No wonder the Rocky Mountains are a Canadian pride, they’re really quite magnificent.
Let’s be real, Canada isn’t famous for tourism. There were 20.8 million international tourists in Canada in 2017. Same year in France? 89 million visitors. And yet people who live in photogenic countries travel to Banff to see the Rockies. Sold.
The town of Banff is a 2 hour drive from Calgary, where your flight most likely lands. Accommodation in Banff is limited so plan to book it at least 3, 4 months in advance!
These are the perfect sights for a 3 day trip, grouped geographically for ease of travel:
Vermilion lakes/Minnewanka: great for sunset
Mount Norquay: drive up a winding road to a gorgeous field on the mountain for a breathtaking view of Banff
Tunnel mountain Reservoir: great for hiking
Lake Louise and Moraine Lake are the obvious classics. Must-visits but crowded, though not if you plan smartly. They’re about a 45 minute drive from the town of Banff
Moraine lake: famous for its turquoise waters and the 5 peak mountain backdrop. go early morning (before 7am). You’ll actually be able to find parking and also catch soft light over the mountain peaks. If you’re not an early riser, come after 6pm for sunset. During the day, the parking lot is likely closed being at full capacity.
Lake Louise: a more grand look compared to the more intimate Moraine lake with great hiking options. It sits at the bottom of the infamous Fairmont hotel, has a much bigger parking space than Moraine lake. Take the trailhead for the Fairview Lookout starts near the lake boathouse.
Peyto lake (Bow summit): famous for its turquoise lake in the shape of a wolf! Great hike, though the viewing area is quite limited so it’s harder to get a clean shot.
Bow Valley Parkway Drive
This super scenic drive is a smaller road parallel to the Trans-Canada Highway that takes you from Banff to Lake Louise area. A winding road lined by neatly planted (or burned) pines, and sometimes a bear spotting! Please don’t be one of “those people” who come out of their cars to snap photos of grizzlies in close distance…
To get on: take the Trans-Canada Highway, then take the first exit onto the Parkway.