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BANFF ITINERARY – How to Spend 1, 2, or 3 Days in Banff (2022 Guide!)

BANFF ITINERARY – How to Spend 1, 2, or 3 Days in Banff (2022 Guide!)

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When planning a trip to Banff the hardest part is figuring out how you’ll fit everything you want to do into an ideal Banff itinerary. This magical town and national park are filled with literally hundreds of amazing places to visit and, of course, things to do.

But with that said, 3 days or 72 hours in Banff is a good amount of time to visit the majority of the most amazing attractions in Banff. In fact, the last time I visited Banff, 3 days was all the time I had, and although my itinerary was packed with amazing activities, I was still able to enjoy my time and even relax.

But let’s face it, with so many fun things to do in Banff, how do you choose the absolute best to create your own Banff itinerary?

We’ve visited Banff countless times, and even lived next door in Canmore, so we know the area very well. We’ve carefully curated this 3-day Banff itinerary to include the most exciting activities with everything from hot springs to hikes, as well as the best places to eat (delicious food is one of the best parts about travel – am I right?!) This blog is carefully laid out in a way that you can easily see how each day will look.

So, let’s dive in and start planning your ultimate 3-day Banff itinerary!

Note: I’ve written this blog so that it works for a 1, 2, OR 3-day Banff itinerary. If you only have one day, just do the first day of this itinerary (it includes my favorite things to do), but if you have more time, add on the second for a 2-Day Banff itinerary.

Heading to Banff from the Calgary Airport? Check out our blog about all of the different transport options!

Banff Itinerary – Day 1

  • Early Morning: Moraine Lake (summer only)
  • Late Morning: Lake Louise
  • Afternoon: Drive the Bow Valley Parkway & Johnston Canyon
  • Evening: Early dinner in Banff town
  • Night: Banff Hot Springs

Early Morning – Visit Moraine Lake (summer only)

Moraine Lake in Banff, Canada at sunrise
Moraine Lake in Banff, Canada at sunrise

What better way to spend the first morning of your Banff itinerary than by visiting the most beautiful lake in the Banff National Park?! This morning it’s best to rise and shine early and ideally make it to the Moraine Lake parking lot by 6 am.

The reason?

Well, Moraine Lake is arguably the most popular place to visit in Banff National Park and the parking lot often fills up by around 6:00 am. Although it may be dark, people simply arrive at this time to get a parking space so they can spend sunrise overlooking the lake.

Alternative to the early morning: If you don’t want to wake up that early, then be sure to plan ahead and book the shuttle or Park and Ride. If they are already fully booked, try and get onto this highly rated hop-on hop-off tour from Banff! The tour actually visits Lake Louise and Johnston Canyon so it pretty much follows my suggested itinerary anyway!

Plan to spend a couple of hours at Moraine Lake and choose to just relax with a coffee at the viewpoint or conquer a hike. The best things to do at Moraine Lake are:

1. Relax at the rock pile

Me proposing on the rock pile at Lake Moraine in Banff National Park
Me proposing on the rock pile at Lake Moraine in Banff National Park

The rock pile is exactly as the name suggests, a pile of rocks. This is the very famous viewpoint of Moraine Lake and in my opinion (and many others) the best place to view Moraine Lake when you first arrive.

Finding the rocks is easy when it’s light out, but in the dark can be a little tricky. As you drive into the car parking lot, the trailhead starts on your left about halfway down the parking lot.

Follow this trail straight and cross the small bridge and continue hiking up. Here you’ll find a few trails leading to different viewpoints on the rock pile. Just taking in the view from the rock pile is what most people do when they visit Moraine Lake, and it’s probably your best choice if you’re worried about being short on time.

2. Canoe on the lake

Moraine Lake provides one of the most beautiful places in the world to enjoy a relaxing canoe trip. From the edge of the lake, you can rent canoes for most of the summer and paddle out and enjoy the breathtaking views.

Canoe rental starts at $115 CAD for up to 3 people for one hour. Canoe rentals are on a first-come-first-serve basis, so this is another reason to get to Moraine Lake early!

