Banff is one of the most visited tourist attractions in Canada. I have lived in Canada for a long time and had never visited as an adult. During the pandemic, with international travel restrictions, I decided to check it out. Its a spectacular place and the only thing I regret is that I did not come sooner! Its extremely beautiful as you will see from the photos which follow. We flew into Calgary and rented a car. The drive from Calgary is approximately 1.5 hours. As it is a national park, you should buy a pass online before going to avoid line ups. You can then drive straight in.
This itinerary works well if you are staying at the Fairmont Banff Springs. Start around 8am.
- Start your day with a quick 5 minute drive to Bow Falls.
2. Next, drive to Surprise Corner Viewpoint where you will get gorgeous view of the Fairmont set in the mountains and river.
3. From Surprise Corner, take a 10 minute drive to Hoodoos viewpoint. A hoodoo is “a tall, thin spire of rock that protrudes from the bottom of an arid drainage basin or badland”. Yes, there are hoodoos here, but the best part of this is the hiking and views. If you take the trail which leads to the hoodoos, you can continue on Tunnel Mountain trail. Its an easy hike with incredible views. You will see the Fairmont again in the distance.
4. After your hike, drive 16 minutes to the Norquay lookout. This is one of those times that a picture will not do justice for a view. You just have to see it for yourself.
5. From the viewpoint, drive 12 minutes to Vermillion Lakes. This was probably my favorite thing to see in Banff. The fall colors set on the mirror calm waters with the mountains in the background just made for an unreal setting.
6. In my opinion, you can choose to skip the next one if you like – Lake Minnewanka. Its a 21 minute drive from Vermillion lakes. A lot of people will recommend it, and as a result, it was crowded and busy when we went. Its nice, but in my opinion, Vermillion Lakes is the best.
7. After checking out the lake, it will be around 1PM. A perfect time to head into the town, have lunch and check out Banff. Its small and walkable. We settled on an Irish Pub called St. James Gate and had some typical pub food. The little yorkies with roast beef and horseradish mayo were delicious.
8. Finally, no visit to Banff would be complete without a picture by the sign. This one is at the Norquay entrance (Mt. Norquay Road).
…and there you have it. An entire day in Banff with a little bit of everything. I would definitely go back. Enjoy!