Everyone has asked me how we enjoyed our 10-day Canadian vacation and I immediately say that it was the best trip we’ve taken together. When you’ve been together for 13 years, that is a pretty strong statement. It is no exaggeration though as this area of the world was magical and every turn in the road and hike left us in awe. I am going to do a thorough, detailed recap of our trip but I want to balance the number of travel posts I do with my regular content. Since there are a few readers who have emailed me requesting our itinerary in preparation for Labor Day and September vacations, here is a brief itinerary of our trip. As always, I am available to answer questions via email, comments or social media. There are a few things to keep in mind when reviewing our itinerary:
- We did not book this trip until early June which meant that many of the smaller bed and breakfast or inns were fully booked and most of our hotels only had availability for one to two nights, hence the frequent change of location.
- Since the smaller inns were booked, in some cases the Fairmont was the only option available which in the end, worked far better than expected. We were able to leverage Expedia and/or American Express points to reduce the cost and the level of service we experienced from their staff was incredible!
- We enjoy active vacations.
- We always allowed time when traveling between two towns for stops and explorations. If Google Maps predicted it would take two hours, we gave ourselves three hours because sometimes randoms stops at roadside waterfalls or streams ended up being the most fun part of the day.
- We were very lucky with the weather as it only rained twice during the trip and the average morning temperature was 40 degrees and the afternoon high was around 70 degrees.
- While I did reach out to a few of the tour groups we used in advance, we did not receive any compensation or discounts from companies. This is not a sponsored post.
Day 1 – Travel Day – We booked the Newark – Minneapolis – Calgary flight on Delta and were very pleased with the itinerary as it left mid-afternoon on Friday and landed in Calgary at 9:30pm. We stayed at the Fairmont Palliser in Calgary as it is a quick, 20-minute drive from the airport and we knew we’d be too exhausted to drive further. We chose this hotel on Expedia due to their inexpensive weekend rate as well as the opportunity to use Expedia points towards the cost.
Day 2 – After grabbing breakfast and coffee at Philosafy Coffee in Calgary, we spent the entire day driving from Calgary to Jasper, enjoying a few stops along the Icefields Parkway including a 2-hour hike. We stayed at Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge and dined the first night at the Moose’s Nook Chophouse which was one of our favorite meals of the trip! Even if you don’t stay at the Jasper Park Lodge, come over to enjoy the sunset along the lake and dine there afterwards!
Day 3 – We spent this day enjoying two hikes – Edge of the World Hike and Maligne Canyon. At Maligne Canyon we enjoyed exploring different trails and ended up hiking more than 7 miles by the time we rejoined the original trail. We stayed at Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge again that night and enjoyed s’mores along the lake while watching the sunset after a delicious, relaxed dinner on their terrace.
Day 4 – We enjoyed a sunrise walk and leisurely breakfast before checking out of our hotel and heading towards Canmore. Along Icefields Parkway we stopped at the Athabasca Glacier where we spent three hours hiking the massive glacier. We booked the Ice Cubed tour in advance and highly recommend it! It is informative and far more enjoyable than merely experiencing the glacier from a large bus! The tour is offered three times per day but this mid-day tour option worked well for us as it allowed us time to have a leisurely morning and still get to our Airbnb in Canmore early enough to relax and shower before our dinner at Crazyweed!
Day 5 – Since the meteorologists were forecasting rain for the remainder of the week, we updated our itinerary to do our longest hike of the trip at Lake Louise, on the prettiest day. We picked up breakfast and a sandwich to go from The Summit Cafe before heading to Lake Louise to embark on a day of hiking. We did the Tea House Challenge which combines two popular hikes – Six Glaciers and Big Beehive hikes to create one, 6 hour hike which included two tea houses, a lunch stop and scrambling rocks. It was an incredible hike which covered more than 14 miles.
Day 6 – We relaxed the next day, exhausted from the previous day’s hike. After checking out of our Airbnb we enjoyed breakfast in Banff at Wild Flour Cafe. Their frittata egg sandwich may be my new favorite breakfast sandwich, especially when paired with their large cappuccino. We leisurely explored the town of Banff and did some shopping at the Farmer’s Market which is in the middle of town every Wednesday. We headed towards are hotel, Fairmont Cheateau Lake Louise at 1pm in time for a late lunch along the lake. After lunch we returned to the trail for a relaxed, 5k along the lake before spending an hour canoeing on the cerulean lake, as this was included in our room rate. Based on the concierge’s recommendation, we headed down the road to Moraine Lake for our own little lakeside happy hour complete with wine, cheese and dried meats we picked up at store in Canmore. This is also when we had our bear sighting, which he predicted as he said the traffic is stopped at least once along that road for bears or other wildlife.
Day 7 – We woke up at 5:30 for the sunrise canoe trip we booked in advance of the trip. Unfortunately they didn’t allow cancellations for overcast weather, so we spent an hour laughing and talking on the water together even though the clouds made the experience far less picturesque than expected. By 9:30 we were at Mt. Norquay Ski Area, near Banff, for a 4-hour Via Ferrata adventure. Via Ferrata is an assisted climbing adventure which allows you to climb ladders, suspension bridges, and cliffs while seeing Banff from a whole different perspective. The entire experience was thrilling and safely put me outside of my comfort zone! We checked into our next hotel, Fairmont Banff Springs before spending an afternoon at the spa since afternoon thunderstorms derailed our hike. Their spa, Willow Stream receives high accolades each year, including top spa in Canada, so this was the perfect place for us to rest and rejuvenate after a busy few days. If you don’t want to have a spa treatment but want to enjoy their mineral baths, pools, saunas and indoor and outdoor hot tubs you can pay an entrance fee to enjoy it for the entire day. We took advantage of their complimentary tennis lessons that evening, spending two hours going through drills and matches in the evening sunshine with five other guests.
Day 8 – We headed to the Kicking Horse River for a morning of white water rafting with Hydra Rafting. The 20 kilometer rafting trip was 2-hours and began calmly before taking us through lots of class IV rapids! We had a blast and really liked the group as well as the delicious burgers they served for lunch following the rafting trip. We returned to our hotel just in time to enjoy high tea overlooking the river and enjoying dinner at 1888 Chop House – one of our favorite meals of the trip.
Day 9 – We slept in quite late on our final day of vacation before enjoying a hike around Banff and the nearby waterfalls as well as one last leisurely breakfast. We headed back to Calgary and stayed at Hotel Le Germain where we snagged a room for less than $90 USD! Their concierge recommended a nearby sushi restaurant, Ki Modern, where we were able to eat outside and enjoy the Tragically Hip concert which was being broadcast at every nearby bar as well as on two shutdown streets. (Don’t know who Tragically Hip is? Neither did we until we read this Rolling Stone article.)
Day 10 – Travel Day – I recommend booking an early flight as it minimizes the delay potentials and allows you to have some time at home on Sunday to prepare for the week.
Your turn: Any specific questions you have? Otherwise, the next post will be dedicated to what we packed and wore during the ten day trip!