BY LAUREN KENSON & BILLY DEKOM
A journey to Banff Nationwide Park Canada will depart you in awe of the sheer energy of Mom Nature. All the things within the Canadian Rockies feels bigger, grander, and wilder. A few of the mightiest peaks stand over 3,000 meters excessive and a whole lot of species of wildlife name this 6,000-square-kilometer stretch of wilderness “dwelling.” You possibly can count on to share these Rocky Mountain views with just a few of those wild creatures and fellow journey seekers from across the globe.
Final yr, over 4 million individuals from varied corners of the world came over this park. And after you’ve spent somewhat time wandering across the steep trails, turquoise lakes, roaring waterfalls, and glacier-studded mountain ranges—it turns into abundantly clear what drew them right here. Swapping metropolis skylines for crisp mountain air and large open areas leaves you feeling extra comfy as quickly as you go beneath the “Welcome to Banff” highway indicators.
As you drive alongside the primary freeway, the sweeping glacier-carved valley will proceed to climb up previous dense tree strains and as much as rugged summits—the size of which feels virtually unimaginable to seize with footage alone. The peaks in Alberta are really huge. Staring up at them you may’t assist however really feel conscious about your smallness on the earth and surprise what should have occurred geologically to deliver these giants into existence. Standing amongst these towering mountains, you may breathe deeply and let that candy feeling of oneness with nature and your environment wash over you.
Right here is only a sampling of what stands out on this nationwide park together with a number of the high issues to do in Banff, Canada.
The drive alone by means of this park is gorgeous and makes for an epic highway journey.
Even simply standing outdoors a café in Canmore or strolling between shops within the City of Banff—you’ll be immersed in jaw-dropping 360-degree mountain views. The wild great thing about this place is, in a phrase, inescapable.
The primary journey we took right here, we bear in mind driving alongside the paved freeway reducing by means of the park. We have been ducking down and twisting, turning, and craning our necks making an attempt to catch a glimpse of the mountain tops by means of the rental automobile home windows. Clouds swirling slowly and hypnotically across the highest peaks.
It’s the sort of drive the place you find yourself turning the radio dial down low. Keeping track of both aspect of the highway, pointing excitedly throughout the windshield. Trying, looking, taking all of it in. Hoping to identify ribbons of water cascading down the steep slopes. Squinting for indicators of critters between the evergreens. Peering previous the sting of the highway because the ice blue Bow River comes into view. You virtually don’t know the place to look, there’s simply a lot magnificence to soak up.
Whereas this park actually attracts a subset of individuals drawn to difficult out of doors sports activities and actions—there’s tons to see simply from the highway or by these capable of take quick walks to the water’s edge. Additional up in Banff, alongside the Icefields Parkway, you may spot glaciers from the highway. Search for giant snow-white plenty tucked into the mountains and don’t be stunned if you end up stopping at virtually each turnout, viewpoint, or lake alongside the way in which.
Canada’s first nationwide park is finest recognized for its gorgeous glacial lakes.
There is no such thing as a denying that the breathtaking glacial lakes are thought of the most effective of Banff. The colour of the water right here takes on such vibrant tones of blue and inexperienced that you simply virtually must expertise them in particular person to consider they’re actual. Various from deep jade to vibrant turquoise, these glacier-fed lakes draw individuals from everywhere in the world who hope to face on the water’s edge and see them with their very own eyes. Crossing their fingers that the photographs they take from the shoreline will seize the colour nicely sufficient to encourage others to make the journey north.
These lakes owe their signature colour to one thing referred to as “rock flour,” which is product of fine-grained particles of rock created by the grinding of bedrock in the course of the glacial erosion course of. For the reason that materials is so small, it turns into suspended within the meltwater—making the water seem barely cloudy and giving it that solid-looking, surreal blue-green colour (completely totally different than clear blue ocean water).
Together with the flexibility to see a number of the world’s remaining glaciers, these our bodies of water are what set Banff aside from some other trip vacation spot.
Banff is a dream vacation spot for journey seekers.
Questioning what to do in Banff should you love an journey? There are ample alternatives for mountaineering, backpacking, tenting, fishing, biking, canoeing, kayaking, climbing, mountaineering, working, paddle-boarding, and sightseeing.
