Destination: Banff — a 7-day Itinerary

Flights are booked, but now what? We’ve got a full seven-day itinerary mapped out for you to help you plan your perfect trip to Banff National Park. All you have to do is say “yes” to a trip of a lifetime with extraordinary views, delicious meals, and adventures for every style.

 

DAY ONE – Journey Back in Time and Explore the History of Canada’s First National Park

Banff Wildlife includes Bison

Take a short walk from town to Cave and Basin National Historic Site where you can explore the interpretive exhibits, learn about the natural and cultural history of the area, and wander the boardwalks surrounding the springs.

Once you’ve brushed up on your history and learned which animals to expect through a tour of Banff Park Museum, you’re ready to search for some that are inhabiting the park today. Take a wildlife tour for a northern version of the safari. Winding mountainous roads may surprise you with a visit from our wild neighbours.

Exploring the valleys is hungry work and you’ve yet to see all that these mountains have to offer. Hop on the Banff Gondola and dine at 7,400 ft. With sweeping views brought to you by floor-to-ceiling glass windows, you’ll be hard pressed to find somewhere more phenomenal to enjoy your dinner. Sky Bistro’s regionally sourced menu focuses on bringing local farmers to your table, serving you the best of what Alberta and B.C. have to offer.

Now it’s time to sit back, relax, and search the skies above for the stars. On the sightseeing deck of the Banff Gondola, you’ll feel like you’ve left this world and entered a new one of dark skies speckled with stars.

 

DAY TWO – Watch the Sunrise from the Top of Tunnel Mountain

Tunnel Mountain

Rise and shine! Make your way to the top of Tunnel Mountain for sunrise. You’ll summit in approximately an hour for breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains and the town of Banff below. Check out some Locals’ Favourite Hikes for more adventure inspiration.

Skipping your morning coffee to make sunrise was well worth the sacrifice, but now that you’re on your way down the mountain, your next adventure will have to wait until you’ve had your fill. Stop in for a tasty bite at one of these breakfast restaurants with a view to refuel before the day continues.

For another perspective of the mountains, it’s time to head up to Mt. Norquay. The drive up is super scenic, so take the free shuttle and keep your eyes on the view. A quick whisk up the sightseeing chairlift and you’ve reached the sightseeing platform with views stretching in every direction. This is the perfect spot to stop for lunch with the Cliffhouse Bistro offering a contemporary menu with a mountain casual feel. Want to get a little higher? Book on the Via Ferrata tour to climb to the summit of Mt. Norquay and stand where few have stood before.

If you missed the Cave and Basin on your first day, head over for an after-dark tour lit by lanterns.

 

DAY THREE – Take your Sightseeing Views to Greater Heights

Banff Canoe Club

We have our fair share of gondolas in Banff National Park, and there’s a good reason why: they all bring you to different and equally incredible landscapes. The Banff Sunshine Gondola gives you easy access to a remote valley with lakes, wildflowers, and kilometres of walking trails as you straddle the border between Alberta and B.C.

Those alpine lakes you saw at Banff Sunshine will have you wishing you could explore them by canoe, SUP, or kayak. Back in Banff, you can rent all three at the Banff Canoe Club and head over to Vermilion Lakes. As you paddle along, keep a close eye out for beavers, birds, and even the odd elk along the shoreline.

Along your travels so far, you’ve met a local or two and they’ve likely shared their favourite parts about Banff and Lake Louise with you. One thing that’s sure to be on everyone’s list is the farmer’s market. On Wednesday’s throughout the summer, pop over for lunch, fresh veggies, local handmade wares, and live music.

You’ve hiked past lakes, paddled through them, but you haven’t seen all that these crystal waters have to offer. A short drive, or bus ride, from the town of Banff will take you along the Lake Minnewanka Loop, where you’ll see the lake itself along with Two Jack Lake.

