The Canadian Rockies are a trip you must make at least once in your lifetime. And no, that’s not an overstatement. And a majority of the Rockies is found in Banff National Park and therefore you can plan a short Banff 3 Day Itinerary or itinerary for Banff and admire the landscape of Canada. It wows you at first glance. And that feeling of awe never leaves you while you are there. In fact, it only gets better the longer you stay. As the oldest national park in Canada, Banff National Park is a dramatic landscape formed of mountains, glaciers, canyons, turquoise lakes, and alpine forests. For outdoor lovers, there’s no shortage of activities to do making each day fly by. So let’s read about Banff Jasper Itinerary – Best Places To Visit In Banff, Canada and admire the most beautiful locations of Canada in this post.
Best Time to Visit Banff | Banff Jasper Itinerary – Best Places To Visit In Banff, Canada
There really is no wrong time to visit Banff. It just all depends on what you want to do.
- If you are there for hiking, then you definitely want to go during summer, mid-June through September. But keep in mind, this is also the most popular time to visit.
- Going in the shoulder months means cheaper accommodations and fewer crowds but some trails may be closed either to snow hazards or bear activity.
- Now if you are going just for the views, then any time of year will work. In the winter months, the region will be blanketed with snow adding a magical touch to an already fantasy-scape.
How to Reach Banff, Canada | Banff Jasper Itinerary – Best Places To Visit In Banff, Canada
- The closest airport to Banff is Calgary International Airport (YYC). From there, it is about a 2-hour drive to the town of Banff, and rental cars are available at the airport.
- But you can also take a bus from the airport to Banff. Both the Banff Airporter and Brewster Express offer this service.
- Or, if you’re driving from the U.S. (especially if you are combining a trip to Banff with Glacier National Park in Montana), it’s a 4-hour drive from the Canadian border.
- And if you really want to make your trip to Banff memorable, you can take the Rocky Mountaineer train from Vancouver. The trip takes two days to complete with out-of-this-world scenery along the entire route.
Where to Stay in Banff | Banff Jasper Itinerary – Best Places To Visit In Banff, Canada
Numerous accommodations are available in the town of Banff. But, it’s near impossible to find anything on the budget end that isn’t a campground. There are also several large hotels around Lake Louise. But again, not cheap.
- MOOSE HOTEL & SUITES
- ELK + AVENUE
- CANALTA LODGE
- IRWIN’S MOUNTAIN INN
- BANFF PARK LODGE
- BANFF BOUTIQUE INN
- HIGH COUNTRY INN
If you have a tight budget, more affordable accommodation can be found in Canmore, a charming town roughly a 20-minute drive from Banff.
And an even cheaper option is the town of Golden outside of Yoho National Park. It is a longer drive (about an hour from Lake Louise), but it is a stunning drive.
Banff National Park Itinerary | Banff Jasper Itinerary – Best Places To Visit In Banff, Canada
When visiting Banff National Park, you want to make sure you have enough time to savor what you are doing and the views. You do not rush through Banff. So, to give yourself time to see all the major stops, you need three days in Banff. Presenting you with Banff 3 day Itinerary with 1 day extra for Jasper.
And these three days include a variety of things to do in Banff National Park. There are some hiking and kayaking options beyond the walks to popular viewpoints or stops along the road. So, you can customize the itinerary to fit your fitness level and personal tastes.
Day 1 – Sulphur Mountain, Lake Minnewanka, Banff
HIGHLIGHTS OF DAY 1
- Banff Town – Sulphur Mountain
- Vermilion Lakes
- Lake Minnewanka
- SUNSHINE SKI VILLAGE(OPTIONAL)
There’s only one way to begin your adventures in Banff National Park, and that’s taking in the area from above. The town of Banff sits in the shadow of Sulphur Mountain. And on clear days, the views from the top stretch on indefinitely. It’s the perfect introduction to the grandeur that awaits you over the next three days.
And how you get to the top is up to you. Most people opt to take the Sulphur Gondola. Though it’s the quickest way up with the least physical exertion, it is also the costliest. If you have the time and stamina, try hiking to the top. It’s a steep, unrelenting 8.1 km climb to the top via countless switchbacks. But it costs nothing to hike, and you certainly have a deeper appreciation of the views once at the top. Or, you can combine the two options – take the gondola in one direction and hike the other way.
The rest of the day can be spent exploring scenic spots near Banff. And this includes the views of the Vermilion Lakes, just outside of town. Or, you can enjoy any of the many activities available at Lake Minnewanka. This glacial lake is located only three miles outside of Banff.
Regardless of the time of year, there is plenty to do at Lake Minnewanka. During the summer, you can go swimming, mountain biking, hiking, fishing, kayaking, and scuba diving. And in winter, you can cross-country ski, snowshoe, or take in the northern lights.
Or, alternatively, you can go to Sunshine Village. This ski resort only 20-minutes from Banff, is a ski lover paradise in winter with multiple ski run options. And in summer, there are several easy hiking trails with jaw-dropping panorama views.
