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Banff with Kids

We have traveled the world with our kids and have seen some pretty incredible places. Despite these amazing experiences, I’m not sure we’ve visited anywhere better for a family vacation than our own backyard, Banff National Park. A family trip to Banff with kids is an experience you’ll never forget.

The spectacular Rocky Mountain scenery in Banff, Canada will leave you speechless. Everywhere you go in Banff is another postcard image; you’ll soak in the jagged mountain peaks, cascading waterfalls, turquoise colored lakes and emerald forests.

Mountain scenery along Bow Valley Parkway in Banff National Park

A family vacation to Banff is worth it for the scenery alone, but there also are so many fun things to do in Banff with kids. Imagine camping in a forest in the mountains, or staying at a Castle in the Rockies. Hike into the heart of a canyon to a beautiful waterfall or get whisked to the top of a mountain in a gondola. Explore a ghost town, go on a horseback ride or even hike to the top of a mountain.

The list of things to do with kids in Banff is nearly endless. With so many fun family activities and world-class scenery, you will love visiting Banff with kids!

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Best Time to Visit Banff National Park with Kids

Mid-June through mid-September will be the best time to visit Banff with kids.

June is when the mountain lakes are showing their stunning turquoise-blue color, wild flowers begin to appear and the hiking trails are dry and ready for hikers. Near the end of June, the days are warm and water activities in Banff start to pick up.

High season starts mid-June through July and August. It’s busier and prices are higher, but summer in Banff is incredible. The days are long and warm, everything is open and the mountain meadows will be teeming with wildflowers.

If winter is more your thing, plan to visit for the ski season, which then makes late November through March the best time to visit Banff in winter with kids.

How Many Days in Banff with Kids?

In all honesty, you can see the highlights of Banff National Park in a few days but we are certain you’ll want to extend that once you are in Banff.

At a minimum, plan for 5 days in Banff to see the highlights and get out hiking with kids. If you have more time, we are certain you’ll have no issues finding even more activities in Banff for kids.

Here’s a sample Banff Family Itinerary:

Day 1: We love to start by seeing a place from a different perspective. A hike up Tunnel Mountain or the Banff Gondola is perfect for this.

Spend the rest of the day exploring the Banff townsite with a visit to Bow Falls, Surprise Corner, the Hoodoos, Fenland Trail and Vermilion Lakes. Relax in the Banff Upper Hot Springs.

views of mountains and Bow River from Tunnel Mountain Hike in Banff

Day 2: Visit the birthplace of Canada National Parks at the Cave and Basin National Historic Site. Nearby activities include a walk along the Marsh loop or bike to Sundance Canyon.

Day 3: Lake Louise and Moraine Lake. Don’t miss these iconic Banff Lakes. There’s incredible hiking in the area as well, so plan to spend a full day in the area. Plan ahead and get shuttle tickets if you don’t want to worry about parking.

Hiking Johnston Canyon in Banff National Park

Day 4: Johnston Canyon is one of the most popular places in Banff National Park and for good reason! Hike through the canyon and if you have the energy, continue the hike up to the Ink Pots. If there’s time to spare, visit one of the scenic mountain lakes (Johnson Lake, Two Jack Lake or Lake Minnewanka).

Day 5: Visit the nearby mountain town of Canmore, but don’t drive there instead bike the Legacy Trail.

If you are in Banff for more than 5 days, add on more Banff activities for kids: play at the beach at Johnson Lake, enjoy a raft tour, or go horseback riding.

We also recommend planning a couple of days to spend on the Icefields Parkway or in nearby Kananaskis.

How to Get to Banff with Kids

The Calgary International Airport is the closest airport to Banff, so unless you are doing a road trip with kids to Banff, you’ll likely fly into Calgary. From Calgary, it’s a 90-minute drive to Banff. The best way to get to Banff is by renting a car in Calgary.

Especially important when traveling with kids, having a car will enable you to see more at your own pace.  If renting a car isn’t an option, it’s still possible to get around Banff without a car and staying in one of these best hotels for visiting Banff without a car will make getting around Banff with kids easier.

