If you’re looking for a kid-friendly vacation full of stunning turquoise glacial lakes, rocky peaks, wildlife, waterfalls, and miles of hiking trails, Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada, is the perfect location. You can easily spend a week here (try to plan at least three solid days), and you will meet families from all around the world, taking even longer to soak up the gorgeous scenery. Today, writer, editor, and Kansas City mom of two, Sarah Boles, is here sharing travel tips, outdoor activity advice, and all the information you need to plan the perfect trip to Banff National Park with kids. 

*Some experiences in this post were sponsored by Pursuit for review purposes. All opinions expressed belong to the author.

Banff with Kids

Exploring Banff with kids

Chances are you’ve probably heard people absolutely rave about Banff. But, why? What makes Banff so great for kids?

Banff has so much to offer you can easily tailor your trip to meet the needs of your family. Banff is not only a haven for nature lovers and adventure travelers but also a wonderful destination for families seeking unforgettable experiences. Its unparalleled beauty lies in the juxtaposition of snow-capped peaks against crystal-clear bright blue glacial lakes – visually, it’s nothing short of awe-inspiring. Banff’s array of outdoor activities ranges from world-class hiking trails and exhilarating wildlife encounters to pristine skiing slopes in the winter months.

You can stay in the city of Banff (within the national park) for a more comfortable experience with a wide range of lodging, restaurants, and shopping. Plus, Banff has excellent public transportation, which takes some of the stress out of navigating a new place with your kids in tow. Or, check out more remote adventures in Banff, from campgrounds to cabins to backpacking. 

Every time we visit Banff National Park we learn something and experience something new. Let us share our experiences to make your next trip to Banff National Park with your family extra memorable.

About Banff

Banff National Park, established in 1885, stands as Canada’s oldest national park and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Nestled in the heart of the Canadian Rockies, it encompasses 6,641 square kilometers of awe-inspiring landscapes, including rugged mountain peaks, glaciers, and turquoise lakes. The park was created to preserve the stunning natural beauty and promote outdoor recreation. Banff remains a testament to this commitment, offering a haven for outdoor enthusiasts with its extensive network of hiking trails, opportunities for wildlife observation, and winter sports adventures.

What sets Banff apart is not only its stunning vistas but also the immersive experiences it offers, allowing visitors to forge a profound connection with the untamed wilderness. Here, the untethered spirit of adventure meets the serenity of nature, making Banff an extraordinary and unparalleled destination for those who yearn to explore the great outdoors.

Getting to Banff

Unless you’re close enough to road trip to Banff, most people fly into Calgary International Airport (YYC). From here, it’s easiest to rent a car to get around. However you can purchase seats on charter buses that leave directly from the terminal and will drop you right at your hotel in Banff. Banff has an excellent public bus system (more on this later), which makes it very possible not to rent a car if you plan to only spend time in Banff during your visit to the Canadian Rockies.

If you do rent a car (easy to do at the airport), and need to burn off some energy after a long flight, head to the Bow River. You can choose to spend a few hours exploring the Calgary Zoo or take a walk along the Bow River Pathway, which stretches 48 km around the city.

The drive from Calgary to Banff is easy to navigate and entertaining, as the plains transition into towering rocky mountains before your eyes. Expect it to take 1.5-2 hours, depending on traffic and if you need to make a pit stop.

Bow River Pathway in Calgary

PC: Sarah Boles
Bow River Pathway downtown is a great way to get exercise after a long flight to Calgary before driving to Banff.

Best Banff attractions for kids

Like most visitors, an opportunity to experience Lake Louise and Moraine Lake is what convinced us to plan our first trip to the Canadian Rockies. We were very pleasantly surprised to find out that a wide variety of activities exist even just within the city of Banff. As a result, we can visit Banff every year and try out new activities, restaurants, and hikes, without getting bored.

If this is your first visit to Banff, or you only plan to visit once, here are a few of our bucket list family adventures.

Banff Gondola

Riding a gondola in the Canadian Rockies is one of those iconic experiences that everyone should have. The Banff Gondola does not disappoint! It takes you on an eight-minute ride up the side of Sulphur Mountain to a discovery center. Here, you can head outside to explore the boardwalk to the summit of Sanson’s Peak and the Cosmic Ray Station. During the day views are incredible – they are not kidding when they claim you can see six different mountain ranges.

