The first 4 things on this list is in Yoho National Park and can all be done in one day. #5-12 are in Banff proper, with #9 being the most north on Icefields Parkway.
1. Stand tall next to Takakkaw Falls
Takakkaw Falls in a short walk from the parking lot and would be a great location to pack a picnic.
Time Needed: 15 minutes
2. Do the Polar Bear Plunge at Emerald Lake
You can canoe at Emerald Lake for $60/hour. Or do as the locals do and take the polar bear plunge off the bridge. Warning: the lake is literally freezing (aka. glacier water) so bring a towel!
Time Needed: as fast as you can swim!
3. Eat at Cilantro on the Lake
Eat under the yellow umbrellas of Cilantro Restaurant and enjoy the views of Emerald lake while sipping on some white wine.
Time Needed: 2 hours (food is very slow to come out)
4. Feel the mist of Wapta Falls
Wapta Falls is the largest waterfall by volume in Yoho National Park. This easy hike is 3.2km (2 miles) roundtrip. It is mostly flat and easily accessible.
Time needed: 1 hour
5. Hike the Big Beehive
This is NOT filtered people! The lakes are really this blue. The impressive color comes from silt-like rock flour continually being carried into the lake by glacier water. The trail head is from Lake Louise. Start on the trail to Plain of Six Glaciers and you will see a sign to the right to the Big Beehive. It is definitely a steep hike to the top but definitely worth the view! I would recommend doing the 12 mile (roundtrip) hike which includes the two teahouses below in addition to the Big beehive. Stay tuned for the separate detailed post about this hike.
Time needed: 4 hours
6. Sip Tea at Plain of Six Glaciers or Lake Anges Teahouse
The pictured teahouse is Plain of Six Glaciers. If you only have time for one teahouse I would go to this one because it is a little further than Lake Anges and there are less people. This teahouse is 5.5 km (one-way) from the trailhead (Lake Louise) and has been serving tea since 1927. Today, there is no electricity and supplies are carried in each day. Make sure to take Canadian cash. There is a $4 charge to run a credit card. I would recommend the earl grey tea with chocolate cake.
Time needed: 3 hours to Plain of Six Glaciers and 6 hours to do both teahouses including the Big Beehive
7. Keep your Eyes Peeled for Widlife
Be prepared because you will see bears! Stay in groups of 4 or more and carry bear spray. Most of the time when you see these bears there is little risk because there are probably 50 people around you taking pictures but if you are in the back country hiking you should play it safe. Depending on the type of bear you should respond differently. The bear above is a grizzly bear and the best thing to do is NOT run. Play dead with your backpack on top of you.
If you see a black bear, you want to stand tall and act as big as possible and make loud noises.
Time Needed: always be on high alert!
8. Discover Johnston Canyon
This is probably one of the most popular hikes in Banff and for that reason it was one of my least favorite hikes. But still noteworthy. If you really want to appreciate the hike I would recommend going early in the morning. The entire hike is wheel-chair accessible and you will see lots of strollers on this “hike.” The hike is 7.4 km (roundtrip) but there is very little elevation gain. This cave can be found at the upper falls and you have to go off trail to get there. I would recommend escaping the crowds and appreciating the beauty away without a million people in your shot. There is an option to continue on this hike to the ink pots. The ink pots consist of several pools made up of greenish colored mineral springs. From the upper falls the trail is a moderate climb out of the canyon for 3km.
Time needed: 2 hours
9. Take the Trail less Traveled to Iceberg Lake
Iceberg Lake is located above Bow Falls and Bow Lake. The trailhead starts at Num-Ti-Jah Lodge (30 minutes north of Lake Louis). The hike starts on the lakeshore trail up to the natural bridge (boulder stuck between the river) toward Bow Hut. Once you get to creek level again towards bow hut this is when the hike goes from easy to ADVANCED real quick. You have to cross a glacier cold river barefoot, rock scramble up two steep moraines and cross a 300m cliff. Stay tuned for the detained description and map in a coming post!
Time needed: 6 hours
10. Canoe Lake Louise
The seasonal start up of the canoe rentals depends on when the lake thaws, it’s generally open by mid-June. Rentals continue through to the end of September or into early October, weather permitting and with reduced hours. The hours are 11am to 7pm daily, weather permitting. The last boat goes out around 6pm. They may offer earlier starts in the peak of summer. The rates are per canoe, $105 plus tax per hour and $95 plus tax per half hour. For hotel guests the rates are $65 plus tax per hour and $55 plus tax per half hour. Guest take priority over the general public. There is a guest priority line that goes behind the back of the boathouse. A room key must be presented as proof of a guest of the hotel. The canoes are first come, first serve. You can’t not reserve them ahead of time. The maximum number of people in a canoe is 3 adults or 2 adults and 2 children under (25kg) 55 lbs. One person in the boat must be at least 16 years of age.
Reminder: if you dead set on canoeing but don’t want to spend the big bucks you can canoe Emerald Lake for $60/hour. OR you could bring your own canoe!
Time needed: 1 hour
11. Do a photoshoot at Moraine Lake
We woke up before sunrise and got to Moraine Lake by 5 am to take photos without anyone in the background. Surprisingly, we weren’t the only ones to have this brilliant idea. We chose this lake because it has an awesome lookout just steps away from the parking lot, so you can be all dolled up but look like you just hiked miles looking glamorous! Plus these bright canoes are just begging to be photographed!
If your looking for a talented wedding/ engagement photographer. The pretty brunette behind the camera is @kir2ben.
Beautiful skirts made to order by @swwetcarolinestyles. Shop collection at http://www.etsy.com/shop/sweetcarolinastyles
Time needed: 1 hour
12. Brunch at Fairmont Banff Springs
So we almost missed this one! I had no idea there were TWO Fairmonts in Banff! One is on Lake Louise and the other is in Banff Springs. The Fairmont at Lake Louise has fabulous views of the lake but is more traditional in architecture. If you are looking to visit the castle in the mountains, you’ll want to also see the Fairmont in Banff village. I would highly recommend having brunch out of the patio. The prices were actually very reasonable considering its the Fairmont.
Time needed: 1-2 hours (depending on how much Sangria you drink, I recommend the getting the pitcher)
Bonus: Across the river there is a lookout of Fairmont Banff village called Surprise Corner.
Time needed: 15 minutes