Banff National Park is one of the most beautiful and photographic places in the world. There are incredible views in every direction you look. This guide to the best Banff photography spots will help you discover beautiful places, how to get there, and when best to photograph each location.
Visitors flock to Banff every year get a glimpse of those turquoise blue lakes or those rugged mountain peaks that stand tall above the town. This blog post lists some well-known places as well some off the beaten track locations. You’ll also find some tips of where to find exact photography locations and when best to photograph them.
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When To Visit Banff
Banff is beautiful year-round but the best time to visit is during the summer. If you want to photograph the bright blue lakes, waiting until July is the best way. However some years the lakes thaw earlier and you can visit mid to late June and witness those gatorade hues.
The shoulder seasons are great for avoiding crowds too, late June and mid September will have less people but still good weather.
What Type Of Camera Should I Bring?
Having a DSLR whether entry level or mirrorless is great. It gives you opportunities to capture the scenery is a variety of ways. But that doesn’t mean a high-end camera is an absolute necessity, or that you have to go out and purchase one to enjoy the beauty of Banff.
If you’ve ever heard the expression “the best camera is the one you have with you” then you’ll know it’s absolutely true! If you are visiting with nothing more than an iPhone – great! You have a camera. All of these locations can be, and have been, shot with an iPhone.
Banff Photography Spots
1) Banff Welcome Sign
The welcome sign is less a photography spot and more of an Instagram spot in Banff. While I love this sign and think it’s a great momento to take home from your trip, there isn’t anything real special about it or any real view for example.
Even so, I think taking a snap with this sign is a great way to start or end a trip to Banff and share on your Instagram!
Best Time To Photograph: The best time to photograph is as early in the day as possible, simply because there will be less crowds. In terms of lighting, this can be photographed any time of day, as long as you are willing to wait in line.
How To Get There: The Banff sign is located along Mount Norquay Road, just as you pull off the highway. You can find the Banff sign a short walk from the train station and parking lot.
Tips For Getting The Shot: There’s no real secret to photographing this spot. The nice thing about the signs location is that it’s in a quiet area of town so you won’t have anyone in the background of your photo.
2) Moraine Lake
Quite possibly the most iconic view in Banff National Park is Moraine Lake. No Banff itinerary should skip this breathtaking lake.
Shadowed by the Valley of the ten peaks, Moraine Lake is one of the best places to take pictures in Banff. The deep blue hues of this lake attract visitors from all over the world, it even once graced the back of the Canadian $20 bill.
The best area to take photos of Moraine Lake is the rock pile ,and the best time to take photos is at sunrise. Due to the position of the lake and the peaks that tower it, the sunrise here is phenomenal. Watching the sun illuminate the mountains above Moraine Lake a fiery red is one of the most magical things I have experienced in the Canadian Rockies.
Best Time To Photograph: If you want to experience sunrise at Moraine Lake you will need to get up early. Like really early. I arrived at 4am for a sunrise at 6:30. When I arrived the parking lot was already half full. There are some perks to this of course. This means you can stake out the best spot to watch the sunrise but you can also head to Lake Louise shortly after before the crowds roll in and be done before it gets busy! That’s a perk in my book!
Tips For Getting The Shot: If you are wanting to take photos from the rock pile, this is a short hike that takes you up some rocky steps and can be accessed from the parking lot, not the actual lakeshore. Remember to look at the map prior to staking out a sunset spot to save on time!
3) Lake Louise
Lake Louise has been stunning visitors with its beauty for centuries and although it’s been photographed millions of times, it still deserves a mention on this list.
This is the most famous attraction within Banff National Park and its easy accessibility means the lakeshore is always busy with people.
Best Time To Photograph: Sunrise at Lake Louise is just as stunning as Moraine Lake. The position of the Victoria Glacier and the direction of the morning sun means that this area also enjoys those red fiery hues.
How To Get There: Lake Louise is easily accessible by car and public transport. From Banff town the driving time is 40-minutes.