Where to Stay in Banff with Kids

There is such a range of places to stay in Banff to fit your personal preferences and budget.

Camping in Banff with Kids

For camping in Banff with kids, be sure to get your camping reservation for Banff well in advance.

Two Jack Main Campground is a great place to camp with kids in Banff. With Two Jack Lake, Lake Minnewanka and Johnson Lake nearby, there are plenty of Banff summer activities to do. As a bonus, it’s close enough to the town of Banff to go into town for dinner or supplies.

Alternatively, Tunnel Mountain Village Campground is closer to the town of Banff and also ha oTENTiks. These A-frame cabins are a fun way for families to enjoy comfort camping in Banff National Park.

Camping in Banff National Park with Kids at Two Jack Main Campground

Stay in one of Banff’s Iconic Hotels

While a stay at a luxury hotel in Banff might seem out of the question, if it’s within your budget the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel has a Kids at the Castle program. This program has fun Banff activities for kids aged 3 to 12, including outdoor wilderness adventures, tennis lessons, float tours and scavenger hunts.

The Banff Springs Hotel also has an indoor pool, an outdoor heated pool and even a bowling alley on-site. Plus, there are plenty of fun activities near the Banff Springs Hotel too!

Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel for a Luxury stay in Banff

Other Family Friendly Banff Hotels

There are plenty of other family friendly hotels in Banff too:

The Tunnel Mountain Resort has cabin rentals and boasts a natural mountain setting.

Hidden Ridge Resort is ideal for families visiting Banff looking for apartment-style accommodations. Families staying at the Hidden Ridge Resort will enjoy the beautiful outdoor pool, the outdoor playground and bike rentals.

If you are traveling with a pet as well, there are plenty of pet friendly hotels in Banff.

How to Save Money in Banff with Kids

Banff is known to be expensive and for families it’s even more so. There are still plenty of ways to visit Banff on a budget. Especially with kids, it’s easy to find things to do in Banff that are free.

Two simple ways to save money while in Banff with kids are:

  1. Pack a picnic for lunch.
    Planning your own breakfast and lunch really helps to save money. Having a packed lunch allows you to stop wherever you are on your daily adventure!

  2. Find free Banff activities.
    If your family is outdoorsy, most of your activities in Banff will likely be free anyways. Banff has some of the most incredible hikes and they are completely free!
Hiking Consolation Lakes in Banff with Kids

26 Things to do in Banff with Kids

1. Hike Johnston Canyon

Johnston Canyon, one of Banff’s most popular attractions, gives visitors a chance to hike up a canyon to see raging waterfalls.

Upper Falls at Johnston Canyon in Banff

While Johnston Canyon can be busy, don’t let that discourage you from visiting. Kids love the elevated platforms and getting sprayed by the Lower Falls. It’s one of the best Banff attractions with kids.

Johnston Canyon hike with Kids in Banff

visit to Johnston Canyon in 2021 will look a little different with the Bow Valley Parkway closed to vehicle traffic. This is a wonderful opportunity cycle the Bow Valley Parkway to Johnston Canyon. If that’s not an option, Roam transit route 9 can also get you from Banff to Johnston Canyon (starting May 21, 2021).

2. Banff Gondola

Kids love gondolas! This one will get you insane mountain views and a fun mountain boardwalk.

The Banff Gondola is one of the best things to do in Banff in summer. The mountain scenery will take your breath away and the Sulphur Mountain Boardwalk is an easy walk in Banff that’s well worth it. With interactive exhibits inside and a stroll along the Sulphur Mountain Boardwalk, this is a Banff experience for the entire family.

If your family is up for it, you can hike to the top of Sulphur Mountain and take the gondola down for half the regular price (5 & under are free). Strollers are not recommended for the Banff Gondola experience.

3. Visit Lake Louise

Visiting Lake Louise is a must! Take kids on a fun canoe ride on the incredible turquoise-blue water surrounded by the jagged mountain peaks.