Because the snow melts in the summertime and the upper elevation trails begin to reopen, you may count on the park to attract extra vacationers. However the winter months supply barely smaller crowds. In these months, it’s also possible to reap the benefits of the snow-packed trails and frozen lakes to take pleasure in some downhill snowboarding, ice skating, cross-country snowboarding, snowboarding, and snow-shoeing.
The vastness of this place will maintain you coming again.
We’ve spent a mixed six weeks, unfold throughout two summers, exploring this stretch of Alberta and nonetheless the listing of issues we have now but to see continues to develop. The sheer variety of issues to do and locations to discover in Banff can really feel overwhelming.
There are quite a lot of issues to do in Banff. In the event you come go to in the summertime months, you could depart itching to see the identical lakes you hiked round once they’re frozen within the winter time. Or surprise how magnificent the panorama seems to be throughout larch season within the fall.
You’ll need to discover a option to see, hike, and do all of it, however don’t be stunned if you end up making a “must-see” listing in your subsequent journey as quickly as you wrap up your first one.
We’ve heard park rangers say that even should you have been to remain there all summer season lengthy and backpack your complete time…you nonetheless wouldn’t make a dent in it. That’s how huge the variety of lakes, trails, and peaks is.
And whereas it might be a idiot’s errand to attempt to seize all of its wonders in simply these few pages, on this journey information to Banff, we’ve collected an inventory of what retains us coming again yr after yr.
1. Wildlife Viewing Alternatives
There are quite a lot of issues to do in Banff Nationwide Park, which embrace wildlife viewing. Wildlife is considerable right here. Like a lot of the American Rocky Mountains, that is bear nation. Banff Nationwide Park is dwelling to each black bears and grizzlies. They share this territory with quite a lot of different species—together with different predators like wolves, foxes, coyotes, cougars, lynxes, and varied birds of prey. You’ll additionally see elk, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, caribou, deer, and moose together with loads of smaller animals like pine martens, marmots, pikas, squirrels, and extra.
However don’t let the wildness of this place scare you off. With easy respectful, smart practices and an consciousness that these are certainly wild animals—you may journey very safely all through the park. Simply cease by any customer middle to talk to a pleasant park ranger for a fast, however thorough, lesson on wildlife security practices. Bear spray can be obtainable all through the park for buy, and also you’re inspired to hold it should you plan to hike or camp throughout your keep.
A few of the finest occasions to view wildlife are at daybreak or at nightfall, when they’re most lively and out foraging for meals. Bow Valley Parkway is meant to be among the best spots to see them however we’re prepared to guess you’ll stumble throughout loads of them simply in your drives all through the park.
2. Expertise a Sundown at Moraine Lake
Experiencing the dawn at Moraine Lake is among the many issues to do in Banff. If you seek for “Banff Nationwide Park” likelihood is excellent that a picture of Moraine Lake at dawn will come up straight away. This spot is thought for its picturesque views and is especially placing at dawn. Early within the morning, the nonetheless lake waters appear like glass—completely reflecting the snow-capped mountains on its floor. This lake sits within the Valley of the Ten Peaks and taking in a dawn right here could be a really calming, non secular expertise.
Another excuse to reach early is that the parking tons at Moraine Lake and Lake Louise are likely to replenish in a short time. Sometimes they do have overflow parking tons with shuttles obtainable, however it’s price it to sneak a while in whereas everybody else is asleep.
Park on the lot proper close to the lake edge and make your manner up on high of the rock pile. It’s a brief stroll up there, however this top enables you to absolutely admire the reflective views. In your manner up, hear for high-pitched squeaks coming from the rocks and maintain your eyes peeled for the darling little critters referred to as pikas. They’re tan coloured with quick our bodies, spherical ears, and no tails.
You can too take within the view from the water’s edge or lease canoes to paddle out onto the water.
From this spot, hikers can select to take the Larch Valley Path to Sentinel Go. In September, the larches begin to change to a beautiful golden yellow colour—making for a really placing autumn scene within the valley alongside the path. Photographers journey to this spot yearly to attempt to seize the larches turning.
