Travel Guide: Banff
I didn’t realize how much I craved adventure until Banff. Everything about it was magical. From the neverending expanse of mountains to the freshest air I’ve ever inhaled, there’s a reason why even after six months of visiting, I still dream about it every day. Partly for nostalgic reasons, and partly because I think everyone should at some point in their lives visit Banff, I decided to share with you the travel guide we had created for this trip. 🙂
Let’s start with the essentials:
- Comfortable clothing: t-shirts, sweaters, yoga pants
- Hiking shoes/ running shoes
- Undergarments + swimsuit
- 1 night-out attire
- Toothpaste and toothbrush
- Cameras: go pro, DSLR
- First aid kit
- Insect repellant
- Bear Spray: depending on where you stay, this may be provided
In our case, we decided to rent a car from the Calgary International Airport (YYC) to really maximize on our experience. This was my first time renting a car, as I just turned 25 lol, and it was both exciting and nerve-wracking. The rental cost us about $350 and spent $70 on gas for the 5 days we were in Banff.
Our rating: 5 stars | Price: $330 for 2 nights
Our rating: 3.5 stars | Price: $395 for 2 nights
We arrived at the YYC airport around 12:30pm. On our way to Canmore, we decided to stop by a mall nearby (don’t remember what it’s called) to grab lunch and visit Dollarama for water supply and snacks.
Downtown Canmore @2PM
Before checking in to our first hotel, we decided to explore Downtown Canmore and immediately acted like tourists. I found a cute little bookshop and left with a book. Then we visited Rocky Mountain Bagel Co, grabbed a cup of coffee, a pumpkin spice bar & and a piece of brownie.
Copperstone Resort @4PM
The hotel was about 15 minutes away from downtown Canmore. It was very spacious, it had a kitchen, washer & dryer, jacuzzi, and at night they had bonfires in the garden. I highly recommend staying here.
The Iron Goat & Pub Grill @6PM
We didn’t make reservations thinking we’d have no problem getting a spot, I was wrong. Make sure to call in advance so you can get a good spot by the window. I selected the Honey Bourbon Mixed Grill which was a Centre-cut boneless pork loin topped with a sustainable grilled shrimp skewer and blackened tilapia served with a baked sweet potato. It was heaven in my mouth hehe
Grassi Lakes @10AM
According to our research, Grassi Lakes trail is a great option for beginners (for other hiking trail options, visit Tourism Canmore). We google mapped the location and it brought us to the tip of the trail. While looking for the path, we came across a couple of hikers and asked them where to go. Surprisingly they pointed down to a very rocky slope without any railing. Every 5 minutes, we would stop, as I gasped for air and shook in fear. The whole time, I was thinking how out of shape I was. I didn’t understand how other “beginners” could do the trail. Then at the very bottom, we saw a sign warning travellers about the path we were just on. “Extreme rock fall hazard exists beyond this point” it said. I hated every moment of it then but now I must say that it was worth every trembling muscle.
FYI, I convinced myself and Ire that we could do an expert trail prior to going. So foolish lol
Banff Lake Cruise @1pm
Part of the Explore Rockies Combo package was a Banff Lake Cruise, which introduced us to the rich history of Lake Minnewanka, the biggest lake in Banff National Park and gave us insights into Banff’s wildlife and vegetation. A little fun fact: underneath Lake Minnewanka is a submerged 1888 village. Go see it if you’re into that kind of stuff. Winter is apparently the best time for divers to visit.
Mountain Sulfur @4pm
This was a test to my cardio once again. I swear we must have walked over 10,000 steps just to explore the whole place and reach the highest peak possible. This was also probably one of my favourite places. In spite being short on breath the whole time, I was honestly so grateful because everything about it was so incredibly beautiful.
The drive to the Athabasca Glacier was my favourite part of the whole trip. The whole drive captured the essence of Banff. Honestly, if you’re on a budget but still wish to visit Banff, just rent a car and drive. Living in the GTA, and being stuck in traffic almost every day for work, I can’t help but miss that drive almost every day.
p.s. The Athabasca Glacier is about 3 hours away from Banff, so be sure to plan accordingly aka leave early.
Glacier Walk @12pm
The tour started at the Columbia Icefield Area, then from there a bus transported us to a station where we could ride these special glacial vehicles. The ride in total probably took 20 minutes each way then we had about 10-15 minutes exploring the glacier. We were with a group of about 30 people, and there were other tour groups visiting as well, so by the time we reached our destination, it was packed. Our tour guide was also warning us about exploring too far, as the ice could break and we could fall and die a very tragic death. lol All in all, it was a cool experience that I will always remember, but it was also a bit too crowded for my liking.
Imagine being over 20,000 ft high above ground, then looking down on your feet and seeing everything below you very clearly. The Skywalk was a unique experience that I will always treasure because 1. it helped me conquer my fear of heights and 2. it helped me conquer my fear of heights lol Again, we were with a fairly large group of people, so it got a bit too crowded when we were trying to take photos and people got really rude because they wanted to take the whole area while taking selfies.
At night, we decided to have a fancy dinner at the Lakeview Lounge at Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. I was craving Indian food (I’ve been craving Indian food a lot lately, in case you can’t tell) so I had butter chicken. It was a nice way to end a very eventful day.
Lake Louise @10AM
We woke up bright and early to visit Lake Louise. It was even more incredible in person than in pictures. We were originally just going to sit by the water and just take in the view then we saw people canoeing and convinced ourselves that we’d be missing out if we didn’t do it. So we did, and ventured forth on the most relaxing one-hour experience. I could still remember the freshness of the waters, the sound of birds as they fluttered above us, and the calmness of the lake as we maneuvered our way. It wasn’t originally part of the plan but it became one of the best parts of the whole trip. Spontaneity has it’s moments.
Banff Springs Spa @3PM
A friend once told me that the best way to end a trip is to spend it at a spa. I’ve taken those words to heart. There’s no better way to reward your body after a very eventful several days. Thank your body for all it was able to accomplish and allow it to unwind.
We left our hotel around 11 am, and drove for 3 hours back to downtown Calgary, we explored the area for a bit before heading back to our airport for our flight.
Everything about Banff was magical, and will always hold a special place in my heart. Thank you for being breathtaking, Banff. ’til next time!