5 Perfect Days in Banff, Alberta, Canada

Lake Louise

Alberta is a beautiful province of Canada. I don’t think I really understood it was a place until someone recommended I visit Banff. It turned out to be one of the best vacations I have ever had. It’s a gorgeous, peaceful place when it’s sunny, raining and even snowing. So here’s a quick hit on how to make the most of a trip to Banff.

We chose to stay in a cabin for three nights near Lake Louise and then a nice hotel with a hot tub outside the city center of Banff. I highly recommend this if you are an early riser. Crowds can be a real pain, even in late September/early October. Going early means going alone. We first did a short hike to get a overview of Lake Louise.

Lake Louise – Fairmont Overlook

It’s a beautiful lake that gets its color from the glacier that feeds it. The Fairmont Hotel is a massive The-Shining-like manor. There’s another similar hotel in Banff itself. I wouldn’t stay here, personally, but I can see the appeal. Waking up and falling asleep next to this lake must be incredible.

Day 1: Plains of Six Glaciers Trail

Get up early and start the hike to the top of the Plains of Six Glaciers Trail. You want to leave early because you want to be the first one to the adorable Teahouse at the top. The tea is great and you can even get yourself a slice of pie.

The Teahouse

Surprise, surprise, there are glaciers at the top of this trail. We sat and watched avalanches rush down the mountains for about an hour before leaving. The cracking thunder the avalanches produce is really something to experience.

We chose not to climb out the same way we climbed in and made a detour to Lake Agnes.

Lake Agnes

It’s much smaller, but along the way there you get a great view of the Beehive as well as paddle boarders on Lake Louise.

Paddle boarders on Lake Louise

Day 2: Valley of the 10 Peaks

We got up early again the next day to head to Valley of the 10 Peaks. We knew we wanted to canoe on Moraine Lake, and we knew we wanted to do it alone. We picked up a hitchhiker on the way there who turned out to be headed to work. He comped the canoe rental for us in exchange for the ride. Worked out perfectly!

Valley of the 10 Peaks
Rushing water into the Valley of the 10 Peaks
Lake Moraine

Canoeing on this beautiful lake was magical. We traveled into small recesses where the light hadn’t touched yet and felt completely at peace on the calm water.

We thought canoeing on Lake Moraine was fantastic, but the hike around Valley of the 10 Peaks? Amazing. You walk through beautiful larch trees. They are bright yellow in the fall.

Larch Valley

You arrive at Sentinel Pass. There are switchbacks up, but it’s worth the scramble. Along the way there are small pools to cool off in (dip your feet!).

View of Paradise Valley from Sentinel Pass

Day 3: Tower/Rockbound Lake Trail

The next day, it rained a little bit. Apparently enough to scare everyone away. We headed out anyway on the Rockbound Lake Trail. Being totally alone, we were a little afraid of bears. If you don’t know, you’re supposed to keep talking when you’re in groups smaller than 4 (and probably more than 4) to keep the bears at bay. Neal chose to use this time to make every bear pun he could possibly think of. It was spectacular. We finally arrived to the green waters of Tower Lake. The rain had stopped, so we had a picnic on a log by the lake.

Tower Lake

Just after Tower Lake, up quick, steep switchbacks is Rockbound Lake. It was also cool, but not as pretty.

Later that day, we checked out the Sulfur Caves in Banff. Not a must-see, but cool.

Sulfur Caves

Day 4: The Inkpots & Banff

We hiked Johnston Canyon up the Inkpots the next day. The hike seemed long and we weren’t sure we’d ever get there. More people here than the other hikes as well. But the Inkpots were very cool. Each pool was a different color and the movement in the pools were captivating. The area in general there was gorgeous and I just liked being there.

The Inkpots

There were ravens that hung out with us, too.

A raven.

We checked out Banff in the afternoon, which is a cute mountain town. We visited the Fairmont in Banff and got a great shot of an elk living his best life.

We also had a great view of Sulfur Mountain from here.

We enjoyed our hotel’s hot tub that night as we began to unwind our trip.

Day 5: Icefields Parkway

We chose to take the Icefields Parkway out of Banff and up through Jasper. This is an incredible drive. It should be on your top 10 list. The views are stunning and you can even walk on a glacier along the way.

We hiked through the snow on the Bow Summit Lookout Trail to get this incredible view.

Icefields Parkway can be seen from Bow Summit Lookout Trail

Elk greeted us as we entered Jasper. We were so sad to leave this incredible part of the world.

Do you have any must-sees in the Alberta/Banff area? Share in the comments!

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7 thoughts on “5 Perfect Days in Banff, Alberta, Canada

  1. Thanks so much for this Banff summary! How long did it take you to hike day 1 (Plains of Six Glaciers + Lake Agnes) We are thinking of doing the same hike in 1 day.

    1. Hey, thanks! This was such a great trip. It took us the whole day to do these two hikes, including a stop at the tea house for tea and scones, listening to the avalanches, resting at the Bee hive on the way to Lake Agnes, and enjoying food at a picnic table at the bottom of Lake Agnes. We finished the day with a drink at the Fairmont as the sun came down. It’s a lot of hiking for one day, but such a great hike.

  2. I’m glad you had a great time! As a native Albertan I love reading about others’ trip reports from a first time visit to Banff National Park. If you’re ever in Banff again, I would take a quick drive up to ‘surprise corner’ and this is one of the best easily accessible places for sweeping views of Banff and the valley.

    I also recommend a visit to Canmore, which is a town just outside the national park gates (so you don’t need a park pass) and it’s just as beautiful. There’s a great hike nearby called Ha-Ling Peak. If you liked Rockbound, you’d probably like this one!

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