Canada’s oldest national park (established in 1885) located in the rocky mountains, and surrounded by the most beautiful outdoor scenery: tall towering pine tree’s, pristine reservoirs, mighty mountains, and the bluest of blue crystal watercolor lakes. Seriously the lakes look they they are watercolor paintings in real life. Everywhere you look is beautiful!
I was fortunate enough to be able to spend two weeks in this beautiful area of Canada, and had the joy to spend it with family and a study abroad friend.
Make sure to pack and wear layers! As it is very chilly in the morning, but when the sun comes out, it starts to heat up and get warmer. There also is an occasional rain shower or two that can/will pop up. And again at night when the sun goes down it gets cool/cold very fast.
Here’s how the epic week/s went and some inspiration for you to plan your next trip there.
Day 1: Fly into Calgary
There are a few options you can do if wanting to fly into Banff: Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver.
Calgary is the closest airport to the National Park, which is also an hour drive away.
Both apps find flights from all air carriers, and finds for you the cheapest/best deal. Before starting my flying career these two apps were my go to places to find a good deal.
Since Banff is also so big and all the attractions are spread apart and not close to each other, you definitely will want a car to drive around and explore with. You can rent a car from the airport and any car rental spot you are near to. My family ended up doing the cross country road trip out there and it was nice to have our car there the whole time, and it saves on rental expenses.
Banff is also a great road trip option if not wanting to fly. Make sure you have CD’s and playlists stocked, or if your like my dad, some dvd’s like Harry Potter and watch the whole Harry Potter series with the car dvd player.
Banff Day 1:
Checked into hotel, and explored around downtown Banff.
When trip planning, make note that Banff is veerrry expensive. And everything fills/books up fast!
Our first 5 days there we stayed at the Best Western.
Airbnb is another great option or camp grounds in the area, again those fill up very fast.
After checking in our room, it was time to explore!
First stop was the Banff Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel. The “Castle of The Rockies” and a year round luxury mountain resort. Grab a drink at the bar, and sit around the outdoor fireplaces and enjoy the picturesque views.
Banff Day 2:
Johnston Canyon is one of the most popular day hikes in Banff National Park. It’s fairly easy, making it perfect for families and people of almost any fitness level and age. It’s accessible year round, including the winter when you can enjoy hiking to Johnston Canyon’s frozen waterfalls.
NOTE: Parking for Lake Louise & Lake Moraine fills up FAST! Like you need to get there before 7:00am or good luck trying to find a parking spot. There are “back up parking lots” for Lake Louise where a shuttle will take you up there. It’s about a 15 minute ride, and the last shuttle leaves Lake Louise at 5:00pm
Banff Day 3:
Lake Louise Tea House Hike
The Lake Agnes Tea House was built by the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1901 as a refuge for hikers. Climb steadily on a forested trail, past Mirror Lake and the waterfall that cascades out of Lake Agnes, before arriving at the idyllic alpine waters of Lake Agnes and enjoying speciality teas and delicious homemade baking.
The family-run Tea House has no electricity or running water. Some supplies (such as flour and sugar for the baking) are flown in by helicopter at the start of the season, but all fresh food is packed up the trail by the staff.
It is rated as a moderate trail and takes most people around 1 to 2 hours, more or less depending on fitness level. The elevation gain is 400 m (1,312 ft).
From Lake Agnes you can hike to the top of the Little Beehive or Big Beehive, which connects you to another tea house for a total loop of 14.6 km (9 mi.)
Lake Moraine is a glacial water lake that is situated in the Valley of the Ten Peaks, at an elevation of approximately 6,183 feet.
As I mentioned earlier, parking fills up FAST! And once this parking lot fills up, the main road/drive gets blocked off/shut down, so plan accordingly and go early if wanting to check out and hike around this beautiful hot spot. We were fortunate enough that when leaving Lake Louise, we saw a car driving out of the Lake Moraine main road which meant there was an opening for a car to go up there, and we were the lucky car!
Our plan was to do the Constellations Hike. An easy 2 hour, steady elevation round trip hike. Instead, my family and I started off on a wrong path, and ended up doing the Sentinal Pass Hike which was a (1,755 ft) elevation gain over 4.3 km (2.67 mi) (LOTS OF SWITCHBACKS) of trail and a round trip 4-5 hour hike. After already doing to Tea House uphill hike at Lake Louise, our body’s were aching after accomplishing this unplanned (seemed like never ending) uphill hike.
