Canyon

Johnston Canyon is a popular hike for a good reason. The 2.6 km trail (one way) will take you through the narrow gorge carved by Johnston Creek, a lush forest, and a series of waterfalls!

What to do in Banff in fall - Canadian Rockies road trip

The main attractions here are the Lower and Upper Falls. The pathway to the Lower Fall is fairly flat and easy. It takes about 30 mins. The Upper Falls is an hour away from the Lower Falls and the trail is longer and steeper. To read more about the hike, check out this post.

Best picture spots: 1) A short tunnel through the canyon bedrock will take you to an intimate vantage point for the Lower Falls. 2) To capture the Upper Falls, continue on the trail AFTER the Upper Falls sign. Take a steep climb (about 5 mins) to a viewing platform. There, you will be standing across from the top of the falls and watching the water drops into a deeply carved pothole.

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4 | Vodka Tasting at Park Distillery

Do you know that there is a distillery in Banff National Park? Situated in the heart of Banff Town, Park Distillery creates small-batch vodka, gin, and rye in a variety of styles. Their products have won several awards from around the world – which is quite impressive given that they have only been opened for 2 years! Besides the pure, classic vodka, they have many interesting flavours such as chili, espresso, and maple.

Delight your taste buds with a spirits tasting ($20). The staff will teach you about the process of making each spirit and guide you through the flavours and textures unique to the brand. The tasting runs daily at 3:30 pm and includes a behind-the-scenes distillery tour!

What to do in Banff in fall - Canadian Rockies road trip

5 | Explore the Pristine Moraine Lake

What to do in Banff in fall - Canadian Rockies road trip

Moraine Lake is a must-see in Banff in fall. Nestled in the majestic Valley of The Ten Peaks, this glacier-fed lake is best known for its mesmerizing turquoise water. Just look at the photo above and you’ll understand why it is one of the most photographed locations in the Canadian Rockies.

The road to Moraine Lake is only accessible from June through September, and this means it can get extremely busy. Plan to get there before 10 am or after 5 pm.

Best picture spot: Hike up the Rockpile Trail (300 m) to a spectacular viewpoint. The lake has a vivid shade of teal blue that will sure to take your breath away!

6 | Walk Along the Majestic Lake Louise

When visiting Banff in fall, don’t miss the chance to visit the world famous Lake Louise. The emerald turquoise water, surrounded by snowy mountain peaks and the stunning Victoria Glacier, creates the perfect backdrop for a photoshoot! Simply walk along the lake and you’ll find inspirational views in every direction! No wonder it is one of the best spots to visit in Canada.

What to do in Banff in fall - Canadian Rockies road trip

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7 | Picnic at Herbert Lake

To get away from the crowds, consider Herbert Lake. Located just 6km north of Lake Louise, this quaint little lake is a slice of paradise. With incredible views of Mount Temple in the backdrop, it is no doubt an excellent place for a picnic. Many photographers also like to come here at sunrise and sunset.

What to do in Banff in fall - Canadian Rockies road trip

8 | Visit the Scenic Bow Lake

Bow Lake is another gem in Banff National Park. Different from the other lakes, the lake boasts spectacular aquamarine water and a crystal clear reflection of the surrounding mountains. It is an easy stop on the Icefield Parkways (Hwy 93) that worth pulling over for photos!

What to do in Banff in fall - Canadian Rockies road trip

9 | Hike Up Bow Summit to the Famous Peyto Lake

What to do in Banff in fall - Canadian Rockies road trip

Peyto Lake is an absolute must when exploring Banff in fall. Seeing such bright baby blue water set in an enchanting surrounding is a surreal experience. Does the water really look THAT blue? Yes, no filter needed!

On the Icefield Parkway, follow the sign for Bow Summit. After arriving at the parking lot, hike up the trail (15 mins) and it will lead you to the viewing platform overlooking Peyto Lake.

10 | Stay at Buffalo Mountain Lodge

What to do in Banff in fall - Canadian Rockies road trip

Looking for a place to rest after a day of exploration in Banff? Then enjoy a peaceful night in Buffalo Mountain Lodge! This rustic hideaway lies on the slopes of Tunnel Mountain, just a few minutes drive away from Banff town, in a quiet setting perfect to reenergize, rest and relax.

The rooms are beautifully designed and combine luxury with traditional country living. When settling into our premier room, with a huge freestanding bathtub and a cozy wood-burning fireplace (stocked daily with firewood!), Monica and I knew we have found a paradise away from home. Our room even comes with a private balcony, where we sipped wine while enjoying nature!

