Three Days in Banff: The Best Itinerary

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Banff National Park was on my bucket list for quite a long time. I love vacations that allow me to escape into the mountains, and  Banff is the perfect place to do just that, even if just for 3 days. Located in Alberta, Canada, Banff is relatively easy to get to, with the Calgary airport only 1.5 hours outside of the park. Planning out a Banff itinerary, however, is no easy task. When I first started planning my Canadian mountain getaway I found it a bit difficult to figure out exactly how I should plan out my time seeing as I only had three days in Banff and so much that I wanted to see! This Banff itinerary will break down everything you need to know about spending the best three days in Banff National Park.

 

Three Days in Banff Itinerary: What to Know

When to Visit Banff

One of the most important things to consider when planning your trip to Banff is when the best time to visit Banff is! It is typically said that the best time to visit Banff is in the summer, from June to August and December to March, depending on if you are looking for summer hikes or winter adventures.

Banff in September

Personally, I visited during the second week in September in hopes of avoiding some of the crowds. The verdict? The crowds were definitely better than they were rumored to be throughout the summer, hotel prices were still high, and it got really (really) cold! Despite it technically still being summer, it actually snowed during my time in Banff! It is also important to point out is that my three day trip to Banff was during the week, rather than on the weekend, which most likely played a large role in the crowd control.

One plus side to going during the summer months is that in addition to the warmer weather, you will also have longer days to explore the park. However, if you choose to visit Banff during the summer then prepare for crowds!

Where to Stay in Banff

There are tons of accommodation options for those looking to visit Banff: camping, RV, Airbnb, hostels, or, of course, your standard hotels.

If you are looking for slightly cheaper accommodation in a super cute town then I recommend staying in the town of Canmore! We spent a couple of nights at the Lamphouse Hotel. My favorite thing about this accommodation was the self-check-in service and the continental breakfast stocked right to your fridge. We were often out of the hotel before sunrise, so a fridge stocked with complimentary yogurts, fruit, and granola bars was the perfect setup.

For more information on booking the Lamphouse Hotel click here

Staying in Banff National Park itself also has its perks, as you will be closer to many of your destinations. However, lodging tends to be pricier and the town itself is more touristy than surrounding towns such as Canmore.

We opted to spend two nights in Canmore, one night in Banff, and one night in Calgary, as we had an early morning flight back to New York.

 

Getting Around Banff – Do You Need a Car?

I would be failing you with this Banff itinerary if I didn’t tell you to rent a car!  Whether you have 3 days in Banff or 3 weeks, there is no doubt that having your own car in Banff is the best way to explore the park. If you only have three days in Banff then your best bet is to rent (or drive your own) car because it will allow you to see so much more. If you fly into Calgary International Airport, then you have the option of picking your car up right from the airport. While there are public buses that get you to and around Banff National Park, the schedules for these buses are limited and don’t depart as early as I would recommend arriving at the lakes. Having a car in Banff will give you the flexibility to see more and to be on your own schedule during your three days in Banff.

You will need to purchase a daily park pass for $19.60 CAD. Make sure to buy them ahead of time HERE to save time!

Where to Eat in Banff (and nearby)

Three Days in Banff - Where to Eat - Grizzly Pub

Where to Eat in Canmore

The Grizzly Paw Pub and Brewing Company
8 Street, Canmore
The Grizzly Paw Pub is our absolute favorite spot to eat in Canmore! There is a ton of variety and the food is so so tasty. During our three days in Banff we actually ate here numerous times.

Where to Eat in Banff Town

Rose & Crown
202 Banff Ave, Banff 
This pub is a hit with a local on Wednesday nights when they offer live music and 50% off bottles of wine. Definitely my kind of Wine Wednesday! If you’re three days in Banff happen to fall over a Wednesday then I definitely recommend checking this spot out!

Where to Eat near Lake Louise

Laggan’s Mountain Bakery & Deli
101 Village Road, Building B, Lake Louise
This is an easy spot for grabbing a quick, cheap bite for lunch. Their portions are a bit small but the soup was very delicious (and perfect for a cold day of hiking).

