Banff and the surrounding area! YOHO national park to the west and Jasper National Park to the North sandwich the strikingly surreal landscape of BANFF National Park.
HI Banff Alpine Center is a BEAUTIFUL Hostel. Honestly, it doesn’t even feel like a hostel. Enjoy lodge life with all the amenities; you can find wildlife wandering through and you’re either a beautiful 10-15 walk from town or a quick bus ride away with your free local bus pass compliments of HI BANFF Hostel. With Cougar Pete’s restaurant and the Storm Cellar bar, you’ll never lack entertainment. You can enjoy typical Hostel life by sharing rooms for a low of about $33.00 a night in non-peak season or live the life of luxury in a private room for about $110.00 – $180.00 a night.
HI Lake Louise Alpine has a real rugged beauty to it just outside of ‘town’. This chalet style hostel is all the rage in the low key town of Lake Louise. Choose to stay dormitory-style or private but make sure you enjoy the fire pit on a cool summer night with newfound friends.
HI Athabasca Falls Wilderness Hostel’s off the grid living is a nature lover’s absolute DREAM. Not far from the town of Jasper, but entirely one with nature, this inexpensive accommodation is rich in character. Here, you will sleep in one of three rustic cabins and gather alongside fellow nature-lovers in the cooking cabin or around the campfire to share stories and meals. Keep a keen eye out for wildlife and be sure to follow hostel rules for your and the surrounding animals’ health. Enjoy a shared dorm room in this dreamy cabin for less than $30.00 a night. It is a nature lovers dream, other than sleeping outside of course.
Coyotes Southwestern Grill (BANFF) provided our table with delicious eats in a warm, casual atmosphere. We enjoyed Canadian and southwestern dishes among good drinks and great company for a low cost! However, be aware it was very hot in the building on a warm summers day.
Wild Bill’s Legendary Saloon (BANFF) serves up American Bar and BBQ style food. They were very accommodating to a super large group (13+) and the food was good, not great but good. We also had a more than enjoyable time staying out late and dancing/learning the 2-step to the tune of a lively band.
Stop into COWS Banff for the creamiest of ice cream! It is definitely intimidatingly crowded, however well worth the wait!
The Village Market in Lake Louise was our pit stop to grab food to cook in the Hostel. A stop at the Samson ‘Mall’ allows you the opportunity to stop into the Market, Liquor Store, Trailhead Cafe, Old Tyme Candy Shoppe, and Laggan’s Mountain Bakery and Delicatessen. I actually stopped at each of these places on my visit! Enjoying a breakfast sandwich, local tea and sweet treat from Laggan’s on the go.
El Mundo Loco in Jasper seemed like the perfect ‘local’ spot! We ventured a bit off the main road and through some back streets before agreeing on this one. When traveling on a Budget Taco Sunday sounded inviting and it truly didn’t disappoint; $4 Tacos and $4.50 Margaritas hit the spot and were tasty. Karouzos Steakhouse was where a few of our tourmates decided on and they enjoyed a lovely, more upscale but still casual dinner in the heart of Jasper.
TRAILS and SIGHTS.
SIGHT: Moraine Lake
DESCRIPTION: A beautiful stone man-made path with a few steps leads you to this glacial fed lake in Banff National Park. Situated in the Valley on the Ten Peaks at about 6,183 feet in elevation, there is no better sight while enjoying lunch! There are trails to hike from this point including Larch Valley, Consolation Lakes, Sentinel Pass, Tower of Babel and Eiffel Peak; each hike increasing in difficulty and beauty!
SIGHT: Lake Louise
DESCRIPTION: Park and walk to the iconic view of Lake Louise! Be aware that it will MOST DEFINITELY be incredibly busy.