I suggest heading up an hour before sunset to watch the transition from day to night fall over the river valley. The discovery center has a delicious restaurant – Sky Bistro, which is not the most kid friendly place, but a must dine for adults if you have a kid-free meal. However, there is a coffee shop with snacks, and the exhibits are great for kids. There’s even an app you can download to guide your kids through the center called “Agents of Discovery”.

You do not need to reserve a gondola ride back down, so you can stay as long as your kids are still entertained. Just make sure to ask when the last gondola is scheduled to head down that evening, as it changes depending on the time of year.

Banff Gondola ride with kids

PC: Sarah Boles
Ride the Banff Gondola with your kids for epic views of the Bow River Valley and beyond.

Banff Gondola summit with kids

PC: Sarah Boles
Kids love to explore the boardwalk at the top of the Banff Gondola.

Boat rentals with kids

We love how the Banff Townsite is built around the Bow River. You can explore its banks, but we prefer to get up close and personal and see the city from the water. I highly recommend renting a watercraft from the Banff Canoe Club. Their location is easy to access whether we stay in town or further out, and we have options on where we paddle.

The Banff Canoe Club’s boat launch sits on a quiet part of the river, where you can easily head around the bend through the main stretch of town for a shorter, yet entertaining paddle. If you’re looking for a longer adventure, you can make your way out to the Vermillion Lakes and back in a few hours. The staff is friendly and knowledgeable, they deal with all experience levels well, and they have reasonable prices for rentals – exactly what to look for in a business when paddling with kids on vacation.

Banff Canoe Club with kids

PC: Sarah Boles
The Banff Canoe Club rents canoes and kayaks on the Bow River near downtown Banff.

Canoe with kids in Banff

PC: Sarah Boles
A family canoes with their daughter for the first time on the Bow River in Banff.

Best kid-friendly hikes in Banff

Being a national park, Banff has a huge variety of trails for all levels of hikers. You can find everything from extremely remote backpacking trails to paved trails in town. It can be easy to forget you are out in the wild when hiking near town; always be bear aware. Certain hikes require bear spray and groups of four or more hikers, depending on the season.

Here are a few recommendations for shorter hiking adventures with your family.

Tunnel Mountain hike with kids

Tunnel Mountain is an iconic Banff hike in part because its trailhead is located downtown. It’s a half mile walk east from Banff Avenue to the trailhead at the lower parking area. From there, the trail winds upward through the forest, offering views of downtown Banff and the surrounding mountains as you climb. Round trip the hike clocks in at just under three miles with under 1,000 feet elevation gain. For a summit hike, this trail is very kid-friendly, even for younger walkers.

Tunnel Mountain perfect hike for kids in Banff

PC: Sarah Boles
Head to Tunnel Mountain for a great, kid-friendly hike in downtown Banff.

Bow River Falls hike with kids

For a mostly flat hike near downtown, take the Bow River Trail to Bow River Falls. The trail follows the river through the woods along the river. It’s dirt most of the way, with wooden stairs built into the path as you get closer to the falls. The trail has lots of social trails that lead you to benches and clearings along the river, so you need to keep a close eye on young hikers. However, the trail itself is far enough from the river banks that you shouldn’t have an issue catching up with a young one who takes off on their own path.

It’s very common to spot elk on or near the trail, especially during the morning. Make sure to review wildlife safety with your kids before setting out.

To get to the Bow River Trail from downtown you can walk along the trail on either side of the Bow River. We like to cross the river on the pedestrian bridge closest to the falls, because it has a rainbow painted on it. The falls are best enjoyed from the trail along the southwest side of the river.

Past the base of the falls you can interact more with the river itself. There’s space in calmer water to dip your toes in (it’s ice cold by the way), and see who can make the biggest splash or skip their rock the farthest.

We love this hike because it can take an hour or three, depending on how much exploring we do along the river. It’s also a great picnic hike with lots of spots to stop and enjoy a bite. Most importantly, it’s pretty impossible to get lost on this trail. The Banff Townsite does an excellent job with signage, making it easy to navigate your way back, even if you get distracted and stray from the river trail.

