Travel to Banff and immerse yourself in one of the most beautiful places in the world! Canoe on turquoise lakes, hike through snow-capped mountains, and admire the bustling wildlife. If this sounds ideal to you, then you need to add the Canadian Rockies to your bucket list! Explore the best 3 Days Banff Itinerary below for a magical vacation.
I visited this park with my friends a few years ago and I still dream of going back! The three of us decided to fit in as much as we could in three days and visit Yoho National Park, Lake Louise, and Jasper National Park. If you are looking for an unforgettable weekend than look no further.
I have recreated the best three day Banff itinerary below with a Google Map to help you navigate it all! Let me know what you end up doing on your trip to this incredible area of the world.
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Table of Contents
3 Day Banff Itinerary
Day 1: Banff Town and Yoho National Park
Yoho National Park
On your first day in the area, travel 20 minutes outside of Banff to the magical Yoho National Park. Yoho National Park is famous for incredible mountainscapes, hundreds of hiking trails, cascading waterfalls, and gorgeous alpine lakes. It is an outdoor lovers paradise and there are so many ways to spend a day!
One of the best things to do in this park is explore all around the mesmerizing Emerald Lake. This turquoise lake has cabins that sit around the perimeter and is a perfect place to stay if you reserve it early. You can hike the perimeter of Emerald Lake (3 miles). This is an easy trail that follows along the lake and goes through some of the camping areas.
After you hike the loop, you can rent a kayak to explore the lake on the water. The stunning contrast of the red kayak on the emerald green waters is reason enough to do just that. You can take your time to explore and relax amongst the beauty of the setting.
Best Things to Do in Yoho National Park
- Canoe on Emerald Lake
- Hike at Lake O’Hara
- View the Natural Bridge
- Admire Takkakaw Falls
Vermillion Lakes & Banff Town
If you are staying in Banff Town, then you can head back there for a night of exploring. You should try to book a reservation early if you want to go somewhere nice for dinner, especially in the peak seasons. Depending on the time of year, you may want to eat dinner before watching sunset.
The days in Banff are very long in May, so sunsets are late and sunrises are very early. Drive to the incredible Vermilion Lakes to watch a beautiful sunset. When we went there we even saw moose along the way, which was very exciting! Unfortunately, the day was rather cloudless, so we did not see stunning colors. However, Vermilion Lakes is a gorgeous serene lake worth a visit even in bad weather. After sunset, you should go home and rest to prepare for the long day ahead!
Day Two: Lake Louise and Moraine Lake
Lake Agnes Trail to Little Beehive
You should get an early start to the day to beat the crowds and see as much as possible! We wanted to do Big Beehive, but ended up doing Little Beehive instead, because the trail was still covered in snow. However, this ended up being one of the best trails in the area! Drive to the Lake Louise Trail parking lot, which is below the Fairmont Chateau.
The trail starts with a walk around the stunning Lake Louise. You may be tempted to take some pictures here, which you can, but you are going to get a better view later on! In order to do the Little Beehive hike, you have to take the Lake Agnes Trail past the teahouse. There is a trail sign for both by the Lake.
The beginning of the hike is steep and so you may want to put on your best pump up jams to get through this section. As you continue up the mountain, you will continue to see the majestic waters of the lake through the treeline.
There will be a couple other stops that you may want to stop and take pictures, but the top has the very best views. Eventually you will get to a waterfall down the side of the mountain. Just above this waterfall is the Tea House.
I highly recommend that you stop for a short break at the Tea House. The tea house is cash only, so make sure you bring some if you want to enjoy a treat! Everything that they have at the tea house, they carry up the mountain from down below. They have fresh teas to order along with small treats. We sat on the porch and sipped on tea, while enjoying the view below.
After the stop, you follow the signs for the Little Beehive trail or you can turn off to Big Beehive in better weather. The view from the overlook of Little Beehive is unreal! When you get to the peak, you can see the Fairmont and the Lake below, while the Mountains surround you. We stopped here for a very long time to enjoy the view and take a bunch of pictures. When you’re ready to make your way down, you simply turn around and go back the way you came. The hike took us about four hours from start to finish.
After a beautiful hike, drive over to Moraine Lake for the next part of your day. Moraine Lake gets very crowded and sometimes they close the parking here, so make sure that you have alternative plans if this happens! Walking up to this lake will take your breath away, as you see the turquoise waters and the granite peaks behind it.
Stop here for a picnic or to walk around the shoreline. We tried to enjoy some nice a cold glass bottle, but again we made a mistake. Tip: Do not try to put a wine bottle in a freezing lake, it will break. There really is no better view for a picnic lunch, just sit and take it all in.
