Itinerary for One Day in Banff.
One day in Banff National Park itinerary covers most of the important attractions in Banff town and Johnston Canyon.
It is rare that a trip goes like clockwork , especially if you are traveling with children (a long day trip as outlined, is quite difficult). But this Banff itinerary makes sure that you won’t miss out on the best attractions Banff has to offer, especially if are not planning to come back here anytime soon.
Ideally, you should consider spending three – four days to enjoy Banff to its fullest , but this itinerary is made assuming that you are pressed for time and wants to squeeze in as much as you can in one day. If you have just one day to spend in Banff National Park, you should visit Lake Louise and Moraine Lake, in addition to Banff town attractions: See the article – Banff and Lake Louise Tour in One Day
Assumption: No long wait times to get tickets/ no huge crowds.
Get the trail guide (if interested) so that you can do easy trails along the attractions listed below. Download 3D Map of Banff town or the official parks Canada map from here. Go through the article: Concise guide to Banff National Park.
If you are starting from Calgary, start as early as 6:30 am, armed with replenishments so that you can do most of the itinerary.
Take AB1 W/Trans Canada from Calgary. Take Bow Valley Parkway/ AB-1A exit. Travel on Bow Valley Parkway for 25kms.
If you are starting from Lake Louise, then travel east on Bow valley Parkway. Try to start the Johnston Canyon Hike 7:30 am. You will have much more time to explore Banff.
You will reach your first stop, Johnston Canyon on your Banff Itinerary. The travel time from Calgary is about 2 hours. The aim is to start Johnston Canyon by 8:30 am, much before the summer tourist crowd arrives.
Enjoy the gorge and the deep canyon with its water falls. Hike to lower falls and upper falls.
Plan for 2 hours at Johnston Canyon. If you need breakfast/brunch, Johnston Canyon Resort has a restaurant, or wait till you reach Banff town. (8:30 to 10:30am). Johnston Canyon.
2. Bow Valley Parkway – 10:30 am to 11:30 am
Travel back to Banff on Bow valley parkway. Pull up at interesting view points like ‘Hole in the wall’ & Black swamp view points to enjoy the view.
3. Vermilion Lakes Canoeing- 11:30 am – 1:30 pm
If you like canoeing, and are confident to do it on your own, go to Banff Canoe Club located at the corner corner of Wolf Street and Bow Ave, in downtown Banff (by 11:30) and rent a canoe and see Vermilion Lakes. Canoeing is the best way to see Vermilion Lakes, which is the third stop on the ‘One day in Banff’ itinerary. Allocate one and a half hours here(by (1:30 pm).
You have two options to choose from to enjoy the breathtaking view of the Bow Valley & Banff town: the historic North American Chairlift at Mt Norquay and Banff Gondola. If you are choosing North American Chair lift, go to Mt. Norquay before the canoe trip.
Once on top, You can dine at the historic 1950’s Tea house.
Allocate two hours & do the rest of the itinerary and skip Banff Gondola.
4. Bow Falls – 1:30 – 3:00 pm
Park the car at Bow Falls lot and see the falls. Enjoy walking along the trail for half an hour. (by 3:00pm)
5. Cascade Garden, Surprise Corner, Hoodoos Lookout: 3:00pm – 4:30pm
Go to Cascade Garden (only in flowering season or you can skip this altogether, if you are running late) and then Surprise Corner. Continue along the Tunnel Mountain Road to the Hoodoos Lookout. These three attractions together should not take more than 1 hour including travel time. (by 4:30 pm)
5. Lake Minnewanka Scenic drive – 4:30pm – 6:30pm
Do the Lake Minnewanka Scenic drive and drive the loop. Stopping just enough to admire the scenery. 1 hour (by 6:00 pm).
If you like, go the Lake Minnewanka Boat Cruise. Last cruise at 6:00 pm/5:00 pm depending on summer/ early fall. Closed Mid Fall to Mid Spring. Instead of the cruise, if you want to explore Lake Minnewanks, do the Stewart Canyon trail. You may finish the trip here and return home.
6. Banff Gondola – 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm
Travel up the Sulphur mountain in Banff Gondola. Hike to the weather station (by 7:30 pm). You can have dinner here. If you are visiting during Mid Fall to Mid Spring, do Gondola visit after Cascade gardens.
If you decide to forgo Banff Upper Hot Springs, it is better to visit Sulphur mountain after seeing Cascade gardens , so that you don’t have to travel back to Banff town again.
7. Banff Upper Hot Springs 8:00 pm – 10:00 pm
Finish your day by relaxing at Banff Upper Hot Springs.
Travel back to Calgary.
If want of time:
If you just have 6 – 8 hours to spend in Banff: Visit Johnston Canyon, then go up Mt Norquay Chair lift, visit Bow Falls, Surprise Corner, Hoodoos & Lake Minnewanka Scenic Loop.
See the article Rainy Day Activities In Banff to know what to do if it rains during your trip.
You may also be interested in One Day Tour of Banff to get another itinerary idea.
See Banff and Lake Louise Tour in One Day to also include Lake Louise and Moraine Lake.
For two – three day Banff itinerary/Weekend Getaway: Take it slow and enjoy everything Banff has to offer by extending / dividing this itinerary – Combine One Day Tour of Banff , Banff and Lake Louise Tour in One Day and add few hikes and activities from Summer activities in Banff.