TRAIL: Lake Agnes Tea House
DESCRIPTION: A clear path from Lake Louise will lead you up, through switchbacks to the Lake Agnes tea-house which is open from early June through October. It will take an in-shape hiker around 45 minutes to gain the 1300 feet; when you’ve reached the cascading waterfall you are very close! Once at the top, enjoy the beauty of the building amidst the stunning landscape. From here you may choose to continue on to Little or Big Beehive which connects you to an additional tea house for a 9-mile loop.
SIGHT: Athabasca Falls
DESCRIPTION: A paved path leads to and around this powerful waterfall in Jasper National Park on the upper Athabasca River. There are offshoot trails providing many opportunities to escape the crowds for some more serene beauty! Be sure to descend through millions of years worth of rocks layers to a few beautiful views of the river.
SIGHT: Athabasca Glacier
DESCRIPTION: There are a number of excursions that one can embark on here at Athabasca Glacier. You can grab a ride on a massive Ice Explorer to a place where you can walk on, feel and drink from the Athabasca Glacier. If walking on a jaw-dropping glass-floored Glacier Skywalk is more your style you can head out onto this beauty as well! Rates for the 2018 season can be found HERE. Within the center, there are informational films, displays and more for you to learn about the surrounding area.
SIGHT: Waterfowl Lakes.
DESCRIPTION: A lovely stop for a gorgeous sunrise; with a crystal clear reflection of this glacial lake, you can not go wrong. Also a perfect location for an ICE COLD swim! hah
SIGHT: Johnston Canyon
DESCRIPTION: Easily one of the busiest trails in the Canadian Rockies and for good reason. This trail boasts overhanging canyon walls, waterfalls, the deep pools of Johnston Creek, and lush forest. It takes about a half hour to reach the lower falls, and with a steeper elevation gain your trip the Upper Falls will take at least an hour to an hour and fifteen minutes depending on your fitness. You can continue on further, for more solitude, to the inkblot. The trail itself winds through the stunning limestone canyon walls but can be narrow in places with large crowds; I suggest arriving early in the AM to avoid large bus-fulls of people! There are washrooms and a restaurant at the trailhead.
SIGHT: Tunnel Mountain
DESCRIPTION: Not far from town this fairly easy hike includes a wide, windy, well-maintained path up hillside switchbacks. 1 – 2 hours (RT) will lead you to a panoramic view of the townsite, the Bow Valley, and Mt. Rundle. Such a perfect way to get to know the area!
SIGHT: Bow Lake/ Bow Glacier Falls
DESCRIPTION: Enjoy the reflection of mountains and Bow Glacier on the shore of Bow Lake. Follow the trail over a series of wooden bridges for about 2.5 miles. You can choose to hike/scramble up closer to the falls for an even better view! Enjoy the emerald colored water as you hike to this glacial waterfall and don’t forget that your return hike is almost like an entirely new hike!
SIGHT: Emerald Lake and Basin
DESCRIPTION: If you’re driving into Banff from B.C. be sure to pit stop at Emerald Lake in YOHO National Park is an absolute beauty! From here you can follow the shoreline trail up to Emerald Basin. Luscious green trees and receding glaciers are a treat for all of the senses with absolutely stunning views. If not for a hike, at least stop by for this beautiful view!
SIGHT: Peyto Lake
DESCRIPTION: From the main parking lot you can walk to first main view of Peyto Lake on a well-maintained trail that is less than a half mile away. You can enjoy the views, and probably the crowds at the Peyto Lake Lookout, or you can hike up to a higher viewpoint; the option to hike down towards the lake or on an old fire road to Bow Lake Lookout is also available. Enjoy the rocks at Peyto Lake lookout, you might have a few Marmots keeping you company!
SIGHT: Rundle Mountain
DESCRIPTION: Beyond the BANFF Springs Golf Course you can find the 8-mile trail to the summit of Rundle. Plenty of steep switchbacks and many amazing views will lead you the ultimate 8,000-foot views! Be prepared for loose rock above the tree line, making it quite tough to maneuver the final ascent, and to turn around at first sign of bad weather! Be sure to turn around often because the jagged mountaintop view never gets old.