BANFF NATIONAL PARK
WHERE TO STAY...
Treat Yourself: Fairmont Banff Springs
Affordable: Hostel / AirBnB - Book far in advance to get the cheapest rates.
TIP: RENT A CAR
Renting a car in Banff is 100% necessary. The buses/shuttles only run to extremely touristy destinations like Lake Louise and there is a charge. Getting a car for your stay will benefit your experience!
Normally, I would suggest taking the first day of any trip to adjust to your new settings and familiarize yourself with city center, the types of people the city attracts and the attractions you’d like to visit throughout your stay.
This trip was different - I started by landing in Calgary and going straight through Banff to Lake Enid in British Columbia, only a 2 hour drive from Banff with stunning views the entire way. My friend that I was visiting had planned a short camping trip and invited me along for the fun. This camping site is free, the lake is warm and beautiful and the views are incredible.
In case you don’t feel like driving 2 hours to British Columbia here is some information on where to camp in Banff National Park.
AM - After returning from camping and settling into Banff I took the time to familiarize myself with the town, the main street, shops, restaurants etc. I also enjoyed a Farmers Market, which is open on Wednesdays in the summer. Walking around the town is adorable and felt very Swiss to me - the old buildings and the mountains at every direction is so beautiful.
PM - There are many restaurants and bars in Banff town but I particularly enjoyed the rooftop patio views at Elk and Oarsman, quick Greek food at Barpa Bill's Souvlaki, the cool vibes at Park Distillery and the fun environment at High Rollers. For a night out most head to Hoodoos, Rose and Crown or Gap.
AM - Visit Cascade Ponds for beautiful views of the mountains and calm surroundings. Many people come here to tan, picnic or float in the slow moving waters.
Head to Lake Louise - Lake Agnes Teahouse Hike/Little Beehive Hike - Once you arrive at the Teahouse you will enjoy beautiful views of the mountains in the distance but you won’t be able to see Lake Louise below. To get stunning views of Lake Louise head up to either Little Beehive or Big Beehive trail. Total time up Lake Agnes Teahouse Hike and Little Beehive Trail - 3.5 hours up - 1.5 hour down (lots of pictures and stopping on the way up)
TIP: Make sure you are prepared with bug spray, bear spray and a bear bell.
PM - Dinner back in Banff at Magpie and Stump for delicious Mexican food.
AM - Morning picnic at Vermilion Lakes docks - just 10 minutes outside of Banff these lakes are surrounded by mountains and the water is not as cold as most glacier fed water in Banff. With docks and a bike/running trail this is a great spot to have some breakfast and start your day.
Johnston Canyon - This trail is amazing for people of all ages because it is not a steep incline, more of a leisurely hike/walk. Stop along the way to see the falls, behind the falls and find the hidden entrance to walk down to the falls (just to the right of the main trail) Once you get to the Big Falls you will see there is another trail up to the Ink Pots, we chose not to do because of timing but is apparently beautiful. You could also go just a bit up that trail to see beautiful views of the waterfalls from above.
PM - Dinner at Parks Distillery
AM - Head towards Canmore to Grassi Lakes, a beautiful clear blue water lake. Drive up the mountain to hike down - back up about 300 steps or park along the highway to walk up a trail and to the lakes - both are a bit challenging.
Head into Canmore for lunch at Rocky Mountain Flatbread Co. - this lively spot is a must visit. OR picnic at Quarry Lake (very busy spot but beautiful fields and amazing mountain views)
PM - Enjoy sunset at the Banff Fairmont Springs Hotel. Have dinner and cocktails at the Fairmont Rundle Lounge (to the left when you enter the lounge) or the Lookout Restaurant (in front of the lounge overlooking the golf course) I suggest grabbing a cocktail at The Lookout and then heading to the Rundle Lounge for dinner inside or on the side patio.
AM - Head to Cascade Falls for a beautiful hike beside the falls.
Make your way to Peyto Lake & Icefield Parkways for spectacular views of crystal blue waters below the lookout point. On your way back or to Peyto Lake make sure to stop at Bow Lake and tour the Num Ti Jah Lodge and waterfront area.
I hope that if you have you read this far you found this post helpful and will plan your own trip to Banff as soon as you can - Canada150 is a great time to visit because the entry to the park is FREE this year!