Lake Louise Lakeshore easy hike in Banff National Park with kids

Best things to do at Lake Louise with kids:

  1. Rent a canoe and see the lake from a different perspective.
  2. Walk the easy Lake Louise Lakeshore trail.
  3. Plan a day of hiking with kids in Lake Louise. The Lake Agnes Tea House is 7.6 km out & back / 433 m elevation gain or for the more adventurous, hike to the Plain of Six Glaciers with a stop at the Plain of Six Glaciers Tea House (14.6 km out & back / 588 m elevation gain).

*Note parking at Lake Louise will be paid parking for the 2021 summer season. Get more tips on finding free parking in Banff here.

4. Visit Moraine Lake

Likely the stunning lake pictures of Banff that you’ve seen are of Moraine Lake. This glacially fed lake in Banff will have you in awe with its stunning color. Plan to  to arrive early to get a parking spot or take a pre-booked shuttle.

Moraine Lake in Banff National Park

Here are the best things to do with kids at Moraine Lake:

  1. Rent a canoe to head out on the lake.
  2. Hike the 2.6 km Moraine Lake shoreline trail.
  3. Climb up the short Moraine Lake Rockpile to the viewpoint for a different perspective.
  4. Hike to Consolation Lakes (5.8 km out & back / 255 m elevation gain).
Trail marker for Consolation Lakes Hike in Banff

5. Lake Louise Playground

This one is just for the kids! The Lake Louise playground is for the most adventurous kids. It’s located off Village Road at the Lake Louise Sport and Recreation Centre. Your kids won’t want to leave!

Lake Louise Playground - Banff National Park

6. Sunshine Meadows

The entire experience of hiking Sunshine Meadows is fun for kids. Start with a scenic 4.3km gondola ride to the ski resort. Once at the top, you take the Standish Express Quad chairlift. If you’ve been skiing at Sunshine while visiting Banff in winter, this will be a fun experience to see it in the summer.

The easiest scenic hiking route we recommend for families with small kids is Trail 2 (Standish Viewing Deck Loop) to Trail 3 (Rock Isle Junction) to Trail 1 (Rock Isle Road).

Sunshine Meadows Hiking in Banff with Kids

Get more information on the Sunshine Meadows hike here, but note that unfortunately Sunshine Meadows will be close in Summer 2021.

7. Hike Tunnel Mountain in Banff

Kids can proudly boast to their friends about summitting a mountain in Banff. The Tunnel Mountain trail is the easiest hike to a mountain summit in Banff National Park.

The Tunnel Mountain hike will reward you with excellent views of the Banff Townsite, the iconic Banff Springs Hotel and the surrounding mountain landscape of Banff National Park.

Tunnel Mountain Hike in Banff with Kids

Tunnel Mountain is one of our favorite easy hikes in Banff with the kids.

8. Vermilion Lakes

Just west of the town of Banff along the Vermilion Lakes Road are the beautiful Vermilion Lakes. You can walk or bike the Vermilion Lakes Road while enjoying the spectacular mountain views behind the three Vermilion Lakes. This road is shared with vehicle traffic but it’s slow moving traffic.

stand up paddle boarding in Banff with kids on Vermilion Lakes

The Vermilion Lakes are also an ideal place to canoe or stand up paddle in Banff with kids.

As of June 2021, Banff National Park requires a Self-Certification Permit for any non-motorized watercraft, fishing equipment and aquatic recreational equipment.

9. Fenland Loop

For an easy kid-friendly hike in Banff, walk through the wooded marshland of the Fenland Trail loop that skirts along the banks of the Forty Mile Creek. This 2.1 km easy Banff hike can be accessed right from the town of Banff.

Fenland Loop - easy hike in Banff with kids

10. Bow Falls

Bow Falls is a must-see in Banff. This wide but short waterfall will impress you with its intense flow. You can reach the Bow Falls viewpoint by enjoying a walk along paved walking trails in Banff. Cross the Banff Pedestrian Bridge from the Bow River Trail and following the paved Bow Falls Trail to the viewpoint.  

11. See the Banff Springs Hotel

Even if you aren’t staying at the iconic Banff Springs Hotel you can still see it up close. This European chateau tucked in the Canadian Rocky Mountains will impress you with its grandeur as you walk into the grand lobby.

