October is a beautiful time of year to visit Banff.
October is the tail end of the fall season which is a magical time when the landscape transforms into a fiery canvas of vibrant colors, and the tourist crowds thin out.
You will likely get epic scenery of the copper, orange, red and yellow leaves as a backdrop to the turquoise lakes and icy blue glacier rivers.
With varying weather and seasonal changes to the main attractions in Banff, here’s everything you need to know about visiting in October!
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Weather in Banff in October
October brings crisp, cool weather to Banff. Expect daytime temperatures ranging from 5°C to 15°C (41°F to 59°F) and cooler nights.
These temperatures can vary wildly, but overall, it’s going to be chilly and crisp, but not frigidly cold.
While the weather can be unpredictable, if you’re planning a visit in October, it’s best to assume it will be cold with a likelihood of snow, or at the very least a skiff of snow.
It almost always snows in Banff in October, but not usually until the end of the month, sometimes mid-month.
Early parts of October will either see no snow, or light dustings.
Another reason to consider visiting Banff in October is that forest fire season is usually done.
In the last few years (2023 was the worst), there have been horrible forest fires in Alberta and its neighboring provinces and territories, creating smokey skies all summer long.
With no smoke, you should have perfectly clear skies to enjoy the mountain scenery.
How to Pack for Banff Weather in October
Layering is key, so pack a mix of warm clothing, including sweaters, a light winter jacket, warm pants/lined leggings, and sturdy, waterproof hiking boots for outdoor activities.
If you’re hiking or strolling the shorelines of Lake Louise for any longer than 5 to 10 minutes, your fingers will be very cold, so have a light pair of gloves or mittens.
A toque/beanie is a must-have to stay warm.
Fall Foliage: the Best Reason to Visit Banff in October!
Banff National Park comes alive with a symphony of reds, oranges, and yellows in October.
The leaves will be at their maximum color change by early to mid October.
The larch trees, unique to this region, turn a brilliant golden hue, creating a breathtaking contrast against the evergreen backdrop.
The most famous spot to enjoy these colors is along the Larch Valley hike, which is about 4 kms one way, on an out and back trail.
Some of the other best places to soak in this natural beauty include Lake Louise, Moraine Lake, and Johnston Canyon.
If you’re not into hiking, head to Morant’s Curve to enjoy larches and the fiery fall foliage. You might even get lucky with a train that passes through.
Tip: book a stay at Baker Creek Mountain Resort, which has dozens and dozens of larches all around the property. Wake up in your cozy cabin, surrounded by the fiery colors. No hiking required!
Expect Fewer Crowds
One of the major perks of visiting Banff in October is the relative lack of tourists compared to the summer months, and the winter ski-season travelers haven’t shown up yet.
This means shorter lines at popular attractions and more peaceful moments in the wilderness.
It’s an ideal time for those seeking a quieter and more intimate experience in the Canadian Rockies.
Best Things to Do in Banff in October
You might be wondering if there’s enough to do in Banff in October, and I’m here to tell you that you can easily fill a 4 or 5 day itinerary in Banff.
Some attractions shut down for the season, but there is still lots to see and do.
Here’s what you need to know about landmarks, sites, activities and attractions in October.
Tip: download the GuideAlong app for interesting & informative commentary while you drive through scenic Banff National Park!
October is still a great time for hiking, with many trails accessible.
However, some higher-elevation routes may start to accumulate snow, so check trail conditions and be prepared for changing weather.
Tip: expect to be chilly at the beginning of your hike and then warm enough to the point where you only need a t-shirt!
Popular hikes like the Lake Agnes Trail, Big Beehive, Sentinel Pass, Pocaterra Ridge, Ptarmigan Cirque, Plain of Six Glaciers, and the Valley of the Ten Peaks are not to be missed when visiting Banff in October.
Johnston Canyon is also open year round. It’s an easy walk along a boardwalk with a waterfall.
It’s popular in the summer with big crowds, but will be much less busy in October.
