Banff with a toddler

Banff with a Toddler: Everything You Need to Know (2023)

Heading to Banff with a toddler? You’re in the right place. The natural beauty in this part of Canada is breathtaking, and you can find a mixture of natural beauty and engaging activities to do with a toddler in the Banff area.

Bringing my toddler to Banff was a rewarding, sometimes challenging, but unforgettable experience. Between family-friendly trails, incredible scenic views for precious family photos, gondola rides, kid-friendly museums and parks, we found lots of things to do to enjoy our time in Banff with our toddler.

Banff with a toddler

My daughter was only 22 months old when I flew with her from Toronto to Calgary so that we could explore Banff, which had been on my wish-list for years. Based on this experience, I have tips to share with you so you can have a successful and fulfilling adventure in Banff with your toddler.

So, let’s jump in – everything you need to know about Banff with a toddler!

Things You Should Know About Banff with a Toddler

Travelling with a toddler comes with its unique set of joys and challenges. Here’s what you need to know about taking a toddler to Banff.

Banff with a toddler
  • Banff is a National Park, with a small town nestled in it. The town of Banff is a small picturesque mountain village community of just over 9,000 people
  • You can stay right in Banff, but many tourists choose to stay in the nearby village of Canmore (about 15 minutes away) as its more cost-effective
  • There are some toddler-friendly hikes, boat tours, hotels and activities in Banff National Park
  • A car is helpful in Banff, especially if you want to be on a flexible schedule with a toddler. Many of the attractions are 20-60 minutes of driving distance apart from each other.
  • Some of the attractions (Lake Louise and Moraine Lake) now have limited or restricted private vehicle parking, so you’ll need to book shuttles or private tours to visit them
  • Banff is picturesque year-round, summer and winter!
Banff in winter

Is Banff stroller friendly?

There are a few trails and activities in Banff where you can use your stroller. I personally would recommend bringing a carrier for your toddler, in addition to the stroller because not everything in the Banff area is stroller friendly.

I personally chose not to bring a stroller to Banff, and used my baby carrier the whole time. However, a stroller would be useful for walking around the villages (Banff, Lake Louise and Canmore), doing shopping in some of the boutique stores, museums and some of the trails that are stroller friendly which we’ll get into below.

Banff with a toddler

Temperatures to Prepare for in Banff

Temperatures in Banff are fairly mild compared to other parts of Alberta, especially in the north. In summer, the temperatures sit at an average high of 23° C (73.4°F) and a low of 7°C (44.6°F) This is us all bundled up for a cooler summer day in Banff. Bring a mixture of short sleeves, but also some warm layers to throw over you or your toddler for cool summer days, or chilly nights.

If you’re heading to Banff in winter, you can expect a high of -4° C ( 24.8° F) and it can get as cold as -14° C (6.8°F) on average.

Things to Do in Banff with a Toddler

Here are the best things to do with your toddler while you’re in Banff, during winter or summer

1. Stroll through the town of Banff

Whether you decide to stay right in Banff, or in nearby Canmore, you’ll surely want to visit the town of Banff. Banff is a small mountain village with a main street lined with restaurants, accommodations, souvenir shops, museums and art galleries.

town of Banff

Here are some of our picks for where to eat and shop in the village of Banff:

  • Restaurants: The Old Spaghetti Factory, a family-friendly Italian-inspired Canadian restaurant which also has a location in Toronto, or The Bison Restaurant, a seasonal Canadian cuisine with kids menus (and live music on Thursday evenings)
  • Shopping: Brims and Things, a clothing store where you can find Banff and Canadian souvenirs and The Banff Trading Post, which sells artisan Indigenous goods and crafts

2. The Banff Legacy Trail

Driving distance from Banff: 22 minutes

The Banff Legacy Trail is a special pathway that was built for Banff’s 125th anniversary in 2010 . This 20 km long trail is meant to be representative of the values of the park, encouraging visitors to explore Banff in an environmentally-friendly way – walking and biking, instead of driving. Since its paved, its completely stroller-friendly.

