banff + lake louise travel guide
taken in front of Lake Louise
A few weeks ago Michael and I took a trip to Montana and Banff with another couple friend and their baby! Banff had been on my travel bucket list for FOREVER, and Michael’s parents have a house in Montana. So, we decided to do both locations in one trip. We flew into Kalispell, Montana, stayed for 2 nights, then drove up to Banff and stayed 2 nights.Cascade gardens in Banff
I wasn’t originally planning on doing a Banff travel guide since we were only there two nights (and we had a different kind of trip because of all the fires/smoke, unfortunately). But had several requests from y’all for a travel guide…so decided to share what we did and some of my recommendations! It truly is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen in my life.Lake Louise at sunrise
How to get there
Like I said, we drove up to Banff from Montana, but typically you would fly into the Calgary International Airport. I believe Banff is about an hour and a half from the airport, so I would definitely recommend renting a car!
Where to stay
There are tons of hotels both in Banff and Lake Louise (they are about 40 mins apart). Banff definitely has hiking and beautiful scenery, but IMO it’s more of a town – tons of great restaurants and cute shops. So, we actually just spent about half a day in Banff and then stayed in Lake Louise. We looked into staying at Moose Hotel in Banff, as well as Fairmont Banff Springs (which is gorgeous BTW…but also insanely expensive, we didn’t stay there haha).pink pullover sweater | camo sweatpants
We stayed at Paradise Lodge and Bungalows in Lake Louise and it was really cute! We picked it because the location was great (only about a mile from Lake Louise, and about a 10 minute drive to Moraine Lake), and because the price was decent. It wasn’t anything super fancy but honestly we were hardly in the room at all – because so much to do and see!
What to do: Banff
Food: Like I said, we were in the actual town of Banff only for about half a day. When we first got there, we got brunch at The Maple Leaf Grill and it was SO good! We got the quiche, but the whole menu looked amazing, and I heard their dinner is equally as good, if not better. I’ve also heard that Coyote Southwestern Grill , Bear Street Tavern (pizza!), and Earl’s are all really good restaurants! Of course we had to get ice cream after brunch and OMG you have to go to Cow’s while you’re in Banff! Seriously some of the best ice cream ever.
Outdoor things: We went to Bow Falls in Banff and it was gorgeous! It’s not necessarily a hike. You can drive right up to it and it was so pretty. We also went to the Cascade Gardens and walked around and they were so pretty!
We drove by Fairmont Banff Springs just to see it and it’s definitely worth seeing! (if you’re not staying there haha).
We planned on taking the gondola up to the top because I’ve heard the view is AMAZING. Unforutnately while we were there, everything was super hazy because of nearby fires…so we really wouldn’t have gotten a great view (and I think the gondola ride was $30 per person. so, not exactly worth it for us). BUT I’ve heard that that is beautiful! I believe there are also hikes you can do from the top of the gondola.
We did do the Tunnel Mountain Hike though! It’s about 2.7 miles round trip and you gain about 1,000 feet of elevation. I would rate the hike as easy-moderate, but if you’ve never hiked before…the incline is pretty legit! But the hike was really pretty and (on a clear day), will give you the most incredible view of the town of Banff! I’d definitely recommend that hike.Lake Louise – What to do
I kept telling Michael that this was basically my dream location because everything was so beautiful, and there are SO MANY amazing hikes! The very first hike we did was Lake Agnes Trail. My mom is a Banff expert and she said if you can only do one hike while you’re in Lake Louise…it’s this one (but don’t stop here!). Lake Agnes trail is about 4.9 miles roundtrip, and you gain about 1800 feet of elevation. Once you get to the top, there is the cutest little tea house where you can grab lunch. We stopped and got lunch there for about half an hour, and then continued onto Big Beehive Trail which will add another mile and half or so (one way) to your hike)…but SO WORTH it. Once you get to the top, you have the most amazing view of both Lake Agnes and Lake Louise. It is absolutely stunning. You do gain another 1,000+ feet of elevation though so…really fuel up at lunch haha. these were from the top of Big Bee Hive
You also FOR SURE have to rent kayaks on Lake Louise! We rented one for an hour and it was such a peaceful experience (mostly because Michael did all the padding LOL). But the color of the water is unreal, and when you’re surrounded by those mountains…there’s just nothing like it.
Another must while you are in Lake Louise / Banff is Moraine Lake. So many people say they think it’s even prettier than Lake Louise! Unfortunately when we went to Moraine Lake it was insanely hazy so we really couldn’t get that great of a view. But, I could definitely tell that without the smoke, it would have been absolutely breathtaking. The picture below is in front of Moraine Lake.
Also, if you go to Moraine Lake…make sure you get there early because the parking fills up fast!
Where to eat – Lake Louise
Like I said in the beginning of this post…Banff is definitely where it’s at when it comes to restaurants, but we did find a few spots we liked in Lake Louise!
- Baker Creek Bistro – had dinner here our first night and both loved it! I would say it’s like a steak/seafood type of place, but they also have burgers / some smaller options. The atmosphere was really cute and everything we had was so yummy!
- Trailhead cafe – we just grabbed wraps here on our way out of Lake Louise but omg they were the best wraps ever! I got some kind of breakfast burrito and Michael got like an italian pizza wrap…and both were so good. It’s pretty cheap too. Great spot for a quick breakfast or lunch
- Lake Louise Railway Station and Restaurant – this was my favorite meal of the trip for SURE. first of all – the restaurant is just adorable. The inside is so quaint and cozy. But every single course we had here was amazing. We split the duck tacos to start (they usually have avocado toast which is REALLY what we wanted, but they were sold out!), and then shared their special stuffed burger for the night, and split the cheesecake for dessert! Seriously everything was so good. We did have a reservation so I’d recommend that
Other places I’ve heard great things about – Alpine Social in the Fairmont Hotel for lunch or dinner, Poppy Brasserie also in the Fairmont Hotel apparently has a really good breakfast/brunch! We did get dessert one night at Alpine Social and loved it!
Hope this Banff Travel Guide gives you the motivation you need to plan your trip! I promise – it is 100% worth it! We already can’t wait to go back!