It’s no secret that Canada is home to some of the most stunning views and landscapes in North America; one of the most famous being Banff National Park.
With over 4 million visitors a year, Banff is packed with chiseled mountains, gorgeous lakes, and endless hikes. Luckily, most of Banff is pet-friendly as long as you keep your furry friend leashed.
Read this full destination guide to learn more about what this park has to offer, along with our custom list of the top 10 attractions to hit while you’re in Banff.
As of June 18, 2021, most visitors are not eligible to enter Canada due to the Covid-19 pandemic. However, it is expected that fully vaccinated visitors will be able to enter in early July 2021. Click here to find out if you are eligible.
Location / Directions
For most people, the easiest way to get to Banff is to fly into the nearest airport (Calgary) and then to take an airport shuttle or rent a car for the 90-mile drive to Banff.
Most airlines allow for small dogs to be taken as carry-ons and larger dogs can be checked or sent with trusted airline cargo services. If you have a larger dog and are nervous about him flying in Cargo, note that most airlines, such as Delta, have a separate temperature controlled, pressurized cabin specific to pets to ensure that the pets are comfortable.
Just know that bringing a pet usually comes with about a $125 (€105) fee varying on the airline. Click here for a list of the top 10 pet friendly airlines along with each of their policies.
If you are in the U.S. and looking more for a road trip, this would be a huge one with a gorgeous destination. Depending on where you are there will be extremely varied routes. Driving is not suggested due to general length of driving time, as from the East Coast you are looking at a 35+ hour trip.
When is the best time to go?
The two best times to visit are as follows:
June - August
June and August are extremely popular times to go because not only is the weather at its warmest (~70°F/21°C) but also the lakes are at their most beautiful. At other times in the year the lakes are frozen over.
You also have the most access to hikes and biking activities as the trails should be clear. This also would be a great time to bring Fido along as most dogs thrive in the moderate climate and would enjoy the water activities. This is definitely what we would suggest.
December - March
This is another popular time to travel to Banff mainly because of the amazing skiing. Daily temperatures rarely surpass freezing, but the snowy views are truly outstanding.
How much does it cost to explore the park?
You can explore the 6,000+ square kilometers a day for $10 all inclusive passes.
Click here to purchase passes.
Parking in the town itself is mostly free and free parking can also be found near trailheads of many of the destinations mentioned later in the guide.
What is there to do in Banff?
While there is so much to do in Banff, some of the more popular things to do would include hiking, canoeing, kayaking, SUP boarding, camping, horseback riding, climbing, and sight-seeing.
Where to stay?
There are many different ways to go about finding a place to stay for your Banff trip but here are some of our favorites.
The City of Banff
Staying right in the thick of things is a fun way to acclimate to the town's culture. Staying in town also saves about 40 minutes of travel time. With various inns and hotels, finding housing should be relatively easy. One example is Banff Ptarmigan Inn which is a great pet-friendly balance between affordability, location, and the log cabin vibe you might want in a Banff inn.
20 minutes outside of Banff, Canmore provides a larger selection for housing.
Rocky Mountain Ski Lodge is pet-friendly and comes highly recommended.
Though very pricey, staying at Lake Louise is absolutely stunning and is extremely coveted.
The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise is famous in the area as the best place to stay, and it too is pet friendly.
Camping is one of the most fun and cost-efficient ways to go about your Banff trip.
Click here for a list of affordable campgrounds in the above areas and more. We would recommend Tunnel Mountain Village 1 or 2 as it is close to the town.
Though there are many great dining options in Banff, Canada has strict rules limiting dogs within restaurants. This leaves just a few outdoor pet friendly options. Listed below are a few of the highly rated ones.
Bear Street Tavern (Banff): https://www.bearstreettavern.ca/
Chilis (Banff): http://banffchilis.com/
Graze (Canmore): https://grazefoodanddrink.ca/
Top 10 Destinations in Banff and Surrounding Areas
1. Lake Louise
With deep, crystal blue water, Lake Louise is easily one of the most breathtaking destinations on our list. Victoria Glacier backs the serene lake, making it a powerful view. Lake Louise is only a 40-minute drive from the town of Banff and is an easy trip down Highway 1A (Trans-Canada Highway). With ample hiking trails surrounding the area, there is much to do with the pup. Lake Agnes Teahouse is a great 4.2-mile trail with amazing views of Lake Louise and Bow Valley. Canoeing in Lake Louise would be an outstanding activity though it is pricey. Fairmont offers Canoe rentals for around $135 (€113) per hour for a Day Visitor or $95 (€80) for someone staying in the hotel. Click here to find out more.
