QUICK FACTS Planning: There is a lot to do in Banff and the surrounding areas. My suggestion is to leave at least a month for planning if you’re completely unfamiliar with the area. Average Cost Per Day: $250 - $400 is a safe budget. Must Do: Lake Louise Don’t Do: Go hiking without the proper gear. Hectic Scale: The lifestyle is so laidback in Banff that it’s addictive. I’d say if you can slip into vacation mode you’ll have a 1 out of 5 on the hectic scale.
Banff, Alberta is located in Western Canada and is truly one of the most beautiful and majestic places on earth. Nestled in the Canadian Rockies, Banff is about more than just … well, Banff. A trip here might as well include Jasper, Lake Louise, and for the adventure junkies, Golden, BC.
The landscape is pure poetry. Clouds appear to cling to mountains so grand you’ll almost feel like Heaven is within reach. The glacier water can be so aquamarine in places that you will learn to appreciate colour again. Waterfalls cascade down vertical cliffs while wildlife sips the freshwater. Your senses are completely overwhelmed in the most delightful of ways because Banff is truly an experience that harkens back to before the earth was uprooted by humans.
You will not visit just once, and neither will I.
SOME BACKGROUND Banff and Lake Louise are located in Banff National Park. Spanning 2,564 square miles or 6,640 square kms of wilderness, the park boasts 1,000 miles (approx. 1600 kms) of hiking trails—more than any other mountain park in the world.
There are quite literally ten’s of thousands of things to do in Banff National Park, from biking the Legacy Trail or paddling on Lake Louise to taking a road trip to Golden, BC for skydiving and enjoying the nightlife of the town.
I particularly enjoyed hiking along the steel catwalks up Johnston Canyon. It was exhilarating to feel the spray above the thundering waterfalls! Nearby you can also soak in natural hot springs (which I was hesitant to do but am now a HUGE fan) or go golfing (which is at the bottom of my list).
As far as wildlife goes, I’ve seen moose, bighorn sheep (relaxing on the highway while eating), black bears, mountain goats (a lot of mountain goats), blue jays, and chipmunks that are the little pickpocketers of the North.
I have yet to go in winter but I am told the skiing/snowboarding is amazing. Of course it is. But I haven’t experienced it for myself so I can’t really review it. Lake Louise Ski Resort, Mt. Norquay and Sunshine Village offers some of the best slopes in the world from what I’m told and eventually I plan to conquer them.
I drove to Banff from Winnipeg with my then-girlfriend in a rugged off-road Jeep, which made the drive fun. Of course, while Jeeps do provide a lot of fun undertones to a road trip, they guzzle gas and in hindsight, we probably could have had just as much fun in my car and had extra money for other experiences. Just a head’s up if you’re thinking of driving a Jeep 14-hours.
We arrived in town and stayed at Hillside Cabins. It was an economical decision, but honestly, I would stay there again even if I was Jeff Bezos rich. The cozy cabins feature a balcony level bedroom and everything you could need, complete with great views off the back deck. The wood fire stove was a nice touch, even though we didn’t need to use it.
The trip was filled with a lot of hiking, eating in town, and taking in the views. Surprisingly, there are a lot of fantastic restaurants in Banff. If you’re like me and you stick with chains for the most part then you have plenty of options. If you’re more of a one-man show kinda restaurant-goer, you have options as well.
Lake Louise was a trip. We went kayaking on the lake, checked out the hotel, and spent hours wandering throughout the expansive landscape. Our next part of the trip was going to Golden, BC—about an hour away—for skydiving and white water rafting.
There were a few striking elements on the trip.
Even if you’re not big on nature, Banff will leave you speechless at times. It’s simply too serene to not appreciate.
The locals are extremely friendly. Anything I needed, it was taken care of … including complicated directions as Google Maps is not exactly perfect in Banff.
Unlike places such as Vegas or LA, where the classes are obvious, in Banff you could find all classes mixing together. It’s a nice change.
I was in Banff and the area for 5 days and they are 5 days I’ll never forget. Can. Not. Wait. To. Go. Back!
But enough from me, let’s look at some pictures! Now, full disclosure. Most of these pictures are not mine. I took this trip a few years ago and I dropped one phone in the water (before phones were waterproof) and then the phone I purchased took terrible photos. It’ll be clear which photos came from me. I just felt like the captivating nature of this spot deserved the best representation.
THAT’S A WRAP
Look … if you don’t like nature, don’t go to Banff. If you don’t like going off the beaten path, don’t go to Banff. If you don’t really want to witness nature in all her glory, don’t go to Banff. However, if you’re like me, and you just want to do and see everything on this spaceship flying through the universe then GO TO BANFF! Out of the dozens of places I’ve gone this is one of the few I can say I will return to several times. I don’t want to live with regret and not going back would definitely be a huge regret for this guy.
Until I have a video (next time) here is a vlog by the most beautiful travel blogger on the face of the earth, Danielle Mansutti: