Things to do near Banff in the Spring
Have you ever considered visiting Banff and the surrounding area in April or early in the spring? I have to admit, when I started looking up things to do near Banff in the springtime, I was a little worried that there would be too much snow for us to see many of the sights, and terrible rainy weather with few mountain views. Still, if you are willing to risk less than perfect weather, visiting Banff (and Jasper) in the springtime can be incredibly rewarding.
My little brother, George and his awesome wife Cerys came to visit us in Vancouver, then we had an epic road trip via Wells Gray Provincial Park to Jasper. Then, after a few days in Jasper we did the most spectacular drive along the Icefields Parkway. We then had two days to explore Banff and the surrounding area. I thought I should share what we did over those days, just in case it helps other explorers who’d like to see the sights while there is still plenty of snow.
Why it’s great to visit Banff in the Spring
Banff is incredibly busy so if you visit in the summer time you will need to book restaurants in advance, expect trouble parking and be ready to hike with hoards of people. As the spring weather can be temperamental, fewer people are willing to risk their postcard-perfect views. This means hotels are cheaper and it is much easier to visit Banff’s more famous attractions. We didn’t have any problems getting seats in restaurants without reservations. We managed to park at lake Louise in the early afternoon (shocking, I know!) And we didn’t see any other hikers on our walks (apart from at Johnston Canyon, but that is the exception that proves the rule!)
If you visit Banff in springtime, you won’t be able to see the crazy blue coloured lakes, as they will probably still be frozen. But if you think ice-covered lakes are still beautiful, you’ll love it.
Map of Highlights – Banff in Spring
Meet some wildlife
My favourite thing about visiting the Canadian Rockies is seeing all the wildlife. The first time we visited Lake Louise, we saw four grizzly bears, a mum and three babies. This time we saw so many deer, elk, golden-mantled ground squirrels, douglas squirrels and this huge, beautiful black bear.
We didn’t go skiing in Banff this time (we went to Jasper.) But if you like the idea of skiing near Banff, there are plenty of options. The main three ski hills are Banff Sunshine Village, Mount Norquay and Lake Louise Ski resort. You can read more about your Banff ski options on the Banff and Lake Louise website.
Hoodoos are cool rock formations that have been eroded into spiky shapes. The Hoodoos trail is a really good walk for early in the season when higher alpine trails are still covered in snow or have risque of avalanches. We did this hike in the snow last year, and although it was lovely walking through the woodland, we never saw the views. This time we drove straight to the viewpoint to see the hoodoos. You can see see them to the left of the photo below, below the trail.
As you can see, in springtime, you won’t see the normal crazy-blue colours of lakes that the Rockies are famous for. There are some pretty (and super easy) walks along the edge of Lake Minnewanka. We saw deer around the edge of the lake and some crazy people were walking on the ice (even though it was very thin!)
This is the view of Lake Minnewanka from up on the C-level Cirque trail.
The first hike we did this spring was the C-level Cirque trail. The trail follows switchbacks through the forest to a naturally formed glacial bowl high on Cascade Mountain. There are pretty amazing views to make the effort worth the 455 m elevation gain.
Two Jacks Lake
We stopped by Two Jacks Lake on the way back from Lake Minnewanka. You can walk along the lake shore and see gorgeous mountain views. While we were there most of the lake was frozen, but it had started to thaw around the edges, and by the teeny island.
Castle Mountain Lookout
We went on to climb up to the Castle Mountain Lookout right after hiking the C-level Cirque trail. This trail takes you up to an old fire lookout. It is a bit harder than the hike up to C-level Cirque (especially when you’ve already been up one mountain that day!) But as always near Banff, the views were spectacular.
Johnston Canyon is another easy (but pretty) hike that is safe to do in the springtime. In April the trail was still very icy, but if you have microspikes it’s a great walk. Even if you don’t have spikes, we saw plenty of people sliding their way down the trail. This was the busiest area that we explored, so don’t expect this area to be a quiet, wilderness experience as you hike to the waterfalls.
The waterfalls were half frozen and very beautiful.
The top spot to visit in Banff in the Spring (well, at any time of year) is Lake Louise. You can hike up to Lake Agnes at this time of year, but I wouldn’t advise doing the highline trail or the Plain of the Six Glaciers trail. We wandered along the Lakeshore trail in one direction, and then returned by walking on the ice.
The weather kept changing from gorgeous to rainy and misty. Whenever the air cleared, it was beautiful.
It’s just a little different to the normal views canoeing on Lake Louise!
Emerald Lake was our favourite stop off on our previous road trip from Vancouver to Banff. So we were keen to show it to George and Cerys. It turns out autumn views and early spring views are pretty similar with snow-covered mountains in all directions.
Here’s the same view (from October), just with newer snow, and less ice.
Natural bridge is a cool stop-off on the road up to Emerald Lake. It is a natural rock formation that forms a bridge over a bright blue mini waterfall. The first time we visited this area, we drove straight past, so I’m gad we visited this time around.