In the evening, stroll around the town of Banff where there are countless shops and restaurants to enjoy.
Day 2 – Moraine Lake, Lake Louise, Emerald Lake
HIGHLIGHTS OF DAY 2
- Sunrise at Moraine Lake
- Lake Louise
- Lake Agnes
- Plain of Six Glaciers Trail
- Emerald Lake & dinner at the Cilantro Café
You’ll want to get an early start to the day and head over to the Lake Louise area, roughly an hour’s drive from Banff. One of the most stunning sights you can experience in Banff National Park is watching the sunrise at Moraine Lake. Surrounded by the Valley of Ten Peaks, the unbelievable aqua waters of Moraine Lake are one of the most iconic spots in all of Banff National Park.
And watching the first rays of sunlight hit the many peaks is indescribable. If you’re going for sunrise, plan on getting there about 45 minutes to an hour beforehand (especially during summer). That sounds crazy, but sunrise at Moraine Lake is a popular thing to do and parking is extremely limited. The parking lot fills up quickly, and you do not want to miss out.
And besides sunrise, you can go kayaking in the lake (rentals available). Or you can go hiking on the various trails in the area, ranging from easy to strenuous. Though do keep in mind that some trails may be closed due to bear activity.
In winter, the road to Moraine Lake is closed (reopens late May). But you can break out your cross-country skis and get to the lake that way.
If sunrise is too early for you, you can still enjoy Moraine Lake during the day. However, when the parking lot is full, the road is closed to traffic. So, it’s best to park at Lake Louise and then take the shuttle bus to the lake.
Next, it’s on to Lake Louise, which is just down the road from Moraine Lake. Even if you’re skipping sunrise, you should still plan to arrive at Lake Louise early. Even with ample parking, the lots fill up quickly. And by 8 am, you could be forced to park in the overflow parking several miles away on the highway and then take the shuttle to Lake Louise.
And, it’s very easy to spend an entire day exploring the Lake Louise area. Coming from the parking lots, you come upon the famous view of Lake Louise. But that is only the start of possibilities for the day. You can rent a kayak and enjoy a few hours on the water.
However, the Lake Louise area is a hiker’s dream! A popular trail makes its way up to Lake Agnes, which is even more stunning than Lake Louise. And, there’s a tea house where you can get some freshly baked snacks and refreshments. Then you have the option of continuing to the top of either Big Beehive or Little Beehive (both with beautiful vistas from the top).
But if it’s hiking you come to Banff National Park to do, you cannot miss hiking the Plain of Six Glaciers Trail. This 5.5 km (one way) trail takes you around Lake Louise into the valley behind it, ending with a viewpoint of the Victoria Glacier. A moderate hike, the views make this trail a must-do! And, to help refuel you on the return trek, there’s another tea house on this trail! Again, delicious freshly baked goods are on the menu. And the aroma will have you salivating before you’re seated.
If you only spend a few hours at Lake Louise, then spend the rest of the day at Emerald Lake. Only 38 km from Lake Louise in Yoho National Park, Emerald Lake is an overlooked gem among visitors. And the color of the water is accurately described in its name. Like everything else around Banff, it is stunning.
Again, you can rent a kayak or canoe and spend time on the water. Or, there’s an easy trail that goes around the lake, giving you new views at every turn. And, there are plenty of benches along the trail where you can just relax and enjoy the view.
Day 3 – Johnston Canyon, Bow Lake, Peyto Lake, Parker Ridge
HIGHLIGHTS OF DAY 3 –
- Johnston Canyon
- Crowfoot Glacier View Point
- Bow Lake
- Bow Summit/Peyto Lake
- Parker Ridge
- Saskatchewan Glacier
- Athabasca Glacier
It’s another early start to your last day at Banff National Park. And you begin at Johnston Canyon. This is quintessential Banff. A walk into Johnston Canyon is a walk into another world. The canyon walls tower above you as you make your way deeper into the canyon. Following the Johnston Creek on walkways that sometimes hang from the side of the canyon, the river takes numerous tumbles and falls creating endless photo stops.
But the focus of Johnston Canyon is the lower and upper falls. Though the lower falls are first, make the effort to reach the upper falls (2.7 km, one way). And if you have time, keep hiking out of the canyon to reach the ink pots, a collection of natural springs.
It’s worth getting an early start to Johnston Canyon as it is one of the most popular spots in Banff National Park. Not only do the crowds start arriving around 8 a.m., but the narrow walkways also make it a headache to maneuver around other visitors.
After Johnston Canyon, it’s off to explore the northern part of Banff National Park on the Icefields Parkway. The first stop is the Crowfoot Glacier View Point. This stop off the Icefields Parkway offers the best look at the Crowfoot Glacier.
