Summer Road Trip: Days 25 – 30. 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 are the top 10 things to do in Banff National Park.
1. 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.
Read more here on our Favorite Hikes in Banff National Park.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. Tunnel Mountain Drive
Tunnel Mountain is a short scenic drive just outside of downtown.
Check out the mystical hoodoos by driving to the lookouts or hike the Hoodoos Trail to get a closer look at the peculiar pillars made from glacial material.
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.
5. 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 located behind the Banff Park Administration Building, one of the free things to do in Banff.
Stop by Banff Brewery to sample hand-crafted beers with a local flare.
RELATED: GLACIER NATIONAL PARK TRAVEL GUIDE
6. 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 locate 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 and is one of the unique things to do in Banff.
7. 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.
8. 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).
READ NEXT: TOP THINGS TO DO IN JASPER NATIONAL PARK
9. 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.
10. 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.
And so our epic 80 day summer road trip continues – 13 U.S. states, 2 Canadian provinces and 13 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.
Next: Kootenay National Park
Have you been to Banff National Park? What was your favorite thing to do?
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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!!
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!
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!
Oh. My. Goodness. I have wanted to go here for ages and your photos are killing me (in a good way)! What a fun trip, I’m totally going to bookmark this for my Banff adventure… maybe this summer?
This summer is good time to go since Canada’s parks are free for their 150th anniversary!
Reading this post and looking at these photos brings back so many memories of my trip there back in 2015. Summer time is best and one of the highlights is seeing wild bears (dont get too close guys!) 😀
We had a few close encounters!
Banff National Park is very high on my list to visit! I’m trying to get to as many national parks as I can this year, so hopefully I can make it to this one! The Vermilion Lakes Drive looks like something I’d have to do! Your photos are gorgeous!
Thanks Kaylene 🙂 FYI this year marks Canada’s 150th anniversary so the parks are free. May be a good time to make it happen!
What a photo-intensive post! I confess that though living in the U.S., I have never heard of this place. The interior of Canada is a blank spot for many people, including some Canadians I know, and clearly there’s a lot to see. I’m guessing these parks aren’t overcrowded? Or do all the Canandians flock there?
Banff was busier than Jasper. They are busy, but if you get up early there’s no problems getting around.
Awesome photos, it must be one of the most photogenic places in the world 🙂 You’ll have to do a winter road trip next time. It’s soooo different up there in the depths of winter. Johnson Canyon is magical as it’s all frozen waterfalls! And you can ice skate on Lake Louise! 😀
Wow, that sounds wonderful! I would love to visit in the winter. It’s probably less busy too!
We’ve done this road trip, and I have to say it was amazing. The beauty of the Canadian parks is breath-taking. I like the itinerary that you came up with.
One of my goals when I get back to Canada (currently live in Korea) is make a trip out west! Banff, especially Lake Louise, is calling my name!
Wow, you have some stunning pictures! I’m in love with Lake Louise. thanks for sharing the Fairmont Banff Springs info, too. That is where I want to stay. Cool pub.
These photos are AMAZING! Every time I come across posts like this it reminds me just how much I haven´t explored right in my own backyard, so to speak. There´s so much of North America I haven´t seen/done. This has me itching to get back home and explore.
On a trip on the Al-Can we took the route through the parks and stopped in Banff. What an amazing town place. I would love to go back and do some of the hikes you mentioned and find the pub! Saving!
My comment is to give you a lots of thanks for this post, it helped me to find this topic and save my time.