Canada Day on July 1st marks the true start of Banff’s summer season, which runs through until Labour Day. June weather tends to be wetter – the locals jokingly call it ‘monsoon June’ – but it’s also a little quieter and usually still warm enough to enjoy hiking and camping. Just stick to slightly lower elevations, depending on the snow pack, and bring a good waterproof!
Weather and Packing Tips:
Summer days can be hot, so light, breathable, moisture-wicking fabrics are your best friend! The sun is very strong even when it feels cooler, so be sure to layer on high-factor sunscreen throughout the day. You can also choose longer sleeves and hemlines for extra protection against sun and mosquitoes, especially when hiking. Temperatures tend to cool off quite a bit as the sun goes down, so make sure you have a warm layer for the evenings.
Bear spray is your must-have item for exploring in Banff National Park, even on trails close to town. You can purchase bear spray at Home Hardware, Monod Sports and other sporting goods stores, or the Banff Visitor Centre. The Juniper Front Desk also keep some to lend to guests heading out on a hike. Make sure you keep it somewhere accessible and understand how to use it before you go!
This summer, you could…
Escape the Crowds
There’s a reason that Banff is so popular in July and August; summer in the mountains is hard to beat! But the hustle and bustle can affect your experience, especially at some of the valley’s biggest attractions.
The best way to have extra breathing room at popular spots like the Sulphur Mountain Gondola or Moraine Lake is to go as early or late in the day as possible. After all, our summer days are long – July offers around 16 hours of daylight! As well as fewer people, you’ll enjoy cooler temperatures and beautiful skies as the sun rises and sets.
The other key is to book ahead for restaurants and attractions; it really helps local businesses plan ahead and give you better service. Lastly, leave the car behind whenever possible – nobody wants to waste precious vacation time sitting in traffic. Roam Transit’s summer services connect you to all the nearby highlights, so you can save your mileage for epic adventures like the Icefields Parkway.
Spot Some Wildlife
You might not even have to leave the Juniper for a wildlife sighting; our location next to the Norquay wildlife corridor means many creatures pass our way, with deer sightings the most common. You’ll often spot elk in the green spaces around the Fenlands. Big horn sheep are common on the Mt. Norquay and Minnewanka Roads, while the Marsh loop area, near Cave & Basin National Historic Site, is home to many species of birds as well as beaver and muskrat.
Many visitors come to Banff hoping to see a bear. Bears cover an enormous amount of territory, so bumping into one is down to chance – that’s why we advise everyone to carry bear spray, even on short hikes close to town! The Lake Louise summer gondola (at the ski resort) seems to deliver the highest odds of seeing a bear from a safe distance.
If you’re planning a wildlife safari, you could try a drive down Highway 1A to Johnston Canyon or Castle Mountain, or along the Icefields Parkway (93N). Even if you don’t get lucky with animal spotting, you’ll see some gorgeous natural sights. Most animals are more active around dawn and dusk. For a local option, try an evening drive down to the Banff Springs Golf Course –local wildlife often hang out there after the golfers have gone home.
Whether you’re driving or on foot, always be alert for wildlife, travel carefully and keep your distance. Keep food items safely locked away and never, ever feed a wild animal, even if they’re small and cute!
Stand on a Mountain Top
There are plenty of peaks to keep keen hikers busy, but you don’t have to have trained all year to have a summit experience. If you’re up for a little bit of leg work, the hike up Tunnel Mountain is a family favourite and offers fantastic views over Banff. Allow about 2 hours round trip. While not technically a summit, the Upper Stoney trail starting from Mount Norquay Parking Lot delivers great views and is often overlooked by visitors – you can complete this moderate climb in about 1.5 hours and it’s shaded most of the way. Slightly more challenging are the switchbacks of Sulphur Mountain – but it’s still pretty doable in 3-4 hours return and you can wave to the gondola riders as they pass overhead!
If you’d rather be inside one of those cabins, the Sulphur Mountain Gondola is one of three accessible mountain top experiences in the valley. It’s very popular and priced accordingly, but has great dining options and viewing spaces. Programming and sunsets can make an evening trip extra special.
If you don’t mind a classic chairlift, many locals prefer the view of town from Mt. Norquay, just a few minutes up the access road from The Juniper. Ride up North American chair to the vintage Cliffhouse Bistro and enjoy a scenic beer and the classic silhouette of Mt. Rundle from 7000 feet of elevation. For the more adventurous, check out the Via Ferrata, a guided climbing experience where you scale the rocks while attached to a secure steel cable.
As mentioned above, the Lake Louise summer gondola offers a high chance of bear sightings as well as stunning views, beautiful alpine wildflowers and a wildlife interpretive center. On the opposite side of the highway, it’s usually much less hectic than the lake shore. Ticket holders also enjoy a free return shuttle ride to the Chateau Lake Louise, so you can leave your car in their ample parking before heading down to take a closer look at the water.
Summer weather means patio dining, and it’s even better with a side of mountain views. Obviously, Juniper Bistro is our top pick for delicious food and stunning views, but we know you’ll want to explore more of what Banff has to offer.
The pedestrian zone that flows down Bear Street, Banff Avenue and Caribou Street means we’re spoiled for choice with summer patios. For rooftop drinks with crazy views and decent casual pub grub, locals make a beeline for the Rose & Crown. The main bar is also a great spot for live music. If you want a memorable lunch or dinner, head to Shoku Izakaya for Japanese share plates and inventive cocktails. The food is seriously good, there’s lots of sidewalk seating and the indoor space has huge open windows. Wherever you choose, you’ll be immersed in the buzz of downtown.
Sometimes, though, it’s nice to escape from the hustle and bustle. In high summer, the Banff Centre campus in the Tunnel Mountain district feels like another world. Maclab Bistro offers glass-walled indoor seating, a small patio and a pet-friendly section on the front lawn – the food and drink selection is limited but high quality.
Ready to plan your summer adventure?