In honor of Canada’s 150th birthday, there is a special offering of free admission to all of its national parks in 2017. I wanted to remind everyone why they should take advantage of the offer—or just make it there one day! Last summer, I visited Banff, a huge bucket list destination for me. I had seen a picture of it in a magazine as a 9-year old child and couldn’t forget it. I latched onto the idea of one day being there. Mountains like that were beyond anything I could imagine, especially coming from the midwest.
So finally, in the summer of 2016, I made it there! I had the pleasure of road-tripping up to Canada from San Francisco along with my boyfriend, Vlad, and my trustee Honda Accord to check this place off the list. The sights we saw there were unforgettable—jaw dropping mountains, snow covered cliffs and the most incredibly blue lakes.
Here are some hikes and activities you should not miss when you are in the area:
1. Visit Peyto Lake
This is one of the most fantastic sights I have ever seen. It was my favorite lake we visited because of it’s sheer intensity. It’s completely surreal to see in real life and actually made me cry a bit because I was so shocked that it existed!
2. Hammock at Moraine Lake
I realize not everyone owns a hammock, but I do believe it’s worth the $60-70 investment for this unbelievable activity. Plus, with an REI membership, you can alway return it after use if you don’t love it! There are plenty of trees with lake views to set up a hammock. When you climb up to an elevated view of the lake, and hang your hammock there, it actually makes it feel like you’re floating on a magic carpet because you can’t see the ground at all when you’re sitting in it. This may not be for those afraid of heights! But I will say, I trust the Eno Hammock 100%. It’s a sturdy and safe product.
3. Kayak at Lake Louise
This is a tourist attraction, which is reflected in the price, but I thought it was well worth it. If you’re in Banff, you gotta do it! It’s magical to kayak in a setting this one.
4. Hike to the Tea House at Lake Agnes
You can start the hike at Lake Louise and walk up to Lake Agnes from there. Once you get to the lake, there is a little tea house with an incredible view. We were out there in the rain and I still loved it! A nice warm cup of tea felt perfect.
5. Visit Canmore
We enjoyed the town of Banff, but found it to be pretty touristy. Canmore is a nearby town with more sweeping mountainous views. We enjoyed a beer at a local brewery called The Grizzly Paw, found great vegetarian/healthy food at Elita restaurant and shopped around the town.
6. Ride the Banff Gondola and summit a mountain!
The Banff gondola ride is worth the cost—especially if you make it the rest of the way to the top of the mountain by foot! We were extra ambitious and continued all the way to the very top of the rock pile on top of the mountain. Make sure you have bear spray for any of the hikes in Banff National Park!
7. Hike to Chephren Lake
This hike was quiet and less sought after by tourists. We had the lake to ourselves and didn’t see many other people along the way. The hike is rather short and ends in a heavenly lake surrounded by mountains and more mountains. Just stay on alert and carry your spray!
8. Hike the Tunnel Mountain Trail in Banff
We hiked this on a gray and rainy day and I loved it. The clouds made everything look moody and it was just relaxing. This was a good way to start off the trip because you can get a good overview of Banff and see everything.
9. Hike Johnston’s Canyon in Banff
This is a highly populated trail, but beautiful. It’s a very easy stroll on a well constructed boardwalk through canyons and waterfalls. We were able to fit in this one and two others in one day.
10. Visit Jasper National Park
I recommend planning multiple days here, or at least staying the night. We made the mistake of taking just a day trip and arriving too late for any hikes before the sun went down. However, the drive was actually well worth it. It was about a four hour drive winding through mountains and the scenery was incredible. We ended with a vegan pizza in the town of Jasper, then headed back for the same views, but during the golden hour. Can’t complain!