Banff National Park
(Early summer-July 5th-8th)
Weather: low 40s morning/night with highs in the 60s/70s Raining on and off
Our 6-year wedding Anniversary was July 7th. We’ve been together for eleven years. Yes, we were high school sweethearts! The past few years have been a little busy moving, having babies, renovating homes and starting up a small shop, so Jay decided it was time to get away and spend some quality time together. I was under the impression we would be taking the boys to the cabin, however he arranged a 4-day trip to Banff National Park and it was definitely a trip to remember! Let me share a little of what we did in our short time there!
DAY 1: BANFF
Where we Stayed: Banff Ptarmigan Inn
What we did:
We left Minneapolis Thursday morning at 1140 and flew into Calgary. The flight was about 3 hours long. We got our rental car and drove 1.5 hours from the airport to get into Banff. By the time we got to our hotel it was probably 330pm (one hour behind MN time). Once we got into Banff, we checked into our hotel called the Ptarmigan Inn. It was nothing special and outdated, but it was right in the heart of Banff, which was really nice because it was close to all the shops and restaurants, but if you were looking for something more luxurious, I would look elsewhere. There are tons of hotels along Banff Ave, so just google it and you'll see tons of options!
We got ready and headed down Banff Ave to walk along the shops and boutiques. We stopped by Magpie and Stumps to eat on their rooftop but note that they do not have a full service menu up top, just street food and small bites. We weren’t crazy about their food, but it was recommended to us by a few different people and I’m sure had we ate downstairs where the full menu was offered we might of enjoyed it more.
Afterwards we stopped by Cows Ice Cream Shop, which was crazy busy and clearly the place to be, plus pregnant me needed ice cream! Afterwards we drove to our reservation at the Banff Gondola ride. We did try to make dinner reservations at their Sky Bistro Mountain top restaurant, but it was booked so I would recommend looking into this in advance if you are interested in eating on the mountaintop. The food/menu did look good, but there is also a café and other diner to eat at when you get to the top. You can explore the 4 levels; walk out on a wooded pathway to get 360 views of the mountains and the Fairmont Banff that overlooks the Bow River. If you go at sunset, which is what we did they have a musician up top and craft beers/donuts and pretzels for you to enjoy as the sun goes down. Bring warm clothing, as it does it cold up there especially when the sun disappears. We made it back to our hotel, and got some slumber as we had a big day ahead.
Perks of Banff Ptarmigan Inn
1. In the heart of Banff, walking distance to everything
2. Continental breakfast
DAY 2: Lake Moraine
Where we stayed: Moraine Lake Lodge
What we did:
We woke up in Banff at the Ptarmigan Inn, got ready, ate their continental breakfast, checked out and headed to Canmore which we were told has really good places to eat and is actually where a lot of people go to stay to help cut costs because it is right outside of Banff. It did have a really cute downtown area filled with cute shops and boutiques. Canmore is where we took our maternity photos, just along the blue river. Afterwards we drove up to Lake Louise and ate lunch at the Fairmont Lake Louise, which was probably one of our better meals. The view of the lake while eating lunch was so stunning! I think if we were to go back, we would stay at the Fairmont for one night just to get the full experience. It is expensive though, so it would definitely be a splurge!
We arrived to Lake Moraine around 430. The road wasn’t closed down, however the traffic was terrible and it took about an hour to get to our lodge. This is why they say get there early! In most cases they close the roads down and you are only allowed to pass through if you’re staying there, but if the road isn’t closed note that the traffic backs up because everyone is trying to find a parking space in a 50-car lot so it takes forever, and the end of the road is where the lake and lodge are, so there is only one way in and one way out!
Once we finally made it to the Moraine Lake lodge, we checked into our cabin and headed down to the dock to go canoeing. You get FREE canoe rentals when staying at the lodge, which is a great deal considering it is $100/hour per person to canoe on Lake Moraine. Totally worth it in our opinion, since yes, the lodge was not cheap, but you could easily make up for it spending a couple hours out on the lake!
There are probably only 20 cabins at the lodge and it is the only lodge on the entire lake which makes it very intimate and romantic. It almost reminded me of a bed and breakfast. We ate dinner there that night, the food was great and the service was excellent not to mention how adorable and cozy the dining area is with a wood burning fireplace and wall of all windows to look out at the lake.
We then headed back to our cabin started a fire in our wood burning fireplace, popped some champagne (For Jay!) and fell asleep to the crackling and popping of the wood burning fireplace, it was so peaceful and beautiful.
Perks of Moraine Lake Lodge
1. FREE canoe rental and guided hikes with a naturalist
2. Right on the lake, with incredible views and steps away from Rockpile hike which is where everyone takes their beautiful photos you see below!
3. FREE continental breakfast (IT is delicious!)
4. FREE Tea time (sandwiches and soup for a late lunch)
This was my FAVORITE PLACE we stayed the entire trip! It was truly magical and worth every penny!
Canoeing on Lake Moraine
Above picture was early morning watching the sunrise!