This is our go to hike if the weather is less than ideal, someone doesn’t feel well, or wildfire smoke is an issue.

Rainbow Bridge in Banff

PC: Sarah Boles
Kids love to cross the Bow River on the rainbow pedestrian bridge in Banff.

Perfect picnic spot with kids along the Bow River in Banff

PC: Sarah Boles
The Bow River Trail has lots of fun spots to stop along the trail. They’re great to rest short legs or to have a picnic with your kids.

Bow River Falls in Banff

The area at the base of Bow River Falls is a great place to let your kids explore the river in much calmer waters.

Lake Louise and Moraine Lake with kids

And, of course, there’s those world-famous natural glacial lakes located in Banff National Park that you hear so much about – Lake Louise and Moraine Lake. There’s a ton to do near the city of Banff, but if you cannot resist experiencing Lake Louise and Moraine Lake in real life, here’s what you need to know.

Canoe Moraine Lake with your kids

PC: Wendy Cox
You can make your visit to Lake Louise and Moraine Lake in Banff extra memorable by renting a canoe with your kids.

Getting to Lake Louise – public transportation

To get to Lake Louise, you can reserve a seat on the Roam Transit bus to the Lake Louise Lakeshore so that you don’t have to worry about driving or parking. Tickets for children 12 and under are free, but they still need a ticket to reserve their seat. One-way tickets to Lake Louise from downtown Banff cost $10 for adults. You can purchase a day pass for $25.

I highly recommend taking public transportation when you’re visiting Banff. It’s convenient, easy, and takes the guesswork out of things. The only drawback is that you have to stick to a schedule. Because of this, I recommend getting a later reservation. If your family is finished earlier, then you can get in line for an earlier bus, and if they have room, they will let you on. 

Year-round, you can book a seat on the 8x route, which leaves from the Roam Transport Centre in front of Banff High School. During the summer, on the weekends, the 8s route also runs from downtown Banff along the Bow Parkway, a more scenic route. If you are not staying downtown Banff, you can park your car for free at the Banff Train Station and walk to the bus stop.

Take Roam Transit to Lake Louise with your kids

PC: Sarah Boles The Roam Transit public bus system is the easiest way to get from Banff to Lake Louise with your kids.

Getting to Lake Louise – driving your family

You can also choose to drive your family to Lake Louise. If you do this, during peak season (mid-May through mid-October), you will need to make a Parks Canada account and reserve a shuttle to access Lake Louise. In 2023, they implemented a bus system to reduce crowding. You will park at a park n’ ride near the Trans Canada Highway and take the shuttle.

The online shuttle reservation system is a bit frustrating, so mentally prepare yourself for this. Also, 40% of tickets are released in the spring. Don’t worry that everything is sold out, though; they release the remaining 60% of tickets at 8 a.m. two days prior, so set your alarm for 7:55 a.m. to snag up the seats you need. But, do yourself a favor – create your Parks Canada account ahead of time, not in those precious minutes before the remaining tickets are released (you can thank us later).

Exploring Lake Louise with kids

Before you start planning your Lake Louise adventure, be honest with yourself and set some realistic expectations – it will be crowded. People come from around the world to visit the Canadian Rockies, and this is the iconic spot that has drawn them to the region. Pack your patience and your snacks.

You can try to schedule your visit earlier in the morning if that works with your family, but keep in mind people flock here to photograph the gorgeous glacial blue waters at sunrise, sunset, and every time in between. As you walk the shore looking for your postcard-perfect view, one great thing is there will always be someone to take a family photo for you.

If your family likes to hike, we highly recommend moving on to Moraine Lake to create some distance between your family and the crowds.

Family photo at Lake Louise in Banff

PC: Sarah Boles
It’s hard to crop out the thousands of other people at Lake Louise in Banff to capture the perfect family photo with your kids, but it’s possible.

