Banff Wildlife Spotting Tours: Your 8 Best Summer Options in 2024

A grizzly mother and her cub sitting on a branch in Banff National Park

Visiting Banff National Park for its abundant wildlife? You’ve come to the right place because I’ve highlighted the best ten summer wildlife spotting tours below. 

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Regarding Wildlife, Banff National Park is primarily known for its bears. But In addition to black bears and grizzlies, the Rockies are home to various other large and smaller animals. 

What about elk, moose, cougars, wolves, lynxes, caribou, deer, coyotes, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, foxes, eagles, owls, and squirrels, to name a few? During one of the tours mentioned below, you might spot one of them or more.  

They are all well-protected as Banff is a national park and a prestigious UNESCO World Heritage Site, as well. 

And you can get to see this wildlife!

You probably wonder: Where to see wildlife in Banff? Well, not to worry. Many different wildlife tours are available to the oldest national park in Canada and the second oldest in North America.

So how do you pick the best Banff Wildlife tour?

This list has all the best tours with unique ways of spotting wildlife, with a concise tour description. This way, you don’t have to scour the internet to find the tour that best fits your need. I did the heavy lifting for you! 

The 8 Best Banff Wildlife Tours

The tours featured here are all geared toward observing wildlife in Banff National Park. Some tours aim to spot wildlife in general, while others focus on bears. 

Each one is an excellent opportunity to discover the park and its wildlife. Whatever your preference is, you should be able to find something that suits your needs.

1. Discover Grizzly Bears from Banff

A grizzly in a meadow in Banff National Park

Emerald Lake | Takakkaw Falls | Spiral Tunnels | Grizzly Bear Refuge

This is it, an actual once-in-a-lifetime experience and the best wildlife trip you can book in Banff. This fantastic tour will occupy you for ten mesmerizing hours in your ‘hunt’ for the most awe-inspiring animal of the Canadian Rockies: the grizzly bear.

The tour is jam-packed with activities and takes you through Banff AND Yoho National Parks. 

So what will you see? You’ll visit stunning Emerald Lakes, Takkakaw Falls, and the Spiral Tunnels in Yoho National Park. 

You’ll also visit Kicking Horse Mountain Resort and ride a gondola to an elevation of 2,347 meters (7,700 feet), where you’ll have lunch at Canada’s highest restaurant, Eagle’s Eye Restaurant. 

The best is, of course, saved for last, as you will ride a chairlift to the world’s largest enclosed and protected grizzly bear habitat. Here you’ll see Boo the bear, a grizzly saved as a cub. 

This guided tour takes a full day and has crazy many photo ops, so make sure you bring your camera. Also, bring some warmer clothing as you’ll go to higher altitudes. 

  • Note: You’ll be picked up in Banff and travel in a small group of a maximum of 24 people.

BOOK NOW: Discover Grizzly Bears

In case you want to know more about bears in the park, check the post about bear watching in Banff.

2. Half-Day Private Tour Banff

A grizzly bear wading through water in Banff National Park

Emerald Lake | Lake Louise | Castle Junction | Icefields Parkway

Five hours on a private tour in the Canadian Rockies, starting at 7 am: Yes, you’ll need to get up early, but if you want a seriously good chance of seeing wildlife – including bears – this is it!

The tour takes you through both Banff and Yoho National Parks. Starting at magical Emerald Lake in Yoho, you’ll visit Lake Louise and Castle Junction for some stunning Insta-material. So don’t forget your phone or camera!

While every stop is absolutely worth it, the tour’s highlight is the trip along the Icefields Parkway (Highway 93). Along the way, you’ll see the Crowfoot Glacier, Bow Lake, Peyto Lake and sweeping views of the Athabasca Glacier

The Icefields Parkway is a perfect fit for this extensive tour as it’s known for its abundant wildlife.

  • Note: this tour is a private activity. Only your group will participate.

BOOK NOW: Half-Day Private Tour Banff

3. Banff Highlights & Wildlife | Small Group Adventure

An elk grazing in an alpine meadow near Lake Minnewanka in Banff National Park

Lake Minnewanka | Two Jack Lake | Bow Falls | Mount Norquay Road | Vermilion Lakes | Surprise Corner | Hoodoos

This wildlife spotting tour takes you to several highlights in the direct vicinity of the Town of Banff.

After visiting Lake Minnewanka and Two Jack Lake, known for elk, deer, bighorn sheep and bear spottings, you’ll visit the Bow Falls for a gorgeous view of the falls and down the Bow River. 

