Visiting Banff National Park this summer? Here are the best places to stay, go and eat on your next visit to one of Canada’s most beautiful national parks! P.S. Visiting Banff in the fall? Check out this post!
I always struggle with writing my travel recap posts. Partially because writing them brings back memories that make me want to turn back time, and partially because trying to narrow down pictures and words into a coherent and helpful post is a serious challenge.
I go back and forth on whether I should just photo dump or provide a more cohesive outline for future travellers and today the latter won over. I’ve also heard from lots of you guys that my guides to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks were helpful for you so today you’re getting the Canadian version aka Where To Stay, Go and Eat in Banff National Park.
It still kind of feels like a dream that I was even afforded the opportunity to go on this trip. I was invited by Banff Lake Louise Tourism and Food Bloggers of Canada to explore the beautiful Canadian Rockies for 4 glorious days. We were asked to share our experiences on social media, but the trip was so spectacular that I knew I had to post about it on the blog. There were 5 other bloggers there, but I swear the trip felt like it was tailored to me. It was full of adventure, relaxation and naturally, incredible (and healthy!) food. The list of places where I might potentially want to live in life has officially expanded to Alberta. Let’s jump in…
WHAT TO DO IN BANFF NATIONAL PARK
We kicked off our trip with what we thought would be a nice easy stroll in the woods. The trail is in fact easy to navigate but after a slight run-in with a BEAR we ended up scaling a mountain to avoid getting mauled. The scenery was spectacular and despite our minor incident it isn’t all that challenging. Perfect for families and beginner hikers.
2. Kayak/Canoe at the Banff Canoe Club
Hands down the most beautiful place I have ever kayaked. Clear, turquoise water beneath you with cascading mountains surrounding you. We were short on time but I could have spent the entire day out there. So calm and peaceful.
3. Walk around Downtown Banff
If you aren’t the adventurous type, there’s still plenty for you to do in Downtown Banff. Shop till you drop, enjoy insanely delicious food (more on that below) or sit in the gardens to take in the view. Foodies like us couldn’t resist a stop at the Banff Farmer’s Market.
Stop by Banff Adventures and rent yourself a cruiser townie bike. Banff and its surrounding areas are covered in bike trails (and not so townie-friendly bike trails – ahem Jonny) and explore the beautiful Canadian Rockies on a two-wheeler. We biked along the Bow River, stopped by Bow River Falls, before making our way over to Vermillion Lakes. Loved this whole adventure!
By faaaaaar my absolute favourite activity of the trip. This activity is not for the faint of heart. This is like a gateway drug to mountain climbing. *Moderately* safer but you’re still pretty much hanging off a mountain by a carabiner. The adrenaline junkie in me loved every second of it.
Now that we’re sufficiently famished, here’s where to eat…
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WHERE TO EAT IN BANFF NATIONAL PARK
This was actually the main dining lounge at our hotel but besides its convenience, the food was also amazing. The breakfast there had plenty of options from locally sourced bacon and sausage to healthier alternatives like fruit and yogurt. Our first dinner in Banff was at Sleeping Buffalo and they completely blew my socks off. Let’s start with the perfect wine pairings (they knew the way to my heart…) to the elk tenderloin and the QUINOA CHOCOLATE CAKE!!! Be still my heart.
This place is the first distillery of its kind to open in Banff. The food is all campfire inspired (think rustic-comfort), which actually turned out to have a lot of healthy options. I opted for the Hikers Bowl (Kale, arugula, pears, blueberries, trail mix, yogurt vinaigrette) and then quickly unhealthified it with a midday caesar and cornbread. YOLO.
It was love at first sight at Juniper. The decor made me feel like a scene out of mad men but the view from the patio straight up blew me away. They could have fed me dirt and I’d have been happy but instead they matched the scenery by serving one of the best meals I ate in Banff. I had the Sablefish and the chocolate tart for dessert. I wish I could have eaten the whole menu.
