The Best 3-Day Guide For
What To Do In Summer in Banff
Summer in Banff is most definitely becoming world famous thanks (almost single-handedly) to Instagram. In 2017 the momentum of tourism in Banff continued to grow (mainly due to Canada’s 150th birthday celebrations) and it hasn’t really stopped since. In fact, Banff National Park is the most visited tourist destination in Alberta and one of the most visited parks in North America.
If you don’t know what Banff looks like, or just how beautiful summer in Banff is (we are certainly sure you already do though or you wouldn’t be here) you can view the 11 most breathtaking places in Banff here. There are more than just 11 things to see or do in Banff though and if you are on a short timeframe it can be overwhelming trying to figure out exactly what to do, which is where this guide comes in!
Banff gets more than three million tourists each year and tourism in Banff alone contributes almost six billion dollars annually to the economy. You do need a park pass to stop in the park, a day pass for a family is $19.60CAD ($14.88USD) and you need a pass for each day you are in the park. If you are planning on staying for 7 or more days in the park it would be better for you to get a Discovery Pass (basically an annual pass to all National Parks across Canada) which will cost $136.40CAD ($103.60USD). It is important you actually buy a pass, they do check and they do hand out tickets for anyone without a valid permit.
FUN FACT: Canada has so many trees and thick forests that is covers up to 30% of the country. It’s almost home to 20% of the world’s fresh water and has more lakes than any other country in the world. Luckily Banff is home to many of those beautiful lakes.
There are a lot of ways to spend summer in Banff and there are a ton of things to do in Banff, but this guide will help you narrow some of those activities down so you can make the most out of only three days. If you have less time or more time in Banff you can use this guide and select some of your favourite options to shorten it down or even add extra activities to expand it to spend more time! If you still have questions or want more suggestions, send us an e-mail or write it down in the comments, we have tried to include everything from what to do, see, eat, and where to stay.
A little background about Banff National Park before we get started…
Banff was discovered and established in the late 1800’s and its purpose right from the get-go was tourism. It was discovered due to the building of the Canadian Pacific Railway when a few workers found the Cave & Basin, AKA natural hot springs! They immediately identified the hot springs as a potential tourist attraction. And boy were they right! The Canadian Government then took the appropriate steps to protect the park. It became the first National Park in Canada and the third National Park in the world. Around 100 years later it would be named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Shortly after it was named a National Park the Banff Springs Hotel was built. Advertised as a mountain getaway it was intended to help increase the profits for the railway, and so it did. In fact, it quickly became a top destination in North America, and has continued to be! If you want to know even more about Banff National Park, the Canadian Encyclopedia has a great article you can read here.
So now that you are prepared to wow people with a little bit of knowledge about Banff National Park, let’s dive into making the most of your time while spending three days in summer in Banff!
Arrive at Calgary Airport
Calgary International Airport is the closest airport to Banff with Edmonton being the second. However, if you plan on landing in Jasper it is nearly a six-hour drive and you would only benefit from landing there if you also visited Jasper National Park and took the Icefields Parkway to Banff and Lake Louise. If you are just doing Banff land in Calgary (YYC is the airport code).
There are a few shuttles that will take you from Calgary to Banff and back, but we recommend renting a car for two main reasons:
- Buses are on a set schedule and don’t always allow you to fully utilize the short amount of time you may have, so having a rental car will give you more freedom and make it easier for you to efficiently get everywhere you need and want to go.
- Rental cars can be pretty inexpensive (sometimes as low as $17CAD ($13USD per day) so it won’t make a huge dent in your wallet and in some cases can be cheaper than taking a variety of shuttles.
Even if you rent a car there still may be some places you want to book a shuttle to in order to ensure you get in, places like Moraine Lake (which we will touch on further in this post).
Brewster Shuttle Bus: Calgary > Banff Round Trip > Adults $118CAD ($90USD) Children $60CAD ($45USD)
Banff Airporter: Calgary > Banff Round Trip > Adults $130CAD ($99USD) Children $65CAD ($49USD)
Car Rentals: Expedia has car rental prices as low as $17CAD ($13USD) per day!
Drive To Banff & Grab Breakfast/Snack
The drive from the airport to Banff should take around an hour and a half depending on traffic. You will need to take highway 1 (also known as the Trans Canada Highway). It is a beautiful drive that showcases Alberta’s amazing prairies but also takes you right into the heart of the Rockies.