3. Cease and See Lake Louise
No Banff journey information could be full with out recommending this cease. The primary draw of this space is its namesake physique of water—Lake Louise. Sitting on the fringe of the Fairmont Chateau, its turquoise waters are really gorgeous. Folks touring in teams will love how simply accessible Lake Louise is—only a few hundred toes from the primary parking zone.You possibly can absorb a view from the rocky lakeshore, lease canoes to spend outing on the water, or stroll round towards the bottom to see the place the glacial soften feeds into the lake itself. You’ll be mere steps away from the historic Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise—and, even should you’re not staying on the lodge, it’s an incredible place to wander round or seize a meal.
4. Hike from Path to Tea Home
Not surprisingly, mountaineering is among the many issues you are able to do in Banff, Canada. From Lake Louise you might have your decide of a number of mountaineering trails. Two of which have tea homes ready for you when you arrive at your vacation spot. What makes these tea homes so distinctive is that they don’t have any electrical energy and no working water—provides like flour and sugar are flown in by helicopter in the beginning of the season. All recent meals is packed in by the tea home workers members, carried on their backs up the path. All trash is packed out the identical manner. Their menus function specialty teas and made-from-scratch items.
Heading off to the precise aspect, up and away from the lake will take you as much as Lake Agnes—one other glacial lake with clearer waters and a tea home serving snacks, sandwiches, desserts, and tea. You’ll need to deliver money with you should you’re taken with having fun with some meals whereas sitting by the lake. In the event you proceed previous the tea home, you may take the path even additional as much as Huge Beehive, which overlooks Lake Louise and the Chateau down under. These craving a problem can head up for a good greater vantage level on the forebodingly named Satan’s Thumb.
Going again to Lake Louise, should you selected as an alternative to take the path that goes across the shoreline, it is going to lead you to the path of the Plain of Six Glaciers. This may also take you to a tea home; however between the 2 choices, that is the one we choose to spend our time and cash on. It’s decidedly much less crowded right here and the Swiss-style rustic constructing (inbuilt 1924) may be very charming. There’s additionally a pleasant canine, named Arlo-Barlo, who has spent the final ten summers dwelling up on the tea home.
It’s a candy place to take pleasure in some tasty meals in Banff and pause earlier than persevering with to the ultimate space the place you may view the Plain of Six Glaciers. And relying on the time of yr, you could even spot an avalanche off within the distance.
In distinction to the one at Lake Agnes, the place you’ll discover lengthy strains (for the meals and for the outhouses) and other people speaking loudly, bustling round—on the Plain of Six Glaciers Tea Home you’ll discover most hikers and patrons are sometimes quieter. Smiling at one another over sips of tea, remarking upon the scrumptious bread freshly baked that very same morning. Respectfully, calmly taking within the surroundings round them. Fortunately sharing tables with hikers who’ve simply arrived, no matter whether or not they know each other or not. Chili and sizzling meals are made on a propane range, together with freshly baked items, and a formidable number of specialty teas (particularly contemplating this spot is a 6.Four kilometer climb away from the trailhead).
Skilled hikers would possibly attempt mountaineering from tea home to tea home—connecting the 2 path routes we’ve laid out right here with little detours to Huge Beehive or Satan’s Thumb.
5. Hike alongside Dashing Water and Waterfalls in Johnston Canyon
Among the best locations to remain in Banff if you wish to chill out is in Johnston Canyon. There’s quite a lot of mountaineering trails sprinkled alongside the Bow Valley Parkway however one of the vital rewarding day hike areas is in Johnston Canyon. Like most locations in Banff throughout peak season, get right here early to keep away from the crowds and park within the lot proper on the trailhead. Within the early morning driving in, you might be able to spot wildlife feeding alongside the highway.
The paved path and sequence of strolling bridges follows speeding water as much as a number of stunning waterfalls. You possibly can even take the path additional out to an space referred to as the Ink Pots—the place 5 attractive, turquoise swimming pools in an idyllic meadow setting shall be ready for you. These swimming pools are mineral springs, and you may sit on benches and watch sandy swimming pools swirl in round patterns. With mountain ranges surrounding you and Johnston Creek simply previous the swimming pools, it’s an ideal place to picnic after this average hike.