Getting to Moraine Lake with kids

Starting in 2023, experiencing Moraine Lake requires more planning. First of all, the road is closed to all vehicles from mid-October through June (weather dependent) due to avalanches. Over the summer, a Parks Canada shuttle connector bus runs from Lake Louise Lakeshore to Moraine Lake. You need to reserve your pass online ahead of time. Just like the Parks Canada buses from the Park ‘n’ Ride, they release 40% of the seats in the spring, and the remaining 60% become available online at 8 am. two days prior.

If you cannot find seats on the Parks Canada shuttle, you can look into booking a shuttle with a private bus company. This is also how you can reach Moraine Lake if you want to arrive before sunrise or stay past 6 pm. (when the final Parks Canada shuttle leaves for Lake Louise).

Parks Canada shuttle between Moraine Lake and Lake Louise in Banff.

PC: Sarah Boles
Pack your patience! While very well organized, the shuttle system for visiting Moraine Lake in Banff requires passes purchased ahead of time, and waiting in line, which can be stressful with your kids in tow.

Exploring Moraine Lake with kids

Moraine Lake is a whole different scene than Lake Louise (thankfully). The bus will drop you off a very short walk from the shore. From here, you can head right for a walk along the lakeshore. It’s a dirt trail with tree roots – stroller friendly (although a bit bumpy), kid friendly, and there are many places to access the water (again, it’s ice cold). If you have an hour or less, this is how to experience the lake with your kids.

You can also rent canoes to paddle Moraine Lake. The lakeshore trail will lead you to the Lake Lodge, which rents canoes from its dock. However, this is not one of those spur-of-the-moment decisions. Rentals are first come, first served, which means you may have to wait (hard with kids), or if you come too late in the day, you will be out of luck. Also, since only one company has the right to rent boats on the lake, the cost is … astronomical. (As in over $100 U.S. dollars an hour – ouch, right!)

This is one of those bucket-list experiences that you need to budget for and decide if this is how you want to experience this world-famous lake. If you do it, you will not be disappointed. We just want to make sure you know that hiking around the lake offers amazing views as well, so if your kids aren’t fans of hanging out in the canoe or won’t help paddle, your trip to Moraine Lake will still be fantastically memorable.

Canoe Moraine Lake with Kids

PC: Sarah Boles
Rent a canoe to paddle Moraine Lake in Banff with your kids from the Moraine Lake Resort.

Best Moraine Lake hikes with kids

If you have more time, there are some excellent hiking options in the Moraine Lake area for families. From the parking lot, head left on the trail when you near the lakeshore. You will join the crowds by climbing up the Rockpile, a rocky outcropping along the lakeshore with epic views of the lake.

Depending on the crowds, you may be able to squeeze this adventure into an hour, but 1.5 hours will allow you time to take in the views, arrange photos without other tourists, and not have to worry about weaving through the crowds with kids to reach the shuttle bus.

Larch Valley

One of the best hikes from Moraine Lake is to Larch Valley. Of course, the larch trees light up in fall, making it the best time to make this hike. But you will find this hike enjoyable anytime, and much less crowded than hanging around the lakeshore. This takes you to more remote areas, which means you should bring bear spray and stay together on trail.

Take the lakeshore trail to find the Larch Valley trailhead just past the Moraine Lake Lodge. After the first kilometer (a bit over half a mile), the trail becomes less groomed, and you will begin a series of steeper switchbacks. It’s still very doable for kids, but use this as a good place to stop for a drink and check-in. If anyone is not in good spirits, head back down and explore more of the lakeshore. If not, continue on as the trail leads through the woods up the mountainside. You will enjoy views of the lake as well as wildflowers during the summer, and of course, the largest concentration of larch trees will change from green to lemon-lime to brilliant gold as fall arrives.

Consolation Lakes

We also love hiking to Consolation Lakes from Moraine Lake. Once you check out the Rockpile, head back down the stairs to find the trailhead for Consolation Lakes Trail. You will travel through the forest on a relatively easy path – not a lot of elevation gain here. You can go as far as the first alpine lake, if you want, which makes the trail a bit over 3.5 miles round trip. The best part about this trail – even though it’s easy and gorgeous, not a lot of people take it. Just remember your bear spray, like any trail in the Moraine Lake area.