One of the first things we tend to do after a long (or short) flight is to grab a good cup of coffee and a snack. Luckily for all of us, Evelyn’s Coffee Bar exists. Evelyn’s is located just on the main trip of town and is one of our favourite places to stop and grab a drink.
It’s a great first stop on your summer in Banff trip because it can help you refuel and it’s atmosphere feels like it could only belong in a small Mountain town like Banff. We recommend grabbing a latte (there are a few speciality flavours and syrups to choose from if you want flavours) and an in-house made cookie!
Check Out The Cave & Basin
There is no better way to start your summer in Banff adventure than at the birthplace of Canada‘s National Parks. The Cave and Basin is an iconic area of Banff with an incredibly important history. The Cave & Basin has long been important to the indigenous people (human habitation to the area goes back to 10,700 years BP) but it wasn’t brought into the limelight into two railway workers came upon the cave in 1883.
The two workers built a cabin nearby with the intent of commercializing the thermal waters, which eventually caused the government to intervene. In 1885 the Canadian government, headed by John A Macdonald, reserved space around the Cave and Basin, this reserved space would be the beginning of the formation of Canada’s National Parks. Banff National Park became Canada’s first National Park because of the discovery of the Cave and Basin.
The Cave and Basin is one of nine sulfurous hot springs that are clustered in groups on the side of Sulphur Mountain. Due to the sulfur, this area does have a very distinct smell (it smells like rotten eggs). There are two pools to view, one inside the cave and the other outside, both uniquely beautiful. There are two interpretive trails that teach you the history of the area and a little more about the plants and animals that flourish in the warm springs.
You are not allowed to swim in or touch the water of the hot springs. At one point in time, you were able to, however, after the discovery of an endangered sail, the Banff Springs Snail, you are now unable to swim in or touch the water. In 2015 an Ontario man decided to take a dip in the pools and was hit with a $4,500CAD ($3,416USD) fine, so please refrain!
We promise there will be hot springs to enjoy a bit later in this summer in Banff guide.
Explore The Banff Springs Hotel
Another major stop for discovering the history of Banff National Park – The Banff Springs Hotel. Along with the Cave and Basin the Banff Springs Hotel was a catalyst for the parks growth, popularity and eventual status as a National Park and UNESCO World Heritage Site. Spending summer in Banff simply isn’t complete without a visit to the iconic castle in the Rockies.
The hotel’s construction began in 1887 and was completed in 1888 by the Canadian Pacific Railway as a way to bring tourists to the area and fund the development of the cross-country railway. Twenty-three years later in 1911, a new concrete and stone structure was built to replace the original wooden hotel. Renovations continued over the years as new wings were built and eventually, in 1968, the hotel was winterised so it could remain open year-round.
There are plenty of grand ballrooms, lounges, halls and grand staircases for guests and tourists to explore, some that even come with haunted stories and tales. One of the most famous of those tales is the story of the ghost bride, a story that dates all the way back to the late 1920s. In her wedding gown, the bride descended one of the many marble staircases to meet her groom at the altar, something startled her which causes her to slip and fall, leading to her death.
Some say she caught her heel on her dress, some say she brushed against the flame of a candle. But since then, hotel staff and guests of the hotel have reported seeing a veiled figure going up and down the stairs and a figure in a wedding dress dancing in the ballroom upstairs. She is so famous she once appeared on a Canadian stamp and on a 25 cent coin.
There is also the legend of room 873, a room that has since been completely covered and is inaccessible. The story tells of a family who was murdered in the room (by the Husband) and after the murder investigation was complete the room was refurbished and opened to the public again. Guests then reported being woken up by harrowing screams and even saw bloody handprints on the mirrors.
After plenty of reports the door to room 873 was sealed over and closed off, there is still a pot light that is on above the room and if you knock on the wall you can hear the hollow space where a door one was. People even say the tale of room 873 is what inspired Stephen King to write his novel, The Shining. These are just two of the haunted stories that come out of the Banff Springs Hotel.
You can find a self-guided tour brochure here, the brochure does not include its haunted spots! Don’t forget to explore the grounds as well as the interior. Bow Falls are located just outside and animals tend to hang out on the golf course grass during summer in Banff.
