Banff National Park | Banff Canada | Banff National Park things to do | Canada travel | Canada destinations

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.

Rocky Mouantains

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.

Boy-BandThe 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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    • Oh absolutely, the best stories are usually the ones from getting lost, or the interesting people you meet!

    • It is so stunning! It is a must-see destination. And bear claws are so good! There’s a bakery with so many choices on the main street that sold them and I have to admit my friend and I went in everyday we were there.

  1. A car is definitely a good idea in Banff National Park, as many of the best spots are actually outside of Banff–aka the mountains! I love Tunnel Mountain, one of my favourites hotels in the area is Hidden Ridge Resort as it’s on top of the mountain and has a huge outdoor hot tub with an AMAZING view.

    • Clearly I should have done more research and found this hot tub! It’s on my list for next time I go…

    • I hope you get to soon! I would love to see what the skiing is like there in the winter. And the hiking trails are lovely!

  2. Bear claws sound amazing! At least you got the best photo ever from your trip- I love the one at the lake!

    • Ahh yes Lake Louise was literally picture perfect. Not one of the pictures I took was bad! And bear claws are soo good. They’re pretty big and filling!

    • Definitely worth the mistakes! At least I got to go. And I’m 23 as well and sometimes feel like I’m too old to party with some of the hostel partiers…I can’t keep up anymore haha

  3. Natalie Tanner Reply

    Banff is on my list of things to see! The photos of Lake Louise are just impossibly beautiful. Thanks for the great tips. Research, research, research!! And ear plugs for a hostel is a great tip, too. 😉

    • I never go to a hostel without ear plugs, however sometimes ear plugs just aren’t enough. I’ve heard great things about Jasper and Lake Morine which are both close to Lake Lousie while you’re visiting!

  4. Banff is definitely on my list. Thanks for the advice! The bear claws sound amaaazing. 😀

    • Oh my gosh they’re so good. And if you’ve never had a beaver tail before then you must try one! A Canadian classic.

  5. Patricia - Ze Wandering Frogs Reply

    Guess some of these issues can be true anywhere – the low season, the hostel, no car… But glad you still had a good time, it is a great place

    • Oh definitely. It’s also a pretty common spot to people who are on working visa to come to, so a younger more party kind of crowd. So there’s a lot more people living in hostels kind of long term and just partying it up all the time.

  6. Construction will always be a stumbling block – and isn’t YOUR mistake. The season to do work is fairly short in Canada and collides with the high tourist season…
    I understand you issues with hostels. One ‘outgrows’ them at some age. 😉

    • The construction I definitely could have avoided, it was mentioned in all the brochures and online so if I had done more research I would have know! And construction in Canada is never ending unfortunately 🙁

  7. Sell All Your Stuff Reply

    I lived in Banff for two years and Lake Louise for 6 months. I loved the low season, that was the only time you didn’t have to walk in the alley’s to avoid the crowds on the streets. Tunnel Mountain was one of my fav quick hikes, also Lake Minnewanka is a great area close to town for hiking. I have the same opinion of Australian men after living there, but I have met some nice one’s since then. Truth be told, you didn’t miss much with the hot springs being closed, it’s a gloried pool

    • I heard that about the springs while I was there but was still a little disappointed. I definitely don’t think I saw enough while I was there, and would love to spend a summer working at Lake Louise!

  8. Corinne Vail Reply

    Loved this post…and your reason for not staying in party hostels is the same as mine!

    • Thank you Corinne! I don’t usually mind party hostels, but this one was a bit intense. I didn’t enjoy people running down the hallways banging on doors late at night!

  9. Travel Lushes Reply

    Headed to Banff this summer! So excited! 🙂 Thanks for sharing what not to do. I will be sure to learn from these!

  10. I know they have to do maintenance and construction sometime- but it very disappointing when it’s while you are there! Also I find it even more irritating when they have a website and don’t tell you in advance!!

  11. Thank you for this info. I will be going in July and rented a small car. I also am traveling with kids so I need it. Your pics are beautiful. I hope I enjoy it as much as you!

    • Hi Alicia! July would be a great time to enjoy the hot weather (especially since we get so litte in Canada!). It’s a great time as the lakes won’t be frozen (they are a lot of the year) so you can canoe on them and there are so many hiking and mountain biking trails. Just be sure to book accommodation in advance as it is peak season so things book up!

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