Banff Village is a cheery mountain town in Banff National Park, where you can grab a meal, stay in an upscale hotel, or, like us, find adventure. We camped in Banff Village on our trip to Canada last fall and wandering around town was almost as good as exploring the rest of the park!
I thought about combining everything we did in Banff into one post, but it got too long, so I decided to split it up. So, if it’s hiking you’re after, check out my Banff National Park Hiking Guide.
Since we went to Banff so late in the season (first week of October), most of the campsites were closed. We were hoping the sites at Lake Louise or even Lake Minnewanka would stay open a couple more days, but no such luck. The only one left open was an RV site at the top of Tunnel Mountain, but since we were sleeping in our car anyway, it worked out great. We had a fire pit, picnic table, and could even use the RV hookups to charge our phones and cameras.
We actually hadn’t planned on exploring Banff Village much at all, but since it was a blizzard the morning we got into the park, we decided to stick around town and see what there was to do with low visibility.
After claiming our campsite, we took a drive over the bridge to the site of Bow Falls, a wide, tumbling waterfall at a bend in the river. The snow was coming down and big ponds had formed on the banks of the river, creating the most beautiful reflection (and a good place to skip rocks). There were quite a few tourists there and they all fawned over Amaya while we took in the views of the blue water and snowcapped peaks. We had already fallen in love with Banff.
From the falls, we walked up the path a little for a higher viewpoint. I was taking photos when I heard Colby suddenly gasp, so I turned around and was face to face with a massive, gorgeous bull elk. He was just a few feet off the trail, laying in a clearing like he was posing for us. It was pure magic and I quietly took as many pictures as I could before Colby pulled me and Amaya away.
You can also walk up to the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel from here – it’s the twin hotel to the huge one on the shore of Lake Louise, and it’s massive and beautiful. We ventured around the grounds but didn’t go inside.
This short scenic drive was my favorite thing we did in Banff Village, and I’m so happy it snowed so we could find out about it and experience it. Essentially it’s just a two lane road that passes by several lakes and when you get to the end, you turn around and go back. It’s a pretty short drive but the views were so picturesque, especially with a fresh dusting of snow over the yellow and green trees.
The weather had just begun to clear when we set out, so every lake was mirror-still and quiet, with just a few people stopping here and there to take photos like we were. We skipped more rocks off the docks and wandered the banks of each lake, taking everything in. At the end is a bike trail that we walked down for a bit because the colors were so pretty, and then we piled back into the car to warm up and eat snacks on our way back to town.
Just a short drive from the main village is Lake Minnewanka, a giant 13-mile-long lake popular for picnicking and boating. It’s the only lake in Banff National Park that allows motorized boats, so in the summer it’s bustling, but on this day it was serene. We walked around through the trees a bit, checking out the art exhibit that was being set up on the shore, and admiring the views.
I loved the glaciers visible past the peaks bordering the lake, and the trees were just as vibrant as any we had seen so far. Amaya loved climbing on the rocks and playing in the water.
On the drive back from Lake Minnewanka, we spotted this waterfall in the distance and decided to pull over and hike to it. It’s a massive falls at 950 feet – the third tallest in all of Alberta. The signs warned us about extreme avalanche danger in the winter, but there definitely wasn’t enough snow for that yet, so we set off.
I couldn’t find how long this hike actually is, but it only took us around 20-30 minutes round trip, so it’s not long at all. It does get increasingly steeper, but the view from the base of the falls is incredible.
Banff Dog Park
We stopped here at some point in the morning to give Amaya a chance to stretch her legs. She was such a trooper on the 15 hour drive from our home to Alberta, so we thought she deserved a little off-leash fun. We loved this dog park – it was basically a fenced off part of the forest, so it felt very wild. We’re used to groomed, grass-filled dog parks where we’re from, and I think Amaya was definitely a fan of this type of park over the ones at home. We spent quite a long time here; she was having so much fun, we couldn’t bear to pull her away.
Tunnel Mountain Road Lookouts
Unfortunately I don’t know exactly what this lookout was called, but if you take Tunnel Mountain Road toward the hoodoos, this is the next lookout you come to – right by the campgrounds, which is where we were on our way back to when we decided to pull over here. By sunset, the storm had completely cleared, leaving low-hanging clouds and glimmering frost in its wake. The views of the trees and the river from here were breathtaking.
We stayed until it started to get too dark and cold, and then ended the day around the fire at our campsite, grilling steaks and veggies on our camp stove. All in all, it was a perfect day in Banff Village.
We did do a couple other things in Banff Village over the course of our stay, which included stopping by the visitor’s center to ask a couple questions (everyone was super welcoming and helpful) and eating at one restaurant, Saltlik. I didn’t get any photos, but I ordered their award-winning burger, which was amazing, and I think Colby ordered the sirloin with béarnaise sauce, which he also loved. We’d definitely recommend it.
Have you ever been to Banff Village? What was your favorite thing to do or see there?
PS. Don’t forget to head over to my Banff National Park Hiking Guide to get the deets on the rest of this trip!