Grab A Late Lunch
After all that ghost hunting and the massive history lesson you just endured, you are probably hungry. There are plenty of lunch options in Banff, but since it’s your first day and you are just getting settled, why not go enjoy a cold locally brewed beer at the Banff Ave. Brewing Company. They brew seven different beers in-house and offer a great selection of pub food that doesn’t feel like pub food.
This Brewpub is the first and only in the townsite and is connected to the Jasper Brewing Company located in the town of Jasper. This might be a good time to give poutine a try, a poutine at Banff Ave. will run you around $12CAD ($9USD). Otherwise, we recommend their Spicy Bison Chili ($24.50CAD, $18.60USD) or the Alberta Beef Burger ($17CAD, $13USD) paired with a pint of Banff Ave Blonde Ale ($8CAD, $6USD).
Summer in Banff isn’t complete without trying at least one local beer!
Check Bags Into Hotel
Check-in time for more hotels is after 1 pm so you’ll likely do a bit of exploring before you drop your bags off assuming you land in Calgary early in the morning. Some hotels (typically the ones involved in the Banff Lodging Company) will offer you coupon books upon check-in, so you can scope through this book and find some that might suit your fancy! Did we mention summer in Banff means some epic views from pretty much every single hotel in the town?
The coupons do rotate so it’s hard for us to say which ones will be current when you visit. Hostels don’t offer these coupon books typically, sorry backpackers! You’ll find a list of hotels and hostels we recommend at the end of this post.
Walk Main Strip Of Banff Townsite
Since you might not have a ton of time to do other Banff activities until the following morning, you might as well get some shopping in! There are tons of gift shops, candy shops, and fudge shops along the main strip of Banff. This would be a great time to pick up any quick trinkets or perhaps get a warmer coat if it’s cooler than you expected and you didn’t pack one, summer in Banff can have varying temperatures so we highly recommend at least a sweater and a raincoat.
If you’re into sweets you can watch as fudge artisans create this delicious treat right in front of your eyes on a large marble slab – there are over 50 flavours available at the famous fudge shop simply known as The Fudgery. You can also watch the man in the white hat across the road at Mountain Chocolates dip apples in caramel and top it with a variety of tasty, sweet toppings.
Maybe you’re more of a chocolate person? There is plenty of hand-made chocolates too! Try a bear claw from either The Fudgery or Mountain Chocolates. This treat is shaped like a bear claw and is made from rich caramel, pecans, and milk chocolate.
You’ll also find other sweet shops like the Beaver Tails Pastry shop, where you can get pastries with deliciously sweet toppings (these are very overwhelming and we recommend sharing). If you’re more of a salty person, check out Mary’s Popcorn Shop. Or if you just have a general sweet-tooth go to the famous Banff Sweet Shoppe where you’ll find sweets from around the world.
The Banff Sweet Shoppe also has a selection of Canadian treats and real Canadian Maple Syrup. You should also visit The Spirit of Christmas, where no matter what season it is you can be overwhelmed with the feelings of Holiday Spirit. So to answer your question, yes summer in Banff is a mixture of Willy Wonka and Santa Claus rolled into a town in the middle of the Canadian Rockies where it could lightly snow in July.
Food, the joy of life. It’s time to embrace the pure Canadian-ness of Banff National Park with a dinner at one of the most popular restaurants (and delicious) in Banff, The Grizzly House. While it is a bit more on the expensive side – the atmosphere, decor, staff, and experience are worth every penny.
They offer a plethora of fondue options including some incredibly unique meats which rotate throughout the year. We recommend going with someone else and getting the four-course fondue dinner. The four-course dinner includes a soup or tossed green salad, a cheese and wine fondue with bread to dip, a main course (you can select one of six entrees) and for dessert a chocolate fondue with melted Toblerone and fresh fruit.
The entrees you can choose from vary in price from the Original Fondue Dinner (with beef and chicken) starting at $47.95CAD ($36.40USD) per person to the Hunted Fondue Dinner (buffalo, wild boar, and venison) at $54.95CAD ($41.70USD) per person all the way to the Exotic Fondue Dinner (which features shark, alligator, rattlesnake, ostrich, frog legs, buffalo and venison) for $65.95CAD ($50.10USD) per person.
