Exploring the Canadian Rockies was a dream come true! Admittedly, the first time I saw pictures of the bright teal glacier lakes was on Instagram. I couldn’t believe that people were claiming they hadn’t totally edited and saturated their photos. The water is really that shade of bright sky blue! My friend Cat from For Two, Please and I planned an epic road trip through Banff and Jasper National Parks. This post is focused on our adventures in and around Banff and includes tips on the best time to visit, things to do, and where to stay.
BEST TIME TO VISIT
I think the best time to visit depends on what your interests are! If you’re a winter sport enthusiast, then obviously you’ll want to hit the slopes. For hikers, I recommend fall as the temperature was absolutely perfect for a hike (mid 70’s Fahrenheit, low 20’s Celsius). Not too hot, not too cold! I couldn’t imagine a better time to go than fall, we enjoyed spectacular weather at the end of September. I’ve heard through several sources spring is an amazing time as well, when the flowers are blooming. In summer, the park offers white water rafting, horse back riding, among other adventures. First, figure out what types of adventures you want to do and then determine which season works best for those.
WHAT TO DO IN BANFF NATIONAL PARK
There are plenty of activities and adventures to go on in Banff and pretty much something for just about everyone. The park caters to just about all ages – I saw other millennials wandering about, families with little ones and recently retired. All of the major highlights that exist in Banff are extremely accessible. In my opinion, you really don’t need to do much research in advance of your trip because everything is well marked on the main road. There are the obvious go to spots that you’ve probably heard a million times (Lake Louise, Lake Louise, Lake Louise) and a few others that aren’t talked about as much. Below are my tips on things to do:
- Lake Louise & Moraine Lake – The highlight of my trip to Banff was seeing Moraine Lake. I fell in LOVE with Moraine Lake and it isn’t hard to see why when you look through the image gallery. I had my hopes up for Lake Louise because I had heard so much about it, but I actually fell in love with Moraine more. You absolutely can NOT miss Moraine Lake! Note these two lakes are right next to each other.
- Banff Gondola – In summer, there is a free shuttle from the town of Banff to the top of Sulphur Mountain aboard a Gondola. With 360 views, you can take a short stroll up and around the top that is surrounded by SIX mountain ranges. We went during sunset and enjoyed dinner at the Sky Bistro with remarkable views down below.
- Johnston Canyon Hike – A 30 minute drive from Banff, this is a fun (albeit touristy) hike. I think it took us roughly 2.5 hours to hike the whole of it, and I’d say we’re beginner level hikers 😉 Along the trail, you see deep narrow canyons and gigantic waterfalls.
- Lake Minnewanka Cruise – I recommend going on this cruise on a clear day for the best views. We went in the afternoon and enjoyed beautiful blue skies and an informative guide that explained how the lake formed and pointed out waterfalls along the route.
- Peyto Lake & Bow Lake – We stopped at Peyto Lake and Bow Lake on our way up to Jasper. This is the perfect road trip stop if you are visiting both national parks, which I recommend. It’s roughly an hour north of Banff and an hour away from the next major highlight which is the Athabasca Glacier.
- Herbert Lake – Situated just north of Lake Louise, Herbert Lake was a really calming area to swing by for a short visit. The forest alongside the lake was filled with baby squirrels running around at super fast speeds and butterflies! We made a quick stop here and went on a short hike to take in the views of the mountains and the reflections on the lake.
THINGS TO DO IN BANFF IMAGE GALLERY
WHERE TO STAY IN BANFF
Cat and I stayed at the Buffalo Mountain Lodge which is only a few minute drive away from downtown Banff (you can also walk). With 108 rooms, the lodge makes you feel like you’re in the heart of a national park, versus a standard hotel room with just the basics. It truly goes above and beyond to make you feel cozy and also offers luxury amenities for a resort-like feel. We REALLY enjoyed our stay here and would highly recommend it for the following reasons:
- Comfy Beds – The first thing I do when I get to my room is test out the bed. We had a king size bed that did not disappoint. We slept well among fluffy pillows and a nice mattress!
- In Room Fireplace – To add to the coziness factor, the room came with a fireplace and an easy set of instructions to warm up the room.
- Balcony With A View – The lodge is surrounded by 9 acres of forest and mountains and our room came with a balcony and two chairs to take in the views.
- Outdoor Hot Tub & Steam Room – Between the lodge’s buildings, there’s a hot tub and sauna. After a long day of hiking, Cat and I ended our day in the most relaxing way possible!
- Sleeping Buffalo Dining – One of the best parts of our experience was breakfast and dinner at the lodge. We were exploring during the day so we never tried their lunch, but I’m sure it’s just as tasty. For adventurous eaters, you can try caribou, bison, and elk here. I recommend the scallops, my favorite!
BUFFALO MOUNTAIN LODGE IMAGE GALLERY
Please note I was welcomed as a guest by the Buffalo Mountain Lodge and Brewster Travel Canada. As always, all opinions are my own.