How to Explore Beautiful Banff with Kids

Banff National Park is the crown jewel of Canadian National Parks. From lakes to skywalks, how to explore beautiful Banff with kids in Canada's 150th year.

For many international visitors, Banff IS Canada. Banff National Park represents the epitome of the wild natural beauty that exists throughout this vast country. Banff’s lakes, mountains and glaciers live in locals’ imaginations too. Our family’s summer road trip to explore Banff is a highlight among many years of family trips. Here’s how we recommend exploring beautiful Banff with kids.

What to Do in Banff with Kids

Banff Travel Tips

  • Banff National Park was established in 1885 as Canada’s first National Park. Situated in the heart of the Canadian Rockies, Banff is the busiest and most visited national park in the country. Be prepared for the crowds, and book your hotels, restaurant reservations and excursions months in advance. You’ll be glad you did.
  • Order Parks Canada’s free Discovery Pass. The Pass offers visitors free access to all Canadian National Parks and Historic Sites, including Banff, Jasper, Yoho and Kootenay National Parks.
  • Begin your day early. Banff in summer is crowded and very, very busy. You can wait a long and frustrating time for entrance to most attractions. Is it a case of Banff being ‘loved to death’? We hope not. But it’s not the most popular tourist attraction in the country for nothing.
  • Beware the ever-changeable mountain weather. Pack a sweater and wind-breaker, even on a sunny summer day.
  • To get the true wilderness experience, camp at one of the many Parks Canada campgrounds throughout the park. Tunnel Mountain 1 campground is close to Banff but wild enough that you may see an elk while sipping your morning coffee or tea.
  • Make sure your vehicle is road trip worthy. Those mountain roads and steep and curvy – is your car or RV up for the drive? Get your mechanic to do a once over and top off fluids and check brakes. We did all of this, and we still broke down in Lake Louise. Yes, leaking steering fluid is a thing.
  • The towns of Banff and Lake Louise are surrounded by incredible adventure opportunities. Get ready to go play in the mountains and make some incredible family travel memories.
Banff National Park is the crown jewel of Canadian National Parks. From lakes to skywalks, how to explore beautiful Banff with kids in Canada's 150th year.

Ride the Banff Gondola

Looking for that bird’s eye view of Banff National Park and the valley? Take an eight-minute gondola ride to the top of Sulphur Mountain in the Banff Gondola. This is truly the best way to explore Banff. At an elevation of 2,281m (7,486 ft), you’ll enjoy an incredible vista of six mountain ranges from the spectacular Banff Gondola Summit.

Banff Townsite
Banff Gondola

This facility has restaurants, interpretive exhibits, a multi-sensory theatre, and a 360-degree rooftop observation deck. You can hike the self-guided interpretive Boardwalk to Sanson’s Peak and the Cosmic Ray Station. Keep an eye out for Parks Canada red chairs, and the local wildlife. Ground squirrels are particularly friendly. If you’re lucky you’ll see Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, hoary marmots, and gray jays too.

You can download to the valley on the gondola. We enjoyed a very pleasant 5.5 km hike down Sulphur Mountain. Or in my teen’s case, a 40-minute run down the mountain, for fun.

Need tips on where to dine out? Read The Sweet Lowdown on Where to Eat in Banff

Walk the shoreline of Lake Louise

Lake Louise Boat House

After you’ve circled the extensive parking lot and located a suitable spot, enjoy a walk along the shoreline of Lake Louise. Take in the views of Victoria Glacier and angle your way through the crowds to a great family photo. Hopefully, you’ll be photobombed by the famous Banff Squirrel or one of his furry cousins. If you have time to spend a full day in Lake Louise, perhaps rent a canoe, paddle across the emerald-colored waters and feel a quintessential Canadian moment in this iconic and spectacular landscape.

Hike to a Tea House

Lake Agnes Teahouse

You didn’t come all this way to not explore the mountains, did you? From the shoreline of Lake Louise, you can choose between two alpine tea house hikes – Lake Agnes or the Plain of Six Glaciers. Both offer incredible views, and a good workout up and down.

