RVing in Banff National Park
Last month we took our 23-foot Winnebago View to Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada, and it was truly amazing! I'll start by sharing tips for bringing your RV and then get into all the fun things there are to do in Banff.
RVing in Banff
This was the first trip where we did not tow a car, but instead just had our RV. It was the perfect setup for it since Banff is an RVers paradise. They have RV parking all over town, and also a variety of public transportation options -- most of them are free or very reasonable.
Granted, having a smaller RV helped make it even easier because we could drive and park at trailheads and in all the RV parking lots. If you prefer not to take public transportation, keep in mind that parking and getting around may be more challenging in a larger RV.
We stayed at the full-hookup Trailer Court RV park in Banff National Park. The park was very clean and easy to get in and out of. Right outside the entrance is a bus stop that runs every 20 minutes into downtown Banff. The ride down is FREE! The ride back costs $2 a person, or if you are in good shape you can take the 30-minute walk back to the campground. But note this is uphill the whole way. It isn't an easy walk, especially if you've been busy walking around town all day.
Working at our campsite (Trailer Court) in Banff National Park.
Once you get into downtown, you can get off the bus and explore the area or jump on one of the other buses that will take you to hiking trailheads or places like Lake Minnewanka. The best thing to do right when you get to the park is go to the Banff Visitor Center (located on Banff Ave.) to get a bus schedule and ask them any questions that you have.
Now that you know how to get around Banff, let me share what we recommend doing while you are there.
1. Banff Gondola
To be honest, I initially thought this was over-priced for just going on a cool Gondola ride. But, I was wrong. The Gondola ride up is beautiful and amazing, but there is much more to enjoy once at the top. There is a hike out to the summit of the mountain. It does take you up a bit, but it is on a nice boardwalk with stairs, so really anyone could do it.
After making the hike up you can return to the Gondola station where you can have a nice sit-down dinner if you would like. Or you could head to the cafeteria-style restaurant to grab a beer or a glass of wine and look out over the amazing view.
Having a snack at the top of the mountain.
They also have a small museum area and a movie that you can watch. Plus, of course, a gift shop. We ended up spending about two hours up there and I was sad when we had to leave! It was so amazing to be up high taking in the views and fresh mountain air, and then being able to sit comfortably and enjoy a snack and a drink.
If you go to Banff, do the Gondola!
2. Banff Hot Springs
Yes, it is busy, but it is one of those places that you have to experience when you are in Banff. It is basically a swimming pool sized hot tub where you can sit in the water and look out over the mountains. It is an experience.
3. Cave and Basin Historic Site
Visit the place where the Canada National Park system began! This is where one of the original hot springs was located, but is no longer open to the public due to invasive species being in the water. However, it is still worth a visit.
There is a nice museum where you can learn about the history of the park and walk into the cave where the original explorers found the hot springs. Plus, you can check out the awesome water color of the basin. Seriously, it looks like someone put food coloring in the water.
If you are looking for a nice flat hike, there is a trail behind the Cave and Basin buildings that is paved and runs along the water for a while and then through the forest. It is a popular bike trail and also where we saw a big black bear! Be aware if you go hiking and always have bear spray with you.
4. Tunnel Mountain Hike
Top of Tunnel Mountain.
If you are looking to hike up, then Tunnel Mountain is the perfect downtown Banff hike. It is a super popular trail that was full of hikers of every skill level.
You hike up the mountain in a variety of switch backs, so it is no easy hike. But once you get to the top, the view of Banff is amazing and the hike down is a whole lot easier and faster!
5. Banff Lake Cruise
Want to get out on that amazing colored water? The Banff Lake Cruise on Lake Minnenwanka is a great option. The boat is totally covered, so even if the weather is cool, you will still enjoy the cruise. You can also go out on the back deck area of the boat for an even more amazing experience, so be sure to bring layers for that.
There is a tour guide that tells you the history of the area and shares some amusing stories as well. It is a great way to get on the water and learn about the area.
6. Peyto Lake
Parking with the smaller RV was no problem here. With a larger one, you may have to look into where the tour buses park. But it is worth it.
You take a short 10-minute hike up to the overlook and WOW! The color of this lake with the mountains in the back makes it seem like you are looking at a picture and that it can't be real!
7. Glacier Adventure
Want to stand on a glacier?! This is how you do it. With Brewster Canada's Glacier Adventure you take a tour bus out to the truck terminal and then get on a huge Ice Explorer truck that takes you out to the Glacier. Getting to the glacier is definitely part of the adventure.
Once there, you get 20 minutes to head out and explore the glacier. There is a roped-off area that the crew has checked for safety, so be sure to stay in this area. We saw some not-so-smart people exploring outside the roped area -- we definitely don't recommend that!
Glacier Ice Explorer Truck.
Instead, enjoy your time in the safe zone and touch the fresh glacier water and scoop a handful for a refreshing drink too! Take a few fun pictures and selfies on a glacier. Then stop to just take in the beauty and think about the fact that you are standing on a glacier!
8. Glacier Skywalk
As part of the Glacier Adventure you can buy a dual ticket that also takes you to the Glacier Skywalk. Here you walk out on a platform with a glass bottom out over the edge of a mountain. Yes, it is a little scary, but also really cool!
They also have a variety of facts and ranger talks, so you could spend some time here reading the signs and listening to the talks.
9. Continue Exploring Outside of Banff
There are so many amazing locations just outside of Banff. You can continue north on the Icefields Parkway to Jasper National Park or you could head to Lake Louise, YOHO National Park, or Radium Springs. But each of those deserve their own blog post, so more on that later!
Cheers from downtown Banff.
Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada is an amazing place and really is an RVers dream, so plan your trip there now!