Tips For Getting The Shot: Getting to Lake Louise early in the morning isn’t always possible but that doesn’t mean you can’t get shots with no one in them. A wide angle lens will be your friend when trying to capture Lake Louise, but you’ll also find that if you walk a few minutes along the lakeshore past the crowds that there are plenty of points to stop in a take some snaps.
If you are wanting to take photos from your canoe, my two biggest tips are to bring a dry bag (you will need it!) and to try canoeing on a day when the water is calm.
4) Emerald Lake
Emerald Lake is one of the many magnificent lakes in and around Banff National Park. It’s easy to see where Emerald Lake got its name. The striking blue hues are best seen in the height of summer.
How To Get There: Emerald Lake is actually located in nearby YoHo National Park which is very much worth exploring. This National Park is actually in British Columbia but is only a 30-minute drive from Lake Louise.
Tips For Getting The Shot: To find this famous viewpoint of Emerald Lake Lodge from the shores of Emerald Lake you’ll head towards the public washrooms just by the parking lot and keep walking until you notice an opening in the trees. The walk should take about 5 minutes total.
Best Time To Photograph: The sunsets are incredible at Emerald Lake Lodge.
5) The Big Beehive
Getting a shot of Lake Louise without anyone in it can be challenging in the busy summer months. That’s when taking a hike on one of the many trails in the area comes in handy.
The Big Beehive trail is a favourite in the Lake Louise area and the view of Lake Louise from the viewpoint is unparalleled.
Best Time To Photograph: An early morning hike up the Big Beehive is not only an epic way to start your day but it also means getting the area with fewer people. I like to hike early morning as it means not hiking in the burning sun and there is little shade in parts of this hike.
How To Get There: The trail to the Big Beehive can be accessed from the shoreline of Lake Louise.
Tips For Getting The Shot: The great thing about the Big Beehive is that there are many viewpoints not just one, so you’re likely to find an area just to yourself.
6) Vermilion Lakes
One of the top photographic spots in Banff is Vermilion Lakes which are a collection of three lakes. Photographers flock here for the fantastic reflections of the mountains on the shallow waters.
I love this area as it gives you a great view of Rundle Mountain and is generally quieter than other areas of Banff.
Vermilion Lakes is also a great area for spotting wildlife. Both times I have ventured down here I have spotted a herd of deer.
Best Time To Photograph: It can get busy here so avoid visiting in the middle of the day if you can. This way you’ll experience less people but the sunset here is also spectacular. I would assume sunrise here would be even better based on the direction of the sun, but I am not up that early!
How To Get There: Vermilion Lakes is a 5-minute drive from Banff town.
Tips For Getting The Shot: Early morning is a great time to shoot the lakes as they the water is at its calmest and is perfect for capturing reflections of the mountains.
7) Surprise Corner
Is there a more iconic view of the Banff Springs Hotel than Surprise Corner? I think not!
Surprise corner is one of the top Banff Instagram spots where visitors flock to get their photo taken with the beautiful Banff Springs Hotel affectionately known as the Castle in the Rockies. It’s very easy to see why it gets this nickname, this hotel sits on the side of the mountain and definitely gives off a Hogwarts vibe.
Best Time To Photograph: This viewpoint is stunning at any time of day, I particularly like it on an overcast day as it gives a moodier feel.
How To Get There: Surprise Corner is located at the end of Buffalo Street just before it turns into Tunnel Mountain Road. It is a short 5-minute drive from Downtown Banff.
Tips For Getting The Shot: The great thing about Surprise Corner is that there is a parking lot directly next to this viewpoint. Parks Canada has even supplied visitors with a decked area that you can walk up to get a better view of the Banff Springs Hotel. This also helps to protect the local environment.
You can also take some amazing shots from the street level where there is a designated pedestrian walkway. Taking your photos from street level also ensures there is no one else in the shot! This is where the below shot it taken.
8) Morant’s Curve
One of the best Banff photography locations is Morant’s Curve. This iconic viewpoint was first made famous by Nicholas Morant who was working for the Canadian Pacific Railway as a staff photographer. This viewpoint has adorned Christmas cards for years and still continues to wow visitors to this day.