Hot Tip: You’re also allowed to bring your own canoe or kayak to the lake and canoe and kayak until your heart’s content, completely free!

3. Walk the Lakeshore trail

Reflective views at Lake Moraine near Banff at sunrise
Reflective views at Lake Moraine near Banff at sunrise

Although the best views are from the rock pile, you can still take a short walk along the lake and enjoy a more unique view many don’t bother to checkout.

The Lake Moraine Lakeshore Trail is a nice and easy 1.5km (one way) walk that gets you very close to the sheer cliffs of the surrounding mountains.

4. Enjoy a Longer hike at Moraine Lake

Consolation Lakes Trail The Consolation Lakes trail is a very easy 6km (3.7mile) round-trip hike with an elevation gain of only 60m that finishes at the beautiful Consolation Lakes. It’s often required to hike in a group of 4 or more people due to grizzly bear activity in the area.

Larch Valley Trail – A stunning trail most popular in autumn when the Larch trees turn a beautiful yellow color. The Larch Valley and Minnestimma Lakes trail is 4.3km/2.7mi (one way) and takes around 4 hours to complete. If you’re visiting in September and early October I highly recommend this trail!

There are plenty more great hikes at Moraine Lake.

Important info: Moraine Lake closes in the middle of October annually and opens after the winter at the end of May. If you are visiting Banff in winter, skip Moraine Lake and head straight to Lake Louise. There are a ton of fun things to do in Lake Louise in winter like ice skating, dog sledding, and ice castles!

Late Morning – Explore Lake Louise

A foggy morning at Lake Louise
A foggy morning at Lake Louise

After you visit Moraine Lake it only makes sense to head to the nearby Lake Louise. Lake Louise is another stunning lake that’s a must-visit on any itinerary in Banff.

If you arrived at Lake Moraine in the early morning and have made it to Lake Louise before 9 am it’s likely you’ll find a parking space. However, arriving after this time means getting a parking spot at Lake Louise might be a challenge.

With that said, if you spend sunrise at Moraine Lake and then head straight to Lake Louise you will have no problem getting a spot. otherwise, book the Park and Ride in advance which includes a free transfer from Moraine Lake to Lake Louise. Park and Ride MUST be booked in advance. You can read all the info on the shuttles on the Parks Canada website.

Otherwise, this hop-on hop-off bus tour is an excellent option that visits both Moraine Lake and Lake Louise!

Note: From May 13th until October 10th, you’ll be required to pay $12.25 per vehicle per day to park at Lake Louise lakefront (2022 updated price). The paid parking is in effect from 7 am until 7 pm daily.  

Some of the best things to do at Lake Louise include:

1. Canoe on the Lake (summer)

A person canoeing on Lake Louise Canada
Photo Credit – Banff and Lake Louise Tourism Paul Zizka

In the summer, if you didn’t enjoy a canoeing trip on Lake Moraine then you may want to consider canoeing on Lake Louise. The price for non-hotel guests at Chateau Lake Louise is $115 for 30 minutes of $125 for an hour. Canoes here can hold up to 3 adults or 2 adults and two children.

2. Go ice skating on the lake (winter only)

When the lake freezes the canoes get put away and out come the ice skates! Skate rentals start at only $15 for adults and $10 for children and can be rented from the Chateau Lake Louise hotel.

3. Go hiking (some trails are safe in winter)

From Lake Louise, you can venture out onto a few great hiking trails that range in length and difficulty. Some of the best include:

Walk around the lake – You can’t walk around the entire lake, however like Lake Moraine, you can walk along one side for around 3 km each way to the other side of Lake Louise. Here, the lake is much quieter and you can enjoy a more unique view of Lake Louise.

Lake Agnes Tea House – A 6.8km/4.2mi return trip to the stunning Lake Agnes Tea House. This hike is relatively easy and takes around 3 hours to complete. At the tea house, you can enjoy a cup of tea and a slice of pie!

Plaine of Six Glaciers – This 10.6km/6.6mi round-trip hike is known as one of the most scenic in Banff National Park. The trail takes 4 hours to complete and along the way you can stop at the Plain of Six Glaciers Tea House.

