Top Tips for Visiting Banff and the Canadian Rockies
Guest Blog: Top Tips for Visiting Banff and the Canadian Rockies
By Tracy Gall
Whether it’s your first, fifth, or tenth time visiting the Canadian Rockies, there are endless things to see and do. My partner Devan and I only had a few days to spend between Lake Louise and Banff before continuing on our road trip. Here are some tips for Banff and the Canadian Rockies that I’d love to share to make your road trip through the Rockies more enjoyable!
Image: Tracy Gall on a Mountain Bike Tour
Budget about six days in the Rockies, depending on what you want to do. You will have many full days between the lakes and mountains, tours and shops! Ideally, we would have liked to have spent closer to 10 days in the area to hike more.
2. Transportation around Banff and the Canadian Rockies
I cannot stress this enough: if you’re wanting to visit Lake Louise, utilize a tour bus or the shuttle system! Getting to Lake Moraine is a headache if you’re in a car. We drove up three times just for this lake, at random hours, and with no success.
Finally, after some deliberation about whether or not we even wanted to hike in the area, we agreed to look at the shuttle services offered. There are plenty of shuttle options that will take you to see Lake Louise and Moraine Lake! The buses are more efficient, better for the environment, and guaranteed to get you in once you have your ticket.
3. Hiking and Trails
If you’re planning on hiking, research the trails before going. The app I use and recommend is AllTrails. Maps can be downloaded to your phone, and if you have the Pro subscription, are still accessible without service. Having a map is part of the Ten Essentials, after all – and you should always carry all ten items.
Friendly reminder: you are in bear country! Some hiking trails require a minimum of four people to travel together because you will be walking in grizzly habitat; it is for your safety that you travel in a group. Park Rangers can fine you a maximum of $25,000 under the National Parks Regulations for not complying with these rules.
Some trails feature tea houses you can visit for a delicious and well-deserved mid-hike treat! I recommend you carry about $20 cash per person for each tea house you plan to visit. However, do not rely on them for your whole lunch, as they can sell out of items.
4. Food in Banff and the Canadian Rockies
Food can be expensive if you are eating out for every meal! We tried to cut spending by packing lots of snacks and some of our own meals. Check with your accommodations before your visit to see what type of cooking space they provide and plan food accordingly.
Our favorite restaurant deserves special mention, though. If you love pizza, a must-stop eatery is the Bear Street Tavern. We were also skeptical about the honey and chili oil, but trust them, it’s delicious!
5. Guided Tours
Devan and I were excited to book an Intro to Rock Climbing course in Banff through Yervana. We (or rather, I) had been putting this off for months because I was nervous about trusting my life to a 9mm rope.
Our guide, Austin, ensured that each of us knew how to correctly check our partner for safety, he assisted and gave verbal instructions when necessary, but also provided the appropriate space for individual learning. Tying a figure 8 knot has always been a challenge for me, I gave it a few tries while Austin watched and waited for me to ask for help. Upon request, I found out my problem all along has been twisting the wrong way – who knew it could be that easy! We learned how to belay each other safely and Austin showed me how to anchor myself to an object so I could belay Devan.
Our experience was so enjoyable that I am actively looking into purchasing a harness so that we can continue outdoor climbing!
6. Be Kind
Remember that most people visiting Banff and the Canadian Rockies also want to do and see many of the things you do. I do not love busy places; I find they make me quite anxious, but knowing that it would be chaos helped me.
It was apparent at every place we visited that there was a shortage of workers. Restaurants are slower, hotel desks are not fully staffed, and stores cannot stock their shelves or even open some days. One of our servers even inquired if we would be staying longer and needed work when we said we loved Lake Louise so much. So, be kind, have patience, and say “thank you.” Everyone in tourist towns like these is doing their best to fill vacancies and provide quality service.
7. Add On More Adventure in the Kootenays!
After we left the Rockies, we traveled to the Kootenay region! We were headed to Creston and Nelson to visit some friends. A few hours from Banff, the Kootenays are home to a plethora of Adventure opportunities.
We eventually made our way to Rossland, where we had booked another tour with Yervana – mountain biking! Having not been on a bike for almost 10 years, I was surprised at how easily it came back to me. One could say it was “like riding a bike!” Our guide was supportive, knowledgeable, and knew the trails well. She understood my concerns and chose trails that were well suited for the skill levels of the riders in our group.
I love guided opportunities like these because they take so much pressure off my personal planning and remove any concerns I might have. While I am not ready to purchase a mountain bike any time soon, it is nice to know that I have the opportunity to rent a bike and take part in this kind of adventure again in the future.
Ten adventurous days later, we drove home to Vancouver, and I have already started planning a trip for next year based on my current knowledge. I would not consider Banff a one-trip locale, but somewhere so full of adventure you have to return again and again.
Tracy is an avid hiker from Vancouver, BC. Over the last decade she has been committed to learning more about nature, hiking, and backpacking. Her passion for the outdoors has led her to many beautiful places, and because of this she is encouraging others to spend more time outside. She is a member of the Yervana Adventure Scout Crew. Get to know Tracy on her Instagram, and her blog!