How To Spend An Epic Day in Grippingly Attractive Banff Town, Canada

Canada conquered our hearts, minds and souls right away, in fact, she did not even have to try hard. We are admittedly drawn to places where nature has the upper hand and where wilderness is gratifyingly unmatched by anything we have witnessed before.

Seeing the Canadian Rockies rise out of Earth was experiencing nature on an entirely different level. We were utterly astounded by the unique beauty, sheer scale of infinite rock formations, seductive pine tree forests and eye-catching lakes glistering under spills of sunlight.

As we made our way through Canada, travelling on a tour bus along TransCanada Highway from Calgary to Vancouver, the landscape of infinite patterns and textures stretched towards the distant horizon. For a moment I let my eyes rest on tree trunks and their branches before sweeping the grounds for wildlife. While our fellow travellers were eager to spot a bear, I was looking forward to an encounter with porcupines and beavers.

I had heard so much about Banff and Banff National Park and had looked at the pictures in travel magazines and on Instagram, lusting over impeccably pristine hinterlands. Two places that captivated my heart were Moraine Lake and Lake Louise, both grippingly attractive thanks to their unique layout and emerald-coloured water.

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In addition to numerous glaciers and icefields, Banff National Park is home to an extensive variety of wildlife.

How much time do you need to spend in Banff?

How long you should spend in Banff will depend on your budget and travel plans. And just like with any other place – the longer, the better is what makes sense.  A long weekend is just enough time to go for a full day’s hike, learn about Banff’s history and enjoy an unforgettable dinner.

A full week in Banff is even better because this means that you’ll be able to see and do so much more; a day trip to Lake Louise, horseback riding, going on a cruise on Lake Minnewanka and more.

Our time in Banff was limited, and with so much to see and do and with only a day and a half to spend at the park, we had to plan everything thoroughly. On top of that, we stayed in Canmore, just outside Banff, and had to find an efficient way to travel back and forth.

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The highest mountain located within Banff National Park is Mount Forbes at 3,612 meters (11,850 feet).

Why you should visit Banff

First of all, Banff is an excellent place for outdoor enthusiasts, first-time visitors, photography lovers, adventurous and solo travellers, families, foodies and active travellers.

Second-it’s a place for grippingly beautiful scenery with Mount Rundle, Vermillion Lakes Viewpoint, Cascade Mountain and Bow Falls View Point right on your doorstep.

Banff is located at an elevation of 1,400m, making it the highest town in Canada and summertime is the most popular time to visit with the roads to places like Moraine Lake re-opening in early May.

Banff National Park which surrounds the beautiful town,  located in Alberta province is the oldest, most visited and most beautiful national park in Canada. Established in 1885 it is located just east of Calgary.

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Eastern chipmunks, little energy balls with cute round ears and a dark stripe running down their backs can be found running around or hiding under the rocks.

Highlights of visiting Banff

The best thing we loved about Banff was the opportunity to enjoy the great outdoors in as many ways as possible. Depending on the season there are endless biking, hiking, horseback riding, skiing and snowboarding activities.

  • Poutine & mountain cuisine & off-slope festivities are aplenty
  • Winter wonderland activities like & beautiful Marble and  Johnston Canyons
  • It’s a wonderland of trails & wildlife such as elk, moose, and bears
  • Most beautiful lakes in the world & endless forests, glaciers, meadows and rivers
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The Rocky Mountains extend from British Columbia and Alberta in Canada all the way down to New Mexico in the U.S.

#1. Visit the beautiful Banff town

While waiting for our couch to come, we managed to wander into Cows ice cream shop on Banff Avenue. Instead of usual chocolate chips, it contains chunks of fudge. There is something for every visitor when it comes to sweets.

The Banff Sweet Shoppe, Welches, and Beaver Trust to name the few places selling everything from endless fudge choices, chocolate truffles, bubble gum cigars, maple candies and our favourite fresh on-a-stick apples dipped in hot caramel/chocolate and after rolled in nuts!