The views from the edge of Lake Louise
The views from the edge of Lake Louise

4. Enjoy a meal at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise

Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise is one of the best hotels in Banff and Lake Louise. Of course, staying at the Chateau Lake Louise isn’t in everyone’s budget, but you can still enjoy a nice meal at the hotel restaurant on the lake!

*Don’t forget about Lunch*

I highly recommend getting lunch here at Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise or one of the other restaurants in Lake Louise before heading off on the next part of your Banff itinerary. There isn’t any good food option on the Bow Valley Parkway, and I’m sure after so much exploring you’ll be hungry!

If you want to get something to-go head to The Trailhead Cafe in Lake Louise Village on your way out, they have lots of baked goods including sandwiches.

Early Afternoon – Drive the Bow Valley Parkway

AfternoonDrive the Bow Valley Parkway & Hike Johnston Canyon

Castle Mountain along Bow Valley Parkway
Castle Mountain along Bow Valley Parkway

After you’re done in Lake Louise, it’s time to drive back to Banff town. Instead of just taking the highway, I recommend taking the slight longer but more more scnic drive called the Bow Valley Parkway. The Bow Valley Parkway runs parallel with the highway, but is less buys, more beautiful, and there are some incredible attractions to check out.

This beautiful 51 kilometer stretch of road passes so many amazing viewpoints and lookouts as well as Johnston Canyon. Although you could spend days exploring this area, Johnston Canyon and the few other gorgeous viewpoints make for an amazing few hours!

For now, stop along the way as you please until you reach Johnston Canyon. Here, it’s time to park and get ready for a short hike through the canyon!

Bow Valley Parkway Drive

Some of my favorite things to do on the Bow Valley Parkway include:

Morant’s Curve – A super famous spot where the train passes by with the most breathtaking backdrop!

Castle Cliffs – A short but stunning stop at the base of Castle Mountain to views of these magnificent cliffs!

Storm Mountain – A great place to get out and have a picnic. Storm Mountain gets its name for the fact clouds usually hangs around its peaks.

Moose Meadows – A flat meadows that used to be frequently visited by moose, however, these days, it’s more common to see elk and deer here.

Johnston Canyon

Johnston Canyon Banff National Park
Johnston Canyon in Banff National Park

Johnston Canyon is a great place to visit in Banff as it can be hiked on both a winter and summer itinerary in Banff. In fact, the canyon is completely different in each season so regardless if you’ve done it in one season before, you’re going to want to do it in the other.

At the canyon, the main trail people hike is to the lower and upper falls.

To the lower falls, it’s a 1.1km walk along a relatively flat path that takes around 15 minutes to reach. If you’re heading to the upper falls, it’s another 1.5 km walk from the lower falls. For a return trip to the upper falls allow 2 hours.

Winter tour recommendations: You can do guided walks of the Johnston Canyon in the winter. This daytime Ice Walk is a great tour and if you want a more unique experience then this Johnston Canyon Evening Walk is a good option. winter tours are ideal because thwy include a guide who knows where you can safely walk on the ice as well as safety gear is includes – crampons and helmets.

Note: There will be some closures to vehicle traffic on sections of the Bow Valley Parkway this year (2022). From May 1-June 30 and then again from Sept 1-Sept 30 vehicles will NOT be able to drive the 17km/11mi stretch of road from the TransCanada-Highway junction to Johnston Canyon, it will be restricted to cyclists’ use only. This is the eastern part of the road. You will still be able to access Johnston Canyon and the Bow Valley Parkway via the intersection near Castle Mountain Chalets.

Late Afternon – Relax in Banff town and grab food

The main street in banff, canada called Banff Ave on a sunny day!
Banff Ave, Canada

After the awesome day you’ve just had exploring the Rocky Mountains of Banff and Lake Louise, you’re probably going to be hungry.

So head into Banff town for an early dinner and beat the dinner rush (anytime before 6pm is ideal.) There are dozens of restaurants to choose from, and to be honest, they are all good. Just pick one that stands out to you! Oh, but if you haven’t tried Canadian Poutine yet (cheese curds, french fries, and gravy) then that’s what you should get!

