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Banff, Canada: An Underrated Vacation Spot

Updated on March 5, 2020
Jackie Zelko profile image

I have traveled to 12 countries in my life. I am very glad to have had the opportunity to travel to such a beautiful location.

Canmore, Canada
Canmore, Canada | Source

My Experience

I traveled to Canmore and Banff to attend a wedding over Labor Day weekend in 2019. I was shocked at how similar this place’s beauty is to the scenery in the Alps. I always reminisce about my trip of a lifetime to Germany, Switzerland, and Austria, and Banff really made me feel like I was back there visiting!

Wildlife I saw in Canmore:

  • Rabbits were everywhere! They’re as common as squirrels.

Wildlife in Banff:

  • Elk
  • Bear
  • Ram

Below, I have included the itinerary from my adventure, as well as some tips. The itinerary was created based off of many months of research, and it was planned around us staying in Canmore each night.

Traveling on a Budget?

Rent an Air Bnb out in Canmore! It’s really a wonderful place to relax after a long day of hiking. You will also want to rent a car. You will be doing a lot of driving, but it is worth it financially in the long run.

Prepare for Altitude Sickness

Bring Advil or Ibuprofen just in case. I personally did not feel the effects until I woke up the morning after we arrived.

Day 1: Getting Settled

Depending on where you’re flying from, it can be a really long day for you! Plan a casual day; you will be flying into Calgary, which is a 1 hour and 13 minute drive from Canmore.

The following are some places you can explore in Canmore:

  • Engine Bridge
  • Policeman’s Creek Boardwalk
  • The Grizzly Paw Brewery
  • JK Bakery Cafe
  • The Wook Lounge

Engine Bridge in Canmore, Canada.
Engine Bridge in Canmore, Canada. | Source
We got lost trying to find Engine Bridge and stumbled upon this beauty!
We got lost trying to find Engine Bridge and stumbled upon this beauty! | Source
The Grizzly Paw Brewery
The Grizzly Paw Brewery | Source

Day 2: Lake Minnewanka and Downtown Banff

Lake Minnewanka Boat Tour- The Explorer Cruise:

Since I was traveling with a large group, I booked this tour in advance. Even if I were to do this tour with just one other person, I would still book in advance just to be on the safe side. Check Groupon before you book with another site; you may find an excellent deal!

Price: Around $81 U.S. per person.

 Lake Minnewanka
Lake Minnewanka | Source
Lake Minnewanka boat cruise.
Lake Minnewanka boat cruise. | Source

Extra Expense

A national park pass can be purchased at its entrance. You need this ticket in your car window in order to go through. It’s around $10 U.S. per person.

Banff Gondola in Downtown Banff:

Explore the charming town of Banff, and grab a bite to eat! After lunch, we made our way to the Banff Gondola to purchase our tickets. It was very easy to purchase tickets on the spot, and the experience was SO worth it!

Price: Around $49 U.S. per person.

Downtown Banff
Downtown Banff | Source
We hiked to the highest point to overlook where the gondola had dropped us off.
We hiked to the highest point to overlook where the gondola had dropped us off. | Source

Day 3: Lake Louise and Moraine Lake

Lake Louise:

We arrived close to 9:00am, and the parking lot was already packed! We luckily were able to snag one of the last few spots left. It was raining a lot, but we made the most out of it. We had to hike from the parking lot to the lake. We snapped a few pictures by the lake before running into the Fairmont Hotel to keep warm and dry. Before we knew it, the rain stopped and the clouds parted!

Price: $0.

Lake Louise in Banff
Lake Louise in Banff | Source

Moraine Lake:

There was a shuttle near Lake Louise that was taking passengers every 20 minutes to Moraine Lake. The shuttle cost was very low (I don’t recall what the actual price was). This lake is a must see. The view is absolutely gorgeous! There are short trails to hike through by the lake, canoe rentals, a place to grab a bite to eat, and restrooms.

Price: Around $5 U.S. per person.

Moraine Lake in Banff.
Moraine Lake in Banff. | Source


Buy Bear Spray. The odds of you coming face-to-face with a bear while you are hiking are very slim. It’s better to be safe than sorry though!

We stopped the car to snap this picture of a bear.
We stopped the car to snap this picture of a bear. | Source

Day 4: Johnston Canyon and Banff Hot Springs

Johnston Canyon:

We arrived close to 9:00am, and the parking lot was already full! We had to park on the road quite a walk away. Go as early as you can. It’s an amazing hike, filled with beautiful glacier blue rivers and waterfalls.

These trails can go on for hours and hours. We turned around eventually and made it back to the entrance by lunch time. They have restrooms and a small cafe to grab a bite at.

Price: $0

Johnston Canyon in Banff.
Johnston Canyon in Banff. | Source
Johnston Canyon in Banff.
Johnston Canyon in Banff. | Source

Banff Upper Hot Springs:

Save this experience for the end of your trip after all of your hiking. You will be sore! This Hot Spring in Downtown Banff, located right next to the Banff Gondola, is man-made. To be honest, it just looks like a pool. The view, however, is incredible! Looking at the mountains and feeling the hot water on my sore muscles was the best feeling in the world!

Price: Around $11 U.S. per person.

Banff Upper Hot Springs
Banff Upper Hot Springs | Source

Day 5: Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel

If you are able to stay here for a night, it’s totally worth it! This regal hotel will have you exploring its ins and outs for a good portion of the day. You can even go horseback riding!

Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel
Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel | Source
Horseback riding.
Horseback riding. | Source

My Regrets

I wasn’t able to get enough time off of work, which limited the amount of places I could explore. I wish I could have seen...

  • Peyto Lake
  • Columbia Icefield Skywalk
  • Emerald Lake
  • YOHO National Park
  • Calgary
  • Johnson Lake

This small list doesn’t even cover all of the other wonder adventures the area of Banff has to offer. If you are doing this trip in 5 days, be prepared to be exhausted! You will be on the go constantly, but it will be worth it in the end and a trip you will never forget.


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    • Jackie Zelko profile imageAUTHOR

      Jackie Zelko 

      3 months ago

      Thank you! You definitely should add it to your bucket list :).

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 

      3 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

      I enjoyed reading your article very much. Your photos are lovely! I've made a brief visit to Banff, but I want to explore the area in more detail. Your article makes the visit very tempting.

    • Eurofile profile image

      Liz Westwood 

      3 months ago from UK

      This is a very well-illustrated article. I have heard a lot about Banff, but never had the chance to visit. It looks like a beautiful area and it sounds like you had a great time there.


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