15 Banff Adventures & Indigenous Experiences: Your QuickGuide!

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Welcome to Banff, Alberta, a destination nestled amidst the stunning Canadian Rockies in Banff National Park. Known for its pristine wilderness and rugged landscapes, Banff offers an array of attractions and activities for outdoor enthusiasts. With over 4 million yearly visitors it is Canada’s most visited national park!

From exploring historic sites like Cave and Basin National Historic Park to marveling at the panoramic views from the Banff Gondola on Sulphur Mountain, there’s no shortage of adventures waiting to be had. Discover Indigenous experiences that offer insights into the rich cultural heritage of the region, adding depth to your exploration of this iconic mountain town.

Banff Gondola on Sulpher Mountain

Banff Gondola Credit Pursuit Collection
Banff Gondola Credit Pursuit Collection

Ride the Banff Gondola to the summit of Sulphur Mountain for breathtaking panoramic views of the Canadian Rockies and the town of Banff below. Experience the thrill of ascending to the top of the world-renowned Sulphur Mountain aboard the Banff Gondola.

Nightrise on Sulphur Mountain

Nightrise at Sulphur Mountain in Banff Credit DownshiftingPRO 1
Nightrise at Sulphur Mountain in Banff Credit DownshiftingPRO

A multimedia sound and light show created by Moment Factory, Nightrise honors the magic of sacred mountains, a place of gathering for many, including the Stoney Nakoda People (Îyârhe Îethka), since time immemorial.

Through the Four Wonders, connect with the summit of Sulphur Mountain (Mînî Rhuwîn). Immersive light, sound, and projection stations spread throughout the summit building. Interact with Cosmic Ray projections on the lower terrace. Bask in shimmering light at the second floor’s Diamond Dust station. Explore Alpenglow, a digital art tribute to the mountains on the fourth floor. Then, continue to the top-floor patio and listen to the view with Frosted Waves.

Banff Medicine Walk

Medicine Walk at Cascade Ponds Banff National Park Credit DownshiftingPRO 1
Banff Medicine Walk at Cascade Ponds Credit: DownshiftingPRO

Join an Indigenous and knowledgeable tour guide from Banff Medicine Walk who will share the fascinating history of Cascade Ponds in Banff National Park. Learn more about how Indigenous people have lived and survived in Alberta for centuries. Walk with the guide as they explain the medicinal properties of the region’s flora and fauna.

Bow Valley Parkway

Bow Valley Parkway Shannon Martin via Banff Lake Louise Tourism
Bow Valley Parkway Credit: ShannonMartin28 via Banff & Lake Louise Tourism

Take a leisurely drive along the scenic Bow Valley Parkway, a historic route that winds through Banff National Park, offering opportunities for wildlife viewing and stunning mountain vistas. Discover the hidden treasures of Banff National Park as you meander along the picturesque Bow Valley Parkway.

Bow Falls

Bow Falls Credit ROAMCreative via Banff Lake Louise Tourism 1
BowFalls Credit ROAMCreative via Banff & Lake Louise Tourism

Admire the majestic Bow Falls, just a 25-minute walk from downtown Banff, and enjoy scenic views of the rushing water cascading over the rocks. Marvel at the power and beauty of Bow Falls. There are separate trails for pedestrians and cyclists to meander along the south shore of the Bow River and past roaring rapids before climbing up above the Bow Falls.

Johnston Canyon

Johnston Canyon ROAM Creative via Banff Lake Louise Tourism
Johnston Canyon ROAM Creative via Banff & Lake Louise Tourism

Hike through Johnston Canyon to see picturesque waterfalls, crystal-clear streams, and unique rock formations carved by centuries of erosion. Discover the natural wonders of Johnston Canyon as you traverse its enchanting pathways and witness the power of nature.

Icefields Parkway

Icefields View Credit Pursuit Collection
Icefields Brewster Tours Credit Pursuit Collection

Embark on a scenic drive along the Icefields Parkway, one of the most breathtaking routes in the world. This 140-mi (230-km) drive parallels the Continental Divide and showcases glaciers, turquoise lakes, and towering mountain peaks at every turn. Tour the legendary Columbia Icefields on a Brewster bus and marvel at the awe-inspiring beauty of the Canadian Rockies.

Columbia Icefields Skywalk

Glacier Skywalk View Credit Pursuit Collection
Glacier Skywalk View Credit Pursuit Collection

Experience the thrill of walking on air at the Columbia Icefields Skywalk, a glass-floored observation platform suspended high above the Sunwapta Valley. This platform offers unparalleled views of the surrounding glaciers and mountain landscapes. The journey is memorable, but your destination is unforgettable—a suspended platform where glass is all that separates you from rugged and wild terrain 918 feet (280 m) below.

