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Banff National Park Travel Guide

Updated: May 2


Moraine Lake

Banff National Park encompasses some of the Canadian Rockies’ most pristine nature scenery. It is famously characterized by its emerald and turquoise glacial lakes, snow-capped mountains, and dense forests. It’s not difficult to see why this national park has become a dream destination for people all over the world- the park attracted approximately 4 million people last year. With 2,564 square miles of unspoiled wilderness, Banff offers a plethora of outdoor activities for nature lovers and adventure seekers.


Quick facts


Language: English and French are the official languages of Alberta- however, a majority of people speak English.


Currency: The Canadian Dollar (CAD) is the currency of Canada. Major credit cards and debit cards such as Visa and MasterCard are accepted.


Weather: High season is between June to August and November to March. Visiting during summer is ideal for travelers who want to explore the park in warm weather, and participate in outdoor activities such as hiking and kayaking. On the other hand, visiting during winter offers an abundance of snow activities such as skiing and snowboarding.


Click on this link for live weather cams throughout Banff National Park.


Things to do in Banff National Park


Lake Louise: Lake Louise is a bucket list destination for many people across the globe and with good reason- picture a deep emerald lake perfectly framed by a mountain backdrop. There are ample activities in and around Lake Louise. Here are a few to check out:


Visit Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise: This iconic hotel is worth a visit even if you aren’t planning on staying overnight.

Take a stroll around Lake Louise: If hiking isn’t your forte, consider taking a scenic, leisurely walk around the lake.

Rent a canoe: If you’re visiting during summer, rent a canoe from the boathouse and experience Lake Louise in a unique way.

Hike to Lake Agnes Teahouse/Big Beehive: This hike is one of the most popular trails in the area. After a steep uphill hike, you’ll be rewarded with a small mountain lake and a bird’s-eye view of Lake Louise.


Lake Louise

Lake Louise

Moraine Lake: This gem in the Canadian Rockies boasts an extraordinarily blue lake sitting beneath dramatic, snow-capped mountains. Moraine Lake is easily one of the most breathtakingly stunning places I’ve ever visited- you need to add it to your bucket list. For the best views of the lake, climb ten minutes uphill to the top of the “rock pile.”


Moraine Lake

Forest surrounding Moraine Lake

Peyto Lake: Moraine Lake and Peyto Lake are undoubtedly on par for incredibly turquoise water. Peyto Lake is located down in a valley, and is entirely surrounded by forests and a jagged mountain range.


Tip: Take a short hike to this secret lookout for better views and less crowds than the observation deck lookout. Click here for exact details.


Peyto Lake

Mushrooms on trail to Peyto Lake overlook

Other spots to check out:


Bow Lake: This glacial lake is located nearby Peyto Lake, making it a great pit stop when you’re driving along the Icefields Parkway.

Johnston Canyon: Johnston Canyon offers easy trails that reward hikers with two turquoise waterfalls.

Banff Gondola: Conquer your fear of heights by riding the Banff Gondola to the top of Sulfur Mountain. From the 360-degree rooftop observation deck, you’ll be able to get panoramic views of lakes and mountain ranges below.


Budget


If you’re planning a trip to Banff, you’ll quickly notice that visiting the national park is not cheap. However, don’t fret- planning a somewhat affordable trip is still feasible. Here are a few tips to visit Banff on a budget:


• Consider camping or staying in a nearby city outside Banff. Hotels and lodges in the park generally carry hefty price tags.

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

• If your accommodation has a kitchen, consider preparing some of your own meals as an alternative to eating out at restaurants.


Here is an estimate of how much my friend and I spent during our 3-day, 2-night 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

Where to stay in Banff National Park


Staying in Calgary: If you’re on a budget, I recommend staying in Calgary- Airbnb rentals and hotels are relatively inexpensive here. Note that Banff is a 90-minute drive from Calgary, making it more convenient for travelers solely seeking day trips to the national park.


Staying in Banff National Park: If you are seeking more convenience, there are several lodging options in the national park- hotels, hostels, and Airbnbs are plentiful. Here are a few top-rated accommodations to check out:


• Fairmont Banff Springs: fairmont.com/banff-springs

• Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise: fairmont.com/lake-louise

• Rundlestone Lodge: rundlestone.com

• Banff Caribou Lodge & Spa: banffcariboulodge.com

• Hidden Ridge Resort: banffhiddenridge.com

• Buffalo Mountain Lodge: crmr.com/buffalo


Camping in Banff National Park: Click here for detailed camping options.


Lake Louise

Getting around in Banff National Park


Car: The best way to get around Banff is by driving your own car or renting a car as you can access more areas at your own pace. Note that a Parks Pass is required when visiting Banff if you are planning on driving. Click here to purchase the pass online.


Public transit: The sole form of public transportation in Banff is the Roam bus, which provides services to popular spots such as Lake Louise and Moraine Lake. Click here for detailed information about Roam Public Transit Service.


Bus: HopOnBanff is a tour service with stops in Banff Town, Johnston Canyon, Lake Louise, and Moraine Lake. Note that it only runs from May to October. Click here for more information on this bus tour.