Banff Legacy Trail

The start of the Banff Legacy Trail is near Canmore, and if you were to walk the whole thing, it would take almost 5 hours. That being said, you can walk as little or as much of it as you want to take in the amazing views.

The trail runs parallel to a highway, and can get a bit windy – so I recommend bringing layers for yourself and toddler.

There are two possible (free) parking locations for the Banff Legacy Trail: The Cascade Ponds Picnic Area, or the Town of Banff Fenlands Recreation Centre.

3. Hike the Johnston Canyon

Driving distance from Banff: 30 minutes

Johnston Canyon is a winding, narrow trail on a wooden platform surrounded by huge cliff rock formations on either side, and a flowing river below your feet. It’s fairly well shaded because of the trees and the height of the canyon that you are walking through.

Johnston Canyon hike

There are two different trail options for Johnston Canyon: Upper Falls and Lower Falls.

Lower Falls Trail

The lower Falls is 2.2 km (1.36 miles) there and back. It will bring you to a waterfall, it just isn’t as large as the Upper Falls. Its perfect for if you don’t want to hike for a long time, or don’t have a baby carrier with you.

Upper Falls Trail

The Upper Falls is 5 km (3.8 mile) roundtrip and takes about 2-3 hours in total. With a medium fitness level, and perhaps more than one adult to help with the toddler, its pretty doable if you’re wearing decent hiking shoes and bring snacks. This is the one that we chose to do. Neither of us were particularly fit, and we managed just fine with my 2 year old, but it will vary person to person.

Johnston Canyon Upper Falls Banff
Upper Falls, Johnston Canyon

5. Banff Park Museum

The Banff Park Museum is the oldest museum in Western Canada, and set in a 1903 log building right in downtown Banff. Its a kid-friendly environment that teaches about the flora and fauna and wildlife in the area. There are life-size stuffed wild animals so that you and your children can see what these animals look like close up!

The museum is open daily from 9:30 to 5 pm and closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays. You only need about an hour to see everything at the Banff Park Museum.

Good To Know: The first floor of the Banff Park Museum is stroller-friendly, but you might need to carry your toddler to the 2nd floor, as they don’t have an elevator.

6. Lake Louise

Driving distance from Banff: 1 hour, 10 minutes

Winter or summer, the stunning views of Lake Louise are a must while you’re in the Banff area. Its one of the most visited destinations in Canada, and for a good reason. It is also the location for the world-famous Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, which looks out onto the lake.

There are several activities in the area that you can enjoy, even if you aren’t staying at the Fairmont, such as hiking trails in the summer and sleigh rides in the winter. There are also picnic grounds, and of course the famous stunning view from the base of the lake, as seen here.

Arrive fairly early in the morning to snag a parking spot at the Lake Louise parking lot. Its a paid lot between 7am and 7pm, and in the summer, and it often fills up before 8am. Take advantage of your toddler’s early mornings by getting here early in the morning.

If you don’t manage to score a spot at the Lake Louise parking lot, then you’ll have to park at the nearby Lake Louise Park and Ride lot, which is a part of the Lake Louise Ski Resort. There is a shuttle that brings people to Lake Louise from there.

Book a toddler-friendly Lake Louise Gondola ride to get some unique, incredible views of the area

7. Ride the Banff Gondola

The Banff Gondola ride is one of the best things to do in Banff with a toddler. These 4-person gondola cabins bring you to the top of Sulphur Mountain, where you can get breathtaking views of Banff National Park from multiple different mountain ranges.

With strenuous hikes not being easy with a little one in tow, the Banff Gondola allows you to get spectacular views without having to do a strenuous hike. The Banff Gondola is open daily from 10

Save time and book the Banff gondola here.

8. Lake Minnewanka Boat Cruise

Lake Minnewanka is glacial lake over 1000 years old just outside of the town of Banff. Its known for being one of the most picturesque areas in the park. The only way to access the island, Devil’s Gap, is by boat and there are boat cruise options that you can bring you here. The views from the boat and from Devil’s Gap are stunning and can’t be seen elsewhere in Banff.

