Day Trip to Banff

Day Trip to Banff: Discovering the Gem of the Rockies

Are you short on time but craving a taste of the breathtaking Canadian Rockies? A day trip to Banff is the perfect solution! In less than 24 hours, you can explore the highlights of this iconic destination, soak in stunning scenery, and connect with nature. Let’s dive into our complete guide on a day trip to Banff.

This guide for your day trip to Banff can apply for any time of the year that you plan to visit Banff. Make sure you dress accordingly for the weather and are aware of any safety concerns – like bears in warmer months. Visiting Banff in winter provides a different type of scenery which is just as beautiful.

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Banff town sign

Morning: Arrive in Banff

our adventure begins with an early start. Arriving in Banff in the morning allows you to beat the crowds and make the most of your day, as there is so much to do!

Breakfast

Stop at the Juniper Hotel Bistro before you turn off the highway into Banff, for a delicious breakfast. The french toast is a must and a favorite of many. If you don’t want something that big, then stop at a charming local cafe for a cup of freshly brewed coffee and a delicious pastry. The Wild Flour Artisan Bakery Cafe is a favorite amongst many.

The Juniper - French Toast & Maple Syrup

Bow Falls

Once you are fueled and ready to go, head to Bow Falls. This iconic spot offers stunning views of the Bow River against the backdrop of the majestic Rockies. Snap some photos to capture the moment.

If you want to be a bit more active, you can spend 20-30 minutes walking to the Falls. At the end of the main street in Banff, cross the bridge over the Bow River, turn left onto Bow River Trail for approximately 20-30 minutes until you reach Bow Falls.

Bow Falls, Day Trip to Banff

Banff Avenue

Now it’s time to head into town. Spend a bit of time strolling along Banff Avenue. Wander through the shops, art galleries, iconic candy stores and pick up souvenirs to remember your visit.

Town of Banff, main street

Lunch

It’s time for lunch and one of my favorite restaurants to visit is the Park Distillery Restaurant + Bar. They are known for their locally crafted gin, but don’t worry – the drink and food menu has lots of options, sourced locally and everything I have ever had was amazing. Make sure you try the truffle curly fries or their ‘crushed potatoes’.

Park Distillery, Banff

If you are looking for another great option, popular with both locals and visitors, hit up the Eddie Burger + Bar. Once again, amazing burgers and cocktails as well. If you decide to stay overnight in Banff, this small place is a hoping bar to hang out in with tasty drinks to take you into the night.

Afternoon: Scenic Views and Adventure

Here are a few options of things that you can spend the afternoon doing, depending on what your preferences are.

Banff Gondola

Head to the Banff Gondola for a breathtaking ride to the top of Sulphur Mountain. Marvel at panoramic views of Banff, the Bow Valley, and the surrounding peaks. The ticket cost is $58.00. If you are really adventurous, you can hike up Sulphur Mountain and take the gondola back down. Depending on your abilities it can take 1.5 to 3.0 hours to hike up.

If you are looking for something else to do, and have a bit more time, you can head 40 minutes West to the Lake Louise Gondola for another experience.

Banff Gondola

Hiking:

If you want to explore the outdoors, then you can head out for a hike. There are many hikes in Banff that you can partake in, no matter what your ability is or what time of year it is. My favorite two hikes are Johnston Canyon, which is a short drive from the town of Banff. Another hike right in Banff to conquer is Tunnel Mountain.

If you are planning to do a hike in the summer, make sure you are prepared with our tips and hiking essentials list. We saw a bear off the highway one summer, so be bear aware!

Bear in Banff

Lake Louise

If time allows, take the 40 minute drive to Lake Louise – which is worth it for the views, if nothing else. There is a trail that you can walk around the lake if time allows. Depending when you visit, there’s a good chance there may be ice on the water still. This picture was taken at the end of May.

Lake Louise

Dinner In Town

The Grizzly House

Return to Banff for a delightful dinner at a local restaurant. Every year, we go to the Grizzly House restaurant and it never disappoints. It’s an iconic stop and the best meal to order is the fondue.

Your meal includes a cheese fondue, meat fondue and a chocolate dessert fondue. It’s the best recommendation I can give to end your day in Banff. Make sure you make a reservation in advance because this place is always booked up!

Grizzly House - Chocolate Fondue

As the day comes to a close, it’s time to head back to your starting point. Reflect on the incredible experiences and memories you’ve created during your day trip to Banff.

Extend Your Stay

While 1 day provides a solid taste of Banff’s must-see highlights, you can definitely dive deeper by adding an extra day or two to your visit.

There are many tours in the Banff area you can take to further explore if time allows. Below are a few additional things I recommend.

Banff Upper Hot Springs is a natural geothermal wonder situated at an elevation of over 5,000 feet, that offers visitors a unique and relaxing experience with its warm, mineral-rich waters. The soothing waters provide an ideal way to unwind and rejuvenate, especially after a day of exploring the park’s numerous hiking trails, wildlife viewing opportunities, and scenic drives.

Whether you’re visiting in the midst of winter to experience the magical snow-covered landscape or in the summer to bask in the beauty of the Canadian Rockies, the hot springs offer year-round relaxation.

Banff Hot Springs

Outdoor lovers can venture to the nearby town of Canmore to explore its small town vibes. You can spend a day in Canmore and avoid the hustle and bustle of Banff. One of my favorite things to do in the area is enjoy one of the hikes near Canmore, or depending on what you like to do, you can try out cross country skiing or snowshoeing in the winter at the Canmore Nordic Centre.

Canmore main street

A stop at Lake Minnewanka is always worth visiting. During warmer months you can bike or walk on the trails in the area, or you can take a boat tour on the lake.

Lake Minnewanka

If you are visiting in the winter, you can skate on the frozen lake which is a very cool experience.

If you decide to extend your trip, consider heading to Jasper National Park for a couple of days. There are beautiful hiking trails and scenery, with less crowds. There are quaint places to stay in Jasper, as it’s too probably too far to drive back and forth in one day.

Places to Stay

If you decide to spend more time in the Canadian Rockies, there are many different places you could stay. I recommend Juniper Hotel or Mount Royal Hotel as two options of the best hotels in Banff to stay at to enjoy your extended visit.

There are also many hotels in Canmore that I recommend, but my favorite is The Malcolm Hotel. Canmore is a great location to stay at that is close but just a little out of the town of Banff.

Banff Travel Tips

  • All visitors that drive into Banff National Park, must purchase a day pass. It can be purchased online in advance or at the park dates when you enter the park
  • Banff is a haven for wildlife. If you are planning any outdoor activities during the summer, make sure you carry bear spray and be aware of your surroundings
  • Bring or buy layers of clothing – temperatures can drop sharply in the early morning and evenings due to being in the mountains
  • If you want to avoid crowds, travel outside of July and August
  • The water is perfectly fine to drink from the tap. You don’t have to buy bottled water
  • Travel during the winter if you want a chance to see Northern Lights
  • It’s a touristy town that most people do alot of walking. Wear sneakers or flat shoes

In conclusion, a day trip to Banff is a remarkable experience that encapsulates the natural beauty and charm of the Canadian Rockies. Banff offers a diverse range of activities and sights that can be enjoyed in just one day.

Whether it’s hiking through pristine trails or simply strolling through the quaint streets of Banff, this destination provides an unforgettable escape into nature’s wonders. A day in Banff is a reminder of the extraordinary natural landscapes that allows us to connect with nature and explore more of the world’s breathtaking treasures.

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