Visit Banff in Fall, the Best Season to Visit

Banff in Fall is gorgeous

Banff National Park is a gem in the heart of the Canadian Rockies. Every year, millions of visitors trek to Alberta for majestic views with gorgeous lakes. My family made this journey recently, and it was one of our all-time favorite destinations. If you are looking for a great autumn getaway, visit Banff in fall for scenic views and lower crowds. I’m excited to share my expertise, my favorite spots and things to do with you!

Banff tends to see large crowds in the peak summer season of July and August and ski season in the winter months. The shoulder season of autumn is the prime time to visit for fall colors and fewer crowds. Nothing is worse than fighting for a parking spot or missing out on Lake Moraine because you couldn’t get a shuttle pass. 

When you opt for September and October, many of those troubles fade away, and you’ll have a great time exploring all the outdoor activities in the Banff area.

🚨Short on time? Go ahead & book your activities NOW!🚨
Best Condo
Gondola Tour
Organized tour of Banff
Horse Back Riding
Columbian Icefields

Banff in the fall

The summer activities that drive large crowds are still available in the fall. You may not want to paddleboard or kayak, but few swim in the lakes. You shouldn’t swim in the glacier lakes as they are too cold.

Also, Banff National Park is a large area in the Parks Canada System. The town of Banff sits in the park, too. On Banff Avenue, you will find many shops and restaurants to visit after a long day of exploring. 

visit Banff in the autumn to see golden larch trees

Lakes in Fall Season

If you’ve ever seen images of the lakes in Alberta, they will capture your attention. The vibrant turquoise waters almost appear as if they’ve been altered. It’s hard to believe they’re real, but in Banff National Park, you’ll find some of North America’s most stunning glacial lakes.

The lakes boast this gorgeous azure hue thanks to the presence of rock dust originating from the glaciers. When sunlight interacts with these fine particles, it results in this breathtaking coloration.

It’s important to note that access to some of the famous lakes is restricted. To reach Moraine Lake, you must utilize a shuttle service, and when it comes to Lake Louise, while there is limited parking available, taking the bus ensures a better experience of the lake. Parks Canada offers shuttle passes at a very affordable price.

Lake Louise fall foliage

Lake Louise

Lake Louise is undeniably one of the most frequently photographed spots within the national parks. As soon as we arrived, it was our inaugural destination. We were immediately enchanted by the vibrant blue tones of the lake set against the majestic backdrop of the Canadian Rockies.

Off to one side, you’ll also spot the impressive Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, commanding a picturesque view. This area offers numerous activities for the public to enjoy. While you can rent canoes here, it’s worth noting that it can be pricey.

For that iconic photo, most visitors gravitate towards the area between the canoe rental facility and the hotel. If it’s crowded, exercising patience is advisable as many tourists choose this spot.

Once you’ve captured that perfect shot, I recommend exploring the relatively level walking trail that encircles the lake. It tends to be less crowded, significantly the farther you venture from the hotel. Some of our most cherished photographs were taken during our walk around the lake. You can’t miss taking pictures here with fall foliage in full bloom. 

Lake Louise

In the fall, you can park at the lake if you don’t want to use the shuttle service. There is a parking fee until early October. 

Lake Moraine

Moraine Lake stands as the other highly renowned lake in the vicinity. My husband, children, and I unanimously concur that we favored it over Lake Louise, primarily because of the smaller crowds and breathtaking vistas. 

However, accessing Moraine Lake can be more challenging, as you are required to take the shuttle. The shuttle runs until early October, so check Parks Canada for confirmation. Disabled guests can access Moraine Lake road and the parking lot if they have a pass. 

canoe at Lake Moraine

We enjoyed walking along the lake path but loved the trail up the rock pile. We were rewarded with gorgeous views.

If you are short on time, it may be easier to take an organized tour to see the popular lakes in Banff. Click HERE to book your guided tour!

Peyto Lake

Peyto Lake is one of my favorite spots in all of the national parks. While exploring Icefields Parkway, make sure to save time for Peyto. There’s a small hike from the main parking lot to the viewing platform, but it is uphill. If you have mobility issues, a smaller parking lot is reserved near the platform. 

The best time to visit would be September as you may start to see snow in late October.