The cruise is very easy-going, lead by a certified captain who will share some interesting information about the area. I wasn’t able to hear everything he said, as I was entertaining my almost-2 year old seated next to me, but I was still very glad that we made time for this experience in Banff.

Check out this 1-hour family-friendly tour of Lake Minnewanka Boat Cruise

9. Take a stroll through Lake Louise Village

Like Banff, Lake Louse is another small village in the Canadian Rockies, lined with restaurants, accommodations, bakeries, a sporting goods store, a grocery store and a Visitor Centre. The village of Lake Louise is smaller and quieter than Banff though.

Its about 60 km to get to Lake Louise from the village of Banff, but it makes a good stop on the way to or back from Emerald Lake, which is another tip we recommend down below.

10. Hit up a playground

Give your toddler a break from the car rides and baby carrier, and let them burn off some steam at one of the many scenic playgrounds in the Banff area. There are a few playgrounds nearby that you could head to.

Playground in Banff

Here are some playgrounds in the area to plug into Google Maps and head to for your toddler to get some exercise and playtime:

  • Canmore Train Playground in Canmore
  • Central Park in Banff
  • Recreation Grounds Playgrounds in Banff (there is one section specifically for toddlers)
  • Banff Elementary School Playground (just be sure to not come during school hours)
  • Lake Louise Sport & Recreation Centre Playground in Lake Louise

11. Get stunning views of Emerald Lake, BC

Driving distance from Banff: 1 hour, 10 minutes

Emerald Lake is one of the most stunning sights we saw in Banff. There is a small Lake Lodge and Visitors Centre, and a dock where you can take in the serene beauty and get lots of photos.

Emerald Lake, BC
Emerald Lake BC with a toddler

Emerald Lake is a part of the province of British Columbia (but it’s still very far from its capital, Vancouver) and its apart of Yoho National Park. Although it takes an hour to drive to Emerald Lake from Banff, you’re halfway there if you drive to Lake Louise, so I would recommend doing them on the same trip.

Like many other touristy areas, you will have to fight for a parking spot – but it will be worth it. There aren’t any tours that go here specifically, so this is an excursion that I’d recommend doing independently.

Good to Know: There is a restaurant with incredible views attached to the Emerald Lake Lodge, called Mount Burgess Dining Room. Kids menus are available, and reservations are recommended.

There is a 5 km loop around the lake that is small-child friendly. You can do as much or as little of it as time (and your toddler) allow.

12. Visit Moraine Lake

Driving distance from Banff: about 1 hour

Moraine Lake, like Lake Louise, is another one of the most photographed, breathtaking destinations in Canada. It’s a glacially-fed lake located in a valley known as the Ten Peaks. Framed by the mountains and evergreens gives it is one of the most scenic views in the Banff area.

toddler morraine lake

Like Lake Louise, public parking at Moraine Lake has become near impossible. You can book a shuttle to visit Moraine Lake with Moraine Lake Bus Company online. When you arrive at the sight, you’ll find public bathrooms, a small cafe and a visitor centre to grab souvenirs or any essentials.

There are also some family-friendly hiking trails near Moraine Lake; just keep in mind that in the summer, they can be a bit crowded. The main attraction at Moraine Lake is the view of the lake itself.

See Morraine Lake and Lake Louise together, without worrying about the hassle in this 4-hour family-friendly tour. (Your toddler will appreciate the maple cookies provided as a snack!)

13. The Cave and Basin National Historic Sight

Driving distance from Banff: 10 minutes

This hidden gem just outside the village of Banff has been a sacred place for local indigenous peoples for 10,000 years and remains an area of serene beauty that allows you to get views of the surrounding terrain, as well as the inside of a cave with beautiful turquoise water, and learn about local history at the visitor centre.

The Cave and Basin Historic Sight is mostly accessible, so you should be ok for the most part bringing a stroller. Give yourself at least 2 hours to visit here. There aren’t any playgrounds or picnic areas, but you can bring some snacks for your toddler.

