Ron + Laurén were some of our first friends we met after we moved down to Louisiana. Getting plugged in with the Lucketts (Laurén’s fam) has kept me busy since our move! R+L graciously took us on their honeymoon for two days to BANFF to do some adventurous honeymoon photos.
Since we got a TON of questions about how we made our super quick trip to Banff possible, here are some tips and frequently asked questions about planning a trip, elopement or honeymoon to Banff National Park! Be sure to scroll all the way thru SLOWLY as lots of tips and tricks are nestled into these hotties photos 🙂
If you read no further, the biggest piece of advice I can offer if you are considering eloping, doing photos, or honeymooning to Banff, is to think outside of the box for places to do photos/ceremonies/etc. While there are several well-known spots that are #instaworthy, there are just as many, if not double, secret, secluded and drop-dead gorgeous spots where you can have privacy and won’t have to fight for space.
What time of year did you go?: We went right after the Dardar’s got married, so the first week of May! Though it was already very hot here in New Orleans, it was the tail end of Banff’s winter season, so there was still a lot of snow coverage!
Pro tip: because Banff’s on-seasons are primarily the summer (hiking, outdoor activities) and winter (snow sports), the in between is where you can find amazing deals on airfare and lodging! This would be ideal if you are planning an intimate wedding or elopement on a budget where you’d like your closest friends and family to join. No crowds + great deals = low stress weddings!
Where do you fly into?: We flew into Calgary International Airport, and it’s about 1.5 hour drive to Banff/Canmore area. I would 100% recommend renting a car. The drive is not bad at all, just be mindful that if you are traveling during a snowy season, the roads can get slick and driving can become dangerous if you aren’t used to driving in the snow.
Is Banff expensive?: Yes and No. Since we went during off season, we got outstanding deals – our flights were just over $300 round trip per person, and we got a cute room at Base Camp Lodge for $70 CAD a night! Food and activities are definitely at a premium, but since everything is in CAD, the sticker shock isn’t that crazy. The prices on food/activities are comparable to any large tourist destination.
How much does it cost to get into Banff National Park?: About $20 CAD for a day pass.
Where do you stay?: We stayed outside of Banff in the town of Canmore, which honestly, is equally as beautiful and a little less expensive/crowded! We stayed at Base Camp Resorts, which was super affordable (~$70 CAD/night). There are of course rentals in Banff, but they are a little more pricey.
The photos look cold, was it cold in Banff at that time?: Coming from New Orleans yes it was still very cold at this time, around 35 degrees in the first week of May.
I want to hike/swim/be outside without my face freezing off, when is the best time to travel to Banff?: After the lakes defrost, which is around mid-June thru September. If you have your heart set on having portraits in front of Lake Louise or Moraine Lake’s infamous turquoise blue water, you’ll need to wait until it melts – access to this lake is restricted until June. **DO NOT GO TO BANFF IN THE WINTER OR TAIL END OF WINTER SEASON AND EXPECT TO SEE THAT WATER**
While Lake Louise & Moraine Lake were inaccessible and still frozen over when we went, there are other smaller lakes/bodies of water that show that turquoise blue water. This is Grassi Lakes Trail in Canmore (which is outside of Banff) – it’s smaller so it was melted when we went, and absolutely stunning!
Since it was still pretty cold, we practically had the place to ourselves and would make a lovely backdrop for a ceremony or couples portraits!
At the top of the Grassi Lakes Trail hike there is also this look out where you can see that beautiful blue water below.
After we played around in Canmore, we finally drove over to Banff National Park. We explored Lake Minnewanka & Two Jack Lake.
We spent the majority of our time at Lake Minnewanka once we got inside of the park. This place was stunning, and L+R told us that when they had went here earlier in their honeymoon, the whole lake was covered with snow! It had melted by the time we got there, which was cool for them to see it look different!
After we spent time at Lake Minnewanka, we drove through the park some more (which is stunning to do!) and stopped at Two Jack Lake. This lake was defrosted so we got some shots with the beautiful water in the background.
Ron + Lauren also humored me and let me get my dream “look at us, we are cute in the middle of a road” shots after Two Jack Lake
Finally after we had spent enough time in Banff, we headed back to Canmore. We did one final stop for photos at Quarry Lake. Now, I LOVED being inside of Banff National Park and got some fabulous images. For an actual elopement however, I would definitely suggest considering one of the parks in Canmore (such as Quarry Lake, seen below). It’s easy to get to and less crowded than Banff can be. A location in Canmore is perfect for a ceremony (especially if there are a few guests/witnesses) and Banff (the park) is great for couples photos, or a *true* elopement with just the couple + the officiant.
If I want to get married in Banff, what are the pros and cons for each season?: It depends 🙂 It depends on what it most important to you: scenery, weather temps, isolation, etc. Here are my thoughts on the seasons
Eloping in the Summer (mid-June thru September):
PRO: If you are wanting comfortable outdoor temps, access to all trails and lakes, that gorgeous blue turquoise water, going in the summer is ideal.
CON: Peak season so lodging and airfare will be more expensive, and there will be crowds. Private, intimate ceremonies will be more difficult.
Eloping in the Spring (off-season):
PRO: Have the park to yourself! Amaaaaazing deals on flights and lodging.
CON: It’s really a hit or miss on what will be accessible at this time. One day, Lake Minnewanka could be covered in snow, the next day the snow could be gone.
Eloping in the Fall (off-season):
PRO: Beautiful colors, less people, many of the main attractions are still accessible, amazing deals!
CON: It could snow! Chilly temps
Eloping in the Winter:
PRO: Beautiful, snow covered back drops, access to all snow sports
CON: It’ll be flipping cold and many of the major things to see/do will be closed for the winter.
Photog Recommendation for planning an elopement/adventure session/or trip to Banff: Consider the “in between” season! Honestly, for an elopement, adventure session or an “off the grid” honeymoon, going in the off season is a great time. It’s cheap, it’s relatively empty, and A LOT easier to shoot photos without a million people around. If it’s important to make it to lakes like Lake Louise, pressing your luck and going at the end of summer rather than the end of winter will give you a better chance at it being accessible!