2. Moraine Lake
Moraine Lake, only a 10-minute drive from Lake Louise, is another breathtaking view that sits in the Valley of 10 Peaks. The deep blue color comes from the surrounding glaciers, making this site another famous one. Lake Rockpile Hike would be a great adventure to take Rover along as you both can admire the gorgeous views of the Lake from every angle.
3. Johnston’s Canyon and Falls
From Lake Louise, a 40-minute trip down Bow Valley Parkway would take you to one of Banff’s most fascinating destinations, Johnston’s Canyon. On your way, keep a lookout for a Grizzly Bear, as the Bow Valley Parkway marks one of the most common places in Canada to spot the famous creatures. With waterfalls, gorges, canyon walls, and more, the canyon can fill a day up with amazing hikes to explore. The two main attractions are composed of two rather short hikes. Pictured above is part of the Lower Falls, the smaller of the two attractions which can be viewed from a cave only 1.2km away from the trail head. The Upper Falls are also gorgeous as you can watch as the river pours through the canyon. Best of all it is dog approved.
4. Town of Banff
As the namesake of the national park, the town of Banff is an undeniably exciting place to visit. Banff Avenue, displayed above, is the heart of the town. Pulsed with bars, restaurants, and boutiques, the youthful city contains all that is wanted in a town, but with epic views in the backdrop. If you are looking to explore the city in a more active manner, there are many hikes around the town including a walk to Bow Falls to admire the underrated views with your pup. For other activities, the town has horseback riding, ATV rides, kayaking, and more.
5. Lake Minnewanka
Lake Minnewanka is yet another must see lake on the list. It is only a few miles/Km from Banff and is famous for its ongoing cruises (Pet-friendliness is up to the discretion of the captain). Click here to learn more.
The lake also provides top-10-in-the-nation fishing as well as swimming if you aren’t afraid to get cold. Aside from that, it has outstanding hikes. One that comes recommended is the Lake Minnewanka Trail. Dogs are encouraged!
6. Sunshine Meadows
Banff Sunshine Village Ski Resort transforms into a magical hiking experience during the heat of the summer. With hundreds of trails, this lush area is the perfect place to discover the area with a pup or two.
7. Tunnel Mountain Trail
Tunnel Mountain Trail, a short walk from Banff, is a local favorite. It displays awesome views of trees and rivers while not being too excruciating for you or the dog. It’s a short 5km roundtrip hike and provides you with exactly what you came to Banff for: gorgeous exploration.
8. Cave and Basin National Historic Site
With ample trails and cave systems, this site is an amazing place to learn about one of the first landmarks in this great nation. Hot water seeps through the rocks and unique minerals line the walls. Interestingly enough, this site is the birthplace of Canada’s National Parks and would be a great place to learn about the history and culture of the area. In addition to the cave there are miles of trails with great views for you and your dog to explore. Click Here to Learn more.
9. Gondola (Sulfur Mtn. Gondola)
The Banff Gondola towers over the town of Banff displaying a beautiful view of the Canadian Rockies. However, we put it near the end of our list because dogs are not allowed on the Gondola itself anymore due to restrictions for Covid-19. We still believe it is a must for a trip to Banff so if you are with a group maybe you and a friend can take shifts watching the pups. Or since this destination is close to town and the trip is only 8 minutes long each way, perhaps you can leave Fido at home for an hour to experience this awesome attraction. Tickets are around $60 (€50.3) and can be purchased here.
10. Banff Upper Hot Springs
The hot springs in Banff are definitely something you want to experience if you’ve never felt the warm contrast of a natural hot spring. This specific commercialized spring is two miles outside of Banff, making it a quick trip. Unfortunately, this one is not pet friendly, but we still think it deserved a spot on the list because of the unique experience. Click here to find out more.
Overall, Banff is the perfect destination for you and your pup. It is a great way to beat the blistering heat of the Western U.S. during the summer and will provide you and your dog with unimaginable and unforgettable experiences. Hundreds of thousands of people bring their dog on this trip every year and you can too. Hopefully this guide can act as an inspiration as well as a guide in your future travels.