We had some munchies after our Via Ferrata excursion at the restaurant at the top of Mt. Norquay. Pretty cool set-up and the charcuterie board was delicious. Admittedly I was ravenous after scaling a mountain so there wasn’t quite enough food but I ate my weight in chips to make up for it. Not sorry.
We stopped in here for a tour de bouche (I think I made that up?) during our townie bike experience. To be honest, I was way too stuffed from Park Distillery to eat anything but my bite of the lettuce wrap was tasty. Cute vibe, solid food (I think) and right in the middle of the action.
It’s a castle in the middle of the Rockies so SHOCKER it was kind of amazing. The hotel has 16 restaurants and we ate at their Indian Summer inspired location. The food was outrageously good, the scenery was breathtaking and the service was kind of subpar. I’m not one to give bad reviews but it was the longest dinner ever.
For more restaurant recommendations for Banff check out my Banff Foodie Guide.
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WHERE TO STAY IN BANFF NATIONAL PARK
Banff Lake Louise Tourism put us up at The Buffalo Mountain Lodge for 4 days and from the second we stepped in there they were so accommodating. From the claw foot tub, to the bear spray on loan (so key!) to the endless directions, I was blow away by the staff and accommodations.
We stayed in the Premier Rooms and they were so cozy, each with their own fireplaces and balconies but the bathroom was the ultimate. I soaked in the tub every single night and nearly cried when my man James set aside bath salts for us next to each of our tubs.
Each room felt like its own cabin and was just a short walk from the main lodge where we ate our meals. From there you could walk to Hoodoos trail or a 15 minute walk into Downtown Banff. Nothing felt too far away. I would highly highly recommend!
Now we all know I can’t resist myself and since this is already the longest post ever so I may as well go full-force and photobomb you like mad. Banff really is the most beautiful place on earth!
As I’m sure you can tell, this was a trip of a lifetime! Thank you to everyone who made this trip so special; you know who you are.
If you are looking for a spectacular trip that is full of adventure and activity, amazing food and some of the most beautiful sights you will ever see, do yourself a favour and visit Banff National Park.
FYI*** All pictures were shot on my Canon 6D and 50mm lens. It’s my go-to for travel photography!
Disclosure: I was a guest of Banff Lake Louise Tourism and my transportation, accommodation, excursions and all meals were covered. I am not being further compensated for writing about my experiences and all opinions are 100% my own.
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FL KayakerAugust 1, 2019 at 11:33 pm
Banff is stunning. The lakes there are so beautiful. When my sister came back, every picture looked like a jigsaw puzzle. I never thought of kayaking there, but I bet that’s amazing.
DerekDecember 22, 2017 at 3:20 pm
Ahhh maan! You really made me think that I totally missed out on exploring Banff! We drove through there years back and I really liked the town but we never really explored it in depth like you did! Ohh well I’ll just have to go back soon! 😛
IvanMay 17, 2017 at 6:31 am
Thanks for this post!
I really wish I had found it earlier as I had so little time to carry out decent research…
As a result my visit to Banff was not that memorable…
Hope to improve that in nearest future!
http://www.gamehackscheats.us/February 14, 2017 at 10:50 am
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LynneNovember 6, 2016 at 4:37 am
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KenzieAugust 22, 2016 at 3:31 am
This is such an amazing run down of some of the greatest things about Banff! I’m a local myself, and I found myself nodding my head along while you described some of the activities. So cool, and pretty scary, that you ran into a BEAR! Safe travels!
Davida @ The Healthy MavenAugust 23, 2016 at 11:11 am
I’m so happy to hear that!! You are so lucky to be a local! I fell in love with Banff and cannot wait to come back and visit!
Alberta GirlMay 16, 2016 at 6:56 pm
Banff/Banff National Park is my backyard. We are out there as often as possible. There is SOOOOOO much more for you to do next time you come. Come a little later in the year next time though, so all the roads/lakes are open. Usually by the end of June, all our winter closed roads are open. Some they close due to difficulty in maintaining them in the deep snows and some are closed to allow for animal migration routes without interference humans.
