Nestled in the middle of the Canadian Rockies, Banff is the perfect destination for outdoor adventures. From Skiing to hiking, it offers some of the most beautiful views of our country. As we are celebrating our 150th anniversary of the confederation, this year is a particularly great time to visit Banff, as park access will be free all year! Check out Parks Canada’s website for more details.
When to go
My favourite time of year to visit Banff is in the summer. The temperatures are normally quite nice and you can enjoy all the hiking trails, kayak and canoeing, as well as gorgeous views of waterfalls and lakes.
In winter, lakes and waterfalls are mostly frozen, the weather is cold and trails are not all accessible. But don’t be too quick to dismiss those winter months! If you’re a fan of skiing, snowboarding, and snowshoeing, winter in Banff will make you fall in love with the area! The average temperatures are relatively mild (by Canadian standards) and the dry air of the mountains makes the snow wonderfully light and powdery – perfect for winter activities!
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Where to stay
Accommodations in Banff tend to be quite expensive, but don’t worry you have options. For tighter budgets, there is a nice selection of well-rated hostels available in Banff and area. You may also want to look at staying slightly out of town. The town of Canmore is about a half hour drive and has slightly cheaper accommodations.
Now if budget is not a worry, or you’re happy spending a bit more on your stay, there are very good hotels along Banff Avenue (the main street) which will give you easy access to the best restaurants in town! Ask for a room with a view; waking up to the majesty of the snow topped mountains is indescribable! A lot of these hotels also have hot pools that are awesome for relaxing at the end of a long day of hiking.
For the more adventurous, keep in mind that camping can also be a great option and easy on the wallet! There is no better way to connect with nature than falling asleep to the sound of the forest, looking up at the stars! However, this is bear country – don’t keep food with you, and be aware of your surroundings at all times. And please stay in the campground locations where people are nearby if inexperienced.
What to do
In the winter, you can’t miss the ski hills! Whether you’re a snowboarder or a skier, the immense slopes will provide picture perfect views. The Lake Louise Ski Resort for instance gives you a gorgeous view of Lake Louise as you go down.
Make sure to also enjoy some quieter times snowshoeing or cross-country skiing in the designated trails. Follow the Parks Canada guidelines and don’t be afraid to ask for advice if you’re not familiar on bear country safety! Out of the norm temperature can affect the bears’ hibernation and you should be ready for any circumstance.
Summer months are my favourite because of all the hiking. Visit the Parks Canada website for details on all the trails, from easy to advanced, there is something for everyone! You can also take a drive to one of the many glacier lakes and rent a canoe. Glacier water is so clear you will feel like you’re floating on air!
Another definite must of Banff is the Gondola ride to the top of Sulphur Mountain. Once at the top, enjoy the 360 degree viewing deck with restaurant, washrooms and souvenir shop. Keep your heart rate going by walking along the boardwalk or one of the many trails accessible from this point.
Hot springs are a great way to unwind after a long day of physical activity! Bring your swimsuit and relax in the warm water while enjoying the incredible views. The hot springs are also very easy on the budget at only a few dollars per person.
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What to bring
Banff is an outdoorsy destination, so bring comfortable shoes and clothing. You should also have with you a daypack, water bottle and bear mist, unless you’re spending your entire stay in town. Regardless of the season in which you decide to go, also keep in mind that the weather is unpredictable. You will often see all seasons in one day, from sunny and warm to rain, hail and snow! Have lots of layers and take them with you if you do any activity that takes you away from shelters such as hiking and biking.
My final recommendation is to make sure you have a car. You can book tours and take a bus or shuttle to multiple destinations around Banff, but the ideal way to go around is by driving yourself. If you’re flying in to Albert, look into car rentals you won’t regret it!
It’s nice to spend a vacation at the beach, on hot sand and warm waters, but a trip to Banff is one of those things that will rejuvenate you. The magnificence of these enormous mountains, the fresh air and exercise and the friendly vibe of the town will be energizing and you will return home with a rested mind!
What do you think? Will you visit Banff on your next vacation?
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