Tips for Traveling in Banff & The Surrounding Areas

I’ve had a lot of questions about my trip to Canada and a lot of the questions are more or less the same. In an effort to save some time I have consolidated these questions and answered them below!

HOW DID YOU AVOID THE CROWDS IN BANFF?

This was the most common question I got asked. A lot of the places we visited we were around a ton of people, even during the “off hours.” But I would say to go very early in the morning or later in the evenings. Early in the morning is when the photographers are out waiting for sunrise and they are, 99.9% of the time, quiet and respectful of the area. Later in the evenings most people are back at their rentals or campgrounds making dinner, showering, drinking, etc. so that’s also a great time to visit some of the main attractions while avoiding the big crowds. There are some places like Johnson Canyon, Lake Louise and Magline Lake that will be crowded no matter what time of day you go, but you really need to just suck it up and go because they’re crowded for a reason- they’re absolutely stunning!

Consider exploring Yoho National Park, Jasper National Park, Kootenay National Park, Kananaskis, and Glacier National Park of Canada.

 

WHAT WAS YOUR FAVORITE HIKE?

Lake O’Hara and the Iceline Trail from Takakkaw Falls FO SHO. Literally so drop dead gorgeous my mouth was dry from hanging open for both of those hikes.

 

HOW DID YOU RESERVE A CAMPSITE/AIRBNB BEFORE THEY ALL DISAPPEARED?

I seriously don’t know. I looked at AirBnb about 8 months out from our trip and literally everything was gone. I tried to search hotel rooms and only ridiculously expensive ones were available but I finally found a cute place outside of the park on HomeAway. I highly suggest using HomeAway when you can’t find anywhere else. Michael and I prefer homes because then we can cook a lot of our own meals and save some money. I found the campsite at Lake Louise by luck. A few months out from our trip I happened to be browsing online and saw ONE campsite pop up so I immediately booked it for our first few days we were supposed to be there. But to be on the safe side, plan to book all accommodations about 8-12 months out from your trip. Banff is not the type of place you’d want to “wing it,” because it really is so crowded and everything is booked sometimes years out in advance.

 

WHERE DID YOU FLY INTO?

We did not fly into Canada, we drove up from Montana, but when my parents flew in to meet us in Banff they flew into Calgary (YYC) and it was a two hour drive to pick them up from Lake Louise.

 

WHAT WOULD YOU RECOMMEND DOING?

So while we were there we actually didn’t focus a lot of our itinerary on Banff. I read on a lot of blogs that a lot of the surrounding areas and parks are just as beautiful, if not more beautiful, with a fraction of the people. SO, we ended up doing a lot of our hiking in Yoho National Park instead. I HIGHLY recommend doing this as well. While in Banff we woke up early or waited until later in the evening to do things like see Peyto Lake, Lake Louise, etc. but then during the day we relaxed, fished, napped, etc. or we ventured out to the surrounding areas to do hikes away from the crowds.

Jasper NP:

  • Sunwapta Falls
  • Maligne Lake & Spirit Island
  • Athabasca Falls
  • Mount Robson
  • Medicine Lake
  • Pyramid Lake

Kootenay National Park:

  • Mt Assiniboine
  • (Sorry I don’t have more suggestions here, we didn’t get to see this park because of the wildfires while we were there)

Banff NP:

  • Johnson Canyon
  • Lake Louise
  • Peyto Lake, Bow Lake & the Icefields Parkway
  • Vermilion Lakes
  • Moraine Lake

Yoho NP:

  • Lake O’Hara
  • Takakkaw Falls
  • Iceline Trail
  • Hidden Lake
  • Wapta Falls
  • Emerald Lake
  • Natural Bridge

 

WHAT DID YOU PACK AND HOW DO YOU WASH YOUR CLOTHES ON THE TRAIL/ROAD?

I did a post on what I packed for our three weeks out west and you can find it HERE. I pack light and wear a lot of the same things over and over. I have been asked how I wash my clothes when on the trail and on the road and I either don’t (gross I know) or I wait until I get to a mess sink at a campground or to an AirBnb and wash them there. If there isn’t a washer in the AirBnb I fill the tub or sink up with hot water, add soap and just swish around my clothes. I’ll scrub them with my hands or slosh them around with my feet, let them soak, swish them around again, rinse and dry wherever I can.  Never wash your clothes in rivers or lakes even if your soap is biodegradable. No soap, no matter what it is, is good for the environment and can mess with very fragile environments. The bacteria needed to break down soap is found in dirt, not water, so if you need to wash your clothes in the back country, fill a big bowl with water, add biodegradable soap, wash in the bowl and then dump your gray water at least 200 feet away from any water sources.

 

WAS IT COLD?

During the day it usually got up to about 77-82 degrees and at night it was anywhere from 32-55 degrees. We were well prepared with 0 degree grade sleeping bags but it was pretty nippy most nights. In the morning when we did early hikes I wore thick leggings and a down jacket but in the afternoons I was usually comfortable in shorts and tshirt in the sun with a sweater to throw on if it was shady.

 

WAS IT WORTH IT?

Yes! If you are an American this trip is easy and you can make it cheap! Michael and I wanted to do something fun and not too expensive since we wanted to take a few weeks off without having to spend a fortune; we have a few personal things we are saving for but we didn’t want to not travel at all because of it. We stayed in campgrounds and had an AirBnb, we grocery shopped and made a lot of our own meals and bought beer to drink at home rather than in bars or at breweries. Some of the places we went were crowded but if we made an extra effort to hike a few miles we would lose the crowds. If you’re someone who likes something a bit more upscale while still being adventurous, there are a ton of gorgeous hotels, chateaus and private cabin rentals that are amazing and will definitely give you a bit more of a luxurious experience. If you’re not into hiking there are a ton of things you can do to see some amazing views without having to hike. There is truly something for everyone!

If you have any questions leave a comment or shoot me an email!

Jess