Banff: A Must Do Trip with Teens

You know those destinations that shine on Instagram, but never live up to the hype in real life. Well, that’s not Banff. Every photo you’ve ever seen taken in Banff is only half as beautiful as it is in real life. I’m here to tell you that Banff is a must do trip with teens. You will enjoy watching your teens experience the incredible awe inspiring effect of Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada. Banff is a must do trip with teens who love the outdoors and adventure.

a lakeside view of Moraine Lake in the early morning with a red canoe sitting beside. a dock and the steep mountains jutting up from the lakeside behind

Where is Banff?

The town of Banff and Banff National Park are located in the province of Alberta, Canada. Alberta is in the Western area of Canada, and sits above the state of Montana. The Canadian Rockies run through this area. The best airport option is to fly into Calgary International Airport (YYC). Secure a rental car so you have freedom to explore-it’s a simple drive. You may wonder where the mountains are when you land, but it won’t take too long for the Canadian Rockies to come into full view. The easy drive from the airport to Banff will take about 1.5 hours.

When is the best time for a must do trip with teens to Banff?

Banff is honestly a year-round destination, but you will need to manage your expectations. The best time to visit Banff is when you can do the activities you want to do together with your teens. Prices and crowds will be highest during summer and winter.

Winter in Banff

If you are looking for ski and winter sport weather, there is no doubt that Banff in winter is stunning. Snow covered peaks with ample winter excitement matched with cozy lodging and bustling lit town streets. You can still hike in winter, but make sure you have ice cleats to avoid slipping and sliding. Lake Louise, when frozen over, turns into an ice rink with ice castles. Snowshoe and cross country ski trails are located at the base of Lake Louise. If you are brave, you can polar plunge in Vermillion Lakes.

an evening view of a snow covered Banff

Spring in Banff

Spring is an excellent time to avoid crowds. You can still ski all spring as the mountains in Banff will maintain their snowy peaks and you can snowboard and ski to your heart’s content. If wildlife watching and wildlife sitings are something important to you and your teens, Spring is an excellent time for a must to trip to Banff.

an aerial view of Banff in the valley between 10 peaks

Summer in Banff

Summer in Banff is the most popular time to visit so the crowds can be challenging. On the other hand, the weather is optimal, so there is a trade off. The Banff summer months don’t last long and truly only encompass June, July and August. Your teens will enjoy the lakes, hikes, views, and other outdoor activities.

a young adult resting in a hammock between two trees overlooking a beautiful Moraine Lake in Banff

Fall is the best time to visit Banff

The weather and temperatures will swing during fall months. On a positive note, the crowds will thin out and prices will drop for lodging. The beautiful leaf changes during the month of September are reason enough to visit in fall. I can say from experience, though, that even in late September you may get snow. And then the next day you will have glorious sunshine and comfortable temps.

landscape shot of a valley floor in Banff as the leaves begin to change color

Lodging near Banff

You can approach your lodging options in a variety of ways. Some people like to have a home base and stay put for a week. Others treat Banff more like a road trip destinations and split time between two or three locations. I tend to split lodging because the driving time can eat into activity time. However, the driving is so darn beautiful that you won’t mind it at all! There are options for every budget and several areas to stay.

Stay in Banff (downtown)

When you stay in downtown Banff, you will have all of the shops and restaurants at your fingertips. Don’t worry, you won’t be compromising on scenery. Even downtown has epic views. The prices here can be a bit steep, but you will have every convenience. Consider the Royal Canadian Lodge for mid range or the Fairmont Banff Springs for luxury.

iconic photo of downtown Banff from street level with bikers and pedestrians in the photo next to shops and restaurants


Although Canmore is further from Banff National Park, you will still find great family lodging options at a better price point. The town of Canmore also has a lot to offer for restaurants and shops and conveniences abound. This is a spot where teens can roam free and have some much needed independence. Check out White Spruce Lodge for condo type accommodations as well as Tamarack Lodge. These will be especially great for extra space for the entire family.

a sunset view from a balcony in Canmore village in Banff

Lake Louise

The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise is possibly the most famous hotel in Banff, and for good reason. it is a gorgeous luxury hotel that sits right on the banks of Lake Louise. Your family will be right in the heart of the park and have easy access to all of the outdoor adventure. This hotel, though, comes with a hefty price tag, and I expect rates to climb as a stunning new outdoor heated pool is currently under construction and scheduled to open in 2024. This won’t just be a pool, it will be an entire thermal wellness facility. Stay tuned!

the lobby of the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise in Banff National Park

Emerald Lake Lodge

Sneaking this one in here. It’s not actually located in Banff. In fact, it’s just across the boarder into British Columbia and is part of Yoho National Park. If you intend to carry on your travels to Yoho National Park or Jasper National Park, this is a great option. It’s quaint and it’s quiet. The lodging may seem a tad outdated, but you can’t replace the views and location. I will be staying here next time. It’s also such a gem that it fills up quickly and it could be because the restaurant on site is out of this world.

the lodge at Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park


I’m including this city spot on the list because it is likely that you may need a night on the front end or back end to your trip. City stays can be confusing, especially if you aren’t there for the city and it’s just a stopover. There are two options at the airport to consider: The Calgary Airport Marriott and the Delta Marriott are both right on site.

