I’ll give it to you straight– I went to Banff at the wrong time of year. The beginning of June was packed. Lake Louise wasn’t as serene as the Pintrest pictures tried to fool me. I was elbow deep fighting bus tourists for a photo op. But it wasn’t my fault: while researching this trip, I had a difficult time figuring out what to see and do in the area because there wasn’t concise online information available. It was also difficult to figure out what the park boundaries were. See the above map for a clear understanding (map credit to blog Where We Be who had the most comprehensive online version). With that being said, here are my tips for what to avoid, and what to do at Banff & Jasper National Parks.
Do: Visit Both Jasper and Banff
With it being less convenient to visit, I can imagine that some visitors decide to skip Jasper National Park. Jasper is farther north. It’s bigger . . . but it’s also better.
Don’t: Spend Much Time in the Town of Banff
The town of Banff is adorable, but it won’t be the reason for your visit. Unless you choose to camp, you’ll undoubtedly end up spending some money and time in the little seasonal tourist town. I found that the food was typical, as were the souvenir shops. Neither will be anything that you havn’t seen before. I took several trips to Safeway, the local grocery store with a surprisingly good soup & deli area to save money. My favorite find was the Tikka Masala nestled in a corner of the “serve yourself” bar.
Do: Visit the lesser known Kootenay National Park
Black Bears seek out the dandelions along the highway in Kootenay. To me it seemed that the summer crowds had pushed these shy creatures to more remote areas like the Kootenay. Although it’s most assuredly there, I barely saw any other wildlife inside of the Banff boarders.
Do: Trounce Around the Johnston Canyon Trail
There are infinite pristine trails to hike in the area. When picking one, you simply can’t go wrong. I particularly enjoyed walking above the river of the slot canyon to the falls at Johnston Canyon. The trail was mild and well maintained. Because of it’s geography, being down in a narrow rocky swift water canyon, I felt comfortable with the lower likelihood of my dog disturbing large wildlife.
Don’t: Plan to Spend Much Time At Lake Louise in Peak Season
It will be loud. And crowded.
There will also be an eye-sore called the Fairmont Chateau towering the the background.
The water is a beautiful blue color, but not as blue as the over saturated photos floating around online.
But don’t let that bum you out. Into lakes? Keep reading.
Do: Opt to go farther North
Spend more time at the lesser known Honeymoon Lake and Jasper Lake.
Do: Relax in the Secret Lawn-chairs
Near Snow Peak, the the top of Mt. Norquay Scenic Drive, there is an idealic piece of paradise that the crowds have yet to find. Look out over the cute village at the Banff View Point.
Do: Enjoy your time in Jasper & Banff!