Banff National Park in Alberta Canada is a Kodachrome dreamscape. We were able to enjoy Banff National Park, Canmore, and Alberta’s Rocky Mountains, west of Calgary in a 4 day itinerary. This is a schedule that will optimize your time in the Banff area for seeing the sites and beautiful day hike options. There is so much more to do that we will have to go back soon!
Here are the highlights of our 4 day trip in July. Word of warning: Be prepared for lots of fellow tourists. Although, that holds true for all National Parks in peak season. The key to success is starting early. ...Like 5 a.m. early.
The 4 Day Itinerary that Worked Perfectly
We arrived at Calgary International Airport at 2 p.m. and drove 35 minutes to Cochrane Alberta. We stayed in a wonderful Airbnb (I have had great success with "Superhost" Airbnbs) about one hour from the Town of Banff.
We later learned that the town of Banff is 1 hour + from the hikes and lakes...so Cochrane as a home base is a little too far for a short trip. We settled into our apartment, and then headed out for Canmore around 4 p.m. We were able to pack in a lot due to the sun setting at 9:30 p.m. in July.
Canmore is a charming town about 45 minutes from Cochrane. It appeared to be a Hipster weekend destination from Calgary. We ate a delicious meal at Where the Buffalo Roam which had a very cool menu and fun drinks. We drove home around 9 p.m. to be well rested for our next day adventure
If you enjoyed this itinerary read about glamping in Maui
The 5 a.m. alarm went off, and we were ready to beat the crowds! We made it to the town of Banff by 6:30 a.m. and up to the Lake trailheads by 7:30 a.m.
We snagged one of the last spots in the parking lot. We captured some amazing photos and then took a spot in line for the canoe rentals. The rentals are very expensive, but worth it. After canoeing we took a short hike around Lake Moraine and some more photos from an amazing vantage point. We left Lake Moraine around noon and headed back towards the Town of Banff.
We stopped off at Johnston Canyon. There is a long line at Johnston Canyon about a mile in from the trail head. We opted not to stand in the line as it was a photo opp with a waterfall. We decided we had too much to accomplish to stand in line. Instead we decided to hike down and see the boulder and cave.
We spent a couple of hours exploring Johnston Canyon, and then got back on the road. We stopped in the town of Banff for a bit shopping and a late lunch. We ended the evening at Upper Banff Hot Springs. A public hot springs pool with a $7 entrance fee. Soaking in the hot springs felt great after a busy day, but was crowded.
This was our big hike day. We woke up early again to be able to park at the Lake Louise lot. We started our hike on the Beehive Trail. It is a special hike not to be missed! Who doesn't like to stop for a hot lunch 5 miles into an 8 mile hike (with 1000 ft. elevation)?
The Beehive Tea house was charming & rustic. The food was delicious and warm with a hefty price tag..but well worth it. The employees sleep in a cottage behind the restaurant and take turns hiking in supplies on their next shift.
After eating a hearty lunch we continued on, and away from the crowds. We made it to the top of the Beehive trail with its dramatic views and hung our travel hammock for a quick siesta. We continued down the other side of the mountain. The elevation drop is severe with steep switchbacks. Careful for falling rocks from the hikers above!
We made it down to Lake Agnes and finished the loop by taking a walk through the Fairmont. It is a wonderful historic hotel with so much history. We were exhausted from our hike, so we headed back towards Canmore to grab a bite to eat and back to our Airbnb.
On our final day our flight was late afternoon. We did not have enough time to drive North towards Banff and then back South to the Airport. In hindsight we could have accomplished a lot more by staying in Canmore or closer to Banff.
We decided to take that time to explore Calgary as we like to visit Urban areas. Calgary is a nice clean Metropolitan area with about a million residents. We ate lunch and did not have time to go to any museums. Next time for sure.
We jumped on our plane and back to Southern California to rest up for our next adventure.
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Travel Tips & Fun Adventures!
Hi there....Nice to meet you! I'm Judy and I love to travel to unique spots all over the World. I love experiencing beautiful places & different cultures. I also enjoy adding elements of adventure to my travels. I hope you find some tips & ideas here for your next trip.
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