Kids rest on a bench on the Lakeshore Trail at Moraine Lake in Banff.

PC: Tine Voeten
The Lakeshore Trail at Moraine Lake in Banff has lots of spots to rest tired legs, as well as to dip your toes in the clear cold waters.

The Rockpile at Moraine Lake in Banff

PC: Sarah Boles
The Rockpile is a very popular and easily accessible place to take photos of Moraine Lake in Banff. Continue on this trail to hike toward Consolation Lakes for a quieter, less crowded experience.

Larch Valley hike with kids in Banff.

PC: Sarah Boles
To distance yourself from the crowds, branch off from the lakeshore trail at Moraine Lake and head up the Larch Valley Trail. This kid-friendly trail leads you to the highest concentration of larch trees in all of Banff, which turn golden at the end of September each year.

Where to stay in Banff with kids

Banff has so many housing options for your stay; there’s literally something perfect for every family. We have found the most important thing to keep in mind when looking at housing there is that we don’t actually spend much time in our hotel room! There’s just so much to do! All we really need is a solid basecamp to rest our heads.

Elk + Avenue Hotel lofts great for families

With that in mind, Elk + Avenue is a favorite of ours thanks to it being located directly across the street from the Roam Transit hub. This simplifies travel for us, which is important. This hotel is located in the middle of everything, including our favorite souvenir shop and restaurants. It’s also a short walk to the river, to the Tunnel Mountain trailhead for hiking, and to the elementary school when we need to burn off some energy on the playground.

We also like Elk + Avenue because they have loft rooms. Something about high ceilings just makes it feel like we have more space when we travel with our kids. The lofted rooms also help create separation between the sleeping area and the space to hang out, which feels more like home.

Elk + Avenue has tons of comfy social spaces on the main floor of the hotel that help us never feel cooped up in our hotel room when we need downtime. These come in handy at nap time, because they allow us to divide and conquer. One adult can head back to our room with our nappers, while another can take the older kiddos who just need some quiet time in the lobby to play board games they have on hand, or cuddle up by the fireplace and read books/play on their devices.

Elk + Avenue hotel in Banff is a great place to stay with kids.

PC: Sarah Boles
Elk + Avenue hotel in Banff has tons of comfortable spaces to relax when your kids need downtime.

Loft rooms at Elk + Avenue are perfect for kids.

PC: Sarah Boles
The loft rooms at Elk + Avenue give us enough space to unwind when we need to relax after a day of adventuring around Banff as a family.

Kids love the rooftop hot tubs in Banff

Two other places stick out as awesome family hotels in Banff: the Mount Royale and the Fairmont Banff Springs. Mount Royale sits a few blocks closer to the Bow River, down Banff Avenue from Elk + Avenue. Besides the great location, we love Mount Royale because it has two rooftop hot tubs! From the rooftop, you have uninterrupted views of everything from Mount Rundle to the shops along Banff Ave to Cascade Mountain. Our favorite upscale restaurant in Banff – Brazen – is located in this hotel as well.

The Mount Royale hotel sits in the heart of Banff Avenue with epic views in every direction.

PC: Sarah Boles
The Mount Royale hotel is a total package for families. Not only is it in the middle of all the action in Banff, it has a rooftop hot tub and delicious restaurant.

Rooftop hot tub and lounge at Mount Royale hotel in Banff.

PC: Sarah Boles
Families love to hang out on the rooftop at the Mount Royale hotel in Banff. There are two hot tubs and an indoor and outdoor lounge space. The views are epic day and night.

Kids at the Castle in Banff

The Fairmont Banff Springs hotel sits on the hillside, towering over the Bow River. It’s an iconic place to stay in Banff, for good reason. It’s off the main drag in town, making it quieter, and its position high on the hillside offers unique views of the mountains and river valley.

We like the Fairmont because of its kid programming, “Kids @ the Castle.” They host activities for ages 3-12 (must be potty-trained), everything from float trips to tennis lessons to hikes. The Fairmont has plenty of adult things to do while your kids play, including a golf course and a spa. Even if you don’t stay there, you’ll get a great view of the Fairmont if you hike the Bow River Trail to Bow River Falls.

The Fairmont Banff Springs towers above the river valley in Banff.

PC: Sarah Boles
The Fairmont Banff Springs is a fantastic hotel in Banff, especially for families.

Where to eat in Banff with kids

Banff is a melting pot of amazing cuisine. You will find delicious options for any type of food, from Italian to Indian to Greek. Plus, Alberta is known for its high quality beef production, making it easy to find any delicious beef and potatoes style meal of your choosing here.

Our favorite upscale restaurant in town is Brazen, located at the Mount Royale Hotel on Banff Avenue. Honestly, if it were in the budget we would eat every meal here, and thanks to the variety and unique offerings, we could do so and not get bored.

If you head to Brazen for brunch, we highly recommend the avocado toast. For dinner, have everyone order something different and then share. Make sure someone orders the Ginger Beef, the kids (and adults) will love the fiery presentation that goes along with it as it’s served.

We love to eat a meal here with our family because the menu (which changes seasonally) always features something new to introduce our kids to, from the ramen duck eggs (our favorite) to the swordfish to the bison skewers. For picky eaters, you can’t go wrong with the kid’s hamburger meal, which comes with a side of tater tots and an ice cream cookie sandwich.

You don’t have to go far to find a good coffee shop in Banff either. We haven’t found one we don’t like, but we keep going back to Evelyn’s Coffee Bar, centrally located on Banff Avenue. Everyone loves their food as well. From pastries to breakfast burritos, we haven’t tried anything that hasn’t been completely devoured.

Banff Avenue has plenty of ice cream and candy options as well, if you choose not to have dessert at the restaurant. 

Brazen in Banff serves up delicious ginger beef and other unique plates.

PC: Sarah Boles
If you only take one piece of our advice, head over to Brazen for a meal with your family. They specialize in unique, sharable plates. The ginger beef comes with a fiery presentation your kids will love.

A kid's meal at Brazen serves ice cream cookies with its kid's meals in Banff.

PC: Sarah Boles
Brazen has a super unique menu that changes seasonally. And while it’s a great opportunity to introduce your kids to new dishes, they will appreciate that all kid’s meals come with an ice cream cookie.

Banff has plenty of ice cream and dessert options for kids all over town.

PC: Sarah Boles
Banff Avenue alone has tons of ice cream and candy shops to treat your kids while vacationing in Banff.

Where to shop in Banff with kids

We are guilty of loving to purchase souvenirs on our trips, especially if we visit somewhere very unique. Banff Avenue is lined with shopping options, from big outdoor brands to a range of souvenir shops. We discovered Big Bear Trading Co. on our first visit and now that’s the only place we stop. The selection is ample, prices are fair, and most importantly, the quality is high. We haven’t needed to replace our Banff apparel from here because they have stood the test of time.

The best place to buy souvenirs for your kids in Banff is Big Bear.

PC: Sarah Boles
We head straight to Big Bear Trading Co. for all our souvenirs. It’s located on Banff Avenue not far from the Roam Transit Hub.

Transportation around Banff with kids

Banff has public transportation figured out. The Roam Transit bus system goes everywhere you need to be. You can take it around town as well as out to more remote parts of the park, including Lake Louise. In fact, if you present your Banff Gondola ticket, the Roam bus will take you back to town for free.

Even if you have a car with you, you may opt to take the Roam bus to get around. This will relieve the stress of navigating around an unfamiliar place. You also won’t have to worry about vehicle and pedestrian traffic, parking, and abiding by the very low (and well-enforced) speed limits in town.

Roam Transit buses make getting around Banff easy with kids.

PC: Sarah Boles
Taking the Roam bus everywhere makes getting around Banff so much easier as a family. Plus, the main bus stop is located across the street from our favorite place to stay, Elk + Avenue hotel.

What to skip when you visit Banff with kids

If you need help narrowing down the long list of activities you made, let us share a few tips.

The Lake Minnewanka boat tour in Banff is gorgeous. We highly recommend it for adults – they even have a booze cruise with local craft beers available – but it’s not the greatest for little kids (six and under). It may feel tempting to take the entire family on the Junior Cruise, as it’s shorter, and kids under 5 ride free. But, it’s still an hour long, and there’s no bathroom on the boat (a huge red flag as a parent).

