Hey guys! Siera here. So I recently took my first trip to Canada / Banff National Park and I am beyond excited to share my experience with you! Most people don’t think about visiting Canada, and they’re missing out. It’s absolutely breathtaking and certainly worth visiting (I will be going back again). Hopefully, some of my suggestions listed below will help you with planning your own trip!
Banff Travel Guide
What to Pack When Traveling to Banff National Park
Just a quick forewarning, many of the items listed below are obviously not required but I do recommend them! Most people I saw were wearing plain everyday clothes and tennis shoes. However, I cannot attest to how comfortable they were and would have been if it started pouring rain. I realized I was a lot more comfortable having packed the following items:
- A waterproof jacket
- Basic waterproof hiking shoes
- Hiking pants (ie. water-resistant sweat pants)
- A backpack (this is a must for carrying water, snacks, and storing layers)
- A water bottle (also a must!)
- A camera (no brainer)
Transportation To & From Banff National Park
Before you leave for your trip, you’ll need to decide whether you’ll be renting a car or if you’re going to be relying on public transportation.
If you choose: A) renting a car, then you know you have reliable transportation and will only need to keep in mind budgeting for gas and a daily National Park pass for parking.
If you choose B) public transportation, then here are a couple of things to be aware of – you will need to get to and from the Canmore/Banff area by either taking a taxi or a shuttle. Shuttle services will be cheaper than taxi, but be prepared – it’s expensive regardless.
However, unlike your options for getting to and from the airport, there are plenty of options for getting around while in Banff/Canmore. You can choose to walk, take the roam transit, call a taxi, or as the locals suggest – you can also try hitchhiking (thanks, but no thanks). Walking around the individual towns is pretty easy regardless of where you’re staying, but the roam transit was an awesome choice for getting back and forth between the two towns as they’re twenty minutes apart. It only cost us $6 CAD each for one way. Compare that to a $55 taxi rate, then it’s a pretty good deal. However, note that it’s very important to keep the roam transit schedule in mind, especially holiday hours as they stop going to Canmore earlier than the time they stop commuting through the town of Banff.
Living Accommodations in Banff / Canmore
We stayed at the Silver Creek Lodge. As much as I loved our stay here, I would not recommend it to someone who is traveling on a budget. We booked a flight/hotel package as it was cheaper (holiday weekend) but it’d typically be more affordable to stay in a hostel or an Airbnb if you’re booking everything separately. Our costs ended up being equivalent to a $500 flight and $400 stay ($100/night per person) which, though a little pricey, is well worth it if you want a kitchen (will save money of food in long run) and want a nice place to come back to after an exhausting day of hiking, which we did! We did get one free load of laundry as well, which was a nice perk as well as easy access to sushi and drinks in the lobby!
Where to Eat in Banff / Canmore
My advice is to eat your breakfast and dinner at your hotel. Easy and inexpensive things such as pasta and cereal are good ideas for keeping costs low and lasting you four days if you have a kitchen. If you don’t have access to a kitchen, then share major meals with another person and/or don’t stop anywhere for snacks. We decided we wanted to splurge on pastries/snacks and coffee rather than entire meals. A comparison: $9-$12 CAD for two people for coffee and a snack or $25-$100 CAD for two people to have a meal. Listed below are a few of my recommendations.
Canmore: Communitea Café
A local tea joint in the middle of town. I was not overly impressed with my pumpkin spice tea, but my boyfriend’s tea was much better (Lemon Meringue) and to be fair, the gentleman working warned me that my flavor was not his favorite. We shared breakfast this one morning and it was perfect for me because it was my entire diet all in one bowl. Something I found interesting was that I asked for their “red pepper sauce” and it turned out to be salsa.
Canmore: Beamer’s Coffee
We had the apple strudel warmed up and a caramel apple cider topped with whipped cream. So good! Warmed up, the strudel fell apart and was to die for. This particular café looked like it was a quieter local spot as well, which was a bonus. It was a lot quieter and affordable than Good Earth Coffee, for example.
Canmore: Good Earth Coffee
A bit busier than Beamer’s Coffee, but also good and what appeared to be a local hot spot. We had a Chai Latte (too milky for my taste) and a pesto asparagus flatbread and cranberry pecan pastry. Both food items were delicious and highly recommended. In fact, I had to try really hard not to get a second pastry – it was that good.
Banff: Bruno’s Bar and Pub
If you’re looking at getting away from the crowds and getting most out of your money, I’d recommend. For $12 CAD we got twice as much food as we would have anywhere else that would have charged us $32+ CAD. Food was good, nothing exceptional though other than the amount you get. It was very quiet, which was nice seeing as how busy everywhere else looked.
Sightseeing in Banff National Park
Lake Louise to Lake Agnes Tea House
A must-do in my book! Part of me wishes that I could tell you that it’s not what it’s all hyped up to be, but it was breathtaking and I will not deny that. Right off the lake is the trail to hike up to Lake Agnes Teahouse too, which is a popular hike and worth taking. Starting from Lake Louise to the tea-house you will see a total of 3 lakes (Louise, Mirror, and Lake Agnes) and get wonderful views of the Rockies (Big Beehive in particular) and Lake Louise. The hike took us about 2.5 hours’ total, taking into consideration that we spent some time taking in the views before turning around.
Walk the Bike Trails to Sundance Canyon
These bike trails are located behind the Cave and Basin Museum in Banff. You can walk or bike. We never got to Sundance Canyon, but did take in the miraculous views along the way. It was very peaceful and not quite as busy as some other areas. Tip: You will probably assume you have to purchase a pass to get on the trails because the museum appears to be an entrance, but the museum is not required. Hopefully, I can save you $3.50 CAD.
Hike Tunnel Mountain
We decided to do this last minute and so glad we did. The hike itself isn’t anything super exciting, but it consists of a series of turns. There are some views on the way, but the good ones don’t begin until you’re closer to the top. There are spots towards the top that might seem like you have made it, but keep going a bit further past an area where you will see two red chairs. At the top you will get a good view of the Fairmont Hotel, a beautiful castle-like structure as well as the town of Banff. Total time: About two hours round trip depending on how long you want to stay at the top.
Hike up to Grassi Lakes
Our plan was actually to hike Ha Ling Peak, but then we came across the trail to the Grassi Lakes and decided on that instead since we had already been walking for 3 + hours. It’s a lot more enclosed and forest-like than the other ones we did. No really good views of the mountains close up, but you do get a view of Kananaskis County. You will also come across a big waterfall. I will warn you that there are a lot of cliffs in comparison to the other hikes. This was the closest we got in comparison to Johnston Canyon, which we so badly wanted to see, but was far too expensive to do a tour or get a Taxi out to see. Do it if you have a car rental 🙂 I don’t have a total time for this hike, but know that it’s about two miles round trip.
In conclusion, everything I have shared with you is based on my three-day experience, but the places to see are endless if you have more time or are willing to squeeze more into a long weekend. I hope you’re inspired to see the Canmore/Banff area for yourself; I promise it’s worth it.
As always, feel free to comment and stick around for more posts on my many more adventures.
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