Your Itinerary to an Unforgettable 72 hours in the Canadian Rockies this Spring
How long should you spend in Banff? What’s the right amount of time to plan for? These are tough questions to answer and we’re afraid our bias will show if we say something like forever, so we’ve sat down and really thought about the best way to help you have a magical trip and created itineraries for 3 days & a week in Banff National Park. Let’s get down to business – here’s how to spend 3 days in Canada’s playground – the Canadian Rockies this spring.
INTRODUCTION TO BANFF NATIONAL PARK
Located in the Canadian Rockies and in the province of Alberta, Banff National Park covers around 6 641km² of land. Filled with snow-covered peaks in every direction you look in, diverse wildlife, rushing rivers and so much more, Banff National Park is a spectacular place to spend some vacation time! Below we’ve listed some things you should know ahead of your itinerary:
Location: Alberta, Canada
Nearest City & Airport: Calgary
Available Transportation to the Park: Car Rentals, Shuttle Buses
Available Transportation in the Park: Shuttle Buses, Car Rentals, Bikes, Public Transportation etc
Park Pass Costs: Can be found via the Parks Canada Website
3 Days in banff national park – spring
Admittedly 3 days in Banff National Park, regardless of the time of year, is not enough to see and do everything. Still, if you are ok with jam-packing your days, this itinerary will allow you to see some really cool things, get those iconic pictures and will give you enough of a taste to plan a return trip.
Morning: Tunnel Mountain Sunrise Hike & Breakfast In Town
Afternoon: Gondola with lunch at the top
Evening: Dinner & drinks at the Castle
You have three days in Banff, and you have to make the most of it – so if you expected this itinerary to encourage sleeping in, wrong place. Plus, when was the last time you could brag to friends that you did a sunrise hike – insert jaw-dropping Instagram photos here.
Starting your day with an early hike in Banff is actually something that locals like to keep as their secret – the town is quiet, and the views are INSANE! So gather a bottle of water and a granola bar, which you can find at STOCK Food & Drink and head to the Tunnel Mountain Trailhead. Fairmont Banff Springs also offers a guided Sunrise Hike to guests staying in-house – this option also provides a certified guide who can share some really incredible stories and facts about life in Banff National Park.
You’ve made it to the trailhead of Tunnel Mountain and are ready to get your heart pumping. Tunnel Mountain is a moderate 4km (there and back) hike, which gives you some really incredible views of the town of Banff & The Fairmont Banff Springs Golf Course. Our tip – bring crampons as it can become a little icy this time of the year.
After your hike, which depending on fitness levels, shouldn’t take more than an hour, you have plenty of time to explore the town of Banff. Grab a luxe coffee & bite at Whitebark Café and wander the quiet streets. You’ll find art galleries, museums, shops and some exciting restaurants and bars. After exploring the town, take the trail along the river back to the hotel to prepare for your afternoon adventure!
If you haven’t been to the Banff Gondola yet – this will be a big highlight for you! During the spring, hiking to the top and back can be a bit dicey, so we recommend taking the Gondola. Once at the top, the views will definitely not disappoint, mountain ranges in every direction, an interpretive centre and theatre, great restaurants and a boardwalk that will provide the perfect backdrop to pictures everywhere you look. More info & pricing can be found here.
You’ve earned a reward! After all, your first day in Banff has probably left you in awe and checking your camera roll for the best images. Now that you’ve made it back from the Gondola, had a moment to decompress and freshen up in your room – dinner and drinks probably sounds like the perfect way to close out the evening.
Canada’s Castle in the Rockies has a really robust and amazing culinary scene. Whether you’re in the mood for some homegrown Alberta beef – 1888 Chop House will leave your mouth-watering, French-Canadian cuisine found at The Vermillion Room or some homemade pasta so good your nonna would be proud & proudly served at Castello Italiana, you won’t be left hungry after your dinner at the Castle. You can make reservations or view other options here.
Once your tummies are full, leisurely walk through the hotel and get a real sense of its historical magnitude. Walk through our majestic Mt. Stephen Hall and the Riverview Lounge archways and finally make your way to the best place to grab cocktails in Banff – Rundle Bar. Newly redesigned and with a reimagined cocktail and food menu, have a nightcap in an intimate setting while discussing what day 2 could have in store.
Hint – Try the Wildflower cocktail at Rundle Bar. This signature cocktail is made locally and is the perfect companion for an evening of cocktails.
Morning: Morning Skate at Lake Minnewanka
Afternoon: Lake Louise
Evening: Dinner & drinks in Town of Banff
Rise and shine! Here’s just a sneak peek at some of the views you can see from your room!
Once you’ve ordered some room service and gotten some coffee into your system, walk over to Chateau Mountain Sports, located in the hotel’s conference centre, to rent a pair of skates! Once that’s done, head over to Lake Minnewanka to enjoy a nice skate with some incredible mountain views! Please check ice conditions before heading out and stay safe.
After you’ve gotten your fill of lake skating, hop into the car and drive west to another famous lake in the region – Lake Louise! Depending on the time of the year, the ice at Lake Louise could still be open to the public to skate on, which will once again provide you with an awesome backdrop for some photos.
If you’ve had your fill of skating, a nice stroll along the lakeshore of Lake Louise is a beautiful way to spend the afternoon – trail information can be found here. Finally, after taking in the sights, head into Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise for a late lunch in the Lakeview Lounge or the newly designed Fairview Bar & Restaurant.
Enjoy the ride back into the Town of Banff from Lake Louise, catching glimpses of the Bow River that runs parallel to it. Perhaps you’ll even see some early signs of wildlife emerging from hibernation on your drive back!
Once you’ve returned your skates and prepared yourself for dinner, take a walk into the Town of Banff. This is an easy 15 min walk, one way, to find a great place to eat & people watch! New to the Banff food scene is Three Bears Brewery offering a fantastic food and beer menu. Or hit up the Banff staple – Park Distillery Restaurant for a unique dining experience. On your stroll back hit up one of the chocolate stores along Banff Ave. for a tasty treat.
Morning: Spring Skiing
Afternoon: Late Lunch in Canmore
Evening: Explore Canmore
Banff National Park famously has a long ski season, and in fact, it’s the longest non-glacial ski season in North America! Skiing in spring in Banff National Park offers softer snow, fewer crowds and a fantastic après scene. Home to three of North America’s ski hills, Lake Louise Ski Resort, Sunshine Village, and Mt. Norquay Ski Resort – the choices are all within a short drive of Banff’s town. Never skied?! Not a problem, our friends at Ski Big 3 offer plenty of programming to get you out on the hill no matter what ski level you are!
Once you’re done at the hill and the ski rentals have been returned, you can start feeling your time in the Rockies winding down. Don’t fret, head into the nearby town of Canmore for a late lunch and shopping before heading home. A 20-minute drive east of Banff National Park, Canmore sits just off the highway and has some amazing views! Home to its own booming culinary scene, there are many great places to eat, like Blake, Iron Goat and more!
If you have time to kill before heading home – enjoy some shopping in Canmore, which is home to some great local shops!
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