Once at the top though, you took in picturesque views of the Mountain tops and were at an elevation above the tree lines. A pretty cool and accomplished feeling.
Banff Day 4:
Banff Cave & Basin
A natural thermal mineral springs around which Canada’s first national park, Banff National Park, was established. Depending on how long your Banff/Canadian rocky mountain will be, if you buy a year Canada National Park pass, you get into the Cave & Basin and other historical areas for free!
After having 3 full days before of hiking, a rest/relaxing day was/is needed.
Soak your body and sore muscles in the Banff Upper Hot Springs
Let your body soak up the hot spring minerals and enjoy the views across that overlook to the valley to Mount Rundle.
We ended the night by finding and stopping at the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 26.
From the words from my mom “You always are going to have a fun time and good drinks at any legion!” And that was the case for us!
Banff Day 5:
We dropped my parents off at the airport in Calgary to go home, and on the way back to Banff, picked up an Australian Backpacker! Who also happens to be one of my good Australia study abroad friends who was on a 4 month USA/Canada backpacking trip.
Our next few nights we ended up staying at an Airbnb in the town of Canmore. Located 15 minutes driving out of the Banff National Park entrance. We lucked out with a great deal because we were the first guests at this Airbnb and got a first guest deal/rate! It was perfect. The host provided breakfast food for us, beer and juice boxes, a bunch of guides on the area, and even a bottle of wine! Each room also had goodie bags filled with toiletries like shampoo, lotion, toothpaste, body scrub. We checked into our Airbnb and explored around the main street/downtown area of Canmore.
Banff Day 6:
We were going to do the other hikes at Lake Moraine, but by 8:00am the parking lot for that was already full, so we decided to show my friend Tashi around Lake Louise. After hiking a around a bit, it started to rain, and people started to disappear. It was the perfect timing because when leaving Lake Louise, the Lake Moraine parking lot opened up! We waited a few minutes and the rain had stopped, and adventuring we went!
We did the Constellation Hike this day (finally found it!), and also the Rock Pile Hike.
Yoho National Park – Takakkaw Falls
Canada’s 2nd highest waterfall, with its highest point at 380 meters.
Banff Day 7:
After exploring a few days now in Banff, we wanted to check out the beauty the town of Canmore we were staying in had to offer.
It also was/is Bear season currently as they are out and active looking for berries to fuel up for their long hibernation come winter time. While we didn’t see any bears or moose’s, the one ‘exciting wildlife’ we did see was a mountain goat with her baby.
Downtown Banff Farmer’s Market
On Sunday’s, a Farmer’s Market pops up in Downtown Banff with local vendors and music groups. A great space to enjoy a Sunday afternoon and take a break from hiking.
Banff Day 8:
Athabasca Glacier And Columbia Icefield
A 3 hour drive from Banff, and a great spot to stop if you are making your way also up to Jasper National Park. Located on the Icefields Parkway/Hwy 93N that runs between Lake Louise and Jasper.
See the Glacier before it’s all gone and melted, and walk across the newly built Glacier Skywalk. A cliff-edge walkway that leads to a platform where glass is all that separates you from a 918 foot drop.
Day 9: Road Trip To Flathead Lake, Montana
Our plan for the road trip back home to Minnesota was to make a 2 day pit stop at Glacier National Park. Due to the extreme fire situation, and everything on the West side of the park closed due to the fires, a back up plan was made making our pit stop in Big Fork, Montana, staying at an Airbnb right on Flathead Lake: one of the USA’s clearest lakes, and also align’s along some beautiful cherry orchards.
Make sure to stop and enjoy a sunset on the lake.
Day’s 11 and 12 were spent driving back from Montana to Minnesota. 11 hours of driving non stop to Bismarck, North Dakota, rest/sleep the night, and a 5 hour drive/stretch home.
Check out this Ultimate Spotify Summer Hits Playlist my brother and I listened to on the drive back to Minnesota to entertain and get you through any long drive/road trip. Also, make sure to do some Car Karaoke!
Thanks so much for carrying on along on this fun filled adventure with me! I hope I have given you some inspiration on your next trip/adventure there.
Have you been to Banff? If so what did you do? What was your favorite part? I would love to know and please do pop a comment down below!
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