Whether you are a thrill seeker, a nature lover, or an outdoor sports enthusiast, August reigns supreme as the most exciting month to sample and savor everything that Banff National Park has to offer. The snow has all but vanished, opening access to some of the best hiking trails in North America. The wildlife rambles actively throughout the park. Summer water activities abound. You will see more people filling the streets and the queues at popular attractions, and prices generally peak during the high season. But there is so much to see and do, visitors to Banff in August can truly enjoy the high life as they experience the iconic views and unforgettable experiences Banff can provide.
Is August a Good Time to Visit Banff National Park?
While you may be pressed for elbow room at popular attractions like the Banff Gondola or the Upper Hot Springs, you can’t beat August in Banff National Park to get the most the park has to offer. Prices may be cheaper during the low and shoulder seasons, but snow and rain can preclude participation in many of the activities there are in Banff. The sun warms the sky in August, and precipitation is at a minimum, leaving ample opportunity to grab some time on a paddleboard or hike some of the higher elevation trails. And let’s face it—the view from the peaks is unparalleled. But what exactly is the August weather like in Banff?
Wonderful Weather When Visiting Banff in August
Remember when we mentioned the snow had all but vanished in August? Well, in truth, you can see snow in Banff on practically every day of the year! The good news for summer enthusiasts is it’s limited to the craggy peaks of the Canadian Rockies—just enough to snap an Insta-worthy shot, but not enough to prevent you from enjoying the wide variety of outdoor activities in the area.
Daily temperatures average 22°C (71.6°F) during daylight hours and drop to a crisp 6°C (42.8°F) at night. If you are planning to spend time in the Lake Louise area, you will find temperatures a little cooler. The average daytime temperatures in Lake Louise hover around 21°C (69.8°F). Nightly temperatures drop to an average of 4°C (39.2°F). Which can beg the question of what to pack?
How to Pack for Your Banff Summer Vacation
Even though you may equate summer vacation with tees and shorts, you have to think a bit differently when packing for a trip to the Canadian Rockies. Summer temperatures differ in Banff National Park than many other summer vacation destinations. What you should bring will also depend on the itinerary you have planned for your time in the park.
You will definitely want to bring your summer regulars—tank tops, t-shirts, shorts, tennis shoes, and hats, but don’t forget some lightweight, longer layers like pants and long-sleeved shirts. A sweater or a light jacket is a good idea as well, as the evenings can be crisp.
No more ice lingers on the beautiful lakes like Lake Louise or Moraine Lake, but the temperature of the water remains chilly. So, you may or may not want to pack a swimsuit. Of course, if you plan on paddleboarding, or taking a dip in the hot springs, it doesn’t hurt to toss it in your suitcase.
Accessories and Equipment
Do include sunscreen and insect spray on your must-have packing list for Banff in August, especially if you’re hitting any of the trails. Summer brings the sun and the bugs, so prepare for both. Bears also like the trails, so always have bear spray when you go out hiking. Many trails do not have facilities, so bring a water bladder, or backpack to hold reusable water bottles and snacks to ensure you stay hydrated and fueled for your exploration. Don’t forget sturdy footwear that can stand up to the sometimes rocky and uneven terrain on the trails.
Don’t forget your camera! You’ll want to remember all the fun you experienced in Banff as well as the spectacular scenery. And while you may use your phone to capture your memorable moments, service can be spotty in the Canadian Rockies, so don’t rely on your phone’s map features. Physical maps might be old school, but they are always reliable and don’t need any bars.
All the Fun to Be Had in Banff in August
If it’s worth doing, you can find it in Banff National Park. Banff and the surrounding area caters to many different types of visitors. Whether you are looking to sinks some putts on the back nine, want to soak in the stunning sunsets from the peak of Sulphur Mountain, or take part in a cultural festival, August has something on tap to please everyone.
August is perfect for golfers in Banff. Enjoy some time on the greens, but don’t let the stunning scenery throw you off your game! Score a different type of hole-in-one with an inclusive golf package. Golf Canada’s West offers seven different packages, many of which include accommodations at some of Canada’s award-winning hotels like the storybook Fairmont Lake Louise. The Canadian Rockies Heritage Tour includes a four-night stay at the Falcon Crest Lodge, rounds of golf at both the Canmore Golf & Curling Club and Kananaskis Country Golf Course, a helicopter tour of the famed Three Sisters Peaks—Faith, Hope, and Charity—and more starting from $999.00 per person plus GST.
