What to See:
So, I’m going to split this into parts because within Banff National Park there are kinda several different areas. The Banff area, the Lake Louise area, and Icefields Parkway. Plus, if you head up to Jasper (which if you do, you need to stay at least one night there) there are a bunch of things to see on the way.
- Lake Minniewanka (easy to get to, just drive up to it)
- Two Jack Lake (Right next to Lake Minniewanka, also super easy to get to, if you go to one you should go to the other)
- The town of Banff (So many crazy cute shops! A little on the expensive side, but all really nice stuff! There even is a small mall!)
- Banff Upper hot springs (Get there early, like right when they open because after about an hour after opening that place is completly packed. Totally worth going to once, but if your not going there for photos and your hotel has a hot tub it’s really not necessary)
- Banff gondola (There are several different gondolas in the area, we chose to go on this one. Completely worth the price! So many amazing views. I recommend doing the full hike on the wood walkway. Not too long, makes it all worth it.)
- Ski resort
- High Rollers bowling ally (UGH! I absoulouty love this place! It is the cutest little retro bowling alley that serves pizza! They even have another area where you can play pool. If I lived in Banff I would always be here. TIP: there are only 6 lanes, so if you plan on going bowling, make reservations.)
- Cave and Basin (Very quick easy stop, no hiking required. It is worth it to see once. TIP: a lot of the attractions you can buy bundle deals at. For example we bought a bundle deal at Banff Upper Hot Springs for both it AND cave and Basin, which saved us a little.)
LAKE LOUISE AREA:
- Lake Louise itself (A must see! Even during winter!! In winter they have the most beautiful ice castle which makes for awesome photos! They also have an ice skate rink and a hockey rink on the lake as well. I believe we found ourselves here at least 3 times wandering around!)
- Lake Louise Ski Resort (Where we went! This also seemed to be the only ski resort all the locals recommended as well.)
- Peyto Lake (To get to the lookout, you have to go to Bow summit and then take a little walk to the view. If you are going during winter you have to park in the lower parking lot which makes it about a mile round trip to the lookout. Not a difficult little hike at all even during winter!)
- Bow lake (Just a quick drive by/pull over and see stop)
- Johnson canyon (One of the places I wish we had time for! Based on our research it seems to be a pretty easy hike. Very safe and lots of railing which is nice for winter. Wearing yak tracks are definitely a must.)
- Emerald Lake (a must see in summer, and is still gorgeous in winter, but if you don’t have time on your trip it is a little out of the way and not needed.)
ICEFIELDS PARKWAY | GOING UP TO JASPER:
- Peyto Lake and Bow lake are kinda at the very start of Icefields Parkway.
- Abraham lake (Probably one of my most favorite stops! A MUST SEE IN WINTER! It is the frozen bubble lake! The best spots to see the bubbles are Preachers point, where we went, Belly of Abraham, Cling Landing, and Hoodoo Creek. NOTE: this is in the middle of no where, meaning no gas and no food. Luckily there is a rest stop very close to the lake on the way there!)
- Athabasca Glacier (Really awesome stop! Due to winter conditions you can’t park at the closest parking lot, but you can still walk there if you are up for it! I would suggest instead of following the trail or what you think is a trail, we realized on the way back that it is WAY easier to just follow the snow covered road that leads to the closer parking lot. It’s not as deep of snow. The trail trail is not very well marked AT ALL. We ended up tromping through 2 feet of snow.
- Sunwapta Falls (Short little hike. Sadly we weren’t able to squeeze it in.)
- Athabasca Falls (Another MUST SEE if you are headed all the way to Jasper! Not really a hike at all and if you are going during winter it will probably be the only NON frozen water you see!)
Where We Stayed:
- The first two nights we stayed in the town of Banff at the Elk + Avenue Hotel, which was really nice! If you plan on staying near the town of Banff I definitely would recommend staying on the downtown strip. Makes life a little easier being able to just walk to most everything you need.
- The next two nights we stayed at the Deer Lodge, which is in the Lake Louise area, practically right next to the Lake Louise itself. It is close enough to the lake that you can pretty much just walk to it. The Lodge itself has well.. a lot of charm lets just say haha. It is a gorgeous lodge and has the most stunning views from the hot tub (seen in photo below), however the walls are definitely thin. There’s not much privacy what so ever and you can definitely hear everyone’s full conversations in the rooms next door and across from you. You could easily just join in haha. PRO TIP: This is definitely a cheaper route than staying at the Fairmont on the Lake while still being in a great location. The place is stunning for photos, but if you are looking for a hotel that you can really just hang out and relax at, it is not for you.
- Our fourth night we DID stay at the Fairmont, just to get the full experience and see what all the hype is about haha. If you have the cash and you are the type of person that enjoys hanging out in the hotel/resort for most of your trip then it is completly worth it! Everything is stunning! Nick and I also tried to make the most of our one night by taking advantage of all the amenities including: Fitness center, stretch room, pool, hot tub, and steam room! NOTE: you don’t have to stay in this hotel to enjoy ice skating and the ice castle on the lake during winter.
- The last night we were in Jasper and we stay at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge. Extremely nice! We were really only there for probably about 14 hours so we weren’t able to necessarily take it all in. The pool and hot tub are fantastic! Perfect for star watching!
WHERE TO EAT / WHERE WE ATE haha
- Silver Dragon (large portions, plan on splitting dishes)
- Ricky’s All Day grill (we had breakfast here way too many times)
- High Rollers (also a bowling ally)
- Eddie Burger Bar (you can pick the type of meat of your burger here)
- Bill Peyto’s Cafe (Nick and I LOVED this place!)
- Timberwolf Pizza and Pasta Cafe
- Jasper Pizza Place
- Fat Burger (in Calgary)
- We also did a lot of snacking and bought a lot of of food from a grocery store.
- Thermal under clothes are a must! I wore them under everything! The ones I bought from amazon are linked below. I also linked the mens version as well.
- Waterproof mascara. If you are wearing any scarfs or face masks over your mouth and nose to keep warm I quickly realized that the condensation of my warm breath was causing all, and when I say all, I mean ALL of my mascara to drip off my eyelashes and get honestly everywhere!
- If you are coming to Banff over the winter and you are the type of person that wakes up at the crack of dawn, doesn’t go to bed till around 10:00 or later, and you enjoy just pumping out all the activities and sights to see then you really only need to stay four nights and 3 full days here. You can easily see it all in 3 full days. No it won’t be a relaxing trip, but you can see it all!
- All along Icefields Parkway we had no service whatsoever. I would recommend screenshoting places, and maps on your phone that may be important. Or also just carrying a map haha.
- Packing lunches is an easy way to save money, also on some days is a must due to ending up in the middle of nowhere.
What I Packed: