After more knee surgeries than I can count, I fancy myself more as a photographer than a skier. Would there be things to do in Banff for the non-skier? While most flock to the Canadian Rockies for the powder, I come for the pictures. Both activities are world-class in this pristine part of the world. In this article, I’m here to show you that Banff National Park and the town of Banff are still an excellent place to visit even for the non-skier.
Around every corner and down every street there are hundreds of things to do in Banff for the non-skier. These 10 things to do in Banff are just a few of my favorites from a recent trip to Canada.
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#1. Visit Lake Moraine (Year Round)
Probably the most famous scene in all of Canada is this quintessential shot of the beautiful aqua colored Lake Moraine. The lake is lined with the jagged snow-covered mountains on all sides and the most formidable standing behind the lake. I literally spent a few hours here photographing the lake and the surroundings.
For those who are less crazy than me, there are also hiking and walking trails almost the entire way around the lake. You can also grab a kayak and take a spin around the lake. The Moraine Lake Lodge is open June 1-October 1 and would be an ideal place to spend a few nights, check rates here.
#2. Kayak The Bow River – Spring/Summer/Fall
The river that runs through a big stretch of the park cuts right through the town of Banff. Next, to the town there is a nice wide swath of the river that is the same breathtaking blue as the lakes in the region. Hop in a kayak and paddle the river.
#3. Visit Lake Louise – Year Round
Another famous lake of the Banff National Park is Lake Louise located about 45 minutes from the town of Banff and about 12km from Lake Moraine. The lake is also home to the Fairmont Chateau, the Fairmont has been a looking out over the lake since 1925.
If your budget allows spending at least one night at the Fairmont Chateau would be worth it! Walking paths surround the lake and kayaks are available for hire in the warmer months.
#4. Ride The Lake Louise Ski Resort Gondola -Year Round
The same lift that takes skiers up the hill can bring non-skiers up too and not just in the winter. The ski lift at Lake Louise resort runs all year long.
In the summer ride the gondola up for stunning views of the mountains in the area and a great chance to see bears from the safety of the lift. Once you are up the mountain there are a number of hiking trails for all levels and snowshoeing when there’s snow.
Also, the resort has restaurants up in the mountains serving up everything from hot cocoa to gourmet meals. Last but not least Lake Louise Ski Resort also has an education center on the mountain. The goal of the center is to teach visitors about the wildlife in the area and the importance of conservation.
#5. Hike To Peyto Lake Lookout
One of my favorite lakes is Peyto Lake, just a few minutes north of Lake Louise. A short hike from the parking lot brings you to a stunning outlook with picturesque views of the lake and mountains. The lake is again the fantastic shade of blue as Lake Moraine and Lake Louise.
What makes Peyto Lake special is its unique shape and the mountains that surround it drop off sharply into the lake. The high vantage point of the lookout gives you a bird’s eye view of Lake Peyto.
#6. Hiking – Year Round (Some Trails Seasonal)
Banff National Park has more than 1,000 miles of maintained trails to hike from May-October. For a full list of trails and hikes and when they are open check the Park Canada site.
The trails will bring you to amazing sites and often you’ll see much few people than the main lookouts that are reached by car.
If you are a non-skier visiting Banff, but still want to be active, hiking is one of the best things to do.
#7. Shopping In The Town Of Banff – Year Round
Our first night in the town of Banff I was surprised to see that there were lots of shops and restaurants, much more than what I expected. n the center of town there is also a sizable shopping mall with a few name brands. So, if you’re skiing friends are off on the slopes or there’s no snow there’s always shopping.
#8. See The Cave & Basin – Year Round
The attraction that is said to have started all conservation efforts in Canada is the Cave and Basin. Located on the edge of the town of Banff the cave and basin is just as it’s described.
A form room-sized cave with a skylight hole in the top with water that drains in and forms a basin at the floor of the cave. To see the cave and basin the cost is $3.90 CAD for a short but worthwhile visit.
#9. Just Drive – Year Round
Highway 93 that runs between Banff and Jasper National Parks is just filled with amazing sights. Everywhere you turn will have you pulling out your camera and snapping pictures. One of our favorite right-off-the-road shots was the impressive Castle Mountain.
#10. Spot Some Wildlife – Year Round
The park has grizzly bears, black bears, and elk just to name a few. Driving along the roads you will see them and up in the mountains, you have a good chance to spot them. We caught this guy hanging out just off the trails around Lake Moraine.
Where To Stay In Banff National Park
There is no shortage of places to stay in Banff National park, but for the non-skier, I would suggest staying in the town of Banff. This is mostly because there is so much to do in and around the town. It’s also easy to arrange transport to the further a field places in the area if your skiing travel companions have your vehicle. Or better yet drop them off at the ski hill and go explore Banff your way, without skis.
On our last trip to Banff, we stayed at the Red Carpet Inn right in the town of Banff. The location was great right on the main street in town, but the quiet part. The rooms were nicely done with a small fridge and coffee maker.
The bed was more than comfortable and there were hot tubs on the upper floor. Cover parking was included with the room rate, it worked great for us but larger vehicles (over 5’-10”) may need to park in their uncovered lot.
Where To Go After Banff
The next logical stop if you are heading further into Canada is to go to Jasper National Park and explore the Icefields Highway along the way.
If you are heading south then make your way into Montana and visit Glacier National Park. The park boasts dramatic rugged mountains and incredibly scenic drives.
So if your travel mates are planning a trip to Banff National Park to go skiing go with even if you’re not a skier. The park and town are full of things to do in Banff for the non-skier.
This is a fantastic post - and makes me drool over wanting to go to Banff! We hopefully will get there in our converted sprinter van in the next two years or so! Thank you for the great ideas!
Wednesday 13th of December 2017
Excellent information regarding visiting Banff. I love Canada and have visited there in the past. Your descriptions and pictures really provide an excellent synopsis of the beauty a trip here will bring to all travelers. If someone is not going there to ski then I think late spring or anytime in the summer would be the perfect time to travel. Early fall would be great too.
Sunday 17th of December 2017
There are def things to do in Banff for nonskiers year round, it's a gorgeous town. Canada is amazing, with Banff being one of our favorites. We hope to get back during the winter months and get on the ski hills!
Thursday 26th of October 2017
Do you know if the roads to Peyto lake and Lake Louise are also closed during winter?
Sunday 29th of October 2017
As far as we know they should be, the main one that closes is Moraine Lake for the winter. However, it's best to check the Candian Parks site to be sure. Peyto Lake is a short road in from the Icefields Parkway, the trail to the lookout might be pretty snowy though.
Monday 15th of February 2016
Awesome tips! FYI... The road to Moraine Lake is closed in the winter! The only way to get there is on skis. It's a long way in!
Sunday 30th of October 2016
Thanks for the heads up! That would be a long way to ski in, but totally worth it.
Monday 21st of September 2015
Adam, just wondering... is hiking difficult on your knees?
Sunday 30th of October 2016
Unfortunately, hiking and other athletic activities are hard on his knees. But they don't stop him!