Moraine Lake is my favorite. I like it even more than Lake Louise. Both areas have some excellent hikes in the area, which you can do after visiting the lakes. If you want a really cute and quaint place to base out of, look at Baker Creek Chalets on the Bow Valley Parkway, which is a beautiful drive and a good chance to see wildlife.
If you want to do a quick jaunt into BC, check out Takkakaw Falls and Emerald Lake and the Natural Bridge, just over the border into BC – an hour, give or take, from the Lake Louise area. The tiny village of Field is located smack dab in between the entrance roads to Takkakaw Falls and Emerald Lake and there are a couple of great little bistros there to eat at.
You could also base in Canmore, just 20 minutes outside of the BNP boundaries. There are several amazing hikes in the area, plus the Canmore Nordic Centre, where you can rent bikes and go mountain biking on their course. Just south of Canmore, you can drive out to the Spray Lakes area where The Revenant was filmed. Just a few miles down the road is Engandine Lodge, which is another beautiful place to stay and the meadow in front of the lodge is the filming location of scene from The Revenant, where Hugh Glass is chasing down the guy who tried to snuff him out.
You could do a day driving trip from Canmore too, along that same road (the Smith-Dorrien Trail and/or the Spray Lakes Rd – one and the same), and connect to the Highwood Pass drive. It is closed over the winter and opens mid-June. The road leading up to the Highwood Pass is dirt/gravel but the Pass is paved. It comes out west of Longview and is considered one fo the best drives in the world. You can stop in Longview at the Longview Steakhouse for dinner – they are considered one of the top steakhouses in the world. You could also tour the Bar U National Historic ranch site, established in 1882 and privy to some visits from some famous and infamous characters (HRH, Edward Prince of Wales and the Sundance Kid are just a couple of examples). If you don’t want to drive on dirt/gravel roads to drive to through the Highwood Pass, you can leave Canmore and head east on the TransCanada Highway, to the Stoney Nakoda Casino/Resort turnoff, and head south there, through Kananaskis – this is all paved and becomes the Highwood Pass.
If you want to see some other beautiful areas, consider the very southern reaches of the province – Waterton National Park, for example, and some of the small towns in the Crowsnest Pass – see the Frank Slide, visit the Frank Slide Interpretive Center, do some caving, etc.
North and east of Calgary, is Drumheller. There is a world class museum there and the hoodoos are something to see. We’re a vast and varied province with so much to see and do. I never tire of talking about my beautiful province.
Kimberly VelizMay 15, 2016 at 11:50 am
I just wanted to let you know that since you made this post last year I fell in love with Banff. I made it a goal of mine to take this trip and I finally booked it!! I’m going this August 2016 with the boyfriend. SO excited. I just wanted to thank you, without this post I would not have been inspired to take such an amazing trip! I’m even staying at the Buffalo Mountain Lodge. Can’t wait 🙂 I’m using your post as a reference for what to do and eat!
Davida KugelmassMay 16, 2016 at 10:54 am
This post totally made my day! I still dream of that trip and cannot wait to go back and visit. So envious you’ll be there in August. Prepare yourself for the best trip and I know you’ll love every second of it! -Davida
Liz DawsonSeptember 27, 2015 at 9:34 am
Thanks for the tips, I’ve printed this out and added it to my ‘holiday organizing folder’ (I do like a folder) for next year as we are coming to Banff. The Via Ferrata is on our ‘to do’ list and if I don’t fall off and die, so is whitewater rafting 🙂 Lots of hiking too though husband is convinced he’ll get eaten by a bear!
Can’t wait to try all those restaurants!
Davida KugelmassSeptember 27, 2015 at 1:28 pm
hahahahah so awesome. When I got back I’m definitely going to try some whitewater rafting! Have the best trip!
JulieJuly 13, 2015 at 2:29 pm
I pinned this for the next time I can get there!
Davida KugelmassJuly 19, 2015 at 8:35 pm
Fab! Hope it’s sooner rather than later!