Fancy a splash in Banff? In one of the many beautiful lakes in the park? Don’t do it! With a water temperature of about 7 degrees Celsius (46 F), almost all lakes provide just a little too much cooling. Brr… Fortunately, there are also more pleasant options. Below you’ll find everything you need to know.
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Yes, even in the Rockies it can be sweltering in summer. I’m talking about those cloudless days when the thermometer easily hits 30 degrees Celsius (86 F), making you yearn for a dip in lovely cool water. Unfortunately, most lakes are not suitable for this. The good thing is that the park is bursting with hotels with swimming pools and then there are also two public pools.
Swimming in Banff – Can You Take a Plunge in the Lakes?
It seems so beguiling, splashing around in Banff’s turquoise lakes on a scorching hot day. So you probably wonder: Can you swim in Lake Louise? Can you swim in Moraine Lake?
You are allowed to swim in Lake Louise and Moraine Lake. However, you won’t last long. As they are glacial lakes, the water is only about 6˚ Celcius (43 F), sometimes even colder. Jumping in is likely to impair breathing and trigger a cold shock response.
The above is true for most lakes in Banff National Park. Fortunately, there are three places where you can do “wild swimming” in water that’s not freezing cold.
These are, in particular, Cascade Ponds, just 5 kilometers (3.08 mi) from Banff and Johnson Lake, located a little further away. Furthermore, you can also visit Herbert Lake on the Icefields Parkway (Highway 93 N), 7 (4.32 mi) kilometers from Lake Louise. The water of that lake is colder, though.
Cascade Ponds is reasonably shallow, allowing the water to warm to pleasant temperatures in the summer. And because it’s shallow, it’s also a suitable place for children to play in the water.
- Covered picnic shelter with wood stove
- Outdoor picnic tables with fire pit
- Sandy beach
Location Cascade Ponds: latitude: 51.212314; longitude: -115.532119.
I wrote a post about Cascade Ponds. Click the link to learn more about this beautiful spot in Banff.
Johnson Lake has a large sandy beach (larger than the one at Cascade Ponds) and a section where you can easily wade through the water. It’s also an excellent place for picnicking.
- Picnic tables
- Sandy beach
Location Johnson Lake: latitude: 51.1915; longitude: -115.4840.
This lake on the Icefields Parkway, located at about a twelve-minute drive from Lake Louise, is not too deep. It allows the lake water to warm up a little better in the summer than most other lakes in the park.
It doesn’t automatically imply that the water will reach a pleasant temperature. For many people it’s still stone cold, so do not expect too much of it. To go swimming in the lake, you must walk a little down from the Icefields Parkway parking lot. The lake has no sandy beach.
Note for daredevils: there’s a diving board on the lakeshore.
- Diving board
Location Herbert Lake: latitude: 51.459620; longitude: -116.223061.
Please note: all three lakes do not have a defined swimming area and are unsupervised.
Publicly Accessible Pools
In Banff National Park you will find two public swimming pools, both in the town of Banff. You can visit the Aquatic Centre at Sally Borden Fitness and Recreation and the Banff Upper Hot Springs.
The Aquatic Centre is part of the Banff Centre on Tunnel Mountain. The Banff Centre is an art and conference center with numerous facilities, including a public swimming pool. The indoor pool is easily accessible on foot from the center of Banff. However, the shortest route (past the cemetery) requires a short, steep climb, with a wide staircase at the top.
- 25-meter pool
- Hot tub
- Wading pool
- Steam room
Address: 107 Tunnel Mountain Drive
Phone: +1 403 – 762 6450
Banff Upper Hot Springs
The Banff Upper Hot Springs is undoubtedly one of the most famous facilities in Banff. It is the birthplace of Banff National Park and the reason why a national park was founded at this location in Canada.
Banff Upper Hot Springs is an outdoor pool located on the flanks of Sulphur Mountain. It is fed by hot mineral water from a crack in Sulphur Mountain called the Sulphur Mountain Thrust Fault.
Many people expect to encounter a distinctive sulfur smell here, but that is (unfortunately?) not the case. The pool smells chlorine because Canadian law requires pools to treat their water. The pool management must keep a log of the chemical concentrations in the water and send water samples to the public health department.
