Banff is the base town for exploring and taking in the splendid views of Alberta’s Rockies. You have the scenic peaks of Mt. Rundle and Mt. Cascade right from your lodging’s doorstep in the heart of town. However, it’s worth going out on an adventure for the best spots in and around Banff, from where you can photograph the Canadian Rockies in all its alpine glory.

    You can find the most Instagrammable places in Banff on a gondola ride, on scenic drives, or as prize views after a lush forest hike. Below are some of Banff’s best spots to take your unique selfies or set up a tripod. Data coverage might not be reliable up in the mountains, so snap and keep your epic shots until you can upload them on the hotel Wi-Fi.


    Lake Louise

    Lovely vistas over a turquoise glacier lake

    Lake Louise’s calm, turquoise waters are beautifully framed by magnificent snow-capped and forested peaks, with the elegant Chateau Lake Louise overlooking it. The grand scale of the panorama becomes more apparent as you spot kayakers on the lake that look tiny from far away. It is an irresistibly snap-worthy shot from the lakeside, but you can get higher, grander views on a series of hiking trails. The lake freezes over in winter to become a dreamy ice rink, complete with floodlit ice carvings on the shore.

    Location: Lake Louise Dr, Lake Louise, AB T0L 1E0, Canada

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    Vermillion Lakes

    Triple lakes, tremendous views

    This group of 3 lakes offers scenic views and fun activities just west of Banff town. Vermillion Lakes is popular for canoeing, with many ramps and jetties jutting into the lake. Its accessibility from Banff’s downtown district also makes it a great option for photographers looking for a quick and easy spot for beautiful mountain and lake shots. As to why the lakes are named ‘Vermillion’, try coming around at dusk, when the lake and the peaks of Mount Rundle take on a bright glow.

    Location: Trans-Canada Highway, Banff, AB T1L 1K2, Canada

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    Sulphur Mountain

    Capture the views on the ride to the peak

    A must-do in Alberta’s Rockies is riding the cableway up to the peak of Sulphur Mountain, known as the Banff Gondola. Most visitors’ adorable selfies are taken up in the air here as the steady ride provides you with many breathtaking angles over the forested slopes and hiking trails around Bow Valley, which is ringed by 6 stunning peaks. The rides usually take around 8 minutes. You can find more photo ops from the observation deck at the end of the ride.

    Location: Improvement District No. 9, AB, Canada

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    Cascade Gardens

    Snap lovely mountain flowers in a heavenly setting

    Banff Cascades of Time Gardens are at the southern end of Banff Avenue. These well-kept gardens feature contoured pathways, as well as a series of benches, bridges, and pergolas from where you can take in the lovely sections. Besides offering a tranquil break from downtown’s otherwise busy Banff Avenue, the lush alpine trees and blooming flowerbeds with butterflies provide a pleasant change from photographing Banff’s mountain landscapes.

    Location: Cave Ave, Banff, AB T1L 1K2, Canada

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    Tunnel Mountain Summit

    A fast forest hike with a prize view

    This is where the Banff locals go to take their dogs for a jog, or to simply do some hiking. You can complete the trail to the peak in around 45 minutes, though there is a shortcut near a parking lot where you can cheat your way up. The views get better as you go up, so you need to keep climbing. At the top, your reward is a beautiful panorama, overlooking the town that’s surrounded by the Rockies.

    Location: Improvement District No. 9, AB, Canada

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    Mount Norquay

    Epic slopes for skiing and photo-snapping

    The way up to this peak makes up one of the most scenic drives you can enjoy in Banff. Mount Norquay itself is a popular ski resort, with some epic slopes that make it a skiing playground in the winter. Come the summer, the steep hairpin turns offer stunning alpine views. There are a couple of viewpoints near the top with red benches from where you can pause and take in the view.

    Location: Mount Norquay Road, Banff, AB T1L 1B4, Canada

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    photo by Qyd (CC BY-SA 2.5) modified


    Johnston Canyon

    Lush cascades among nature

    Trekking down to the beautiful waterfalls in Johnston Canyon takes around an hour at a leisurely pace, but it’s well worth it for the magnificent scenery. It’s one of the most popular short hikes in Banff National Park. The highlights of the trip are the catwalks that allow you to cross over the canyon and get impressive angles over the waterfalls. The sturdy catwalks line one side of the ravine, and some lower sections of it lead you down and close to the rapids.

    Location: Bow Valley Pkwy, Improvement District No. 9, AB T1L 1K2, Canada

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    photo by NingChien (CC BY-SA 4.0) modified


    Moraine Lake

    The beautiful sister of Lake Louise

    This dramatic, glacier lake is around 11 km south of the more popular Lake Louise. It offers stunning views with its turquoise blue and emerald waters, that reflect the surrounding alpine landscapes around it on its smooth, mirror-like surface. Virtually any spot on the rocky boulders around the lake lets you capture the view of the snow-capped peaks afar, with towering pines in the foreground. Wide lenses work best, especially for selfies where you can have the peaks and the lake’s shores in the same frame behind you.

    Location: Improvement District No. 9, AB, Canada

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    Bow River Falls

    Petite but charming waterfalls just outside town

    The Bow Falls Viewpoint is an easy, short trip out of Banff town, which you can reach along forested trails. The view comprises the Bow River and its low-lying falls, with the castle-like Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel in the background, surrounded by lush forests. You can continue down a lower trail that will lead you to the riverside, from where you can get different perspectives. The water is a deeper blue around the falls, and fades to a soft emerald near the rocky riverbanks.

    Location: Bow River Ave, Banff, AB T0L 0C0, Canada

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    Banff Avenue

    Stroll through the heart of town

    The peak of Mount Cascade dominates the skyline of Banff town and its main street, Banff Avenue. It’s the tallest of the nearby peaks, and you can see it from almost any brewpub, tavern, and bar in the heart of town. Did you know that, when the town was laid out, the main avenue was deliberately oriented to provide the best possible view of Cascade Mountain? Let’s thank the park’s first superintendent, George Stewart, for this as now we can snap cool shots of the prettiest town in the Canadian Rockies.

    Location: Banff Ave, Banff, AB, Canada

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    photo by InSapphoWeTrust (CC BY-SA 2.0) modified

    Ari Gunadi | Compulsive Traveler

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