If you are looking for some of the best experiential luxury Banff accommodation recommendations for your vacation with your family, friends or on a couple’s getaway, then look no further than these Canadian Rocky Mountain retreats in Banff National Park. I have provided detailed information below listing six recommended places to stay along with two bonus recommendations, which fall in other mountain regions on the outskirts of Banff National Park. Remember, these aren’t your typical luxury hotels. Each location offers something different while still satisfying the “luxury” experience you are looking for. So take some time, dive deep and choose the location that would best suit you (or turn it into a hotel “hopping” experience and create your own Banff accommodation itinerary staying at each location). Trust me, you will not be disappointed! Lastly, this article would not be complete without mentioning the most sought-after, and painstakingly beautiful photography locations near each of these accommodations.
1) Baker Creek Mountain Resort
Two words. Romantic Getaway. Located 30 minutes from the town of Banff towards Lake Louise on the Bow Valley Parkway (the old Highway which now runs parallel to the current Trans Canada Highway) is a small lodge seemingly tucked away from the rest of the world, nestled deep in the forest. This lodge with 19 cabins & 16 suites (35 rooms total) is environmentally conscious, with barely any waste in their lodge rooms right down to scraping coffee filters. They offer multiple benefits to both humans and their friendly furry companions, from special dog bowls, beds and treats to wood burning fire places, board games, local artisanal products and deliciously sourced local coffee. Did I mention that their restaurant is to die for? Their chef is talented, and their menu is filled with fresh local products, perfectly cooked and bursting with flavour.
Recommended time of year: December-February to get that lost in a “snow globe” feeling that you will experience staying in the heavily snow covered forest surrounding the resort. Skate on their small ice rink which is lit up at night, sit by a bon-fire while drinking a hot chocolate, or go snowshoeing or cross country skiing on the abundance of trail options off their door step. The internationally acclaimed Lake Louise ski resort is also just 10 minutes away. Like everywhere in The Canadian Rockies It is also cheaper & quieter in comparison to the summer time which is a bonus!
Photography locations nearby: Morant’s Curve – 5 minutes drive, Lake Louise – 15 minutes drive, Castle Mountain – 15 minutes drive & Johnston Canyon – 20 minutes drive. Arrange a photo tour starting and finishing at Baker Creek Mountain Resort by contacting us at firstname.lastname@example.org
In a nutshell: If you want a quiet, remote experience away from other tourists, somewhere that has barely any cell-phone reception and where services close down after 9pm in order to get the true feel of being “away” then this is the place for you.
2) The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise
I usually like to recommend options that are slightly less touristy, however, I would be doing an injustice to not include the “Castle on the Lake.” Situated at the head of Lake Louise, a beautiful crystal clear, blue-green-grey glacially fed lake with the Victoria Glacier & 5 other glaciers hovering above which send thunderous chunks of ice crashing down that echo throughout the valley adding to the wow factor. This hotel opened in 1890 five years after Banff National Park came into existence in 1885 (Initially named ‘Rocky Mountains Park of Canada’) and has preserved the test of time. Over the last 130 years in existence, this hotel has gone through multiple renovations and section rebuilds due to two fires, but has left the hotel with a more modern section called the “Temple Wing” (built in 2004) which offers guests more options for a roomier stay compared to other Fairmont Hotels.
With 539 guest rooms, this hotel has highly awarded guest service, and offers an extensive amount of dining options, activities and excitement all year round with horseback riding, canoeing, hiking & climbing mountains off your doorstep, a winter ice festival in January including world renowned ice carvers and a magical ice castle on the frozen lake being some of the key highlights of this hotel and making it one of our Banff accommodation recommendations.
Recommended time of year: If you are wanting to get away from large crowds of tourists both in the hotel and outside of the hotel, I recommend staying in winter. However, summer offers a larger variety of accessibility for photography and hiking. January & the summer shoulder seasons of June & October are our recommendations.
