No matter how many trips I take to Banff National Park in Alberta, I always find something new and beautiful to marvel at. It’s Canada’s oldest national park, and it’s also the perfect destination for those who want to immerse themselves in the quintessential Canadian wilderness.
Whether you’re a nature lover who wants to hike every mountain you see, or a spa lover who'd rather luxuriate with a massage at a nature lodge, Banff offers something for every taste. Follow my itinerary to make the most of your three days at this UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Banff excels in every season, so pack layers and bring your hiking boots.
If you only have time for one thing, make it Lake Louise for views of the turquoise-colored glacial lake and surrounding mountains.
Begin your adventure with a tour of some of the highlights—glacier-fed Lake Louise is a 50-minute drive from downtown Banff (one hour by bus) and is surrounded by hiking and snowshoe trails. The 19th-century Fairmont Château Lake Louise overlooks the lake from the eastern shore and serves a traditional afternoon tea for turn-of-the-century luxury.
In the evening, watch the sky as the first stars appear to illuminate the landscape. An evening hiking tour is a fun way to explore the trails and, in winter, you can see snow sparkling in the moonlight.
Start your second day with a visit to the Columbia Icefield (a 2.5-hour drive from Banff), which overlaps between Banff National Park and Jasper National Park. The Columbia Icefield Skywalk is a good option for those seeking photography opportunities and views. Its glass-bottomed observation platform offers a look at the surrounding glaciers and untouched wilderness.
Those who want to spend longer in nature should make a right turn on the way back to Banff for the Bow Lake car lot—the hike to and from Bow Glacier Falls takes about 2.5 hours, and the view is worth the effort.
Put your feet up after yesterday’s adventures and take in the scenery from a new vantage point—a seasonal horse-drawn sleigh tour whisks you back to the days when the Canadian Pacific Railway brought visitors to Banff for the holidays.
Finish off the trip with a bird’s-eye view of the park from the Banff Gondola. The station is a 10-minute drive from downtown Banff, and the gondola takes you to the peak of Sulphur Mountain. With restaurants, an observation deck, and an interpretive center, Sulphur Mountain is a memorable and informative end to your time in Banff.