Banff National Park

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Banff and Jasper National Parks in Alberta, Canada were my most awaited parks for this summer! I had actually been waiting years to make it to this destination since I first saw beautiful pictures of Lake Louise. I saved up my vacation time from work just for exploring these two national parks. A fellow camper, who is from Alberta, told us months ago that it would be too busy in Banff in July, and that we shouldn’t even go. Lucky for us, we didn’t listen because we already had coveted reservations at the campgrounds, and we also don’t love RVing in the snow, so we were happy to be there in July! There were a lot of people, but for the most part, it was just fine. Heading into the National Parks in the mornings or around dinner time is a great way to avoid the biggest crowds. It was also pretty cool in Banff even though it was July, so we were happy we had come in the summer. We had also read that if staying more than a few days in a national park in Canada, it is worth it for most families to get the $130 Canadian dollars year national park pass. I had also seen people say that if you are towing a car behind your motorhome, you need two passes. Luckily, that was not correct, and the one yearly pass was enough for us to use in Banff, Jasper, and any other Canadian National Park that we may make it to this year!

 

We made it to our reserved campground spot in Tunnel Mountain 2 campground. It was a water and electric site, and was the perfect place to park to explore Banff. It was just about a 10 minute drive from the town of Banff, and the sights on the southern side of the park. Our first night in Banff, we spent some time in town, and then headed to Banff Hot Springs, and enjoyed a dip in the warm hot springs pool with beautiful views of the mountains…and many other people. It basically was like sitting in a warm pool with a bunch of others, but the history there is cool, and it was pretty relaxing anyways. After that, we drove by the beautiful Banff Springs Fairmont Hotel, and should have stopped in!

The next day, we took a drive near the campground, and saw beautiful mountain and lake views, and what we think were female big horned sheep and their babies. We took a hike to a waterfall in Johnston Canyon as well, and would have loved to have hiked even further. There were a lot of people on this hike!

After the hike, we headed back to the town of Banff to visit Cave and Basin National Historic site where hot springs and a cave were found by three railway workers in 1883. This led to the tourism and establishment of Banff National Park, Canada’s first national park. For this reason, this site is known as the birthplace of Canada’s National Parks.

For dinner, we enjoyed the fun town of Banff for Ty’s 6th Birthday. He wanted to go bowling for his birthday, so we booked a lane at High Roller’s Bowling Alley and restaurant. Lucky for us, it was $5 pizza night, and they had an amazing happy hour with $5 appetizers. You can go into the restaurant before bowling, or order and eat at your lane as well. This was an awesome spot for a birthday celebration. After bowling, we walked down the road to Cows ice cream, which is a chain of the Cows on Prince Edward Island, that was recently rated by a travel company to be the best ice cream in the world! It was good, not our favorite though as portion sizes have a bit to do with that for us, and the scoop was weighed out and was pretty small. Tyler loved it though, and couldn’t get over that he was having the best ice cream in the world for his birthday! 🙂

 

For our next day in Banff, we had reservations at Lake Louise campground. This spot was about an hour north of the town of Banff, and was right near Lake Louise and a short drive from Lake Moraine too. We weren’t ready for the stressed out parking attendants and lack of parking in this area as we headed out to see Lake Louise and Lake Moraine. Since we had gotten settled at the campground, it was the busiest time of the day in the park, so we couldn’t get a spot near the lakes. We headed instead to the Lake Louise Gondola where there is a large free parking lot, and free shuttle. We caught the shuttle to Lake Louise, and took in the gorgeous views of the aqua lake with mountains, and glaciers in the distance. The magnificent Fairmont at Lake Louise Hotel adds to the grandeur of this lake. Now this hotel would be an amazing place to stay for a few days! There were a lot of tourists like us all around the lake, but the crystal clear water and mountain views definitely it one of the most beautiful places we had been so far. We were all going to hike up a trail to Lake Agnes, and the Lake Agnes Tea House, but we didn’t get too far up the hill before realizing that it was too strenuous of a hike for the kids, so I turned around with them, and we walked part way around the lake while David hiked the trail and had some tea at the tea house. By the time we got on the shuttle and back to the Lake Louise Gondola,  we found out that it and many other places in the park, close at 5.  So, by the time we got back, they were closed.

Since it was later in the day, and was no longer peak visitor time, the road up to Lake Moraine was open, so we took the 20 minute drive up the hill to check it out. It was just as beautiful, if not more beautiful, than Lake Louise. The water was even a brighter turquoise blue, and there were some cool logs that we were able to cross with the kids to get to a nice viewpoint on the large rock pile. It was quite an adventure getting over to the rock pile, but none of us fell in to the cold glacial lake (can’t say the same about some others there). Luckily, the water wasn’t too deep, but we were proud of ourselves for not falling in, and it will definitely be a memory we will never forget.

Since we missed the gondola on our first day in Lake Louise, we instead woke up early the next day, and headed to the gondola for breakfast and a ride. The breakfast buffet at the gondola was great, and we had the choice to ride the open air ski lift or the enclosed gondola, and we chose the ski lift. We were hoping to see some bears on this lift, as it is a common occurrence here. The views at the top of the mountain were so beautiful, and we could see Lake Louise in the distance. On the way back down the hill, we did in fact see a black bear in the field to the right of us. The kids made sure to tell everyone we passed on the gondola, who were on their way up, where to watch for the bear!

We loved Banff, it exceeded our expectations! If we had more time there, we would have loved to have done more hikes and have seen more sights! Let us know in the comments if you have been to Banff what we missed and need to try to do next time!

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2 thoughts on “Banff National Park

  1. You’re right about morning/dinner times to avoid the crowds. 7 AM wasn’t early enough for us to avoid the crowds at Moraine Lake, but at least the road wasn’t closed. By the way, we crossed the logs too and then found out there is an easy trail that goes around the back side of the rock pile! And we agree, it was even prettier than Lake Louise. Arriving at Lake Louise about the same time we had ample parking and a choice of tables after hiking up to the Lake Agnes Tea House by about 8:30 AM, but it was overflowing by 9 AM. On the way down we passed well over 100 people coming up the trail. We missed Johnston Canyon due to lack of parking, but Marble Canyon in Kootenay National Park was a great alternative. The Banff Springs Hotel is definitely worth a stop, along with the Cascades of Time garden, across the Bow River bridge from downtown Banff. Yes, Banff was crowded in July, but we would go back in a heartbeat.

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