Banff Teahouse Walk

We chose the 6.8 km (return) Lake Agnes Trail. It offers beautiful views of Lake Louise and the surrounding mountains. It’s a moderate hike that will take between 2.5-3 hours return. You can enjoy a cup of tea and fresh scone or pie at this historic Tea House.

Check out A discerning Guide to the best Hotels in Banff, Canada, including the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel

Soak in the Banff Upper Hot Springs

Taking the waters’ at Banff Hot Springs has been a tradition since the hot spring was discovered in 1883. The natural hot mineral waters bubble up from miles below the earth’s surface. There’s nothing quite as soothing after a hot day’s hike as lowering yourself into a steaming pool. The views of the mountains, including Mount Rundle, are just as invigorating.

Hot Springs

Walk Banff Avenue

Historic Banff Avenue is home to shops, restaurants and unique boutiques featuring all kinds of Canadian kitsch as well as outdoor recreation outfitters. There are parking lots off of the main avenue, or take a hotel shuttle if provided. If you’re an early riser, head to the Avenue to capture the sunrise on Mount Rundle, the mountain overlooking Banff village center.

Visit Moraine Lake

Moraine Lake

You may recognize the impressive scene of Moraine Lake from that Canadian $20 bill in your pocket. The turquoise waters and rugged Valley of the Ten Peaks are nature at its most awe-inspiring. Take a seat lakeside to enjoy the view. Or hike the easy 3 km return route along the shoreline of the glacial lake, and leave the crowds behind.

Take a Scenic Drive

Parkway View

The road to Banff along the Bow Valley Parkway from either east or west is incredibly scenic. The mountains just get bigger and more spectacular around every turn. Moving north from Banff, the Icefields Parkway from Banff to Jasper is among the best drives on the planet, as voted by National Geographic.

Icefields Parkway - The Scenic Route

The Icefields Parkway connects Banff and Jasper National Parks. The view from the road is spectacular – the mountain peaks are a like a gallery of giants, one after the other. The parks share more than 1,000 glaciers. Many of the glaciers are in retreat due to climate change. Markers show the glacier tongue’s retreat by each decade. It’s a sobering sight.

Check out Bow Falls

The Bow River runs through Banff, and funnels through the Bow Falls, a beautiful waterfall that is an easy walk from town or from the historic Fairmont Banff Springs hotel. You can walk along the river via a quiet and level trail that’s just a few steps from town.

Walk on the Columbia Glacier Skywalk

Skywalk Panorama

If you feel like ‘going beyond nature’s edge’, take the day trip drive along the Icefields Parkway to the Glacier Discovery Centre at the Columbia Icefield. You can purchase your Glacier Skywalk tickets through Brewster Travel Canada at the Centre, then board buses for the short trip to the award-winning cliff-edge walkway.

Glacier Skywalk

The free audio tour and nature interpretation panels are warm-ups to the main event. Which is walking on the cantilevered, see-through walkway over the Athabasca River valley. This glass floor is all that separates you from a 918 foot drop. And it moves, due to the kinetic energy of visitors.

Could you do this? Take a Stroll along the Glacier Skywalk.

While my family could walk the length of the skywalk, I could not. My fear of heights kicked in big time. Taking photos is difficult when you can’t let go of the handrail. But the teens review? “Awesome! Totally awesome.”

Skywalk views

Get out of the city and back into nature this summer by exploring Banff with your kids. It will be a holiday highlight for your family for years to come.

Pin for Later

Explore Banff National Park

Have you been to Explore Banff? Share your favorite memories and tips in the comments.

Photo Credits: Claudia Laroye. Feature and Lake Louise images courtesy of Banff & Lake Louise Tourism, Paul Zika Photography.

Disclosure: The Travelling Mom thanks Banff & Lake Louise Tourism, Brewster Travel Canada, and Parks Canada for their hospitality and support in visiting Banff. As always, our opinions are honest and our own.

43 thoughts on “How to Explore Beautiful Banff with Kids”

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  4. Claudia, I am planning a family trip to West Canada, is it worth it for a 5 years old girl? I am afraid my daughter won’t enjoy due to the long walking distances.

