Banff 3 Days In
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3 Days in Banff: Perfect Banff Itinerary For First-Time Visitors

Banff, Canada

by Coco Tran On September 10, 2023

Banff 3 Days In

Lake Louise, Banff

Banff National Park, home of Canada’s first national park, is one of the most visited destinations in Canada. It’s home to stunning mountain landscapes, crystal clear turquoise lakes, and abundant wildlife.

If you’re planning a trip to Banff and have 3 days to spare, I have the perfect 3 days in Banff that will take you to see all the highlights that Banff National Park has to offer. Let’s start!

Looking for the perfect three-day Itinerary for Banff? I’ve got three days for you to see all the highlights and must-see spots in a quick and efficient itinerary. Looking for a what to do in Banff, where to stay, what to eat? See my curated Banff travel guide.

Banff 3 Days In

3 Days in Banff: Perfect Banff Itinerary

Day 1 banff itinerary: Explore Banff Town

Morning banff itinerary: Explore Banff Town

Once you arrive, pick up your rental car at Calgary Airport (YYC). Your Canadian Rockies itinerary officially begins! On your first day in Banff, take some time to explore the town. Start your day with a coffee and pastry at Wild Flour Bakery or with breakfast at Tooloulou’s, a Cajun-inspired restaurant that serves up delicious dishes such as eggs Benedict and beignets. Take a stroll down Banff Avenue. This charming street is lined with more boutique shops making it the perfect place to explore and get a feel for the town! The town is cute and the architecture is reminiscent of a European alpine village.

3 days in banff

Afternoon: Day 1 in banff itinerary

Next, head to Vermilion Lakes to enjoy a picnic lunch by the water. Then, visit the Cave and Basin National Historic Site or take a Hike to Johnston Canyon and hike the Upper or lower falls to see the beautiful cascading waterfalls. If you prefer to do something less strenuous, you can take the Banff Gondola up to Sulphur Mountain for panoramic views of the surrounding mountains.

Evening: Day 1 in banff itinerary– Soak in Banff Upper Hot Springs

Finish off your day with a relaxing soak in the natural mineral water of Banff Upper Hot Springs It’s only $10 for entrance and you can stay as long as you like. They are open until 10 pm. Then end your day with dinner at The Bison Restaurant, a farm-to-table restaurant that serves up delicious Alberta beef and other local specialties. Or if you want to try out something unique and fun, try out the Grizzly House restaurant!

3 days in banff

Day 2 banff itinerary

Explore The Lakes in Banff National Park

Morning: Day 2 Banff– Explore Lake Moraine

Start your day with a visit to Moraine Lake for sunrise, one of the most picturesque lakes in the world. Watch the alpenglow paint the surrounding mountains with a warm, golden hue, and marvel at the lake’s turquoise waters. The brilliant blue water is set against a backdrop of towering mountains After taking in the views, hike the nearby trails for a closer look at the lake.

Afternoon: Day 2 in Banff – Canoe Lake Louise & Hike Lake Agnes Tea House

Next, head to Lake Louise for a canoe experience on the lake. Paddle through the clear waters and marvel at the towering glaciers and snow-capped peaks in the distance! It costs $145 per hour for 2 people. After, enjoy a picnic lunch by the lake or enjoy afternoon tea & lunch at the Fairmont Banff Lake Louise (make reservations in advance!). Finish the afternoon with an easy 3-mile hike to Lake Agnes Tea House.

Read: curated Banff Travel Guide

Evening: Day 2 in Banff– Banff Town for Dinner

In the evening, head to Banff Avenue for a delicious dinner at one of the many restaurants

My List of Recommended Restaurants and Curated Banff Travel Guide!

Day 3 banff itinerary

Drive the Icefield Parkway

Day 3 – All Day: Drive the Icefields Parkway

On your final day, set out on a scenic drive along Trans Canada Highway, the Icefields Parkway. This 144-mile route is renowned for its stunning mountain vistas, cascading waterfalls, and impressive glaciers. You can go to Bow Valley Parkway and all the way to Jasper National Park.

Athabasca Glacier

The highlight of the drive is the Columbia Icefield, a massive sheet of ice that stretches over 200 square kilometers. Take a tour on the Athabasca Glacier, where you can walk on the ice and learn about the history and geology of the glacier. It’s an unforgettable experience that you won’t want to miss.

See my must-stop spots along Icefields Parkway.

3 days in banff

Evening: End your trip by heading back to Banff

and enjoy your last meal before you get ready to go back home. Hopefully with your bellies and hearts full. You’ll come back inspired. Hopefully, you’ll come back and see Banff during a different season!

