Your Itinerary to an Unforgettable Week 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. 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 a week in Canada’s playground – the Canadian Rockies this spring.
INTRODUCTION TO BANFF NATIONAL PARK
Located in the Canadian Rockies and 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
A Week in banff national park – spring
There’s a lot you can see and do in Banff in a week. From spring skiing to early-season hiking and everything in between, we’ve broken down the best things you can do in a week in Banff National Park this spring.
Morning: Tunnel Mountain Sunrise Hike & Breakfast In Town
Afternoon: Gondola with lunch at the top
Evening: Dinner & drinks at the Castle
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 information & 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 sound 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 the hotel and its historical magnitude. Walkthrough our majestic Mt. Stephen Hall and through 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 at Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise
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 info can be found here.
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!
Morning: Spring Skiing
Afternoon: R&R Back at the hotel
Evening: Dinner in the Town of Banff
Banff National Park famously has a long ski season. 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 – the choices are all within a short drive of the town of Banff. 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, head back to the hotel for some R&R. Grab a late lunch from STOCK Food & Drink and find a nice spot in the hotel to dine. Want a soak? Grab your bathing suit and hit up the heated outdoor pool, which will be sure to ease those muscles you used on the skill hill.
For dinner, take a walk into the Town of Banff (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 to the hotel – hit up one of the chocolate stores along Banff Ave. for a tasty treat.
Morning: Sleep In!
Afternoon: Willow Stream Spa
Evening: 360 Dome
You’ve had a busy first few days in Banff National Park, and every vacation deserves some pampering time. So take the time to sleep in and order in-room dining. Sip that fresh coffee and watch the views from your room. It’s a great way to greet the day!
Keeping pampering and wellness in mind – this afternoon is the perfect time to hit Banff’s best spa – The Willow Stream Spa is home to amazing spa treatments, a nail salon and mineral pools and hot tubs (please note some might be closed at this time due to Covid restrictions). Book a treatment here!
We’ve heard of saving the best for last, but we couldn’t keep it to ourselves any longer! Fairmont Banff Springs’s newest addition, the 360 Dome, is home to 3 outstanding culinary experiences and views. Still, if we had to recommend just one dining experience in the dome, it’s the dinner experience. This 5-course meal is a decadent example of amazing dining at the hotel – truly above and beyond the standard ‘hotel dining.’ Click here to reserve your dome experience.
Full-Day – Sightseeing Tour with Pursuit
Rated one of the most scenic drives globally – the Icefields Parkway is a highway that connects Banff National Park to Jasper National Park. It boasts turquoise blue lakes, glaciers, mountain peaks and more that we couldn’t possibly name a few things to see here and there on this iconic drive. Instead, our friends at Pursuit offer a tour that will leave your jaw on the floor. Tour includes stops at Athabasca Glacier, Columbia Skywalk and more! Click here to learn more.
Morning: Emerald Lake
Afternoon: Lunch & Marble Canyon
Evening: Stargazing & Dinner
Grab a coffee and breakfast and hit the road – direction west! With Banff National Park so close to the BC border – you’ll be able to brag to your friends back home that you visited two provinces during one trip. About 40 minutes past the Alberta/BC border lies Emerald Lake. Its turquoise blue waters may not be thawed yet, depending on the month in spring you are visiting but take a walk around the lake and soak in the Canadian Rockies in BC!
Once your Emerald Lake adventure closes out, head to the nearest town of Field and have lunch in the famed restaurant and lodge Truffle Pigs, known by locals as one of the best places to dine in the Rockies, you won’t regret this pit stop. This place is a must-do and can often be really busy during peak times, be prepared and make a reservation here!
On your drive back into Alberta, take a detour and hit up Marble Canyon in Kootenay National Park – so not only can you say you visited 2 provinces during your time in Alberta, but you saw three national parks. Marble Canyon follows a well-defined trail that provides stunning views of mountains and a turquoise blue river cutting through the rocks. A series of bridges connect the canyon.
Welcome back to Fairmont Banff Springs – you sure have had a busy time in the Canadian Rockies, and it’s not over yet! After your day of canyons and lakes, have a casual dinner at Waldhaus Pub – this Bavarian Pub is home to its famous wings, pubchos & boots of beer. Once you’re full, head back up to the hotel (the Waldhaus is our cottage in the forest and located 5 minutes towards the Bow Falls) to meet your Resort Activities Guide for some stargazing!
Morning: Grassi Lakes
Afternoon: Explore Canmore
Time to start wrapping up your time in Banff National Park. After check out, head out of Banff’s town and head east 20 minutes to the town of Canmore. This scenic town offers many of the same adventures that Banff does. A popular excursion is the Grassi Lakes hike – this well–travelled and easy hike provides a good workout and stunning views!
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