Visiting Banff National Park…an Overview
Banff National Park is a place I’ve wanted to visit for many years now and it certainly did not disappoint. The park is by far and away the most popular tourist destination in Canada, so expect crowds during peak times.
I spent a week in the area and stayed on both sides of the park—the east side in Canmore, Alberta and the west side just above Golden, British Columbia at the Kicking Horse Mountain Resort area. I stayed in a couple of wonderful B&B’s, The Lady MacDonald in Canmore, and the Vagabond Lodge in Kicking Horse. Banff National Park is massive and a week really isn’t enough time to fully enjoy the amount of area I covered. Nonetheless it was a spectacular trip. I would really like to go back to see the contrast of winter, with more snow in the mountains, to the frozen waterfalls and rivers.
When you see the iconic symbol of
Banff National Park extends well beyond the community of Banff proper. While I was in the park I went off in many directions, including north to the Lake Louise area where I took the Lake Louise Gondola to the top of the mountains. The ride up the mountain is supposed to be a great viewing habitat for Grizzly’s; unfortunately I did not see any on my trip. The view from above though is absolutely spectacular and you’re able to see Lake Louise far off in the distance. Just prior to my departure up the mountain I saw a wonderfully informative video clip provided by the resort to educate you of the area.
Once you finally make your way through the crowds and see Lake Louise for the first time, you’re jaw just drops. The deep turquoise water against the blue sky and jagged white-capped mountains is just stunning. I went to the lake a few times because I really wanted to get some good pics. The first time I was there was middle of the day…not great light for photos. I took a couple of hikes in the area to get different vantage points…you can really tell a difference between some of my shots.
Near Lake Louise, but in a different direction there is the even more impressive, Lake Moraine. Less well-known, but equally as popular, Lake Moraine is also a spectacular site with lots of wonderful hikes that enable you to get different viewing vantage points and pictures. Note: for the best pictures and to avoid the tour bus crowds, visit either lake early morning or early evening. Note: If you’re traveling from Banff to/from the Lake Louise area, do yourself a favor and take HWY 1a (vs. HWY 1), it’s more scenic and less crowded.
While in Banff, here are a few “To-Do” suggestions:
- Walk around downtown Banff, while it is very touristy, there are a lot of cool shops, galleries and restaurants.
- Visit the Botanical Garden, unfortunately I can’t find the name or a link, but you can’t miss it because there is a beautifully large building as the focal point, which you can see from downtown, however you must go to the other side to access the entrance. Great place for a picnic lunch or to just to relax and take in the surrounding scenery.
- Visit both Lake Loraine and Lake Moraine. Consider renting a boat at Lake Loraine, it’s quite an experience.
- Take the Lake Louise Gondola in hopes of seeing some grizzlies, if not just for the spectacular views and being able to see the lake from a distance.
- Check out the Columbia Ice Fields…take a tour of the amazing glaciers.
Whether it’s summer, winter or sometime in between, it’s always a good time to visit Banff, however bring your wallet because it’s not an inexpensive place. Hotels will run at least $200-$400 per night, a modest meal at a decent restaurant will run $40+ per person and gas is well over $4 per gallon as of July, 2010.