Most people know Banff for its unreal blue lakes, summer hiking, and unbelievable drives. But what if I told you all of that gets a million times better when it’s painted in a sea of gold larches? That’s exactly why you need to explore Banff in the fall!
Banff fall foliage is a site for sore eyes, and in this guide we’re going to cover everything you need to know about visiting Banff National Park this time of year so you can have the most enjoyable trip possible!
Let’s dive right in.
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Know Before Go to Banff National Park This Fall
Let’s talk about all the things you need to know before you head to Banff National Park in autumn!
Best Time of Year to Visit for Banff Fall Colors
From personal experience, the best time of year to visit Banff National Park for fall colors is from late September (think the last week of September) to early October.
Your window for fall colors in Banff will be short. The days are long, but once they’re over, the snowstorms begin!
You can expect the temperatures to range from the low 50s to mid-20s (Fahrenheit).
Note: However, as with all fall foliage plans, prepare to be flexible! Depending on the season, the fall colors can come slightly earlier or later than expected. You can also call the Banff visitor’s center and ask when they think the peak will be.
How Long to Make Your Banff Fall Colors Trip
I recommend spending a week in Banff. A week isn’t enough time to see everything, but seven days will get you very far! You will have time to see the best of Banff’s fall colors!
Keep in mind that most of the best spots for Banff’s fall foliage will require some hiking, so you will want to consider staying for 5-7 days to take a break in between hikes!
Getting to Banff National Park in the Fall
The easiest way to get to Banff is to drive from Calgary. That means if you’re coming from out of the country, you will want to fly into the Calgary International Airport!
After you rent a car, expect the drive to take approximately 90 minutes (to the Lake Louise area). Calgary is also a great place to shop for groceries or snacks before you head into Banff on your fall color hunt. The towns closest to the park can be pricey!
There are also shuttle buses and a rail system, which will require more coordinating on your part. You can read more information on that here.
Banff National Park Fees
Banff National Park has various park fees that depend on your group size and other factors. Luckily, they make it pretty easy to purchase your pass – you can do it all online!
See their fee page here to get your pass before checking out Banff fall colors.
Where to Stay
Here are some recommendations on where to stay during your trip!
Fairmont Banff Springs (Luxury)
If you’re visiting Banff in fall, I suggest going all out on accommodations so you’re as cozy as possible. And this property is the place to be. You’ll enjoy 360 views from just about every part of the hotel, pools, and spa!
Rimrock Resort Hotel (Luxury)
Rimrock Resort Hotel is an excellent place to stay for your fall adventure! Enjoy a gorgeous view of the Rockies from your window, then head to the lobby to cozy up by the welcoming fireplace. Talk about a home away from home!
Canalta Lodge (Mid-Range)
If you’re looking for more apartment type accommodations that won’t break the bank, then the Canalta Lodge is for you! You can book suites with mini kitchens and enjoy the outdoor firepit. Plus it’s pet-friendly, so Fido can come too!
Where to Find Banff Fall Colors (+ Autumn Activities)
- Explore Icefields Parkway
- Catch Sunrise at Lake Moraine
- Hike Larch Valley
- Visit Peyto Lake
- Lake Louise
- Pocaterra Ridge
- Mt Assiniboine
This is what you were waiting for, right? Real quick, you’ll notice I talk quite a bit about “larches” in my post.
A larch is merely a type of tree. Its leaves look super fluffy and turn bright orange in the fall (trust me; you can’t miss them). They’re not orange pine trees lol.
Below is a map for you to reference. You can click here for a live version!
So without further ado, here’s what to do in Banff for fall foliage!
P.S. As an added bonus, I’ve also included a couple of places for Fall colors that are outside of the park!
#1 Explore Icefields Parkway (Banff Fall Foliage Must-Do)
Icefields is the iconic Canadian Rockies road that runs from Banff National Park to Jasper National Park. It’s a beautiful road trip spot and probably one of the most beautiful drives in the world.
When fall comes around, you bet it’s one of the best spots for Banff fall foliage! You’ll also get up close and personal with glaciers, which doesn’t happen very often.
