I been lucky enough to have been on many trips . One of my favorite trips was within Canada. A few years ago I visited Banff Alberta with my friends and even did the drive to Jasper from Banff. This is a place I would love to go back to !!I describe Banff to my friends as, “its like a painting everywhere you turn” !
These are the things that we did in Banff that I recommend. I ‘ll provide a list and than detailed paragraphs of each activity/place !
Top things to do in Banff and Jasper Alberta ! Each item links to more information about each of these places. Below I have provided my thoughts on each place/experience.
There are many other different hikes, beautiful lakes, canyons that are around this area. The above are some of the most famous and the ones I have seen and absolute love and recommend !!
Town of Banff
We landed at Calgary Airport , picked up our rental car and drove to the town of Banff and stayed in a hotel there. We used Banff us our home while we explored Lake Moraine, Louise, Johnston Canyon, Banff Gondola, The two Fairmont hotels near Banff and the Banff Upper Hot Springs.
Town of Banff is a lovely tourist town filled with lots of shopping places, souvenir shops , hotels and restaurants and bars. It is very charming and a great place to stay at. We stayed at Fox Suites , a good hotel that is about 15 to 20 minute walk to the main area in the Town of Banff. The rooms were small but sufficient for our needs. It included breakfast which was really good. I recommend staying in Banff for at least a portion of your trip.
For me this was the most beautiful Lake in Banff.The colour of the water is incredible, like nothing I have seen before.
You have the option to do various hikes around the lake. If you are not able to that is okay as well. Just sitting near the lake itself is beautiful.
The water is too cold to swim in, it is after all glacier fed water which is where it gets color from. You can find more details about Lake Moraine here .
If you have some extra money to spare I would recommend staying at the Fairmont Hotel in Lake Louise.
Lake Louise is another stunning lake and is world famous! It also has many Hikes around it that you can choose to do . I recommend going early in the morning to reduce your exposure to crowds. This site can help you plan your trip to Lake Louise.
If you are not able to stay at Fairmont at least eat at one of the restaurants in the Hotel. We had dinner there and the setting and food was good. Also liked the gift shop in the hotel.
Please remember to bring hiking shoes – even in July when you do a hike and go up the mountain you will run into snow.
We stayed in the town of Banff and used that as our base to visit Lake Louise/Moraine, Banff Gondola, Hot springs and Johnston Canyon. This was a beautiful hike with waterfalls along the way. We enjoyed it – if you are short on time you can skip this visit.
Banff Gondola – Sulphur Mountain
A difference experience during a visit to this area is a Gondola ride. There are various different Gonolas available in the area. This link has more details on the different options.
The one we did was Sulphur Mountain Gondola – This gave us a stunning view of the surrounding area, see photos below. This Gondola is very near the city of Banff. We had a relaxing ride up , spend some time at the top exploring, visiting the gift shop and relaxing. The line was not too long . Doesn’t take too long . You can do everything under 3 to 4 hours.
Banff Upper Hot Springs
We also went to the Banff Upper Hot Springs. This is a pool filled with natural mineral water . The water is hot – so in the summer it is kind of a strange experience. In the winter the flow of natural water is low – so they mix in tab water to the pool. So it is a lose lose situation. For a truly hot spring experience I would do this in some place like Iceland. The minerals in the Banff Hot Spring pool are supposed to be good for you – so if you have time and feels like relaxing in warm water this is recommended.
Drive between Banff and Jasper
This was a beautiful drive with many stunning places that you can pull over for a view or a hike !
Pretty much for the entire drive the area around the road is covered by mountains on both sides! Because of this you will not have cell reception ! Perfect place to take a loved one who needs to be forced off his/her phone 🙂 .
We mainly just pulled over at designated viewing spots. Didn’t do many of the side roads or hikes, since we were coming from a stay in Banff and was going to spend some more time in Jasper itself.
This is a drive everyone must do at least once in their lifetime ! Especially if you live in Canada. You are constantly surrounded by beautiful mountains and will be in awe and humbled by nature.
One of the stops we did on our drive to Jasper from Banff was at the Columbia Icefield. We did a tour called Glacier Adventure . This included a ride up the Glacier in a Brewster Ice Explorer ( a vehicle made to travel on Glaciers ). Magnificent beast !