Then a drive up Mount Norquay Road is scheduled for a breathtaking view of the town of Banff and its surroundings. Back in the Bow Valley, you’ll enjoy the views of Vermilion Lakes before you continue to the Hoodoos rock formation on Tunnel Mountain. 

The tour is organized in such a way that you’ll likely avoid crowds. To increase your chances of viewing wildlife, the itinerary is updated with the most recent reports of wildlife sightings.  

While there is a more or less fixed itinerary, the guide loves to mix in a few secret locations to increase your chances of sighting animals.  

  • Note: this tour comes with a small group guarantee! A maximum of only 15 people are allowed to participate.

BOOK NOW: Banff Highlights & Wildlife

4. Wildlife Big Canoe Tour in Banff National Park

Two elk in a meadow near the town of Banff in Banff National Park

Bow River | Vermilion Lakes

How about spotting wildlife from the water? You can do so on this tour, straight from the town of Banff. 

The experience of a canoe tour is unique in and of itself, but you’ll also be likely to see animals you otherwise probably wouldn’t spot, like bald eagles, muskrats, elk and perhaps even resident beaver Barry. 

And don’t worry; you don’t need any paddling experience.

During this 90-minute tour, you’ll be taken on the Bow River in a 12-seat canoe. During the trip, a guide will tell you about the animals’ behavior, habitat, and conservation. 

Make sure you bring your camera; the views are simply stunning!

  • Note: this tour is suitable for all ages. Hence, perfect for families!

BOOK NOW: Wildlife Big Canoe Tour

5. Private Sunset Safari in Banff

Three mountain sheep on an alpine meadow near Lake Minnewanka in Banff National Park

Town of Banff | Tunnel Mountain Drive | Lake Minnewanka

As the tour name suggests, you’ll get out in the evening. Which makes sense because the park quiets down at this time, and animals are likelier to come out. So you will have more chance of seeing wildlife during an evening wildlife safari in Banff.

This tour takes about 2.5 hours in a private safari vehicle and includes three stops of about 45 minutes. 

The first part of the tour is a drive through the town of Banff in search of the town’s wildlife before heading out to Tunnel Mountain Drive. You’ll have a splendid sunset shot of Mount Rundle at the day’s golden hour. 

The last stop is Lake Minnewanka, the park’s biggest lake, known for its abundant wildlife.    

  • Note: This is a private tour/activity. Only your group will participate.

BOOK NOW: Private Sunset Safari

6. Into the Rockies – 4hr Banff Wildlife Safari Drive & Short Walk

A black bear in an alpine meadow near Canmore, Alberta

Canmore area

This 4-hour tour starts just outside Banff National Park in Canmore. It includes a 2.5-hour safari drive and 1.5-hour walking, taking you to lesser-known parts of the Canadian Rockies. 

The tour’s walking part is rated easy, making it ideal for the whole family!

And yes, you might see bears or other wildlife as the guide will take you to remote areas where people usually don’t go. In case you’re wondering: The guide wears bear spray for your safety.

The wildlife safari offers one stunning view after the other, so make sure you bring your camera.   

  • Note: if you don’t have a car to get to Canmore, you can easily get there by public transport. 

BOOK NOW: Wildlife Safari Drive & Short Walk

7. Summer Tour: Banff and its Wildlife

Elk in a mountain scene near the town of Banff, Alberta

Banff | Bow Falls | Surprise Corner | Hoodoos | Lake Minnewanka | Ghost Town of Bankhead

This tour of approximately 3 hours takes you to the wild nature around the town of Banff and includes several stops. 

A guide first takes you to Bankhead, a ghost town and former mining town, and Lake Minnewanka. On the way back to Banff, you’ll stop at places like the breathtaking Bow Falls and the Hoodoos rock formation. 

You’ll also get out at Surprise Corner for mesmerizing views of the Bow River and the impressive Banff Springs Hotel.  

About the wildlife: Especially at Lake Minnewanka, you can expect to see wildlife like elk, deer and bighorn sheep. But grizzlies and even wolves (on very rare occasions) are spotted there.

Meanwhile, your guide will tell you about the history and geology of the area throughout the tour. Because of the trip’s duration, you’ll receive some light refreshments. 

  • Note: the tour is seasonal and operates between April and mid-October.

BOOK NOW: Banff and its Wildlife

8. Wildlife and Sightseeing Minibus Tour

A grizzly bear overlooking the Rocky Mountains near Lake Minnewanka

Lake Minnewanka | Bow Falls | Surprise Corner | Hoodoos Lookout

This 3.5-hour tour by minibus takes you to several musty-see places in Banff while on the lookout for wildlife. 

