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Banff National Park is one of the most stunning places I’ve ever been in my life. Sometimes I look at my pictures, and have a had time believing the scenery isn’t photoshopped. I truly think Banff is the most beautiful national park on the planet.
Don’t overlook Canada if you’re planning a summer (or even winter) trip. This country is majestic and diverse.
Not to mention, solo female travel in Canada is easy, safe, awe-inspiring, and fun!
In this itinerary, I’ll discuss the best things to see and do with 3 days in Banff National Park. I’ll also give some advice regarding transportation and accommodation.
Let’s get started!
Banff Travel Tips
Before we get to the itinerary, I wanted to discuss some travel tips for Banff National Park.
Keep in mind that you’ll have a wildly different experience if you come to Banff in the winter or summer. I visited Banff in the summer, so my post leans toward warm weather activities.
Let’s break down these tips for you to enjoy a seamless 3 days in Banff.
Getting Around Banff National Park
More likely than not, you’ll arrive at Calgary International Airport for your 3 days in Banff. This airport is about an hour and forty minutes from the national park.
Luckily, the airport has plenty of shuttle options to take you to Banff, as well as Lake Louise and Jasper.
Once at the national park, you have two main ways to navigate the vast and stunning Canadian wilderness.
Rent a Car
For all you independent travelers, I’m operating under the assumption that you’re renting a car to go to Banff National Park.
Having your own car is the easiest way to navigate the park. Avis, Alamo, Budget, and Enterprise are all available car rentals for Banff.
Take Guided Tours
Understandably, some travelers don’t like driving. I understand the hesitation, especially if you’re a non-Canadian citizen. Perhaps you’re nervous about driving in the mountains.
Again, I get it.
However, without a car, it’s a lot more difficult to get around the park. One solution is to use Banff’s Hop On-Hop Off bus to effectively get around the national park. This bus stops at popular places such as Banff Town, Lake Louise, Johnston Canyon, Moraine Lake, and more!
Another solution is to invest in some guided tours. For example, this Lake Louise and Icefield Parkway Tour takes you to all the most scenic sites in 9 hours. You learn from a talented guide and have reliable transportation at the same time!
What to Pack for Banff
If you’re visiting in summer, please check out my summer packing list for Banff National Park for specific items.
Below is a short list of essential items:
- A Mirrorless Camera: The Canadian Rockies are stunning. You’ll want a high quality camera. I’d recommend Sony’s A6400 mirrorless camera for your adventure.
- Moisture-Wicking Socks: I got blisters in Banff, because I brought the wrong socks. Don’t be me. Pack some moisture wicking socks to keep your feet happy.
- Highly Qualify Hiking Boots: You’ll absolutely want to bring hiking boots, like these Merrell waterproof hiking boots, on your vacation to Banff.
- Camping Headlamp: No joke, Banff gets dark at night. If you’re camping, then you absolutely need a headlamp to get around the campsite.
- A First Aid Travel Kit: Blisters, bruises, and cuts are all possibilities hiking in the mountains. Bring a travel-sized first aid kit with you to handle any minor injuries in the wilderness.
And, of course, don’t forget your travel insurance. World Nomads has reasonable adventure insurance if you’re going to ski or raft. Your health always comes first.
Where to Stay in Banff
Even though you’re only spending 3 days in Banff, your budget may wild vary. Banff’s prices will range from very affordable to wildly expensive.
Therefore I split accommodation options into two separate categories: lodges/hotels and campgrounds.
Lodges and Hotels
- Banff Boutique Inn: I have a deep appreciation for boutique hotels. This cute spot is close to Banff Town, making it the perfect place to stay on your trip. (from $118 on TripAdvisor.com or Booking.com)
- Moose Hotel and Suites: This highly rated hotel offers balconies or patios in each unit, and is only a 1 minute walk from the center of Banff town. (from $219 on TripAdvisor.com or Booking.com)
- Paradise Lodge and Bungalows: This gorgeous lodge is only a half mile from Lake Louise, one of the most scenic and popular places in Banff National Park. (from $180 on TripAdvisor.com or Booking.com)
Another option for visiting Banff National Park is staying at a well-kept campground. I mean, who wouldn’t love breathing that fresh mountain air at night?
You need to make reservations at the campground, especially in high season.
Tunnel Village Mountain I Campground is a down-to-earth campground that offers plenty of room for tents and fire pits. Only light fires in safe conditions. If weather conditions are perfect for fires, then don’t be that person who throws a match in the fire pit.
The Best Things to Do for 3 Days in Banff
Below are some of the best things to see and do in Banff for 3 days.
You can always adjust this itinerary for your own personal interests.
As a supplemental resource, I recommend picking up Lonely Planet’s Guide to Banff, Jasper, and Glacier Parks. I’m obsessed with Lonely Planet guides, even if I’m not going anywhere.
In this guidebook, you’ll receive the most up to date information on shops, camping, activities, accommodation, and more!
Pictures of Banff’s Wildlife
Banff National Park has an abundance of stunning wildlife. Elk, bighorn sheep, bears, bald eagles, and deer, all call the Canadian Rockies home.
Make sure to take plenty of pictures of these majestic creatures, while you explore all of Banff’s natural wonders.