Vermilion Lakes

Vermilion Lake Credit Shannon Martin via Banff Lake Louise Tourism 1
Vermilion Lake Credit Shannon Martin via Banff & Lake Louise Tourism

Photograph the picturesque Vermilion Lakes, a series of shallow lakes with stunning reflections of the surrounding mountains, perfect for sunrise and sunset photography. Capture the serene beauty of Vermilion Lakes as the tranquil waters mirror the splendor of the surrounding landscape.

Lake Minnewanka

Lake Minnewanka Sightseeing ROAM Creative via Banff Lake Louise Tourism
Lake Minnewanka Credit: ROAM Creative via Banff & Lake Louise Tourism

Take a scenic boat cruise or kayak on Lake Minnewanka, the largest lake in Banff National Park, surrounded by rugged mountain landscapes and offering opportunities for wildlife viewing. Enjoy the pristine waters of Banff National Park’s largest lake – Lake Minnewanka.

Banff Upper Hot Springs

Hot Springs Credit Tom Wang Depositphotos 1
Woman in a Hot Springs Credit Tom Want via Depositphotos

One of Banff National Park’s greatest traditions is visiting the Upper Hot Springs for a soothing soak in the hot, mineral-rich water. The bathhouse is a federal heritage building. Relaxing in the outdoor pool among the jagged peaks of Rundle and Cascade Mountains is a magical experience that has drawn visitors to Banff since 1886.

Banff Avenue

Banff Avenue Credit RobertMassey via Banff Lake Louise Tourism

Stroll along Banff Avenue, the town’s main street, lined with charming shops, restaurants, and galleries offering a mix of local culture and international flair. Experience the chill atmosphere of Banff Avenue as you explore its eclectic array of shops and eateries. Enjoy a farm-to-table meal at farm & fire or killer cocktails at Brazen in the Mount Royal Hotel.

Biking Tunnel Mountain

Banff Town eBiking Credit Shannon Martin via Banff Lake Louise Tourism 1
Banff Town_eBiking Credit Shannon Martin via Banff & Lake Louise Tourism

Starting and ending right from downtown Banff is one of the best road cycling loops around. The Tunnel Mountain Road ride departs from the paved path paralleling Banff Avenue and climbs steadily uphill on a beloved local leg-burner (or get a little help with an e-bike).

The rewards of this uphill grind come pretty quickly, starting at the eye-catching geological formation known as the Hoodoos. From here the road is a cyclist’s dream, curving gently up, down and around Tunnel Mountain.

Cave and Basin National Historic Park

Cave and Basin Historic Site Credit DownshiftingPRO
Cave and Basin Historic Site Credit DownshiftingPRO

Explore Cave and Basin National Historic Park, the birthplace of Canada’s national parks system. This park features natural thermal springs, informative exhibits, and scenic walking trails. Learn about the rich history of Cave and Basin National Historic Park, where the story of conservation and preservation unfolds amidst stunning natural beauty.

Open Top Touring in Banff

Open Top Touring Credit DownshiftingPRO
Open Top Touring Credit: DownshiftingPRO

Embark on an exhilarating open-top touring adventure through the stunning landscapes of Banff National Park, where the wind rushes through your hair and the sights and sounds of nature surround you at every turn. You will not miss the spectacular mountain views because these specialized buses open up to the big beautiful Albertan sky. Open Top Touring in Banff reveals a new perspective on the beauty of the Canadian Rockies.

Buffalo Nations Museum

Buffalo Credit DownshiftingPRO 1
Buffalo Credit DownshiftingPRO

At the Buffalo Nations Museum, you can journey into the extraordinary heritage of the First Nations People of the Northern Plains and Canadian Rockies. The Buffalo Nations Museum is dedicated to the appreciation, interpretation, demonstration and display of the cultures, traditions, and value of the First Nations people of North America and their trading partners. The museum seeks to show how the people of this land lived and adapted to their surroundings and each other prior to and after contact with European culture. 

More About Canada

Indigenous Tourism Canada Aurora Village Yellowknife NWT
Aurora-Village Yellowknife, NWT Credit: Indigenous Tourism Canada

Indigenous Tourism and culture are intricately related. Find out more about the many First Nations, Inuit, and Metis experiences in Canada.

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Margarita Ibbott is a travel and lifestyle blogger. She blogs about travel in Canada, the United States and Europe giving practical advice through restaurant, hotel and attraction reviews. She writes for DownshiftingPRO.com and other online media outlets.