5 Days in Banff with a Toddler

toddler friendly lake morraine with canoes

We were invited to a wedding in August 2022 in Canmore which is a town 30 minutes away from Banff. My first question was, is Banff toddler friendly? Note that toddler refers to the ages of between one and three. I am here to report, yes, Banff is toddler friendly! This post covers things to do in Banff with a toddler during the summer (including toddler friendly hikes).

Facts about the Trip

From my research, Canmore is slightly cheaper and less touristy than Banff. However, Banff is closer (35-minute drive) to the iconic lakes (Lake Louise and Moraine Lake). Given that the wedding was in Canmore, we chose to stay in Canmore. Further, we rented a car. We had a 13-month-old toddler with us (not yet walking) who was on a two-nap schedule. Due to this, we mainly did naps in the baby carrier or in the car seat on long car rides. If you have a toddler, you know that long car rides can be frightful. Thus, this itinerary focuses on drives that were no longer than approximately 1 hour. Additionally, with a toddler, we chose to do walks/hikes that had relatively no elevation gain and less than 1 hour round trip.

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The Itinerary: 5 Days in Banff with a Toddler

Day 1: Travel Day

Our flight was from Denver to Calgary. Calgary is about 1 hour 15 minute drive to Canmore. We tried to schedule flights where the toddler can take a nap on the plane. Thus, we scheduled the flight to be during the last nap (2:30pm time). When we arrived in Calgary, we got the rental car, picked up the baby rental gear (read more about that here), and headed to Canmore. By the time we arrive, it was time for bedtime!

Day 2: Johnston Canyon and Johnson Lake

Views of Johnston Canyon with a toddler
Johnston Canyon Views

Johnston Canyon

Johnston Canyon (pictured) is a popular trail in a canyon alongside a serene river. It is a 45-minute drive from Canmore and 30-minute drive from Banff. There is a parking lot and cafe at the front of the trail head. Due to its popularity, I advise to get there early (before 9am). After this time, there is lot of waiting on the trail due to the amount of people on this narrow trail. At the time we visited, only the lower falls was open. The hike to the lower falls is 0.6 miles one way. We brought the hiking baby carrier but a simple baby carrier could have work. I would not recommend a stroller as the path is narrow and uneven.

We timed the hike such that the toddler would have his first nap in the car to the next adventure which was exploring the town of Banff. I recommend making lunch reservations ahead of time at any restaurant as there was a wait for many places. We walked around the shops while waiting for table. The town of Banff is stroller friendly.

Johnson Lake

After lunch, we rented a paddleboard (for me only) at SkiBig3Hub and drove for 15 minutes over to Johnson Lake. Johnson lake has a small sand bar, picnic tables and beautiful views of the Cascade Mountain. There is a spacious parking lot that leads right into the lake area, so it is not a far walk. Many families were there for paddle boarding, kayaking, sunbathing and swimming. I suggest bringing a picnic, blanket, and book to complement the water activities!

Lake Johnson in Banff with a toddler
Paddleboarding on Lake Johnson

Day 3: Exploring Canmore

Before going directly into the downtown area of Canmore, we walked around Policeman’s Creek Boardwalk. Policeman’s Creek Boardwalk is right in front of the entrance to downtown Canmore and is an easy 2.6 mile walk around the creek. After completing the loop, we strolled down the main street peeping into stores before getting lunch at Ramen Arashi Canmore (small space and very popular). Canmore is stroller friendly. My favorite store was Stonewater, a curated home goods store. I also recommend making reservations for dinner at Asian fusion restaurant, Crazyweed.

Day 4: Exploring the town of Banff with a Toddler

We made reservations for brunch/lunch buffet at the Northern Lights Alpine Cafe. It has spectacular views. The buffet offerings were limited but the quality was good. You will need to take a gondola up to the restaurant (sold separately). After lunch, we explored the building that the restaurant is in. There is a rooftop with more great views and a learning center. Afterwards, on the way back to downtown Banff, we stopped by Bow Falls. There is parking lot, but it gets full quick. The falls are right off the parking lot so there is minimal walking needed. From there, I would suggest heading over to the Cascade of Time Garden. If there is time in the day, I would add in Banff Springs which we did not get time to experience.