While we observed the First Nation tribe, dressed in traditional costumes,  dance away in Banff Town, I suddenly remembered my youth years. Back then I spent much time reading Thomas Mayne Reid books and the only thing I wanted to do when I grew up was to join the First Nation tribe and live off the land someplace remote( preferably in my own Tippy).

We had this ritual at school, where we would write down on a piece of paper our biggest wish and bury it underground. Mine was to visit the first nation reservoir. We did not attend one while in Canada but much to my delight, our tour guide shared the same passion and had amazing stories to tell about first nation tribes.

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One of many street views in Banff.
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Beautiful Mount Rundle.

#2. Go for the views of Banff Gondola

Many of you may know our love for the ocean, but we have a close second. Mountains never cease to amaze us and navigating through the Banff National Park on the first day we became so engrossed in the startling nature we forgot where we are.

To get the panoramic views of the Rocky Mountains, we visited one of the most sought attractions nearby. Sightseeing Gondola, perched on the shoulder of Sulphur Mountain is just 5  minutes from the town of Banff. Although there was free transport, we quickly made it on foot, on our way admiring local homes, built in a beautiful alpine style and decorated with natural elements.

Ride in a glass enveloped gondola takes 8 minutes and it brings you from the base station at 1,583m to the upper terminal at 2,281m. From the top gondola station, we followed the boardwalk all the way to the summit of Sanson Peak Meteorological Observatory and learned the story about the devoted Park meteorologist Norman Sanson who hiked up the mountain 1000 times to take readings at the observatory.

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This 15 meters long and 4 meters high passenger bus fitted with six gargantuan Goodyear Terra Tires takes tourists on the famous Columbia Icefields excursions to admire Athabasca Glacier.
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There is well over 1,600 km of hiking trails in Banff National Park.

#3. Visit stunningly beautiful Moraine Lake 

In The Valley of Ten Peaks sits the most beautiful lake we have ever seen! Moraine lake surprised us with the stark remoteness, and we just sat there for a good while gazing in wonder trying hard to embed in memories every spire and snow speckle of the surrounding mountains.

To this very day, Lake Moraine remains my favourite place in the entire world, and I cannot wait to come back one day to feed my soul with its natural beauty.

Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, Moraine Lake is known as the Jewel of the Rockies. This lake is situated less than a 10-minute drive away from the beautiful Lake Louise, and the very first person to lay eyes on this natural marvel was a Yale college student Walter Wilcox who was hired to help map the area around Lake Louise. Hiking through rain and snow, in search of a new route to Mount Temple, he stumbled upon Moraine Lake.

Originally Ten Peaks were named by Samuel Allen by using the numerals from one to ten in the Stoney First Nations language, but gradually all but three mountains were renamed.

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Beautiful Moraine Lake was on the reverse side of the old Canadian 20-dollar note.

#4. See the nearby Lake Louise

Standing on the shores of Lake Louise under the fast-moving dark clouds, we watched the light change regularly when suddenly the sky opened up, and it started raining. Rhythmic tapping made the boardwalk underneath our feet soaking wet in a matter of seconds, and despite everything, I was feeling thankful for being here.

In addition to beautiful nature, I have found a place that felt like home, a place I would come back to one day.  Majestic Victoria glacier was half swaddled in a veil of grey fog and the softly muted aquamarine colour of the lake only added substantial weight to my instant happiness.

The Lake of the little fishes is nothing short of amazing, but so is the surrounding landscape. Make sure to leave the crowds behind and go for a short hike to admire snow-kissed mountains from afar. One of the best hikes, just 3.5 km in length, is to the family-run Lake Agnes Teahouse, initially constructed in 1901 by the Canadian Pacific Railway, where you can sample more than 100 different varieties of tea.

As both of the lakes were not included in our bus tour itinerary, we arranged a little side trip with Discover Banff Tours to take us there. Our tour guide was a knowledgeable and amiable girl who had answers to all the Canada-related questions we fired at her.

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If your visit to the Banff National Park is in spring, you can find Lake Louise as well as many other lakes that are wholly frozen.

How to get to Banff Town

The closest city to Banff is Calgary. Numerous North American and international airlines fly directly to Calgary International Airport (YYC). To get to Banff and  Banff National Park from the Calgary airport, you can use a shuttle bus connection to  Banff & Lake Louise or rent a car and drive for 90 minutes (140 km) along a very scenic road.

