Banff National Park – Things to Know Before You Go
Hope you’re all having a great day, we are in the midst of fall and its finally starting to cool off here in LA. We hope wherever you are reading this from it’s nice and crispy outside 🙂 Anyways, today we wanted to hop on here and talk about some helpful insights and things to know before you go to Banff National Park. Maybe Banff is a big check off your bucket list, you’ve finally made the commitment and you are just starting your early stages of planning, in that case you definitely should read this post because we are here to help!
Canada was our first international travel destination outside the US and boy was it near perfect. For starters, if you’re ever going to mistakenly leave your purse in a cart outside the terminal, I’ve learned that Calgary is the best place to do so. YEP, my purse was left in a cart outside the airport and THANKFULLY was retrieved by the airport security staff and safely returned to me. Those 20 mins at the rental car center were the most horrifying minutes of my life realizing my passport, ID, and wallet might be gone while I’m in a foreign country, but we wont be getting into that right now – let’s just say this country right off the bat is full of pleasant citizens and breathtaking views.
Flying over Canada, Scott couldn’t keep his eyes from looking out the window of the plane, telling me everything he was seeing (I get nauseous and can’t look out the window lol) Once we landed and started driving west towards Banff, the scenery from the highway was unbelievable! From the get go, it was certain that we were going to be surrounded by some amazing nature for the entirety of our trip.
Where to stay & Rental Car (important)
We flew into Calgary (which is the most likely place you’ll fly into when going to Banff), so that’s the airport that we’ll be referring to throughout these tips. Once you’ve landed in Calgary, the city of Banff, which is located towards the beginning of the National Park’s perimeter, is about an hour and a half drive to the west. We would recommend getting a rental car so that you have some freedom to drive around the park during your trip and don’t have to rely on any shuttles or anything else. Here’s a little tip for ya, get a rental car OUTSIDE of the airport, it’s way cheaper and you will save money for some good ol’ Canadian souvenirs or maybe some poutine 😉 An Uber is cheap and will be the perfect solution to getting to that rental car center 10 minutes from the airport.
Now, before you even get on the plane to travel to Banff, you better know where you’re going to be staying during your trip. For us, Canmore was the perfect place to stay because it was only a 20 minute drive from the south to the city of Banff. There are other places you can research that are on the way to Banff as well or you can just stay in Banff (more pricey) but we are always looking to save our money and Canmore was a very cost affective solution for us 😉
City of Banff
We loved exploring the cute city of Banff. A great mixture of tourists and locals, it was definitely a beautiful place to walk around and window shop or find a nice cafe or restaurant to eat at. One of my favorite shops we went into was an AMAZING crystal and rock shop. It really made an impression on me because of how much they had and the quality of everything, if you’re into crystals, you HAVE to check this place out. During the busier times in Banff (the evenings), it is a little hard to get a table somewhere because everyone is hungry and ready to eat. A lot of the servers at restaurants are young kids taking a gap year after college and we noticed a lot of locals that had the same story about getting a visa to come from other countries to work in Banff for the year. It was really cool to talk with them and hear about their time in Banff, as well as collecting any advice they had for places we had to visit during our time there.
Every morning before going exploring into the national park, we would either grab a quick bite in Banff or eat something at our place in Canmore, then spend the whole day driving north through the park checking stuff out. Once we were ready to eat again we would drive out of the park and find some grub in the towns spread out along the highway. Banff National Park covers a huge area, so know that even though there’s a major highway running through it, the towns and places to get food are pretty spread out, so get your fill before hand or bring some snacks with you.
Hot Spots in Banff National Park
The biggest tourist attractions in Banff are the amazing lakes and towering mountain vistas that are extremely accessible to everyone from hikers to people just looking to stay in their cars. Lake Louise and Moraine Lake are two of the biggest contenders when it comes to must see places and are usually jam packed with people throughout the day. However, even though there were a lot of people around these popular spots, we never felt like it was overwhelming or ruining our experience. Banff is truly an amazing, massive place with enough room for everyone to enjoy the beauty it has to offer.
Something we really wanted to accomplish during our trip was to drive up Ice Fields Parkway all the way to Jasper National Park. This highway connects Banff and Jasper and seems to go on forever. If you have the time, something we suggest to see is Jasper National Park. Since it’s only a 2 hour drive to the park you could 100% add this to your itinerary when planning a “road trip” style day of sightseeing in Banff. We planned a day dedicated to being on the road and seeing all we could until reaching Jasper. As you can imagine there are many places to stop along the way that are simply breathtaking so we really enjoyed this experience to see the wildlife that Canada has to offer. Once we had entered Jasper, we took a break to look at the Athabasca Glacier (an ice field just inside Jasper National Park) we really thought this spot was cool and something we would share with our friends and peers to check out. It was almost like our victory at the end of the race, getting to be up close to a glacier for the first time in our lives was such a treat and made the whole day worth it.
What visiting Banff really gives you
Overall, our experience going out of the country together for the first time was eye opening and left us wanting more. Not only did it feel unique traveling outside the U.S. but just getting a little glimpse of what the world has to offer us as travelers was amazing. Being engulfed in Banff’s beauty for 7 days really put a spell on us and quickly cemented itself as one of our favorite destinations yet. To think that so many people have never seen such trees, vast lakes, snowy mountain tops, and amazing wildlife makes you appreciate your time while checking out a new destination like this. When it was time to go, I felt more conscious of what my reality looks like back at home versus what we had just experienced in Banff and I was even more excited to see what the future holds for us and where we might be headed next! We hope you find these tips and things to know before you go to Banff helpful and keep checking in with us as we still have more Banff content coming your way!