    1. I would say that there’s lots to see and do in Western Canada. From historic sites to short hiking trails, kids museums, parks, playgrounds and lots of good restaurants, I think it’s a great destination choice! Let me know exactly where you plan to travel, and I can help you further. Cheers! Claudia

  5. Corey @ fifi + hop

    This is such a helpful post – Banff is very high up on our wish list and I could look at photos all day long! We love taking gondolas in the summertime, in addition to all the hiking..and the Skywalk looks especially incredible, though like you, I have vertigo so not sure how I’d fare!

  6. Lovely photos! My brother lives in Banff and we are headed there this summer. I am eager to try the Skywalk (it wasn’t open last time we were there). Thanks!

  7. Mama Munchkin

    Excellent post! We’ve heard great things about Banff and as we discussed previously, my kids are dying to go to Canada. Pinned this so we can use your tips when we make our way up there 🙂

    1. Yay Amber! Let me know how I can help you plan your visit to Banff and Canada when the time comes. 🙂

  8. Wow what beautiful pictures, Lake Louise looks breathtaking. So many great ideas for things to do in Banff. Thanks for sharing. Love the squirrel!

  9. Carmen's Luxury Travel

    Banff is absolutely stunning. Like you, I’d love to take my kids here. Beautiful photos, thanks for sharing. Happy travels 🙂

  10. Elaine J Masters

    I’ve been to Banff when there’s still snow on the ground so it’s wonderful to see it green and easy to hike. Love that your teens are with you.

  11. Our Seaside Baby

    Wow, the scenery is stunning! I’d love to take my little boy there, if only we lived nearer! Polly

  12. Never been to Canada, but I definitely want to. I would love to visit the Banff National park as it is a place of unique natural beauty and has many activities to do. Thanks for sharing

  13. Sara Broers

    I love this post! Your pictures are stunning. It’s been several years since we were there. We were there 20 years ago, our youngest is now 21 and was in a carrier on our backs when we visited last. Banff was beautiful then, but it looks a lot more commercialized than how I remember it. I’d love to return, need to plan now. Thanks for inspiring me to get planning.

    1. Thanks for the kind words Sara! It is much busier than 20 years ago for sure, but there are ways to enjoy it, off the beaten path. I hope you get a chance to revisit Banff soon. 😉

  14. It looks gorgeous! Good tip to make sure you get to Banff early in the day. Walking along the skywalk would be awesome!

  15. Virginie - Travel With My Kids

    I didn’t know there were so many great things to do in Banff with kids ! I love the tea houses 🙂

  16. carla abanes

    Really amazing photos! Makes me want to start planning for Canada and visit its many national parks. Thanks for sharing!

  17. Banff is one of my all-time favorite places to visit. We haven’t had a chance to visit as a family but it is high on our list of places to go. When I went, the Glacier Skywalk wasn’t there yet. Looking forward to trying it out.

  18. Excellent suggestions, Claudia. Banff is a favourite family vacation destination – I agree that it is important to get going early in the morning to avoid the crowds.

  19. Carol Perehudoff

    I’ve spent so much time in Banff it’s like my second home. I love it there! The hot springs, the Centre for the Arts and of course the scenery and the hikes. You’ve discovered some of the very best it has to offer so thanks for sharing.

  20. Wow what great photos! I live in Calgary so I’ve been to Banff a million times, and it looks like you sure got lucky with the weather and got to see so many of the best spots!

    1. You’re lucky to live so close! We were indeed lucky with good weather, though as you know, in the mountains the weather can change awfully quick!

  21. Sounds like you enjoyed a few of my favourite adventures on this trip, Claudia. Although, I have still yet to explore the Columbia Icefield. Next time.

  22. I went to Banff in 2015 and I would totally agree that this destination (and anywhere else in the Rockies) is one for families and taking the little ones into the wild. Great write up and loving the photos. Brings back memories 🙂

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I’m Claudia, an adventurous mom who loves to explore the world and travel with my family. This site shares modern-mom-tested family travel sanity tips, destination advice, and inspiration to stay ever curious and create lifelong travel memories.

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