The Best of Banff National Park


Is it possible that the scenery is getting more and more beautiful? Banff National Park is utterly enchanting with glistening emerald lakes, spectacular sweeping valleys and dramatic mountainous landscapes. We had a rainy week, but made the most of it and took advantage of any good weather whenever we could. Here’s the best of Banff National Park.

Lake Louise Banff (17)
Lake Louise
Best of Banff National Park
Moraine Lake
Icefields Parkway (4)
Icefields Parkway

And so our epic 80 day summer road trip continues – 12 U.S. states, 1 Canadian province and 11 national parks. For the upcoming months, I will be sharing with you our highlights, lowlights, adventures, favorite spots, best tips and our thoughts on three months of road tripping and living in a pop up.  I’ll try to answer any and all of your questions too!  You can also follow our journey via Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

Miles Driven This Week: 895

Total Miles Driven: 5,235

Average Gas Price per Gallon: $3.39

Canadian Province: Alberta

If you would like to see our full itinerary, start at the beginning here. And Start at Day One here.

Johnston Canyon

You can find Johnston Canyon on Bow Valley Parkway (Hwy 1A), a scenic 27-mile drive between Lake Louise and Banff. The hike within the chasm is just as exciting as the waterfalls at the end. The walkway is suspended in air and clings to the wall over rushing water of the canyon. The lush green vegetation and crystal clear water is a delight to march along. Crouching through a cave at the lower section leads to the base of the powerful waterfall. The hike to the Lower Falls is about .7 miles with another mile to the Upper Falls.

Johnston Canyon Banff National Park (1)

Johnston Canyon Banff National Park (3)

Johnston Canyon Banff National Park (6)

Johnston Canyon Banff National Park (5)

Johnston Canyon Banff National Park (9)

Johnston Canyon Banff National Park (7)

Serenity at Lake Louise

Victoria Glacier and Lake Louise is the most popular area in the park and it is obvious why. The milky turquoise waters of Lake Louise is hypnotic and is one of the most photographed locations in the Canadian Rockies. We took the lake trail up to the Plain of Six Glaciers to Lake Agnes back down to Lake Louise. It felt like endless steep climbs and took more than half a day to complete the loop, but it is one of the highlights of our time in Banff for sure.
Lake Louise Banff (7)
Lake Louise Banff (6)

Lake Louise Banff (18)

Lake Louise Banff (15)

Parker Ridge Hike

Even though it was raining and cold, the Parker Ridge Trail did not disappoint. The 3.2-mile moderate hike tops our list for must-do trails in Banff. The trailhead is close to the border of Jasper National Park, just south of Columbia Icefields. The 900-foot elevation gain leads to a charming lush meadow filled with colors of green grass, orange moss and white wildflowers. The top of the ridge delivers sensational views of staggering snow-covered peaks, the memorable Saskatchewan Glacier and its valley below.

Best of Banff National park

Parker Ridge Hike Banff (4)

Best of Banff National park

Parker Ridge Hike Banff (3)

Tunnel Mountain Drive

Check out the mystical hoodoos by driving to the lookout or hike the Hoodoos Trail to get a closer look at the peculiar pillars made from glacial material.

Hoodoos 4

Hoodoos 5

The Tunnel Mountain Trail is another outstanding hike that leads to spectacular views of the town of Banff and Bow Valley. The trail begins with long switchbacks that gradually climbs the mountainside. You can either start the trail in downtown Banff on St. Julien Rd. or shave off a bit of climbing by hopping on from Tunnel Mountain Drive. The trail from here is 2.2 miles roundtrip.

Best of Banff National Park

Tunnel Mountain Trail Banff (1)

Best of Banff National Park

Downtown Banff

Nestled among the mountains in the south section of the park, the town of Banff is a special place. Paved trails wind through town, along the river to many of the popular sights making it easily walkable. Take a pleasant stroll through the Cascades of Time Garden. It is free admittance and located behind the Banff Park Administration Building. Stop by Banff Brewery to sample hand-crafted beers with a local flare.