Although the Banff Upper Hot Springs is a pool, you can’t swim laps here. It is meant to be bathed in for the beneficial effects of the water. So you’ll see people mostly sitting in the water on a submerged ledge.
The warm water (between 37 and 40 degrees Celsius (98 and 104 F)) contains various minerals, the most important of which are sulfate, calcium, bicarbonate, magnesium and sodium. The pool is located at 1585 meters (5200 ft), making it the highest hot spring in Canada. From the pool you have a beautiful view of Rundle Mountain.
Banff Upper Hot Springs
Address: 1 Mountain Avenue
Phone: +1 800 – 767 1611
E-mail: via form on the website
Adult (18-64): CAD 9.25
Youth (3-17): CAD 8
Child (under 3): Free
Senior (65+): CAD 8
Family*: CAD 29
Extra Youth: CAD 5
* The family rate applies to each of the following combinations:
- Two adults and two youths
- One adult and three youths
- Two seniors and two youths
- One senior, one adult and two youth
- Four siblings
Is there Swimming with Lifeguards in Banff?
Because most bodies of water are too chilly for swimming, most lakes in the park don’t have any lifeguards to keep people safe. However, Johnson Lake does have lifeguards in summer as it is one of the few lakes that are not glacially fed and, therefore, warm enough to allow for swimming.
Hot springs in the Rockies also have lifeguards on duty for your protection, like the Banff Hot Springs on Sulphur Mountain.
Outstanding Hotel Pools
If you’ve read the above, you’ll inevitably come to the conclusion that there aren’t a whole lot of opportunities to go swimming in a public place in Banff National Park. Fortunately, the park has many hotels with pools for its guests. I highlighted the most outstanding pools below.
Grotto Hot Tub, Fox Hotel
The Fox Hotel is undoubtedly the most outstanding indoor pool you can find in the park. It features a hot tub in a landscaped room in the cave and basin theme (see photo). Although it is an indoor pool, the hot tub is still exposed to the elements through the hole in the ceiling. As a result, sun, rain, wind and snow affect your experience while bathing. The hotel also has a sauna.
Address: 461 Banff Avenue
Phone: +1 403 – 760 8500
Moose Hotel and Suites
The Moose Hotel and Suites has an indoor pool and boasts a spa with two of the finest outdoor hot tubs in Banff. Of course this includes magnificent views and the wonderful, everlasting scent of coniferous trees of the forests surrounding Banff.
In this case, that view consists of the majestic Cascade Mountain on one side and Tunnel Mountain on the other. And if the sun is a bit too bright, you can nicely seek shade in the beautiful lounge area. The indoor pool is relatively modest but neat and clean. Highly recommended.
Address: 345 Banff Avenue
Phone: +1 866 – 379 0021 (toll free) / +1 403 – 760 8570
Fairmont Banff Springs
Of course, a hotel with a majestic appearance like the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel can’t do without a pool, or better: pools. This hotel has a beautiful indoor pool (32 meters / 34 yards) and a beautiful outdoor pool (20 meters / 22 yards). The large indoor pool is graced by the beautiful vaulted ceiling of the room. In addition, you’ll find the equally beautiful Willow Stream Spa to relax in.
The outdoor pool may look a little simpler than the indoor pool and associated spa, but that is easily made up for by the truly stunning views of the Rockies (more precisely: Rundle Mountain and Tunnel Mountain with the Bow River flowing between). If you like an exclusive experience in an upscale hotel, the outdoor pool at the Fairmont Banff Springs is the place to be in the park.
Address: 405 Spray Avenue
Phone: +1 403 – 762 2211
Douglas Fir Resort & Chalets
Douglas Fir Resort & Chalets has it all when it comes to swimming fun. The hotel has an indoor pool with two giant slides, a children’s pool that includes a play area, saunas, and an outdoor hot tub with great views of Rundle Mountain. This hotel is ideal for families with young children. It is located on Tunnel Mountain and within walking distance of the lively center of the town of Banff.
