Alberta's resort town of Banff is a famous Rocky Mountain destination in Canada. It is at the heart of Banff National Park, the country’s oldest national park. Fall is the best time to go to Banff, but there are great reasons to visit any time of year.
When you choose to go to Banff really depends on what you wish to see and do. The Spring months are ideal for wildlife spotting — and Summer is best if you want to ride on the Rocky Mountaineer train. Winter is a prime for skiing and other snow sports. Winter also offers an iconic cozy holiday in a Winter wonderland and the unique experience of riding VIA Rail’s snow train.
At Canadian Train Vacations, we’ve been helping visitors to Canada plan trips for almost 30 years. Using our base itineraries, we can tailor make a trip for you, with personalized add-ons. Many of our vacations include time in Banff. Our travel experts — local Canadian insiders — can help you find the perfect time to visit Banff. This will be based on your preferences, activities and availability.
Explore: Vancouver to Banff Train Tours
Best Season to Visit Banff
Fall is the best season to visit Banff. The weather is pleasant, with temperatures neither too hot nor too cold. There's still plenty of sunny days to take in the spectacular scenery. You can enjoy the striking colours of fall foliage. Hiking, biking, boating and other activities are still available. Plus, there are fewer people to disturb the tranquility and push up prices.
That said, each season offers good reasons to go to Banff, with a variety of things to see and do.
If there is one, early spring is the worst season to go to Banff. The weather can be cooler and unpredictable. Winter activities are largely wrapped up. And it's still too early to enjoy some of the activities associated with later spring and summer.
Many people wonder if it is better to visit Banff in summer or winter. It depends on what you want to do. If sightseeing, hiking, biking and watersports are high on your list, these are the top summer activities in the Canadian Rockies. If you're dreaming of snow-covered landscapes and days out on the slopes, winter would be a better season to visit Banff.
Winter in Banff
Pros of visiting Banff in Winter:
- World-class skiing, snowboarding and other snow sports.
- The mountains look magical when blanketed in thick snow.
- The cold evenings are ideal for cozy après ski activities, relaxing in front of a roaring fire and enjoying nights in charming log cabins.
- You have the chance to see the Northern Lights.
- Christmas markets and seasonal celebrations help to add to the winter wonderland vibe.
Cons of visiting Banff in Winter:
- It is cold! Low temperatures and dark days can be unappealing for visitors who don't enjoy winter sports.
- Banff can be busy around the holidays. Hotel prices often increase, so accommodation reservations should be made in advance.
- Train tours are reduced.
- The Rocky Mountaineer does not run.
- Many natural attractions are inaccessible in Winter.
#1 Travel tip: Ride the Gondola
No matter the time of year, plan to ride up Banff Gondola. In winter, time your visit around sunset so you can experience both the views and Nightrise, the multimedia light show at the summit.
Summer in Banff
Pros of visiting Banff in the Summer:
- Summer includes July, the warmest month, with plenty of sunshine and daylight.
- It’s the best time to access the area’s natural attractions, including Banff National Park, Lake Louise iers and the Icefield Parkway.
- Tours are plentiful and you can enjoy a full range of exciting rail trips.
Cons of visiting Banff in Summer:
- Accommodation prices are at a premium in Banff.
- There are many visitors and parking can be difficult.
#2 Travel tip: Book a guided hike
With professional guides and small groups, a guided hike is an immersive way to experience Banff National Park year-round — including fall colour hikes in autumn and canyon ice-walks in winter.
Banff in Spring
Pros of visiting Banff in Spring:
- As a shoulder season, it can be a good time to get deals on accommodation.
- You should still be able to enjoy a selection of winter activities, though not as many as during the winter.
- The snowy landscapes are peaceful.
Cons of visiting Banff in Spring:
- Spring offers a much more limited choice of activities than winter and summer.
- There are fewer touring options.
- The low visitor numbers can mean reduced opening hours at attractions, restaurants, shops and other tourist-focused businesses.
Banff in Fall
Pros of visiting Banff in Fall:
- Enjoy the stunning scenery without the crowds.
- Fall colours brighten the landscapes and create extraordinary views.
- It's easier to spot wildlife.
- There are plentiful tours to choose from.
- You can take advantage of lower hotel rates.
- The Rocky Mountaineer runs for the early part of the season.