There is a less-natural bridge to give the views of the natural bridge.
Eat tasty food near Banff
There are quite a few fantastic places to eat in and around Banff. I’ve added them all on to the map above.
Storm Mountain Lodge – This was the best meal we had in the area. The bison tenderloin was full of flavour and the wine was incredible.
Block Kitchen – We *love* this place! They serve Asian-fusion tapas and really good cocktails.
Juniper Bistro – I liked our dinner here but LOVED breakfast the following morning. They serve one of the best salmon bennys I’ve ever had, plus the view is gorgeous.
The Fairmont Banff Springs – Come here for amaaaaazing boozy hot chocolates.
Tooloulou’s – George and Cerys loved this for massive, gluten free breakfast options.
Grizzly House Restaurant – This was okay-ish. They serve exotic meats, but it is a bit of a tourist trap.
When on holiday, you may fancy a good drink too.
I hope you like the look of Banff in the spring. I have to admit, I was not sure how much we’d be able to see and do in April. But in the end, I loved every second of this trip and I think George and Cerys got to see Banff at its best. We had the gorgeous views, but without the crowds.
If you’re thinking of visiting Banff early in the season, or if you like this post, please click on the images below to pin them.
58 thoughts on “Things to do near Banff in the Spring”
Looks absolutely lovely, Josy!
Thank you! You have such a pretty country!!
Well it’s your country now too!
What fabulous photos of one of the world’s most beautiful places. We visited Banff in the summer and absolutely loved it but it looks like it’s even more spectacular in the winter. Brilliant.
Thanks Jonno! I think it’s pretty amazing in summer too. Those blue lake are always going to be a showstopper!!
This might sound like a really silly question, but when you go to national parks in Canada and see the wildlife like bear etc, did you go there with a guide or something? Like, just in case they get wild, have you prepared for anything when worse comes to worst? 😐
No, we didn’t go with a guide, although it is possible to book wildlife-spotting tours. We just like to walk (and hope for wildlife)
When we saw that big bear, it was just by the side of the road(!) The time we saw grizzly bears near Lake Louise they were far enough away, that it wasn’t scary.
BUT we read up loads about bear safety, and we always carry bear spray. In areas where there are lots of grizzly bears, you need to hike in groups larger than 4. So you may have to wait at the trailhead for other hikers. Other than that, you need to make lots of noise as you hike, so you don’t surprise a bear.
If you’re interested in learning a little more, have a peek at this link: https://www.pc.gc.ca/en/pn-np/mtn/ours-bears/securite-safety/ours-humains-bears-people
This seems like a lovely adventure, but I can’t do the snow lol. The food looks delicious though.
Lol fair enough! I used to be the same (I haaate being cold!) Canada has made me more hardy…or at least taught me to dress warmly so I can keep having fun in the winter time!! 😉
Such beautiful photos of one of the most beautiful places! I’ve been a couple of times, but it was in the summer. I admit that I am a sucker for the fondue at Grizzly House, even if it is touristy!! Thanks for sharing your trip with us!
I was expecting to love it too. The portions were teeny (although expensive) and our waiter was rude and unhelpful. Maybe we went on a bad day!?
If you like the interesting meats, next time, go to Storm Mountain, that place was fantastique.
Darcee & I went up to Banff during very late spring and I LOVED IT. My only issue was we were there for an entire week and never saw one single animal cept birds and random squirrels. But in terms of nature, those lakes…any of the lakes was absolutely beautiful. Looks like the part of Springtime in Banff that you went even had less people to contend with so that is an added bonus right there!
Woooah, no way!? Did you guys go hiking, or stick to the main tourist areas?
We saw sooo much wildlife each time we visited Banff and Jasper. We were just sad that we’ve still never seen a moose!
p.s. feel free to post a link here if you wrote about your time there! 😀
Yeah we went every where from the tourist hot spots to off the beaten path and saw nada. However, a few weeks later we went to Yellowstone due south of Banff, and saw every type of animal there was
Love Banff. We have visited it three times, but always in summer, since my daughter lives in Calgary, just an hour away!
Oooh yay, you have the best excuse to keep going back!
We are a bit the same and usually try to avoid traveling to cold areas in the known cooler months. But sometimes, you get to see a whole new perspective on a place by going against the grain. It looks like visiting Bannf in Spring gives you a really great experiences. Walking up frozen waterfalls and still seeing the Emerald Lake.
Does your camper get really cold at night? I can see why you’d want to keep away from places when there is snow!
I love the detailed information and all the wonderful pictures! It might be similar here in Rochester for the weather! I’ll try to route this and see if I would like to add this place in visiting Canada😁 Thanks for sharing ts good to learn new unfamiliar and unheard beautiful areas around the country.
I have a feeling Rochester might be even colder! You’d be fine in Banff in the springtime!! 😀
Emerald Lake is just stunning, it surely lives up to it’s name doesn’t it? 🙂
Yeah, that is such a pretty lake! I shared a photo in one direction, but there were pretty fantastic views on all sides of that lake!