It’s completely up to you what you want to do with your first summer in Banff evening. You can walk around the townsite more and watch it transform into a fairytale as the lights on the strip shine, or perhaps take a drive to Vermillion Lakes or Lake Minnewanka to see the stars. The sky gets darker earlier in the winter months sometimes around 5:00 pm so this would be easier in the winter, summer in Banff can mean stars may not be visible until roughly 10:00 pm.
You can also take some time to relax at your hotel or catch a movie at the local theatre. Alternatively, if you’re not ready to completely turn in yet and want another unique experience take a look at what the Banff Centre has to offer. You can view their calendar here.
Warning, you may have to wake up quite early in order to experience some of the best summer in Banff lighting. When we say early we mean like 5 am for sunrise, but don’t worry you don’t have to go THAT early unless you want to catch some epic colours dancing above the mountain peaks. The early bird gets the worm when it comes to epic photos of summer in Banff.
But it is still well worth the drive early in the morning to get a view of Vermillion lakes without the crowds of people. If you aren’t keen on seeing these lakes right now or early in the morning that’s perfectly fine, you can sleep in and prepare yourself for the busy day ahead!
After taking in the stunning beauty of the Canadian Rocky Mountains, it’s time for breakfast. Head to Wild Flour Bakery on Bear Street (yes that is a real street) and grab a freshly baked signature breakfast frittata sandwich and a latte. They can sell out pretty quickly during the summer months because of the influx of visitors, but either way, we recommend getting here around 8 am or earlier.
It shouldn’t be too busy that early and will give you a chance to grab a coffee and a sandwich. If you like Matcha (green tea) their Green tea latte, or if you like regular coffee or lattes those are amazing too. For breakfast try one of their signature breakfast Frittatas or one of their housemade granola bowls. Get these as a takeaway so you can start heading to your next destination!
Summer in Banff also isn’t complete without trying a few Canadian classic treats like the Nanaimo bar (a chocolate and coconut base with vanilla custard in the middle and chocolate on the top), something the Wild Flour Bakery makes perfectly!
There are a few options you can pick from that showcase how beautiful summer in Banff actually is and the exceptional natural sights it has to offer. One of the more popular options is Johnston Canyon. Johnston Canyon is just outside of the Banff townsite and offers an easy walk on boardwalks that jet out from the rocky walls of the canyon.
You are rewarded with a crystal clear river, and two large, powerful waterfalls (these completely freeze over in the winter). If you are keen to see more, you can continue on to the Ink Pots, which are pristine aquamarine coloured pools of water, they make a great destination for a picnic! Hiking Johnston Canyon will take around an hour to the Upper Falls and is a total of about 2.7kms with a 217-metre elevation gain, adding the Ink Pots means an additional elevation gain of around 330 metres over 6kms.
A great secondary option for a nice hike throughout the area would be Sunshine Meadows. Now, this option is only available from June 30th-September 24th as it does close for hiking and opens as a Ski Resort in the winter. This is not an overly difficult hike and offers views of mountains as far as the eye can see.
It also has a few small Mountain lakes along the way – Rock Isle, Grizzly, and Larix. Located at the Sunshine Village Ski resort, this hike is not free as you do need to pay to get to the top, either via gondola or via bus. The cost to take the gondola up is around $42CAD ($32USD) (as of 2018) for an adult and $89CAD ($67.50USD) for a family while the bus is $35CAD ($26.50USD) per person and $72CAD ($54.60USD) per family. The hike is around 8.6km (depending on what you choose to do) with a 275m gain and should take anywhere from 3-4.5 hours.
Between these two options, you may want to decide what else you want to do and see in Banff and how long those activities will take. That will help you determine if you want to do Johnston Canyon or Sunshine Meadows! In our itinerary, we are going to stick to Johnson canyon as we have a lot of other things to fit in.
If you are curious about more hikes near Banff that are fairly easy check out our top 10 picks here.
Lake Minnewanka and Johnson Lake
Take in the sights of the Rocky Mountains in Banff National Park by taking a pit stop at Lake Minnewanka. This Glacial fed lake is 21km long and is one of the most popular sights for hikers, mountain bikers, snowshoers and even recreational scuba divers! The unique blue water sits below a stunning range of Mountains for views that are bound to make your jaw drop.
You can take a dip in the lake if you’re willing to brave the chilly glacial waters, rent a canoe and experience the area on the water, or even take a 1-hour interpretive cruise across the lake. But above all, don’t forget your camera!