Address: 525 Tunnel Mountain Road
Phone: +1 800 – 661 9267 (toll free) / +1 403 – 762 5591
Rimrock Resort Hotel
The Rimrock Resort Hotel is, just like the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, a five-star property. So you can count on fine swimming facilities here as well. The hotel on the flank of Sulphur Mountain does not disappoint. You may not find the fairytale-like interior that characterizes Banff Springs, but style and luxury are ubiquitous. In addition to an indoor pool, the hotel also offers a hot tub, spa, and wellness. Unfortunately, the hotel does not have an outdoor pool. However, it does have an outdoor pool deck.
Address: 300 Mountain Avenue
Phone: +1 403 – 762 3356
Banff Caribou Lodge and Spa
The Banff Caribou Lodge and Spa has a gorgeous indoor pool that exudes luxury in everything. It’s neat and clean and entices visitors to take a dive. The hotel also has a spa with a hot tub and steam room for those who like relaxing or pampering themselves.
Because Banff Caribou Lodge and Spa is located on Banff Avenue, the shopping heart of Banff is easy to find. Just walk down the street in the southern direction and you’ll get there.
Address: 521 Banff Avenue
Phone: +1 403 – 762 5887
Fairmont Château Lake Louise
The Château Lake Louise is also a Fairmont hotel, so here, as with its sister in Banff, you can also expect exclusive luxury when it comes to swimming. The style of the hotel is a bit more business-like than the Fairmont in Banff. This is also reflected in the indoor pool with hot tub.
That does not diminish the quality of the pool because in this five-star hotel, the pool and hot tub are extraordinary. The four large windows let in a lot of light, although the view (some of the hotel’s walls) is not great. Especially knowing where the hotel is located.
The hotel does not have an outdoor pool. And that’s surprising. Although it can get sweltering in the Rockies in the summer, a dip in the lake is not an option because of the water’s temperature (see above).
Address: 111 Lake Louise Drive
Phone: +1 403 – 522 3511
Accommodations With a Pool and/or Hot Tub
In addition to the hotels mentioned above, there are literally dozens of other hotels in Banff National Park with a pool, hot tub or both. You’ll find them listed in the tables below. I arranged them by location (Banff, Lake Louise and backcountry lodges).
|HOTEL ACCOMMODATION||SWIMMING POOL||HOT TUB|
|Banff Aspen Lodge||✗||✓|
|Banff Caribou Lodge & Spa||✓||✓|
|Banff Park Lodge Resort Hotel||✓||✓|
|Banff Ptarmigan Inn||✗||✓|
|Banff Rocky Mountain Resort||✓||✓|
|Banff Voyager Inn||✓||✓|
|Best Western Plus Siding 29 Lodge||✓||✓|
|Bow View Lodge||✓||✓|
|Buffalo Mountain Lodge||✓||✓|
|Douglas Fir Resorts & Chalets||✓||✓|
|Elk + Avenue Hotel||✓||✓|
|Fairmont Banff Springs||✓||✓|
|Fox Hotel & Suites||✗||✓|
|Hidden Ridge Resort||✓||✓|
|High Country Inn||✓||✓|
|Inns of Banff||✓||✓|
|Irwin’s Mountain Inn||✗||✓|
|Mount Royal Hotel||✗||✓|
|Professional Development Centre Hotel||✓||✓|
|Red Carpet Inn||✗||✓|
|Rimrock Resort Hotel||✓||✓|
|Royal Canadian Lodge||✓||✓|
|Sunshine Mountain Lodge||✓||✓|
|Tunnel Mountain Resort||✓||✗|
|NAME ACCOMMODATION||SWIMMING POOL||HOT TUB|
|Baker Creek Mountain Resort||✗||✓|
|Fairmont Château Lake Louise||✓||✓|
|Lake Louise Inn||✓||✓|
|Post Hotel & Spa||✓||✓|
|NAME ACCOMMODATION||SWIMMING POOL||HOT TUB|
|Baker Creek Mountain Resort||✗||✓|
|Castle Mountain Chalets||✗||✓|
Want to book a hotel? I recommend checking out the ultimate overview of hotels in Banff with a concise comparison of hotels. It makes your booking proces fast and convenient.