How To Get There: Morant’s Curve is situated at the north end of the Bow Valley Parkway and there is a designated parking lot for you to stop in so that you don’t have find a gap on the road.
Best Time To Photograph: The best time to take photos here is early in the morning when the lighting is at its softest, however Morant’s Curve is beautiful no matter the time of day.
Tips For Getting The Shot: Morant’s Curve is stunning as is but getting a shot with a train running through is the cherry on top. However, this doesn’t come easy. Trains do come through often but as they are not schedule it can happen at any time. You’ll need some patience if you really want to capture the train coming through Morant’s Curve.
9) Castle Mountain
One of my favourite photo spots in Banff is Castle Mountain. There are many beautiful peaks in Banff National Park, but I’d have to say this is one of the prettiest.
We took a detour through Highway 93 during the closure of Highway 1 near Golden and one of the mountains that kept popping up was Castle Mountain. And the views were purely stunning.
I had wanted to photograph this beautiful mountain during my Canadian Rockies road trip in 2021 but due to the forest fires I was unable to see anything. I managed to return on a mostly clear day and see it in all its glory.
Best Time To Photograph: Sunset is the best time to photograph Castle Mountain due to the position of both the mountain and sun.
How To Get There: To find this particular viewpoint you’ll want to drive to Castle Junction, once you reach the junction turn right (coming from Banff) towards the Bow Valley Parkway. You’ll drive over a bridge that crosses the Bow River and just after the bridge is a turn in for a parking lot. Park here and walk back across the bridge in the direction you came from. Once you are over the bridge, there will be a wildlife gate to the right of the bridge down by the river.
Tips For Getting The Shot: When I first saw this area was closed off with metal fencing I thought it was off-limits. It isn’t! It’s a wildlife gate that has a sign saying “Please close the gate”. You are welcome to come down by the river and take photos but you cannot park along the road.
10) Bow Valley Parkway
If wildlife is what you are searching for, the Bow Valley Parkway is a great drive to spot some! I’ve only ever spotted Elk on the Bow Valley Parkway, but it’s possible to see all types of wildlife including black bears, grizzly bears and deer.
Best Time To Photograph: The best times to spot wildlife are early in the mornings and late afternoon. Even if you don’t manage to spot any wildlife, the drive is still really nice and far quieter than the highway.
Tips For Getting The Shot: A Zoom lens is your best friend. Especially for wildlife. Never get too close to wildlife. While that little black bear might look cute and cuddly, wild animals can be, and are, very unpredictable. This is their home and we are only visitors.
11) Banff Avenue
A trip to Banff would not be complete without taking the iconic shot down Banff Avenue. The famous fire hydrant along the middle of Banff Avenue marks the perfect viewpoint in which to shoot the always breathtaking Cascade Mountain, which towers over the town.
Best Time To Photograph: Early in the morning before the area gets busy.
How To Get There: Banff Avenue is easily accessible from any hotel in Banff town and walkable from most.
Tips For Getting The Shot: Any spot along the middle of Banff Avenue will get you this view, but you can also walk further and get great shots from the Cascade of Time Garden.
12) Peyto Lake
Peyto Lake is a lesser visited lake in Banff National Park but just as magnificent. This lake is situated along the Icefields Parkway, which in itself is a great photography location in Banff.
Best Time To Photograph: Peyto Lake is beautiful no matter the time of day. However, with most places in the Canadian Rockies, early morning is best.
How To Get There: Drive the Icefields Parkway to find this stunning lake. The drive from Banff town is approximately 1 hour 10 minutes.
Tips For Getting The Shot: The awesome thing about the lookout at Peyto Lake is that it looks over the lake from above, so you get a real landscape perspective. As of fall 2021 the new lookout platform has finally opened! The new platform allows visitors to safely access this famous lookout point while enjoying those panoramic views.
13) Bow Lake
Bow Lake was my first stop on the Icefields Parkway so I arrived quite early in the morning. The early morning light gently illuminates the mountain peaks and really brings to life the glacial blues of the lake, making this one of the best photography spots in Banff.
