The Best Time to Visit Banff National Park

Banff National Park

Getty Images/Witold Skrypczak

 

The best time to Visit Banff National Park is during the summer or winter seasons: December to March and June to August. Canada’s first national park, which is part of the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a stunning place to visit and as such, sees more than 3 million visitors a year. During the winter months, the park becomes a haven for snow sports enthusiasts while the summer months are ideal for enjoying the park’s shimmering lakes and hiking and biking. The shoulder seasons of spring and fall still offer things to see and do, but weather can be unpredictable so planning ahead is key.

Weather

Banff National Park has a subarctic climate which means the region gets cold, snowy winters and mild summers. January is the coldest month in the park, while July sees the warmest temperatures. During the winter months the park’s peaks and ski hills get quite a bit of snow, which can often remain well into spring. No matter when you visit, you will need to be prepared for inclement weather and unpredictable temperatures, especially in the fall and winter seasons.

Crowds

You can expect the most crowds in Banff National Park during July and August, when visitors take advantage of the more than 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers) of maintained trails and the many biking trails catering to everyone from beginners to advanced riders. The warm weather and myriad natural attractions draw visitors from across Canada and beyond, so you should expect higher rates at hotels.

Tourist Attraction Availability

If you are planning to visit Banff National Park with the intention of hiking, note that many trails are still covered with snow and can still be subject to avalanche hazard until late June. Those interested in visiting the park for snow sports should note that ski season starts in late November and ends in early May. Moraine Lake and the Columbia Icefields cannot be accessed during the winter months because the roads leading to them are closed due to the risk of avalanche. The road to Lake Moraine usually opens up in mid- to late May, but you should be able to access the icefields beginning in mid-April.

Peyto Lake in the springtime
Jeff R Clow / Getty Images

Spring

Spring in Banff National Park can be an unpredictable time weather-wise, but since this is considered part of shoulder season, you will see far fewer visitors. This means potential savings on accommodations as well as the opportunity to hike quieter trails (assuming they are open, which depends on weather). Before heading out you’ll want to consult the Parks Canada website for up-to-date trail conditions. Even if higher elevation trails remain closed, there are still a number of lower elevation trails to check out. Spring visitors can also still hit the slopes for some end-of-season skiing. The average high temperature at this time of year is around 50 degrees F (10 degrees C).

Events to check out:

  • Banff Yoga Festival: Find your inner calm during this late spring event, which brings together teachers and practitioners of yoga, meditation, and mindfulness. There are also cooking classes, yoga talks, wellness workshops, and more.
  • Banff Marathon: This annual event offers the chance to run through some of the country’s most scenic landscapes. Participants can choose from full and half marathon distances, as well as a 10K race.

Summer

Summer is the most popular time to visit Banff National Park thanks to warm, sunny days that offer the chance to take full advantage of the numerous activities to choose from. Summer is prime time for hiking and biking, as well as for exploring the beautiful rivers and lakes of Banff National Park by canoe, kayak, stand up paddleboard, or raft. Fishing is also a popular activity during the warmer months, especially on Lake Minnewanka and in the Upper Bow River. For something less physical, go for a scenic drive along the Icefields Parkway (Highway 93).

Despite warm days, note that temperatures do dip in the evenings due to the park’s high elevation. July is the warmest month, with an average high of 72 degrees F (22 degrees C).

Events to check out:

  • Canada Day: Banff is one of the best places to celebrate the nation’s birthday. Expect all sorts of events, including parades, live performances, and fireworks amidst a lively atmosphere.
Autumn Drive In Canadian Rockies, Icefields Parkway, Alberta, Canada
Feng Wei Photography / Getty Images

Fall

Like springtime, fall in Banff National Park is considered part of shoulder season, with fewer visitors than you would see in summer or during peak ski season. The temperature dips, with frost on the ground appearing by mid-October and snow starting to cover the mountain peaks. Fall visitors can enjoy quiet trails for hiking (check with Parks Canada regarding trail access) and if you visit in late fall, you can take advantage of the start of the ski season.

Events to check out:

  • Banff Craft Beer Festival: Beer lovers will want to consider this brew-focused fest, which takes place in Banff's Cave and Basin National Historic Site and is held each year in late November. Sample beers from more than 40 local vendors.
  • Banff Whiskey Experience: Early fall sees this three-day whiskey festival arrive in Banff where you can sample the wares from more than 70 distilleries from around the world.
  • Banff Christmas Market: Get into the festive spirit early with the Banff Christmas Market, which takes place in late November. Visitors can enjoy everything from live music and visits with Santa, to mulled wine and the chance to shop local vendors.

Winter

Winter is another very popular time to visit Banff National Park for the abundant opportunities to take part in winter sports, from skiing and snowboarding at three world-class ski resorts, to snowshoeing, ice skating, dog sledding, ice climbing, and winter hiking. Snow is in abundance on the peaks and ski hills, while snowfall in the town of Banff is more moderate. In terms of temperature, January is the coldest month when you can expect average lows of around minus 5 degrees F (minus 15 degrees C).

Events to check out:

  • Snow Days Festival: This late January festival is all about celebrating winter weather. Expect activities for all ages, as well as an international ice carving competition, snow sculptures, local food and more.
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