Banff National Park with kids

What to do in Banff National Park with kids? Banff is a 1.5-hour drive from Calgary and is truly a must see on your tour of Western Canada. The town itself is an ideal starting point to visit the national park of the same name with its world-famous Lake Louise and Moraine Lake. A ride in the gondola to Sulphur Mountain is also not to be missed when in Banff with kids. We were here with our 5-year-old son and 2-year-old daughter and were not bored for a moment. Below we have listed the best activities in the Banff area.

Best travel time Banff National Park with kids

The best travel time for Banff National Par with kids is from about early June through late September. July and August are also immediately the busiest months, but then you have the best chance of nice weather and you can be sure that there is no more snow on the roads.

We were there in June and August, and in June we only had rain and really had to put on winter coats. In August we had great weather and were able to put on our summer clothes. So, of course, you also have to be a little lucky with the weather.

Banff National Park entrance fee

For entrance to Banff National Park, you pay $11 single admission per day for an adult. You can also buy a Parks Canada Discovery Pass and then entrance to several national parks is included in the price. If you visit several national parks, this pass may be cheaper than buying a separate ticket each time. Check this out beforehand if you are traveling through western Canada with kids.

For Banff National Park, kids up to 17 years old pay nothing. They may enter Banff National Park for free. For more information on the single entrance fee to Banff National Park and a Parks Canada Discovery Pass, take a look at this website.

Banff National Park with kids

Transportation in and to Banff National Park

We visited Banff with an RV. We were in fact on a tour of Western Canada and had rented an RV in the process. We found traveling by motorhome really the ideal way to fully enjoy the beautiful nature that Western Canada has to offer. We stayed in Banff National Park at Tunnel Mountain Village I.

This was a campground that was near the town of Banff. From here, buses ran regularly to the town and also to other nearby attractions. These bus rides cost only a few euros each time and the buses ran about 4 times an hour, very regularly.

In addition to renting an RV, it is of course also possible to rent a car to explore western Canada with the family. Most families with kids then rent a car at the Calgary airport or Vancouver airport. At both airports, you can rent a car through Sunny Cars. With Sunny Cars, most insurance and often the deductible are included in the price of the rental car.

For more information on renting a car at the Calgary airport, take a look here and renting a car at the Vancouver airport here.

Banff National Park with kids

Children’s activities Banff National Park

#1 Take the gondola to the top of Sulphur Mountain.

Banff is located among the mountains and when you take the gondola to the top you have a fantastic view of all those mountain peaks from Sulphur Mountain. Once you reach the top, you don’t end up at just a viewpoint. There is an awful lot to do here.

The gondola takes about 8 minutes and you can take 4 people. We were in it with our 5-year-old son and 2-year-old daughter and this was more than fine. Good to know that kids up to 5 years old are free. You can also buy a family ticket. Then you can get one free ticket for a kid per paying adult.

However, this must be done before noon. After this, a family ticket is not valid. A ticket costs $66 per person, which is quite pricey. We thought this was worth it, because just the experience of the gondola and the view were really fantastic. Our little daughter would have preferred to go again, she loved it that much.

What is there to do on top of the mountain? You can take a short walk of about a kilometer. This walk consists of all wooden platforms with all kinds of stairs and also a lot of benches to rest. You can enjoy the views of Bow River and the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, for example, on these benches. During this hike, we saw several squirrels and mountain marmots.

Inside the Interpretive Center, there is also plenty to do: There are several restaurants, including a StarBucks. There are also stores and lots of places to sit for a while. For the kids, there are also all kinds of activities to do. There are several places for kids to play. So they can camp in a tent, explore with a mountaineer’s heavy backpack, see how big the paw prints are of a bear and really much more (look for Interpretive Center).

Also, you could download an app (in English, though) that allows them to answer all kinds of questions and explore. We did not do this because our kids already had a great time.

All in all, we stayed on the mountain for about half a day. You could take even longer for this outing by not taking the gondola up or down the mountain, but rather walking the trek up or down. This will take you about an hour and a half if you walk down. With two small kids, we thought the gondola was a slightly better idea.

Banff National Park with kids

#2 Visit the world-famous lakes Lake Louise and Moraine Lake

When in Canada with kids, you really must have seen these famous lakes. Lake Louise sits beautifully among the mountains and has a breathtaking turquoise color. The lake gets this color because there are minerals in the water. This, in turn, is due to the melting of the surrounding glaciers. On a sunny day, the lake is truly beautiful!

