You Should Experience Banff And Lake Louise At Least Once In Your Lifetime And Here’s Why.

Banff and Lake Louise - Magical Traveller

It’s long overdue that I write up our trip report from our incredible trip in May 2022, visiting Baff and Lake Louise before setting off on the fabulous Rocky Mountaineer and sailing around Alaska. It was honestly one of the best trips I have ever done, and I now realise the inability to get these blogs out due to the fear of not doing this fantastic trip justice.

So, pixels to the website (is that what we say in this day and age), it’s long overdue, and the perfect time one year later to look back on the best trip of my life.

Flying to Banff

This was our first time ever flying with Air Canada, and I have to say, we were very impressed: great new modern planes, with fantastic in-flight meals and entertainment.

We were travelling during the tail end of the COVID pandemic, so we had to complete several forms to board the plane and enter Canada; luckily, being travel agents, we were aware of the requirements.

Arriving at Calgary airport was simple, and we were clear of customs and luggage within 30 minutes; after a 10-hour flight, getting outside, removing our facemasks and stretching our legs was very welcome.

We had rebooked the Banff AirPorter service to transfer us from Calgary Airport, to our Hotel in Baff; it was around $75CAD each and took around an hour with a brief stop at Canmore along the way.

Banff Park Lodge Room Tour

Our accommodation for the two nights we will be spending in Banff was the Banff Park Lodge, a hotel with 211 rooms just off the heart of the main strip in Banff itself. Perfectly located for getting around the town and had a charming park lodge decor and atmosphere.

This was the first season for Banff since the COVID pandemic, and it was clear that some businesses and facilities of the hotel were not back up and running, we asked about Gluten Free breakfast, and we weren’t given a reassuring answer, so we decided to not pay for the hotel breakfast as it wasn’t clear what would be available to eat for Phil.

You can see a room tour on our YouTube Page here

But first… Coffee

After finding our way around the hotel, we decided to head out to explore the town of Banff and, most importantly, get coffee. There was a Tim Hortons nearby, which is always a treat whenever we are in Canada.

Banff has a lovely mix of frontier town-inspired restaurants and shops with some contemporary and modern locations. It offers the charm of being in a national park without feeling in the wilderness.

Prices for food and drink are high, without feeling like you are being gouged; considering the remote location, it’s hardly a surprise that some things are on the premium end of the price scale.

However, one thing that can’t be expressed is how beautiful the Canadian Rockies are as a backdrop. Everywhere we looked, we had gorgeous snowcapped mountains, wildlife chattering and a reminder that we were in the heart of a national park.

One of our favourite things was seeing all the open gas fires along the main strip where the bars and restaurants were located; sitting near an open fire and warming up made us feel like we were in the wilderness.

Gluten-Free Pizza in Banff

We then hunted for something to eat, as we’d been up almost 24 hours by this point. There was plenty of choice for food and drinks, both casual and upscale, just a short walk away from our hotel. Everything is easily walkable within the town of Banff, maybe 15/20 minutes from end to end.

We checked a few menus and found plenty of options for gluten-free dining, with plenty of options for cuisine, with local meats and produce taking the forefront of most menus, which we personally appreciated. However, we were looking for something quick and casual, so we opted for The Bear Street Tavern, which was well-rated on Google for its gluten-free Pizza.

We shared a plate of Chicken wings and shared the pizza between us, ordering the Hawaiian because I’m passionate about pineapple on pizza. There was an extra charge for the gluten-free base, and it was clear it was purchased rather than made fresh, but it was cooked wonderfully and tasted great. The unique staple of The Bear Street Tavern is their Chilli and Maple Syrup sauces/drizzle, which was an absolute delight.

We then slowly walked back to the hotel, enjoying the dusk evening and grabbing some snacks from a nearby gas station for our room.

A jetlagged morning and overcast sunrise

Given the 7-hour time difference between Banff and the UK, it was inevitable that one of us would suffer from jetlag. We were both awake around 4 a.m. after fighting it till around 6 a.m.; we decided to head out and try to capture the sunrise, thinking it would create some great photos and content. Alas, the clouds had other ideas.

Grabbing Breakfast in Banff

Around 8 a.m., it was time for breakfast, and we had been recommended that Evelyn’s Coffee World was the place to head to, and they also offered gluten-free breakfast.

We had a fantastic breakfast here; we opted for some light bites, Phil chose a GF bagel, and I had a muffin. We did say we would happily come back here.

Facebook live from Banff

Fully charged with breakfast, it was time to make our way to Lake Louise. Before we came, there were three things we wanted to do in Banff aside from the main town. Lake Louise, Columbia Icefield and viewing Platform, and the Banff Gondola. Sadly, it was too early in the season for the Icefield, and tours weren’t operating, so we focused on getting to Lake Louise and hoped we’d have time for the Gondola on our return, depending on how much time we spent in Lake Louise.

The concierge desk at Banff Park Lodge helped us navigate our way to Lake Lousie, and even shared the live webcam with us, at which point we discovered that Lake Louise was still frozen, so we would have a rare opportunity to see the lake frozen.

To get from Banff to Lake Louise is a simple case of catching the local ROAM bus, which is $2 each way, or $5 for a Region 2 pass, which covers Banff to Lake Louise. We only had one day free, but they also have multiday passes if you want to explore further and spend more time in Banff.

While waiting for our bus, I took the chance to go live on our Facebook Page, which you can watch here.

