Banff Travel Guide

Explorer, fellow East Coast native and Wanderluster, Faith recently spent time in one the most picturesque places in North America. I am privileged to share with you her experiences while in this little slice of heaven called Banff.

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GETTING THERE

Fly into Calgary. Pick up a rental car, and set out for Banff. The full drive time is a little over an hour. This leaves you time to stop at a few stunning locations on the way including Lower Bankhead, an abandoned mining town and Lake Minnewanka, the largest man made lake in Banff.

Lake Louise

STAY

Buffalo Mountain Lodge. There are fireplaces in each chalet, firewood for the taking, and the staff sets out fresh kindling each morning. The lodge is about a fifteen minute walk from downtown.

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MUST SEE

Go out to Lake Louise for a day of hiking. Save your money and don't take a tour bus. You can do it on your own and have the freedom you deserve while in Banff.  At the top of your hike up to Little Beehive, you will get a birds-eye view of Chateau Fairmont at the base of the lake. You'll feel the vastness of everything around you, and a sense of accomplishment for making it to the top.

Hike up to the Agnes Tea House. This cute little spot is about 3 hours up and an hour down. Catch a glimpse of Mirror Lake on the way up. Drink the water flowing down from the mountain top. Delicious.

Whitewater Raft on the Kicking Horse River. The greatest adrenaline rush you will ever experience. The tour company, Banff Adventures Unlimited, provides a regionally appropriate bison burger and barbecue for lunch during your adventure.

Ride the Banff Gondola. You'll experience a 360-degree view of the area around Banff including the Bow River and Lake Minnewanka.

Hike Johnston Canyon, a short 2 km round trip hike to the Lower Falls.  You'll most likely see a ton of wildlife including elk, big horned sheep, and chipmunks. 

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EAT

St. James Irish Pub. An awesome pub with live music just off of Banff Ave. The benches and stained glass have been brought over from Ireland and the feel is very authentic. The lamb stew and chicken pot pie are delicious.

Elk and Oarsman on Banff Ave.  Its easy to miss, but don't be afraid to ask for directions. There is a roof-top patio and it overlooks Banff Ave. all the way to Sulphur Mountain. You have to try elk while you're in Canada, and the deluxe pizza at Elk and Oarsman fits the bill.

The Banff Ave. Brewing Company has an outdoor countertop facing Banff Ave that is worth a beer for people watching. Don't forget to try a "beavertail" for dessert. Find a buddy to split the sugar rush with. 

There's also a Safeway in town, if you want to save a little money on food and wine.

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TRAVEL TIPS

Do yourself a favor and rent a car. It'll save you money in the end and gives you freedom and flexibility to take (and hike along) the road less-traveled.

 Don't bother with an international data plan.The town and province are easy to navigate. Get as many maps as are offered to you. There's not much service anyways. 

Save money by traveling in the off season. The views will be equally jaw-dropping.

If you can, I'd book this trip as a Monday-Friday vacation to avoid the crowds (or at least hit the best spots, like Lake Louise, during the week).

If you see a car pulled over on the side of the road, there is wildlife nearby. Get your camera ready.

A rental car will made it possible to stop anywhere and everywhere around the area.

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More adventures contributed by Faith: Road Trip Northern California

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