The Ultimate Banff Itinerary

Advisor - Shelby Escaba
Curated By

Shelby Escaba

Icon Share


  • Active Travel

  • Adventure Travel

  • Couples Travel

  • Canada

  • Sightseeing

  • Lakeside

  • Relaxation

Lake near snow covered mountains under blue sky during daytime.
Curator’s statement

Banff has been on my bucket list for the past 10+ years and finally was able to cross it off! There are simply no words to describe the natural beauty of this town - from the lakes to the mountains to the falls. Banff completely took my breath away, and hopefully is a destination you are able to visit very soon! Please note that the itinerary I listed below is what my husband and I did over 4 days, however, depending on how long you are there and your specific interests, I can cater this to your preference! As you'll see, we focused more on trails / hikes / site-seeing instead of more intense activities like biking / rafting / etc.

The Fora Difference

Book with Shelby to access exclusive perks and experiences on your trip.

[object Object]
Killer perks

Free upgrades, spa credits and more—we got you

[object Object]
Personalized recs

Customized travel planning for your style

[object Object]
Insider knowledge

Expert advice from people who’ve actually been there

Where to stay

Fairmont Banff Springs

The Fairmont Banff Springs, nestled in the heart of the Canadian Rockies, offers an unparalleled luxury retreat amidst breathtaking natural beauty. With its iconic castle-like architecture and world-class amenities, it stands as a premier destination for discerning travelers seeking adventure and relaxation in Banff National Park.

Fora Perks
  • $100 hotel / resort credit.

  • Breakfast daily.

  • Upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible.

The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise

Indulge in unparalleled grandeur and pristine natural beauty at this iconic lakeside resort.

Fora Perks
  • $100 hotel / resort credit.

  • Breakfast daily.

  • Upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible.

Advisor - Shelby Escaba

Unlock perks by contacting Shelby to book your trip.

Day 1: Arrive in Calgary

Red colored chairs  placed in day light

If you're flying into Banff like us, you will want to fly into the Calgary Airport and rent a car. I would say renting a car is a must in Banff - we drove everywhere! We arrived pretty late, around 8:30pm, however, in the summer, the sun doesn't set in Calgary / Banff until closer to 10pm!

We picked up our rental car and drove to the house we were renting in Canmore, which is only 15/20 minutes from Banff. We decided on Canmore because it was much more affordable. It was a bit further to get to Lake Louise, but it was a very short distance to Banff. Overall, it was a great affordable alternative and would definitely suggest looking into staying here if Banff is too expensive.

Once we arrived in Canmore, we stopped to get dinner at one of the only places open at 11PM. It was called Crown & Rose, and they had fabulous poutine!

Day 2: Lake Louise & Icefields Parkway

Clear blue lake with mountains and green trees,

Each day we started with a large hike that took a few hours, followed by shorter hikes and/or viewpoints! Our first day we wanted to knock out Lake Louise because the weather was gorgeous! Everywhere online said you must purchase a parking pass with a transportation company to get there because of the crowds, however we decided to get up early and wing it! We arrived around 9AM to the park and found a parking spot in a lot close by (30 mins walking) - we got lucky!

Once we arrived at Lake Louise we were blown away. It was truly breathtaking! We hiked the Lake Agnes Tea House Hike, which took us about 2.5 hours - I would say it's a moderate hike. We decided to turn around at the top since my boots were hurting, but there is an option to continue onto the Little / Big Beehive Hike.

Upon departing Lake Louise, we decided to continue to trek north along the Icefields Parkway! We were told to keep an eye out for grizzlies, but did not see any. We drove all the way up to Peyto Lake (furthest north we went) and then worked our way back down to Banff. We stopped at Peyto Lake, Bow Lake, Crowfoot Glacier Viewpoint, Hector Lake and Herbert Lake - all of them 100% worth stopping at to view. Peyto Lake was the only one that you had to hike about 15 minutes too.

We ended our day in downtown Banff where we stopped at Park Distillery for a much deserved dinner! The food and drinks were great and their upstairs balcony had a beautiful view of Banff Ave.

Day 3: Johnston Canyon & Lake Minnewanka

Clear lake with reflection of mountains, blue sky and clouds.