6. Take a Gondola as much as Sunshine Meadows
Among the best locations to flee the crowds and see wildflowers is in Sunshine Meadows. You possibly can take a shuttle as much as a gondola that drops you off on the very high. With a view of Mount Assiniboine within the distance and a platform overlooking three gorgeous lakes, you may absorb some mild mountaineering trails up right here and see an enormous number of flowers. Even with a wildflower guidebook in hand, we nonetheless got here throughout some blooms that we’d by no means seen earlier than or didn’t know the names of.
The views up listed here are breathtaking, and since it’s a must to drive a bit away from city and pay for a journey up—you’ll shake a number of the crowds by heading as much as this attractive day-hike space. On the gondola journey, maintain an eye fixed out for bald eagles circling within the skies, and see should you can spot the winter ski lifts glimmering on the opposite hills within the distance. Tickets can be found on-line for advance buy.
If you’re nonetheless questioning what to do in Banff, this can be a nice choice for a lot of. Lush greenery and tall bushes are in all places you look. And if you end up right here throughout peak wildflower season (mid-July to mid-August), you’ll discover brilliant blooms of all shapes and colours dotting the panorama too.
7. Take a Highway Journey up the Icefields Parkway
Alongside the drive up the Icefields Parkway, you could really feel the urge to tug over the automobile and cease at each viewpoint. This is among the most stunning and scenic drives on the earth, and there actually aren’t any “dangerous” locations to cease to take all of it in.
Not solely are you able to spy glaciers from the highway however there’s an unbelievable variety of peaks surrounding you alongside the way in which. As you allow behind the busy Lake Louise village space and your cell service drops out, you’ll begin to turn out to be absolutely immersed in miles of ridgelines. It is among the funnest issues to do in Banff as a result of you may select your individual journey.
Cease at Herbert Lake, simply off the highway, for an exquisite mirrored view of the skyline. Then proceed up the parkway to see much more attractive lakes. When you arrive at Bow Lake, pull into the parking zone and take the quick path out to the water’s edge. Stroll alongside the shore and cross the little bridge to get a greater view of Bow Glacier Falls throughout the water.
Additional up the parkway lies Peyto Lake—the place you may park and take a brief, paved stroll as much as a viewing platform. Additional previous the platform, you’ll discover a path that heads out to an much more scenic spot. Preserve happening the paved part till you see a dust path disappear into the bushes. Take that path. It leads you to a big rock pile and open space overlooking the lake the place you may benefit from the views with far fewer individuals.
Mistaya Canyon is one other stunning spot to cease at—a couple of minutes’ stroll will take you to a bridge overlook the place you may see and listen to the water thundering by means of the slender slot canyon. Cross the bridge to entry spots that take you even nearer to the sting, although be cautious of moist rock ledges in the summertime and slippery ice within the colder months.
One of the vital impactful and scenic hikes alongside this stretch of the parkway is Parker Ridge. A hike as much as the highest provides you a implausible perspective of the Saskatchewan Glacier simply on the opposite aspect. The ratio of distance to wow issue can’t be beat right here—for a comparatively quick hike you may be rewarded with epic views.
Now, that we’ve lined what to do in Banff, you is perhaps questioning the place to sleep, the place to eat and the place to discover subsequent!
In terms of lodging, you’ve acquired a number of decisions of the place to get a restful night time’s sleep.
Throughout the park boundaries, the City of Banff gives quite a lot of inns to select from. The benefit of that is that it locations you near eating places, retailers, grocery shops, and cafés inside strolling distance out of your room, however count on crowds and issue discovering road parking. Search for a lodge that gives free parking for company, and remember that many of those underground garages have a top restrict (good to know once you’re selecting a rental car that greater isn’t at all times higher).
For a novel expertise simply outdoors of city with gorgeous views, try the Juniper Lodge. Perched up on the hillside, a lot of its rooms have a panoramic view of the park. There’s a bistro proper on web site, making it among the best locations to remain in Banff.
The Lake Louise space additionally has a handful of locations to remain, however with fewer eating choices obtainable. You possibly can count on costs per night time to be about the identical in both space however count on to pay a premium should you select to remain within the historic inns. The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise and the Fairmont Banff Springs each supply luxe lodging for these in search of an upgraded expertise.