This lake is pretty magical and one of my personal favourites in the rockies.
Best Time To Photograph: Bow Lake is one of the top places to stop along the Icefields Parkway and is best enjoyed early morning or at sunset.
How To Get There: From Banff town Bow Lake is a 1 hour drive and is located along the Icefields Parkway.
Tips For Getting The Shot: One of the best spots to take photos from at Bow Lake is the little bridge that crosses a small creek. You can find this bridge by walking along the shores of Bow Lake.
14) Icefields Parkway
Driving the Icefields Parkway honestly took my breathe away. You always see photos of the famous Icefields Parkway online and it looks stunning, but nothing really prepares you for just how beautiful it actually is. You’ll start to question if the views you see in front of you are really real.
Best Time To Photograph: Early morning! It’s no surprise that this is also best photographed in the early morning. But honestly, that early morning soft light really enhances not only the photographs but the experience as a whole. Get up early and start your drive first thing in the morning, you won’t regret it!
How To Get There: The beginning of the Icefields Parkway is just a ten drive north of Lake Louise. The whole stretch of road takes 2-hours with no stops.
Tips For Getting The Shot: Leave early to avoid lots of cars on the road. Taking photos in the middle of the road is obviously a danger but having as less cars as possible will make it much easier for you, hence starting in the morning.
15) Lake Minnewanka
The First Nations word “Minnewanka” means water of the spirits, and I think this lake is very deserving of that title. Lake Minnewanka is one of the larger lakes in Banff National Park and it’s beauty is most definitely worthy of photographing.
Best Time To Photograph: As with most of the locations on this list, the best time to photograph Lake Minnewanka is early in the morning or later afternoon/sunset.
How To Get There: Lake Minnewanka is accessible by both Roam public transit and car. The drive from Banff town is 15-minutes.
Tips For Getting The Shot: There are many photo opportunities at Lake Minnewanka. However a shot by the boat docks or in the iconic Parks Canada red chairs are both great options.
16) Banff Gondola / Sulphur Mountain
Riding to the top of the Banff Gondola is a great way to get panoramic mountainous views. There are photo opportunities everywhere but the boardwalk is a favourite among visitors.
Best Time To Photograph: The morning light is the best way to photograph the mountains from the top of the Banff Gondola.
How To Get There: The Banff Gondola is 10-minute from from Banff town or can be accessed via public transport by taking the line 1 bus or the free Banff Gondola shuttle.
Tips For Getting The Shot: The Banff Gondola is a popular attraction and if you want to get a shot with little to no people in you will have to arrive early in the morning. Your ticket allows you to change the day and time of your gondola ride subject to availability if you happen to arrive on a foggy or rainy day.
17) Lake Agnes & Tea House
The Lake Agnes Tea House has been a part of Banff history since 1901 and is a popular tourist spot. On a sunny clear the day the calm lake makes for some fantastic photo opportunities. The Lake Agnes Tea House is open from June to October.
Best Time To Photograph: Lake Agnes is best photographed on a calm day with minimal wind, this is best achieved early in the morning.
How To Get There: To get to lake Agnes you’ll need to do some hiking. The hike to Lake Agnes is a moderate incline through the forest and is suitable for most visitors.
Tips For Getting The Shot: Lake Agnes and the tea house are popular attractions in Lake Louise, arriving early is the best way to photograph the lake and tea house with minimal people.
18) Columbia Icefields
The Columbia Icefields is the largest ice field south of the arctic. The monumental landscape that surrounds the mighty Athabasca Glacier is one of the best photography spots in Banff.
Best Time To Photograph: Early morning or late afternoon.
How To Get There: The Columbia Icefields are located about halfway along the Icefields Parkway. This is where Banff National Park and Jasper National Park meet.
Tips For Getting The Shot: You don’t have to take an Ice Explorer tour to take amazing photos of the Athabasca Glacier. You have the option of simply taking photos for free from the toe of the glacier or exploring further afield and hiking the Wilcox Pass trail which features views of the Icefields and glacier, complete with two red Adirondack chairs!
Explore more of the Canadian Rockies
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