 

DAY FOUR – Choose Your Own Adventure

White Water Rafting

You’ve seen the Rocky Mountains that Alberta is famous for, but you’ve also heard tales of the West and have been craving a try at the cowboy lifestyle. Saddle up and take a horseback tour or horse-drawn wagon tour and see how these mountains were historically explored.

Taking a trip to the past is one thing but being a part of history is another. Take a guided tour with Canmore Cave Tours to explore a wild cave system that stretches below the Rockies. The temperature hovers around 5°C all year, so it makes for a great escape from both the heat and the cold.

If you’d rather feel the rushing water beneath you, a rafting tour may be better suited. From gentle floats to whitewater rafting, you’ve got plenty of tours to choose from.

A morning of adventure might have you looking for a little reprieve. Take a leisurely drive or the new Roam Route 8S down the Bow Valley Parkway. You’ll pass Johnston Canyon, a place popular for its hiking trails, and Morant’s Curve, a place made famous by National Geographic photographer Nicholas Morant for its mountain backdrop and well-timed train passings. If you travel like a local, you’ll want to visit late in the day or early in the morning to give yourself the best chance to spot wildlife along this scenic stretch.

You’ll also find exceptional cuisine along this road. Baker Creek Mountain Resort and Storm Mountain Lodge not only offer seasonally inspired menus, but also offer a true respite: log cabins, crackling fires, and a goodnight’s sleep to the sound of the forest’s soothing calmness. For more cozy cabin inspiration, check out Your Guide To A Cozy Cabin Holiday.

 

DAY FIVE – Discover the World-Famous Lake Louise

Lake Louise

It’s turquoise blue hues that cover magazines and Instagram feeds are unparalleled in real life. Start the morning off with a quick walk along the lakeshore or opt for a longer hike to one of the two tea houses that are only accessed during the summer.

Local Tip: The wait time for shuttles to Lake Louise and Moraine Lake can be up to 2 hours in popular summer months. Do as the local’s do and take transit direcly from Banff to skip the queue, get dropped off right at the lakeshore, and spend more time exploring!

When you’re ready to give your hiking boots a break, hop aboard the Lake Louise Gondola. Keep a keen eye below, this territory is famous for wild grizzly bear sightings.

Now it’s really time to kick your boots up. Lake Louise offers spectacular dining options for every taste, from Deer Lodge and Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, to the Whitehorn Bistro at the top of the gondola.

 

DAY SIX – Get Ready for a Day of Adventure on the Stunning Icefields Parkway

Icefields Parkway

Rated one of the best drives in the world, the Icefields Parkway winds you through mountains and glaciers alike. Allow yourself extra time along this drive to stop into some of our more hidden gems like Bow Lake and Mistaya Canyon. For more inspiration, check out 11 Unforgettable Stops on the Icefields Parkway.

Once you’ve made it as far as the Athabasca Glacier, it will be time to pull over for lunch and a sightseeing tour of the glacier itself. Step onto the seriously cool all-terrain Ice Explorer, just make sure to bring a sweater, it can be cold standing on top of a glacier.

From here, your tour will take you to the Glacier Skywalk. A glass-floored cliff-side bridge that suspends 918 feet over the Sunwapta Valley. Enjoy, quite literally, a 360-degree views of the valley with waterfalls, fossil, and wildlife abound.

 

DAY SEVEN – Relax and Restore your Energy 

Banff Hot Springs

Visit one of our yoga studios for a quick stretch and reset before your plane ride home.

Or, stop by the Banff Upper Hot Springs to leave you completely refreshed.

Feel cleansed with a walk along the mountain trails listening to the sounds of nature and taking a moment to fully appreciate yourself and all of your experiences. Follow the trails along the Bow River to the Bow Falls, or in the opposite direction to the Fenland Loop along the path you paddled just days before.

Your final dinner before departing should wrap up everything special about your trip. Head up to the Three Ravens at Banff Centre for a meal with a view of all of Banff. Cap your night with a walk through the Walter Phillips Gallery or see what art you can find on a stroll around the campus.

 

 

 

Courtesy of Banff & Lake Louise Tourism

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