My Top 5 Things to Do in Beautiful Banff

Banff Springs Golf Course and Banff Springs Hotel (Image: Fairmont Banff Springs)

Two of my favourite things: the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel and its famous Stanley Thompson-designed golf course. (Image: Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel)

From an after-golf soak in the hot springs to an unforgettable gondola ride, my top five things to do on your post-pandemic vacation in Canada’s famous Rocky Mountain playground.

(Last updated July 2021.)

When I was younger and fresh out of university, I once spent a summer afternoon diving off the rocks and swimming in the currents about 300 metres below the Bow Falls in Banff, Alberta. I still can’t believe how fearless I was in those days, or how I was apparently immune to the icy temperature of the sparkling clear water.

I’ve been irresistibly drawn to the town of Banff ever since—to the sweeping Rocky Mountain vistas, the sweet fir-scented air and, of course, to the world-renowned Banff Springs Golf Course, one of my favourite courses in the world.

As much as I love teeing it up in Banff and at the trio of excellent nearby mountain courses (Stewart Creek, Silvertip and Canmore G.C.C.), I always make time for a handful of other essential Banff experiences—from a luxurious soak in the Upper Hot Springs to reacquainting myself with the spectacular views from the top of Sulphur Mountain.

Here, my Top 5 Things to Do In and Near Beautiful Banff:

    1. Bow Falls: I always make a point of going back and saying hello to the Bow Falls. The scenic cascade, just below the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, is accessible by walking and biking paths that follow this stretch of the south shore of the Bow River.
    2. Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel: Is there a better summer experience in Canada than dining al fresco on the patio of the iconic Castle in the Rockies? Not far behind is a spa treatment at the hotel’s luxurious Willow Stream Spa, where the mountain valley views are equally spectacular.
    3. Banff Gondola: No fewer than six mountain ranges unfold before your eyes as your glass-enclosed gondola ascends Sulphur Mountain. At the top, the self-guided Banff Skywalk leads hikers along the thrilling summit ridge.
    4. Banff Upper Hot Springs: Nothing soothes sore muscles after a day of golf or hiking like a long soak in Banff’s famous hot springs. It was the discovery of the hot springs in 1884 that spurred the construction of the original mostly wooden Banff Springs Hotel and the development of the local tourism industry.
    5. Icefields Parkway and Lake Louise: As enticing as the town of Banff may be, to really make the most of your trip to the mountains you have to get out and drive at least part of the breathtakingly beautiful 230-kilometre Icefields Parkway. Linking Lake Louise in the south with the town of Jasper in the north, the parkway offers endless views of soaring snowcapped peaks, mountain lakes and fast-charging rivers as it winds through both Banff and Jasper national parks. Lake Louise is just a 57-kilometre hop north of Banff. Set in a small glacial valley surrounded by snow-topped peaks, the turquoise lake is every bit as lovely as you’ve heard. And set on the lake’s north shore is the iconic Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise hotel, the perfect jumping off point for the hiking trails that thread through the surrounding mountain slopes.