The short answer is forever, but we’re not trying to be cheeky. There are literally mountains of things to see and do, and it’s hard to soak up the essence of Banff National Park unless you give yourself the time to marinate.
Your time is valuable, and we promise that any spent in Banff National Park will offer bang for your buck. What are you seeking from your escape to the mountains? Pair your answer with the guidelines below to find out how long you should stay in Banff and Lake Louise.
2 weeks: Start feeling like a local in Banff and Lake Louise
There are many turquoise-hued lakes in Banff National Park that aren’t Lake Louise. Two Jack, Bow and Hector Lakes are just the beginning – they’re lesser-known but no less dazzling. Join the locals at Johnson or Herbert Lakes for an evening swim, or ice skate over the bubbles at Abraham in that elusive pocket of time between the freeze and the snow.
Are you all about hiking the mountains? Any local can spout off a list of favourite peaks that go way beyond Cascade and Rundle. Try Hector, Bourgeau or Forbes mountains once you’ve done your research and consulted with the Parks Canada team to ensure your safety. Plan ahead and never underestimate the mountains: choose a trail that suits your ability level.
These are just a few of the gems you’ll stumble upon when you give yourself the freedom to discover Banff and Lake Louise over an extended period of time. A two-week vacation gives you the chance to revisit your favourite restaurants, snuggle inside if a rainy day pops up, or set off on a multi-day backcountry hike if that’s your jam. You can take the time to feel like you’re truly present, and bask in the sensation of being at one with the big picture.
This is what it’s like to live in one of the most beautiful places in the world. Do you want to be part of it?
1 week: Make a dent in all that Banff National Park has to offer
There are over 200 trails in Banff National Park, but you could take a simple stroll along the Bow or Pipestone rivers and feel like you’re in paradise. There are stunning lakes, mountains and rivers to explore, but you’ll also need time for the canyons, tea houses and waterfalls.
Downtime is the optimal complement to adventure, so stay longer in the area for the chance to enjoy a leisurely afternoon sightseeing and sipping cocktails at the top of a mountain, courtesy of Banff National Park’s chairlifts and gondolas.
Thanks to the freedom of your week-long stay, you can enjoy a total mind and body refresh in the form of forest bathing. It’s a meditative art that invites you to slow down and open yourself to all that nature has to offer.
You have the space to fit in a tour or two to your taste, whether you’re keen for a horseback adventure, a guided cross-country ski journey, or a self-guided art and museum exploration.
There’s nothing like a leisurely round of golf on Banff’s award-winning course on a summer evening, and in the winter, the extra time could gift you with the room for a non-ski day. Sleep in, spend an afternoon snowshoeing and then linger over a multi-course menu at one of Banff and Lake Louise’s many scenic restaurants.
5 days: Tick off the hot spots in Banff and Lake Louise
There are some experiences in Banff and Lake Louise that simply can’t be missed. It’s a subjective list, but five days is a good length of time to tick off the world-famous hot spots.
You’ll need at least a day in the Lake Louise region to wrap your mind around the beauty of the namesake lake, nearby Moraine Lake, and the unbelievable charm of the village. In July and August these areas are wildly popular, so plan your exploration for mid-week and off-peak hours.
Dedicate another day to exploring the town of Banff and its lively shopping scene, as well as the points of natural beauty that are easily accessible from the town, such as Bow Falls, Tunnel Mountain and Vermilion Lakes. If you’re a hiker, you can tick off the must-do biggies and still have time ask for a local’s recommendation for another day.
Choose the tour that enhances your favourite aspect of Banff and Lake Louise, plan dinner at the region’s most enticing restaurants, and you may have some time left over to enjoy a sleigh-ride or a picnic in the park.
3 days: The Banff and Lake Louise sampler
If you only have three days in Banff and Lake Louise you’ll need to choose what jaw-dropping experiences matter most to you. Chances are you’ll be promising yourself to return once you’ve been enchanted by the mountains.
A day in Lake Louise can be rounded out by a visit to Johnston Canyon – it’s currently only accessible by bike or foot but its dramatic beauty makes the detour a no-brainer. If you're walking or cycling to the Johnston Canyon trailhead, pack plenty of water for the 24-kilometre cycle from Banff, and don't forget the bear spray - you're entering a wildlife hot spot!
You’ll have time to wander the vibrant streets of Banff, but make sure you plan ahead and choose your meals wisely – there are many irresistible local restaurants and we’d hate for you to miss out on your personal idea of foodie heaven.
Tunnel Mountain is an easy win for those short on time. The trailhead is easily accessed from town, and while there is some vertical to tackle, the views of Mount Rundle and Banff town will pay you back for your efforts ten times over.