Wishing you could stay at the Fairmont Banff Springs? Get all the tips for finding Banff Springs Hotel deals.

Surprise Corner is another stunning vantage point. This is also the location of the start of Hoodoos Trail.

12. Hoodoos Trail

You have two options to see the Hoodoos in Banff. You can park near the Hoodoos Viewpoint along Tunnel Mountain Road or you can hike the Hoodoos Trail starting at Surprise Corner. Either way, it’s worth a visit to see these interesting rock spires.

13. Visit the Scenic Mountain Lakes

You’ve already done Lake Louise and Moraine Lake, but don’t let that be the end of your visit to scenic mountain lakes in Banff. Just 20 minutes from the Banff townsite along Lake Minnewanka Scenic Drive are three glacial lakes that are well worth a visit.

Johnson Lake

Johnson Lake is an ideal place to spend a sunny summer day in Banff. At Johnson Lake you’ll find a picnic area, a small sandy beach and a short easy hike around Johnson Lake. It’s also a great place for stand up paddle boarding with kids.

Stand Up Paddle Boarding on Johnson Lake in Summer in Banff with Kids

Two Jack Lake

Two Jack Lake, home to two popular campgrounds in Banff, also has an easy walk along the shores of the lake. The lake itself is perfect for Banff watersports like canoeing, kayaking or stand up paddle boarding.

Stand Up Paddle Boarding on Two Jack Lake in Banff with kids

Lake Minnewanka

Lake Minnewanka, Banff’s largest lake, is where you can go on a boat cruise. If a boat cruise isn’t your style, you can also rent a motorboat, canoe or kayak and get on the water on your own.

Lake Minnewanka is also a popular picnic spot and the Stewart Canyon trail is an easy hike with kids.

Easy hike in Banff - Stewart Canyon trail from Lake Minnewanka

14. Cascade Ponds

While it’s not hard to find a spot for a picnic in Banff, the perfect picnic spot in Banff might just be Cascade Ponds. Cascade Ponds lies at the base of Cascade Mountain. Complete with fire pits and picnic tables, Cascade Ponds is the ideal spot to have a relaxing day.

Cascade Ponds Picnic Area in Banff National Park

Stretch your legs along the kid-friendly Banff hike is a 1.5 loop over footbridges and between the ponds.

Cascade Ponds is also reached along Lake Minnewanka Scenic Drive and it makes a good starting point for biking the Legacy Trail with kids.

15. Bike the Legacy Trail

The Rocky Mountain Legacy Trail is a 26 km paved trail that connects Canmore to Banff and is popular with visitors to Banff.

If that seems like a lot of biking to do with kids, we recommend doing it one way. Ride from Banff to Canmore as it’s mostly downhill the entire way then hop on the Roam Transit Canmore-Banff Regional (Route 3) to get back to Banff. Keep in mind the bus can only accommodate six bikes at a time.

Biking Banff Legacy Trail with Kids

When biking the Legacy Trail with kids, we recommend going early in the morning as it will be far less busy.

16. Lower Bankhead Ghost Town

Also located near Lake Minnewanka is the Lower Bankhead Ghost Town. Bankhead was a coal mining town near Banff in the early 1900’s. The remnants of this old mining town are still there and kids will love exploring along this easy hike in Banff National Park. The interpretive trail will tell the story as you walk past the ruins of the Bankhead Ghost Town 1.1 km loop.

Lower Bankhead Ghost town hike with kids

17. Cave and Basin National Historic Site

The discovery of hot springs at the Cave and Basin site led to the creation of Banff, Canada’s first national park. Visitors to the Cave and Basin will walk through a narrow tunnel to see the mineral rich water in an atmospheric cave. Then spend some time watching the movies and learning from the interactive exhibits at the Visitor Centre.

Cave and Basin National Historic Site in Banff

There are plenty of outdoor activities to enjoy at the Cave and Basin, which include easy hiking trails along the Bow River, like a walk along the Marsh Loop or the kid-friendly bike ride to Sundance Canyon.

