Banff National Park

I am interested in visiting Banff National Park in Canada this spring.
Any suggestions on how to get there, where to stay, and what to do would be appreciated. As I understand it, getting there appears to be either driving from Calgary or taking a train from Vancouver. The train sounds interesting. Had anyone done that?

Thanks in advance

Driving from Calgary to Banff takes under two hours. I suspect the train ride from the coast is longer.

What time in spring? There’s going to be a lot of snow covering everything when flowers are coming up at the coast.

We stayed at the Fairmont Banff Springs and it was heavenly.

Banff is one of my favourite places on the planet.

If you are camping, I highly recommend Two Jack Lake, just a couple of miles out of the town of Banff proper.

There was a pretty thorough thread by ChinaGuy recently. However, I don’t think this is very applicable to the spring. What exactly do you want to see/do? Some things may not open until mid-July. If you are finding good travel deals for the Spring season, there is a very good reason for that- you’ll have the whole place to yourself!

I was in Banff in early July once and there was still a lot of snow on the ground, and most trails were closed.

I visted Glacier (whic is quite a ways south of Banff) in early July 2016 and there was stil quite a bit of snow at least at altitude (I stayed at Two Medicine and it was fine, but there was snow at Logan Pass)


Look at China Guy’s thread for some ideas as far as dinner and such. The train is kind of cool but the car trip from Calgary is about 90 minutes. There’s still late season skiing if we keep gettting snowfalls like we’ve been having. I highly recommend you walk around the townsite and check out the museums, The Grizzly House for fondue, and the hot springs if they are open.

Glad to hear my thread actually had readers. The train looks cool but it will be long, and looks like 2 days. Vancouver to Kamloops, at least by car, was pretty forgettable. But Kamloops to Banff should be pretty cool.

There is also a half day train from Banff to Jasper. I don’t know about the train, but the drive was spectacular. I would recommend investigating Banff to Jasper, overnight in Jasper, and back to Banff with plenty of stops along the way. The glaciers, icefields, lakes, river, tiaga area, are all beautiful.

If I did my trip all over again, it would be to drive to Jasper, camp there a night or two, then to Banff, and eventually back to Vancouver/seattle. We drove to or through Lake Louise multiple times.

The kicking horse river white water rafting, if it’s open that early, will be a helluva ride. It was pretty adrenaline inducing in August, so the spring run off might be too much for some folks. My kids loved it and was the highlight. Well, except for Bullshit Mountain, which I highly recommend you skip. :wink:

I’d suggest you drive to Banff from Calgary; there’s an international airport there which gets plenty of traffic and it wouldn’t be hard to get a rental vehicle. Banff is one of the most popular mountain towns for people to visit in the area so the tourism industry is very well set up. Taking the train will take pretty much an order of magnitude longer… so if you’re flying in from far away you might want to spend more of your time walking around and getting really close to things rather than sitting for 2 days and seeing stuff fly by before you get to get out and explore.

As mentioned spring in the Rocky Mountains at that elevation usually means a lot of snow still around and the rivers and lakes frozen over. If you’re more into seeing the shops and hotels that’s no big deal. But if you want to hike the trails and see the very picturesque lakes or boat down the rivers you might not get that until July or later; the spring freshet when the bulk of the snow and ice melt off usually doesn’t happen until mid to late June, and it’ll be a bit muddy for a couple weeks after that.

Something I haven’t seen mentioned yet is helicopter tours. I was fortunate enough through work to take a few flights through the area and we cut through the mountains and landed in Canmore (the town you go through before getting to Banff from the south/east). There is at least one company set up in the area and for a couple hundred bucks you can fly around for a while and see tons of stuff much faster than you’d ever be able to get to by car, and much of which you couldn’t see at all except by air. We took a simple refueling fight over a series of lakes including Minewanka; it took under 15 minutes and was very cool. Driving and hiking the trails to do the same would take you all day, if the trails were even open.

I lived in Calgary and area for 40 years so I always visited as a local, so it can be hard to know what someone from a different area might want to see that a local might take for granted. It might be neat to check out the Banff hot springs, which is a few warm water springs which flow year-round and empty into a big marsh where a few species of tropical fish now exist. There has been development of the springs for people to soak in, but I don’t know if that is currently open or accessible to the public.

I missed ChinaGuys thread. I will read through it right away. :slight_smile:
I have no particular time when I need to visit. “Spring” seemed a reasonable choice. After all I do live in Louisiana and Spring arrives in February for me. :slight_smile: I was thinking May or early June. Not particularly interested in snow and would like to see the plants leafing out. If that means later in the year-that is fine.
I haven’t been to Canada since the 70s and feel that it is time to fix that. Banff certainly seems like a nice place to visit.
My wife and I won’t be camping-but would love to stay in a lodge someplace up in the mountains for a couple of days. That and day hikes are what we are looking for.

The helicopter tours sound interesting. And it sounds like July to early August sounds like what we want.

That’s a nice time of year in Banff. Be careful, though, as Alberta celebrates a long weekend the first Monday in August (known colloquillaly as “August Long”). If you’re planning your trip at that time, make hotel reservations early, to get the best rates. And to get a room–August Long is busy in Banff.

I agree with the advice to avoid the train. It’s not a regular train; it is a tourist train that only travels by day (you’ll spend the night at a hotel in Kamloops). Probably very nice, but if you’re not into trains and Banff is your destination, you’re best off flying into Calgary, and renting a car, and driving the 90 minutes to Banff.

Wildflowers generally bloom mid- to late July, depending on the altitude. Late May and early June is too early for hiking in Banff or Jasper. Anything around Lake Louise or Moraine Lake should make for beautiful if crowded day hiking. Johnston Canyon’s another busy trail, fairly short and sweet. There are a few less traveled backcountry-ish day hikes directly off the highway as well.

If you’re going to do any hiking, get a Gem Trek map or two of the area. They’re pretty information-dense when it comes to trail difficulty and access instructions and so on as well as good trail maps.

Just because I didn’t see it above, canoe on Lake Louise. It’s the ‘touristy’ thing to do, but there’s a reason that it’s done. Lake Louise is absolutely gorgeous with the Fairmont at one end. If you’re one of those ‘Instagram vacationers’ you’ll get your fill of beautiful selfies here. Again, it’s cliche and it will be more crowded than other places in the park (though not overwhelmingly so), but you don’t go to Yellowstone and skip Old Faithful, so skipping Lake Louise would be a mistake.

EDIT from above: Oops, didn’t see that you said you were going in the spring. Depending on what you mean by spring, the lake will be iced over unless it’s later in May and even then it could still be locked. My bad. Still pretty place, but not must see when it’s frozen.

Also, if you’re willing to drive a bit and you want the whole cabin experience I’d recommend Storm Mountain Lodge. It’s a bout a 20 minute drive outside of Banff but it’s quiet, the food and the atmosphere is great! The cabins themselves are pretty rustic but we always found that part of the charm and snuggling on the bed next to a softly crackling fire while listening to your favourite tunes is a damn nice way to end a day.

Dick Francis mystery book The Edge is based on a train trip across Canada. Making stops at various horse races and staying at Baniff resort.

Francis arranged a special rail tour as research for the book. IIRC it was in 1988 or 89.

His notes from that trip were meticulous and the book is practically a travelogue of crossing Canada by rail.

Following with interest, as my wife and I are going in late July. She’s arranged for an AirBNB type thing (the Fairmont is expensive, but we’ll be close). We plan to do a lot of hiking.