Views of Banff from Northern Lights Alpine Restaurant with a baby and with a toddler
Views from Northern Lights Alpine Restaurant

Day 5: Visiting Lake Louise, Lake Moraine and Lake Peyto

If you have not heard of these Lake Moraine nor Louise (like I did prior to this trip), these are the iconic turquoise lakes that you have probably seen in pictures.

Getting to Lake Morraine and Lake Louise

I suggest making reservations for the shuttle to Lake Louise/Moraine early as the parking lots at the lakes fill up before sunrise. The best time to visit the lakes is before 9am. I made the mistake of booking it three weeks before and did not find any morning availability on the bus. However, when I arrived in Banff/Canmore, I constantly checked the website for any cancellations, and I was able to find an early morning ride! When booking you can choose to go to either lake first. There is a connector shuttle to the other lake (a 20-minute ride) included in the fair. We chose to start with Lake Moraine because it is more vivid than Louise and we wanted an uncrowded view. The trip starts at the Lake Louise Park and Ride where there is a lodge that sells foods and has bathrooms.

Lake Moraine

Once the bus dropped us off at Lake Moraine, we immediately headed to the Rockpile Trail which the entrance was right where the shuttle dropped us off. Rockpile trail is not stroller friendly, but it is considered easy and is 0.25 miles one way. Accordingly, we took the baby carrier for this trip. There are stunning views on this short trail of Lake Moraine. The path is the same for going up and down. Once we were done with Rockpile, we headed over to the banks of Lake Moraine and walked along the flat trail around the lake. It was nearing nap time and we wanted to be on the connector bus to Lake Louise for that. Note that at Lake Moraine, there is a lodge where you get snacks and drinks.

Canoes on Lake Morraine in Banff with a TOddler
Canoes at Lake Morraine

Lake Louise

Upon arriving at the parking lot of Lake Louise, we walked over to the lake, and it was already swarmed with tourists (around 10am). The toddler was still napping, so we sat on one of the many benches at the entrance of the lake and enjoyed the scenery as the baby napped. When he woke up, it was time for our afternoon tea reservation at the Fairmont a Lake Louise. They were accommodating of the toddler, and we brought extra snacks (blueberries and pouches) for him. After tea, it was time to head back to the Park and Ride to make it to our next destination. I read that the shuttles to head back to the Park and Ride from Lake Louise could have long wait times, thus plan accordingly.

Afternoon tea at the Fairmont Chateau at Lake Louise, toddler friendly
Afternoon Tea at the Fairmont Chateau at Lake Louise
Views of Lake Morraine from Rockpile trail, a toddler friendly trail
View of Lake Morraine from Rockpile Trail

Lake Peyto

Lake Peyto Lookout is a 40-minute drive north from Lake Louise Park and Ride. It is another glacier-fed lake along the famous Icefields Parkway. I had read that it was more vividly colored than Lake Morraine and Louise and less crowded. There is a big free parking lot with toilet facilities. When we arrived around 3pm, it was not crowded. The trail to the viewpoint of the lake is a 0.6-mile incline. I did see people bring a stroller on the dirt path. At the end of the path is a deck to view lake Peyto. I read that you could hike down to Lake Peyto but we did not do that. After enjoying the views, we headed back to Canmore. Keep your eyes open as there are stunning views along the highway!

Views of Lake Peyto - a toddler friendly activity
Views of Peyto Lake
Views from the drive on Icefields Parkway in Banff with a toddler
Views from the drive on Icefield Parkway

Hope that helps with your 5-day itinerary with a toddler! Check out packing tips for a toddler in Banff here.

5 Days in Banff with a Toddler

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