- Golf courses commonly offer discounts.
- The weather is still warm enough to enjoy outdoor adventures.
Cons of visiting Banff in Fall:
- Some travelers may find the chillier fall days a bit too cold, particularly toward the end of the season.
Best months to visit Banff
Overall, May, June and September are the best months to visit Banff. These months have warm weather but there are fewer crowds. Hotel prices can also be lower in May and June.
If you're hoping to hit the slopes, March is the best time to visit Banff in winter. March has warmer weather, longer hours of daylight, and good snow conditions.
“September in Banff is gorgeous,” says Shannon Brand, vacation advisor at Canadian Train Vacations. “You can take advantage of all the summer activities but avoid the busiest months.”
If you hate crowds, the peak summer months of July and August could be the worst time to visit Banff. Travellers who dislike the cold should avoid December through March.
The peak months in Banff are between June and August for summer tourism and from December to March for winter visits.
While each month has something to offer, you can enjoy a full range of rail tours during the summer. Many of these tours stop in Banff. Winter also offers memorable train journeys, where you can take in the snowy landscape from the comfort of a cozy sleeper cabin.
Discover the Rockies Rail Winter Wonderland
January is the coldest month of the year in Banff. Average lows are around 5°F. It can be a great month for skiing and winter activities, but daylight is limited to fewer than nine hours. Some local roads are typically closed because of hazard risks, which can limit sightseeing.
There are festivities for New Year, but Banff is generally quiet after that, if you prefer relative solitude on vacation.
Major events in January include Ice Magic, where Canadian artists compete to create the most elaborate ice sculptures. There’s also the family friendly SnowDays, with skiing, skating, dog sledding, sleigh rides, tubing and ice art. TRIBUTE Craft Spirits Celebration is an excellent time for food and drink lovers to sample local fare.
In February, Banff weather is still very cold. Daytime temperatures hover around 30°F but it gets colder. Days are getting a bit longer, with around 10 hours of daylight by the middle of the month. It's among the best months to enjoy gorgeous snow- and ice-covered landscapes. The cold evenings supply plenty of opportunities to snuggle in front of a cozy fireplace. After January's lull, more visitors start arriving in Banff during February. Popular activities include skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, skating and ice climbing. Cross-country skiers join the completive Kananaskis Ski Marathon, and the third Monday of the month is Family Day.
In March, the days are warmer and longer. Average temperatures rise to 29°F. There's less snowfall but the slopes are still covered in powdery snow. You can enjoy a full range of winter sports while also enjoying spells of sunshine and catching the odd glimpses of spring.
“March is a good time to indulge in Banff’s apres-ski culture,” Brand says. “There are lots of options from cozy pubs and breweries to upscale cocktail bars.”
In April, the Banff weather is changeable. It can vary from warm sunshine to blizzards. Make sure you pack for all eventualities. Daytime highs reach 54°F with temperatures dropping substantially at night. The ski conditions are still reliable, and wildlife is starting to appear, too. Considered a shoulder month, April brings fewer visitors to Banff. Many tours do not run during this month.
At the end of April, the Rocky Mountaineer starts running again through the Canadian Rockies.
Discover: Canadian Rockies Train Tours
By May, Spring is in the air. Ski season is starting to wind down. Daytime highs are above around 57°F. Still part of the shoulder season, May is considered one of the best times to visit Banff, Alberta. There is a wide range of things to do, without the summer crowds. Accommodation costs are typically lower, with more availability. Brave skiers may want to try their luck in the unusual Slush Cup. This local event involves skiing down a slope and straight into cold slushy water!
In June, Banff is gearing up for summer, as more tourists start to arrive. The weather is getting warmer, with average highs around 66°F. You will need to book accommodations in advance. Prices will be higher than the winter too. Many people wonder if June is a good time to visit Banff. The pros for visiting in June include fewer crowds than later in the summer. It’s also cheaper than the high season. The major con is that June can be the wettest month in Banff. If you go in June, be sure to pack raingear.
“If you’re visiting Banff between May and October, a perfect activity is a cruise on Minnewanka Lake,” says Fernando Florian, a Vacation Advisor at Canadian Train Vacations. “It’s a beautiful glacier-fed lake and you get an amazing view of the surrounding mountains.”