DAY 3: Lake Louise
Where we stayed: Deer Lodge
What we did:
We woke up early to watch the sunrise at the top of the Rockpile overlooking Lake Moraine, it was freezing but so worth it. This is where all those beautiful pictures you see on pinterest come from! Although it was cloudy it was still an experience worth doing. Afterwards we went back to our cabin to warm up and actually took a nap until the continental breakfast started. Breakfast was soooo good. All homemade pastries, fruit parfaits, scrambled eggs, potatoes, bacon and sausage and a variety of other things. You could enjoy unlimited coffee, orange or apple juice or they would make you a latte, just about anything you wanted they could get for you or make for you. It was fantastic.
Unfortunately it was raining, windy, and cold this morning otherwise we would of gone out on the canoes again before we headed to Lake Louise. Since our check in time at the Deer Lodge wasn’t until 4pm we decided to go hike to the Tea House up on Lake Agnus. I would consider this hike to be a moderate skill level, simply because of the steady incline, but anyone can do it considering there were some 70 year olds on the hike taking their time! What’s so awesome about this hike is that you get to see 3 blue lakes on your way and once you reach the top. You start at Lake Louise behind the Fairmont, halfway through you reach Mirror Lake and then make your way up to Lake Agnes where the Tea House is. It is definitely just an "experience" to eat up there. The food is nothing special (think canned tuna/PB&J sandwiches, bagged corn chips with pace salsa, and maybe some homemade desserts) The loose leaf tea though came in the cutest tea pot and it helped warm us up, not to mention the view was just remarkable which made paying a hefty penny well worth it! You can also get items to go, however there are no garbages so you have to take your trash with you!
After we made it back down the mountain, we still had a bit of time to waste until we could check in so we decided to eat at the Fairmont again since we were right there. We walked around the lake, took some pictures and then walked back to the Deer lodge to check into our room. (We got to the hotel early and asked for a parking pass since we were checking in later that day which was a huge help otherwise we wouldn’t of been able to park anywhere near the lake before we did our hike) Jay decided to hot tub for a little bit, we then got ready and headed back to the Fairmont (they have a few restaurants in the Chateau) for our Anniversary dinner. After dinner we made it back to our hotel at the Deer Lodge, and just settled in for the night.
I do have to mention that the Deer lodge is nothing special, its actually a shit hole, but it's the closest to Lake Louise without staying at the Fairmont! So you could still walk to the lake and all the hikes, which was very nice!
Perks of Deer Lodge
- Close proximity to Lake Louise, walking distance to the lake, fairmont hotel, and hikes
Above is Lake Mirror, Halfway up to the Tea House
DAY 4: Headed Home
What we did:
We work up early in our shit hole hotel room, packed up our stuff, got ready and checked out so that we could make it to Johnston Canyon before it got too busy. We left around 7am, and got to the Canyon around 730am. The hike starts behind the Johnston Canyon Lodge, but there is public parking for FREE right next door so don’t pay to park!
The hike is very easy; it’s actually paved and has guardrails to hold onto. There are a couple of different sites to see along the way. The lower falls is the smaller waterfall; upper falls is the larger waterfall and a slightly longer hike. You can also get to the top of the waterfall and look down; all are pretty cool sights to see.
We were kind of crunched on time as we were meeting our friends in Calgary for brunch, so I would say we did the entire hike with stops for pictures and what not in about an hour. The drive back to the Calgary airport is about 1.5 hours from Johnston Canyon. We ate brunch, headed to the airport and were on our way home to see our boys!
- Get to the hikes early! Parking and the amount of people get so saturated that you will be waiting in your car for far too long before you find a spot, let alone how crowded the top of the hikes get.
- Know your road ways! We took the A1 highway which is more scenic and you’re suppose to see more wildlife compared to Highway 1, however we drove an hour down the A1 only to find out we couldn’t get through to Lake Louise and had to turn around.
- Bring a variety of clothing! The weather is ridiculous with 40-degree temperature changes. It would get up to 70-80s during the day, but at night as soon as the sun dipped behind the mountains it got cold and down to 40 degrees.
- NOTE most places in the national park DO NOT have air conditioning because of the temperature drop at night; so be prepared to open the windows!
- When making dinner reservations anywhere along the water lines or mountains, ask for a window spot so you can actually see the view! Also be sure to make dinner reservations, a lot of the bigger hotels reserve their Dining times for guest staying at their hotel, so you may not get to eat where you want to if you don't call ahead!
- There are tons of day hikes you can do all over Banff, you can read more about what hikes there are to do HERE
- I have heard that Jasper is very similar and filled with beautiful scenic views, but is less "crowded" or populated with people. However, it is 4 hours away from Banff.
I hope you enjoyed this post and found lots of helpful tips! I've linked just about everything I could think of as far as places to stay/do so be sure to check those out. If you loved what you read, I'd love for you to share it with your friends or on pinterest and please be sure to ask any questions you have by DM-ing me on instagram or on my recent IG post sharing our trip! Thanks for following along, your support is greatly appreciated!