A few months ago (end of September), I pulled the ultimate millennial move and decided to quit my corporate job to travel through the end of the year. I wanted to reset and refresh, and I can’t think of a better place to start my trip than Alberta, Canada. More specifically, the stunning Banff National Park.
One of my homegirls (s/o Alyssa!) wanted to celebrate her birthday in Canada, and since the rest of us have never been either, we were stoked to tag along and explore what Banff had to offer. And given we only had a long weekend to do it, we had to pick and choose what we wanted to see, and I think we nailed it.
Below is our 4-day itinerary of our Banff adventure:
Day 1: Arrive in Calgary
The first time I’ve heard of Calgary was because of this trip, but this city was amazing and completely blew us away. The day we landed, we checked out Ten Foot Henry for dinner, which was recommended to me by a friend, and it was the best meal we had this weekend (highly recommend)! If you go, you must order the bruschetta, trust me. We stayed in an Airbnb (click for $55 off your first trip!) in Canmore, which is only about 20 min from Banff. We found to much more affordable to stay in Canmore instead of Banff.
Day 2: Johnston Canyon, Peyto Lake & Lake Louise
Johnston Canyon was our first stop in Banff National Park, and I recommend you get there early to get parking (this goes for most of these hot spots). We did not get there as early as we should’ve, but we got really lucky in finding a parking spot since we spotted someone leaving! The hike took us about 2 hours total, including stops for photos and lunch.
Peyto Lake was astonishing. It literally looks like a lake full of Gatorade, the Glacier Freeze flavor. Apparently the color changes depending on the weather and season, but when we saw it, it was vividly teal (see below). This hike only took us about an hour, but we also took 19,735 photos there.
We had some time before the sun set, so we stopped at Lake Louise on our way back to our cabin. Another jaw-dropping moment, as we’ve never witnessed a more beautiful and peaceful lake. If you have the chance to view these lakes at both sunrise and sunset, definitely do it. I also recommend grabbing a cocktail or some tea at the Fairmont Hotel, just across the lake, and taking in the views from there. They even have blankets and heaters, and the occasional squirrels coming up to say hello!
Day 3: Lake Moraine & Larch Valley
To get the most out of your visit to Lake Moraine, I recommend going as early as possible. Trust me on this. Parking is rough out there, and there’s very limited spots, so the earlier you go the better. We got there around 5am (!!!) and swooped one of the last parking spots available. We attempted to nap in the car, though it was FREEZING, and then made our way to catch the sunrise around 6:30am. We scaled some icy, slippery rocks and logs to get to the top of the mountain where cameramen were set up with their tripods, only to discover that there was a trail leading to the same spot (oops). Learn from our mistake and take the trail 😉 Either way, we made it and witnessed possibly the best sunrise EVER. 1000% worth the icy climb, and early wake-up call.
I mean… look at this view:
After freezing our tails off and taking another batch of photos, we made our way back down from the viewpoint, where an employee of the lake told us about Larch Valley.
Being the n00bs we were, we had no idea what he was talking about, but apparently larch season happens only ~3 weeks out of the year, so we were super lucky we even caught them! He mentioned a hike from the lake, that was actually his favorite hike, and recommended we do it. After much deliberation and wondering if it was going to be worth it (we were so tired at this point, given we were awake since 4am), we decided to give it a shot.
Needless to say, the Larch Valley hike was completely worth every step, as none of us have ever seen such vibrant golden trees before.
Day 4: Grassi Lakes & The Three Sisters
If you like easier hikes and emerald green lakes, definitely check out the Upper Grassi Lakes Hike. We loved this hike since it’s relatively short (took us about 1.5 hours to complete), offers panoramic views of Canmore, and it’s not as crowded as the other spots we went to. And the great thing about this hike is that there are two options for the way up and down — there’s a steeper/rockier route which we took up, and a wider/easier route for the way down (I recommend this option).
The Three Sisters are a trio of peaks near Canmore, and when you Google it, you’ll find beautiful images of the mountains reflected in water (Policeman Creek). After a bit of research and a few wrong turns, we eventually found this “money shot.”
And that concludes the ultimate 4-day itinerary in Banff. I hope this was helpful. Please leave me a comment if you have any recommendations for next time I visit Alberta, because I will definitely be back!