What to do in Banff in fall - Canadian Rockies road trip

Besides the room, our favorite hangout spot is the outdoor hot tub! Every night, we took a dip there to relax our weary legs and soak away tired muscles.

What to do in Banff in fall - Canadian Rockies road trip

Food at the onsite restaurant, Sleeping Buffalo Dining Room, was spectacular. In the morning, the restaurant prepares a delicious, gourmet buffet breakfast for guests to fuel up for a day in the mountains. In the evening, the menu focuses on Rocky mountain cuisine featuring fresh local produce and game from their own farm. Be sure not to miss the mouthwatering seared scallop, northern caribou, and wild boar tenderloin!

Reminders

  • Rent a car. Using an express bus service directly from Calgary International Airport and transferring to local buses, it is possible to explore Banff without a vehicle. However, I highly recommend renting one so that you have more flexibility. There are some spots you can’t get to with public transport. For car rental, we used Alamo and were happy with its service and rate.
  • Carry a bear spray. Bear encounters are rare but the risk is still there. Carry one if you’re going hiking, camping, or picnicking. Parks Canada talks more about bear safety here.
  • Dress in layers. Temperatures vary greatly from day to evening. Dress in layers so you can add or remove clothing as temperature changes.

Late September is the shoulder season and is the best time to plan a trip to Banff. With warm weather and fall foliage in full splendor, it is perfect for outdoor activities!

Disclaimer: This post is written in partnership with Brewster Canada, Buffalo Mountain Lodge, and Alamo. As always, all opinions on For Two, Please are my own and I only recommend brands that I 100% stand behind.

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33 Comments Leave a Comment »

  1. Wow wow wow, Banff is just absolutely stunning. Majestic Lake Louise is really just that, and those views from Sulphur Mountain are breathtaking. I’m so gutted I didn’t make it to Banff when I was in Canada. Oh well, I’ll need to go back!

  2. The top of Sulphur Mountain is definitely the place for a sunset, so unique and Instagram worthy! Lake Louise is a lake I’ve always wanted to photograph and it looks as stunning as ever during the fall. I’d never heard of Moraine Lake but this photographs probably better than Louise, I think because of the colour of the water. So many Instagram worthy locations around Banff!

  3. Wow I just needed these photos to make me want to go to Banff! It is seriously gifted when it comes to natural beauty – easily one of the most beautiful natural sights I’ve laid my eyes on! The Peyto and Moraine lakes are too beautiful that it’s hard to believe they’re even real!

  4. Been to Banff twice and I did watch the beautiful sunset from the sulphur Mountain, the mountain looks exactly as your pictures. My friends HD dreamt of hiking to Peyton Lake but the crowd would not let him. Now that I think about it, we’ve visited at the wrong time: July or August. Guess why that’s the reason for so much crowd. Whecer we intend to go again, we would schedule for late September. I’m excited to try new activities out like you have in this post.

  5. oh man! I had a ticket to go to the Canadian Parks this year and everything and I didn’t go! Now looking at these photos and the fun adventures you had, it really makes me kick myself that I didn’t take advantage of that little free perk they offered. DANG! But great post, because now I’m insanely jealous!

  6. I’ve seen so many photos of Lake Louise and it’s making me really want to start planning an adventure out to Banff! The view from the Sulphur Mountain Boardwalk is absolutely beautiful and worth a trip as well. And relaxing in an outdoor hot tub seems like the perfect way to end the day of wandering around!

  7. Your photos are gorgeous and bring back such great memories of my family’s trips to Banff and Lake Louise. I think that whole area has some of the most beautiful scenery in the world. I definitely want to go back now!

  8. Canada seems like a great destination for a road trip and I am adding it to my bucket list. When would be the best time of the year to explore it?

  9. I absolutely love road trips. Banff sure is a delight for those who love the outdoors. I am not much of a sunrise and sunset person but Sulphur mountain looks like my kind of place. Would love to spend time here in solitude.

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  11. This article is fantastic for me, as we’ll be visiting Banff for 3 days next year.  I hadn’t heard of Moraine Lake or Herbert Lake, so I can now add these to my list.  Oh, and Park Distillery – a genius addition, as I love love love distillery tours.  Have pinned so I can come back to it once our itinerary is secured!

  12. Wow so many incredibly gorgeous things to see and do in Banff! I especially am awed by the crystal waters of Moraine Lake and Lake Louise. Can’t wait to go here!

