Thursday, October 8, 2015

Banff Travel Guide

Banff travel guide
When we decided to accept the opportunity to move to Canada, the first place we added to our travel bucket list was Banff, AB.

A jewel of the Canadian Rockies, Banff (and the surrounding area) really blew away my expectations. This post is picture heavy, but does little to accurately capture the beauty there.  I've recapped below some of our trip highlights including things to do, where to eat/ shop/ stay and some of our favorite hikes.

But the thing that made this trip so memorable, was a renewed sense of calm that only the mountains and unspoiled nature can provide (being toddler-free, thanks to Grandma and Grandpa also didn't hurt)!

At the bottom of the post, I've included a customized google map with all of these places and more.  I find that's the best way to take recommendations on a trip.
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Waterfalls on the Lake Agnes Trail
Hike:
Lake Minnewanka- A short 20 minute drive from the town of Banff, this storied lake has an easy trail and while in the area, do a quick hike through lower Bankhead which has remenants of a coal town.
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Lower Bankhead Trail
Tunnel Mountain Trail- easy trails, iconic views of Banff and the castle-like Fairmont.

Lake Agnes Trail- from Lake Louise, head up the Lake Agnes trail to Mirror Lake.  From there, if you have the fuel, hike up a bit more to a mountaintop tea house (travel tip: they ONLY take cash, US or CAD).  From there we went to the very top of the bee hive for commanding views of Lake Louise. This was the highlight of my trip and what I'll always remember about Banff; the view from the top!
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The top of the Big Beehive looking down at Lake Louise
Eat and Drink:
Evelyn's Coffee- A place with local flair. Don't miss the "yogurt cookies" (more scone-like than cookie); they paired perfectly with the lattes

The Fudgery- A delicious souvenir, if you have the patience to wait that long to dig into the goods.  Don't miss the dark chocolate bear claw; the maple flavored caramel is memorable.

Park Distillery- Dinner and drinks in a fun atmosphere.  They make their own spirits and have excellent cocktails.  Try the Abott's Pass!
Banff Eat + Drink
Evelyn's Lattes,  The Fudgery's Goods and The Park's bar
Do:
Take A Picture At Lake Louise-  Touristy, yes.  But standing there, taking in all it's glory, you can't help but join the crowds-- you'll want to commemorate the experience.
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Lake Louise
Fairmont Banff Springs High Tea-  Even if you're not staying at the Fairmont, it is worth a visit.  Their High Tea was a wonderful way to take in the views and ambiance.  The relaxed pace and delicious food (think tea sandwiches, scones and artistic desserts) made this the perfect way to recoup after a morning hike.
Fairmont Banff Spring High Tea
High Tea at the Fairmont Banff Springs
Norquay Summit-  Unfortunately, while we were visiting, the Banff Gondola was under construction.  So we headed a few minutes outside of town to go up the ski lift at Norquay Summit.  While at the top, there is a little restaurant where you can grab a beer and take in the view.
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Norquay Summit

Emerald Lake-  Drive north from Banff (take Bow Valley Parkway) to Emerald Lake.  This quaint mountain lake felt less touristy.  Rent a canoe for the ultimate experience.  You can easily spend an hour being awed by your surroundings.  The color of the water so closely resembles the sky, you feel suspended between heaven and earth.
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The Canoes at Emerald Lake

Stay: 
This was the hardest decision for me to make when planning this trip.  Ultimately, we ended up a the Rimrock Hotel and enjoyed our stay.  The rooms were clean, we had a beautiful view and we enjoyed the more remote feel.

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