Simply outdoors the park boundary is Canmore. After two three-week journeys to this space, that is our favourite place to remain and the place we advocate you go if (like us) you’re crowd averse. There are many choices right here for eating and purchasing, with a way more laid-back vibe than the touristy (however pretty) City of Banff. Plus, there’s a higher number of grocery shops and a Canadian Tire (a big division retailer the place you may decide up any out of doors gear you forgot to pack for a less expensive worth than retailers within the park).
Regardless of the place you select to remain, attempt to safe your bookings prematurely. Locations replenish rapidly in the summertime and in peak season you’ll be arduous pressed to search out vacancies on the town.
In fact, probably the most reasonably priced option to expertise this space is to decide to remain within the many campgrounds sprinkled all through the park, which can be one of the vital extremely really useful Banff Nationwide Park issues to do. Tent tenting, trailer, and RV websites can be found. Some could be reserved prematurely and others (often those sprinkled alongside the Icefields Parkway) are first-come first-serve. One thing distinctive about Canada’s park service is that it shares many campgrounds with wooden piles for campers to make use of—simply ask at check-in if fires are allowed and pay for a fire-permit in your web site.
Every place has totally different facilities obtainable, and it’s price noting that not each one has showers—so should you aren’t mixing your campground stints in with lodge stays, select one which has the services you want.
Having tried just a few of the campsites and locations to remain in Banff, we advocate making an attempt to order a spot on the Lake Louise campground. Whereas it will put your own home base additional away from the eating choices in Banff and Canmore, the campground is implausible. Clear, giant websites; showers; flush bogs; and an electrified bear fence surrounding your complete campground. Plus, it’s only a quick drive away from Moraine Lake and Lake Louise if you wish to catch a dawn or get an early begin out on the paths.
Parks Canada has an internet reservation service you should utilize with detailed data on every of their campgrounds, together with footage of every web site once you ebook.
The place to Eat
There may be a wide range of meals in Banff. Simply outdoors of the park in close by Canmore is our favourite spot to eat when in Banff—Communitea Café. They’ve choices for vegans, vegetarians, and meat eaters alike, with a wide range of nourishing bowls, recent salads, in-house baked items, and a really scrumptious breakfast burrito. They serve up implausible espresso from Pilot Espresso Roasters. Choose up a bag of their gentle roast referred to as “Academy” to take dwelling with you as a memento.
The City of Banff additionally has some nice choices for meals and eating:
The panoramic view of Banff from Juniper Bistro is tough to beat, some even thought of it the most effective of Banff. Positively plan on coming right here for brunch at the least as soon as. The menu has wholesome foodie favorites like avocado toast, a “brekky salad,” and shakshuka. However the indulgent brie-stuffed French toast can be price consideration.
Balkan Restaurant has scrumptious, recent Mediterranean fare with a lot of gluten-free and vegetarian-friendly choices. The Greek bowl makes for an incredible lunch. The creamy feta dressing is great, and the crispy fried chickpeas style like buttery croutons, however higher.
Indian Curry Home has scrumptious meals with loads of choices for omnivores and vegetarians alike. Hidden in an upstairs location, it may not appear to be a lot at first look, however their garlic naan, coconut rice, and tikka masala are implausible.
Bask in a number of the world’s finest ice cream at COWS (ranked number one on the world’s high ten locations to get ice cream by Tauck World Discovery in 2017). On a sizzling summer season day, you may spot the road snaking out the door on Banff Avenue. They’ve traditional and distinctive flavors—together with strawberry ice cream constructed from fresh-picked berries from Prince Edward Island.
A few of our different favourite meals in Banff contains Park Distillery + Restaurant + Bar (high quality meals with a dedication to sustainability practices) and Earl’s Kitchen + Bar (providing a big selection with an incredible selection of mocktails).
Within the Lake Louise space, we advocate skipping the eateries within the village space. Drive as much as the Chateau as an alternative. For one thing gentle, head to the very again of the lodge to go to Jusu Bar (that includes recent juices, acai bowls, and smoothies). For lunch, simply previous the primary foyer, you may dine on the Lakeview Lounge. It has implausible views overlooking the lake, and also you gained’t need to miss out on their candy potato fries or house-made seasonal sodas.
