How to Make the Most of Your Trip to Banff
Outdoor & Nature
Banff National Park is a truly exceptional destination that offers an unparalleled blend of natural beauty and outdoor adventure. The park, nestled in the heart of the Canadian Rockies, boasts awe-inspiring mountain peaks, crystal-clear turquoise lakes and lush alpine meadows that create a picturesque and serene environment.
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Where to stay in Alberta, Canada
Fairmont Banff Springs
A four-seasons destination for golf in the mountains in the summer and pure ski time through the winter.
$100 food / beverage or spa credit.
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Fairmont Château Lake Louise
A luxury resort hotel located on the shores of Lake Louise in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada, offering breathtaking views of the lake and surrounding mountains.
$100 food / beverage credit.
Upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible.
The Rimrock Resort Hotel
Nestled in the heart of the Canadian Rockies, just minutes from Banff National Park, The Rimrock Resort Hotel takes an upscale approach to mountain exploration.
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Things to do in Alberta, Canada
For first time visitors, download the GuideAlong app. A great audio tour in your car that’s a perfect addition to your road trip along the scenic drive. The guide “Icefields Parkway” and “Lake, Louise, Moraine Lake and Yoho National Park” provides highlights of the best things to see or do, with commentary playing automatically along the routes.
A day exploring The Icefields Parkway
This drive from Banff to Jasper is an incredible scenic drive that will be the highlight of your trip to Banff. This is one of the most scenic drives in the world, taking you past glaciers, turquoise lakes and towering peaks. There are many must-do stops along the way, places to explore, best view, and iconic stops. Insider tip: Best to start early because it literally is an all-day event, so bring your hiking shoes, camera, extra clothing for layering, umbrella/raincoat, packed lunch, snacks and water.
A day exploring Lake Louise, Moraine Lake and Yoho National Park
Some highlights include Lake Louise, Moraine Lake, Spiral Train Tunnel, Takakkaw Falls, Natural Bridge, Emerald Lake (one of my favorite stops), Bow Valley Parkway and Johnston Canyon.
Lake Louise is an iconic, popular stop for tourists, and can be very busy. Insider tip: Parking is limited at Lake Louise so it’s best to arrive by 7:30 am for a parking spot, but be prepared to pay about $25 for parking that expires around 7:00pm.
Explore Lake Louise
Marvel at the breathtaking views and beauty of Lake Louise, with its stunning turquoise waters reflecting the surrounding mountains. Rent a canoe for a serene paddle (rental cost is around $90 for 1 hour) or hike around the lake. My suggestion is to hike up to the Lake Louise Tea House. It’s a gradual, scenic hike (4.4 mile round trip) to The Tea House where you will find a charming cabin tea house nestled amid the stunning surroundings and Lake Agnes. You can enjoy a well-deserved break, indulge in some freshly brewed tea and savor homemade treats.
Emerald Lake, is another stunning gem (not to be missed) within the Rockies, located in Yoho National Park. This beautiful lake is known for its vivid turquoise waters, which is created by glacial silt suspended in the water. It’s a great spot for photographs, leisurely walks, and even canoeing (rental cost is around $90 for 1 hour). Insider tip: Take the trail up to the Emerald Lake Lodge and sit down in the Lodge Lounge for a gourmet snack and refresher to bypass the tourists standing in line for a drink and snack down at Emerald Lake.
Hike Johnston Canyon
Follow the well-maintained trails to witness the beauty of Johnston Canyon's waterfalls and marvel at the natural rock formations along the way.
If you're an avid hiker, you'll be spoiled for choice with a multitude of trails catering to various skill levels. From easy strolls to challenging hikes, you can explore dense forests, discover hidden waterfalls and even trek up to panoramic viewpoints that offer breathtaking vistas.
Soak in Banff Upper Hot Springs
Relax in the warm mineral-rich waters of these hot springs while enjoying a panoramic view of the surrounding mountains. A perfect place to soothe those feet and aching muscles after hiking. And also, grab a cold beer and snack from their shop on the upper level.
Explore the Town of Banff
Wander the charming streets of Banff town, explore shops, galleries and enjoy a meal at one of the many restaurants. Insider tip: parking is limited downtown, so take advantage of the town bus.
Take the Banff Gondola: Ride the gondola (best on a clear day) to the top of Sulphur Mountain for incredible panoramic views of the town of Banff and surrounding area.
Places to eat & drink in Alberta, Canada
The Keg Steakhouse and Bar at Banff Caribou Lodge offers a breakfast buffet for about $24/person and an a la carte menu.
Pacini, located in the Banff Ptarmigan Inn, is a nice, casual Italian restaurant.
The Keg Steakhouse and Bar at Banff Caribou Lodge is a nice place for dinner offering a great range of food and drinks.
Shoku Izakaya, located downtown Banff offers delicious Japanese food and cocktails.
Indian Curry House offers delicious, authentic Indian food with friendly staff.
Three Bears Brewery & Restaurant offers a great craft beer menu, open roof and a casual atmosphere.
The Park Distillery Restaurant & Bar offers a nice menu but also great for appetizers and drinks.
Cows is a great spot to stop for a taste of one of the 34 unique flavors of premium ice cream in their handmade ice cream waffle cones.
Need to Know
Looking for more outdoor adventures? Check out Fora Advisor Carlie Lee's guide, Checking Banff off the Bucket List.
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This guide is part of our ongoing series on travel to Canada.