If you have enough energy after your first hike of the day, then you can do another one! The Consolations Lake Trail starts by the Moraine Lake shoreline. There is a sign about bears right before the trail starts, so don’t forget to pack bear spray. After we decided to risk the bear attack, we headed through the trail.
The trail is fairly flat and it starts out through the woods. The beginning was nice, but as we continued to move on we realized there was a lot of snow! We forged on through the snow, luckily we were wearing layers.
Eventually the woods clear and there is a large valley. I will admit we all got creative while walking in order to avoid getting completely soaked in snow. The end of this hike was worth the wet clothes as the valley opens up and you see the beautiful lake with the cedars all around. We took a while to dry off our socks and enjoy the nature around us, before turning back. The hike took us about 2 hours through the snow to complete.
Drinks at the Fairmont Chateau
Take a quick pit stop to dry off and get ready for a nicer night out. If you’re lucky you may even be able to stay at the Fairmont Chataeu, but if you can’t you can still get drinks in the lounge there.
The Fairmont is a luxury hotel sitting at the base of Lake Louise. While the restaurants in the Chateau are expensive and may require reservations, the bar has plenty of seating. We had a couple rounds of drinks, while watching the sunset through the large windows. After a long day, we decided to retire early.
Day Three Icefields Parkway
The Icefields Parkway is known as one of the most scenic drives in all of North America. It will take you from Lake Louise, through Jasper National Park, and all the way to Jasper. If we had more time, I would have loved to explore Jasper, and experience the night-life there. We only had one day, so we drove as far as we could (Athabasca Falls) on the parkway, until turning around and going back home.
The first stop from the Lake Louise area is Peyto Lake, which is about a half an hour drive. Get here early, so that you can have this stunning lake to yourselves! I had seen pictures of Peyto Lake on Instagram, a long bright blue lake with green trees that surround it on all sides. We assumed that there would be a hike up to this viewpoint, but were completely surprised when the walk from the car was around 5 minutes. You do not need to budget a lot of time for this stop, even though it’s very pretty.
Continue along the Icefields parkway until you get to the Columbia Icefields Discovery Centre. I recommend going to the Centre for helpful tips from the rangers along with a bite to eat! They also have working phones there (you may need to use these in case you leave your wallet at a rest stop and need to check that it’s there). The rangers gave us great tips about the important things to do and see.
After going to the Centre, you should walk up to the toe of the Athabasca Glacier, which is right across the parkway. There is a bit of a steep hill to get up to the Glacier, so where shoes that have a good grip on them. It is really cool to see and there are lots of signs along the way that tell you more about the glacier. This stop should only take you half an hour.
Wilcox Pass Trail to Red Chairs (3 miles)
About a mile south of the Discovery Centre, you’ll find the Wilcox Pass Trailhead. The beginning of the trail is steep and a bit tiring. However, soon after the steep section you will come out and have a great view of the Athabasca Glacier. If you continue up the mountain a bit more you will find two red chairs that are set up for you to relax in. They also make for a great picture! We turned around at this point, but you can choose to continue depending on your timing.
Beauty Creek Trail
The most surprising part of our adventure on the Icefields Parkway, was the Beauty Creek Trail. The Ranger at the Centre told us that it was a gem, but that it was also pretty secretive. If we had not stopped at the Centre, we never would have known about it! It’s a very easy and walkable trail and highly worth it!!
The trailhead is very hard to find. You have to look for a pull-off on the east side of the highway, about 10 miles past the Discovery Centre. There is a hiker sign, but no other signs mark it! If you reach the Beauty Creek Hostel then you have passed the trail.
You walk along the little river until you get to the woodier area of the trail. Once you reach the woods, you walk a little further and then Beauty Creek appears. It is awesome! The creek is set between a canyon, where there are smaller little falls. The trail continues all the way until Stanley Falls. We could have spent the whole day here climbing on the rocks, putting our feet in the water, and exploring all that the creek had to offer. We only saw three or four people on the trail. I highly recommend it!
If you have time and you aren’t too exhausted you can continue your drive to Athabasca Falls, which is about 40 minutes away. We did the trail up to the toe of the falls. The falls are very impressive. They are large and the water gushes from the top. If you like waterfalls, then this is worth the time!
After a long day, you should turn around and drive back home. The drive back to Lake Louise was about two and a half hours. However, if you have more than three days you should continue to Jasper and explore there. There is so much to see in this area of the Canadian Rockies and I wish we had even more time!
Let me know if this itinerary was helpful in the comments!
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