Downtown Banff (3)

Downtown Banff (2)

Downtown Banff (4)

Banff Brewery

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Secret Pub at the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel

If you can find the stealthy Waldhaus Pub & Patio at Banff Springs Hotel then you need to reward yourself with a drink! We challenge you to find it without asking for assistance. The Bavarian pub and restaurant is tucked away in the forest and offers a wide selection of German beer and food.

Fairmont Banff Springs

Best of Banff National Park


Vermilion Lakes Drive

The Vermilion Lakes Drive is short and sweet at only 2.4-miles long, but look at these views! The spot is postcard gold and the star is Mount Rundle.
Vermilion Lakes Drive Banff (2)

Vermilion Lakes Drive Banff (1)

Vermilion Lakes Drive Banff (3)

Icefields Parkway Scenic Drive

Along with Going-to-the-Sun Road and the Beartooth Highway, Icefields Parkway has now become one of our top ten best scenic routes we’ve ever driven. It stretches 146 miles along Highway 93 from Banff National Park to Jasper National Park in the province of Alberta and it will blow you away! Our favorite stops on the Banff side include Lake Louise, Peyto Lake, Crowfoot Glacier, Bow Lake, Mistaya Canyon and Columbia Icefield (which crosses over to Jasper).

Icefields Parkway (2)

Icefields Parkway (3)

Icefields Parkway (9)

Icefields Parkway (7)Icefields Parkway (5)

Icefields Parkway (8)

Mistaya Canyon

Pristine Waters of Moraine Lake

Moraine Lake is only half the size of Lake Louise, but is just as or maybe even more striking. The lake is in the Valley of the Ten Peaks which provides a backdrop of soaring jagged mountain peaks along the shoreline. The short hike along the lake provides scenic lookouts at different vantage points along the water.

Best of Banff National Park

Best of Banff National ParkBest of Banff National Park

Best of Banff National Park

Best of Banff National Park

Minnewanka Loop Road

The Minnewanka Loop Road consists of Banff’s only beach, the longest lake in the Canadian Rockies, serene picnic areas, and various trailheads.

Minnewanka Loop Banff (2)

Minnewanka Loop Banff (1)

Minnewanka Loop Banff (4)


Next: Kootenay National Park

Have you been to Banff National Park? What was your favorite thing to do?

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Banff National Park Pin

6 Responses

  1. In both Banff & Jasper National Park, don’t forget take a dip at hot spring. It’s a great way to relax after some hiking.

    Canoe or kayak at lake Moraine is another highlight. I also take a trip to Yoho National Park in BC. It’s about 45 mins from Lake Louise. You can see one of the highest waterfall in Canada.

    • Will do Alfred! Thanks! We did not go to Banff hot springs because it was way too busy, but we did go to Miette & Radium. Loved it!!

  2. Chris Travels

    As usual, loved your new post on the Banff area “must dos”. Your descriptive narrative makes my own memories of that magical region come flooding back. You certainly were able to take in even more incredible views that many of us miss with all the extra hiking you do!

    • Glad we can bring back memories from your trip. We loved the area. Wish we could have had better weather but what are ya going to do. We still managed to hike and see everything we wanted to so it worked out. Thanks for following along!

  3. My husband and I have loved reading your blog. We are currently in the midst of doing a very similar trip! We are headed up to Banff and Jasper next and were curious where you camped when you were there. Also, did you end up buying the annual pass for the Canadian parks? Thanks!

    • Hi Amy, thanks for following along! Yes, we did. I guess the annual pass is good for 2016 & 2017 bc of the anniversary. Definitely a good idea. Banff, we camped in Tunnel Mtn Trailer Court which was really nice, but no fires (electric only). The bathrooms were nice, no wi-fi but pretty close to downtown. Although we had just come from some rough campgrounds. In Jasper, I accidentally booked Wabasso Campground that had electric but no showers. We were not fans, it was off the beaten path and had close campsites with no hot water. BUT if you are in an RV probably not too shabby for the cost savings. Can’t wait to hear about your trip! We had many rainy days in Canada so hopefully you’ll have better luck!

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