Banff is one of my favourite travel destinations so far. Since travelling to Banff can be costly, you don’t want to waste any time or money on your trip. I have compiled some top mistakes to avoid when travelling to Banff. I wish I had known some of these before visiting Banff!
Top Mistakes to Avoid in Banff
1) Not having your own car
When visiting Banff, it is important to keep in mind that many major sights and trailheads are at least a 1hr drive from Banff Town. A car is definitely needed to do day trips in order to save time and see everything the Banff area has to offer including Canmore, Yoho National Park, Lake Louise, Morraine Lake, Kananaskis Country and more. You can still visit Banff without a car, you will just end up at more touristy, busy sites, have less freedom and see less overall. You will avoid large crowds by having the flexibility to travel outside of peak hours. For example, without a car you would miss stunning views of Lake Morraine since you need to wake up at approx 4:30am to snag a parking spot!
2) Not bringing a first aid kit on hikes
Not having a first aid kit seems like a no brainer, but you would be surprised how many people forget to pack one before embarking on a hike in Banff. I was one of those people during my recent hike up Larch Valley and Sentinel Pass. My sister had a freak accident on the way down from the challenging snow covered pass that resulted in stitches in the ER. At the time of the accident, we had no first aid kit and my sister had a considerably large wound on her ankle. Luckily some strangers came to our help with the essential first aid equipment and we were able to bandage her well enough so she could hobble 6.5km back downhill. Without the first aid supplies, we would have been in trouble. Even if a hike is easy and considerably safe, you never know what can happen in the mountains so it’s important to be prepared. I recommend packing a basic first aid kit which includes bandages, gauze, disinfectant, tape, and steri-strips.
3) Not Packing Bear Spray on a Hike
This is another must-have when hiking in Banff. Although bear encounters are rare, there is still a real possibility of coming in contact with a bear especially during a remote hike. In order to protect yourself, alway hike with a bear spray. It is a great deterrent in the unlikely event you come in touch with a bear. Some trails also recommend travelling in groups of 2-4.
Having bear spray on you will give you peace of mind. Again, I was unprepared and did not pack bear spray on hikes and was constantly walking with some fear of a bear or cub popping out in front of me on the trail.
It may be a challenge to fly with bear spray, so you can ask your hotel if they can lend you some, or buy spray in Banff at approx $50 a can.
3) Getting up too late
You risk missing out on some pretty incredible views if you sleep in while visiting Banff! Planning on visiting the iconic turquoise blue Morraine Lake? Be prepared to get up at 4:30am if you want a parking spot by 6am. If not you are out of luck! I once drove past the parking lot at 8am and it was already closed.
Same goes for Lake Louise. You may be able to risk getting to the parking lot a bit later, but it is a gamble and potential waste of time. It also becomes busy with tourists quickly on the surrounding hiking trails and canoe rentals.
Waking up at 5am or earlier during a holiday is not fun but it’s worth the spectacular views and experience. Bring your coffee and breakfast to go and sit back and enjoy the views! The mountains are invigorating, once you arrive I guarantee you won’t even feel tired.
5) Parking in the wrong places and not having a Banff pass.
Did you know that parking in Banff costs approx $20/day with a pass? You can risk not buying one but may incur a fine. This is something I managed to avoid while staying in Banff but I don’t recommend taking the risk. You can purchase a parking pass at the entrance to Banff Town.
Another tip is to watch for parking if visiting the Fairmont Banff Springs. I parked in what I thought was parking for visitors and realized after that I had to pay for parking or incur a fine. You can avoid this by parking on the street for free just around the corner from the hotel entrance.
6) Not giving yourself enough days in Banff
There is just so much to see and do that not spending enough time in Banff is definitely a big mistake! Check out my 5 day itinerary in Banff, which in my opinion was the perfect amount of time to explore the area. You can stop in for a shorter visit but you will most likely leave wanting to see more!
What were some mistakes you have made when travelling to Banff? Let us know in the comments below!