Have you ever taken a last minute trip without having done much research, not knowing what to expect? When my mom and I set off for our spur of the moment trip to Banff and the Canadian Rockies, we knew it would be pretty, but oh how mistaken we were!
In fact, having arrived in Banff at night, we were totally unaware of the scenery around us. Starting off the next day along Banff Avenue, mountains towered all around, with the quaint town perfectly nestled among them. If you’ve never been to the Canadian Rockies, the mountains viewed from town will take your breath away before you even see an “actual” sight!
Banff National Park quietly and, quite easily, stole a piece of my heart, which is why I present you with 3 reasons (of so many!) to visit Banff National Park immediately.
1. The Lakes
Lake Louise, Lake Minnewanka, and Moraine Lake to name just a few. The turquoise blue of the glacier fed lakes, set against the evergreen forests and the majestic mountains, will make you gasp every time you set eyes on them.
Lake Louise is the must-see crown jewel on everyone’s list. It’s about a 30-minute drive from the town of Banff, still within the national park. From Banff, be sure to drive along the Bow Valley Parkway from Banff to Lake Louise for a much more scenic drive than the highway. If you’re lucky, you might just spy some wildlife.
At Lake Louise, you can horseback ride, hike, canoe, have lunch outside at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, and of course, just sit lakeside and take in the natural beauty around you. If you’re up for a moderately strenuous hike, head up the mountain, through the forest, past Mirror Lake, to Lake Agnes Teahouse, where you can
catch your breath give yourself a pat on the back for completing the hike and enjoy a light lunch.
Moraine Lake is only a short drive from Lake Louise. Depending on your day’s activities, you could easily see both lakes in the same day. Both lakes have hiking trails, but some of them at Moraine Lake were closed due to grizzly bears feeding on fish in streams near the trails. Why ruin a fantastic day by not paying attention to all posted bear safety guidelines?
With the fame of Lake Louise and Moraine Lake, it’s easy to overlook the “hidden gem” that is Lake Minnewanka. It’s just 10 minutes by car from the town of Banff and makes for an easy first stop as you begin your day.
There are hiking and picnic areas, as well as hour-long boat rides, where you can cruise along the lake, learn about its history, and capture up-close photos of the surrounding mountains. Avoid waiting in line for boat tickets and opt for a morning ride across the lake.
Banff National Park is home to many different types of animals. Deer, elk, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, black bears, grizzly bears, coyotes, and river otters to name a few. Although we saw some animals during the day, we were luckiest in the mornings and just before evening. Seeing an animal like a bighorn sheep or bear in the wild is thrilling!
Driving or biking the Minnewanka Loop is a popular spot to search out wildlife who are people-watching…
and even on the move people-patrolling!
In all seriousness, if you do spot an animal, please keep a safe distance and remember you are in their territory. Respecting the animal is more important than getting the perfect photo.
Spotting a black bear or grizzly bear is on the top of the wildlife spotting list for most visitors. This grizzly bear was alongside the road on the way to Moraine Lake meticulously eating every berry off a bush. It was shocking to see how close people got to this bear! I’m not sure what kind of souvenir they were hoping to get, but I’m happy to have seen a bear in the wild and to remember it with my side view photo.
3. The Town of Banff
How many national parks can claim to have an actual town within its bounds? Never mind a town as pretty as Banff! After a day of enjoying the outdoors, the town of Banff is the perfect place to stroll. Banff Avenue in the center of town is lined with shops, restaurants, and bars to enjoy. The Banff Lake Louise Tourism Bureau is also located on Banff Avenue. You can stop in for helpful information about the national park and its sights and activities.
Just 5 minutes from the center of town, take the Gondola up Sulphur Mountain for spectacular views of Banff, the mountains, and the surrounding National Park. It’s well worth your time and money to feast your eyes on views like these!
Here’s what you need to know to book your trip to Banff National Park.
How to Get Here:
The closest airport is Calgary. The airport is serviced by numerous airlines, with flights originating from North America and the U.K. We booked 2 round trip Saver Awards on a United flight from New York to Calgary for a total of 50k miles.
Banff is about an hour and a half west of Calgary. The most convenient way to get to Banff is by renting a car and taking the Trans-Canada Highway toward Banff. The drive in summer is simple to do both day and night because the route is straightforward, just follow the highway to Banff.
Where to Stay:
Banff has plenty of hotels for every type of budget located along Banff Avenue and throughout the town. We had a comfortable and enjoyable stay at the Fox Hotel and Suites along Banff Avenue. Parking, breakfast, Wifi, and the excellent location were all included in our rate. I would certainly stay here again.
If you would like to use hotel points for an award stay, you have 2 options. The Best Western Plus Sliding 29 Lodge is located just off Banff Avenue in town and the Fairmont Banff Springs located outside of the town center.
Have you been to Banff National Park? What are your top reasons for visiting?
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