Otherwise, if you’re a beer lover, check out Banff Ave Brewing Co. They are easily one of the best Banff breweries and also serve amazing pub-style food!

Evening – Banff Upper Hot Springs

The Banff Upper Hot Springs on a sunny day with the mountains in the background
The Banff Upper Hot Springs are one of my favorite things to do in Banff, Canada

The Banff Upper Hot Springs is the best place to relax and unwind after a huge day of adventure in Banff National Park!

This Banff itinerary plans for you to visit the hot springs in the evening. Why? Well, this is when they are the least busy! During the day, busloads of tourists visit, but if you go right before close it’ll be much more peaceful. Plus, in the summer months, hot water is much more enjoyable once the sun goes down and the weather cool.

They are also open until 10 or 11 pm (depending on the season) so you have plenty of time there without needing to rush.

Entrance to the springs is only $9.25 CAD and there are change rooms and showers on site. Although not private pools, for the price it’s an activity you shouldn’t miss on your Banff itinerary.

Related Read: Visiting the Banff Hot Springs is one of the best things to do in Banff when it rains because you’ll be wet anyways and it’ll be less busy!


Day 2 – Banff Itinerary

  • Morning: Lake Minnewanka (Cruise or Ice Skating)
  • Afternoon: Bow Falls & Banff Gondola
  • Evening: Vermilion Lakes for sunset
  • Night: Explore Banff Town

Lake Minnewanka

Lake Minnewanka cruise near banff
The views you can expect on the Lake Minnewanka Cruise in Banff

For day two of your Banff itinerary, head down to the stunning Lake Minnewanka. Lake Minnewanka is a stunning lake surrounded by beautiful mountains only a 15-minute drive from Banff.

There are a few differnet ways you can enjoy Lake Minnewanka:

1. Go on a Lake Cruise

The cruise out on Lake Minnewanka is really enjoyable and informative. I recommend joining the 9 am cruise to allow enough time for the rest of your day. Also, the best time to see wildlife on the lake is before 11 am.

The cruise costs $58 CAD online in advance and $64 at the dock and runs for 1 hour. You can book the cruise online direct.

Of course, if the cruise isn’t in your budget then just a visit to the lake is worth it. You can walk along the docks and take in some pretty spectacular views. There are a few other activities around the lake you can enjoy for free.

Note: The Lake Minnewanka Cruise only operates in the summer months.

2. Go ice skating

Visiting Banff in the winter months? Well a cruise on the frozen lake is obviously out of the question, howecer, you can go ice skating instead! Just bring your own skates and hit the ice. Be sure to stop at the Visitor Centre in Banff before you go to ask about ice conditions and only skate when the ice is thick enough.

3. Go Canoeing

At the same dock you take the boat from, is a small canoe rental place that rents canoes to visitors so they can explore the lake. The day I visited the lake the winds were quite high, so canoeing didn’t look too appealing. But on a calm day, canoeing on Lake Minnewanka would be an amazing activity!

4. Hike or bike the Stewart Canyon Trail

Lake Minnewanka
Lake Minnewanka

The Stewart Canyon Trails follows the edge of the lake to the Stewart Canyon. This is a great free activity at Lake Minnewanka in the summer months.

The trail is 6.6 km one way but the great thing is you can hike as far as you want and then turn back. If you’re keen for a longer hike then keep walking until you reach Alymer Lookout (2 km further).

During certain times in summer, it is required to hike in groups of 4 or more so be sure to keep an eye out for signs in the area. This trail is popular so if you’re in a group of 3 or less it won’t be hard finding a few more hiking partners at the trailhead.

Late Afternoon – Bow Falls, Banff Gondola

The views on the Banff Gondola in Canada looking down at Banff and Mt Rundle
The views on the way up from the Banff Gondola

After your morning at Lake Minnewanka, it’s time to enjoy some of the best views around on your 3-day Banff itinerary!