Moraine Lake is also surrounded by beautiful mountain peaks and is also called The valley of the ten peaks. Moraine Lake has a more bright blue color, so different from Lake Louise, but also really overwhelmingly beautiful!

At both lakes, you can take several hikes from 1 kilometer to around 10 kilometers. At Lake Louise, you can also hike to a teahouse. This is a very nice route of about 5 kilometers in total. A very tough route, though, and it will take you about 3 hours without a drink there. We did not walk this route because of our kids. We did, however, walk a short distance along the lake at both lakes.

In addition, of course, you can canoe on the lake. However, we didn’t do this either because there was a very long line and because we really thought it was too pricey. You rent a canoe for $155 an hour!

Getting to the lakes also requires some effort. In fact, you cannot just park your car or your RV in the parking lot (in high season). You must buy a ticket for a shuttle bus 48 hours in advance. This ticket cost only $8 per person and the kids were free.

Not very expensive, but without a ticket you can’t actually go to these lakes. It can be done, but then you end up with outside agencies that charge around $100-200. The shuttle bus will take you to both lakes. Only the departure time is fixed and then you can stay as long as you want. You can also determine the order of the lakes.

One last tip: Keep in mind that it is crowded! You can go very early on the first bus, for example, or later on one of the last buses, but it remains one of Canada’s best-visited sights and this was evident by all the tourists walking around.

Banff with kids

#3 Bow Falls

Bow Falls is about a 15-minute walk from Banff. So an ideal distance with small kids. The path leading to it is wide and very nicely landscaped. The waterfall itself is not very spectacular, but it is very easy to reach with kids and the nice thing is that they can also follow the water for a long time and see that it flows a little faster and faster the closer you get to the waterfall.

At the waterfall, you also have a view of the grand Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, Banff’s most famous and also most expensive hotel. Our little son thought it was very spectacular to see that water thundering down like that, not knowing that we were going to see a lot more waterfalls that were a lot higher than this one.

By the way, when in Banff with kids, don’t forget to stop by the visitor center. Here you can pick up a booklet with all kinds of tasks that will earn you a necklace with a badge. Our kids picked up several booklets at various visitor centers where they earned a new necklace and badge at each place or national park. Also, every visitor center has good WIFI connection and often fun exhibits for the kids.

#4 Johnson Lake, Minnewanka Lake and Vermilion Lake

Besides Lake Louise and Moraine Lake, there are other lakes to see around Banff. We still took the kids to Johnson Lake, among other places. Again, this lake is easily accessible by public transportation. From the bus stop, it is only a very short walk and at the lake you can choose the distance you want to walk. This also applies to Minnewanka Lake. Vermilion Lake is a bit more difficult to reach, but just fine with a car or RV.

At Minnewanka Lake, you can also take a cruise on the lake. Then you cruise the turquoise-blue lake with fantastic views of the mountain peaks. We had rather cloudy weather, so we just looked around and didn’t go boating. Also scheduled was another cruise to Spirit Island later this vacation.

With all lakes, if you go hiking here, you have a great chance of spotting animals or wildlife as they call it in Canada. Bears, bighorn sheep, foxes and, of course, moose are almost certain to be encountered as you follow the trail around the lake.

What we and especially the kids really enjoyed was, when we looked out over Vermilion Lakes we saw a huge long train go by. This train had at least 200 cars. This was very cool to see though and also provided a very nice picture.

Children's Activities Banff

#5 Cave & Basin National Historic Site

This is where Banff’s first hot spring was discovered in 1883. Hot water baths used to be widely used because they were believed to have healing properties. Now the baths are no longer in use, but you could still take a look in and around the baths and you could follow a short route along the stream via wooden decks.

Inside the information center, there was also plenty to do. You could see and smell the original spring in a cave. What a sulfur smell! There were also some activities for the kids to do as part of Banff’s history. In addition to these activities, there were also a number of exhibits to view. When we were there, these were about the history of Banff.

We and the kids especially enjoyed the short routes with really great viewpoints. Here and there were also picnic tables where we picnicked and enjoyed the mountain views. There was also a trail heading toward Bow River. Here we searched with the kids for fish and the protected snail, which caused the hot springs to close.

