Guest post by Karlee
Map tips: each color represents a different day. Click a marker to learn more about the spot, and click the star in the map header to save the entire map under Your Places in Google Maps.
This solo trip to Canada was for a friend’s wedding (destination wedding in the mountains), with a couple additional days added on to explore on my own.
Day 1 (Calgary to Canmore to Banff)
On my first full day, I drove my rental car from Calgary to Canmore, where I had an Airbnb reserved. I was more and more excited as the mountains continued to get closer while I drove. Once there, I had a few hours before I could check in, so I went to the downtown area in Canmore to relax.
I stopped in at Good Earth Cafe & Bakery for a delicious mocha and was able to get a seat outside in the patio area. The downtown area of Canmore is small enough to see mountains pretty much all around you and the view from the patio of the cafe was so beautiful, I just had to sit and look at it while drinking my drink. I highly recommend this coffee shop!
I checked in at my airbnb (a cute little private suite under a couple’s house) and then headed to downtown Banff for a dinner with my friend’s wedding party at the Elk & Oarsman Kitchen & Bar. This restaurant had a cool, outdoorsy feel (probably pretty standard in that area) and the food was pretty good (the Elk Burger was tasty). Downtown Banff is incredibly busy/touristy, so be prepared to find street parking and walk to where you’re going. That being said, it’s a very cool area, despite how crowded it was.
Day 2 (Downtown Banff)
I was in the mood for Chinese food, so a friend and I stopped in at Silver Dragon Restaurant, which I would not recommend. When you first get there, they make you write down your license plate number (so if you have a rental car, you have to go back outside to see what the number is) and their food is just not very good at all, especially for the price.
After my late lunch, it was time for my friend’s wedding – the ceremony took place at the Banff Park Gazebo. The location of the gazebo was in a pretty location that was close to downtown Banff. It was a bit loud during the ceremony though, with random people doing normal things close by within the rest of the park.
The reception was held on the top floor of Park Distillery Restaurant and Bar, which turned out to be an amazing venue for a wedding reception! The bartenders and waiters I interacted with were all from overseas (two from Australia, one from Scotland) and they were so nice and accommodating. One of the walls opened up to a large balcony that overlooked mountains and the street below. I would highly recommend this bar!
Day 3 (Banff to Jasper to Valemount, BC)
The next day of my trip mainly focused on the drive from Banff to Jasper on highway 93 and a couple of stops along the way. This drive, which goes through mountains the whole time, is absolutely breathtaking. It truly had the most beautiful views I’ve ever seen.
Along the way, I stopped to take a picture of Castle Mountain with Bow River below it. This stop is not one of the many sights listed as an attraction on the side of the highway, but it’s easy to find (get off highway 93 on Banff-Windermere Hwy and pull over on the side of the road before crossing the bridge for the best photo opportunity).
The Crossing Gas Station and Store is pretty much the only gas station you’ll come across easily on the trip, so I would recommend stopping here, if you don’t have a full tank (even though the store, gas pumps, and restaurants – one of which makes you cook your own food – are not very good).
About 30 minutes outside of Jasper, I stopped at Athabasca Falls, which is an absolute must-see on this drive. The main trail for the falls splits off a few ways so you’re able to see the falls from numerous angles and they’re all beautiful. This is a very good spot to get awesome pictures.
I continued my drive past Jasper to Valemount, BC to my next Airbnb reservation.
Day 4 (Valemount, BC)
My Airbnb was a small cottage on a hobby farm with dogs, chickens, a wild turkey, cats, a donkey, a llama, a miniature horse and a lovely view of mountains with a walking trail. The porch was also filled with hummingbirds coming and going from the feeder. I recommend this hobby farm to anyone who likes the peace of the country and mountains (as a country girl, this was a dream place for me).
The city of Valemount was small and not very touristy, which was a nice change from the areas I visited in Alberta. They have a lovely small coffee shop called the Gathering Tree Eatery & Gift Shop, which was busy, but so cozy.
Not far outside of Valemount is Mount Robson which offers numerous trails and great photo opportunities.
Very close to the Mount Robson guest center is a pull-off for Overlander Falls, which has a fun little hike to a great view of the falls.
Day 5 (Valemount to Jasper to Banff to Calgary)
I started my day off by stopping in downtown Jasper, which is very similar to downtown Banff, but the appeal of Jasper is all the hiking trails and beautiful views that I unfortunately didn’t have time to check out. In downtown Jasper, there’s a cute coffee shop/laundromat called SnowDome Coffee Bar (they make an awesome cup of coffee)!
Back on highway 93, my next stop was Mistaya Canyon, which is another must-see on the trip between Jasper and Banff. I only took a short part of the trail because of time constrictions, but next time I would plan more time for this stop.
Next was Peyto Lake – ah Peyto Lake – this is a breathtaking site. The hike up to the view is well kept, but would be tough for someone who has a hard time with hills. The viewpoint was extremely crowded, but I was able to get some lovely pictures of the astounding bright, teal-colored, water.
Shortly after Peyto Lake on highway 93 is Bow Lake, which is very close to the road, so it’s pretty accessible if you want to actually get close to the water.
Closer to Banff is Johnston Canyon. In the hiking area for this canyon, you can see the lower falls and then continue on to see the upper falls (a significantly longer hike). I was only able to see the lower falls and probably would have planned more time at this stop to continue onto the upper falls (I would plan maybe 3 hours if you want to hike to both). There’s also a gift shop and restaurant at the beginning of the trail, which is one of very few on highway 93.
After Johnston Canyon, I made my way back to the Calgary Airport to fly home to Cleveland.
Traveled in June 2017