Updated: Sep 13, 2019
I had been to Banff before but, honestly, I felt robbed from the real experience. Lauren and I went up this past May, expecting the same beautiful turquoise waters we’d seen all over Instagram. Instead, we were met by a frosty white Lake Louise, the majority of the roads being closed due to weather, and one 5-hour hike from hell up a mountain, waist-deep in snow. Needless to say, I was pretty disappointed. I mean… I had been wanting for visit this spot for such a long time now and (due to my own lack of research) had ended up there during a time where I couldn’t even do anything.
But as with every good story, there’s a good ending here! When Jordan told me about this road trip, Banff was a big selling point. I was excited to be able to give it another chance only a few months after my failed experience.
If you have any plans to visit, I’d recommend staying around the area for at least a week. Seriously! Between Banff and Jasper, there is SO much to see. Unfortunately during this trip we were only able to spend three days in the area, and it was definitely not enough time to hit all of the spots. Because we stayed in Canmore, we were very far from the attractions in Jasper, so we had to (reluctantly) remove them from our to-do list. So we stuck around Banff and visited all the big main sights, as well as some I’d never heard of.
Keep reading to check out my favorite spots and sign up for our free Bublup folder to continue to follow the adventure HERE.
Even though it was mid-summer I was a bit nervous walking up from the parking lot, partially traumatized by my last visit here when the lake was frozen solid. But as I got my first glimpse of bright blue water, I started to feel better. And better. And better as I got closer.
Although extremely commercialized, Lake Louise is still one of the most beautiful I’ve seen. Since there’s no hike involved, it’s a great spot to visit with the entire family (and pets!). There are a few overpriced restaurants, a hotel, and canoes you can wait in long lines for and rent for like $80, if you really want to. But I think the best experience is just to walk around the perimeter of the lake and enjoy the view – which is FREE.
I tend to get really turned off by overly populated tourist spots. It just detracts so much from the experience for me. Moraine, you’re lucky you’re so darn pretty.
You’ve probably seen the iconic photos of people standing on a large log leading into a bright blue lake. This is that spot, and you’ll see it as soon as you walk up from the parking lot. However, what the photos don’t show you, is that you have to compete with hundreds of other people through what’s basically an episode of American Ninja Warrior.
We agreed that there must definitely be other beautiful photo spots that aren’t so overcrowded, so we decided to take a look around. To be completely fair, the angle you get at the very beginning seems to be the best, although there are plenty of awesome tiny “beaches” if you keep walking around the lake where you can lay down a blanket and just relax away from the crowd.
After letting the pups get all wet and sandy, we headed back towards the entrance and noticed a short hiking path (right behind the shuttle stop). We headed up for about 5 minutes, only to find out it leads to the top of the same rocks that people were killing themselves trying to get to! Score!
Also a very touristy lake, but with plenty of more secluded areas to hang out if you keep walking around the lake. They do offer canoes here as well, for about the same price as Lake Louise. We decided it wasn’t really worth it and headed for a stroll on the loop trail, only to find…. You guessed it! A canoe. Just sitting there. I don’t know who this canoe belongs to, but thank you for leaving it for us to take fun photos with :)
Only 5 minutes outside the town of Banff, you’ll find Vermilion Lakes. Vermilion is not as touristy and crowded as the aforementioned sights, but it can still get quite busy during the summer. The road alongside the lake brings you to dock after dock, and we had to drive past 4 or 5 of them until we found an empty one.
Towns of Banff & Canmore
Who doesn’t love little mountain towns? These two towns are located within 30 minutes of each other, and are both excellent locations to stay during your visit to Banff. Canmore is actually set right outside the National Park area, which makes it less busy, and less expensive, but equally charming,
Both towns have plenty of restaurants, shops, spas, bars – anything you want, really.
This was as close to Jasper as we got. At the very northern border of Banff National Park, you’ll find Peyto Lake. Out of all the lakes we visited during this trip (and there were a lot!) this was probably my favorite.
Want to see more behind the scenes photos? Sign up for our Bublup folder HERE and get exclusive access to photos, vlogs, and other fun stuff - it's FREE!
The hike from the parking lot is short, but a steady uphill – so pace yourself and you’ll be fine. Once you get to the top, you’ll be rewarded with incredible views of one of the bluest lakes my eyes have ever witnessed. There’s a viewing platform up there, but you can also take a little trail and walk around the rocky area overlooking Peyto. Again, since this is a pretty popular spot, it was definitely busy. Every good photo spot had short lines of people waiting their turn – but I’d say the wait is worth it!
I had never heard of these falls before. But, quite frankly, it was our last day here and we had seen enough lakes, so we decided to try something different. Takakkaw turned out to be an unexpected highlight of the trip. Not only because we can walk right up to it (bring a poncho, please! I did not.), but also because as the sun started to peek from behind the clouds it gave us a beautiful bright rainbow right in front of the waterfalls. Can’t beat that!
I am going to mark my redemption visit to Banff as a complete success, but I think I’ll need to come back another time and see some of the sights I wasn’t able to get to this time.
You may have noticed a theme with this trip. We’re specifically focusing on finding activities that are dog-friendly so that we can take Zeus and Sedona with us. All of the spots mentioned above allow you to bring your pups on a leash! If you plan to travel with your pets, sign up and get access to our free Dog-Friendly Locations Folder.