Alternatively, you can treat yourself and travel in style with The Rocky Mountaineer which departs in Vancouver and stop at Banff.

Day trips to Banff from Calgary are another popular option with visitors, and you can choose from multi-day tours stopping at Icefields Parkways, Lake Louise, and Moraine Lake.

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Enjoying front-row seats on the coach as we approach Banff.

Finding accommodation in Banff 

If you are plotting a trip to Banff National Park, you may be debating whether to stay in Banff or Canmore. Before making up your mind and booking accommodation, look at your budget, length of stay and list of planned activities. Both places are perfect as a base for visiting the Park.

Banff accommodation

However, Banff is located within the national park, so is quite touristy and also very busy during the summer month with chain stores like McDonald’s, Subway, Starbucks and Boston Pizza located there. If you are willing to overlook its commercialised side or aren’t bothered by it at all, then Banff is perfect!

The biggest prone of staying in Banff – all the major sites like the tourist information bureau, shops and restaurants are within easy reach, and after a long day spent outdoors, you will be glad to get back to your hotel in no time. In Banff, there are loads of accommodation options with most of the hotels located just a few blocks away from the main shopping and dining area.

 • Banff Aspen Lodge | If you like hot tubs, a sauna and a hearty breakfast, then Banff Aspen Lodge, located a 10-minute walk from Banff Park Museum is a great place to base yourself in Banff.

 • Elk + Avenue Hotel | Guest rooms feature iPad docking stations and flat-screen Tv and Elk + Avenue Hotel also offers luggage storage, express check-in/check-out, free parking, ticket service and a tour desk. In-house bistro, Ricky’s All Day Grill offers excellent lunch and dinner menus.

 • Moose Hotel and Suites | With a spa centre, an on-site bar and breakfast available each morning, Moose Hotel and Suites make for a lovely base in Banff. An exercise room and an indoor pool are located on the 4th floor, and rooftop hot pools offer fantastic views over the surrounding mountains.

 • Banff International Hostel | Situated in Banff Centre, Banff International Hostel is a perfect place for a budget traveller. The hostel offers shared dormitory rooms, an on-site ATM/cash machine, luggage storage, ticket service, a tour desk and free private parking. 

Canmore accommodation

In comparison, Canmore, once a coal-mining town,  is situated on the eastern edge of the park and is a more residential and quite charming place with trendy boutique and gourmet food shops.

The Three Sisters mountain range, named Faith, Charity, and Hope, is the highest and one-of-a-kind mountain in the area. There are more self-catering options and budget inns in Canmore as well as a world-class golf club as well as a considerable network of hiking and biking trails.

•  Lamphouse Hotel | Situated in Canmore town centre, Lamphouse Hotel offers clean and bright rooms with free Wi-Fi, a refrigerator and a 55-in flat screen in each of them. Express check-in/check-out and 24-hour front desk make a great addition to the services provided.

• Basecamp Lodge | With its charming wood-burning fireplace, sauna, ski storage and easy access to the highway, Basecamp Lodge is a great place to stay. Guests can also benefit from luggage storage facilities and express check-in/check-out. 

 • Falcon Crest Lodge | At Falcon Crest Lodge, guests can relax in rooms that come with a fireplace, kitchenette and a balcony or patio. In addition to excellent service and staff, you’ll find free board games and popcorn for kids, underground parking and a fitness centre.

 • Ridgeview Loft | Situated 26 km from Banff, Ridgeview Loft features 2 bedrooms, 1 bathroom, a comfy seating area, a kitchen with a dishwasher and a great view of the mountains.

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Canmore’s iconic peaks-The Three Sisters mountain range is soaring to 2,936m.
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Situated right beside Banff National Park, Canmore is great for outdoor activities and shopping.

