One night in Banff National Park won’t do it justice, but with an early start you’ll certainly be able to get a feel for what all the fuss is about. But be warned, it’ll probably whet your appetite for another visit!
Starting as early as you can from Calgary head straight to Lake Louise at the heart of the park. Moraine Lake makes a good second stop – but getting to both early in the day before the crowds arrive is well worth it. This makes both lakes more idyllic – their main allure as iconic Canadian Rockies landmarks. Great hikes spread out from both, but it’s probably best to stick to the short lakeshore strolls and save your legs for later on.
Head back down picturesque Hwy-1 towards Banff, having stopped at Laggan’s Mountain Bakery for a coffee and picnic items for lunch. Then drive to the Sunshine Meadows parking lot for the shuttle bus that climbs to the ski resort from where easy hikes twist through dramatic high-alpine surroundings.
Afterwards drive to the town of Banff and park downtown before exploring its main drag Banff Avenue. The gentle Bow Falls loop hike extends from the Avenue along the Bow River and leads to waterfalls and the Banff Springs Hotel which is a pleasant spot for an afternoon pick-me-up. Go direct from the falls to the hotel if you’re tired or running out of time.
Back on Banff Avenue there are quite a few eating and drinking options to choose from, but maybe first check the program at the Banff Centre to see if anything catches your eye to which tickets are still available. Or, for a relaxing end to the day, try the Upper Hot Springs.
A Banff hike
Overnighting in Banff should give you an hour or two to play with the next morning. The hike up Tunnel Mountain would make for a bracing start with fine town views. Banff Gondola does the same with much less effort. Or simply drive up towards the Mount Norquay ski area: you can pull over at a hairpin along the route for equally fine valley views.