Bow Valley Falls

First off is the Bow Falls viewpoint. This short activity is just about taking in the breathtaking scenery from the ground in Banff. For this activity, you’re only going to need around 15 minutes before heading up the hill to the Banff Gondola. Just park and have a little look around at the falls and stunning river.

Banff Gondola

Banff Gondola, Banff National Park
The top of the Banff Gondola on the boardwalk

The Banff Gondola (also known as Sulphur Mountain Gondola) is the most famous gondola in Banff and Lake Louise. The gondola takes you high above the valley to the top of Sulphur Mountain.

From the top, you get views of six mountain ranges and the beautiful Bow Valley. There is a short (but must-do) boardwalk up the top that leads to an old weather station. Once completed, you can enjoy some food at either the fancy Sky Bistro or market-style dining at Northern Lights. This is a good place to enjoy lunch or even an early dinner.

Important info: The Banff Gondola costs $70 CAD for the return trip. To skip the line at the gondola you can purchase your Banff Gondola ticket in advance and just show it at the gate when you arrive (saving some serious time!)

Evening – Vermilion Lakes for Sunset

Vermilion Lakes Banff National Park
Vermilion Lakes in Banff National Park

Vermilion Lakes is the perfect place to finish off your day of sightseeing and adventure. The lakes are located only 5 minutes from Banff town and are a great place to relax and watch the sunset.

Vermilion Lakes Road is reached from Mt Norquay Road so simply head down the mountain towards Banff and after you cross the Trans-Canada Highway turn right onto Vermilion Lakes Road.

From here, it’s about a 10-minute slow drive along the lakes at which you can stop as you please. The best spot to see the stunning reflections of the mountains is at the end of the road, so keep driving and park near the end to find a spot to relax!

Enjoy this spot until you’ve soaked up the view or until the sun goes down!

Night – Explore Banff Town

souvenir shopping in banff
Sooooo much shopping in Banff!

Tonight, head out into Banff town and relax. Hit the main walking street and explore the many shops and maybe pick up some souvenirs. Banff town is a beautiful place both day and night so relax and unwind because tomorrow’s your last day!

Some of the best things to do in Banff town are:

Visit Banff Ave Brewing Co – Located on the main street of Banff, Banff Ave Brewing Co is the perfect place to try some local beer and great food.

Go souvenir shopping – The main street of Banff is literally filled with little souvenir shops. From little bears to mugs, if you’re after a souvenir to remember your time in Banff you won’t have trouble finding it here!

Visit the Banff Candy Store – This place is filled with all different types of candy and provides some good snacks for your Banff itinerary (try the salt water taffy!)


Banff 3-Day Itinerary

  • Morning: Icefields Parkway
  • Afternoon: Athabasca Glacier
  • Late afternoon: Drive back to Banff, Calgary, or onto Jasper

Morning – Start driving the Icefields Parkway

Icefield Parkway, Banff, Canada
An amazing view we had along the Icefields Parkway, Banff, Canada

If you’re lucky enough to have 3 days in Banff then you should consider driving the Icefields Parkway. The Icefields Parkway was voted as one of the top 10 world’s most spectacular road trips, and honestly, I could agree more. This 230 km (143 miles) stretch of road is breathtaking and making this trip should be at the top of your Banff bucket-list. It’s safe to say I’ve left the best for last!

From Banff, head out and turn left onto the Trans Canada highway and continue straight until you pass through Lake Lousie. After this, you’ll reach a fork in the road and the Icefields Parkway is on the right-hand side. To drive this highway you’ll need a valid Canada Parks Pass, regardless if you plan on stopping or not.

Once you pass the boom gates it’s time to enjoy the most scenic drive in the world!

The Icefields Parkway can be driven all year round, however, it’s subject to closures in winter when there have been heavy snowfalls and you’ll need winter tires (that’s the law). Also in winter, the Athabasca Glaciers tours don’t run and the Columbia Icefield Skywalk is not open.

Important Info: There are limited services along the Icefields Parkway. Fill up with gas in Banff before you leave (to avoid paying a ridiculous amount for gas) and bring a couple of snacks and water with you.