You’ll visit Lake Minnewanka, Bow Falls, Surprise Corner – offering a splendid view of the Banff Springs Hotel – and the Hoodoos Lookout on Tunnel Mountain.

Wildlife you may encounter include elk, deer, bighorn sheep and possibly even bears. A guide will tell you about their habitat and wildlife management practices.

Bring a pair of comfortable shoes to do a bit of hiking. And don’t forget your camera, as the photo ops are plentiful, to say the least. 

  • Note: the group’s maximum size is 24 people, so book in time.

BOOK NOW: Wildlife and Sightseeing Minibus Tour

Want to know more about wildlife in the park? I wrote a post on wildlife in Banff and how to deal with encounters.

Banff Travel Guide and FAQ

Where is Banff National Park, Canada?

Banff National Park is in the southwest of the province of Alberta. It’s home to the towns of Banff and Lake Louise and borders the province of British Columbia in the west of Canada. You can easily access famous places like Lake Louise, Moraine Lake, Peyto Lake and the stunning Icefields Parkway from these locations.

Banff and Lake Louise are situated in the Rocky Mountains of Alberta, close to the boundary with British Columbia, as shown on the map of Banff National Park below.

Is Banff, Canada safe?

Generally speaking, yes. Like most areas, Banff has crime, but it’s still a safe travel place. But Banff has a lot of wildlife, including bears and cougars, so you should always carry bear spray and exercise caution when hiking in the mountains.

What is the best time to Travel to Banff, Canada?

The best time to travel to Banff, Canada, depends on your reason for visiting the park. If you’re going for the stunning nature the park’s famous for, you’d better visit from June to September. The best months to ski are from January through March. 


Average min and max temperatures in Banff, Canada

The worst months to visit Banff National Park are November, April and May. It’s too chilly to go sightseeing in November, and there isn’t enough snow on the slopes yet. The iconic lakes in the park are still frozen in April and May, and it can still be quite cold.

How do I travel to Banff, Canada?

Want to fly to Banff? Calgary International Airport (Code: YYC) is the closest airport. It’s 130 kilometers (81 mi) to the east of Banff.  

Several cities, including Toronto, Chicago, Seattle, and Dallas/Fort Worth, have direct flights into Calgary.

Pick up a rental vehicle at Calgary International Airport, or take a private transport service to your destination. The trip to the park takes about 1 hour and 40 minutes. 

Viator has several good options. Click the link to check the options and latest rates.

Banff Car Rental

Want to rent a car during your stay in Banff National Park? Rent one at Calgary International Airport or in the city of Calgary. Yep, there are rental firms in Lake Louise and Banff, but as these are small towns, your rental options can be limited.

Avis is a reputable car rental company, which I’ve used many times. Book now with Avis

What do I pack for Banff, Canada?

The time of year will affect what you should bring with you on your trip to Banff, Canada. If you plan to spend your summer vacation in Banff National Park, you should be okay with light-colored, breathable clothing. Bring a few sweaters, too, as Banff’s summer evenings can be chilly. You’re in the mountains, after all. 

When visiting in winter, bring a heavy jacket, such as a parka, and other winter clothing, such as warm pants, long underwear, and (fleece) sweaters. Don’t take it lightly because Banff’s wintertime lows can reach well below zero.

Banff Travel Planning Guide

Do I need a visa for Banff?

Most likely not. Citizens of the US, most European countries, Australia and New Zealand don’t need a visa to enter Canada. Not sure? Click the link to see whether you need a visa or not. The typical length of stay in Canada for people with visa-exempt passports is 90 days.

Do I need travel insurance for Banff?

You bet. Feel confident while traveling with a plan from Travel Insurance Master, one of the top names in travel insurance, for just USD 10 on average per day.

What’s the best way to book my Banff accommodation?

If you plan to book a hotel, hostel or bed & breakfast, is your best bet. It has the most hotels listed and often offers the best rates.

Do I need to rent a car in Banf?

Absolutely. While Banff is one of the few national parks in North America with a sizeable public transport network, I strongly advise renting a car if you want to make the most of your visit.

Will my phone work in Banff?

It depends. In the towns of Banff and Lake Louise, you should have good to excellent reception. However, in more remote areas, the signal is spotty. In many places, there will be no signal at all.

What’s the best site to buy Banff flights? 

If you’re looking for cheap flights to Banff, I recommend Skyscanner. No surprises with suddenly increased rates (for taxes, seats or luggage) upon checkout. What you see is what you get. 


As a former Banffite, I love writing about my favorite part of the world. I keep coming back to enjoy the park's mesmerising beauty. It never fails to impress me. With my extensive knowledge of the area, I aim to provide you with the best information on Banff that you can find on the internet.

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