Outdoor Swimming in Banff in August
Many of Banff’s glacier fed lakes, such as Peyto, Lake Louise, and Moraine Lake, can still make your teeth chatter—even in August. Several swimming spots do offer warmer water to dip your toes in, however. If you have your heart set on some outdoor swimming, consider Herbert Lake, Cascade Ponds, and Johnson Lake.
The snow may be just about gone, but the mud on the trails can still make certain areas a bit slippery. Banff National Park offers such a vast network of stellar hiking trails, however, you can always find one to satisfy your hankering to hike. An excellent tool to help you determine current conditions is AllTrails. Always check their site before you head out. Some of the most popular trails are listed below.
Johnston Canyon Trails
Elevation Gain: 105 m/344 ft
Length: 2.4 km/1.5 miles
Duration: 60 minutes
Trailhead: Day-Use Area of Johnston Canyon
Length: 5km/3.11 miles
Elevation Gain: 120 m/394 ft
Duration: 2 hours
Trailhead: Day-Use Area of Johnston Canyon
Ink Pots Trail
Length: 11.59 km/7.2 miles
Elevation Gain: 529 m/1,735 ft
Duration: 4 hours
With three varying levels suitable for hikers of different skill sets, Johnston Canyon stands out as a top choice among hikers in Banff. Visitors can choose from the Lower Falls Trail, the Upper Falls Trails, or the more ambitious Ink Pots trek which takes hikers to the blue water springs known colloquially as the “ink pots.” If a wandering hike through towering canyon walls with dazzling waterfalls gets you excited, don’t miss it!
Johnston Canyon Trails Highlights
Elevated walkways and thick forests of pine alternate along the trails of Johnston Canyon. Johnston Creek burbles along below many parts of the trails, winding along between the sheer limestone rock faces of the canyon walls. In fact, the humidity the creek provides allows for the picturesque blankets of verdant moss and towering trees heavy with brushy needles. Visions of Tolkein’s Ents come to mind as the Old Man’s Beard Lichen gives the pines an ethereal feel. It doesn’t seem impossible that one of the trees might shake its shaggy branches and pull up by its roots to march off across the churning water.
Wildlife lovers will be treated to the cheery chorus of forest creatures. You can expect to hear the chirp of the Dark-Eyed Junco with Townsend’s Warblers singing in counterpoint. Keep a keen eye out and you might even spy a Red Squirrel scampering through the dark green branches of the pines.
But, the main draw of Johnston Canyon is, of course, its beautiful waterfalls. The first waterfall hikers encounter along the trail is the Lower Falls. The best view of the Lower Falls is not entirely straightforward. While you can catch limited views of the falling water from the metal bridge, treat yourself to an up close and personal view by entering the cave at the far end of the bridge.
The more breathtaking Upper Falls have multiple platforms to view the higher falls. The platforms afford visitors a bird’s eye view as they look down upon the falling water. Hikers who wish to extend the Johnston Canyon experience can continue on to the deep blue green springs known as the Ink Pots. The name for these natural spring pools derives from the illusion they are filled with great puddles of deep blue ink.
Tunnel Mountain Trail
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
Elevation Gain: 266 m/873 ft
Length: 4.6 k/2.86
Duration: 1.5-2 hours
Trailhead: Tunnel Mountain Parking Lot
Hîkers seeking an easy climb with a huge payoff might want to consider the Tunnel Mountain Hîke. Just steps from Banff Townsite, the sweeping views from the summit of this vine will take your breath away.
Despite its name, Tunnel Mountain has neither a tunnel, nor is it a mountain. Named for an abandoned railway project that would have established tunnel access through the rock, Tunnel Mountain is dwarfed by some of the larger peaks around it, such as the towering Cascade Mountain. Still, this hike affords some of the most beautiful views of Banff Springs, Banff Townsite, and Bow Valley.
Tunnel Mountain Hike Highlights
Tracking up the eastern side of the mountain, hikers first travel along a forested trail of switchbacks. Occasionally, the trees break for some incredible photo ops. Eventually, the trail breaks north and follows the ridge line to the summit. Safety rails guard against a sheer drop, so watch your step. Once at the top, relax and enjoy the view from Banff’s iconic red chairs.
Elevation Gain: 54.86m/ 180 ft
Length: 2.1 km/1.3 miles
Duration: 40 minutes
Trailhead: Fenland Trail Parking Lot
The forested oasis of the Fenland Trail is only just removed from the hustle and bustle of downtown Banff, though it feels a world away. The interpretive trail makes a gentle 2 km loop along creekside paths with storybook wooden bridges. In the company of old-growth spruce trees and chirping birds, you can feel the beating heart of Banff National Park.