Making our way to Lake Louise

I’m a bit of a sucker for a train or coach journey, and the bus to Lake Louise was filled with incredible vistas the whole journey. It took us around an hour; the coach, one of those luxury-style coaches, was more comfortable than your local transport buses.

Sadly, I have pictures of the coach, but you can see a collection of photos taken from the journey to and from Lake Louise here.

Would you like to join us on the same trip in 2025?

We are planning a group trip to Canada and Alaska in 2025, recreating a similar itinerary as the one featured here in this blog series. If you are interested in learning more or possibly joining us, please sign up for notifications using this form.

Frozen Lake Louise and Fairmount Chateau Lake Louise

Expectations can never prepare you for seeing something as beautiful as Lake Louise in person. This whole trip has a significant case of photos that do not do it justice. The coach drops you off a short walk from the lake and the Fairmount Hotel; the paths had been cleared of snow, but you still had to be careful where you were walking due to black ice and snowmelt.

When this trip was initially booked, back for May 2020, we were due to stay in the Fairmount Chateau Lake Louise, but sadly, a Pandemic later, and our cash reserves were suitably lower, so we had to scale back this trip, so it was bittersweet to arrive at the lake and see the Chateau at the top of the drive.

We decided to head towards the lake first, assuming we would warm up in the hotel after exploring. As soon as we cleared the treeline and the whole view of the lake came into focus, my jaw genuinely hit the floor.

We made our way along the banks of the lake; at one point, my leg disappeared into the ice, causing me to get one leg stuck up to my waist. After the brief moment of panic, we decided to keep the front, more well-travelled path to avoid any potential near-death experience. Phil helped by taking photos of me stuck in the ice.

There’s plenty to explore along the banks, hiking trails up into the hills along the sides of the lake, and a pier that runs watersports, such as kayaking on the lake in warmer weather. Some people were braving it out onto the lake, which we were told could host ice skating at the peak of winter; however, as we were at the start of spring, there were warnings for landslides, compacting snow, and fragile ice, so they were undoubtedly braver than I was.

Facebook Live from Lake Louise

Heading into Fairmount Chateau Lake Louise

After exploring the banks and taking photos, it was time to warm up inside the Fairmount Chateau Lake Louise. The lobby and front side of the hotel welcome day guests and a gorgeous lake-facing restaurant is available for afternoon tea. Sadly it was fully booked, so we couldn’t partake, but there is also a coffee shop available for day guests, so we took the opportunity to recharge with coffee and cake, plus dry out and warm up on the nearby heaters.

Shops are selling local art and keepsakes, so we spent some time looking through those. They were certainly on the boutique and premium side of life, some beautiful items, but not for my bank balance anyway.

After warming back up, we realised there wasn’t much to do in the hotel unless you were a patron or willing to spend money, so we checked the bus schedule and decided to catch the next bus back to Banff; we’d been at the lake for 5 hours by this point, and it was an hour until the next bus.

So we took one last walk to the lakefront and slowly returned to the bus stop through the nearby wood trail.

Checking in for the Rocky Mountaineer

We decided to head back to catch the Rocky Mountaineer check-in desk before they closed. You can stay in several hotels as part of your Rocky Mountaineer experience; however, we didn’t choose one of those, so we had to head into the Elk and Avenue to check in, show our COVID-19 vaccines and collect our luggage tags. This wasn’t necessary, but it would save us time in the morning the next day, so we decided to take advantage of it.

After grabbing food, we returned to our hotel to determine what to do next. Sadly, I had some work I needed to catch up on. Part of the blessing and curse of being home-based travel agents is we do get to travel more easily, but we are also on call when our customers need us, so we decided that I would stay and work, and Phil would visit the Banff gondolier, martyr for the cause that he is.

Visiting the Banff Gondola

Here is his summary of the experience and what he saw.

The gondola is one of those trips you might wonder, “Is it worth it?” At first, I was unsure, but I went for it as the sky was clear in the afternoon after visiting Lake Louise. The ticket price depends on the season and day of the week, ranging from $55 to $75 CAD per adult.

Firstly, despite how close it seems on Google Maps, you cannot walk to the base of the Gondola; it is partially up the mountain, so be sure to get the local bus or a taxi to the station.

I was lucky enough to have a gondola car to myself as it was a weekday and the very start of the season. What a fantastic experience it was! The views were breathtaking, stretching as far as the eye could see over the treetops and across the valley.

Upon reaching the top, you unload into a central area where there is a walk-through exhibition and screening about the cable and the purpose of the gondola. Additionally, there is a cafe, restaurant, and shop.

Unfortunately, the restaurant was closed for a private event, so if you plan to experience the views from there, check the website for opening times.

From the visitor centre, you can go outside onto a viewing platform, from which you can walk across the ridge to another viewing platform to see even more of the mountains and look back down to Banff town.

This walk is well worth it, as the views are breathtaking, and the air up there is incredibly fresh. Since it was early May, the air was wonderfully crisp, so make sure to have a scarf and gloves with you, as you will feel it, even with the sunshine at full blast!

I would thoroughly recommend going up and taking in that fantastic experience.

Would you like to visit Banff

This does bring our two nights in Banff to an end; we had an early night with some sandwiches and salad in our room as jetlag was kicking our butts a bit at this point; we also had to be up early the next day to Join the Rocky Mountaineer, so decided it was best not to fight the jetlag.

Come back to check the next leg of our trip on the incredible Rocky Mountaineer, but if you are ever interested in booking a trip to Banff, we would love to help you; there are several options, from self-guided tours to small and large group tours available, or, as an extension of a more extensive trip exploring beyond Banff as we have done.

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