This is a posting for a friend who is very familiar with Banff after many family trips to the area.

Activities to do in Banff/Lake Louise:

– Riverboarding on Kananastis River – very cool and different

– Via Ferrata – You can choose from a 2, 4, 5 or 6-hour options. 4 hours is perfect. Need to book ahead.

– You can hire a guide to take you on a guided ‘scramble’ – 4-5 people harnessed together for ‘bouldering’ and then an amazing hike. The guides also do things like ice climbing and more.

– Lake Louise is a must-see of course. Probably not worth waiting in line and paying $100 for a canoe ride. Another option is a hike to the tea house there.

– Lake Moraine. This is really a nightmare to get to as the parking lot is full by 6am. Suggest you have dinner at Lake Louise (maybe hike to the teahouse in the afternoon) and then after dinner head to Lake Moraine around 9pm (it will still be light). There will be a slight wait to get into the parking lot (only because people don’t realize there are more spots down below). This lets you see it without the crowds.

– White water rafting on the Kicking Horse- tons of hikes

– Skoki Lodge – very special place, It’s in the backcountry, but instead of camping you get a lodge! Must book well in advance

– If you are flying out of Calgary there is a place called Winsport right on the main highway heading back into Banff (30 minutes from the airport or so). They have bobsleighs with Canadian Olympic athletes as the pilots, a luge, zip lines, mini-golf, etc. Fun to do en route to the airport.


– Banff Block

– Balkan Greek

– Park

– Eddie’s Burger Bar

Some general tips/notes:-The Trail (by which I mean the road) is well-signed throughout and Parks Canada (the United States equivalent of the National Parks Service) does a great job aligning the map that they give you with the signs you’ll see for trails through the hike – there were so many more hikes I wish we’d had time to do!-You will have to pay an entry fee for the park – it was less than $20 USD for the day we spent in the park, and we bought our pass in Ingonish. We paid with a card, but it doesn’t hurt to have some Canadian money-The one time you will need Canadian money is for the bridge tolls around Halifax-Tourism infrastructure around the park (food, hotels, etc) isn’t quite as robust as the park infrastructure itself, so make sure to be careful about gas and food. Some of the gas stations close on the early side, as do the restaurants (more on this below)-I’d especially recommend this trip to people who love the cadence of visiting Iceland. Like Iceland, it’s almost impossible to get lost and the ring-road nature of the trip makes pulling over to see attractions, or detouring off road, incredibly easy. I also loved that we only needed to use a paper map, even though our car came with GPS!-For less weather-hardy travelers who aren’t making foliage a priority, I’d recommend going in the summertime when it’s less likely that you’ll have a freezing cold and rainy day-If you do make leaf peeping a priority, like we did, there is a big festival that happens in mid-October, so make sure to keep this in mind for availability of accommodations

Day 1Flew into Halifax.

My friends arrived in Halifax earlier in the day (from DC, with a layover in Philadelphia), and had great meals and drinks at Bar Kismet, Edna, and Good Robot Brewing. I got in from a work trip in Boston after dinner, and picked up the rental car at the airport. We stayed at an Airbnb over near the Public Gardens.

Day 2

Headed out of town and to Dartmouth, across the bridge. We had a delicious breakfast at Two if By Sea Cafe and picked up some snacks. We then headed East to the start of the Cabot Trail on Cape Bretton Island, an easy 3 hour drive from Halifax, and saw some good foliage along the way. Stopped for lunch and beer at Big Spruce Brewing in Baddeck, which had amazing salads and fish tacos and flights of beer. It was drizzling so we hung out there for awhile, in a heated room with live music and views of Bras D’Or Lake. We’d heard of a great little waterfall hike nearby, Uisag Ban Falls, but didn’t do it due to the weather. Continued to drive along the water, and even took a car ferry across a 200 foot-wide channel. Made a pit stop at the Dancing Moose Cafe for snacks right as it was closing, and then got into Ingonish around 4.That night we stayed at Salty Rose’s and the Periwinkle Cafe in Ingonish, the cutest bakery/shop with 3 rooms available to stay in (we booked through Airbnb). After walking around Ingonish Beach (which would’ve been lovely in slightly better weather) and the Keltic Lodge, we had dinner at Coastal Restaurant and Pub. Be warned that all the restaurants in and around Ingonish (except for the Keltic Lodge) close early and there are only a few of them, so make sure you show up with plenty of time.