Peyto Lake

Two Jacks Lake

Two Jacks Lake is another popular destination. Visitors can play in the water, kayak, and canoe in the summer. The water will be chilly by fall, so I don’t recommend swimming, but you could still kayak or canoe. It would be an excellent destination for a picnic lunch.

enjoy a picnic lunch at Two Jacks Lake

Lake Minnewanka

Lake Minnewanka is known for scenic cruises for guests. Most tours are open till early October but will shut down as the weather gets colder. You can hike along the lake throughout the fall. 

🛥️Book your boat tour of the lake NOW by clicking HERE.🛥️

book a fall cruise on Lake Minnewanka

Bow Valley Parkway

Take a leisurely drive along the picturesque Bow Valley Parkway. The journey is incredibly serene, and if luck is on your side, you might spot some wildlife along the way. While traveling on the parkway, be sure to make a stop at Johnston Canyon for a hike, and keep an eye out for various other pull-off points that offer stunning vistas.

Pro tip- it’s essential to check Parks Canada’s website for any potential road closures, as some parkway sections may be temporarily inaccessible. This precaution will help you plan your scenic drive accordingly.

Book a horseback ride through the Bow Valley to soak in the fall colors.

views of Bow Valley Parkway

Johnston Canyon

Johnston Canyon is one of my favorite areas of the park. In the spring, guests worry about mud from the melting snow and the canyon is packed with summer visitors. Fall is the perfect time to explore the Canyon as you can enjoy scenic views without heavy crowds on the trail.  

There are several hikes for visitors to choose from. The path to the Lower Falls is about 45 minutes round trip and you are rewarded with majestic views of a beautiful waterfall. There’s also a cool cave you can crawl into that takes you to a viewing platform next to the waterfall. 

Johnston Canyon

If you have time, continue hiking to the Upper Falls. There’s a trail right before the bridge over the lower falls, take this. The Upper Falls hike is about 2 hours round trip and if you want, you can continue to an area known as the Ink Pots, five beautiful pools of water.

Larch Valley Hike

The Larch hike is one of the best hikes in Canadian autumn. Ideally, you plan for late September or early October. By September, the larch trees transition to a beautiful golden hue you will not want to miss. 

As a warning, you need to prepare to hike with a small group due to the presence of bears. The hike takes several hours and is of moderate difficulty. 

Larch trees in Banff

Banff Gondola

One of the best ways to see the bright fall hues would be to take the Banff Gondola. You are rewarded with breathtaking views of the park and town. In the fall, the view at the top of the mountain will capture the gorgeous fall foliage, including those beautiful golden larch trees.

Book your gondola tickets NOW by clicking HERE!

Views from the Banff Gondola

Icefields Parkway

One of the primary routes that meanders through Banff is the Icefields Parkway, leading travelers to the awe-inspiring glaciers within Jasper National Park. 

The journey from Banff to Jasper typically spans approximately two hours under favorable conditions. However, during the peak season, when the road sees heavy traffic from cars and tour buses, this duration can easily stretch to 3-4 hours. Luckily, you won’t have to deal with this during the fall. 

Once you find yourself on the Icefields Parkway, it becomes evident why it’s such a popular route. The panoramic vistas are breathtaking, making it easy to lose time as you drive along. 

take a scenic drive on the Icefields Parkway

Moreover, if you’re fortunate, you can spot wildlife. During our journey, we encountered a black bear cub and a small fox casually relaxing by the roadside, adding to the excitement of the trip.

Columbia Icefield

While it’s a few hours’ drive away, I highly recommend allocating some time for a visit to the Columbia Icefields in Jasper National Park. This experience was a standout highlight for our children during the entire trip.

Your expedition encompasses a journey to the Athabasca glacier, accompanied by a knowledgeable guide who will enlighten you about the millennia-old ice sheet’s history. Upon arrival, you’ll have approximately 15 minutes to venture and sample the water streaming from the glacier. There’s a specific area allocated for visitors, and numerous guides are available for any inquiries you may have.


Your ticket might also grant you access to the skywalk spanning the Sunwapta Valley. After the glacier exploration, you’ll need to switch buses, but the skywalk offers a captivating experience. I would caution against it for individuals who are uneasy with heights.

