Banff is one of the most beautiful national parks in Canada. It boasts breathtaking mountain scenery, epic hiking trails, and picturesque camping grounds and lodges. It’s the perfect getaway! If you’re craving a Swiss-style skiing vacation, but don't want to fly across the Atlantic. Whether you’re looking to re-connect with nature, up your photography game or canoe down the pristine Lake Louise, Banff is an absolute dream! Here is my ultimate guide to Banff National Park!
WHAT TO EXPECT IN BANFF
Currency: The official currency used is the Canadian dollar. However, it’s a good idea to make sure your credit card is authorized for overseas purchases as some restaurants in Banff only accept credit cards.
Climate: The weather in Banff is extreme. In the winters, the icy wind can make the temperature feel much colder than the thermometer reads. It’s not uncommon for snow to arrive at any time of the year even during the summer. Summertime can be very unpredictable in weather, rainy one minute and sun 10 minutes later.
Peak Season: The summer months are peak season in Banff. From June to August, the lakes are at their best and the weather is perfect for all of the outdoor activities. Book your hotel in advance to avoid the rush and look for one that will give you easy access to the hiking and biking trails.
Best Time to Visit: If you’re heading to Banff for a skiing vacation, the best time to visit is between December and March. But if you’re hoping to see top sites like Moraine Lake, plan your trip for the summer months when the roads are clear and the ice has melted.
GETTING TO BANFF
Banff National Park is located along the TransCanada Highway, about 90 minutes outside of Calgary. The easiest way to get there is to fly into Calgary International Airport. If you want to explore Banff at your own pace, rent a car at the airport. It's the easiest way to get around and see everything on your list. There are also many various shuttles that can take you there from the airport directly or fro other areas in Calgary.
We road triped there from Kelowna, It is about a 5 hour drive from Kelowna through the scenic rocky mountains, it is not something I would do in the winter as the highway can be very snowy and icy bit in the summer it is a beaituful drive with many options to stop and take in the scenery.
TOP THINGS TO DO IN BANFF
Obviously this is something you can do in the summer. There are so many great hikes that vary from easy to difficult. As well you can choose from a full day hike to a quick 20-minute hike. Here are a few hikes I would recommend:
LAKE AGNES TEAHOUSE
LAKE MORAINE SHORELINE
BOW GLACIER FALLS TRAIL
LAKE LUISE TRAIL
The lakes in Banff are absolutely breathtaking in the summer, the bright blue colours with the mountains in the background are just spectacular. I would definitely recommend exploring on canoes. Both Lake Louise and Moraine Lake have canoe rentals and in a hour you can take in some great views and experience nature in a different way. Plus get some great Instagram content.
The town of Banff is very charming and has tons of great shops to grab souvenirs and restaurants to indulge. The main street in town has spectacular mountain vies and even a option to explore in a horse drawn carriage. The town itself is fairly small and very busy this time of the year so just grab a coffee, relax and enjoy.
Banff Upper Hot Springs is a great way to relax and recharge. Start your day here or end your day here, does not really matter you will love it. Banff National Park’s only hot springs pool is open year-round for an authentic heritage experience that is a favourite amongst visitors.
In my opinion this is a must do when visiting and it was on the top of my lost even though I am terrified of heights. With only a 8 minute very smooth ride to the top you are welcomed to the most amazing view I have ever seen. With six stunning mountain ranges and the sweep of the Bow Valley before you, views from the Sulphur Mountain summit are nothing short of breathtaking. And there’s much more to discover. Take walk along the Sulphur Mountain Boardwalk to learn more about Canada’s first national park? Or perhaps go indoors to and grab lunch with a view in one of the 2 restaurants. Then get hands-on in the world-class interpretive centre and theatre. No matter what you decide to do up there you are sure to enjoy the experience. If you have the time, stay and catch the sunset and experience the Sunset Festival (June28-Sep2.) There is music, fire pits and patio drinks and of course the breathtaking sunset views. If you want some great deals on the Gondola and any other activities in Banff and Jasper check out PURSUIT: BANFF JASPER COLLECTION.
EXPLORE THE LAKES
There are so many great lakes to explore but this trip we went to 2 that were on my bucket list.
Lake Louise is world-renowned - this is a must see during your Banff trip. It’s a 45 minute drive from downtown Banff. There are many activities to choose from: hiking, horseback riding, and canoeing to name a few. It is packed with tourists so be patient and give yourself enough time to explore. The Fairmont Lake Louise is there as well, it overlooks the beautiful blue waters of the lake and makes for a great lunch spot.
Moraine Lake is absolute paradise and in my opinion it’s more spectacular than Lake Louise. When visiting it’s important to go early to avoid the large summer crowds as Moraine Lake is only open during the summer. Parks Canada will close the road to Moraine Lake when the parking lot reaches capacity thus I would recommend a sunrise or early morning visit. or later in the day towards the end around 4 or 5 pm. There’s many activities to do here including climbing the rock pile or hiking the trail to the lookout. If you didn’t get a chance to canoe at Lake Louise this is the place to do it.
WHERE TO STAY
There are so many options as far as where to stay in Banff. If you want to stay right in town there are great options, small boutique type hotels that will keep you in the heart of the action. If you want a little luxury check out Fairmont Banff Springs and The Rimrock Resort. If you prefer something a little more quiet away from the hustle and bustle try Canmore. We decided to stay in Canmore, it is only a 20 minute drive into Banff and the town itself is so small and cute and very charming. The view of the mountains (the tree sisters ) was spectacular. It is also a little more affordable in my opinion
You will need a Parks Canada Pass to enter the national park. You can choose to pay for daily passes or a weekly pass and can purchase them at various spots in Banff or along the road leading into Banff
Make sure to stop by the Visitor Centre in Banff to pick up brochures, maps and information about the park and town and ask for advice and tips from the staff there.
Bring Sunscreen and Bug spray, even though it may be cloudy being in the outdoors all day enjoying nature gives you tons of sun exposure.
Head out early for the day: A lot of the biggest Tourist attractions bet busy very early so get up and get going so you don’t miss out.
Make a plan, depending on how many days you are there you will probably not be able to do everything so make a list of your must dos this time and save some for your next visit cause trust me you will want to go back.
Bring lots of layers, even if you are going in the summer bring warm things, the weather changes very drastically here and it can be much cooler in higher elevation like at the top of the gondola.
If you want a quieter place to stay away from the busy Banff town center stay in Canmore. Only about a 20 minute drive to Banff and so pretty as well.
Always have your camera ready, so many great things to photograph everywhere
I am already planning another trip back as there were so many great things that we did not get to do. If you are looking at visiting Banff I would highly recommend checking out
They offer so many great excursions and adventures and take the hassle out of planning it all yourself. They have thought of everything for you, all younhave to do is show up and enjoy your adventure. The Columbia Icefiedls are definitely on my list for next time.