Every travel blogger who writes about Banff only has good things to say, publishes lists of things to do or see, and raves about the beautiful Canadian scenery. I, as well, have many good things to say about Banff, but I also have a few mistakes that I made when it came to Banff that made my trip less than perfect.
This post is to tell you how not to visit Banff. Don’t repeat what I did and you should be having a great time! That’s not to say that I didn’t have a great time….just continue reading.
Mistake #1: Low Season
Do not go to Banff in low season. This will limit what you will be able to do. Buses won’t come as often, roads will start closing so you won’t be able to get to some of the beautiful lakes, and you won’t really have much to do other than a few hikes and roam the downtown area.
When is low season? We went in mid-October and found ourselves with only a number of activities that we could do. But if you’re aiming to come during the low season then visit in September because it’ll be warmer than October or in June, but this is because June is their rainy season.
Mistake #2: Hostel
Myself and my friend decided to stay in hostels during our entire cross-Canada trip to save on money. I have nothing against hostels and in fact prefer them over hotels. However, research should be done before picking a hostel. My friend had a great time in a Vancouver hostel that was the same company in Banff so she asked if I would be okay with it. I agreed and neither of us looked any further into it.
I once would have fit perfectly into this hostels vibe as drinking used to be my favourite hobby, but now as I spend most of my days sober I found myself feeling a little awkward and out of place. In fact it brought me back to my dorm room days as I was trying to sleep at night (2/3AM is a normal time for someone to be sleeping right?) as people would run up and down the hallways banging on people’s doors trying to get them to come out and party. It was the biggest party hostel I have ever seen. Myself and my friend weren’t totally into it, which can put a damper on things.
Our first day in Banff we got in and decided to sign up for a group hike. A great sized group turned up and we hiked up Tunnel Mountain with about 30 people. Now my Aussie friend who I was traveling with had told me about Australia boys, and I’ve heard other Aussie girls complain about the boys from their country. I never understood. Back in North America Australian guys are hot, they have accents, and they’re fit (sorry for stereotyping). But I was told what it means to be bogan and I sure met a ton of them while in Banff. When back in our hostel room I turned to my friend and said, “I understand.” I finally got what girls meant about Australian boys and I found myself trying my best to stay away from many of the boys in our hostel. This is not to say that all Australian guys are heavy drinkers, rude, and repulsive. It just so happened that most of the ones at our hostel were…
I did meet one guy Aussie guy in our dorm room who was well dressed and quite friendly, but brought a girl back for the two nights that he was there. This would be why I always travel with ear plugs and am happy to say that I slept through it both nights!
If you don’t mind the party atmosphere and want the best hostel location in Banff, stay at Samsun Baff.
For a relaxed atmosphere stay at HI Banff Alpine Centre.
Mistake #3: Construction
I would never have guessed that we would have been limited to activities due to construction, but so it was. One of the top things that I wanted to do for our entire Canada trip was go to the natural hot springs in Banff. My friend took a morning to herself and got to relax in the springs, but I went on a hike with a new friend I made and then was informed that the springs were closing for the rest of the time we were there. I was beyond disappointed and rather frustrated.
Next, we wanted to hike up Sulphur Mountain with some new friends we made. Only to show up to find that the trail was closed because of the construction on the gondola that ran over top of the trail. Again, very frustrating, but nothing we could do about it.
Mistake #4: No Car
Though this wasn’t necessarily a mistake, it would have been very helpful to have a car that could have taken us to some of the hikes that were further away, to drive to the lakes on our own (we paid $50 for a bus to and from Lake Louise), and we would have been able to make it all the way up to Jasper.
I heard from others that they can be pretty cheap to rent so I would highly recommend doing so when you visit.
All in all what did I learn? Do your research before you book!
However, I do not regret a single thing about the trip. And while I was there I was never sad, and I didn’t find myself wanting to leave. I continued telling myself that it just meant that I would have to go back one day and see all the beauty that Banff really has to offer once again.
Banff really is one of the most beautiful places that I’ve ever seen and I would highly recommend it to everyone. So put it on your bucket list!
And with every mistake there are also things that go right. Without having been in that hostel how would I have heard the epic story of a Scottish guy who flew to Canada for a girl after meeting her at his brother’s wedding only a few days before? He was a very interesting roommate.
What Went Right
Some things did go very well and made for a great time. We were there for 4 days and could have easily stayed there longer if everything was open.
We got to see the amazing Lake Louise, which is even better in person. The pictures are pretty accurate but they just don’t capture the size of the mountains surrounding the lake. And I finally got to check Lake Louise off my bucket list!
Though we had to hike Tunnel Mountain twice, we did it the second time with some friends we made and got to hangout with a group instead of just the two of us. We enjoyed dinner and drinks that night all together and had some of the best laughs of the trip.
The weather was perfect. It was seasonably warm for Banff (which is good because I did not pack properly) which made the temperature for our hikes amazing. Though it was slightly cloudy when at Lake Louise the views were still absolutely stunning.
We went to Lake Louise on the earliest bus and got to see the views with very few people, meaning lot’s of pictures where it looked like we were the only ones.
What You Should Do in Banff
Obviously go see Lake Louise! If you don’t you’re crazy.
Try a bear claw. White, milk or dark chocolate with caramel and nuts, topped with 3 cashews to make it look like a claw. So. good.
PARK. This is a restaurant on the main street that served delicious food and drinks and had a great vibe. I ordered the veal Jager schnitzel with a raspberry beer. Perfection.
Tunnel Mountain. It’s very close to the main street and is a relatively easy hike. When I say easy I mean easy for hikers. I definitely struggled a little but was able to make it up twice.
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