Since the Cave and Basin is apart of a national park, you can pay for your visit through Parks Canada. Its recommended to reserve in advance if possible (children 17 and under are free of charge.)

14. The Bow River Trail

Driving distance from Banff: 10 minutes

The Bow River Trail is a walk that uns right along a river in Banff on a bridge. Its fully paved, and therefore stroller-friendly.

The trail can be started from anywhere along the bridge by parking nearby. However if you want to start the trail at the beginning, then park at the Rundle parking lot just by the Bow River Bridge.

4. Get views of The Three Sisters

Driving distance from Banff: 23 minutes

The Three Sisters are three mountain peaks located just outside the village of Canmore, known individually as Big Sister, Middle Sister and Little Sister.

The three sisters

There is a hike connected to the Three Sisters, but it is a challenging hike and likely not doable with a little one in tow. There are several areas where you can get great views and photograph these mountains in the area.

One of them is a lookout called Policeman Creek which you can get to by parking at the off-leash dog park, and taking a short walk.

Best Places to Stay in/near Banff with a Toddler

We stayed at Canmore Inn and Suitesthe first time we went to Canmore with a 2 year old. We loved it because of the pool. Its nice having access to a pool with any kids, especially toddlers who love the water. Its a good hotel, but its not the highest rated family hotel in Canmore/Banff.

Here are some other options for places to stay as a family in Canmore or Banff, according to budget:

Banff with a toddler

How to Get to Banff with a Toddler

Many tourists get to Banff by flying to the Calgary airport. From there, it’s a 1 hour 30-minute scenic car ride to Banff. You can rent a car from the airport. It’s also possible to drive to Banff from other neighbouring Canadian cities, Edmonton (4.5 hours ) or Vancouver. Its important to note that children under 6 years old in Canada are required to be in a car seat.

The other option for getting around Banff is to book shuttles and private tours. Shuttles can be booked from the Calgary Airport, and from there there are plenty of shuttles or tours offered through Viator or Get Your Guide to bring you to the main attractions. So, you don’t necessarily need a car; a car is just more recommended if you want added flexibility on the things that you see and do.

Banff with a Toddler: FAQs

Here are the most commonly asked questions about visiting Banff with babies, toddlers and young children

Is Banff toddler friendly?

Yes, Banff is toddler friendly. I visited there with my toddler. Like with any other destination, there may be a couple activities in Banff that aren’t as doable with a toddler, but there are also plenty of other worthwhile things to do and ways to appreciate the stunning natural beauty that can be done with a toddler in tow.

Is Banff stroller friendly?

The village of Banff is stroller friendly, and so are some of the attractions, such as the Banff Legacy Trail. However, its probably best to bring a baby carrier to Banff so that you have another option for bringing your baby or toddler for activities that aren’t stroller friendly.

Is stroller allowed in Banff gondola?

No, strollers aren’t recommended inside the Banff gondola, due to space. A baby carrier for the Banff Gondola is your best friend.

Can you bring stroller to Lake Louise?

Yes, Lake Louise is stroller friendly for the most part. You can bring a stroller to the village of Lake Louise, or the famous shoreline of the lake to get photos. The hiking trails are fairly wide and also stroller friendly, especially if you’re using a 3-wheel stroller.

Is Moraine Lake stroller friendly?

Moraine Lake is not particularly stroller friendly, because of the uneven terrain. It might be easiest to carry or hold your toddler’s hand or use a baby carrier if you want to keep them contained.

Banff with a Toddler: Conclusion

By now you have a pretty good idea of all the ways you could spend a family vacation in Banff with a toddler in tow.

Is Banff toddler friendly? Absolutely, Banff is very doable with a toddler, bearing a few things in mind. In Banff with a toddler, you’ll be able to enjoy some of the most beautiful Canadian scenery views and get outdoors with your young child, and make precious memories.

I cherish the trip we took to Banff with my 2-year old and am glad we visited some place so beautiful with her when she was that age. Some of the photos we got were truly remarkable and I’m sure yours will be too.