Tips for Visiting Banff

Rise Early: Waking up early to make the most of your time in Banff is crucial! Especially if you are visiting Lake Moraine and Lake Louise. If you don’t want to deal with traffic and restrictive parking (since personal vehicles are no longer allowed on Moraine Lake) Book a Parks Canada shuttle (advance reservations required) or sunrise tour!

Carry Bear Spray: If you are planning to hike, you absolutely need to have a can of bear spray. It’s better to be overprepared or go with a group that will carry bear spray.

Purchase your Canada National Parks Pass: Instead of paying for a day pass each day, avoid the lines and pre-purchase multiple days on one trip! Or you can purchase the early pass ahead of time online.

Get International Data: Or get a handy pocket wifi and you can share your 5G service with up to 10 other persons!


Frequently Asked Questions about 3 Day Banff Itinerary

Yes, 3 days in Banff can give you a good introduction to the area and allow you to see some of the highlights. However, it ultimately depends on your travel style and interests.

If you’re interested in hiking, there are many trails to explore, ranging from easy strolls to challenging hikes. You could spend all three days hiking and still not see everything. Alternatively, if you’re more interested in sightseeing, you could spend time driving the scenic highways and exploring the town of Banff itself.

Some popular attractions that you might consider visiting during a three-day trip to Banff include Lake Louise, Moraine Lake, Johnston Canyon, the Banff Gondola, and the Banff Hot Springs.

Overall, while three days isn’t a lot of time, it’s enough to see many of the top sights and experience some of the best outdoor activities that Banff has to offer.

Yes, carrying bear spray is highly recommended when visiting Banff National Park, as it is a wilderness area with a large population of bears. While bear attacks are rare, it’s important to be prepared in case you encounter one.

  • AAA Alberta Beef
  • Poutine
  • Maple Syrup
  • Bison & Elk.
  • London Fog.

The best time to visit Banff National Park largely depends on what you want to do and see. Here are some things to consider when planning your trip:

  1. Summer (June-August): This is the busiest time of year in Banff, with warm weather, long days, and many outdoor activities available. Hiking, wildlife viewing, and water activities are popular in the summer months. However, expect crowds and higher prices.
  2. Fall (September-November): Fall is a great time to visit Banff, with fewer crowds and beautiful fall foliage. It’s also a good time for wildlife viewing, as animals are more active before winter sets in. However, some attractions may begin to close in the fall.
  3. Winter (December-February): Winter is peak skiing and snowboarding season in Banff, with world-class ski resorts and snow-covered landscapes. The town of Banff is also beautifully decorated for the holidays. However, winter temperatures can be extremely cold, and some activities may be weather-dependent.
  4. Spring (March-May): Spring can be a quieter time to visit Banff, with fewer crowds and milder temperatures. Skiing is still an option in the early spring, and as the snow melts, waterfalls and wildflowers begin to emerge. However, some attractions may still be closed due to snow and ice.

The closest airport to Banff is the Calgary International Airport (YYC), located approximately 140 km (87 miles) east of Banff. Many major airlines offer flights to Calgary from cities across Canada, the United States, and other international destinations.

a minimum of 2-3 days is recommended to see the main sights and experience some of the popular activities in Banff. This should allow you to visit iconic locations like Lake Louise, Moraine Lake, and the Banff Gondola, and also have time for hiking, scenic drives, and soaking in the hot springs.

If you have more time, you can explore further afield and visit nearby attractions like Jasper National Park, Yoho National Park, and Kananaskis Country. You could easily spend a week or more in Banff and still not see everything the area has to offer.

Having a car in Banff can be helpful for getting around, especially if you want to explore the surrounding area or visit attractions that are further away from the town of Banff. However, it is not strictly necessary, as there are other transportation options available.

Here are some things to consider when deciding whether to rent a car in Banff:

  1. Public transportation: Banff and the surrounding area are served by a public transportation system called Roam Transit, which offers bus service throughout the town of Banff, to Lake Louise, and to Canmore. This can be a convenient and affordable option if you don’t want to rent a car.
  2. Tours: There are many tour operators in Banff that offer guided tours to popular attractions like Lake Louise, Moraine Lake, and the Columbia Icefield. This can be a good option if you prefer not to drive or want to learn more about the area from a knowledgeable guide.
  3. Parking: If you do decide to rent a car, be aware that parking can be limited in some areas, especially during peak season. Some popular attractions, such as Lake Louise, have large parking lots that can fill up quickly.

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