For individuals who need to cook dinner on their very own (whether or not in an Airbnb or of their camp kitchen), you may fill up on wholesome meals staples on the pure grocery retailer—Nutter’s Bulk and Pure Meals—in Canmore. That is the one place we have been capable of finding issues like stevia, natural snacks, clear bathtub and physique merchandise, nut milk, and high quality native honey. There’s additionally a Safeway in Canmore with quite a lot of produce choices. And should you’re actually in a pinch, there’s two grocery shops throughout the City of Banff with rather more restricted choice—IGA and Nester’s Market.
We additionally counsel that you simply look into the farmer’s market schedule when you’re on the town. Though it’s not one of many high issues to do in Banff, the mixture of recent produce, native items, and mountain views can’t be beat. In the summertime, Canmore has a farmer’s market each Thursday—try the artisan soaps, native berry jams, and recent meals distributors. The City of Banff holds theirs on Wednesdays.
In case you have time to discover somewhat past Banff’s borders, think about making the drive out to any of the adjoining parks. Listed below are a number of the most notable spots the place you may expertise much more of the wonders that the Canadian Rockies have to supply.
8. Jasper Nationwide Park + Mount Robson Provincial Park
In terms of mountaineering right here, the 360-degree views from the highest of Sulphur Skyline are nicely definitely worth the steep path it takes to get there.
After making an attempt out all of the attention-grabbing issues to do in Banff Nationwide Park, touring right here might be the most effective concept. For a soothing journey on the water, ebook a ship tour at Maligne Lake out to Spirit Island, one of the vital photographed spots in your complete world.
For an unforgettable bucket-list expertise, ebook a tour with Ice Walks to spend some hours strolling on the Athabasca Glacier. Do your self a favor and skip the tour with the rovers—you may spend some actual time on the ice, peeking into ice-blue crevasses and making an attempt a sip of pristine glacial water with a mountaineering information as an alternative.
A brief drive outdoors of Jasper and into Mount Robson Provincial Park will take you to the world-renowned Berg Lake Path. The complete path as much as Berg Lake is a multi-day hike for knowledgeable hikers and backpackers. However there’s a delicate day hike out to Kinney Lake that gives distinctive views as nicely and will get you nearer to the bottom of Mount Robson—the best peak within the Canadian Rockies.
9. Yoho Nationwide Park
After mountaineering the most effective of Banff, touring to Yoho Nationwide Park is very really useful. A couple of 15-minute drive from the Lake Louise space will take you out of Alberta and into British Columbia the place the Banff Nationwide Park terrain transitions into Yoho Nationwide Park, which sits simply to the west. Hikers will acknowledge Yoho as the house of famed Lake O’Hara—one other stunning glacial lake space with miles of trails. In addition to the attractive colour of the waters, what makes a keep at Lake O’Hara so distinctive is the restricted entry.
In contrast to a number of the different lakes on this space, you can not simply drive as much as it—it’s a must to park your automobile on the backside of the 11 kilometer highway and both hike up or take the paid shuttle bus. You’ll want advance permits if you wish to snag a tenting spot on this idyllic mountaineering vacation spot. You can too look into advance reservations should you choose to remain on the Lake O’Hara lodge. Both manner, count on to name (and name once more) on opening day for reservations—it’s an internationally sought-after vacation spot for lovers of the outside.
10. Kananaskis Nation
In case you have additional time to go to different places past the gorgeous city, you could select to drop by the Kananaskis Nation. Simply southwest of Banff, this space contains a number of different provincial parks multi function park system. Away from the hustle and bustle of the City of Banff or the tourist-packed Lake Louise space, issues feel and look somewhat wilder out right here. This space has quite a lot of ridge hikes for many who are as much as difficult hikes and scrambles. Opal Ridge particularly gives distinctive views from the highest. The hike up is tough—you’ll have to make use of your arms to scramble up the final stretch of scree to the highest, however the view from right here is nicely price it. This lesser-trafficked path means you may need these views all to your self.
If potential, attempt to schedule sufficient time up right here to weave in a visit that doesn’t simply embrace spots in Banff however contains Jasper and some different surrounding areas as nicely. You gained’t be sorry you probably did. Regardless of the way you select to spend your time in Alberta, there are hardly any fallacious decisions. The abundance of lovely trails and methods to spend your days up there can really feel overwhelming, however we hope this Banff journey information conjures up you to maintain coming again season after season.