This was my first time on a Glacier, the first time I saw one was at Lake Louise. On your way to Jasper this Glacier is just off the road. Easy to get here by car, and there is a large building with lots of parking. This is where you check in for your tour. The large building has restaurants and gift shops. We were visiting end of July and it was cold ! Cold enough to require two sweatshirts , and cold and slippery enough to make me wish for my fall jacket and shoes with grip !
Once you check in you get on the Brewster Ice Explorer – this is a large bus with really large wheels. These vehicles are specially designed for the Glaciers and there is only 18 of them in the world – or at least that is what the guide told us. The Ice Explorer is used to climb up the glacier – it is a steep climb and thrilling experience. Once it reaches a flat area on the Glacier – they let you out of the bus to walk around carefully. Some people drink the Glacier water – I wouldn’t . There is something surreal about standing on ice that formed thousands of years ago. The guide told us the history of this specific glacier and interesting facts. Traditionally the Glacier melts in the summer and grows in the winter. Historically the ice formed in the winter was more than the ice that melts in the summer. However, due to global warming the ice that melts in the summer now is more than the ice that forms in winter. This was very sad to listen to.
Another interesting fact the guide shared was that in the summer a path is carved in the ice for the Ice Explorer to go up to the Glacier. In winter, within a few snow falls this path is completely disappears due to new ice . The power of nature !
Maligne Lake Boat Tour – Spirit Island
If you are only able to do one thing in Jasper – I would recommend the Maligne Lake Boat Tour which has a stop at the world famous Spirit Island. You can also take a canoe on this lake – but if you are short on time a boat tour is another good alternative. Most boat tours depart from one location – a beautifully build wooden building. This building had some great souvenir stores with souvenirs made in the local area. You can find more information about the tours here. To get to this location it is a bit of a steep, and curvy drive. You can do the drive – we did it. This is the highest lake in the this area. If you fall in the lake – hypothermia will kill you before you drown. The guide told us this which I thought was interesting. It is a beautiful lake surrounded by mountains and glaciers.
When the boat reaches Spirit Island – you can get off and spend about 1.5 to 2 hours on the Island . You can do a mini hike or just enjoy the view. Rather than describing the stunning beauty I have added some photos below.
City of Jasper
We were able to drive to Jasper from Banff in less than a day – this includes pulling over for sight seeing and our tour at Columbia Icefield. We stayed in the city of Jasper at the Sawridge Inn . This hotel was within walking distance of downtown , had a swimming pool and a nice hot tub , large rooms, and excellent food. I had the best Salmon in my life at the Walter’s Dining Room in Sawridge Inn.
We explored the town of Jasper – It has many souvenir shops , historical buildings and restaurants. Also from this city we did a White water rafting trip and a cruise to Maligne Lake and Spirit Island. One of the things I regret not doing – I didn’t find out about it till latter is a half day trip to Vancouver from Jasper on a train. So if you decide to head out to Jasper would recommend looking into this experience some more – start from here.
White Water Rafting in Jasper
One of my favorite activities in Jasper was White Water Rafting. This was my first time doing a rafting trip so I was kind of worried. I picked beginner level – and found it to be peaceful. Sort of wish I picked medium level difficulty since the beginner level was too calm for my taste ! I don’t remember the exact company I did the tour with nor do I have the photos from the activity ! I highly recommend this and just ask that you choose a level that will give you some thrills. The guides are extremely professional and well trained. Beautiful place to do rafting in ! The Jasper’s Whitewater Rafting Company has great reviews if you are interested in this sort of activity .
We drove from Jasper to Edmonton and departed from the Edmonton Airport . This was because I wanted to experience what the drive to Edmonton would be like from Jasper and also go to the largest mall in Canada which is in Edmonton. We did spend a few hours in that mall – it was okay . Just a normal mall – just a lot bigger with things like a skating ring, water park etc. Nothing that appealed to me. The drive to Edmonton from Jasper is not as beautiful as the drive between Jasper to Calgary Airport. – I would have actually preferred to drive back to the Calgary airport even though it is a longer drive. That drive is filled with mountains and beautiful scenery ! Lessons learned for the next time.
Overall this was an incredible trip 🙂 !Normally there is an entrance fee to the various parks – Banff/Jaspear. This year ( 2017) all the parks are free for Canadian residents, since it is Canada’s 150th Birthday !! So if you ever wanted to see these parks this year might be a good time for it !