Johnson Lake is nearby Lake Minnewanka and is a perfect summer in Banff afternoon stroll. There are obvious trail markers that show you the entrance of the short walking path that takes you around the lake offering you 360-degree views of Banff. The hike itself should take around an hour and the entire path is relatively flat so it is good for all skill levels.
If you aren’t an avid hiker but want to take a light stroll to experience summer in Banff like many locals do, Johnston Lake is the perfect spot.
Honestly, there is probably nothing we love more than a good pizza, but if you’ve read our post on our favourite restaurants in Queenstown New Zealand you probably already knew that. So naturally, one of our recommendations for a delicious and filling lunch for summer in Banff has to be the Bear Street Tavern, where the pizza is absolutely incredible. The restaurant was even featured on an episode of ‘You’ve Got To Eat Here,’ so you know it’s got to be good.
It is most certainly one of our favourite places in Banff to grab a bite to eat and we typically drag our friends here if they’ve never been (once they’ve been they end up dragging us here instead). The pizzas are big enough that you could get away with sharing one, but let’s face it…pizza leftovers are the best. So just order one for yourself and take it home.
Also their chili oil…is out-of-this-world.
Our favourite pizzas are The Godfather (with no olives, because ew) and the Big Bird or The Hawaiian (yes pineapples belong on pizza). Most of their pizzas cost $21.50CAD ($16.30USD) per pie so if you do decide to get one each you can expect to pay a fair amount, but worth it if you get two meals out of it!
You’ve already spent a bit of your time during your summer in Banff experience inside Sulphur Mountain visiting the Cave and Basin, so now why not experience it from the summit? No, you don’t necessarily have to hike up, although you can, you can take the Banff gondola up and take in the views without the effort. The gondola is one of those Banff activities that has been popular with tourists for a long time because of its awe-inspiring panoramic views of the town and surrounding peaks.
These are the types of views that Banff National Park is famous for!
It can get a bit windy up at the top (you are on the top of a mountain) so we highly recommend bringing a sweater or a windproof jacket just in case you get a bit chilly. There is a system of boardwalks at the top that stretches across the ridge of the mountain giving you different angles and perfect photo opportunities. If you haven’t noticed we really love boardwalks here in Canada.
Beware, the gondola isn’t the cheapest activity you will find while experiencing summer in Banff National Park, but we promise it will be worthwhile especially if you don’t have enough time to dedicate an entire day to hiking and summiting a mountain. Tickets to take the gondola are around $67CAD ($51USD) per person, so expect to pay a small fortune for this truly spectacular experience.
It’s honestly not hard to find great places to eat in Banff and the Park Distillery is no exception. They base their food off of old-school campfire cooking, so expect a lot of smokey, spit-fired style cooking. Not only is their food incredible but their interior gathers together the history of Banff along with the cozy feeling of a wood cabin and summer in Banff is not complete without a little bit of wood cabin feels.
Basically, this place screams Canada.
They also have an in-house distillery so you can expect some delicious drinks too. If you’re curious about their distillery they do offer tours, there is a free one that happens at 3:30 pm daily. Otherwise, the tours can be a bit expensive so if you want to do a tour try and get to the free one.
Try the Rotisserie Chicken ($23.50CAD, $17.85USD) or the Park Burger ($19.50CAD, $14.80USD).
Banff Upper Hot Springs
It’s finally time to hit the hot springs and after all those Banff activities, your body is probably ready for a little bit of Mountain relaxation. The Banff Hot Springs are made of 100% natural mineral water and are naturally heated and sit at a minimum temperature of 27°C/81°F. They are the highest operating hot springs in all of Canada sitting at an elevation of 1,585 meters (5,200 feet).
The thermal waters of the Banff Hot Springs are pushed up vertically over 2,000 meters through large cracks in the layers of rock known at the Sulphur Mountain Thrust Fault. And although the minimum temperature is 27°C/81°F the waters can reach upwards of 47°C/116°F, which is more common in the winter. So take in the views of the Mountains while sitting back and relaxing.
It is pretty inexpensive to visit the springs and is $8.30CAD ($11USD) per adult.
Drive To Lake Louise
Lake Louise is an absolute must-see when seeing summer in Banff because that is when itis truly at it’s most spectacular. Famous for its uniquely aqua waters, Lake Louise is not something you can, should, or want to miss. Lake Louise is about a 30-minute drive from Banff and is an amazingly beautiful drive.
