How to Spot Wildlife in Banff National Park

This Summer I will be visiting Banff National Park, and I actually planned out a whole entire week in the park to do some hiking and kayaking, mostly in more remote areas in hopes of seeing moose, elk, or bears! Cougars, wolverines, wolves, and lynx would be amazing, although I am aware that the chance of spotting those elusive creatures is extremely rare. Any tips on spotting wildlife in Banff National Park? I recently visited Algonquin Provincial Park and failed to spot anything other than some birds, so seeing an epic animal would be great this time! One more thing- would visiting a different nearby park, like Kootenay National Park or Yoho National Park improve my chances? Thanks!

Banff National Park is a great spot to see large charismatic animals. Often you don’t even need to leave town or the main roads. Elk are known to enter town during the rut. Bear and mountain goats are often seen at the side of the highway as are stupid people who stop to feed them and take selfies.

Flat water kayaking is a great way to get good wildlife shots especially for things like moose and elk. They seem to be less worried by people is kayaks and canoes than they are of people walking.

To spot the truly elusive like wolves and grizzly bears your best bet is to regularly scan mountainsides with a good pair of binoculars or a spotting scope. Getting photos will be harder unless you have a very long lens or a an adaptor for your spotting scope.

My final tip is to get up early. Most people like to sleep in on their holidays and the animals have adjusted to that. The two hours after first light (not sunrise) are the best time to see animals behaving naturally.


Great! Thank you so much! I was planning on doing some kayaking in some calm streams and driving along some highways, so I was on the right track, but I did not think about the binocular mountain scanning, and will definitely have to give that a try!

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You’ll find wapiti, bighorn sheep, mule deer, and black bears just by driving around. Maybe try focusing on searching for the harder to find stuff, like caribou, and expect that you’ll find everything else incidentally?


Depending on when you go, take bear precautions if in the backwoods. They are generally amiable, but people do get killed in the backwoods. I’ve been there a few times (not backwoods), and have seen lots of large mammals on the highway. Conversely, when I went to Waterton park, I needed buy a field guide for plants, as there were no animals to be seen. This was in my pre-iNat days, so take that with a grain of salt. I’m a flatlander, and found a spell of time in the mountains to be a bit oppressive!

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