Post Hotel
200 Pipestone Rd, Lake Louise
So unfortunately we didn’t get a chance to eat here, however both the restaurant and the pub at the Post Hotel come highly recommended by a local friend! Check it out and let me know what you think!

Three Days in Banff Itinerary

3 Days in Banff Itinerary: Day 1 – Lake Louise, Peyto Lake, & Moraine Lake

Okay, so I will admit it right away – the first day on this Banff itinerary is going to be a LONG day. My first day in Banff was definitely the busiest but also probably the most incredible! On Day 1 you will be visiting three different incredible lakes, Lake Louise, Peyto Lake, and Moraine Lake. If you choose to stay in Canmore, then you will need to be up by 5 am to fit everything in! This may need to be even earlier during the peak months to beat the crowds.

Lake Louise

Lake Louise is quite easily one of the most beautiful places that I have ever been to. In order to avoid the crowds, I arrived at 6am, well before the sun rose. This is perhaps a bit excessive during the offseason, but the parking lots definitely fill up so plan to arrive early!

Directly in front of the Fairmont Chateau, just a few minutes from the parking lot, you will be standing in front of one of the most magical lakes in the world. We honestly just spend so long staring at it and taking it all in!

Once you have your fill of the lake from up close, it is time to hike up and get a bird’s eye perspective. We decided to combine the Agnes Lake Tea House trek and the Big Beehive trek. It takes approximately 1.5 hours to reach the tea house, most of which you will be walking at a steady slight incline.

The Agnes Lake Tea House is a great spot to stop and warm up and refresh. We order a pot of the Mountain Chai tea and it was delicious! Make sure to bring cash though (Canadian and US Dollars accepted), as credit cards are not excepted.

From here you can hike another 1.6 km to the Big Beehive Lookout and trust me, it is WORTH IT! This part of the hike is quite challenging because after you circle the lake you will face some pretty intense switch backs. The views from the top are truly spectacular though.

After this challenging hike we stopped in Lake Louise Village for a hearty lunch before continuing to our next destination… Peyto Lake!

   Three Days in Banff: The Best ItineraryThree Days in Banff - What to Do - Lake Louise at Sunrise  Lake Louise - View from the Big Bee Hive Hike   Three Days in Banff - Alberta Canada

Exploring Peyto Lake

Yes, the water really is that blue! I had seen so many photos of Peyto lake on Instagram, however, I was afraid that some serious photoshopping was taking place. Well, let me tell you, the magnificent color of this lake will blow you away!

The lake is super easy to get to, located right off of the Icefields Parkway, via the Bow Summit exit. From the parking lot it is just a 10-minute walk to Peyto Lake lookout. There are also other hike options available for those looking to get away from the crowds. We decided to simply wander a bit to the right to getting a better view. Please note, although I am wearing converse in this photo, I highly recommend packing proper hiking boots.

 Peyto Lake - Three Days in Banff  Best Photo Spots in Banff

Visiting Moraine Lake

Hopefully you still have energy because you still have one more INCREDIBLE lake to visit today: Moraine Lake! We arrived at 5:30 pm and the lighting was absolutely perfect! We, fortunately, didn’t have any issues parking at that time, however, during the summer months, it might be worth trying to arrive by sunrise.

This lake is super accessible because the parking lot is just steps from this magical spot!

Instagram Photo Spots Banff Canada

 Three Days in Banff - Moraine Lake  Moraine Lake Banff

3 Days in Banff Itinerary: Day 2 – Canmore Swing, Tunnel Mountain, Emerald Lake, & Minnewanka Lake

How to Find the Canmore Swing

Because what Instagrammer doesn’t love a good swing picture? I had seen photos of this swing on the gram and was obviously determined to find it! Please note that it is located in a residential area so it is important to be considerate of the people living in the area.

Check out this blog post for an awesome guide to finding the Canmore Swing! 

Hiking Tunnel Mountain

Tunnel Mountain is a super fun, easy hike starting right in the town of Banff! The hike takes about 1.5 hours round trip, allowing time for some photos of course, and is relatively easy. At the summit, you’ll be rewarded with some sprawling views of the town below! It is the perfect addition to this Banff itinerary. There was some live music echoing through the mountains while we were up there which made for a magical experience!

