Banff Made Kid-Friendly: Top Activities For Families

11 July 2016

Lisa Richardson talks to writer, blogger, outdoor adventure enthusiast and Banff native Meghan Ward to get the low down on the best hikes to tackle with kids.

Ward is co-founder and editor of the annual coffee-table magazine, The Canadian Rockies Annual. Her and husband, Paul Zizka, a professional photographer, share a passion for the Banff region. The pair have lived there since 2008 and more recently, with the addition of three-year-old daughter Mistaya.
 Small boy taking a photo with his mum of a picturesque view in Banff. Plenty of spots to stop and make some memorable family photos. Picture: Getty Images.

Meghan says the first step to adventuring with kids is to shift your expectations, and be ready to get your boots dirty.

“Banff is the epitome of access to nature, meets world-class amenities,” she says. “But you wouldn’t believe the number of people who come here and don’t get out of their cars except at the lookouts for a quick photo.”

If you’re coming all the way to Banff, go a little bit further with these soft adventure suggestions.


Looking for more Banff suggestions? 

The Snowy Frontier of Banff

Team Leader Katie Abbott Experiences Canada's Rocky Mountains The 5-Star Way


Take a (short) Hike

Meghan advises that parents redefine 'hike' as 'exploratory walk' and invest in a copy of Lynda Pianosi's "Take a Hike with Your Children: from Tots to Tweens in the Canadian Rockies" – a guidebook that features 'hikes' under five kilometers, and a host of alternatives in case the mission is derailed by a small being with a big opinion.

Some of Meghan's favourite options, among the plethora of fantastic short walks around Banff, are equally great for time-pressed travellers:

• The Fenland Loop

A two-kilometre loop just outside town, with lots of plant life to explore and a good possibility of wildlife sightings.

• The Marsh Loop

Starting near the Cave and Basin, is a great place to explore and look for birds. Despite this hike being a short drive from town and an easy walk from the parking lot, it still offers an instant immersion in nature.

• Johnson Lake

Banff’s only beach, which can be explored via walking trail around the lake.

 A family cycling through nature in Banff. Cycling provides a fun challenge for the whole family and you get to see more of the surrounding nature. Picture: Getty Images.

Cover More Ground with Pedal-Power

You can rent bikes to explore the trails around town or bike down a paved path to Sundance Canyon.

Play by the Lakeshore at Lake Louise

Poke around the Bow River in the village, get an ice-cream, and grab a snack from Trailhead Café.

Camp in a Prospector-Style Tent at Two Jack Lake

The 'oTENTiks' at the national park are part A-frame cabin, part tent, with bunk beds, on a raised wooden floor - no set up required! 15 minutes from the town of Banff, this is glamping at its finest.

 A peaceful 'oTENTik' tent cabin at night in the Banff national park. A peaceful 'oTENTik' at the Banff national park. Picture: Getty Images.

For Rainy-Day Fun

The best-kept secret in town is the indoor pool, waterslide and hot tub at the Douglas Fir hotel. Ward says it’s a great hotel to book if you’re travelling with small children, but you don’t need to be a hotel guest to visit the pool, a tip that nobody really seems to know about.

The Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies

has awesome exhibits and the 'Gateway to the Rockies' exhibit is particularly interactive and kid-friendly with its full-size helicopter, Brewster touring car, and railway snowshed.

Banff Upper Hot Springs is a Must

Although it can be quite busy. It’s worth remembering that the hot springs are open all year round, and potentially more fun when it’s rainy.

A father and son hiking next to a small rocky river in Banff. A great bonding exercise for fathers and sons - hiking through the rocky terrain of Banff. Picture: Getty Images.

While just a sampling of what can be experienced in Banff, the above adventures all come with a three-year-old’s seal of approval, and you don’t get much more of a guarantee than that.


Visit your local Flight Centre store or call 131 600 for more advice and the latest deals on travelling to Banff.


Lisa Richardson

A Bris Vegas girl who got hooked on snow, Lisa Richardson is now based in the Coast Mountains of British Columbia, Canada, where she writes, blogs, mountain bikes, skis, climbs, and requests deliveries of Vegemite and Violet Crumbles from anyone who visits. She's always up for an adventure - the dirtier and more self-propelled, the better.