The Ultimate Guide to Banff National Park

Banff National Park was our 4th stop on our Canadian road trip through British Columbia and Alberta. It was also the national park I was most excited about after spending weeks on Pinterest looking at pictures of Lake Louise and researching the campgrounds.  Although Banff National Park is by no means a hidden gem to the world, it offers something amazing for anyone who is looking to find beauty in nature.

Before You Go:

Banff National Park is located in the province of Alberta near the British Columbia border. It’s nearest cities are Calgary, which is 128 km east (80 miles) and Edmonton which is 401 km northwest (250 miles).

Park Passes are free in Canada during 2017, but in 2018 the fees will go back to their regular prices.

Plan for seasonal closures & book campsites early, especially during peak season (summer).

Fun Facts:

  • Established in 1885, Banff National Park is Canada‘s oldest national park and the third-oldest national park in the world.
  • Banff National Park stretches 6,641 square kilometers (2,564 square miles) in area, making it the second largest of Canada’s mountain parks behind its neighbor Jasper National Park.
  • When visiting the park you can discover the mountains in the park that date back to 45 to 120 million years old and can view more than a thousand glaciers.

Critters to Look Out For:

In Banff National Park the wildlife you might run into are:

  • elk
  • bighorn sheep
  • mountain goats
  • grizzly & black bears
  • moose
  • wolves & wolverines
  • bald eagles
  • owls
  • beavers & hoary marmots

What to Do:

Lake Louise

Stop by Lake Louise to see one of the most photographed and visited locations in the Canadian Rockies.  This uniquely colored emerald lake is not only perfect for snapping amazing pictures, it also sets the scene for hiking, canoeing, and climbing. During the winter months, it acts as a skating rink for the public.  Get there before 9 a.m. to avoid the largest crowds and parking nightmares.

Moraine Lake

Although its close neighbor Lake Louise is seemingly more popular, I liked Moraine Lake more out of the two.  If you are lucky enough to visit this lake during a day with blue skies, the stunning turquoise waters will be incredibly vivid. Moraine Lake looked like something straight from a painting and the area was full of awesome hikes including the Valley of the Ten Peaks.

Johnston Lake

This lesser-known lake is great if you are looking to enjoy a lake without the crowds.  Andrew and I went here on a sunset hike and enjoyed the beautiful landscape of mountains and trees.

Lake Minnewanka

I think you might be catching onto the pattern here, Banff National Park has great lakes that have the most vivid colors.  This man-made lake is perfect for laying out and enjoying the summer sun or having a small picnic with some friends and family.

Banff Upper Hot Springs

Enjoy the historic mineral waters here after a long day of hiking.  The different pools and warm waters are incredibly relaxing, especially since they are surrounded by the beauty of trees and mountains.

Icefields Parkway Drive

The drive from Lake Louise to Jasper National Park is suppose to be one of the most beautiful drives in the world, and I 100% support this statement.  You will drive past over 100 glaciers, waterfalls, breathtaking mountains, and can maybe even spot some wildlife.  The drive has plenty of places to stop and take pictures, including Peyto Lake, Herbert Lake, and the Crowfoot Glacier.


Lake Louise Lakeshore– 4km roundtrip (1 hr)

When you first arrive at the lake, it is extremely crowded with selfie sticks and people.  I suggest doing this hike because it helps you get away from the crowds and you can really see a panoramic view of Lake Louise and the photogenic hotel, Chateau Lake Louise.

Moraine Lake Lakeshore– 3km roundtrip (45 min)

A similar stroll to the Lake Louise Lakeshore hike, this easy mile and a half hike lets you walk beside the incredibly beautiful Moraine Lake.  It allowed Andrew and I a way to enjoy the lake without dealing with the crowds.

Johnston Canyon

This was one of my all-time favorite hikes.  The trail takes you to both Upper and Lower Falls and offers breathtaking views of canyons, waterfalls, and other places like this giant rock that make you want to sit for a while. At one point we even were able to enjoy a snack at the very top of a waterfall…so cool.

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just taking a morning stroll //

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Where to Camp:

In the park there are 13 frontcountry campgrounds, here are the two I stayed at during my visit:

Johnston Canyon Campground (open May 25 to Sept. 24), $27.40 CAD-

This campground was one of my favorites that we camped at in Canada because of its amazing location and of course, its free showers.  The campground is located right across from the start of the Johnston Canyon hike and is only a small drive to Lake Louise.

Two Jack Main (open June 22 to September 5), $21.50 CAD-

I really enjoyed this campground because although it was not a primitive campground, it had the feeling and privacy of one.  I loved the trees that grew along the campground that just made the most peaceful noises while I sat in my hammock and read.

Check out my camping essentials:

Although Banff was more crowded than any of the other Canadian Rocky Mountain parks, those crowds had a good reason for coming.  Banff NP amazed me with its jaw-dropping landscapes and the natural beauty that was waiting to be uncovered.

Have you been to Banff National Park before or is there something I missed? Let me know in the comments below.





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10 thoughts on “The Ultimate Guide to Banff National Park

  1. Oh wow what an amazing place! I’m heading to Canada next summer so am super excited to visit all these spots! Those lakes are simply stunning – I’ll be returning to this post closer to the time 🙂

  2. This is the second blog post about the province of Alberta that I’ve read today – are y’all trying to make me book a trip there?! It seriously just looks so beautiful. I’m a big fan of national parks and there’s a lot of gorgeous ones in North America. I’ll make sure to add this one to my list 🙂

  3. Wow! All of those lake pictures make me want to go there, immediately! And Johnston Canyon looks pretty amazing too! Thanks for all of the tips and useful info!

  4. I love seeing blog posts about my home! Makes me feel so incredibly lucky to live in Alberta! Even for locals, Banff is such an amazing getaway that we keep going back for more!

  5. Makes me a little homesick for Canada even though I have only been to Banff once (I am from Ontario originally). Such a glorious place to visit, luckily I am in the Spanish mountains right now so it does bring back the memories.

  6. OMG Banff National Park looks like a paradise! I cant believe I haven’t visit Canada while I was living in USA! It looks so wonderful! All of those lakes! I would love to be there! So jealous!

  7. I’ve been dying to go to Banff National Park! Your photos just make it look so incredible. This is a great guide for someone like me who needs all the help I can get when I actually make it there.

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