18. Sundance Canyon Bike and Hike

From the Cave and Basin, we recommend going further to the Sundance Canyon. It’s a paved trail (3.7 km one way) with impressive mountain views. This is a great spot to bike with kids in Banff. Once at the Sundance Canyon, there’s a place to lock up bikes before completing the 1.6 km loop on foot.

Sundance Canyon biking with kids in Banff

Though Sundance Canyon is a short Banff hike, there are some challenging spots where younger kids will need some help.

The entire excursion can be done by walking, but it makes for an excellent bike ride in Banff with kids. On the way back, take a slight detour off the paved trail by finishing along the Marsh Loop.

19. Banff Upper Hot Springs

It’s easy to be on the go all the time, with so many things to do in Banff with kids. Take some time to relax and soak those tired muscles at the Banff Upper Hot Springs.

Banff Upper Hot Springs are located near the top of Sulphur Mountain and 4 km from the Banff townsite.

20. Icefields Parkway

From Lake Louise you can drive North up the Icefields Parkway. The Icefields Parkway is one of the worlds most scenic drives as it winds itself up through both Banff and Jasper Nationals parks over 232 kilometers.

Visiting the Icefields Parkway is worth spending an entire day on this drive and stopping at the many attractions along the way. Peyto Lake, Mistaya Canyon, Sunwapta Falls, Columbia Icefield and the Athabasca Falls are all great spots to stop.

21. Spot wildlife

One of the main attractions of Banff National Park, besides the mountains themselves, is spotting the Rocky Mountain wildlife in their natural habitat. Save some time for viewing wildlife or join an organized tour like this evening wildlife safari.

Pika - Banff Wildlife

22. Horseback riding

See Banff from the back of a horse as you join a trail ride for an hour or for the afternoon. With so many options and no experience required, this is a fun Banff activity for the entire family.

*Kids must be 8 years or older for the horseback riding in Banff

23. Raft Tour

Take the kids on a scenic float down the Bow River with Rocky Mountain Raft Tours. You’ll get a different perspective seeing the mountains from the water and with any luck spot some wildlife along the way.

24. Banff Avenue

With so much to do during the day, spend the evenings walking along Banff Avenue where you can try the many different restaurants and visit all the shops.

The kids will be excited to stop in the Banff Sweet Shoppe or the Fudgery for some amazing treats.

25. Visit Nearby Canmore with Kids

Canmore is a scenic mountain town just to the east of the Banff Park Gates. It’s a great place to stay for anyone on a budget and there’s plenty to do in Canmore with kids.

Hike to Grassi Lakes

Grassi Lakes is one of the most popular Canmore hikes and once you do it you’ll see why. Hiking to Grassi Lakes is an easy 2 km hike on a wide trail through the forest that ends at the stunning blue-green lakes.

Grassi Lakes Easy Hike in Canmore

Explore Canmore Walking Trails

Canmore has an extensive pathway system that’s perfect for a stroll or a bike ride with kids. The Bow River Loop Trail is one of the most popular Canmore walking trails that is 2 km long and takes walkers across the impressive Canmore Engine Bridge, built in 1891 by Canadian Pacific Railway.

Especially for kids, take a slight detour to stop at the West Canmore Park playground. Kids can play while parents enjoy the incredible scenery.

West Canmore Park Playground for kids

Quarry Lake

Quarry Lake is perfect for an especially hot summer day in the mountains. This small lake has a nice 1 km loop around it plus a small beach where kids can play. Quarry Lake is a fun place to stand up paddle board in Canmore.

Quarry Lake parking fees: Effective May 14, 2021 visitors will have to pay to park at Quarry Lake. Quarry Lake paid parking will be in place the entire year, seven days a week from 7am to 10pm. In peak season, parking at Quarry Lake will cost $20 for 4 hours ($10 for 4 hours in non-peak season).

Hike Heart Creek

While technically in Kananaskis but only 17 km from Canmore is the popular and kid friendly Heart Creek trail. Kids will love crossing the wooden bridges over Heart Creek throughout the hike.  Hiking Heart Creek trail is so much fun for kids.

Hike Heart Creek Trail in Kananaskis with Kids

Canmore Ice Cream Bus

Every Canmore adventure should end at the popular Canmore Ice Cream Bus.

