I’m finally sharing my Banff travel guide. Just going through the picture is giving me all the feels again. Have you ever seen somewhere so beautiful? Here’s how we spent 4 days in Banff.
I’ll be honest – Banff was never at the top of my bucket list. Yeah, sure, it looked pretty… but I would never consider myself a huge nature-gal. On the tip-top of my boyfriend’s bucket list? Banff. So in between our tour break between Winnipeg and Edmonton, we flew to Calgary, picked up a rental car, and road tripped it to Banff National Park. And in only a few short hours, I was so glad he convinced me into going. The drive into Banff itself was gorgeous. We ended up pulling over a few times for the view before even getting to our hotel.
The lakes in Banff are arguably the major attraction to Banff. When pre-planning our trip, I was easily overwhelmed with how many different lakes there were and how we were going to fit it all into 4 days. The key? Team no sleep. To get the view (and the shot), sleep will be few and far between on your trip. The best light is during sunrise which means a 3am alarm. And it’s worth every second of it.
One of my favorite (and easily most-underrated) lake was Peyto Lake. Ain’t it so foxy?! The water was legit the color of blue cotton candy. The drive to Peyto lake is about an hour, but it’s a good drive. Once you park your car, you have a 10 minute walk to the main view of the lake. If you opt for the road less traveled, you’ll get a better quieter view.
This right here is a sunrise shot ^ We woke up so early to be there we settled for gas station coffee. But like I said, so worth it. The water is still and you start to get the sunlight cascade over the mountains making the perfect view. There are stairs made out of rock behind the view point. I don’t know if there’s sign for this rock staircase – but we sure didn’t see it, and ended up trying to cross like, 100 floating logs + practically ended up taking a swim – but that’s a story for another time. Like I said, stairs. Stairs are key.
Lake Louise is definitely the most ‘touristy’ lake in Banff. We ended up staying at Lake Louise for around 2 hours for photos and there wasn’t a quiet minute within that time. The lake is Canada’s most famous – but ended up falling short for us. Still beautiful, tho! Tip: If you’re visiting Lake Louise, head over to Chateau Lake Louise for an afternoon tea. The hotel is gorgeous!
CANOEING ON MORRAINE LAKE
This is a day I’ll never forget because it was seriously one of the coolest experiences of my life. We waited around (aka ate) a few hours after sunrise and before the canoe rentals opened. The line usually starts up around 9am + if it’s busy enough, they’ll open at 9:30am instead of 10am. You get an hour to canoe around the lake – ample time. This is something that cannot. be. missed.
ALPINE HELICOPTER TOUR
Ride in a helicopter? That’s a good ole’ check off the bucket list! This was my first time in a helicopter and it was definitely the experience of a life-time. We took the 25-minute tour which takes you through the Canadian Rocky mountains, over the bluest rivers, and lush green forests. I swear, there’s trees for miles.
WILD FLOUR BAKERY
This artisan bakery gave me my first gooooood iced coffee in months. The line is long in the mornings but moves fast. The iced almond latte is TDF. I also really love their cranberry + rosemary muffin. #delish.
This vegan spot serves some of the best vegan food I’ve had. The burrito is amazing + drinks are killer.
Go for the truffle gnocchi and baked brie. Full warning: There’s always a wait. You have to make a resy.
Ok. I’ve planned your morning for you, don’t worry. Head to Morraine Lake, watch the sunrise, drive 10 minutes to Trailhead Cafe, grab a bite to eat, head back to Morraine and rent the canoe. Easy. There’s no seating in Trailhead, but it’s a great little spot to grab a breakfast wrap/bagel for the road.
Cheap drinks, easy bites, and a great atmosphere. Snag a seat upstairs on their balcony. You’re facing the mountains and if the weather is nice, it’s the perfect spot lunch.
You guys, I’m not kidding when I say take your time. We had a rental and did not take the chance of going over the speed limit (my boyfriend should be a safety ranger). Cars were passing us but we literally gave zero you-know-whats. Banff is not a place to rush anything. There’s mountains for miles wherever you look, beautiful rivers and lakes, and wildlife all around. There’s also pull-over spots on the main highway that gives stellar views. If you’re going too fast – you’ll miss ’em.
PLAN YOUR SLEEP SCHEDULE ACCORDINGLY
I guess this only applies if your trip is short. We had about 4 full days there and got only 4-7 hours of sleep each night to catch sunrises and explore all that Banff had to offer. I cannot be messed with if I’m low on sleep. Knowing this, I doubled-down on extra sleep before we came.
Omg. No one mentions that there are mosquitos.for.days. by the lakes. Like, I’m not kidding when I say get to Costco and buy that shit in bulk because it is not a game.
Sure, camping is cool if you’re into that sort of thing and if there is space. In July, we couldn’t find a single open spot to reserve. It was even tricky to find a decent hotel room under $400 a night. My boyfriend scored a deal through Expedia for Buffalo Mountain Lodge and we really enjoyed it. There’s a sauna, hot tub, gym, and a little cafe for quick morning bites. The premier rooms have a sweet claw foot tub – which, that’s the sort of thing I’m into. Wanting to score on a cheaper vacay? Off Season is October-May.
We were gone from morning ’til night + you already know momma can’t be without her phone! A portable charger is essential if you’re annoying like me. (In all seriousness, you need it for the maps.)