Canada

How to Plan the Ultimate Three-Day Weekend in Banff

Do you only have 3 days to spend in Banff National Park and want to check out all of the best spots and restaurants? We are going to share our favorite places and restaurants, and share how we saw the Northern Lights along with grizzlies on our perfect three-day weekend in Banff.

Where to Stay

We did a little research on which Fairmont to stay at, the Fairmont Lake Louise or the Fairmont Banff Springs. Ultimately, we went with the one in Banff Springs due to location. In hindsight, we could have stayed at both locations, one night each. Although the Fairmont Banff Springs was the better choice, we heard that the stars at Lake Louise are incredible at night since you are away from the city. Nevertheless, both of these hotels are stunning and have a lot of historical significance.

Day 1

Bow Valley Parkway

Enjoy a cup of coffee at Wildflower Café in downtown Banff before making your way to Bow Valley Parkway. Keep an eye out for cars stopped along the parkway. It probably means there is wildlife nearby.

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Not even 10 minutes into the drive and we saw our first black bear! We took some pictures of it from our car and then continued our drive to Johnston Canyon.

Johnston Canyon is a nice, easy hike with a lot of beautiful sights to see along the way. There are two trails, one to the lower falls and one to the upper which is just an extension of the first. It will take about 2-2.5 hours to walk to the upper falls and back.

Lake Louise

Next, head to the Fairmont Lake Louise for tea time (reservation required). This allows you to park directly at the hotel instead of a remote parking lot, and dine with a view overlooking the lake.

After lunch, make your way outside to view the beautiful Lake Louise. Keep in mind that the lake may still be frozen until the end of May. They have canoes to rent when the water is thawed and great walking trails around it to view the lake from different angles.

Before leaving, check out Jusu at the Fairmont on the first floor for a refreshing drink. We got the Hawkeye and Brazilian Java and both were so delicious!

Moraine Lake

Enjoy the scenic drive from Lake Louise to Moraine Lake, where you can climb up rock formations overlooking the lake and take some insta-worthy photos.

Banff Gondola

The cool thing about Banff in the summer is that the days are very long. It did not get dark until about 10:30 pm when we were there, so we were able to make one last stop in town before dinner. Our last stop of the day was the Banff Gondola.

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This a fair warning that it goes very high up! It is one thing to see it from the parking lot and another to actually experience being 2,900 feet above ground.

Dinner

If you like sushi then check out Samuari at the Fairmont Banff Springs dinner. If you’d rather have your food fully cooked, then you might want to try Eddie’s Burger Bar on 137 Banff Ave. They have alcoholic milkshakes that are to die for – not literally! We got the PB&J, stampede burger, and veggie burger.

Star Gazing & the Northern Lights

Head out to Two Jack Lake to escape the city lights and capture some pictures of the night sky. If you’re lucky, you might even see the Northern Lights. We didn’t even know you could see them in this part of Canada, so we couldn’t believe our eyes when we actually did. We did a little digging the next day on the internet and found there is a website that tracks them in Alberta. Click here to get the link!

Tip: Make sure you have a camera that can take good night pictures. We have a Canon EOS Rebel T6-I and have no idea how to use it to its full potential, so we just ended up using our iPhone cameras.

 

Day 2

Bow Lake

Enjoy the breathtaking drive along the Icefield Parkway on your way up to Jasper. There are lots of beautiful stops along the way, including Bow Lake. Nestled on the lake, you will find the Simpson House, which overlooks the turquoise water and looks like it is straight out of a fairytale book.

Keep an eye out for grizzly bears since a good time to see them is in the morning. We saw this one on the other side of the fence off Highway 1. Even if you don’t spot a grizzly, you’ll probably see quite a few mountain goats that look like little white puffs high up on the mountain, and bighorn sheep that can be found lying in fields.

Columbia Icefield

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Hop on board 1 of only 26 Ice Explorers in the world for an exhilarating ride to the Athabasca Glacier. Make sure to wear sunscreen and bring a bottle to collect some water straight from the source. You only have about 15 minutes on the glacier so make the most of it! Finally, don’t forget to snap a pic standing next to the Ice Explorer tires as you hop back on.

Glacier Skywalk

Conquer your fear of heights by stepping out onto the glass bottom skywalk that extends from a cliff 918-feet above ground.

Dinner

Get back into town early for dinner at the Block Kitchen and Bar. They don’t take reservations, but they will text you when your table is ready so you can shop around in the area. We enjoyed the Cheese and Charcuterie Board, Tako Yaki, Spicy Albacore Tuna Tartare, and the Pig, Duck, and Fig Rilletes. Everything was delicious!

Day 3

Bow Falls

This was probably one of the best waterfalls we saw on the trip. From the bottom, you can take the stairs to the left to walk along the falls for more scenic views.

The Upper Hot Springs 

Make sure to bring your bathing suit if you decide to check this out. Honestly, we could have skipped this stop. It felt more like a communal pool rather than a relaxing hot spring.

The Cave and Basin Centennial Centre

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Enter the building and head over to the purple “cave” sign that leads to the grotto underground.

Viewpoint of the Fairmont Banff Springs

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Snap an infamous picture of the Fairmont Banff Springs as it stands like a castle in the mountains.

Lunch

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Head over to the Park Distillery for some local beer and/or vodka flight. The beers are huge! Don’t say we didn’t warn you. For food, we got the wings, cheese and charcuterie board (our favorite), and yummy pork croquettes.

Downtown Banff

We wrapped up the trip by exploring the gorgeous town of Banff and doing some last minute shopping before heading to the airport.

Planning a trip to Banff anytime soon? If so, we’d love to hear about it! Leave a comment below and/or sign up to receive a detailed guide for this road trip. 

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