When my wife and I requested a free 2017 parks Canada pass, I really hoped we would have a chance to head to Banff National Park. I wasn’t sure if we would be able to visit any Canadian National Parks in 2017, but I did identify several that I’d like to visit (SEE: 7 great parks to visit with the Parks Canada free pass in 2017).
Banff is at the top of the list, and when I got my pass in the mail (a week after Dan…SEE: I just got my free Parks Canada Discover pass), my wheels started turning.
From all the pictures I’ve seen, Banff National Park is spectacular. I could browse images of it and Jasper, another park in the Canadian Rockies, for hours…
But now I’ll be able to take my own pictures! We’ve nailed down some plans to actually visit! They may get interrupted if we are matched for adoption in the next month, but we are willing to take that risk (SEE: 4 airline awards for our adoption trip…which do I choose?).
We’re now booked to fly into Calgary midday on April 20, and out again the afternoon of April 25. We’ll spend the first 3-4 nights in Banff, and the final night or two in Calgary. This gives us all of Friday through Monday in the park.
Flights cost us $200 in Delta gift cards, a couple United vouchers, and about $70 cash, so it is pretty cheap overall. The downside is that we do have to drive 5 hours to SFO to fly out.
What should we do?
I know we are going in shoulder season, but I really don’t care. If there is fresh snow, I may consider a half day of skiing. My wife will likely stay warm and cozy in the lodge, or possibly enjoy herself on the bunny slope. I found out on our winter trip to Quebec at the beginning of 2016 that she is deathly afraid of skiing! The “easiest way down” at Mont Sainte Anne wasn’t exactly all that easy, and too much for her. She was a great sport and gave it her all, but skiing really isn’t her thing.
Other than ski, we hope to enjoy the town of Banff itself. We’ll definitely visit the hot springs as well. The gondola to the top of Sulphur Mountain is also high on the list.
Hopefully some of the valley hiking isn’t too impacted by snow. It would be great to take a couple short, easy hikes if we can. Any other Banff suggestions for shoulder season?
Where should we lodge?
In Banff we’re hoping to stay at either the Fairmont Lake Louise or the Fairmont Banff Springs. I’ve always eyed the Fairmont Lake Louise, but after seeing the close proximity of the Fairmont Banff Springs to both the hot springs and gondola, I’m split between the two. The choice may be dictated by what availability is like for the chase Fairmont award nights and upgrade certificates that should be posting to my account fairly soon. I jumped on the Chase Fairmont card before the application link was pulled completely.
We’ll have 4 nights, and we can only realistically eke out 3 of them at the Fairmont. We’ll use the certificates for two, and then pay for most of another with arrival miles and the rest with cash. Hopefully Fairmont lets me use the upgrade certificate for all three nights. Sunday night is TBD, either in Banff or Calgary.
If for some crazy reason there isn’t any availability at either Fairmont, we’ll figure some way to finagle cheap nights. There is a Delta hotel nearby, but there was no availability when I checked. If it opens up, we’ll snag that. Any other great Banff hotel options we should know about?
For our last night in Calgary, I’ve booked the Delta hotel in terminal since we can use a Chase Marriott annual night. Our flight doesn’t leave until 1:00 p.m., though, so being that close to the airport really isn’t a necessity. We may still figure out another option and forego the night so we can dump the Marriott card. The annual fee is up this month.
Somehow we keep ending up in Canada
Oddly enough, this will be our fourth trip to Canada in the past two years. It started with a trip to Niagara Falls, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland in mid-2015. We then took a winter trip to Quebec in early 2016, followed by a trip to Vancouver for New Year’s 2017.
Now we’re looking forward to our 5 nights away in Banff!
Featured image and others courtesy of Wikimedia under CC 2.0 license.
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Can’t wait to hear about it. After 3 years at Whistler, I think it will be Banff next year. We are also considering the Fairmont. We got the card again while available and my Fairmont “status” still hasn’t posted. Let me know if you have any tips because we are scheduled at the Fairmont Vancouver soon.