Day 3

The day of many hikes! After an amazing breakfast at Salty Rose’s (included in the cost of our room) we hit the road for hours of stunning views including on a detour to White Point, Cabots Landing Provincial Park (the beach where explorer John Cabot first landed in Nova Scotia), and the amusingly-named Meat Cove. Both my friends thought Meat Cove was a highlight of the trip! There’s an awesome mile-long hike that takes you out to some bluffs looking back at the cove and the ocean, and a cat followed us most of the way up.Back on the trail, we stopped for lunch at Rusty Anchor, where we had some of the best lobster of the trip and incredible apple pie. It’s the main food spot on this part of the Trail, so it was packed when we were there. A few minutes later, we arrived at the Trail’s most famous hike, the Skyline Trail. Judging from the massive number of parking spots, it gets crazy in the summer. We’d been hoping to witness a beautiful sunset, but it was mostly cloudy. And moose mating season had caused a portion of the trail loop to be closed, so we ended up doing an out-and back. Still, the views were incredible and definitely gave us California Highway 1 vibes, despite being a totally different ocean.Out of the park, we drove through Cheticamp, which we heard has a lot of cute cafes and shops. But the little beach bungalow that we had booked was somewhat further down off the Trail, in Port Hood, so we kept driving. In hindsight, I’d recommend staying in Inverness, which had a little more going on than Port Hood did, and was closer to the Trail. We had dinner at the Clove Hitch Bar and Bistro, a few minutes from the Lighthouse Cottages where we stayed.

Day 4

Woke up to stunning views of the ocean right outside our cabin, and picked up some breakfast at a bakery nearby before retracing a bit from the day before. The foliage was particularly good along this stretch. I’d done some research on hikes in the area, and pulled off the road when i saw a sign for Sight Point and the MacKinnons Brook hikes I’d read about. Little did we know getting to these hikes would be 30 minutes down a bumpy dirt road, but it was well worth it for one of the most beautiful hikes I’d ever done. It was perfectly sunny, and the trail took us up a ridge with amazing views of the water and nearby canyons. Squint and you could have been in Malibu. I could have kept hiking there for hours, but we needed to start heading back toward Halifax.At Margaree Harbour, the Cabot Trail cuts inland. We stopped at the popular Dancing Goat Cafe (yes we went to both a Dancing Goat and a Dancing Moose) for coffee, delicious sandwiches and salads, and dessert. Post-lunch, we drove through the valley to where we’d started the trail a couple of days prior, and from there it was a straight shot back to Halifax. We did make one pitstop in Antigonish to buy some goodies at Peace By Chocolate, a chocolate shop run by Syrian refugees. Apparently Justin Trudeau gives their candy as gifts to foreign leaders! After getting to Halifax, we checked in to a hotel right near the Citadel and then headed to dinner on the harbor, at an Italian place called the Bicycle Thief. Although the service was slow, it was a delicious meal and the ambiance was amazing.

Day 5

In the morning, one friend and I went for a lovely run down to the waterfront, through some cute neighborhoods, and up to the Citadel. I hadn’t seen much of the city the first morning, so it was a good way to get a better feel for it. After a quick breakfast at the hotel, my friends dropped me off at the airport, then headed back to Dartmouth to explore for a few more hours before their flight.Despite a connection in Montreal, I was back in DC by mid-afternoon. All in all an amazing trip!

Flew SFO to Calgary, then drove up to arrive evening of Day 1. Beautiful drive. Stayed at Banff Caribou Lodge which was comfortable and had reasonable meal in on-site steakhouse. Prepared to head up to Sunshine to ski next morning.

Day 2 – Beautiful 25 minute drive up to base gondola at Sunshine which takes you up to the true base(another 20 minutes) .There are buses from Banff to Sunshine but we drove up for flexibility. Beautiful day skiing in mid-winter type conditions with phenomenal views. First time skiing there. Dinner at a good locals place for food, beer, and watching Warriors playoff game.

Day 3 – Drove out to Lake Louise. Took a quick look at the lake/Chateau but not much to see as it was raining and snowing. Drove across the valley to Lake Louise ski area for another good day of skiing. Five inches of powder in the morning was fun, but by noon we were in Spring conditions and powder was skied off. Went to Banff Springs hotel for dinner in one of their more casual restaurants. Food was pretty good and it was nice to see the old hotel which I had last seen in the 80’s. If visiting, try to park on the road in as parking is exorbitant, even if dining.

Day 4 – Back to Sunshine for another good morning of skiing and then drove back to Calgary.

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