Canmore Ice Cream Bus

Hike in Kananaskis

With extra time in the area, Kananaskis is well worth a visit. There are some incredible easy hikes in Kananaskis that even parents will love. These are some of our favorite hikes in Kananaskis with kids.

Wildlife in Banff National Park

What to Pack for Visiting Banff with Kids

Whether you are visiting Banff in the summer or in the spring/fall seasons, you’ll want to pack the following:

  1. Warm layers

    Yes, even in the summer it can be chilly and you’ll be glad you have them. Choose warm layers that pack small and that you can carry around with you. As you hike to higher elevations, the air will get much colder and you’ll be glad you have them.

  2. Rain gear

    You don’t want to miss getting outside, even if it is raining. Rain gear is easy to pack and doesn’t take a lot of space.

  3. Hiking shoes

    Hiking shoes or boots are much better for hiking in the mountains. Sure, you can get by with runners on the easy hikes, but for anything more challenging we recommend a good hiking shoe for the whole family. You’ll get more ankle support and more traction on slippery trails.

  4. Backpack

    Have a good backpack for when you’ll be inevitably taking layers on and off. You’ll also need room for your packed lunch and plenty of water.

  5. Battery Pack

    Taking plenty of pictures will make your phone battery die faster, be prepared with a portable battery pack.

  6. Hats

    You’ll be spending a lot of time outside, so you’ll be glad to have some sun protection. Especially if heading out on the water, make sure to pack a sun hat.

  7. Water Bottles

    Make sure you always have plenty of water on hand, especially for hiking in Banff in the summer. An easier solution is to fill a water bladder, so you have enough water for everyone.

  8. Other items to pack

    Bathing suit, sun screen, and bug spray.
Hiking in Banff with Kids - C Level Cirque Hike

Tips for Hiking in Banff with Kids

  1. Be wildlife smart.

    Never approach wildlife for a picture, travel in a group and make a lot of noise. Bring bear spray and know how to use it. If you don’t own bear spray, rent or purchase bear spray in Banff.

  2. Choose hikes within your abilities.

    There are plenty of Banff hikes for kids that will be within the abilities of all members of your family. If something gets too difficult, don’t stress about turning back. It’s better to live to hike another day than to do something you aren’t prepared for or knowledgeable about.

  3. Plan ahead.

    Use an app like AllTrails to download maps before heading out on the trails.

    Have a backup plan for your phone in case the battery dies. Pack portable charger as a backup plan for your phone. Taking all those pictures will cause your battery to die sooner than you think. Finally, don’t depend on cell service as it’s not available in a lot of areas.

  4. Pack hiking essentials for the day.

    The weather can change quickly in the mountains. Always pack warm layers if heading out on a long hike. See all our kids hiking essentials here.

    Bring plenty of water and snacks with you. Don’t forget the bear spray and carry it in an easy to reach place with a Scat Belt.

  5. Have the right hiking gear.

    You don’t need expensive gear, but proper footwear makes a big difference on harder and longer hikes. We also recommend a good backpack to carry all your warm layers.

    For families traveling to Banff with a baby or toddler, bring a baby or toddler carrier. We recommend using a hiking backpack carrier.
Bear in Banff National Park

Gear Rentals in Banff & Area

Camping gear

Unless you are driving to Banff, it’s not likely you’ll have camping gear with you. Don’t let that stop you! You can rent camping gear in Banff from the following places:

Rental Bikes for Kids

For kids who can fit a 20” or 24” tire bike, you can find kid bike rentals in Banff, Lake Louise and Canmore. Kids aged 5 and half years old to around 8 years old should fit a 20″ tire bike, where a 24″ tired bike will fit 8-11 years old. For visiting Banff with toddlers or children under the age of 5, a chariot trailer or trail-a-bike is a good option.

Make sure to get an appropriately sized helmet for both you and your child as part of your bike rental.

Bear Spray

Plan to rent or purchase your bear spray when you arrive in Canmore or in Banff. Bear spray can be rented at the following places in Banff, Lake Louise and Canmore

Stand Up Paddle Board Rentals

Watch our Banff with Kids web story here.

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