Tips, hints, and things you need to know

  • If you are arriving by car, you will need to buy a Parks Pass, costing CAD 9.80 per person per day, to enter Banff National Park. You can do it onsite or online. This pass is valid until 4 pm on the day after purchase and  Annual Discovery Pass is valid for a full year.
  • Parking in Banff and its surroundings is quite limited, and during the busy weekends, they usually fill up quickly. Check out Banff Now for up-to-date road and parking conditions to help you plan your trip.
  • If you want to save a few loonies and toonies, dress appropriately and hike to the top of Sulphur Mountain for the fantastic 360 degrees views of the Bow Valley. While the Banff Gondola is a great way to see some seriously incredible scenery, an entrance fee is around 60 + Cad.
  • Fuel is much cheaper outside of Banff, so fill up your car up in places like Canmore or even Calgary to stretch your budget further.
  • Just like with all the other major tourist hot spots around the world, it is advisable to arrive early to visit Lake Louise (as the beauty of the lake draws astronomical crowds) to make sure you get the parking place. Sure, there’s always an option to park at Fairmount hotel if you are willing to fork out 33 Canadian dollars otherwise parking is free if you can find it.
  • Watch a sunset from a viewpoint above Moraine Lake. During the summertime, timing is everything as most of the tour buses stop at the lake during the day and usually for a fraction of the time. Use this to your advantage and come back when the big tourist herds are gone.

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Now, over to you.

Have you visited Banff? Let us know in the comments below!

Let us know if you are plotting a visit to Banff and have travel-related questions!

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Our Crossings follows the daily adventures of Latvian expats living in Sligo as they surf and explore the world

58 thoughts on “How To Spend An Epic Day in Grippingly Attractive Banff Town, Canada

    1. I left my heart in Banff and Vancouver, and the whole trip from Calgary to West coast made me feel like I was at home! Would love to go back one day to see if I still feel the same way as I remember doing 7 years ago. Hope you get to connect to Canada on a more deeper level on your next trip 😀

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Banff is fantastic, and there are so many reasons to visit this part of Canada, and you don’t even need to leave town to immerse yourself in nature. You can hike Tunnel Mountain and go for brunch at the Banff Springs Hotel and walk the Bow River Trail.


  1. Banff really is lovely isn’t it!?

    We visited last September, and then again this spring. It all looks sooo different covered in snow, but I loved it both ways. I think my favorite part was hiking in such stunning scenery.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Banff is one of my favourite places and I would love to go back one day to explore more of it! Wow, your photos look absolutely amazing and sounds like you had a great time visiting in early spring, snow makes the landscape even more magical! Thanks for sharing your experience and safe travels 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Beautiful sceneries! If you didn’t say it’s in Canada, some will say it’s in New Zealand. Very similar features like those mountains, particularly sceneries in Queenstown. I really wonder why some places in the World there are some similarities as if like seeing a ghost.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Banff is a stunning wonderland with the most beautiful displays of nature and wilderness. I’ve never been to New Zealand but looking at photos, Canada is like the northern version of New Zealand and I’ve heard people saying that Canada and New Zealand are like twin countries!

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Yes, you are right, Southern Alps resemble even more similarities with Canadian peaks. If only New Zealand was a little bit closer to Ireland – I would love to visit Mount Cook and surrender to mountain views

          Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you very much, I wanted to have my own little space where I would be able to find and to connect with like-minded people who are as crazy about traveling as I am. You would love Banff and surrounding mountain peaks, I hope you get to cross it off your travel wish-list someday

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I do not travel much, but this place looks and sounds worth the effort to pack a bag and go, especially the lake. This was like reading a travel guide – for free 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much! And to think that Canada wasn’t even on our radar up until a few years ago. Banff and surrounding landscape has a way of working its magic into your heart, hope you get to see it and feel it one day 😀

      Liked by 1 person

    1. We travelled to Banff National Park seven years ago yet I still – very vividly – remember everything about the trip. Would love to go back one day to explore more of it, we didn’t realise how enormous Canada actually is


      1. Most people don’t have any concept about how huge Canada is and only see Vancouver, Banff and Toronto. Maybe PEI or Halifax. It’s a diverse country with a lot to see.


