Everyone who researches travelling across Canada will probably see Banff National Park everywhere, and there is a very good reason for this, its absolutely stunning and probably some of the most beautifully scenery we have yet to encounter. The question is do you visit in the summer or in the winter? Banff has something to offer all year round but if you are doing the whole of Canada you are probably going to want to visit in the summer, and that’s great because there is much more to do in Banff than just skiing and snowboarding. There is only one downside to Banff and this is the cost. Even camping can come it as quite expensive if travelling alone.
There is so much to see and do in and around Banff, you are truly spoiled. Even if you are not a go outdoors hiker you are still catered for, but maybe try one of the easy hikes along the river?
Lake Louise and hikes
Lake Louise is the highlight of Banff and you should spend several days in the area. From the ground Lake Louise is beautiful but, if you are prepared for a days hiking you can be rewarded with probably still one of the most beautiful views we have ever seen. Our advice would be to spend two days hiking Lake Louise so you don’t have to rush, each day you can expect to cover 8 miles with dramatic elevation change. Pack 1.5 litters of water and 1500 calories of food (trail mix is good) per person. Do the Path of 6 Glaciers first, and be sure to struggle your way to the waterfall at the top, you won’t regret it, it’s an unforgettable experience. The second day can be spent hiking to Mirror lake and lake Agnes and the viewing areas called beehives. Don’t listen to the guides when they tell you that you can do all the hikes at Lake Louise in 5 hours. Spread it out, take your time and enjoy the experience.
In our mind not quite as amazing as Lake Louise but as it’s just down the road it’s worth a look. On both Lake Louise and Moraine Lake you can hire canoes, this is a great way to explore and a good way to rest your legs after all the hiking you have probably done around Lake Louise. It’s worth mentioning that you need to be in groups of four or more to hike the extended area of Moraine Lake and bear spray is required at all times.
Another one of those blow your mind places. Accessible to everyone is a suspended catwalk through a 2.5km tight canyon where you are able to marvel at the wonders of Mother Nature. You don’t have to walk the entire canyon but if you make it half way you are rewarded with a waterfall. There is another larger waterfall at the end of the trail. For the more adventurous you can continue on past the canyon and on to the Ink Pots. We really regret not doing this because everyone has advised us that it’s amazing!
If you fancy splashing the cash, then head to Lake Louise’s lakefront Fairmont Chateau hotel. It has to be up there when it comes to hotels with the best views in the world! However at over £300 a night you may want something cheaper. There is plenty of camping options that come in at around £20 per night, but even in the summer it can be extremely cold at night so make sure you’re prepared! For a mid range option there’s also numerous B&B’s that put you right on the doorstep of Banff Village. Alternatively there’s lovely wooden lodges tucked away in the wilderness for a more authentic stay in Banff.
Eating out in Banff is expensive as can be expected for a small secluded mountain town. Main meals will set you back around £15 to £20 and even more if it’s steak that you are after. However it is worth eating out if you can, the selection of restaurants is great and the food delicious! For the campers and money conscious there is a Safeway in the middle of town that is very reasonably priced and has everything you could need.
The Rockies covers a huge span of land and if you really want the freedom to explore them fully we would suggest hiring a car. If you only plan to stay in Banff village then a car isn’t essential, there are free shuttles that run between popular destinations, however in our opinion it would be shame to lack the freedom that a car brings.
In terms of getting to Banff, most people do so by hiring a car from Calgary airport. It’s about 1.5hrs drive from there and likely to be one of the most scenic routes you ever take.