If you have the opportunity to explore downtown Calgary for a day or even half a day and need a night downtown, look into the Hyatt Regency, which has an awesome pool. Yes, I know it is a big corporate type hotel, but the location is excellent. The Westley Calgary Downtown (a Tapestry Collection by Hilton property) puts you closer to Prince’s Island Park.

wide angle distance shot of downtown Calgary as the sun sets

3 Must do activities in Banff for families with teens

Via Ferrata

Via Ferrata at Mt. Norquay: This is a guided, non-technical rock climb. You will climb ladders, cross swinging bridges, and scale the side of the mountain as you clip yourself in and out of metal hooks and lines along the way. They offer 5 routes that vary in adventure level and last anywhere from 2.5-6 hours. All of the equipment you need will be included in the fee. The fee varies based on which route you choose, but will be around $200/pp. Equipment will include a helmet, harness, boots, gloves, and carabiners.

It does require you to listen to the certified and experienced guide as you traverse the mountainside. This activity requires a minimum age of 12 (must also be 88 pounds) and parental affirmation that those teens will listen to instructions. More difficult routes require an age of 14. The guides will encourage and give technical instruction along the way. Everything is totally secure and safe and the expert guides communicate clearly. After you ride the chairlift up to the base, you will practice with your carabiners and get comfortable with your equipment. You will all need some level of fitness to accomplish the Via Ferrata. It is incredible and totally awesome for family bonding.

hikers scaling a mountainside while on a via ferrate route in Banff
hikers crossing a swinging bridge on a via ferrate route at Mt. Norquay in Banff

Canoe on your must do trip for teens

This may seem like a super touristy activity, but getting out on one of the pristine lakes in the Canadian Rockies is an experience your teens will not forget. The pictures of the milky turquoise waters are real and being up close to it is mesmerizing. It is absolutely worth the time and money to do this activity with your teens. Here is what you need to know about 3 locations you can choose from.

Lake Louise canoe

This is the most popular choice and the most in demand. Canoes are available for rent at the boathouse on the Western shore. Rentals are only allowed for 30 minutes or 1 hour, and each canoe can fit either 2-3 people depending on the weight. Canoe rentals are first come, first serve-no reservations are allowed. The season runs approximately from late May to early October, but is totally weather dependent. Rates are $135 for in house guests of the Fairmont hotel and $145 for day visitors for 1 hour and $85/hotel guests and $95/day visitors for the 30 minute rental.

photo from inside a canoe at Lake Louise in Banff

Moraine Lake canoe

Moraine Lake is another great option on your must do trip with teens, especially if they want to rent canoes. They also have a first come, first serve rental basis. The season here is slightly shorter and only runs from mid June to mid September. Canoes accommodate 2-3 people, and no pets are allowed. The prices here are about $102/hour. In the event of inclement weather, there will be no rentals allowed. Be aware that Moraine Lake is closed to personal vehicles year round. You will need to reserve a shuttle to visit. This must be done in advance to ensure your day trip to Moraine Lake. Although this is a pain, it does limit the amount of visitors and makes for a better experience for everyone.

Close up of canoes on the dock at Moraine Lake in Banff National Park

Emerald Lake canoe

As stated above, Emerald Lake is an off the beaten path gem. If the shuttle at Moraine Lake or the crowds at Lake Louise make it difficult for you to canoe there, consider Emerald Lake. The rental company is family owned and operated since 1981.

The rental prices are cheaper at $70/hour and are all first come first serve. There are no reservations. Canoe rentals at Emerald Lake are usually available from late May until Canadian Thanksgiving weekend (the second weekend in October), but it is weather dependent. Canoes fit up to 3 adults or 2 adults and two young children. Emerald Lake also permits small dogs!

a wide angle photo of the boathouse at Emerald Lake in British Columbia

Hike with your teens in Banff

Banff is a hikers dream! Many of the incredible photos you see of Banff are taken from the trails found all around the 10 peaks and the valleys in between. Banff National Park covers nearly 2500 square miles of Rocky Mountain wilderness, with waterfalls, canyons, glaciers, forests and hot springs.

  • Lake Agnes with Little Beehive loop : 5.7 miles, rated Hard
  • Larch Valley: 7 miles, rated Moderate
  • Sulphur Mountain: 6.7 miles, rated Hard
  • Johnston Canyon to Ink Pots: 7 miles, rated Moderate
  • Johnston Canyon to Upper Falls: 3.3 miles, rated Moderate
  • Plain of Six Glaciers: 9.1 miles, rated Moderate

Hiking with your teens will give you ample time to have quality conversations, lots of opportunities for photos, and memories to last a lifetime. It’s also an incredible way to see the backcountry of one of the most beautiful places on Earth. When you are out there on the trail, you will realize just how small you are in this world. And, you’ll be so glad you did this must do trip with teens in Banff.

hikers on a snow dusted trail

So, the only question now is when will you plan Banff: a must do trip with teens?

If you’re looking for further inspiration on travel with teens check out these other posts

U.S. Travel Bucket List for Teens

Seattle to Olympic National Park with Teens

Hiking in Mt. Rainier with Teens

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