        1. That’s very true! I fell under Canada’s charm watching and following Ray Mears and his adventures into Canada’s unforgiving wilderness from Boreal Forest to Prince Albert National Park, but a trip to Banff and Vancouver was all we could afford! Maybe one day we’ll make it all the way to Yukon! Thanks for stopping by and have a good day! Aiva xxx


  4. Amazing scenery. I especially loved the bit about when you were young you wanted to live in a tippi with a First Nation tribe. My mother told me that when I was a little girl I told her that when I grow up I want to marry an indian and live in a tippi. I wonder where our dreams came from? Past lives maybe?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Our tour guide had a soft spot for First Nation tribes and was able to provide an insight into what their lifes are now. And it’s not a pretty picture, it’s actually worlds away from my favourite childhood books and stories I had a chance to read. Nevertheless, I was astounded by the arts and crafts and the spirit that keeps many of indigenous communities alive and fighting for their place on this Planet. And, yes, it makes sense – it could be past lives that make the connections between us and our dreams. I’m absolutely delighted to hear you had similar wishes in your childhood! Thanks for sharing and have a good day 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  5. We used to visit Banff all the time, but it has become a victim of its own popularity and proximity to Calgary. Jasper is closer to us, much less developed and is the way that mountain towns used to be. It is a four hour drive away from Edmonton, so is not over run with visitors in Winter, Spring and Fall. Summer is a different matter. Cheers and thanks for sharing. Allan

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi, and thanks so much for reading! Unfortunately this happens more and more in Europe too, the usual lists of “places to visit” are now replaced with articles about cities to avoid and it’s all due to the large masses of tourists bombarding them. That’s why we decided to invest in a campervan, this way we get to finally explore our own beautiful backyard and avoid crowds. I was so taken by the beauty of Banff, that I didn’t even see the big crowds of tourists and being able to wake up at 5 am to wander around all by yourself was a big advantage too! Have a good day 😀

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Agreed with the up at 5 AM comment. I am usually first of our group up when we are in the mountains, watching the world come alive. I will be in the Banff area this weekend, actually, doing a 40 k back country hike from the top of Sunshine. I think I may find my solitude there. Just hoping it does not rain. Not really a big tent fan, but……………Cheers Allan

        Liked by 2 people

      1. Had to use Google to find out where is Fernie and how it looks – such a beautiful small town surrounded by stunning mountain peaks – this one goes straight on to my travel wishlist!


    1. Thanks for stopping by and have a great time exploring Banff. Before our trip to Canada, I went through heaps of other traveller blog posts about Banff National Park, yet nothing really prepared me for when I had a chance to see it in person. Safe travels


    1. Thanks so much for stopping by, Canada is an amazing place to explore yet it is also enormous in size, with 10 days on the road, we managed to see only a tiny part of it 😀


  6. Ooo thanks for sharing! I am going here next week. So excited! I loved reading your post as it’s given me a little insight. Thanks for the tip about going back to the lake for sunset. We are spending 1 night in Banff, 1 at lake Louise and 2 nights in Jasper ☺️ x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Seeing the town where shops have beautiful wooden signs that overhang the street and seeing towering mountains up close and personal is something we are not accustomed to and therefore were utterly blown away. Did I mention free-roaming animals such as mule deer and elk?

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much, what a lovely thing to say. Our trip to Canada was something we still talk about – it’s just one of those beautifully diverse places with magical finds around every corner. Hope you get to visit one day! Thanks for stopping by and have a good day 😀

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much! Banff is a very photogenic place to explore and photograph with plenty of amazing light and scenic corners. I’m glad we made a decision to venture away from Europe, it’s one of those trips we often remember and talk about. Have a good day! Aiva

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Great photos and vivid descriptions of the places and feelings of being there. Canada is an amazing country with diverse landscapes and something for everyone. So many places to lose yourself in wilderness, to experience nature, peace and solitude, and to find yourself on the roads less travelled. Great blog!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much for your feedback! Visiting Canada was a dream come true moment, and I couldn’t hide my excitement while writing the post about everything we had a chance to see and do. I have to agree with you – Canada is an amazing country worth exploring and deserves at least one encounter if not more. Have a good day and thanks for stopping by. Aiva


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