My status hasn’t posted either. I just met the spend on my Fairmont card, so I am a little nervous that things might not fall into place in time. I’ll definitely be posting a trip report either way!
Fairmont at Lake Louise definitely. If possible get a room with a lake view. You wil not regret it. It is spectacular! One thing you have to do is drive the Icefields parkway. At least half way to Jasper. I can’t imagine there is a drive more beautiful anywhere in the world.
My trip report will give you ideas about the Fairmonts, Banff park, some ideas about hotels (there is a Holiday Inn Canmore before Banff if you need that night), the Hilton Garden Inn at the Calgary airport is great.Gondola and hot springs are way over rated. Lake Louise is amazing, especially the hikes around it. If you can get a lake view in it, it is awesome, my favorite Fairmont property. There is a great sushi place off the main strip in Banff. You should take the drive to Jasper if you have time, at least to the Icefields.
Thanks for all the tips! I didn’t think to check the IHG options. That’ll definitely be a backup plan (instead of a Fairmont) and/or our 4th night.
Banff is stunning! You have to stay at The Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel. There’s lots of elk and deer that roam the streets even! You are gonna LOVE it!
I’m leaning toward this more and more. We should have 2 Fairmont nights to burn, and then hopefully we can front cash for a 3rd and apply an upgrade certificate for all 3.
We just went to Banff/ Glacier last year. We stayed at the Rimrock which is just across from the hot springs and has a free bus into Banff. We drove up to Lake Louise and hiked to both tea houses and the beehive. Not sure if they are open when you go but this is a great hike. Also stopped by Lake Morrain. Of the two Fairmonts you should go with Lake Louise. It has an incredible view and if you can hike best to leave early.
We went to Banff, Lake Louise and Jasper last year. I’d say stay at Fairmont Lake Louise just for the bloody beautiful view. Although the lake may still be frozen when you go in April. We went in early June and there were parts of lake which were still frozen! A visit to both Athabasca glacier and Athabasca falls is recommended. There’s so much to see and do, 4 days is definitely not enough 🙂
Do not miss out on seeing Lake Peyto! What a beautiful sight, come to think of it, our 10 days in Canadian National parks were highlight of our Canada trip.
You can hardly go wrong in the Canadian Rockies .
Ian, I wanted to share with you and the readers that I was able twice to book Fairmont stays without the certificates yet posted to my account. It’s a little out of the ordinary but they do do it and if the rep is unwilling you can always call back and try another person. About six weeks ago I booked three nights at the Fairmont Lake Louise and four nights fairmont Hotel Vancouver before a cruise. I was able to use a room upgrade certificate to get a lake Louise view room which is highly recommended. I use the free suite upgrade certificate to get a one bedroom suite on my free nights at the hotel Vancouver. I hope this helps out!
Thanks for the tip, Darlene. We’re headed out a bit sooner, but I may give that a try if the certificates don’t post quickly. Any idea how long it took from when you met your card spend to when the certificates hit your account?
That was also amazing. The letter announcing that we got the certificates came mid statement cycle for both my husband’s account and mine. Once we hit the spend level, it triggered the certificates. I look forward to hearing about your trip! I wonder if you could do another Banff/ Lake Louise post asking for reader’s best tips.
Best tips, that is, on activities, dining, hikes, etc.
I forgot to add that these reservations are in June, high season.
Take a drive out to Johnson Canyon and then hike out to the ink pots. If you choose to cross the bridge and hike further, just be warned that you are entering a true mountain weather system (harsh!) and you should prepare accordingly.
Johnson Canyon is an easy hike with some nice views. You might see ice climbers or you might have spring melt flows starting.
Stay in Banff. Hands down. So much to do and see there within walking distance or short drive but be warned that parking is scarce in town.
If/when you got to Lake Louise, be sure to hike up to the Tea House. You just walk along the shore of Lake Louise, and it is a trail, then keep going once the blacktop stops. There will be a few switchbacks but nothing you can’t handle. If the Tea House is open, then have some hot Tea before you hike back. Again, the weather system changes from “Lake Louise” to Mountain once you turn the corner on the trail. Come prepared.