Have a great day Josy 🙂
The landscape is simply breathtaking. Natural bridge and Johnston canyon looks really wonderful.
I really loved seeing the blue waters at that natural bridge! I can’t believe we drove past without knowing about it the first time we visited. (Oops!!)
I really really need to see Banff. There’s so much to see and do! I love everything from the mountains to the bears. Although when you said skiing, you meant snowboarding, right? Thanks for sharing!
Haha! I only just started to learn to ski! I don’t think I can quite cope with the number of falls I’d need to learn snowboarding! It does look fun though!
OMG yes!!!!! I loveeeeee Juniper’s breakfast/brunch menu too! I’m from Vancouver and have been to Banff plenty of times, but only just discovered Juniper this January when I was there during winter. You’re totally making me wanna revisit now!
Yaaay! I’m glad it’s not just us who loved their breakfast! I will definitely go back there next time too!
I would definitely follow your recommendation and visit during the springtime, when you literally had those mountains to yourself. I love your restaurant recommendations too. I have pinned for future reference. Fantastic post.
Well, almost to ourselves! C-level Cirque was totally empty, but there were still other hikers around on the most famous walks (like Johnston Canyon and Castle lookout)
Everywhere was less busy than the summertime though.
This is only a few hours from me, yet I’ve never been! It looks absolutely lovely and I love how primitive it is (yet with amazing drinks). Thanks for sharing.
Oooh I hope you can visit then! You could even pop up for a weekend if you are that close. Just be aware, the area is happily addictive. 😉
I’ll have to keep this post in mind for the future. This is one of the places I REALLY want to go!! Love the photos too btw!
Yay! Thank you.
You pics are incredible it looks so magical! I’d love to go skiing out there.
Thanks Jolie! I really want to ski near Banff (not just Jasper!) Let me know if you go!! 😀
What an awesome guide to Banff! We might be taken an extended family vacation there (15 of us!) in the spring, so this was really helpful to read! Natural Bridge is a must-see for me! How beautiful! It was fun to read that you saw 4 grizzly bears. I’ve only seen black bears, so that would be a first for me!
We were soooo excited to see them! My husband set up his tripod to take photos (as we were quite far away) and other people came over to ask what we’d spotted…so by the time we left there was a whole crowd of people up on a ridge looking down at the grizzly family.
Banff is a wonderful place all year round. The last time I was there it was mid may and there was still quiet a bit of snow! It was magical. Plus seeing all the wildlife would be such an incredible experience.
I guess the snow must still be there until late June, early July!? We visited Whistler last weekend, and there was still some snow at higher elevations, even in mid-July. I guess the Rockies must have even more.
I would love to visit Banff! I have been trying to decide if I would rather visit in the summer, to see the blue water, or in the spring, to avoid the crowds. Ideally both, of course! Clearly there is much more to do in Banff in the spring than I initially thought! Thanks for the great suggestions!
Oooh Shelby, maybe you should go in Autumn? You’d avoid the worst crowds aaand the waters would still be bright blue! We went in October last year and there was new snow, but none of the lakes had frozen yet. 😉
I LOVE travelling in the winter months. We don’t really get snow where I grew up, so it’s always a novelty and the lack of tourists is always a winner! Also, can’t believe you saw so many bears! So Cool!
Same here. I didn’t grow up with snow, so I still get really excited by it. In some ways now I get even more excited because it means its time to go skiing…
Banff in the spring looks like a great call. I have only ever been in the summer and your pictures look amazing! Definitely making me want to go back
I feel the same when I see summer photos! I reeeeally want to go in the summertime so I can do more epic hikes.
Banff has been on my bucket list for sooooooooo long now! I can’t wait to visit, but need to save up because I want to do it properly. I’d love to see a bear too… from a distance haha
Squeee I hope you can Nerissa, you will blooming love it!
I’ve only been to Banff in the summer, so I’d love to go back when everything is frozen over! I haven’t done much hiking in the snow either, so I’d love to experience that as well. So interesting that everything was frozen over except the water under natural bridge!
Hiking in snow can be really fun until it gets *too* warm…then when your legs start to sink into the snow it feels a bit dodgy! I do love seeing the wintery wonderland views though!
My mom lives in Calgary and so we stop here every year! I was blessed to be born just a few hour away from Banff, but havent lived in the area in a long time. I’ve only been in the summer…looks like you have been way deep into the park…I am too afraid of wild animals to do much hiking there..so we stay close to Bow Falls and the Village area…
I need to explore it more and get brave! Thanks for sharing!
Do you think you’d be more up for it now as an adult? I feel like if you are careful (and go in groups of 4+ in grizzly areas) the wildlife is not too scary!?
I do love the village area too though…
Oh we loved Banff, we actually visited in Summer but it sure does look pretty in Spring with the snow still on the mountains. We loved the Banff Springs Hotel, so much history and a very photogenic building.
Oooh did you stay in the hotel Aimee? It was sooo nice just to eat there that I get the impression it’d be an amaaazing place to stay (if a bit pricey!)