Banff National Park is the oldest national park in Canada and just about one of the prettiest places on earth. Meanwhile, the town of Banff is interesting in its own right. If you’re thinking this slice of the Canadian Rockies isn’t worth a long weekend, think again. Here are 3 perfect days in Banff:
Day 1: Explore The town of Banffand around
The area in and directly around the town of Banff could keep you busy for several days. To wrap all the highlights into a few days, first head to the Banff Gondola to get a bird’s eye view of the area. The gondola will take you to the top of Sulfur Mountain in both summer and winter months for some of the best views in town.
For an activity withoutthe altitude try kayaking on the Bow River. The river runs through the massive Bow Valley and collects mineral rich water which gives it a distinct blue color. For those who’d prefer to walk rather than paddle, there is no shortage of trails that wind their way along the river.
Also on the banks of the Bow is an important Canadian National Historic site, the Cave and Basin. As its name indicates it’s a cave with pools of water inside which are fed from hot springs. What makes the Cave and Basin important is that it was the site that Banff National Park was founded around.
For a break from nature head back into Banff town to explore its many shops, bars and restaurants this little resort village has to offer. Banff has a rustic chic style with plenty of boutiques and outdoors related shopping. Given that it’s a popular place to stay while visiting the park, there are many restaurant options from simple pubs to fine dining.
After a day exploring the town, and all the beautiful nature around it, head to Banff Avenue Brewing for a pint of craft beer. Located in in the heart of town and a quick walk to other lively places to keep the night going, try one of their unique dishes like rustic elk meatloaf or wild boar bolognese.
Day 2: Lake Louise and Moraine Lake
Two of Canada’s most famous lakes are located just a few minutes drive from one another and are a must when visiting Banff National Park. Both are very popular with visitors, so the earlier you arrive, the less crowded the viewpoints will be.
Start with Canada’s quintessential scene at the view point looking over Moraine Lake. Often listed as the country’s most photographed place, once you visit Moraine Lake you’ll know why. The still aquamarine waters reflect the high snow capped peaks of the mountains behind. Bring your camera and plan to be there for a while.
Back across the highway is another gem of the Canadian Rockies, famous Lake Louise. Of all the lakes in the area, Lake Louise is known for its signature aqua color. Again surrounded by mountains, though not quite as impressive as Moraine Lake. Make time for some hiking around the lake, or jump into one of the famous red kayaks and paddle around the lake.
After finishing up at the lake, make your way to Lake Louise Ski Resort and take their ski lift to the top. If it’s winter, grabs some gear and try out one of Canada’s largest ski areas. If you happen to visit when it’s not ski season, still make your way to the top for some nice hiking and great views.
On your way back to Banff town make a stop and catch the sunset at Castle Mountain. A quick pull off of down HWY 1A brings you to a place where you can catch the sun cast its last rays on the castle-shaped rock formations that make up Castle Mountain. Many evenings the mountain will light up shades of pink and orange making it a favorite among photographers.
Day 3: Banff Northern Highlights
Continuing north the scenery continues to impress. Just when you have seen the most stunning landscape ever, there’s another one just as beautiful. The first stop to the north on HWY 93 is Bow Lake. Similar to Lake Louise and others in the area, Bow Lake is fed by glaciers and has that amazing aqua blue color. Take time to hike around or just jump out and snap a few pictures.
A short drive up the road is another natural stunner in Peyto Lake. To see this lake you’ll need to take a short and easy 10-20 minute hike to a view point to see the unique shape and brilliant color. From the lookout, you’ll see what makes this lake worth the hike. Standing high above, you can see the crow’s foot shape of the lake surrounded by impressive mountains.
Venturing further afield on Alberta’s HWY 93 will bring you to the stretch of road known as the Icefields Parkway. This road joins Banff National park with Jasper National Park and it’s absolutely littered with stunning scenery. The mountains, lakes, and rivers along this piece of road will have you frequently pulling over. One of the most popular stop-offs is the Columbia Icefields, which is a glacier you can actually hike across.