If you have recently potty trained kiddos, even up to age 5, we recommend skipping this. While the Junior Cruise is very interactive, you still sit in your seats for most of the tour, with up to eight people permitted to go outside on the back of the boat at a time. Even when you do get up to move around and go outside, it can be hard to balance for little legs.

However, the Junior Cruise is perfect for kids ages 6-12, so if you don’t have littles with you, by all means, check it out. If you do have littles, we recommend using the funds you would have spent on the boat cruise to take everyone up the Banff Gondola, where there’s plenty of room to explore atop the mountain, food, and clean bathrooms.

Some may disagree, but I have to say, it’s ok to skip Lake Louise and Moraine Lake if you have your kids with you. Honestly, there’s so much more to do in Banff, that dealing with thousands of people all trying to capture a postcard image of themselves with this lake makes all the logistics not so worth it – whether you have your kids with you or not. Unless you just have to experience Lake Louise and Moraine Lake in real life (which we understand as well!), I suggest skipping it, especially if you visit during July and August. For reference, we have only visited the lakes in mid-May and early September for this exact reason. If we go any other time of year, we skip it. And even during those “off-season” times, it was still way too crowded for us to really enjoy ourselves.

Lake Minnewanka boat cruise in Banff

PC: Sarah Boles
The boat cruises at Lake Minnewanka are a great way to see the glacial waters and rocky peaks of Banff National Park. However, we recommend skipping this if you have younger kids as there are no bathrooms on the boats.

Lake Minnewanka boat cruise with older kids

PC: Sarah Boles
A tour guide explains the legend surrounding the city at the bottom of Lake Minnewanka during a boat cruise. We recommend these interactive cruises for school age kids and adults. 

Best time to visit Banff with kids

Here are a few things to keep in mind when planning your vacation to Banff National Park.

  • It snows a lot in the Canadian Rockies! If you do not want snow involved in your vacation, stick to the main tourist season, which runs from mid-May through mid-October.
  • During peak season, Banff Avenue closes to vehicle traffic to allow tourists more space to move. Restaurants set up outdoor seating on the road to accommodate the influx of visitors as well. If you’re driving, plan accordingly. 
  • The road to Moraine Lake is only open June through October (weather permitting).
  • Lake Louise, Moraine Lake, and the other glacial lakes in the area reach their peak turquoise color in June.
  • Larch season, or peak fall colors, occur in the few weeks between the end of September and mid October. Keep in mind, your chance for snow begins around this time as well in the higher elevations.
  • An increasingly bigger concern in Banff National Park is wildfires. It’s not just the worry about wildfires causing destruction in the area. The smoke from wildfires farther north in Alberta travels down and can quickly transform your expansive views of the Rockies to nothing but an orange glow. This can be an issue at any time during the main tourism season, unfortunately.
Kids enjoy the views while hiking in Banff

PC: Wendy Cox
Banff has so many perfect hiking trails for families you can keep coming back year after year and not hit them all.

Visiting Banff with kids – bottom line

Banff National Park is a wonderful place for a unique experience with kids, regardless of how outdoorsy and adventurous your family is. You can conquer the rapids of the Bow River together, bike along the Bow Valley Parkway when it closes to vehicles, or backpack remote trails through grizzly bear country. Or, you can have an equally memorable time with your family dipping toes in ice-cold turquoise waters of glacial lakes, summiting a mountain via a gondola, or walking along the Bow River looking for wildlife.

Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada, is the perfect outdoor vacation destination for any family.

Have you ever explored Banff National Park with kids?

About the author

Writer, editor, photographer, teacher, and mama. Sarah Boles resides near Kansas City, Missouri, and escapes into the woods whenever she can. Her professional and personal mission is to help families get outside by increasing access to the outdoors for everyone. When she’s not creating or teaching, Sarah’s playing outside, usually with her kids. She loves to climb, hike, run trails, snowshoe, paddle, jump in puddles, garden, and pick up trash.

You can find more from Sarah online in the following locations: 
Instagram: @on_belay_edits
RWMC posts: Sarah Boles