The best places to visit on the IceFields Parkway are:

Bow Lake

Bow Lake is a beautiful lake that on a calm day reflects the surrounding mountains. This is a short visit if you only want to stop at the viewpoint.

Peyto Lake Lookout

You’ve probably seen lots of amazing photos of Perito Lake. It’s one of the most beautiful viewpoints in Banff National Park, and the best part is you can drive right up to it!

Waterfowl Lakes

This lake is absolutely stunning and another short stop on your way through the Icefields Parkway.

Mistaya Canyon

Only a short walk off the highway you can visit this beautiful canyon and waterfall.

Big Hill and Big Bend

Big Hill lookout on the Icefields Parkway, Canada
Big Hill lookout on the Icefields Parkway, Canada

You can’t miss Big Bend as your driving the parkway. It’s literally just a huge curve in the road before you ascend up to Big Hill. Big Hill is a stunning viewpoint you simply must stop at!

Athabasca Glacier

The Athabasca Glacier is the most popular stop on the Icefields Parkway. There is a viewpoint of the glacier you can hike to (only a short walk) and you can also do tours on the glacier such as the Skywalk and glacier trekking tours, more on this below.

Skywalk

The Skywalk is a paid viewpoint that overlooks the valley and the mountains. It’s well worth a visit and there’s more on this below.

Sunwapta Falls

Sunwapta Falls is another famous waterfall that you’ll only see if you continue on towards Jasper after the Athabasca Glacier. It’s a must-visit!

Athabasca Falls

Athabasca Falls is even closer to Jasper and as such, is often considered one of the best things to do in Jasper. This waterfall is very powerful and has a stunning backdrop!

Afternoon – Athabasca Glacier Adventure (summer only)

Athabasca Glacier
Me, getting out of this massive truck to walk on the Athabasca Glacier!

Of course, you should drive the entire Icefields Parkway to Jasper but before that, stop at the Athabasca Glacier. This massive glacier is part of the Columbia Icefields which is one of the largest icefields in the world.

At the glacier, you can drive to a car parking lot and hike to a viewpoint of the glacier – but for an extra special experience, you must do the Athabasca Glacier Ice Walk. Here you get bused to a station near the glacier where you board an “Ice Explorer”. It’s basically a specially built bus with massive tires on it that they actually use in Antarctica!

Once on the bus, you’ll dive out onto the glacier where you’ll get some free time to explore. Of course, you must stay in the exclusion zone as there is deep crevasses and dangerous areas around! The entire experience is amazing and if you’ve never walked on a glacier before this is a must-do on your Banff itinerary!

Tours on the glacier cost $103 CAD and take around 2 hours to complete.

Be sure to book your Glacier Tour and Skywalk in advance or you’ll get stuck waiting around for a tour like we did! Or worse, miss out completely.

3. Skywalk (summer only)

The Sky Walk near banff and jasper
The platform on the left is the Skywalk

After, you have the option to visit the Skywalk! This is one of the best viewpoints in the Icefields and well worth checking out! You can combine both the Glacier Walk and Skywalk for around $120 CAD. Booking them together will save you money.

Finish your Banff Itinerary

After the glacier tour, you have a few options on where you can go.

Option 1 and my personal suggestion is to keep driving and stay in Jasper! Jasper is another beautiful national park with plenty to see and do! You can book your hotel in Jasper here.

Option 2 is to drive to Calgary. This is a long drive and will take at least 3 hours from the Athabasca Glacier! You can book accommodation in Calgary here

Option 3 is to drive to Edmonton. Once again this drive will take a long time and you should allow 4.5 to 5 hours for it depending on the way you go! Believe it or not, there’s lots to do in Edmonton, even in the winter! Browse accommodation in Edmonton here.

Option 4 is to drive back to Banff and stay in Banff or Canmore. Then leave the following morning. This is a good option for those heading to either Calgary or west towards Revelstoke and Golden. You can book a hotel in Canmore here.

Option 5 is to spend a night on the Icefields Parkway which would be an amazing experience and one I have had the pleasure of doing. In fact, dotted along the highway are a few great places to stay:

Accommodation on the Icefields Parkway

HI Mosquito Creek Hostel
Relaxing at the HI Mosquito Creek Hostel

Num-Ti-Jah Lodge – Located on the shores of Bow Lake this place has one of the most beautiful views you could imagine.