Tip: This is only available through early October, so book NOW by clicking HERE!

Town of Banff

The town of Banff is charming, with the main drag, Banff Avenue, lined with stores and restaurants. Stroll, shop, and try a Canadian original like a beaver tail. When you are done with lunch, walk across the Bow River on a cool pedestrian bridge.

After crossing the pedestrian bridge, take a left onto the Bow Falls Trail, which leads you to a breathtaking waterfall. As you approach the falls, you’ll encounter a set of stairs that will lead you closer to the cascading waters. The falls themselves are truly impressive and make for a delightful surprise.


Banff Upper Hot Springs

If you’re seeking a distinctive and refreshing change from your hiking and exploration adventures, Banff Upper Hot Springs offers a unique experience. It’s a soothing warm pool set amidst the park, surrounded by stunning vistas of the Rockies especially in the autumn months.

As a helpful tip, it’s worth noting that parking options at this location are quite limited. In fact, they recommend utilizing the efficient public transportation system in Banff to reach the hot springs.

Visit Banff in fall

How to get to Banff

Banff National Park is about an hour west of Calgary. For most visitors, you will want to fly into Calgary International Airport. You’ll need a rental car to explore the park. You can also schedule organized tours of the park if that is easier. While you are in Calgary, take some time to explore this exciting city.

Trans Canada Highway takes you from Calgary to Banff

🍁Packing supplies 🍁

Where to stay in Banff

Canmore and Banff are the top choices for lodging in the area. While Canmore is roughly 20-25 minutes away from Banff, it’s important not to dismiss it as an option.

Canmore is a charming, historic mining town with a picturesque downtown area, scenic walking trails, and a wealth of modern condominiums available for rent. If you’re traveling on a tight budget, you might find more affordable options in Canmore, making it a viable and appealing alternative.



We opted to rent a modern condo at Tamarack Lodge, conveniently within walking distance of the town. This spacious two-bedroom condo boasted a full kitchen and a laundry room, which proved indispensable when traveling with our kids.

Our neighborhood was brimming with excellent restaurant choices and scenic walking trails, making our stay all the more enjoyable and convenient.

Taramack Lodge

Book your Canmore condo NOW by clicking HERE!


The town of Banff and its environs offer a plethora of lodging choices. If you’re inclined toward luxury, you can opt for a stay at one of the renowned Fairmont hotels.


The Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, nestled in the heart of the Canadian Rockies, provides guests with picturesque vistas of the Bow River. Alternatively, the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise overlooks the stunning lake itself.

Fairmont Banff

These hotels are exceptionally beautiful, though they come with a higher price tag. You might find more budget-friendly rates if you plan your stay during the off-season or even the shoulder season of autumn. Definitely look into it!

Fairmont Lake Louise

Book the Fairmont Lake Louise NOW by clicking HERE!


Consider checking out Tunnel Mountain Resort or the Royal Canadian Lodge on Banff Avenue for a more moderate lodging option in the Banff area. These choices offer comfortable accommodations without the premium price tag.

Additionally, if you’re open to a different kind of experience, don’t forget that you can always reserve a camping spot within the national parks. This option allows you to immerse yourself in the natural beauty of the area and is often a more budget-friendly choice for those who enjoy camping.

Visit Canada in the fall

FAQ: Visiting Banff

🍁Is October a good time to visit?

October is one of the best months to visit the Canadian Rockies due to the cooler and crisp weather and the absence of summer crowds. Remember, October is much colder than September, so pack a jacket!

🍁Does Banff have fall colors?

The foliage transitions around mid-September, displaying the first hints of changing colors. You’ll be enveloped in a vibrant tapestry of lush autumn hues as late September approaches.

Visit Banff in the fall

🍁Can you see the Northern lights here?

By October, you can see the northern lights until late spring. 

🍁How many days do you need in Banff?

You will want at least two days. 3-4 days to give you more time to see the major sites without feeling rushed. 

🍁Is Lake Louise still blue in October?

Yes, but it is starting to fade compared to early summer. 

In conclusion: Visit Banff in Fall, the Best Season to Visit

Banff is the perfect destination for a fall getaway. You can’t beat the majestic views! I hope my guide to Banff in Fall helps you plan your next great adventure.

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