July is a prime tourism month in Banff. Visitors come in droves, keen to explore the region's natural splendor. Hiking and biking are popular activities. It’s a wonderful time to visit Lake Louise and Lake Moraine. Banff's lakes and rivers also offer fun water activities. You can try canoeing, kayaking, rafting, swimming and fishing.
July is the hottest month in Banff. The days are long and sunny, with an average daytime temperature of 72°F. It's also the sunniest month, with an average of 255 hours of sunshine. To escape the heat for a while, check out the indoor attractions. Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies, Buffalo Nations Museum and Banff Park Museum are all in the downtown.
If you're in town at the start of the month, enjoy the lively Canada Day celebrations, complete with concerts, parades, fireworks, food and drink.
The warm, sunny weather continues with average highs of 71°F. August is the best time to visit Banff in summer for flower and nature viewing. The lack of cloud coverage makes for impressive views from lookout points along mountain trails. But the combination of hotter days and more people can make wildlife more elusive. It's also an ideal time to visit for historic and cultural attractions. During Doors Open Banff, in August, heritage properties allow free admission.
September is still warm with average highs of 63°F. Many family visitors have left, so the area is a little quieter. The leaves start changing colour, creating striking hues of red, russet and gold. September is the best time to visit Banff National Park if you want to see the famous golden larches, the local trees that turn bright yellow. Enjoy world-class hiking with fewer people on the trails. Creatures like deer, elk, mountain goats and bighorn sheep often come out more when the tourists have gone.
Discover: National Park Train Tours
By October, temperatures are dropping. Average daytime highs hit 50°F and average lows go to 30°F. Despite the chill, there's plenty of bright sunshine. Snowfall is common at the end of the month. Crowds are minimal and accommodation is reasonably priced.
October's events include Banff Pride and Banff Springs Food and Wine Festival. There’s also a film and book festival.
In November, Banff has wintry weather, with average highs of 37°F. November marks the official start of Banff's ski season. The quieter slopes, low tourist numbers and better accommodation deals make November the best time to visit Banff for skiing. The month features several events, including Banff Craft Beer Festival and Lake Louise Audi FIS Ski World Cup.
The weather in Banff in December is very wintery. There is snowfall, fog, clouds and ice. Cold temperatures hit lows of 8°F. Despite the cold, December's excellent skiing make this a popular month for winter tourism. Banff's vibrant Christmas markets are perfect for picking up seasonal gifts and souvenirs.
Is Banff worth visiting?
Yes. Our travel agree that Banff is worth visiting. The national park is known worldwide for its natural beauty. It has snow-capped mountains and picture-perfect lakes. There are few places in the world that can compare with the wonder of Banff. It also has activities and events to suit almost any travel taste.
Learn about our Canadain Rockies Discovery Tour
Frequently Asked Questions
Is it Better to Visit Banff in Summer or Winter?
For a rail vacation, summer is the best time for the Rocky Mountaineer, as it does not run in the winter. For hiking and sightseeing, summer is also the best time to visit Banff. For skiing and snow sports, visit Banff in the winter.
When Is the Best Time to Visit Banff for Skiing?
Banff's ski season runs from November to May, with the most popular ski period between December and March.
How Many Days Do You Need to Visit Banff?
You can cover the highlights in two days, but a minimum of 4 days is recommended to fully appreciate Banff's appeal.
Is Banff Crowded in the Summer?
The town of Banff can be busy throughout the summer but you can still find secluded spots in the national park. To account for the demand, you should book your summer accommodation as far in advance as possible.
Does it Rain a Lot in Banff?
Banff does see significant rainfall throughout the year, particularly between April and October. June is the wettest month. However, it doesn't typically rain for the whole day; it's more common to experience brief showers and short thunderstorms.
When Is the Best Time to Visit Banff for Hiking?
The best time of year to go to Banff for hiking is between late spring and early fall. Weather-wise, the summer is the best time for hiking. However, there are more hikers on the trails in summer, so if you prefer quieter conditions, spring and fall are better.
About the author: Athena McKenzie is the Managing Editor at Fresh Tracks Canada. An experienced lifestyle journalist, she has written about travel, design, arts and entertainment. Her work has appeared in The Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, Zoomer Magazine, Elle Canada and... Read more
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