Tip: for an easy walk with paved trails around clear-water ponds, try the Mt. Lorette Ponds, just south of Canmore and Kananaskis.
This is a great area to view golden larches in early October with little effort and fewer crowds.
Banff’s wildlife is particularly active in the fall as they prepare for winter. Keep your eyes peeled for elk, moose, bighorn sheep, and even grizzly bears.
Tip: Drive the Bow Valley Parkway at dawn and dusk for the best chance to see wildlife.
Lake Louise and Moraine Lake, the two most popular lakes in Banff National Park, won’t be frozen yet.
You’ll be able to see the turquoise colors in their final moments before they freeze and become covered with snow.
Lake Louise is open and accessible year-round.
Over the years when I have visited the mountain lakes in October, it does seem to a little cloudy more often than not.
The road to Moraine Lake closes the weekend of Canadian Thanksgiving, which is the second Monday in October.
After that, you can still access Moraine Lake by hiking or biking in. You can rent e-bikes in the village of Lake Louise, and it’s 14 kms one-way.
There will be no road traffic at that time (meaning very few people), which makes mid to late October one of the best times to view Moraine Lake!
With fewer crowds all throughout the national park, sightseeing is much more enjoyable at this time of year.
The Banff Gondola operates year-round, and if it’s a clear day, this is a must-do activity. Up top, you can walk along boardwalks that are surrounded 360 degrees by mountain peaks.
The Banff Upper Hot Springs are also open year-round. Situated in a stunning mountain setting, it offers a relaxing and rejuvenating experience.
The hot springs are known for their mineral-rich, geothermally heated waters, which have a soothing temperature of around 38-40°C (100-104°F).
You can soak in the outdoor pools while enjoying panoramic views of the surrounding Rocky Mountains, perfect on a chilly fall day.
As a renowned international destination, Banff has an incredible culinary scene.
If you experience a day with bad weather, a food tour is the perfect way to spend a few hours in Banff.
One of the best food tours is the Eat the Castle Food Tour at the iconic Banff Springs Hotel.
You’ll visit four places in the hotel to taste exquisite food pairings and drinks. While you eat, your guide will teach you about the hotel’s history, art, and cool architecture.
It’s a small-group tour, so you’ll have a personalized experience.
Join a 1 hour and 40-minute evening guided walking tour of Banff.
You’ll explore the historic streets and listen to creepy stories about unsolved crimes, scary encounters from the town’s past, unsolved mysteries, and scary events at hotels.
It’s a ghostly tour that brings Banff’s haunted history to life, especially when it’s dark outside.
It only runs in September and October, just in time for Halloween!
Attractions and Tours that Close for the Season
The following seasonal attractions in Banff close for the season after the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend, which is the second Monday in October:
- Lake Minnewanka Cruise
- Moraine Lake road shuttles
- Lake Agnes Tea House (trail still open, just bring your own snacks)
- Via Ferrata
- Hop on Hop Off Bus
- Columbia Icefield Adventure
- Glacier Skywalk
Sample Banff October Itinerary
Here’s a typical itinerary for visiting Banff in October.
Because the weather can be unpredictable, use this itinerary as a base of what you can do for a few days in Banff, but you don’t have to follow each day very strictly.
This itinerary will help you see and experience all the main sites and attractions, based on what’s open
Adjust to your schedule, the weather and your interests!
- Explore the town of Banff, don’t miss the surprise corner!
- Join the evening ghost walk tour
- Catch sunrise at Lake Louise.
- From Lake Louise lakeshore, choose one of the following hikes: Mirror Lake, Lake Agnes Tea House or Big Beehive (could do all 3 if you want a full day of hiking).
- Visit Johnston Canyon
- Enjoy a drive up the Bow Valley Parkway at dusk for wildlife spotting
- Icefields Parkway scenic drive
- Peyto Lake
- Moraine Lake – rent e-bikes
- Visit Emerald Lake (can canoe or just stroll around)
- Banff Gondola
- Upper Hot Springs
- Anything else you weren’t able to accomplish from the first 3 days!