As a side note, make sure to respect the wildlife too. Don’t try to take selfies with a wild animal, for example. You could end up in a hospital back in Calgary.
Always keep a safe distance. No exceptions. Don’t feed the wildlife either.
If you’re nervous about finding wildlife on your own (I don’t blame you), then take an evening wildlife safari to snap those coveted pictures.
Natural Hot Springs
If you’re seeking a wellness trip, then Banff National Park has plenty of natural hot springs to soak away the stress inside your muscles.
Banff’s official tourism board has plenty of information about Banff’s famous hot springs to help you plan a visit!
Spoiler Alert: Relaxing in the steaming water is the perfect idea after taking a grueling hikes.
Mountain Hikes and Walks
Unsurprisingly, hikers from all over the world visit Banff to see nature “up close and personal.” Hiking is as essential as breathing inside this national park.
Some hikes are popular with tourists, such as the hike to Lake Agnes Tea House from Lake Louise’s shores, while other hikes are far more remote.
Ask the tourist office and accommodation for specific hike ideas. And always tell someone about your plans for the day.
In Banff National Park, cell phone reception can be spotty, and you don’t want to end up in a situation where no one knows your location. Better safe than sorry.
Banff’s Crystal Blue Lakes
Banff’s glacier water lakes take my breath away.
Lake Louise, Moraine Lake, Peyto Lake, and Bow Lake are the most popular lakes in Banff National Park, but you can discover a stunning water paradise around every single hiking trail.
Feel free to swim in the lakes in summer time. However, although they look deceptively warm, these lakes are freezing cold! I only lasted a couple of minutes.
You’ll also want to wear water shoes to protect your feet from the rocky lake floor.
Banff is popular among thrill seekers for good reason. The adventure sports are out of this world in the Canadian Rockies!
My personal favorite adventure sport is whitewater rafting! And Banff doesn’t disappoint in this area!
For example, the Kananaskis River Rafting Adventure lets you splash through the mighty rapids in a safe way. You’ll scream, you’ll laugh, and you’ll get soaked.
Is rafting too intense for you? No worries! Banff has other options. For instance, this one hour horseback riding tour of Bow River is both adventurous and relaxing.
If you come in winter, then you ought to take advantage of Banff’s incredible skiing scene. Visitors come from all over the world to hit the slopes.
In Banff, there are activities for every type of traveler.
3 Days in Banff: A Weekend Itinerary
Time to string everything together!
I hope this short and sweet itinerary about 3 days in Banff will help you plan a beautiful vacation. Let’s get to it.
Day 1: Arrival & Explore the Town of Banff
Welcome to Banff! If you’re coming from Calgary, then you’re probably arriving to the national park in the afternoon. So let’s take it easy for today.
I personally recommend exploring the Town of Banff and its surroundings.
This resort town is packed with adorable shops and restaurants. The town is located inside the park, and as a result, you’re still surrounded by mountains and wildlife! Pretty cool, huh?
If you’re feeling active, then hike the 2.6 mile trail up Tunnel Mountain to see Banff from a bird’s eye view. You can also take Banff Gondola to see the town from the clouds.
You’ll also want to take a quick walk to see Bow Falls which is located on the outskirts of town.
Day 2: Stunning Lake Louise
Are you ready to see one of the most beautiful lakes in the world? I hope so, because today you’re off to Lake Louise. This area is truly one of Banff National Park’s most precious gems.
I recommend walking along the shores of the lake. Make sure to take a photo or two of the gorgeous Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise even if you’re not staying there as a guest.
As for hikes, you’ll definitely want to hike to Agnes Tea House. Although a smooth trail, this hike is considered moderate, with the climber ascending 7000 feet, so please take your time if you’re feeling winded. There’s no reason to rush.
Stay hydrated! The tea house (unsurprisingly) offers plenty of drinking options for thirsty travelers.
Upon reaching the tea house, ambitious hikers may continue their climb to the top of the Big Beehive for even more stunning views of Bow Valley.
Day 3: The Wonders of Icefields Parkway
Your final day in Banff National Park will be quite busy.
Today you’ll hop in a car (or on a tour) to see the attractions of the Icefields Parkway. Keep in mind that it can take up to 11 hours to see everything along the parkway, so this road trip will be a full day affair.
You have plenty of possibilities for creating a road trip of Icefields Parkway. Consult your Lonely Planet Guide on Banff for more specific details.
However, I consider the following three stops absolutely essential for any trip to this part of Banff National Park.
Attractions on Icefields Parkway
- Crawfoot Glacier: 21 miles north of Lake Louise, you’ll discover this epic glacier that feeds into the Bow River. Seeing Crawfoot Glacier will humble you.
- Moraine Lake: One of the most iconic views in all of Banff National Park. Surrounded by the Valley of Ten, seeing this lake is almost a spiritual experience.
- Peyto Lake: Another glacier fed lake that can be best view from Bow Summit. The water’s emerald color will take your breath away.
I hope you enjoyed reading this short itinerary about one of Canada’s prettiest regions. So how about you? Are you planning a trip to Banff National Park? What would you like to see and do with 3 days in Banff? Thanks, as always, for all your support, readers!