Looking for a simple, 3-day guide to exploring beautiful Banff? Look no further! Writing this blog post is fun for me because I get to almost relive my trip to Banff.
If you’re wondering where/what Banff is: it’s a magical National Park located in Alberta, Canada. You may recognize photos of its aqua blue lakes engulfed by mountains that hardly look real. The crazy thing is, it actually is prettier in real life! Which is why this was something that had been a dream of mine for about six years. I had seen the iconic Lake Moraine photos
and the ridiculously turquoise water and knew it was a place I had to see for myself.
I ended up visiting for the first time this past August; arriving on a very slow,
indirect route (5 weeks of travel leading up to arriving in Banff). I’m obviously a
roadtrip gal, but that being said, flights to Calgary (closest airport to the park) I
know can be VERY cheap if you’d rather go the flying route. My time in Banff was a
little longer than 3 days but I thought I’d condense it down to a 3-day itinerary in
case anyone wants to plan a long weekend trip this year! *Also a disclaimer: I am
writing from my experience in the summer. Keep that in mind* Alright let’s get
If you’re coming from Calgary, get up early and head towards the park. The
drive is over an hour. If you’re camping or plan on needing groceries, grab them
closer to Calgary to save some $$$. Expect to potentially wait in line at the entrance
for a bit to get your park pass (you need a separate one for Canadian parks- they are
about $100 for the annual which may be the most cost effective depending on how long you'll be staying in the park. Otherwise there are day passes). Because you may be getting in too late to snag a parking spot at the main spots (parking can be a true nightmare), having some options can be helpful. It’ll really depend on if you arrive on a weekday/weekend or the time of year. Head to the Lake Louise parking lot and see if you can find a spot. *The shuttle system is always an option if the parking lots are full* I recommend hiking to Mirror Lake,
then continuing on to Lake Agnes to experience the iconic Lake Agnes tea house (bring cash). The distance from Lake Louise to Lake Agnes is 3 miles with a steady incline. If you have more time and want a real challenge, continue heading up to Mount St. Piran. The crowds will thin out entirely but you.will.be.sucking.wind. To the top it was only another 1.5 miles from Lake Agnes but much steeper. In total you’ll hike 9 miles if you do all of that and end up back at Lake Louise ready to get some grubbbb. Head to the town of Banff – I recommend the Park Distillery + Bar. They have killer food, a bomb ambiance, and obviously fantastic drinks.
Wake up early enough to catch sunrise at Moraine Lake!! This is a do-not-
miss experience! Depending on time of year and how far you’re staying from Lake
Moraine, give yourself plenty of time. I’m not kidding when I say I arrived at the
parking lot at 4:45 AM and got THE LAST SPOT. Plan ahead for this! Bring a jet-boil
to make coffee + a hot breakfast in the parking lot, pack warm clothes/ blankets,
and enjoy the best freakin morning of your life. After this, head over to Peyto Lake.
This will require just a short hike to the beautiful overlook. STUNNING. From there,
continue hiking to the Bow Summit. In total this is only 4 miles so it’s quick but
10000% worth it. From there head back to the town of Banff and grab lunch at Bear
Street Tavern. They have a nice outdoor patio too! If you want, enjoy the town of Banff a little more. Grab your touristy souvenirs and just soak in the dopest mountain town. After your late lunch and meandering around, grab your swimmies and head to the Banff Hot Springs! It’s located super close to town and you can enjoy soaking in the natural springs for a small fee. It’s a nice, relaxing way to spend the evening. For dinner, consider camping out (if you’re not camping, there are obviously plentyyy of options in town, or near Lake Louise if you’re staying in nearby lodging)! Make a delish camp-side meal and head to bed early in preparation
for another early wakeup.
Get an early jump on your day and head to Lake Louise! Take a moment before your hike and enjoy the stillness of the lake. It’s extra special in the morning when the crowds haven’t flocked yet and it still has that glassy appearance. If you need some breakfast before beginning your hike, head into the Fairmont Chateau and you’ll find some excellent breakfast sandwiches. From there you’ll walk along the lake all the way from the Fairmont towards the glaciers. At the end of the paved path begins the Plain of Six Glaciers hike! The trail is about 4.5 miles up to the tea house (also cash only) and then 4.5 back down. I absolutely loved the experience of sitting at the tea house sipping hot chocolate overlooking the glaciers. Please don’t miss this one!! After your hike, rent a kayak for an hour and get out on that baja-
blast blue water. IF you want to get in an extra afternoon hike, the Fairview Mountain trailhead is also located at Lake Louise but is quite the altitude gain. You’ll enjoy 6 total miles of breathtaking views of Lake Louise which makes the climb well worth it in my opinion!
Packing for Banff
Like I mentioned, I was there during August. I still needed VERY
warm clothing for camping at night and in the mornings. Bring layers so you can
start with warm clothing and shed layers as the day goes on. You’ll want warm
socks, a beanie, gloves, and several layers for your torso. Bring a lightweight hiking
pack with a camelback so that you have access to plenty of water while hiking and of
course hiking boots! You will want a good camera to capture the beauty too!
Camping in Banff
If you’re planning to camp, reserve IN ADVANCE. I booked my
Village are two very popular campgrounds! I know lodging in Banff can be quite
expensive so I recommend camping if you are there during summer months!
So please, get yourself to Banff this year! You truly will be blown away. But be
warned: it will make all other mountains seem super lame in comparison and you
might get hooked on Tim Hortons if you stay too long.