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Banff in 2 days

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Banff in 2 days


Me, my husband and aunt will be in Banff in the middle of May, and we will have 2 days to spend around. We would like to have some great views (specially of the lakes), an easy but exciting hiking (without paying for a guide), some swimming and maybe a visit to the Icefields. How would you suggest us to plan our 2 days? I know there are books about hiking trails but I would like some advice too :)

Is there anything else we should do?

Thank you all for your help!


Jasper, Canada
Destination Expert
for Jasper, Jasper National Park, Canadian Rockies
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113 reviews
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1. Re: Banff in 2 days

Consider that even in the valley bottoms (i.e. the warmest, mildest environments in the Rockies), the trees and shrubs do not leaf out until late in May ... you are coming in the early spring.

The high elevation glacial lakes like Lake Louise, Moraine Lake, Emerald Lake, Bow Lake, Peyto Lake etc. will still be frozen. (The Moraine Lake road may not yet be open either.) Lower level lakes will be thawed, and lower elevation hiking trails will be accessible. To me, "exciting" hiking means getting up high, for the views and the beautiful open subalpine & alpine landscapes - but these areas will still be snowy in mid-May. However, there are lots of lower elevation trails that are also nice.

Which trails are accessible really depends on the weather in the next few weeks - whether it will be warm and sunny, and how much snow will fall (yes, snow is still falling in the Rockies). So your best bet is to visit one of the Parks Canada Trail Offices when you arrive, to find out what the current conditions are like.

Very few lakes in the mountains are good for swimming even in full summer, definitely none in May, so I'd suggest a pool at your hotel, or a visit to the hot springs, if swimming is a priority for you.

Driving from Banff to the Icefields is a great way to spend one of your days - it is a GORGEOUS drive. However, it's about 2.5 hours, one way, from Banff to the Columbia Icefields, plus you'll want to stop at various scenic viewpoints, waterfalls, lakes etc., so this will use up a big part of one of your two days - plan on 5 hours for driving, plus any stops along the way. Take a picnic lunch and some bottled beverages so that you don't have to stop at the very few (and expensive and underwhelming) places to eat along the way. There are many picnic areas with lovely views.

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2. Re: Banff in 2 days

Thank you very much for your tips! I got to admit I didn't expect it to be still snowing and freezed, but at same time I didn't even consider swimming on the lakes, no no, too cold for me :) I was more thinking about the Upper Hot Springs or so...

Anyway, thanks for the advices!

Edmonton, Canada
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3,934 posts
57 reviews
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3. Re: Banff in 2 days

as i respond...it is SNOWING/HAILING again in edmonton. you are better off planning on skiiing then hiking. however, the walk from town down to the bow falls is not exciting but it is a pleasant walk. check into if the hike up to the gondola is open. you can hike up and gondola down. a very nice way to spend a few hours is go to the spa at the hot springs...90 minute massage and then soak in the hot springs while you enjoy the view. johnson's canyon is another easy walk to do. as mentioned, most higher altitude hikes will still be closed.

lost in Ohio
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2,278 posts
3 reviews
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4. Re: Banff in 2 days

Expect to drive in the region in May. There are some short walks from some of the trailheads. but more than that is probably not going to work weather wise.

Stop at the Banff Visitor Center and see what is clear.

Drive to YOHO, especially if the road is open to Takkakaw Falls. drive the Icefields Parkway as far as Bow Summit. Going furher (as far as the Icefields may be more time than you have, if you want to get a view for the whole area.) Get out and walk at least two or three times away from the road. Go to Num Ti Jah and buy a souvenir.

Banff, Canada
Destination Expert
for Banff, Lake Louise
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2,992 posts
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5. Re: Banff in 2 days

With only two days at this time of year, and such limited time, I would recommend a few things. You have only 2 days. One day for Banff and the Banff Area. One day for Lake Louise and the Lake Louise area. Realistically, you have no time for a hike and only time for short walks if you want to see just the basics of the area. The Banff Gondola is a must-see and you can enjoy a short walk on the summit. In Banff, the Lake Minnewanks Loop drive will be perfect for a visitor with limited time. There are many fantastic places with views that you can drive to and explore, with the option of a couple short walks. In Lake Louise area, if you have time take a drive to Emerald Lake. This will probably be the only lake without ice on it in the area. No swimming, I'm afraid! Enjoy the Banff Upper Hot Springs instead late in the evening to finish up a great day in Banff.


6. Re: Banff in 2 days

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