  13. Wow. You’ve really taken me on a journey here. Just when I thought, yeah the mountains do look nice, you go through all these lakes with this crystal clear water and amazing colour. I have never considered myself a mountain person but I think I need to reconsider my position. Banff just looks amazing. On top of that, I’d love to try some vodkas from the local distillery, preferably while sitting in my private outdoor hot tub. I think I need a holiday now. Thanks for sharing your experiences! 

  14. Banff has been high on my list for a very long time! The closest I got was Glacier National Park on the otherside of the border. I have never thought about a girl’s trip there, it’s a great idea!

  15. I love how clear and colorful your photos are. Amazing! The light is just sublime. I kept expecting to see aspens turning yellow, but they didn’t show up. Still, Banff looks like it would make a great road trip. This is just the type of landscape we’ll be missing in Florida. Maybe we should fly up there and check it out.

  16. The views are absolutely stunning. I love the observation deck at Sanson’s Peak, though I’d probably want to do the whole walk. There are many trails in New Zealand’s national parks and I’m constantly walking them. The Park Distillery vodka tasting reminds me of recently going on a beer tasting tour. I don’t know if I’d ever do a vodka tasting because I fear I would get drunk far too easily to enjoy it. And I can understand why Moraine Lake and Lake Louise are so photographed. The colour of that water is incredible.

  17. One of my issues is that Banff is amazing in every season lol I haven’t yet been though don’t know which season I want to see most! Fall does sound like a great time though, especially in avoiding the crowds since it’s such a popular place. The sunset from the top of sulphur mountain is just incredible – awesome shot. And the views from the view from Sulphur Mountain Boardwalk are phenomenal.

    Moraine Lake and Lake Lousie are on the list, and I would love to take in waterfalls at Johnston Canyon. Buffalo Mountain Lodge sounds amazing – I love the rustic cabin feel, and the connection with nature it offers.

    Thanks for this – fall it is!

  18. Very informative post. Liked your Rooftop Observation Deck tip that would be impossible to find anywhere on the internet!

  19. The pictures are so inviting. Banff is such a great destination with so many breathtaking places to visit. I loved everything about this places and adding to my list of places to visit. Rooftop Observation Deck looks gorgeous. I have lost my heart to Peyto Lake.

  20. It looks like you girls had a blast! I’m thinking about visiting Banff and Jasper over the Easter long weekend next year but I read a lot of the roads might still be closed around that time of the year?

  21. And we almost went to Banff this October!! This sounds like the perfect itinerary for us. Maybe fall of 2018. So how long do you recommend for this detailed exploration of the region?

    • If you’re visiting just Banff and Lake Louise, 5 days are more than enough. But I’d recommend adding Jasper on to your itinerary – it’s beautiful, less crowded and easier to see wildlife!

  22. I visited Banff over 20 years ago when I was a kid with my parents. I’d love to return now as an adult. Taking the gondola up and doing the hike would definitely be on my itinerary, along with a lake cruise. Those seared scallops look so delicious and I really loved wild boar meat. I’m not sure I’ve had caribou meat before, but I’d be game to give it a try.

  23. Everybody says Banff is very beautiful and your great pictures are a proof of it! And yes, I would definitely chose fall to see Banff as it best with those red and yellow colors. BUT you sold me with those cups of wine and the gorgeous views!

  24. I’ve yet to make it to Banff, been dying to go! Your pictures amazing, that observation deck view looks gorgeous! Would love to have a picnic and hike here, hopefully next summer. Thanks for the great tips!

  25. Stunning, gorgeous, and beautiful. I can write more synonyms after looking at the pics. There seems to be so much to do here. Views from all the lakes especially Lake Lousie and the observation deck are amazing. One would feel so heavenly when at this place. 🙂

  26. Love the sunset view over the Canadian Rockies! The lakes are amazing too! Definitely adding this to my road trip wish list.

  27. Wow, Sulphur Mountain is absolutely stunning. Would it be possible to watch the sunrise from there too? Banff looks great in the fall just as I would expect!

  28. Gorgeous photos and very informative well-written narrative! We have visited Banff once, but I want to go back! So much stunning natural beauty and closeness to Nature! Peyto Lake and Moraine Lake are both my favorites in the park!

  29. Banhff is my kind of place as it is full of nature, picturesque mountains, stunning lakes and tranquil atmosphere. Viewing sunset from Sulphur mountains is best activity. Views from Observation deck is million dollar view. I must say for this place, I need extra memory chip in my camera with long battery life.

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