Hold off on having breakfast until you get to Lake Louise, once you get there visit Laggan’s Bakery. Laggan’s is a hot spot in the small hamlet and it honestly deserves to be. It has an extremely understated decor and vibe and arguably one of the worst locations smushed in the corner, but its food and baked goods shine bright enough for it to get noticed by hundreds of thousands of visitors.
There are plenty of options to choose from, everything from bagels to sandwiches to cookies to cinnamon buns. Everything is made in-house so you know it’s going to be good. Get their Breakfast on a Bun with an Almond Macaroon and a latte for a meal that is filling and fit for Banff National Park.
Do yourself a favour and get to Moraine Lake, EARLY. When we say early we don’t mean 9 am, we mean before 8 am and even 8 am is pushing it. Moraine Lake is by far the most popular activity people partake in during summer in Banff. Sometimes they even close the access road to Moraine as early as 7 am because the lot is full.
If you are concerned about seeing it and can’t make it that early or don’t want to, do yourself a favour and book a shuttle from Lake Louise. We promise you it will save you a ton of stress. While you may be on a shorter time frame by doing that at least you are guaranteed to see this famous lake.
The spectacularly blue lake sits below towering mountains known as the Valley of Ten Peaks. It’s Instagram worthy, there’s no doubt about that. There are plenty of ways to enjoy the area, you could rent a canoe and see the scenery change as you explore the water, or you can just walk around the lake and take it all in on foot.
Renting a canoe is not one of the cheapest of all Banff activities, but it is well worth it. Canoe rentals open at around 8:30 am and it is first-come-first-serve (another reason to get there as early as possible) and there is no pre-booking. Rentals cost $105CAD ($80USD) for an hour and come with everything you need including a life jacket and basic instructions.
Although it is a bit expensive it is a truly unforgettable summer in Banff experience. Not to mention the canoes are a perfect shade of Canadian red so your photos will be just as beautiful as the experience.
Lake Louise To Lake Agnes Tea House
After seeing Moraine Lake it is time to explore Lake Louise, which is located just down the road from the Moraine Lake turn off. One of the best ways to see Lake Louise and its surrounding views is to hike up to the Lake Agnes Tea House. The trail is fairly easy and should take only about an hour to an hour and a half (depending on how long you stay at the tea house), it’s best to start this right away when you arrive and explore around Lake Louise after you descend because the trail does get busier as the day goes on.
The entire hike is about 3.6km with a 400m elevation gain, so parts of it can be a bit exhausting but nothing too major. The views of the surrounding mountain tops and Lake Louise’s pristine aqua blue colour from above make this hike well worth your time. Not to mention Lake Agnes is a sight to behold in its own right.
The tea house at the top only takes cash (all the supplies are brought up by staff every morning and there is little electricity at the top) so if you want a snack or one of their amazing Mountain Bars make sure you bring a few bills. The tea house is not open in the winter.
Explore Lake Louise
Now that you’ve seen Lake Louise from above and taken in some of the surrounding views it’s time to explore around the famous lake itself. During summer in Banff there are plenty of things to do in Lake Louise like hiking, canoeing, exploring the Fairmont Chateau, or simply sitting on the rocks and taking it all in. Canoes at Lake Louise are similar in price to Moraine and are rented out by the hour as well.
Are you wondering why some of these incredible lakes in the Canadian Rockies are so blue? It’s due to something called rock flour. Essentially rock flour is small particles that are suspended in the water and reflect blue light, which causes the mind-blowing hues we see.
By now you’ve probably worked up quite an appetite and need some lunch. Lake Louise has a few different places to grab a bite and it depends on your budget. Since you are already near the Fairmont it is probably best to grab a bite there.
One of the pricier options, but offers an amazing view, is the Lakeview Lounge. With large windows overlooking the water, and mouth-watering food, you won’t regret spending a little extra. Prices can be anywhere from $15CAD (11.40USD) for soup to $27CAD ($20.50USD) for Lobster Mac N Cheese.
If you’re a little more on a budget there is the Chateau Deli, which offers soups, sandwiches, and other deli-style options at deli prices.
