What to see in Banff??
I drove from Calgary to Banff last August, and I have a couple tips for you. One thing I wasn't aware of prior to my trip - - Banff is a town within the boundaries of the National Park. Just past Canmore is the entrance to the Park, where you pay a daily fee for entrance. Since I was going to be there four days, I paid at that time for 4 days fees. (I think it was approximately $9 per day)
My first full day in Banff, I took two half day bus tours - - - to get a feel for the area and see where I would want to explore more on my own. The morning tour was the Banff area, the Hot Springs, Lake Minnewanka, and various points where you could stop and get good photos of the scenery.
Since I was doing the two tours, the tour company provided a complimentary lunch at the Spaghetti Factory - - and it was a FULL lunch, including dessert. Probably worth $15-20
The afternoon tour was to Lake Louise and Moraine Lake, which were about an hour north of Banff. At each of those stops, they dropped us off and said to be back at the bus in about an hour - - so we could explore a little on our own. The parking lots were so full, I was glad that the bus dropped us off (and I didn't have to seek a parking space).
So my second day, I took the Banff Gondola up to the mountaintop. From there, you could walk a boardwalk up to the next mountain and get some wonderful views.
My third day was totally on my own, based on what I had seen from the tours.
I didn't have the time to get up to Jasper. I wished I had more time in the Banff area.
Enjoy your trip! I have several fond memories of Banff.
One is the visitor lookout spot called "Surprise Corner". You walk up about 30 steps to a wooden deck area that's probably about 50 feet square, with built in benches around 2 sides. From the one side is the wonderful view of the huge Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel. I was introduced to this spot from the bus tour I had taken.
A couple days later, I returned to Surprise Corner, with my camera and a book. I took some photos, and then sat on the bench reading for a couple hours. Totally relaxing, peaceful.
What was funny was that maybe every 20-30 minutes or so, a tour bus would come by - - a bunch of people would come up to the deck, ooh and aah and snap a bunch of photos, and then go back to their bus.
but I stayed, and enjoyed the peace between those tourist groups.