Fenland Trail Highlights
You will find the trailhead in the parking lot. The flat trail leads you through a lush forest to a picturesque wooden bridge. Take care to observe the signage, sticking with those that mark the Fenland Loop. This trail has a number of branches, and it’s easy to get turned around.
When you come to the next junction, bear right along the narrowing trail as it rambles along Echo Creek. You’ll find a number of spots to sit and take it all in along the way.
At the next junction, the trail connects with Vermilion Lake Road. Looping back, the trail will return you back to the parking lot. Take advantage of the picnic tables to enjoy a lunch or snack to help fuel your next Banff adventure.
Spray River Loop
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
Elevation Gain: 130 m/427 ft
Length: 14 km/8.7 miles
Duration: 4-5 hours
Trailhead: Spray Ave Terminus
The Spray River Loop provides a gentle walk along some of the prettiest scenery the Spray River valley has to offer. The looping trail begins at the end of Spray Avenue, just footsteps away from downtown Banff. Even those with little hiking experience can enjoy this hike which circles through the valley. The route takes you over the Spray River via bridge, affording spectators sweeping views of the river’s crystal waters. And don’t miss the grand storybook castle views of the Fairmont Banff Spring Hotel! A great walk for the whole family.
Spray River Loop Hike Highlights
The Spray River Loop starts at the terminus of Spray Avenue. You will find the trailhead in the west parking area. The beginning of the trail follows an old fire road. Following this path for just under four miles, you’ll find the perfect spot for a picnic lunch or a brief respite to take in the grand views of Mount Rundle and the Spray River as it burbles by.
After crossing the bridge at Goat Creek Junction, you’ll begin the trek back toward the beginning of the trail. Exercise caution as the trail narrows and you will likely be sharing it with bicycles. For those who enjoy backcountry camping, you can find one of the many sites Banff National Park has to offer along the Spray River Loop. You will reach a second junction along the trail. At this point you can either bear right to return to the parking area, or extend your journey toward the Banff Golf Course.
Lake Minnewanka Cruise in August
Glide along the serene blue waters of Lake Minnewanka to enjoy the beauty and majesty of the Canadian Rockies in a new way. August is the perfect time to take a Lake Minnewanka Cruise and explore Banff National Park through a new lens.
Tickets start at $61 for the month of August. Children 5 and under can ride free of charge, but must be ticketed. You can save some time by booking your tickets online. They are also refundable up to forty-eight hours of your travel dates.
August Fishing Opportunities in Banff
Fishing opportunities abound in the lakes and river of Banff National Park. From Two Jacks Lake to Moraine Lake to the Bow and Spray Rivers, avid casters and fly fishers have some excellent choices when it comes to this relaxing sport.
Make your fishing adventure completely stress free when you purchase a fishing package with a professional guide. Banff Adventures offers a variety of excursions starting at $200 and includes experienced guides, equipment, and permits. Banff Adventures also provides water and juice to ensure you stay hydrated while you cast your line.
If you prefer to handle all the details yourself, ensure you obtain the proper permits. You can find these at the park’s visitor centers or at many sporting goods stores in Banff. Day permits cost $9.80 CAD. Annual permits cost $34.30 CAD. Children under sixteen do not need to hold a permit if in the company of a permit holder over sixteen. Their catch cannot exceed the permit holder’s limit, however.
Don’t forget your National Parks pass! Purchase these online or in-person at Alberta Hunter Education Instructors’ Association, Cabela’s Retail Canada, Cross Iron Mills, DMF Travel Centre, Tourism Canmore Kananaskis, or Tourism Golden.
Be aware that fish must be returned to its origin of catch. Also, no natural bait can be used within Banff National Park. These requirements exist to protect habitats from invasive species and to prevent the spread of Whirling’s disease.
King of the Mountain—Rock Climbing in Banff
Have you ever wanted to be King of the Mountain? Banff National Park provides the perfect setting for climbing enthusiasts as well as beginners. Get up close and personal with the Canadian Rockies and book a tour with Yamnuska Mountain Adventures. From May to September, they offer instructional half-day and full-day rock climbing courses to help you make your Banff vacation truly “rock!” A certified guide will take you to beginner-friendly areas and provide instruction and your equipment. Yamnuska Mountain Adventures offers packages for individuals, groups, and families. Packages start at $495 CAD.
Horseback Riding and Cowboy Cookout in Banff
Saddle up, podners, and get ready to enjoy the August beauty of Banff on horseback. Banff Trail Riders offers a unique sightseeing opportunity for visitors to Banff National Park. Take a scenic ride along the Bow River with experienced guides. A great choice for families and couples, this three-hour experience also includes traditional cowboy games and a hearty dinner to round off your ride. Participants will enjoy grilled steak, tender baked potato, baked beans, and a Caesar salad to satiate their hunger after a day’s ride. Trip cost is $199 CAD per person. Participants must be 8 years of age or older and not weigh more than 140 kg/230 lbs. Closed toe shoes and riding helmet are provided.
