Top 10 Most Iconic Easy-to-Access Photography Spots in Banff National Park
Ah, Banff! One of the most spectacular and photogenic places on Earth. God definitely SHOWED UP when He created the mountainous region of the Canadian Rockies, giving an extra splash of pizzaz on Banff! So it’s no wonder you’re here researching for a photography guide to capture the most iconic Instagrammable spots in Banff with the most minimal effort. And truth be told, there are definitely MANY gorgeous photo-worthy places in this national park you can reach with just a short walk from your car.
Before we get started though, one thing to note is that not all of these locations are open year-round. You can keep yourself updated with opening and closure dates with Parks Canada. But regardless if you come in the summer of winter, these photo spots are absolutely awe-inspiring (pics below to prove it!). Note numero dos: when you visit Banff or any Canadian national park, you’ll need to purchase a park pass (which you can do here or at the park entrances) and have it shown either on the inside your windshield or hung on your rear-view mirror.
One last thing! You see those brackets at the end of each spot’s description below? Yeah, those are the latitude and longitude coordinates so that you can plunk them right into Google Maps to lead you right to the spot where we’ve taken our photos! Happy photo spot hunting!
Banff Area Photo Spots
Situated nearest the west exit to the town of Banff, Vermillion Lakes is one of the easiest places to get to whether in the summer or winter. Vermillion Lakes Road is short, well paved and isn’t often travelled – very low traffic is a definite bonus for photographers. In winters, Vermillion Lakes is a great place to have a breathtaking skate facing Mount Rundle on the open ice, and offers a peaceful view in the summer from the dock. (51.183996, -115.594364)
Vermillion Lakes Viewpoint
You can either drive straight down to the lake or spot the beautiful view of Mount Rundle from up top, right on Highway 1! Vermillion Lakes Viewpoint is found on the TransCanada highway going East right before the first exit to Banff, which means you can only stop here going in the one direction. So if you’re heading towards Lake Louise for the day and coming back in this direction, make sure to catch a glimpse of what it’s like from this viewpoint! (51.1823150, -115.6033078)
Of course coming to Banff National Park means you have to see the town itself! Unlike popular belief, Banff isn’t just about food, pubs, shopping and crowds of tourists. The views from here are spectacular as well and spending the day walking along the Bow River will make every cell in your body giddy with joy. So make time for at least a quick stop in town and a shot of Cascade Mountain from the middle of Banff Ave! (Parking is free in the lots and on the street with your Banff Park Pass.) (51.1766719, -115.5709188)
You know that postcard view of the Fairmont Banff Springs? Well this is where you get it! Surprise Corner is a sharp bend in Tunnel Mountain Road as you drive up or down the mountain, and there’s a vast opening where all you see is endless mountains and the historical castle hotel amidst the numerous evergreens. There’s a small parking lot at Surprise Corner with a lookout area to catch this shot. (51.167369, -115.559274)
Lake Louise Photo Spots
Shooting Lake Louise at any point in the year will be rewarding, but the best times are in early summer morning for the perfect reflection shot, and in November when the lake starts to freeze and the flat sheet of ice creates an opaque mirror of the surrounding mountains. Early mornings are your best bet to get a parking spot in the lot as tons of hike trailheads and outdoor activities are located here, and the tourists often conglomerate at Lake Louise – for good reason, obviously! (51.4164623, -116.2174639)
If you’re thinking of staying in Lake Louise, check out my piece on spending a night in one of the most iconic hotels in Western Canada, the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise!
Moraine Lake has become an extremely popular destination for photographers over the years as Instagram sparked its rise to fame. It’s honestly my favourite place on Earth and perfect for a gorgeous canoe shot. A few steps from the parking lot will bring you to the lodge area, cafe and rental shop. But it’ll take a few minutes of stairs to get to this viewpoint where you’ll be swept with the iconic view of the Valley of the Ten Peaks. The steps to get to the top of the rock were built for easy accessibility but will, unfortunately, not be possible for wheelchair access. Perhaps they’ll build a ramp here one day!
The road to Moraine Lake from Lake Louise is very restricted. They used to allow cars to park on the side of the one-lane road near the parking lot but have limited it in 2020, most likely due to COVID-related reasons. The park rangers will close the road once the Moraine Lake parking lot is full. This usually happens around 6:30am on weekends (yikes, right?!) but you should be lucky enough to find a spot around 8am on a weekday morning. Sunset is also fantastic here if you are willing to come around 8 or 9pm.
Fun fact: on the other side of these mountains, you’ll find yourself across the provincial border into British Columbia. (51.3274700, -116.1796726)
Morant’s Curve is known for the famous train capture with the Bow River flowing in the background. This one is located on the Bow Valley Parkway (Highway 1A), a single-lane scenic road that runs parallel to the TransCanada highway. Catching the train in lens is purely by luck as the train typically passes by every few hours. If you manage to capture the front of the train the moment you get here, consider yourself extremely blessed! But the view is still magnificent when it’s the river and mountains as the main focus. There’s a small parking lot here right on the north side of the road and a safe lookout point to take your photos. (51.3996313, -116.1286684)
Lake Minnewanka Loop Drive Photo Spots
Johnson Lake is the first stop of the Lake Minnewanka Loop if you choose to go counterclockwise. It’s a very family-oriented area but doesn’t get as busy as destinations like Lake Louise or Moraine Lake. The water is still calm around 9am in the summer and will grant you beautiful reflection photos for the ‘gram and in the winter, the lake will take longer to be covered in snow as opposed to Lake Louise. The parking lot was completely upgraded last year and now has paved area from the lot well into the hiking trail. By following the paved path on the north side (taking a left) of the lake, you’ll be able to view Mount Rundle 1. But the best and widest view of the lake is caught by walking down (taking a right) to the small bridge. (51.1994847, -115.4900881)
Two Jack Lake
Two Jack Lake is the second stop on the Lake Minnewanka Loop going counterclockwise and is also high sought-after by families wanting to enjoy some outdoor activities throughout the year. Just like Johnson, you’ll see Mount Rundle 1 in the background, skaters on the ice in the winter months and kayakers in the water in the summer months. Both parking lots for Johnson and Two Jack are rarely full, if ever. (51.2265644, -115.5024306)
The final stop (or the very first if you drive clockwise) of the loop is – you guessed it – Lake Minnewanka. It is the largest lake in all of Banff and you can enjoy a boat tour here it’s so massive. You can walk straight to the boat dock from the parking lot, or walk further northeast along the lakeside to get the perfect shot of Mount Girouard. When you drive from Two Jack Lake down to Lake Minnewanka, you’ll spot a viewpoint of the enormous lake between the trees. There are definitely many places to set up for photos along this drive and as you reach the large lake. If you’re a wildlife photographer, this loop drive is the place to be! We’ve spotted black bears, moose, elk, bighorn sheep and deer here before! (51.2480568, -115.4966759)