by Courtney Inkpen

Banff, Alberta, Canada Trip...

OUR TRIP TO BANFF
September 5-8, 2019
September is a great time to go because their peak season is over & there are less crowds!


I'm so excited to share more about our family trip to Banff, CA!
We wanted to take this fun/adventurous trip with Ryleigh because, this will be the last big trip as a family of 3, and next year we will be welcoming family member #4!
We had an absolute blast venturing out into the Canadian rockies and I'm so pumped to share photos of our trip, along with where we stayed, where we ate, and everything that we did.

Here's how todays blog post is laid out:
There are TONS of photos (maybe a little overwhelming) but they'll have little footnotes to go along with them. If you're not so much into looking at all the photos, at the very bottom of the post will have the master list of everything we did (plus some things we weren't able to do but would love to do next time).

LAKE LOUISE
Just a 45 minute to an hour drive out from downtown Banff
(I recommend getting there before 9 am)
We couldn't believe our eyes with how gorgeous the water is at Lake Louise--
During the trip we learned how these glacier lakes get their unreal turquoise color! It's pretty fascinating!


We got there super early & it wasn't too too crowded at the lake. Since there were no canoes at the time, everyone there took advantage of taking photos of how still the water was.

Of course we jumped on the chance to canoe out on the lake when the boat house opened.

I highly recommend canoeing out on the lake! It's not cheap, but totally worth the experience!

MORAINE LAKE
Just an hour drive out from downtown Banff;
20-30 minute drive from Lake Louise
(I recommend getting there before 8:30 am for parking reasons)
When visiting Moraine Lake, we got up an extra hour early to beat traffic in order to get parking.
Parking fills up FAST here and will sometimes be closed off for drivers. We originally tried to go here right after Lake Louise, but that didn't happen. Instead, we got up an extra hour the next day to try and beat traffic, and thankfully we did! If you aren't able to get parking, you can park up near the visiter center at Lake Louise and take a shuttle down to Moraine Lake. I believe it was $6 or $8 per person for the shuttle ride.

The views were absolutely gorgeous here and totally worth getting up an extra hour early for!

There are so many photo opportunities here and we even saw a couple of photoshoots going on during our visit to Moraine Lake.

There are tons of hiking trails here (even at Lake Louise) but we stuck with hiking our way up to the top of the rocks to see an overview of the lake grounds. It's a pretty easy trail and has steps pretty much all the way up!

COLUMBIA ICEFIELD & SKYWALK
About a 2 1/2 hour drive out from downtown Banff
The trip to the icefield was not a part of our original plan. Justin got the idea later on when we got to our hotel room and we were totally on board with this last minute decision! He talked all about finding glaciers when he visited Alaska last month, but he was never able to walk on one like this! As you can tell it was super windy (poor Ryleigh, haha!).

Our lovely American flag at the Athabasca glacier!

We actually learned a lot about glaciers and how much they have changed in the last 50-60 years!
Getting up to the glacier, you have to take an all-terrain mobile bus and these bad boys move verrrrryyy slow. We ended up going down one of the steepest working slopes in the world(?) to get to the glacier, and only this bus could take you down it. It's also crazy to feel the 15-20 degree drop in temperature change once you get on the glacier.

So when we booked the Columbia Icefield tour we also booked it as a package with the Skywalk! Part of the bottom of the skywalk is made out of a very thick glass, so you could see right below your feet!

LAKE LOUISE GONDOLA/SKI LIFT &
Located at the Lake Louise Ski Resort (5 minute drive from Lake Louise)
BANFF GONDOLA
Just 12-15 minutes away from downtown Banff
 This is the view from the Lake Louise Gondola/Ski Lift.
We actually took a ski lift up instead of the gondola so we could see the views better.
Fun fact, we actually got stuck on the lift for about 10 minutes coming back down. Apparently this happens every now and then and totally normal. Honestly, being stuck up there wasn't so bad because the views were breathtaking! You could even see Lake Louise from up there!

The view from the top of the lift. 
In the winter time, this place is covered in snow and used to go skiing! 


This time we took a gondola up to Sulpher Mountain to see the views of Banff from below!

They have a fun 4 level facility at the top where it's filled with gift shops, a couple of Starbucks coffee shops, a children's discovery area, and the facility's restaurant! There's also a boardwalk that will take you to Sanson's peak; and there's also a 360 degree view of Banff on their observation deck!

You can seriously see everything from up here! 

Just look at how pretty downtown Banff is! This view is from the very top of the observation deck.

After we left Banff Gondola, we actually saw some elk up close!
They are HUGE! 

JOHNSTON CANYON
Just 30-35 minutes out from downtown Banff
Besides the lakes, Johnston Canyon was another thing at the top of my list!
We saw plenty of sights from above, but now we wanted to see them from below! 

Here you get so walk along the canyon trail and view the creek that runs alongside it.
They have multiple falls here, but we only got to see the lower falls (which you will see below).

We only got to see the lower falls at Johnston Canyon, and there's also a little cave entrance to see another fall just above this one! We wanted to hike up to see the upper falls, but we all had to use the restroom after waiting in line to go through the little cave. Note: the restroom is at the main entrance, so we had to walk half a mile back. By that time, we were ready to grab some ice cream and head out to our next adventure!

After our bathroom break, we grabbed some icecream and walked back to our car to head out to see the Cave & Basin National Historic site.

WHERE WE STAYED, WHERE WE ATE, & AROUND TOWN
We wanted to stay in the downtown area of Banff so we could be in walking distance of shops and restaurants, so we found ourselves a nice family room at the Elk + Avenue Hotel. And what I mean be family room, our room was 2 stories where the two queen beds were separated above from the family/living room area. It was really nice.

We didn't know this, but the crosswalks in downtown Banff also go diagonally! We were wondering what was taking so long for the crosswalk to change, and that's because it waits for all the lights to turn red so everyone can cross throughout the street.  

One of my favorite dishes from The Maple Leaf! I had the Quebec Brome Lake Duck on a bed of mushroom risotto! Justin had the Central Alberta Bison Tenderloin.

We stopped at multiple gift shops during our stay and picked up some pure maple syrup, keychains, tshirts, etc! 

Loved this quaint coffee and bakery shop!
This is where we started our first official day in Banff, before we drove out to Lake Louise.

This small little town is just surrounded by gorgeous mountain peaks!

WHERE TO STAY:
Elk + Avenue Hotel (where we stayed)
Fairmont Banff or Fairmont Lake Louise (more on the pricier side)
Douglas Fir Resort & Chalet (great for families)
95% of the time we book through Booking.com so here's a link to a huge list of hotels in Banff

WHAT TO DO: (*-what we did)
View & hike around Lake Louise & Moraine Lake*
Take a canoe out on Lake Louise or Moraine Lake*
Lake Louise Gondola/Ski Lift*
Banff Gondola*
Johnston Canyon*
Columbia Icefield & Skywalk*
Cave & Basin National Historic Site*
Banff Lake Cruise
Take in the views of Peyto Lake*
Shop around downtown Banff*
Horseback ride along the Banff Trails
Take a helicopter ride to view the glaciers
Cascade of Time Gardens in downtown Banff
Go bowling with the family at High Rollers

Want to find out what the hiking conditions are like? Use this website and then search the name of the trail to see if the hike is Easy, Moderate, or Hard. You can also view other people's comments/reviews and see what they say about the trail!

WHERE TO EAT:
Ricky's All Day Grill (attached to Elk + Avenue Hotel)
Bill Peyto's Cafe (located near Lake Louise)
Tim Horton's (Canada's coffee shop!)




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