Some must-see stops include Bow Lake and Sunwapta Falls. But I suggest pulling over any official viewpoints you want to explore!
#2 Catch Sunrise at Lake Moraine
Lake Moraine is a classic Banff spot that every visitor needs to see. After sunrise at the lake, you’ll be conveniently located right next to one of the best fall hikes in Banff. More info on that next!
Due to its growing popularity on social media, Lake Moraine has gotten significantly more crowded. You might find that even if you arrive at 6:30am, in a matter of minutes the parking will be full.
Should the parking lot fill up quickly, the park rangers will close the Lake Moraine road! So if you would like to go here, you need to go early.
#3 Hike Through Larch Valley (My Fave Banff Fall Foliage Stop)
When considering what to do in Banff this fall, you cannot skip Larch Valley. The Valley is a great hike that is more than likely going to be covered in orange when you visit!
And Minnestimma Lake will most likely leave you speechless!
The trailhead is to the right of the Lake Moraine parking lot. I’d like to note that the Lake Moraine area is a known grizzly spot, so you should hike in a group of at least four.
As long as you make a ton of noise while you walk, you’ll be fine! Pack your bear spray too.
Larch Valley Hike Info:
- Distance: 10.8km or 6.7mi RT
- Elevation Gain: 535m or 1,700ft
- Time Expected: 3-4hrs
#4 Marvel Over Peyto Lake
If you haven’t seen Peyto Lake have you really seen Banff? There isn’t much of a hike here since you can walk a little less than a mile to the viewpoint via a paved walkway—no excuses to not see the lake!
The wolf-shaped Peyto Lake is one of the most popular things to do in Banff, even in the fall, so make sure you get to the parking lot early!
#5 Wake Up for Sunrise at Lake Louise
Lake Louise is another Banff classic that you simply cannot miss! I love visiting the lake for fall colors because at the right time, the plants surrounding this dreamy, blue lake will turn gold, making the whole scene a feast for the eyes!
Note: Lake Louise is also a great place to rent a canoe and go for a morning paddle.
#6 Hike Up Pocaterra Ridge
If you’re up for a bit of a challenge then definitely add this ridge to your list while you’re in the Banff area! Pocaterra is an excellent larch hike!
During the fall the entire trail turns into a gold wonderland. Pocaterra Ridge is located in the Kananaskis area, which has some additional hikes you can do, but this one is a must.
P.S. While I love myself a good hike, Pocaterra Ridge handed it to me. My knees did not like it to say the least, so mentally prepare yourself for the elevation gain!
Pocaterra Ridge Hike Info:
- Distance: 10.3km or 6.4mi RT
- Elevation Gain: 727m or 2,300ft
- Time Expected: 3-4hrs
#7 Backpack to Mt Assiniboine
If you are thinking about what to do in Banff this fall and are up for an extended adventure, please backpack to Mt. Assiniboine!
The trailhead isn’t a very far drive from Canmore and you will NOT regret going. There are several ways you can get here, but one of the popular things to do is to helicopter into the area then hike 17 miles out.
During my last trip to Cananda, Assiniboine was by far my absolute favorite part of the entire trip. We decided to hike INTO camp first, meaning we covered 17 miles, camped, then helicoptered out.
There’s nothing “sexy” about hiking 17-miles. It’s as difficult as it sounds, but this is a truly bucketlist worthy adventure that any fall adventure lover would go crazy for.
Please note you are required to have a permit beforehand! You can read more about the permit system and park here.
Other Banff Fall Foliage Options
While you might be thinking a backpacking trip is a bit much, adding one to your Canadian Rockies itinerary will most likely leave you speechless.
Backpacking will bring you to larch views tucked away deep in the Rockies and will give even better memories!
As an alternative to the Assiniboine hike, you can try backpacking to Lake O’Hara, Floe Lake or even Berg Lake.
Seeing Fall Colors in Banff—My Final Thoughts
Banff National Park and the outer areas are a MUST on your fall bucket list.
Seeing golden larches as vibrant as they are during this time of year is something that comes around once in a lifetime. If you use any of these recommendations, let me know in the comments!
P.S. Banff in winter can be fun too!