Just a stone’s throw away is Bow Lake. This stunning lake offers amazing reflections. It’s worth a stop just to admire mother nature. And there is an easy hike to Bow Glacier Falls.
Next is Bow Summit/Peyto Lake. Though it’s a short walk to the viewing platform, it is a bit steep in sections. But this is one viewpoint you cannot miss. The overlook of Peyto Lake is one of the most recognized spots in Banff National Park. And yes, it is even more spectacular in person.
If you have the time, it’s another hour’s drive to the last stop in Banff National Park, Parker Ridge. But what a drive it is!! The further you drive on the Icefields Parkway, the more incredible the scenery becomes. Though there may not be designated stops along the drive, you will certainly be pulling over repeatedly.
Parker Ridge is a 3.2 mile, out-and-back trail that ends with a jaw-dropping view of the Saskatchewan Glacier. Though the trail is mostly all uphill via switchbacks, it’s never overly steep and most people should have no problem making it to the viewpoint. And you cannot ask for a more impressive and memorable end to an epic 3-days in Banff National Park.
However, if there’s still daylight, only a 10-minute drive away is the Columbia Icefield Discovery Center. Though it’s outside the boundary of Banff National Park, it’s an amazing place to stop. Here you can walk to the foot of the Athabasca Glacier. It’s a short trail for an amazing view. Sadly, this glacier is rapidly receding so it’s best to see it now.
Day 4 – Icefields Parkway & Jasper National Park (Optional)
HIGHLIGHTS OF DAY 4 (Optional) –
- Icefields Parkway to Jasper National Park
- Sunwapta Falls
- Maligne Canyon
- Spirit Island
But…if you have time to spend another day in the area, continue your way up the Icefields Parkway to Jasper National Park. If you didn’t have time to do Parker Ridge or Athabasca Glacier the previous day, now you can enjoy them.
Heading north on the Icefields Parkway towards Jasper National Park, Sunwapta Falls is your first stop. These stunning falls are a must-see during any season. And don’t rush through and just see the main chutes. There’s a trail that leads to more falls downstream that’s well worth a look.
And the highlight of Jasper National Park is Maligne Canyon. This limestone canyon is not as pristine as Johnston Canyon, but still so stunning. The first part of the canyon walk is through the deepest and most remarkable part of the canyon. It’s easy to lose yourself in your surroundings. If you can, follow the trail to Bridge #5 so you can see the changing landscape of the canyon.
The perfect way to cap off four days in some of the most unforgettable scenery in the entire world is a boat cruise on Maligne Lake to Spirit Island. Surrounded by mountains, the cruise takes you through epic scenery to the small Spirit Island on the far side of the lake. Though you cannot step foot on the island, it’s the view of the island with the mountains and glaciers behind it and the aqua waters surrounding it that make Spirit Island one of the most photographed spots in all of Jasper.
Information about Banff National Park Pass | Banff Jasper Itinerary – Best Places To Visit In Banff, Canada
- Any visitor to Banff National Park is required to have a valid national park pass. The daily pass is valid for entry into Banff, Jasper, Yoho, and Kootenay National Parks. The pass expires at 4:00 p.m. the day after scheduled use.
- If you are stopping at any of the viewpoints, attractions, or are even driving one of the scenic parkways in the area (Icefields Parkway between Lake Louise and Jasper, Bow Valley Parkway between Banff and Lake Louise where Johnston Canyon is located), you must have a pass with you.
- You can purchase your tickets online or at numerous locations around the national parks. If you purchase your pass online before your trip, make sure that you have a printed copy with you. Only printed tickets are accepted.
- For purchasing the park pass at Banff National Park, you can buy at any of the park entrance gates and national park visitor centers.
Things to know before you plan for BANFF 3 DAY / 4DAY ITINERARY | Best Places to visit in Banff
- Banff is located in National Park and so for staying inside Banff, you need to pay for Park Pass.
- The lake in Banff are really turquoise and splendid.
- Banff trip is expensive as it is very popular tourist attraction.
- Banff National Park has lots of bears, so beware of bears.
- Apart from Banff, there are 5 National Parks of Canada which are located nearby to Banff.
- If you are visiting in Summer, then you can plan for activities like – Kayaking, Golf, Fishing, Gondola Ride, Skateboarding, Hot springs, Canoeing, white water rafting, Carriage / Horseback rides, Scuba diving, boating and Hiking.
- If you are visiting Banff in Winter then you can plan for winter sports or adventures like skiing, ice-skating, snow-sledging and all snow fun.
- Start your day early and catch sunrise at any of the beautiful lakes.
- You will get vegetarian / vegan food restaurants in Banff at Nourish Bistro, Indian Curry House, Nesters, Fairmont, Fairmont Chateau, Pad Thai, Masala
I hope you loved Banff Jasper Itinerary – Best Places To Visit In Banff, Canada and will soon plan for Banff 3 days or 4 days itinerary with your loved ones. I would love to know more about your favorite spot in Banff National Park in the comments below.
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