Cave & Basin National Historic Site is definitely fun to visit for a while with kids, also ideal if the weather is a bit disappointing or when it’s just really hot. You can easily spend a morning there, and if you have a National Park Pass, admission is free. You buy this pass at the entrance to Banff National Park and buy it per vehicle. The pass costs about 130 euros and is used to maintain the national parks. This location is also very easy to get to by public transportation.

Banff National Park with kids

#6 Johnston Canyon

Walking a hugely long trail with little kids is not something we saw fit. We therefore chose the somewhat smaller trails. Our 5-year-old son could walk this just fine and our 2-year-old daughter could then snuggle in the baby carrier when she didn’t feel like it anymore. We did not have a baby carriage with us because most of the trails were not really suitable for this.

Johnston Canyon is such an ideal trail to hike with kids. You can decide how far you want to walk. The shortest route to the first waterfall is 2.4 kilometers and you can extend it by walking to another waterfall. Then the route is about 5 kilometers. You can also walk further afterwards to the so-called ink pots. We were here in mid-June and were really shocked by the crowds.

There were so many tourists that we only walked the short trail, stood in line for a moment to see the first waterfall and then just walked back. It was a really nice route though, but because of the crowds we didn’t really get to enjoy it. What we did find very cool is that through a cave with lots of water vapor you could see the waterfall up close.

Johnston Canyon is very easily accessible by private transportation. There are quite a few parking spaces available and admission is free if you have a National Park Pass. At the beginning of the trail is a small restaurant and gift shop. If you want to avoid the crowds then do not come in the afternoon like we did or walk further to the next falls and the ink pots, then it is a lot quieter.

Banff with kids

#7 Marble Canyon and Paint Pots

If you are in Banff with kids you really shouldn’t skip this trail through Marble Canyon. We found this trail many times more beautiful than the one in Johnston Canyon. Also, there were only a few tourists here instead of busloads full. The trail itself was really perfectly maintained and very family-friendly. The distance was about 1.5 kilometers. So a perfect walk for kids.

The water of the river was really beautiful blue and also the view of the water leading through all kinds of caverns was really fantastic! There were vistas and bridges everywhere so you could really walk with the water. How much we enjoyed ourselves during this trail. At the entrance to Marble Canyon is a parking lot where you can park for free. There are no other facilities. The trail itself is free to walk.

Banff National Park with family

A little further on, you can walk another short trail of about 3 kilometers. This trail then took you to so-called paint pots. Again, this trail was very beautiful. It was a very muddy trail, though. We had to negotiate our way over tree trunks, decking and downed branches to eventually arrive at some sort of rust-colored ponds.

At this trail, you were not allowed to go off the trails because the ground was declared sacred by the Native Americans because of its special color. Consequently, they still use this yellow ochre-colored clay in all kinds of ceremonial events.

We also found this highly recommended because the trail is very suitable for kids in terms of length and also the scenery is really quite special to see. We saw 2 other people while walking this trail and the parking lot was also virtually empty.

Banff with the family

Family-friendly restaurant Banff National Park

You can also have a great meal in Banff with kids. You have several family-friendly restaurants in Banff. Here are some of them listed below.

Old Spaghetti Factory: this large restaurant is located in a mall in the middle of Banff. Many families with kids come here. The food there is fine, but don’t expect high-end, culinary dishes. There is more than enough choice and for kids there is a special kids’ menu. You can then choose from, for example, spaghetti, lasagna, pizza and French fries.

Melissa’s: this great restaurant is also in the middle of Banff. There are also many families here with kids. This restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. There is a separate menu for kids, on it are several options such as mac and cheese, pizza and a hot dog. This menu also includes fun puzzles and a coloring page. The staff there is friendly and the desserts also seem to be very tasty.

Banff National Park with family

Family-friendly hotel Banff National Park

You can stay in the Banff National Park area with kids just fine. You have plenty of family-friendly accommodations you can book. We list some of these family-friendly accommodations in Banff National Park that are tremendously well-reviewed by families with kids. Click on the blue link for more information!

Budget accommodation: HI Banff Alpine Centre – Hostel

Mid-range accommodation: Coast Canmore Hotel & Conference Centre

Luxury Accommodation: The Rimrock Resort Hotel Banff

For a list of all family-friendly accommodations near Banff National Park, take a look here.

About the author: Stefanie loves taking beautiful trips and city breaks with her kids! She traveled as much as 2.5 months in western Canada with her family.

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