We started our day with the Johnston Canyon hike! To get here from Canmore or Banff, you will have to take the Bow Valley Parkway, which is a gorgeous road that takes you through the forest. Once we got to Johnston Canyon, it was a relatively quick hike to the lower falls. The line was insanely long to take a picture here, so we continued up to the upper falls, which was about another mile or so. The line here to take pictures was long too, but there was a beautiful viewpoint with no wait! This entire hike was beautiful along the river! It wasn't too difficult, compared to yesterday, but it was so unique and a spot I definitely suggest you add to your list! Just be prepared, parking was a bit busy, so try to go early.

After Johnston Canyon we were headed to Lake Minnewanka, but on the way we decided to stop at Cascade Ponds and Two Jack Lake! In hindsight, I wish we packed a picnic and had lunch at the ponds, it was so peaceful. Two Jack Lake was another photo op along the way to Lake Minnewanka, where we got out and hiked to Stewart Canyon Bridge, which wasn't bad at all! We didn't continue onto Stewart Canyon (another 2ish miles), but many people around us were doing that trail!

We concluded our day with a delicious dinner at Bridgette, which is located in Canmore, and I would definitely recommend making a reservation here!

Day 4: Tunnel Mountain, Downtown Banff & Emerald Lake

Man Standing on Top of Mountain

Again, we started our day with another relatively challenging hike, Tunnel Mountain. It wasn't as long as the other hikes, but had some significant elevation. The entire hike was an hour and forty minutes and provided a beautiful view of downtown Banff! Make sure to get a photo in the famous two red Adirondack chairs.

After our hike, we were craving pizza, so we stopped by Bear Street Tavern, which was fantastic and did some shopping downtown. They have some great outdoors shops!

Since our day ended a bit early (and my husband didn't want to do the gondola), we decided to trek up to a more hidden, but equally beautiful lake, Lake Emerald. Since it wasn't as touristy / costly here, we decided to rent a canoe for an hour. Besides getting poured on in the last 10 minutes, it was amazing!

Day 5: Lake Moraine

Lake surrounded by mountains and trees.

For our last day, we made sure to go to Lake Moraine. Unlike Lake Louise, there are absolutely no personal vehicles permitted here, so you must book a shuttle or private transportation. We booked our ticket through Canada Parks. We had to meet them at the ski resort and then take a 20 minute shuttle to the lake. Once we arrived I was completely blown away by the beauty of this lake. Because of the transportation sitch, it was way less busy than Lake Louise.

I had been told to hike the Larch Valley Trail, but at the entrance there was a warning to travel in groups of 4 due to bears. Since it was only two of us and we weren't carrying bear spray, I made it about 15 minutes in before getting scared and wanting to turn back around. Instead, we did the lovely, but short walk around Moraine Lake, which didn't take more than 45 minutes.

After visiting the gift shop and heading back to the park & ride, we made our way to Calgary for the night before heading out early the next morning to go home!

A few things to know!

Road in a valley between mountains.

Here are a few additional important things to know

  • Rent a car from the airport, it's worth it!

  • Try to book as much in advance as possible. We didn't because we catered our activities to the weather, and it worked out, but for larger groups, try to book gondola rides, bus shuttles, etc. in advance.

  • Ideal time to visit is June - mid-October. Anytime outside of that, Moraine Lake Road is closed.

  • The city of Banff is a good 45 minutes from many of the famous lakes / hikes - something to think about when looking for accommodations.

  • Try to get your hikes done early in the morning. We noticed clouds would usually roll in around 1/2pm each day. Although the sun would not set until 10pm."

Things I'd try next time we come back

  • Day Trip to Jasper National Park

  • Sulphur Mountain / Banff Gondola

  • Helicopter Tours

Need to Know

Looking for more travel inspiration? Check out my guide, Your Complete Guide for a Couple Days in Todos Santos.

Advisor - Shelby Escaba

Travel Advisor

Shelby Escaba

Get in touch with Shelby

Did you like this guide? Reach out to customize and book your own experience. Or, just to chat about travel in general.

You can normally expect a response from Shelby within a business day or so. You’ll also be subscribed to our travel newsletter (you can unsubscribe at any time).

This guide is part of our ongoing series on travel to Canada.