Peyto Lake is a short 35-minute drive from Lake Louise and is down one of the most famous roads in Canada, The Icefields Parkway. This summer in Banff must-see is another perfect aqua blue lake made our list of the must-see lakes in Banff National Park. It is 100% well worth the short drive for a quick jaunt up to the viewing platform to gaze up the view that Peyto Lake offers.
Crowds do tend to gather in the area (it is very popular after all) so just be prepared to share the space with a few other people. It is usually best to visit the lake either early in the morning or later in the afternoon after crowds clear up a little bit. You will want to park in the Bow Summit parking lot and then take the well signed and tracked out trail to the viewing platform.
If you look closely at the lake you can make out a wolf shape which is very popular with tourists and locals alike.
Final Dinner in Banff
For your final dinner you ave a few options but it depends on how much you are wanting to spend or if you feel like a ‘fancier’ last meal. If you are wanting to spend a bit extra for an incredible meal and experience grab a seat at the Waldhaus restaurant which is located behind the Banf Springs Hotel. When we say expensive, we mean it, meals per person are usually around $100CAD ($76USD) after drinks as well.
Waldhaus is a Bavarian restaurant with an exterior that is reminiscent of a fairytale and an interior that is straight from your European vacation. There is also a dress code in effect so be prepared to dress resort casual, which means no hats, sportswear or torn jeans.
Summer in Banff can drain your wallet a bit though so if you’re running a little low on vacation funds head down to Tooloulou’s. Tooloulou’s is a bit of Louisiana heart and soul in the middle of Banff National Park. Per person including drinks, you can expect to pay around $30CAD ($22.80USD).
If that is still a little bit above what you were hoping to spend then we recommend dipping into the underground sandwich joint Squish Sandwich Cellar. Prices can range anywhere from $11CAD ($8.36USD) to $20CAD ($15.20USD) per person depending on what you order. The sandwiches are really filling and delicious, be warned that if you are in a rush sometimes it can take a little while for them to make your masterpiece, but the wait is worthwhile.
Final Free Evening
Your last summer in Banff evening is here and its time to spend it whatever way you’d like. Perhaps you are craving another dip in the hot springs or are wanting to pick up a few more gifts and trinkets to bring home (more chocolate if you’re anything like me). So take some time to just enjoy yourself, maybe catch that sunset at Vermillion Lakes, and just enjoy your final hours in Banff.
If you are a night owl you may want to try and stay up a bit late and see if you can catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights. They are typically very active in August and September so if you were planning on watching the stars you may get a bit of colours dancing in the sky too!
Before you drive back to Calgary to catch your flight home in the morning, perhaps grab breakfast and a latte from Evelyn’s as a final farewell.
We hope that this summer in Banff 3-day guide helps shine some light on all the things to do, see. and eat in the small but beautiful mountain town. Banff National park is a magical place whether you visit in the winter or the summer (even though both offer visitors something very different). We are really lucky to be able to call ourselves ‘locals’ in the sense that this outdoor playground is only an hour and a bit away from our doorstep.
With over 1,000 glaciers, 120 million-year-old mountains, 53 different species of mammals, and over 1,600 kilometers of hiking trails, how could you not completely and utterly fall in love with the diversity and beauty of Banff National Park?
Hostels and Hotels
Hostel International Banff Alpine Centre: The hostel itself isn’t located off or near the main strip of Banff, but don’t let that deter you! They offer a Banff transit pass with your stay so getting to and from is easy. The hostel has a really cozy vibe and is well taken care of! Rates start around $35/night for a bed in a 6-bed dorm.
Samesun Backpackers: Located at the very edge of the main strip of Banff townsite, this hostel is great if you want to just be closer to the action. It has been labeled a little more of a ‘party-hostel’ so maybe keep that in mind as well. But rates here start at $38/night for a bed in a 14-bed dorm.
Caribou Hotel: Located just off the main ‘strip’ of the Banff townsite, this hotel is cozy, warm, clean and far enough from the action that it’s quiet. And yet, not too far that walking to and from town isn’t an option. They also have a parking lot for your rental car!
Fox Hotel: Just down the street from the Caribou is the Fox. This hotel is a popular option so book early! It’s popular (in our opinion) because of their Cave & Basin themed hot pool (also called their Grotto).
Banff Springs Hotel: Now this one is the ultimate place to stay in Banff National Park. If you’ve always wanted to stay in a castle in the middle of the Rocky Mountains, look no further! Just be warned, these rooms typically start around $350/night.