Hi Mosquito Creek Hostel – A budget hostel that’s only a 5-minute drive from Bow Lake. I’ve stayed at this hostel and loved it! They feature dorm beds and private cabins and the place has a sauna!

The Crossing – This hotel sits about 40 km from the Athabasca Glacier and is situated near some spectacular viewpoints and picnic areas. You can also get food and fuel here.

Glacier View Lodge – This is the stunning hotel at the Athabasca Glacier. If your budget permits, it’d be a great place to stay!

Sunwapta Falls Rocky Mountian Lodge – A beautiful hotel located right next to Sunwapta Falls. It’s only 53 km from Jasper and a great place to stay on your Banff itinerary!

Hi Rampart Creek Hostel – Another budget hostel a little further on the Icefields Parkway. They also have a steam room and sauna!

Hi Athabasca Falls – This is the last place to stay on the Parkway Drive. It’s another budget hostel that’s got amazing reviews for being inviting, comfortable, and surrounded by nature!

Important info: There are limited services on the Icefields Parkway. For reference, I’ve dotted out a few of the attractions, fuel, and accommodation in the map below.

Canada Parks Pass

In Banff, you will need a Canada Parks Pass in order to stay in town and explore the area, including the Icefields Parkway.

Parks Canada Pass Quick Info

If you plan on spending time in Canada’s national parks then you’re going to have to pay for a Parks Pass.

Single Daily Admission:

This type of pass is valid for one person for one day. It is ONLY the best value if you are traveling alone and only plan to visit a national park for one day.

  • Adult (ages 18-64) is $11.04 CAD
  • Senior (65+) is $9.41 CAD
  • Youth/Child (17 or younger) is FREE

Group Daily Admission:

If you’re traveling in a group or with family, you can buy a single-day admission for your entire vehicle (up to 7 people in one vehicle.)

  • $21.36 CAD gets your entire vehicle entry for one full day

Parks Canada Discovery Pass

The “Discovery Pass” is what Parks Canada calls their year-long (365 days from the purchase date), multi-park entry pass. This pass will give 365 days of access to all participating national parks in Canada. This includes the most popular parks like Banff, Jasper, Yoho, Kootenay, Glacier, Mount Revelstoke and so much more.

  • Adult (age 18-64) – $93.81 CAD
  • Senior (64+) – $80.18 CAD
  • Group/Family (up to 7 people in one vehicle) – $188.59 CAD

Hot Tip: Although more expensive up front, if you plan on spending more than 7 days in different parks in Canada within a 12-month period, then the Discovery Pass is actually the better deal!

Parks Canada Passes can be bought online here or at one of the Visitor Centers of booths at the entrance to many national parks.

Where to Stay in Banff, Canada

Fairmont Springs Hotel in Banff
Photo credit – Banff & Lake Louise Tourism Fairmont Hotels & Resorts

This is one of the most important parts of your trip and in Banff, the selection can be overwhelming and expensive. There are lots of different areas to consider when it comes to deciding where to stay in Banff National Park. There are also plenty of great hotels in Banff town to consider. Below are some amazing hotels we recommend:

Samesun Banff Hostel – A great budget hostel with dorm rooms. Perfect for those on a tight budget.

King Edward Hotel – A budget range hotel where you still get a private room for a great price.

Banff Inn – The Banff Inn is in the perfect price and luxury range. It’s still cheap but also comes with lots of luxuries.

Banff Rocky Mountian Resort – Pushing up into the mid-range budget this hotel has a swimming pool, hot tub, gym, and all the rooms have kitchenettes or full kitchens.

Fairmont Banff Springs – This is easily the most luxurious hotel in Banff. It’s not cheap but the place is simply incredible (pictured above!) If you’re visiting Banff on a honeymoon, then this should be the hotel you choose!

Important info: Accommodation in Banff can be tricky. For starters, you need to book well in advance if you want to have a large selection. In the peaks of winter and summer, Banff often books out months in advance.

