Words and pictures do not fully capture the beauty of Banff National Park. Located right outside Calgary, Banff National Park is Canada’s first National Park and is part of the Rocky Mountains. Everywhere you look is a perfect, picturesque view of nature. The air is fresh with an aromatic scent of pine, spruce, and fir. And during those moments you are engulfed with a sense of peace.
It is easy to see why the people here are so kind and happy! Travelers to Banff are able to relax and just enjoy the scenery or get as adventurous as their heart desires. During the summer, the days are long and sunset is between 9 and 10 PM. The most popular cities in the park are Lake Louise and Banff.
You certainly won’t be disappointed with the choices of trails circling Lake Louise. Whether a novice or a time-tested hiker, the views of this breathtaking lake and mountains will continue to captivate you no matter where you are along the trail.
A typical hike starts at the Fairmont Hotel and ends at one of the two tea houses at Plain of Six Glaciers or Lake Agnes. If you’re like me and can’t decide which tea house to see, I suggest starting on the Plain of Six Glaciers trail and returning home on the path of Lake Agnes. A little caveat: this is one of the longer trails, around 6 hours – but it’ll be worth it in the end. Plus, you’ll have another reason to eat that delicious homemade teahouse cookie!
Other popular hikes in the area include:
– Consolation Lakes Trail by Moraine Lake
– Saddleback Pass Trail
– Helen Lake Trail.
You can also visit trails by horseback.
Canoes are available to rent on Lake Louise and Moraine Lake. For the thrill-seekers, white water rafting tours are available outside of Lake Louise.
The town of Banff, located 30 minutes south of Lake Louise, has a cute downtown with shops, restaurants, and bars. Besides eating delicious food in town (Park Distillery Restaurant & Bar) and listening to some great live music at night at the Fairmont Rundle Lounge, some popular activities recommended are:
– Banff Gondola at Sulfur Mountain
– Hiking and Biking Trails
– River Float Trip / Boat Tour on Lake Minnewanka
– Johnston Canyon – easy walk/hike, looking at nature within the canyon rather than out.
– Swimming in the 104 degree hotel pool (while cold outside)
Travel Tips for Banff National Park:
Direct flights to Calgary leave from New York, Houston, Dallas, Denver, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Seattle. Before you fly into Calgary International Airport, it is best you have your rental car booked ahead of time. The most convenient method is to rent from the rental car companies located at the airport parking garage. From the airport, it is an easy and scenic 1.5 hour drive to Banff National Park. As you arrive at the park gate, there is a per day park vehicle fee you must pay ahead of time. For example, if you are staying 4 nights then pay for a 4 day pass. Fill up gas before you leave Banff or have rental car reservations to include an empty tank as finding a gas station towards the airport is difficult.) Also, if you are flying out internationally, US customs is BEFORE you get on the flight. Leave plenty of time to go through customs and regular security before you get to your gate.
What to pack for a trip to Banff National Park:
– No foreign transaction fee Credit Card, much easier than dealing with paper currency as credit cards are accepted everywhere.
– Insect repellent (very much needed during hikes in Lake Louise)
– Umbrella (never know when it can rain)
– Bathing suit (hotel pools and any water activities)
– Wind breaker/jacket/sweater – to wear during the hikes, at night, or when it’s milder out. The weather can vary drastically both day-to-day and day-to-night.
– Trail shoes/hiking boots/water shoes (for white water rafting)
As much as Drake loves talking about “Views”, the best views of Canada don’t come from Toronto. Indeed, the views from Banff National Park are second to none.