I have traveled to 12 countries in my life. I am very glad to have had the opportunity to travel to such a beautiful location.
My Experience Visiting Banff
I traveled to Banff to attend a wedding over Labor Day weekend in 2019. I was shocked at how similar this place’s beauty is to the scenery in the Alps. I always reminisce about my trip of a lifetime to Germany, Switzerland, and Austria, and Banff really made me feel like I was back there visiting!
Below, I have included the itinerary from my adventure, as well as some tips. Some wildlife I saw along the way were elk, bears, and rams. The itinerary was created based on many months of research, and it was planned around us staying in Canmore each night.
Canmore is a cute little town that has rabbits hopping around wherever you go (so many, in fact, that it has become a problem). They are as common as squirrels! I have never seen anything like it.
Prepare for Altitude Sickness
Pack Advil or Ibuprofen in your suitcase. I personally didn't feel the effects until I woke up the morning after we arrived. It wasn't fun.
Day 1: Getting Settled
Depending on where you’re flying from, it can be a really long day for you! Plan a casual day; you will be flying into Calgary, which is just over an hour from Canmore by car.
The following are some places you can explore in Canmore:
- Engine Bridge
- Policeman’s Creek Boardwalk
- The Grizzly Paw Brewery
- JK Bakery Cafe
- The Wook Lounge
Day 2: Lake Minnewanka and Downtown Banff
After taking a day to settle in, we were ready for a long day of exploring.
Lake Minnewanka Boat Tour—The Explorer Cruise
Since I was traveling with a large group, I booked this tour in advance. Even if I were to do this tour with just one other person, I would still book in advance just to be on the safe side. Check Groupon before you book with another site; you may find an excellent deal!
Price: Around $70 U.S. per person (including a national park pass required to enter the park)
Banff Gondola in Downtown Banff
Explore the charming town of Banff, and grab a bite to eat! After lunch, we made our way to the Banff Gondola to purchase our tickets. It was very easy to purchase tickets on the spot, and the experience was so worth it!
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Price: Around $49 U.S. per person.
Day 3: Lake Louise and Moraine Lake
We arrived at Lake Louise close to 9:00 am, and the parking lot was already packed! We luckily were able to snag one of the last few spots left. It was raining a lot, but we made the most out of it. We had to hike from the parking lot to the lake. We snapped a few pictures by the lake before running into the Fairmont Hotel to keep warm and dry. Before we knew it, the rain stopped and the clouds parted!
There was a shuttle near Lake Louise that was taking passengers every 20 minutes to Moraine Lake. The shuttle cost was very low (I don’t recall what the actual price was). This lake is a must-see. The view is absolutely gorgeous! There are short trails to hike through by the lake, canoe rentals, a place to grab a bite to eat, and restrooms.
Price: Around $5 U.S. per person
Day 4: Johnston Canyon and Banff Hot Springs
We arrived at Johnston Canyon close to 9:00 am, and the parking lot was already full! We had to park on the road quite a walk away. Go as early as you can. It’s an amazing hike, filled with beautiful glacier blue rivers and waterfalls.
These trails can go on for hours and hours. We turned around eventually and made it back to the entrance by lunchtime. They have restrooms and a small cafe to grab a bite at.
If you want to take a dip at Banff Upper Hot Springs, save this experience for the end of your trip after all of your hiking. You will be sore!
This hot spring in Downtown Banff, located right next to the Banff Gondola, is man-made. To be honest, it just looks like a pool. The view, however, is incredible! Looking at the mountains and feeling the hot water on my sore muscles was the best feeling in the world!
Price: Around $11 U.S. per person
Day 5: Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel
If you are able to stay here for a night, it’s totally worth it! This regal hotel will have you exploring its ins and outs for a good portion of the day. You can even go horseback riding!
I wasn’t able to get enough time off of work, which limited the amount of places I could explore. I wish I could have gone to more locations:
- Peyto Lake
- Columbia Icefield Skywalk
- Emerald Lake
- YOHO National Park
- Johnson Lake
This small list doesn’t even cover all of the other wonderful adventures the area of Banff has to offer. If you are doing this trip in five days, prepare to be exhausted! You will be on the go constantly, but it will be worth it in the end and it's a trip you will never forget.
© 2020 Jackie Zelko