For this reason, I highly suggest booking a place ASAP! Using Booking.com is great because lots of hotels offer free cancellation, so just lock in a place (or two) for now and make the final decision later!

Renting a Car in Alberta

The Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park
The Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park

If you’re arriving in Alberta via plane then I can’t recommend getting a rental car enough. Canada is a large country and traveling between cities and even just getting out to some of the best places to visit in Alberta requires transport. Although you can use public transport, on some occasions, it means your trip will not only require more time but more planning.

Car rental in Canada is relatively cheap, especially if you get a budget car. The cheapest car with pickup and drop-off in different locations is around $100 CAD per day. The price does vary though depending on the time of year and the type of car that you rent. For car rentals, I use the website DiscoverCars.com. It’s a search engine with lots of deals with good customer service. In fact, I’ve used them all over the world including in Chile, New Zealand, and Australia.

Another popular option is to rent a campervan or motorhome (only for the brave in winter.) Using Motorhome Republic you can search hundreds of deals across multiple companies to pick a great vehicle and the cheapest price. Having a motorhome is a stunning way to see Canada, and using crown land and campsites, you can often camp for free or very cheap in the most beautiful places imaginable!

Canada Travel Essentials

Bailey stands on a mountain in essential gear for the Canadian Rockies
A windproof jacket and Buff will save you in the mountains!

Before you decide to head off and explore the gorgeous mountains, lakes, towns, and cities around Canada it’s important to have the right equipment. Of course, it’s likely you’ll have most of the basics already but there are some common items people forget that I never travel without.

Crampons: In winter, crampons are super handy, but what people don’t realize is that they come in handy in summer too. In fact, up until mid-July, you can still expect icy conditions in the mountains. The pair I use is only $37 CAD and they have lasted me 3 seasons so far!

Waterproof shell: Most people will have this item but I thought I’d include it anyway since it’s so handy in Canada. The Columbia waterproof jacket is a lightweight windproof jacket that will seriously save you in many situations. The best part, though? It comes in pink!

Bear bells: These are a must, and for the price, you shouldn’t hike without them. The bear bells I use are only $9 CAD and they come with a silencer (a must) so you can easily travel with them.

Scent-proof bag (for bears): Most people think you only need to keep the smell of food away from you when you’re overnight camping. However, bears can smell the food in your bag while you’re hiking and the best way to avoid an encounter is to use a scent-proof bear bag. Basically, you put your food in the bag and the bear cannot smell it while you’re hiking. This is one item most people never have (I never hike without it) but it could save you and the bear.

Buff: I love my buff! Seriously, I go nowhere without it both in winter and summer. There are a few brands around but I always buy the original Buff (you know, the one from Survivor!) They’re a little more expensive but the material is good quality and both breathable and quick drying.

Dry bag: I have expensive camera equipment, so I always travel with a dry bag large enough to fit some of my equipment. It can be a camera, book, binoculars, or even my keys. Regardless, a dry bag gives me peace of mind! The MARCHWAY bag is really good quality, and when not in use, takes up only a small amount of room.

Binoculars: I love my binoculars! Seriously they have come in handy so many times, especially when I’m looking for wildlife. The best part is, I use a set that only costs $25 CAD and they serve my basic needs without any issues!

Travel Insurance

Banff is all about the great outdoors and with that comes risks. That’s why we never travel without insurance and neither should you.

We use two insurers the most for different reasons.

Baliey uses SaftyWing Travel Medical Insurance for the simple fact they have a great cheap monthly rate of only $42 USD a month for medical cover.

The other is World Nomads Travel insurance and this one is for you and your stuff as they have full comprehensive packages that cover a huge range of activities and sports.

Before you go…

Bailey and Daniel take a selfie on the Banff Gondola
Thank you for reading!

Banff is without a doubt one of our favorite places to visit in Canada. We have a passion for this place and we really hope this blog and our other Canada blogs have helped you plan your amazing journey through this beautiful country.

Below we’d love to hear from you so please leave us a comment if you have any comments or questions!

Thanks again and happy travels!!

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