Three Days In Banff
Heaven in the Canadian Rockies.
Banff is so perfectly wonderful I hardly know where to begin. Cam and I have unintentionally made it our tradition to spend Labor Day weekend outside of the US. Last year we spend the long weekend in Turks and Caicos. this year we opted for colder climates and mountain views.
This trip was taken sans kiddos and it gave us time to recharge, rest and enjoy time with each other. One quick flight from DFW in to Calgary, Canada and we were there. The drive from Calgary to Banff is a quick and exceedingly beautiful. You might even get lucky and catch a glimpse of wildlife along the way.
While there are a lot of hotel options in Banff, we ultimately chose between two. The Fairmont at Banff was beautiful overlooking roaring rivers and nestled beneath the mountains however we opted to stay at the Moose. They share similar ratings however the Moose has larger rooms and is located right in downtown which makes access to dining, shopping and sights walkable. We absolutely loved our stay here and would highly recommend. When we go back with our kiddos though, we will chose the Fairmont due to the amenities which I’ll discuss in a later post.
Upon arrival in Banff, we hit the ground running. We took the Banff Gondola up to the summit of Sulphur Mountain. Initially, I found the Gondola rather pricey. Upon arrival at the summit though I had to admit it was worth it. The summit offers 360 degree views of the Canadian Rockies. A common theme from this trip was the word, Wow. I found myself in constant wonder that places so beautiful actually do exist. From the summit you can see the little town of Banff and the winding river that runs through.
I’m told that the Summit is a magical place at Christmas time, and I’m now dying to take our kids in December. The summit becomes a magical, winter wonderland with live reindeer. Santa even sets up shop by the fireplace to visit with kiddos! There is cookie decorating, christmas photo ops, music and snacks!
The Canadian Rockies are steep, and riding the Gondola down the mountain, you really get a sense of just how steep these mountains are! Taking the Gondola up Sulphur Mountain was a great Welcome to Banff!
We spend day 2 of our trip at Lake Louise which is a quick 45 minute drive north from Banff proper. Experts advise that you arrive early in order to get good views of the lake and to beat the crowds. They’re right. We arrived early, (even with a stop back at the hotel because I spilled coffee all over myself, typical) and were able to watch the sunrise over the lake. Again, just wow! The water was a beautiful blue color I have never seen in person before. The impressive colors of Lake Louise comes from Silt like rock flour continually being carried in to the lake by melt water from the surrounding glaciers. The tiny particles become suspended in water and reflect blue and green wavelengths of light.
W e spent the day at Lake Louise Hiking. We settled on the hike to Lake Agnes and the Lake Agnes Tea House. During this 2 hour hike, you gain 1,300 feet in elevation. Its labeled a moderate hike but parts of it were challenging! You constantly climbing on this hike which makes it a work out. You know you’ve almost made it to the Tea House and lake when you hit the Waterfall which offers breathtaking views and spaces of freezing glacier water. Climb a steep staircase and you’ve arrived at Lake Agnes and her perfect Tea house. The tea house menu offers fresh baked biscuits, cookies and sandwiches made from home cooked bread. Everything they serve at the tea house is made from scratch. They have dry goods helicoptered in once a season and their employees hike fresh goods up on foot each day. Whats so awesome about this place is that their employees actually live up on the mountain for days at a time in a bunk house with no electricity and no running water! They all talked about how freeing if was to be free of technology and surrounded by so much beauty. What a way to spend your summers as a college student!
The Hike down from Lake Agnes is quick- taking only 45 minutes. Its steep and you are able to keep a quick pace. Once again you’re at Lake Louise. If you’re feeling really worn out, you can visit the Spa at the Fairmont Lake Louise, or dine in one of their incredible restaurants.
I’ll do a follow up post strictly on places to eat in Banff because there are so many incredible places to choose from. One place worth mentioning here though is Grizzly House Restaurant. It was my favorite meal of the entire trip! You can choose to either do Fondue or cook your food on a hot rock. We went with the hot Rock and ordered all of the wild game meats. Fantastic doesn’t even describe the meal we had. This spot opened in 1967 and may not have been updated since. Each table has a phone that can be used to call people at other tables. If you’re a prankster like my husband, this alone will keep you entertained.
We only spent 3 days in Banff and it was definitely not enough. We could have stayed for 2 full weeks and still not accomplished all of the things on our list. On our last day we were able to canoe with Banff Canoe Club and visit one of the oldest ski areas in North America. This was super cool because Cam’s dad actually grew up skiing Mount Norquay as a kid.
Our list for our next visit to Banff is extensive. We’ll have to make a winter trip and another summer trip to accomplish everything. Next time we want to river raft, drive the ice highway, spend a few days in Jasper, hike to the summit at Sulphur Mountain, zipline and search for more wildlife. (I must see a bear… from a safe distance.)
Banff is hands down one of the most beautiful places I’ve been to date. I’d go back and visit a million times over. What’s your favorite activity. restaurant or hike in Banff?