Banff National Park is the ultimate RV destination. In fact, it seems as though there are more RVs on the road there than cars! So, if Banff is on your bucket list, as it should be, start planning an RV trip today. We’re here to help with the top, can’t-miss activities. Also, be sure to read our tips for crossing the Canadian border in an RV, too.
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Where to Camp
There are many campgrounds in Banff National Park to choose from. We stayed at, and highly recommend, Tunnel Mountain. It’s very conveniently located to downtown Banff and has stunning mountain views from nearly every site in the park. The tunnel mountain trail goes through the campground and is an easy, but scenic hike, that you can do just steps from your RV.
Tunnel Mountain campground has a variety of sites, some with full hook ups and private space. Other’s with just electricity and a picnic table where you basically parallel park along a road. While we had the latter, and weren’t thrilled about the space, we couldn’t get enough of the views!
We also stayed at Lake Louise Campground to be closer to the main reason we visited Banff- the turquoise colored lakes! Lake Louise Campground was nestled in the woods, alongside a river, and while each site fits 2 RVs side by side, we loved how tranquil the campground was. The train, that runs throughout the day and early in the morning, was a definite downside, but it gets you out of bed at sunrise so you can beat the crowds to Lake Louise and Moraine Lake! You can’t beat the location and convenience to the two most popular attractions in the park.
Top Can’t-Miss Activities in Banff National Park
White Water Rafting
We typically don’t do many tours on our travels, but you absolutely can’t visit Banff National Park without getting on the Bow River. Since we were traveling with 4 other friends, we wanting to do something memorable and exciting together, and were so happy we chose a half-day rafting tour with Chinook Rafting.
We chose to do the Horseshoe Canyon Trip and it was the perfect mix of thrill and relaxation. We conquered some class 3 and 4 rapids, but then got to sit back and float at the end of the trip and hear the history of the area. We learned some interesting facts, including movies that have been filmed along the river, and loved that we had time to sit back and soak in the breathtaking scenery.
Our favorite part of the trip, however, was the cliff jumping! The guys, and thrill seekers, chose a 30 ft. cliff and the girls played it safe with a 10 ft. cliff. Overall, it was such a unique rafting experience and Chinook is THE rafting guide to choose in the Banff/Calgary area. It was some of our friend’s first time rafting, and while they were nervous, everyone was impressed by how professional, safe, but fun the guides were.
You won’t get greater views of Banff National Park than at the top of Sulphur Mountain summit! The Banff Gondola is rated Banff’s #1 attraction and offers sweeping views of the Bow Valley along with six mountain ranges! The base of the gondola has a Starbucks, in case you need to fuel up for the experience. After an 8 minute ride up, the facility at the top features a boardwalk, history of the park, several hiking trails, and even dining options!
Johnston Canyon was recommended to us by nearly everyone we talked to about what to do in Banff. We’re so glad we listened because it was one of the coolest hikes we’ve ever done! It’s an easy, well paved trail and a perfect, low-key, short hike for all abilities and ages. But, what makes it so special, are the catwalks that are built into the limestone cliffs that lead you deep into the canyon and over the raging creek!
The trail features bridges and platforms that give you views that would have otherwise been impossible to see, unless you were a skilled climber or canyoner. The trail to the Lower Falls leads you to a tunnel that takes you through a canyon rock and gives you an up close and personal view of the waterfall. You can feel the power and will get misted by the water! The Upper Falls trail gives you a more elevated view of the falls so you get the best of both worlds. We give this hike 5 stars!
Where do we even begin? Our goal was to see as many beautiful alpine lakes as possible because each one was unique in it’s color and splendor! Whether you choose to hike around the lakes, canoe across them, or just sit and stare in wonder, you won’t be disappointed. The photos speak for themselves, but we can’t stress enough that if you only have time to do one thing in Banff National Park, you MUST see it’s lakes!
Banff is most known for Lake Louise, and it’s everything you dream it to be. Lake Moraine, however was our absolute favorite. Peyto Lake was high up there for us as well and had the bluest water we’ve ever seen – it’s a blue you can’t even describe! Lake Minnewanka, Emerald Lake, Bow Lake, and Herbert Lake were also a few of our favorites and again, each one offers something different and evokes different emotions.
The only thing better than a scenic hike to an alpine lake, is enjoying some tea at the top! Banff National Park prides itself on it’s two charming tea houses: Lake Agnes Tea House and Plain Of Six Glaciers Tea House. Both offer cozy atmospheres, breathtaking views, delicious food, and of course, tea that will warm your soul.
There are two Fairmont locations in Banff National Park. The Fairmont Banff Springs is within walking distance to town and is world famous. It’s a Scottish castle-style building and offers great dining options, a spa, a golf course, and so so much more! The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise sits right beside Lake Louise and almost steals the show. It exudes luxury and offers similar amenities as the Fairmont Banff Springs. We enjoyed strolling around inside, working at the coffee shop, and dreaming of the day we will go from RV life to Suite life! Both are definitely work a visit.
Hot springs and mountains just go together, and there’s nothing quite like a soak after a long day of adventuring. Banff Upper Hot Springs and The Fairmont’s hot springs are the closest hot springs in the area. If you’re up for a day trip and prefer hot springs to be more in nature, you can also drive approximately 2 hours to Radium Hot Springs or 3 hours to Lussier Hot Springs.
Banff is the quintessential mountain town and you can’t pass up the opportunity to stroll along it’s charming, flower filled streets. It’s packed with great shops and restaurants and surrounded by beauty. You’ll have views of the Canadian Rockies in the distance and the bow river within steps. There’s plenty of RV parking lots, too, that you can park in for up to 12 hours!
We enjoyed cheap beer and 1/2 priced wings at Bruno’s, a locals joint, on Tuesday. Banff Ave. Brewing Co. has a great balcony (and beer!), Bear Street Tavern is a great spot for pizza, and don’t pass up the ice cream shops and delicious BeaverTails! If you prefer wine, you might enjoy Rose & Crown for half priced bottles on Wednesdays, and nightly live music.
We hope we’ve helped you plan your bucket list RV trip to Banff National Park! There are so many more things to do in Banff that a return trip for us is already in order. It’s truly a spectacular park and destination, and we know you’ll fall in love with it as much as we did.
What other Banff National Park recommendations did we miss?
We’d love to hear them! Leave them in the comments below!