Banff is an alpine town located by the peaks of the Rocky Mountains in Alberta, Canada. Whether you’re a fitness fanatic, a history buff or just looking out for the best views, you’ll find plenty of things to do in Banff. The infrastructure is great; there are plenty of hotels, motels, restaurants and cafes. Best of all, if you look beyond all the visitors on Banff Avenue (the town’s main street) it feels like a real town with local cafes and centuries old trails.
SOME USEFUL INFORMATION
ℹ️ Travel: Depending on where you wish to fly into Canada there are many airports that are served from The UK. Manchester and London Heathrow/Gatwick have daily flights into Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto and Ottawa. The nearest airport for Banff is Calgary, that is 85 miles (138KMs) away.
You can rent a car at the Calgary airport. It’s about a 90 minute drive to Banff on the Trans-Canada Highway. You can also take the BANFF AIRPORT SHUTTLER from the airport right to your Banff hotel. Prices for adults are CA$67.99 (GB£40.80) one way.
You can also take the GREYHOUND BUS from downtown Calgary to Banff. There is no train service from Calgary to Banff. The only train service departs from Vancouver on the Pacific West Coast.
Canada runs an electronic travel authority programme similar to that of The USA and Australia whereby you must apply for an electronic travel pass before travel in order to enter Canada. For BRITISH nationals check out this WEBPAGE ADVICE. For NON BRITISH citizens check out this WEBPAGE FOR E-VISAs
ℹ️ Currency: The Canadian Dollar (CA$).
ℹ️ Credit Cards and Banks: ATMs are common place in almost every shopping street around the city centre, with almost every retailer accepting Mastercard and Visa. There is no fear of an establishment declining card payments.
ℹ️ Weather: Depending on the time of year Banff National Park can experience smoke in the air from forest fires, frequent precipitation, or quick temperature changes. June to August are the best months with temperatures in the Mid 20c’s. Wintertime from end of November to early March can be extremely cold with temperatures in the minus figures.
ℹ️ Accommodation: Accommodation around Banff is not cheap. Even the budget motels are easily a couple hundred pounds. If you want something close to the town then consider the 3*Red Carpet Inn, Banff. A standard room of a weekend will cost roughly GB£205 (CA$308). Of course, there are some cheaper options but this motel seems to tick the boxes for comfort and location.
WHAT CAN BANFF OFFER?
Banff is a place for outdoor adventures and sight seeing. Getting around Banff is actually fairly easy. You can either:-
WALK: Banff is a very walkable town. Banff Avenue and the streets angling off it towards the Bow River are full of restaurants, boutiques and souvenir shops. If you enjoy walking then consider the Bow River Bridge to Bow Falls trail, that’s just under a mile long. This one has some uphill walking, but is very popular. It takes roughly 25 minutes and you can access it from the south side of the Bow Bridge.
HOP ON/OFF BUS: If you want to pack a lot of sightseeing into one day, a Hop on/off day bus pass will get you around the top spots from Banff to Lake Louise including Johnston Canyon, Moraine Lake, Lake Louise and the Lake Louise Gondola. Prices from CA$60 (GB£36). Check availability HERE.
VISIT SULPHUR MOUNTAIN
Sulphur Mountain is one of the most popular Banff attractions because of its panoramic views. You can either hike up or down this nearly 8,000 foot high mountain or take the eight minute ride on the Banff cable car. The cable car base is slightly away from town, just past Banff Upper Hot Springs. To get to it from downtown Banff take the Route 1 Roam Bus direction Sulphur Mountain. Tickets cost roughly CA$50 (GB£30).
BANFF HOT SPRINGS
A visit to the Upper Hot Springs near the base of Sulphur Mountain (at the end of Mountain Avenue) is an all natural, inexpensive way to soak in minerals, fresh air and the great outdoors. Bonus: It’s open year round so you can warm up after skiing or unwind after a day of hiking.
The hot springs in Banff were found in 1883 by railroad workers. The Springs are formed by the hot core of the Earth. The lower down you go, the hotter. A natural hot spring occurs when water sinks into the earth, gets heated geothermally from magma (molten rock under the earth’s surface) and gets forced back up again. As the water travels through underground streams or rock, it can soak up minerals, which is what makes a hot springs spa so healthy.
A visit to the Banff Upper Hot Springs roughly costs CA$8.30 (GB£6) for adults. Just remember to bring your swimming gear, a towel and some money for the lockers.
VISIT BOW FALLS
Bow Falls is definitely no Niagara Falls but visiting Bow Falls is still one of the best things to do in Banff. Not far from the Banff Springs Hotel, Bow Falls is short, wide and the water twists and churns impressively as it plunges into the river. You get a real sense of how glaciers carved out the sweeping Bow Valley here.
WHAT CAN BANFF NATIONAL PARK OFFER?
Banff town is a great town to visit but it additionally makes a great spot for a break in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. There are a various spots to visit outside the town in Banff National Park too.
THE LAKES OF BANFF
Just 3 miles (5KMs) from Banff town, Lake Minnewanka is 13 miles (20KMs) long. It’s an outdoor destination, with hiking trails, picnic areas, dive sites, fishing and boat rentals, and in the winter, snowshoeing and cross country skiing.
The plunging falls, stunning scenery and steep cliffs of Johnston Canyon make it one of most popular hiking trails in Banff National Park. The walkways, paths and viewpoints provide accessibility for a wide range of abilities. Have your camera ready at all times.
Lake Louise has to be one of the most well known lakes in Canada. Ask pretty much anyone and they will be able to recall its name. Lake Louise is roughly a 40 minute drive from Banff. The lake is a startling green blue in colour and displays Canadian nature at its most spectacular. Things to do in Lake Louise include stopping in at the very grand Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, hiking around the lake or canoeing.
Roughly 30 miles (45KMs) from Banff, and 9 miles (14KMs) from Lake Louise, this beautiful lake is fed by glaciers to become one of the most scenic spots in the National Park.
THE JASPER ICEFIELDS
If time permits if you are planning to drive from Banff to Jasper through the Rocky Mountains then stop at the Icefields. The Columbia Icefield and Athabasca Glacier is the main draw en-route. Located in Jasper National Park, the Columbia Icefield is a 2.5 hour drive that cuts 120 miles (195KMs) through the mountains from Banff. Two of the main activities here are taking an Ice Explorer Tour on a specially designed ice terrain vehicle, and visiting the Skywalk, a glass walkway that curves out over the side of the mountain. For tickets on the Ice Explorer CLICK HERE.
When you plan your visit to Banff and its National Park just make one promise to yourself. Don’t rush it! take your time to fully appreciate everything it has to offer and why it’s such a wonderful destination in the Rocky Mountains in Canada- don’t take my word for it though. Visit this unique mountain town and fall in love with it for yourself.