Home » How To Choose the Best Resort for Your Visit to Banff

How To Choose the Best Resort for Your Visit to Banff

by Trevor Holewinski

Banff National Park is a name that outdoors people and nature lovers worldwide know. The park is one of the most pristine and beautiful on the planet and a destination escape that gets you up close and personal with exquisite natural beauty. In this portal of otherworldly beauty, crystal-clear glacial lakes kiss the stony feet of immense, snow-speckled mountains. Banff is part of the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks UNESCO World Heritage Site and, as such, is maintained in incredible condition all year round. You can visit the park in spring and summer to go rock climbing, bird-watching, and trail riding, or in the winter to immerse yourself in a romantic white wonderland that just gets lovelier every day.

1. Location and Accessibility

Banff National Park is located in southwestern Alberta, Canada. It occupies 2,564 square miles (6,641 square km) of the eastern slopes of the Canadian Rocky Mountains and runs the border with British Columbia. Coming to Banff offers adventure games and pristine scenery.

If you arrive by car in the summer, getting to Banff and the surrounding resorts is no problem. The roads are well-maintained, and signposts make it easy to find where you need to be.

Ensure your vehicle has a spare tire, water, snacks, and a first aid kit. If you are flying in via commercial or private airline, the closest airport you’ll be able to land at will be the Calgary International Airport, which is a two-hour drive from the park. Traveling into Banff in winter can be a little more challenging by road, as the snow falls hard in this area. Snow chains/tires are required by law on several park-adjacent roads and are advisable for safety.

If you are a wheelchair user or a physically challenged visitor, you’ll need to stick to some of the shorter Banff Park trails, such as the Banff Legacy Trail, Lake Louise Lakeshore, and Bow River Trail. All of the hotels on our list of favorites are wheelchair accessible.

2. Resort Accommodations and Facilities

For many people, visiting Banff means traveling a great distance and staying in the area for up to weeks or months at a time. While camping in the park is permitted within certain areas, longer stays will be far more comfortable if you choose a resort nearby and rest your head on a soft, comfortable pillow every night. Given the gorgeous setting that Banff offers, the tourist trade is booming, which means that accommodation options abound. If you book far enough in advance, you can choose the most luxurious or spartan accommodation near the park:

Fairmont Banff Springs

This resort is world famous, and for good reason. Styled after a Scottish castle (called Canada’s “Castle in the Rockies”), it is for those who enjoy stately surroundings and the finer things in life.

Since 1888, this exquisite hotel has welcomed visitors to the area and provided spectacular hospitality. Here, you can play 27 holes of golf on an award-winning course, enjoy an incredible spa, and enjoy several dining options.

Rimrock Resort Hotel

Treat yourself to fine dining and a luxury spa at the Rimrock. There are several packages to suit different pockets and needs, and the views from this resort are spectacular — imagine the views from the hotel in “The Shining” (without the supernatural terror factor). Enjoy picturesque window views of the surrounding mountains while you’re cuddled up by the fire in your private room. Treat yourself to a massage or an invigorating kayak trip on the river.

Sunshine Mountain Lodge

This location is undoubtedly one of the best-kept secrets in the Rockies. The service you’ll receive at this resort will require you to check your calendar for the following available holiday dates to do it all over again. The deliciously warm hot tub (the largest anywhere in Banff) will be waiting to soothe your muscles after a gym or yoga class session. Since Sunshine Mountain Lodge is located in the heart of Sunshine Village Ski & Snowboard Resort, you can be the first on the ski slopes daily.

Banff Park Lodge Resort Hotel & Conference Centre

This is the place to be if you’re looking for simple but comfortable accommodation. After a long day on the slopes, take a leisurely steam and enjoy hotel-wide Wi-Fi. Take the family down to the indoor pool complex to blow off a little steam, or take it easy and sip on a delicious drink at one of the three on-site dining locations.

Scenic Views and Natural Surroundings

All of the hotels and chalets near Banff National Park have access to an incredible array of natural beauty and stunning scenery, most of which can be experienced as close up as you like.

If you’re here for the skiing, you’ll want to select one of the hotels or chalets on the list with private ski slopes or nearby common ones, and be warned- the ski traffic can become heavy during peak skiing season. The top-rated ski resorts (overall) in the Banff area are as follows:

  • Mount Norquay
  • Lake Louise
  • Sunshine Village
  • Nakiska

If you prefer taking in the views to swooshing down the slopes, there are plenty of those; the mountains you’ll see around Banff and the park are the following:

Sulphur Mountain

Elevation: 2,451 m (8,041 ft). At the summit, you’ll find a stunning boardwalk for sightseers and a lovely restaurant for meals or coffee. If you have enough energy to hike for two hours to the summit, you can use the gondola for the ride down free of charge.

Mount Rundle

Elevation: 2,948 m (9,672 ft). Though it’s imposing in size, scrambling up this mountain in the summer is something every athletic visitor should try.

Cascade Mountain

Elevation: 2,998 m (9,836 ft). If you’re thinking of hiking this behemoth, be forewarned- it’ll take a slicked hiker at least 8 hours round trip. This is not an easy hike, but the views of Cascade Mountain from many places in Banff are stunning.

Tunnel Mountain

Elevation: 1,692 m (5,551 ft). Tunnel Mountain’s relatively low slopes and summit offer the best view of Bow River.

Mount Norquay

Elevation: 2,133 m (6,998 ft). This mountain is unmissable as it was one of the very first mountains in Canada (second, to be precise) to have an operable ski lift.