 

Exploring Emerald Lake

So this lake is not actually part of Banff National Park, but rather part of Yoho National Park. However, it is close by and definitely worth the extra drive! The parking lot is just steps from the lake entrance. Many people choose to rent canoes here, however as it was a bit rainy we decided to simply walk a bit around the lake instead.

 

Minnewanka Lake

I’ll be the first to admit that I wasn’t THAT impressed by Minnewanka Lake, however, it was quite overcast and cold when we arrived. I may have also been getting a bit tired and hangry haha. However, if I had more time I would have loved to take a boat out on the lake!

Lake Minnewanka - Three Days in Banff

3 Days in Banff Itinerary: Day 3 – Johnston Canyon & Canmore

We left Johnston Canyon for our third and final day in Banff, and safe to say we were quite surprised when it started snowing! Nevertheless, this easy hike is a gorgeous at any time of year! You should be able to reach the Upper Falls in about 1.5 hours round trip.

We planned to head over and conquer the East End of the Rumble hike and Grassi Lakes next, however, the snowy weather made that impossible. We opted for a quiet afternoon shopping and sipping tea at the Bicycle Cafe in Canmore. If you’re interested in learning more about the Grassi Lakes Hike you can check out an awesome guide by a fellow blogger.

 Hiking in Banff - Three Days in Banff Itinerary  Johnston Canyon Upper Falls Johnston Canyon - Three Days in Banff Itinerary

A few other places that we wanted to visit while in Canada include the Banff Upper Hot Springs, Lake O’Hara, and the East End of the Rundle Hike. If you have the time I recommend trying to squeeze these in! As for me, I guess I’ll just have to plan another trip! But nevertheless, 3 days is enough days to spend in Banff.

Did you enjoy the 3 Days in Banff Itinerary? Make sure to Pin it for later!

 Best of Banff - Three Days in Banff ItineraryBest of Banff - Three Days in Banff ItineraryBest of Banff - Three Days in Banff Itinerary

 

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13 Comments

  1. Sarah Velten
    May 13, 2019 / 2:05 am

    This was so helpful – thank you!

    • tavernatravels
      Author
      May 16, 2019 / 9:15 pm

      You’re welcome! Hope that you get to visit Banff soon 🙂

  2. Jasmine
    May 29, 2019 / 1:03 pm

    Nice blog, thanks.

    • tavernatravels
      Author
      June 19, 2019 / 2:55 pm

      Thank you for taking the time to read!

  3. June 13, 2019 / 6:41 pm

    Thanks for the info, I’m heading there in July for the first time and can’t wait!

    • tavernatravels
      Author
      June 19, 2019 / 2:55 pm

      Have so much fun! I’m sure you’ll love it!

  4. Alan
    July 3, 2019 / 8:02 pm

    Why are you posing in half your photos? People want to see the locations, not your backside.

    • tavernatravels
      Author
      July 8, 2019 / 12:30 pm

      Then I suggest you visit the location yourself, rather than my blog where I enjoy posting photos of my backside 😉

      • Elizabeth C Stupski
        August 2, 2019 / 9:34 am

        ^^ Your response… yaas girl! Your pictures are incredible and you provide great details about each day. I’ve taken so much of your itinerary when I started planning my trip – I head there in September so I’m super excited for the cooler temps! Thanks so much – definitely will be following your blog from now on for future bucket list places to visit!

  5. Becky
    August 9, 2019 / 12:44 pm

    Silly question but are these pictures actually taken the same day? How do you handle the outfit changes-just throw the dress over your hiking clothes and take them off or were there bathrooms up on the mountain? I noticed alot of your dresses tend to be wrap dresses so Im sure that helps.

    • tavernatravels
      Author
      August 9, 2019 / 12:54 pm

      Haha yes, these are actually all shot on the same day. This is because the weather got super cold/ I wanted to spend the rest of the days just enjoying my trip. Sometimes I would wear the dress with leggings and a jacket over. Other times I changed in the parking lot bathroom (when there wasn’t hike) or in the car haha.

    • tavernatravels
      Author
      October 17, 2019 / 9:19 pm

      Of course! It was thanks to your post that I found the swing!

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