Canadian Rockies #1 – Banff National Park

Moraine Lake

With a total area of 180,000 kmspanning across the province of British Columbia and Alberta, Canadian Rockies is one of the natural wonder of the world, packed with tonnes of beautiful sceneries.

The mountain range is divided into 4 major National Parks: Banff, Jasper, Kootenay and Yoho and three Provincial Parks: Mount Robson, Hamber and Mount Assiniboine.

If you only have a few days to spend, below will be some of the highly recommended hotspots which you can consider. Before we deep dive into the itinerary, let’s focus on the biggest question for all travellers:

How to get there!

Depending on where you are coming from, there are various mode of transports which you can consider, taking into consideration of your budget.

The majority of the travellers visiting the Canadian Rockies make their starting point from Vancouver.

You can choose to drive. The total driving time will take approximately 10 hours (~ 850km) from Vancouver to Banff via Trans-Canada Highway. The advantage of driving is that you have the freedom to stopover at other attractions in British Columbia before arriving at the Canadian Rockies.

However, if time is not on your side, I will recommend to travel by plane (Westjet) or train (Rocky Mountaineer). Westjet flies from Vancouver to Calgary in 1.5 hours and it is one of the cheapest ways to reach your destination. While in Calgary, you can take the Banff Airporter to Banff Town, which will take another one hour.

Rocky Mountaineer is another good option to travel from Vancouver if you have extra cash to spare and prefer a more luxurious way of travelling.

Once in Banff, you can opt for packages offered by Brewster if you have no intention to drive. The Canadian Rockies is a popular tourist destination, so advanced online booking is highly recommended.

For me, I will prefer to drive as it gives me the flexibility to pull over anytime to enjoy the scenery.

Accommodation!

There are plenty of accommodation available in the townsite. Some are situated right in the heart of the town, whereas those that are slightly outskirt, are still within reachable distance.

Situated along Banff Avenue, Mount Royal Banff is my first option because of its perfect centralised location.The room can be a bit rundown but for a budget traveller, it is still considered comfortable to stay for a few nights.

Being the main street, Banff Avenue offers magnificent views of the Cascade Mountain and historical buildings lined on both sides of the street, with plenty of cafes and souvenir shops occupying the ground floor.

Banff Townsite
Banff Townsite

Journey starts here…… Banff National Park

Banff Town is small and most of the attractions can be reached easily:

Cave and Basin National Historic Site – the birthplace of Canada’s National Park. It consists of small mineral spring in the cave and an outdoor emerald-colored pool. There aren’t many activities to do, so an hour or less will be sufficient.

FeesHow to get there
CAD $3.90Travel south along Banff Ave and turn right into Cave Ave, when passes the bridge across the Bow River. Total time taken: 6 min | 2.1 km

Sulphur Mountain -Majestic view of the Rocky Mountains encompassing Banff townsite, Cascade Mountain, and Tunnel Mountain. Tickets for the Gondola ride can be purchased via Brewster. Do take note of the closure season.

FeesHow to get there
CAD $42From Cave and Basin National Heritage Site, travel east along Cave Basin, to the intersection with Banff Ave and Spray Ave. Head straight along Spray Ave and turn right into Mountain Ave. Total time taken: 9 min | 5.2 km
Sulphur Mountain
Sulphur Mountain

Banff Upper Hot Springs – Banff’s only mineral hot springs pool. Located a few kilometres before Sulphur Mountain Gondola along Mountain Ave. Single admission is charged at CDN $7.30.

Fairmont Banff Springs – Banff’s iconic castle-like hotel. From Sulphur Mountain Gondola, travel back along Mountain Ave and make a right turn into Spray Ave.
Total time taken: 7 min | 4.7 km

The Fairmont Banff Springs
The Fairmont Banff Springs

Bow Falls – Short and wide waterfall along Bow River. Travel backwards along Spray Ave from Fairmont Banff Spring. In the intersection, turn right onto Rundle Ave, follows by another right turn into Bow River Ave. The Bow River Carpark Lot is along the road. From the parking lot, walk along the designated trail to the falls.
Admission: Free. Total Time Taken: 3 min | 1.2 km

The journey is not considered complete without visiting Johnston Canyon. From Banff townsite, travel toward Mt Norquay Road and turn left at the flyover into Trans-Canada Highway. Approximately 5.6 km from the intersection, turns right into the filter that leads to Bow River Parkway. Total time taken: 27 min | 25.1 km

* There will be rangers stationed by the road, so do remember to purchase the National Park Passes in advance. Without the passes, you will not allow proceeding further in the National Park.

Once at Johnston Canyon parking lot, follow the trail at the rear of the car park to Johnston Canyon Resort. The entire canyon is mounted with canyon-clinging platform and staircases, which leads to various attractions such as Upper and Lower Falls, Ink Pots. The platform runs at different height alongside with the cliff, which gives travellers a good experience of the canyon at a different depth.

Allow at least 3-4 hours to explore the park. There is some slight elevation but the walk is considered moderate for all ages.

Johnston Canyon
Platform mounted beside Johnston Canyon

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