White Water Rafting & Float Trips
Kick up the fun and adventure a notch on your August trip to Banff with a white water raft excursion with Wild Water Adventures! Experience the thrill of Class IV+ rapids or take a gentle float down some of the most scenic rivers in the Canadian Rockies. From $105 CAD and up, you’ll receive guidance and instruction from their first-class guides as well as the necessary equipment to enjoy the thrill whitewater rafting and floating can provide. Whether you are a rafting novice or seasoned pro, Wild Water Adventures offers single day and multi-day adventures on the water that provide fabulous memories of your visit to Banff.
Face the Ferrata
For a truly pulse-pounding, exciting experience that will take your breath away, consider tackling the famed “ferrata” at Mount Norquay. Not for the faint of heart, the “iron road” challenges climbers to complete any of four routes up the face of Mount Norquay via ladder, suspended bridges, and cabling. In all, the treks entail three kilometers and can take nearly eight hours of climbing time. A unique twist on the Banff hiking experience, this challenge quite possibly affords the most awe-inspiring views of the Canadian Rockies.
Hang Out with History at Banff’s Cave and Basin National Historic Site
If you have ever wondered about the history behind the heights of the Canadian Rockies, you’ll definitely want to visit the Cave and Basin National Historic Site in Banff National Park. Visitors not only can learn about the geological history of the area, but they can also discover much of the cultural history that has enriched the area. Get the nitty-gritty on the many minerals that can be found in the region, engaging your senses of sight and smell. Visitors have the option of a self-guided tour or can take advantage of any of the numerous guided tours that are offered for the area.
Enjoy a Scenic Summer Drive Along the Icefields Parkway
Soak up the August scenery of Banff with a leisurely drive along the Icefields Parkway. The trek itself offers sweeping vistas of peaks and forests, but also offers visitors the opportunity to make pit stops at some of Banff’s most beautiful lakes along the way. You can see Bow Lake and the mesmerizing blue waters of Peyto Lake.
Before you reach the staggering majesty of the Athabasca Glacier, be sure to check out the plunging waters of the Mistaya River as it churns through the Mistaya Canyon. Continue on to the Columbia Icefields where guided tours start at $89 CAD in August.
August Festivals & Special Events in Banff
Banff is inarguably a nature lover’s paradise, It brims with activities for outdoor enthusiasts. It also hosts a number of art exhibitions and cultural events to broaden your horizons. In August, you can even find some events that cater to lovers of both types of activities.
Art In Nature Trail
Through September 30, 2023, Banff hosts a very unique and completely free art exhibition. Featuring artists from all over the Bow Valley, this curated collection of art in various mediums can be enjoyed along the Bow River Trail. The self-guided tour begins near the Whyte Museum. It remains open during daylight hours.
Door Open Banff
Doors Open Banff is a history aficionado’s dream. During this August event, many historical monuments open their doors providing visitors a rare opportunity to explore the heritage of Banff. Learn fascinating facts about the town’s history. The Whyte Museum sponsors this informative event.
Dragon Boat Festival and Races
Many wide and varied species call the craggy peaks and scenic waterways of the Canadian Rockies home—including dragons! Don’t worry, though. These dragons don’t breathe fire. But the intricately carved dragon boats glide through the water of the Glenmore Reservoir with the same sinewy grace of their fabled namesakes.
The Dragon Boat Festival takes place in Calgary at North Glenmore Park, August 11-13, 2023. This family-friendly event offers free admission as well as free parking onsite. It begins with an intricate ceremony to summon the spirits of the dragons from their lofty perches in the peaks and sky. The entertainment continues with live music, food and craft vendors, a beer garden, cultural performances, and even a kids’ zone! The long boats support 22-person crews that paddle their crafts in competitive races. This includes 20 paddlers, a steerer, and a “drummer” or “caller” to set the stroke. The festival has traditions rooted in Chinese culture which is celebrated in many of the cultural performances that take place during the festival.
A visit to Banff National Park in August guarantees visitors a host of opportunities to explore and experience all that Banff has to offer. It doesn’t matter if you are young or old, a wildlife enthusiast, an art lover, or a history buff—in the Canadian Rockies you can find a wealth of activities to educate, entertain, and enthuse. With everything there is to see and do, it’s no wonder that August is an excellent time to visit Banff. Without a doubt, it’s easy to live the high life during the high season in Banff.