During the summer months, you’ll experience seemingly endless, verdant green forests and crystal clear waters, and in the winter, you’ll be treated to scenes so grand and charming that you’ll think they were plucked right out of picture books and snowglobes.

4. Outdoor Recreation and Adventure

Adventure is the name of the game in Banff. Each of the accommodation options we listed as some of our favorites has in-house or outsourced adventure options that will entertain and enthrall even the toughest customers.

While some of the adventure activities are beginner-friendly, others are only for experts and may not be safe to attempt with the family in tow. Be sure to ask before you book your adventure. Experiences you can expect to find around Banff Park and its many lovely resorts include:

  • Hiking, walking, biking, or running. From flat paths along waterways to mountain scrambles or runs, there are many foot-focused activities for you to enjoy during the summer months. Only experienced professionals or experts should attempt these activities in winter, and never alone.
  • Rafting or paddling. The most beautiful way to experience water in Banff is to get up close in a raft, kayak, canoe, or paddleboard.
  • Mountaineering, rock climbing, caving, and canyoning. Both beginners and seasoned climbers will find stimulating experiences waiting for them on the spectacular rock features of Banff National Park. Rappel, explore, and summit your way to an unforgettable Banff experience.
  • Horseback experiences. Don’t feel like doing the hard work yourself? Book a horseback ride instead! Spend time with well-trained animals led by seasoned trail experts and take in the sights at the same time.
  • Golfing: The best golfing in Banff can be found at one of our favorite hotels — The Fairmont. Built with 18 holes in 1928 by masked golf course architect Stanly Thompson, it now has a whopping 27 holes and is the perfect place to enjoy a bit of low-impact summer recreation.

Family-Friendly Accommodation

If you’re traveling with your family, there are some hotels that you’ll want to know about. These locations go over and above the call of duty to ensure that families staying with them feel that their children are kept safe and catered to. Our favorites are:

  • Fairmont Banff Springs: The children’s program Kids @ The Castle offers signature experiences for our young, intrepid explorers from ages three to twelve. For the whole family, there is geocaching, bingo nights, creative nights, castle-wide treasure hunts, and trivia.
  • Moose Hotel and Suites: This hotel is not only kid-friendly, with an exciting indoor and outdoor pool and a family-friendly restaurant, but it’s also fur-kid-friendly. Bring your (well-trained) pets along.
  • Hotel Canoe and Suites: Another child and fur-child-friendly location, Canoe is a cozy home away from home. Take the kids on a fat bike ride or go skating on the frozen lake and then relax together by the fire in your room.

Dining Options and Culinary Experience

Each hotel on our list of favorites has a selection of stunning dining experiences.

Fairmont Banff Springs

Here, you will find The Chop House (fine dining), Waldhaus Restaurant (German-inspired cuisine), The Vermilion Room (French brasserie), and Afternoon Tea at the Rundle Bar and Grapes (charcuterie and wine).

Rimrock Resort Hotel

This hotel includes Eden (French multi-course cuisine), Larkspur Lounge (casual cuisine and drinks), Primrose (Canadian cuisine), Divas (sports bar), and Rimrock Cafe (pastries and sandwiches).

Sunshine Village

Known as a venture resort, not just a hotel, Sunshine Village has a Java Station, Creekside Bar and Grill, Mad Trappers Pub, The Coco Lab, Nikko Ramen, The Alpine Grill, Lookout Lounge, Java Lift Coffee Bar, Eagle’s Nest Canadian Bistro, the Chimney Corner, Goat’s Eye Grill, and Beaver Tails.

Banff Park Lodge Resort Hotel & Conference Centre

Indulge in Crave Mountain Gill (grills), La Terrazza Italian Restaurant, Bluebird (steakhouse), and Terrace Lounge (apres ski).

Wellness and Relaxation

Fairmont Banff Springs

The Fairmont Spa is Banff’s premier spa and includes an indoor/outdoor oasis with a mineral pool, waterfall whirlpool, and a range of treatments.

Rimrock Resort Hotel

The Rimrock spa offers bespoke treatments and total body rejuvenation.

Sunshine Mountain Lodge

The Verde Day Spa offers incredible hot stone massage and so much more.

Banff Park Lodge Resort Hotel & Conference Centre

The Cedar Spa is not on-site but does offer special concessions to hotel guests.

Cost and Booking Considerations

Booking accommodation anywhere in Banff is best done well in advance. The competition is stiff for winter accommodation, especially at ski resorts, so booking as much as six months in advance is advisable. The average price for accommodation in Banff is $295 per night. On the high end, you can expect to pay around $435.

Guest Reviews

Need more proof that these are some of the best accommodations in Banff? Let past guests tell you.

Fairmont Banff Springs

Val L wrote, “Loved the location and view. Great room updates. The food was excellent and showed a true devotion to having multiple good restaurants on property.”

Rimrock Resort Hotel

Katie O wrote, “Our experience at The Rimrock was incredible! The literal and figurative warmth provided by such a beautiful place and the staff [made for] an idyllic setting to spend our honeymoon. The views from our room were breathtaking.”

Sunshine Mountain Lodge

Kristy Gagnon wrote, “[I] Love staying here with my son and any other family I can convince to join us. The place is picture perfect and not having to worry about getting up to drive in the AM is such a treat!”

Banff Park Lodge Resort Hotel & Conference Centre

Julie G wrote “Excellent stay. The staff are all friendly and courteous. Many amenities. The location is great. 5-minute walk to Banff Ave.”

Unbelievable Banff

Choosing a spot to stay when you visit stunning Banff is only one part of an incredible journey that you’ll want to take again and again. Are you ready to experience Banff?

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