Let me just start out by saying, Banff National Park is awesome! It’s also the first international, national park that I have ever visited. I wasn’t disappointed! We headed to Banff on a Thursday and came back Monday, a quick 5 days to celebrate my dirty 30. Yes, we got dirty – on our epic hike above Moraine Lake…. read on.
Also, if you know me well enough, I love to plan itineraries for any trip I go on. Before going to Banff, I did a lot of research and there was a lot that I wanted to do. Since we were only there for 5 days, with 2 of those being travel days, we tried to pack as much in that we could. Plus, I’m already making a list of what I’ll do next time I go back. Here’s a quick run-down of what we actually did:
Flew-in from Salt Lake City airport – super quick, direct flight that was under 2 hours
Rented a Jeep Wrangler – yes, of course I upgraded on my birthday weekend. The car-rental attendant told us we didn’t need GPS because we were in a Jeep and could go anywhere! It was super fun to have, but you really don’t need a Jeep or 4WD in Banff in the Summer but it did make us feel safe when we saw a grizzly bear (see below). The drive to Canmore, which is where we stayed, from the airport is only a little over an hour but it’s way more fun in a Jeep.
Explored Canmore – we checked into our hotel, walked around town, went to the local farmer’s market (every Thursday in the Summer), picked up some local craft beer and had dinner. Canmore is an awesome town!
Friday – we spent most of our day in the town of Banff, which is about 30-45 minutes from Canmore. We checked the weather and decided to wait to hike until Saturday and Sunday. Plus, when you have a breakfast cocktail at Park Distillery, your plans might change a little. But hey, it was my birthday weekend!
Breakfast at Wildflour Bakery – amazing egg sandwich in downtown Banff. Then, grabbed a breakfast cocktail at Park Distillery. Who needs coffee anyway?
Rented bikes – rode down the path to Bow River Falls, along the river and around town. Our bike rentals for an hour were $15 (Canadian) for an hour. Super cheap and worth it!
The Park Distillery – if you are in Banff, you have to check this place out! We did the free distillery tour and then tried the flight of booze after – the best vodka you’ll ever taste, made with glacier run-off water!
Eddies Burgers – vegetarian poutine to die for. If you are vegetarian like me, go here and order the poutine.
Norquey Mountain – since we had a pretty lazy day we wanted to explore a little bit. We drove up to the Norquey Mountain lookout to check out the view from a large field that looks over Banff, Rundle Mountain and Vermillion Lakes. On our drive, we saw a bunch of wildlife but no bears.
Lake Minnewanka – we drove to Lake Minnewanka to check out our first glacier lake. It didn’t disappoint! We hung out by the dock and took in the views.
Sunset in Canmore – We got back to Canmore and drove above the city to watch the sunset. I have to say I think we were pretty lucky to find this spot, here it is on Google Map.
Saturday – my birthday! We couldn’t waste any of it so we woke up at 6am!
Tower of Babel – we rented helmets at a shop called Wilson’s in Lake Louise Village and then headed up to Lake Moraine to start our hike. We got to the parking area around 8:30am and it was already starting to get busy. Luckily, we parked and made our way past the crowds and up 1,300 feet to the Tower of Babel. This is probably the most epic hike/scramble I have ever done. The views of Lake Moraine were stunning.
Lake Louise – we drove to Lake Louise, from Moraine Lake, to have lunch and see this iconic lake with our own eyes. In my opinion, Lake Moraine is much prettier. Lake Louise was super crowded with tourists and the Fairmont Chateaux is kind of an eyesore on the side of the lake. We thought about staying here, but are happy that we didn’t because it was so crowded and touristy. We decided to take some canoes out to get away from the crowds to check out the lake. When I go back to Banff, I might skip Lake Louise, unless we do a hike around there!
Dinner celebrations in Canmore! It was a great birthday so we celebrated in downtown Canmore!
Sunday Funday – this was our last full day on vacation so we tried to fit a lot in before going back to Utah!
Early wake-up call: Lift ride at Lake Louise ski-resort – We got to the Lake Louise Ski Area by 8:30am to do the breakfast buffet and lift ticket combo deal. The breakfast was great, I would definitely recommend doing this. It was only $4 extra per lift ticket to have all you can eat breakfast! On the chair-lift we got to see Olivia, a mama grizzly bear and her two cubs. We saw them on the snow and then running around at the base of the resort. It was so awesome!
Peyto Lake – we headed back to the village and grabbed some beer and picnic stuff, then headed to Peyto Lake. We did a short hike, but we weren’t able to hike to the Bow Summit because there was still a lot of snow. We walked down past the viewing area to find a quiet spot to hang out for a little bit. We were surprised more people didn’t venture off the frequently traveled path for some peace and quiet.
Johnston Canyon – our legs were a bit sore from the Tower of Babel hike but we did this short 3 mile hike, which turned into a trail run. This place is sweet and has walkways that wind up the river, which has several falls and caves along the way. We were lucky to see some extreme kayakers navigate the rapids and falls.
Bear siting – as we were leaving Johnston Canyon, we saw a male grizzly bear crossing the road!
Grizzly Paw Brewery – we made the “trek”, about an hour, back to Canmore for dinner at the local brewery’s restaurant. The food, beer and service here was great. Plus, we ordered a pitcher, something that you can’t find everywhere in Utah. At dinner we made plans for sunset.
Vermillion Lakes – we had heard that Vermillion Lakes is a great place to watch the sunset so we headed back into Banff town and posted up with some photographers and other people at Vermillion Lakes to look at wildlife and watch the sun go down. If you go at dusk, make sure you bring bug-spray, we got eaten alive by the mosquitoes.
Sunday – I didn’t want to leave Banff because there was so much more that I wanted to see! We slept in, packed and headed to the airport after breakfast in Canmore.