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Banff National Park: A One-Day Travel Guide

Updated: Jan 16


lake louise alberta canada emerald turquoise lake
Lake Louise

The Canadian Rockies are home to alpine lakes, dramatic peaks, diverse wildlife, and an endless amount of outdoor recreation activities—and perhaps the most visited part of the Rockies is Banff National Park. Over 4 million people visit the park every year to see its glacial lakes, snow-capped mountains, and dense forests. With 2,564 square miles of unspoiled wilderness, Banff National Park offers a plethora of activities for those seeking to explore the outdoors.


My friend and I visited Banff National Park as a day trip from Calgary in September 2019—follow along our guide to help plan your next trip!


Quick facts

Currency: Canadian dollar (CAD)


Weather: For warmer weather, visit during June to August and for winter activities, visit during November to March. Note that these months are considered high season. I recommend visiting during the shoulder months—visit during September or October for pleasant weather, less crowds, and a chance to spot fall foliage.



Things to do in Banff National Park

Lake Louise: Lake Louise is an emerald lake surrounded by densely forested mountains. There are several activities on and around Lake Louise. While we didn't get to all of these activities, I recommend checking out at least a few if time permits:


Visit Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise: The iconic, century-old Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise is a year-round luxury resort that overlooks the lake.

Walk around Lake Louise: If you're looking for a family-friendly activity, consider taking a scenic walk around the lake.

Rent a canoe: Rent a canoe from the boat dock at Lake Louise, which is run by the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. Rentals operate on a first-come, first-served basis. Find more details here.

Hike to Lake Agnes Teahouse and the Big Beehive: The Big Beehive trail is one of the most popular trails in the park. Get a bird’s-eye view of Lake Louise on this 6.7-mile out-and-back trail.


lake louise alberta canada turquoise emerald lake
Lake Louise


Moraine Lake: Moraine Lake is one of the most beautiful lakes I've ever visited. This gem in the Canadian Rockies boasts a turquoise blue, glacially fed lake sitting beneath dramatic, snow-capped mountains—also known as Valley of the Ten Peaks.


moraine lake alberta canada turquoise blue
Moraine Lake

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Forest surrounding Moraine Lake

Peyto Lake: Peyto Lake is another turquoise blue, glacier-fed lake that's located down in a valley, and is entirely surrounded by a dense forest and a dramatic mountain range. Take a short hike to this "secret" lookout for better views and less crowds than at the observation deck lookout. Find more details here.


Bow Lake: Bow Lake is a glacial lake located nearby Peyto Lake—stop by here when you’re driving along Icefields Parkway.


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Peyto Lake

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Mushrooms on trail to Peyto Lake overlook

Budget

Planning a trip to Banff National Park can get costly. However, if you're on a budget, don't worry—your trip can be planned without breaking the bank. If you're looking to visit the park on a budget:


• Consider staying in a nearby city outside of the park. Hotels and lodges in the park typically carry hefty price tags.

• Travel during shoulder season (September to October) for cheaper airfare and accommodation prices.


Here is an estimate of how much my friend and I spent during our trip (all costs listed are in USD):


• Airfare: $260 roundtrip from Los Angeles (LAX) to Calgary (YYC)

• Accommodation: $68 / 2 people = $34 per person

• Transportation (rental car and gas): $186 / 2 people = $93 per person

• Attractions (Parks Pass): $14 / 2 people = $7 per person

• Food: $40

• Souvenirs: $15


Total: $449 per person


peyto lake secret rock turquoise blue lake forest alberta canada
Peyto Lake

Where to stay during your visit to Banff National Park

Staying in Calgary: If you’re on a budget, I recommend staying in Calgary—Airbnbs and hotels here are more affordable than in the park. However, note that the park is roughly a 90-minute drive from Calgary. Click here for a link to the Airbnb we stayed at.


Staying in Banff National Park: If you're seeking convenience, there are several lodging options in the park, including hotels, hostels, Airbnbs, and campsites.


lake louise alberta canada blue turquoise water
Lake Louise

Getting around in Banff National Park

Car: The best way to get around the park is by driving a car as you can access more areas at your own pace. We rented a car with Avis at YYC Airport—we found that this gave us more flexibility in exploring all of the places on our itinerary. If you plan to drive, a Parks Pass is required when entering the park. Click here to purchase the pass online.


Public transit: The only form of public transportation in the park is the Roam bus, which provides services to popular locations such as Lake Louise and Moraine Lake. Click here to learn more.


Bus: HopOnBanff is a tour service with stops in Banff Town, Johnston Canyon, Lake Louise, and Moraine Lake. Click here to learn more.

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