Photography locations nearby: Lake Louise – out your window!, Moraine Lake – 15 minutes drive if outside of the peak daylight hours, Herbert Lake – 15 minutes drive & Lake Agnes – 45 minute walk uphill (one way). Arrange a photo tour starting and finishing at The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise by contacting us at email@example.com
In a nutshell: If it’s a lot of excitement, activities and being around people that you are seeking, then this place is for you. At night when most of the tourists have left, enjoy some peace and quiet sitting around the bonfires or request an evening guided hike or snowshoe from one of hotel’s knowledgeable heritage guides. All rooms have views, but always try to get a lake view first if you’re willing to forego some space in the more historical section of the building.
3) Moraine Lake Lodge
Sitting at 1,886 meters (6,181 ft.) high, Moraine Lake Lodge is truly the cream of the crop when it comes to accommodation being located in a special environment. This 33 room lodge is situated right on the lake that is fed by the Wenckchmna Glacier which creates a slightly different shade of blue than Lake Louise, and is almost surreal. The lake is surrounded by the famous “Valley of the Ten Peaks” with world-renowned hiking trails and every single room has a view with large bay windows and a wood burning fire place. The restaurant is top notch and your server will happily engage you in conversation about the epic adventures they did right before their shift and let you in on the plentiful secret spots located in the valley.
There are guided hikes and engaging presentations by Master Interpreter/guides Joel & Nadine of Great Divide Nature Interpretation (https://www.greatdivide.ca). Unfortunately, it is not a lodge that is recommended for kids. They simply do not have the activities or amenities to cater to children, making it the best romantic or friend’s getaway retreat on the list. Guests typically go there as a getaway option, to rest and relax away from cell-phones and TV. The tourist crowds are high in such a small condensed area. However, in the last two years Parks Canada has done a great job at restricting the amount of tourists going to the area at one time and guests of the lodge always have a direct pass to get up the road.
Recommended time of year: The lodge is seasonal and only open from the end of May (for early bird pricing) and closes down in early October – usually in the first couple of days of October before avalanches threaten your way out! September is our recommendation for the alpine larch trees turning yellow-orange in the area (see our article on fall photography here).
Photography locations nearby: Moraine Lake rockpile view – 5 minutes walk, Back of Moraine Lake along Lakeshore Trail – 20 minutes walk flat, Consolation Lakes – 45 minutes walk (one way) relatively flat, Larch Valley – 45 minutes walk (one way) uphill. Arrange a photo tour starting and finishing at Moraine Lake Lodge by contacting us at firstname.lastname@example.org. You wont want to leave this area once you arrive but if you must Lake Louise is a 15 minutes drive.
In a nutshell: Many guests here are returning guests because it is the ultimate Canadian Rocky Mountain getaway with views first described by Walter Wilcox in 1899 as the “happiest 30 minutes of my life”. I can agree. Unlimited hiking, relaxation and mesmerizing mind bending views to top it off. It is expensive but also bucket list material.
4) Num Ti Jah Lodge
Want to know what Num-Ti-Ja really means? It actually means “Pine Marten” and is a word used by the Stoney, an indigenous community in Western Canada. Pine Martens are a small native animal to the area that are part of the Mustelid family which also includes wolverines. Its ferocious growl is not for those with a faint of heart. Yikes! Grizzly bears also wander the alpine meadows near the lodge adding an immersive edge to the whole experience.
Num Ti Jah is a 16 room lodge nestled on the shores of Bow Lake in the heart of Banff National Park, 30 minutes North of Lake Louise along the Icefields Parkway. It is the most rustic hotel of the bunch with lots of history regarding Jimmy Simpson, the explorer, outfitter, eccentric pioneer and first builder of the “shack” on Bow Lake. His name is incorporated throughout the lodge, on the menus, and even as the famous Mount Jimmy Simpson hovering over the area. History buffs and those wanting a true rustic experience, will no doubt be engulfed in its rich history and be drawn into the hikes nearby. Upon return, settle by a fireplace with your favourite scotch in hand and reminisce about what it once must have been like to explore off the beaten path, with no technology or ability to be in touch with outside world.
Recommended time of year: This lodge is only open for the summer season from Victoria Day weekend (late May) until Canadian Thanksgiving Monday (early October). We recommend mid summer – July, August – as this place is isolated enough on the Icefields Parkway and the lake’s glacial colours are insane with blooming wildflowers all around at that time. Book early!
Photography locations nearby: Bow Lake – out your window!, Peyto Lake viewpoint – 5 minutes drive + 10 minute walk (closed in summer of 2020 for construction), Waterfowl Lakes – 15 minutes drive, Bow Glacier Falls – 1 hour walk (one way) relatively flat. Arrange a photo tour starting and finishing at Num Ti Jah Lodge by contacting us at email@example.com.
In a nutshell: This is a perfect lodge for those who want a comfortable room to sleep in and are not set on “luxury” services. This is truly a hotel for the experience, where the staff make you feel at home and being disconnected from the rest of the world is appreciated & dark skies abound.
5) The Banff Springs Hotel
This large “Castle in the Rockies” hovers over the town of Banff like no-ones business. Everyone in town has been there and everyone in town has likely worked there. Built in 1888 by the Canadian Pacific Railway and now with 757 rooms, this majestic grand luxury resort, surrounded by deep forest and with a view of the surrounding local mountains is the flagship Fairmont Hotel in the mountain region and one of our Banff accommodation recommendations.
Arguably, one of the most sought after resort getaways in North America, if you want a true luxury experience, the Banff Springs offers fabulous guest service and offerings such as room service, a large mineral spring spa, performing arts, and ample activities and dining options. It is in a prime location to access Banff Hot Springs and is a short drive from the Town of Banff. For golf lovers, the hotel is situated beside its own world renowned golf course with stunning panoramic views beneath iconic Mt Rundle. As with most Fairmonts, the buildings were built before the 1900’s and therefore, smaller hotel rooms are the result. It was designated a National Historic Site in 1988, one of only 7 such designations in Banff National Park (Skoki Ski Lodge, Abbott Pass Hut, Howse Pass, Banff Park Museum, Cave & Basin & Sulphur Mountain Cosmic Ray Station are the other 6). We highly recommend a visit to the excellent on site Waldhaus restaurant for some German style cuisine.
Recommended time of year: All year round.
Photography locations nearby: Bow Falls & River – 5 minutes walk downhill, Banff Avenue, Cascade Gardens & Surprise Corner – all 5 minutes drive, Vermilion Lakes – 10 minutes drive, Two Jack Lake & the Lake Minnewanka Loop – 20 minutes drive. Arrange a photo tour starting and finishing at the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel by contacting us at firstname.lastname@example.org
In a nutshell: Luxury, history & architectural marvel come to mind when talking about a stay at the Banff Springs Hotel. It is one of few places in The Rockies where your camera will be trained on something other than the natural environment. If space is a not a huge factor for you and you want a wicked view, the ultimate luxury services and to be quite “taken care of” then this place is for you.
6) The Rimrock Hotel
The official Rimrock Hotel was developed in 1988 after a history of former ownership changes and multiple fires which burnt down original building structures. This resulted in a unique architectural hotel, comprising of 346 luxurious guestrooms, including 21 suites, a spa, 2 restaurants, a lobby lounge and bar, and over 18,000 square-feet of meeting space. If you enjoy live music, this hotel will often have performances in their on-site lounge, great cocktails and extensive menu options with some of the best room views in town due to it’s elevated position higher up in the valley.
With much history being associated to the Banff Hot Springs right next door to the hotel, this luxury hotel is in a prime location to take a soak in its restorative waters and think about how Banff National Park came to be. One of the most sought after views is also nearby up at the top of the Banff Gondola, which offers fantastic dining and some of the best panoramic views in the valley. We would recommend going up for sunset. When you return to The Rimrock Hotel try out the ‘Eden’ restaurant for 5 diamond level dining and 17,000 bottles of wine to choose from in their inventory.
Recommended time of year: All year round.
Photography locations nearby: The Top of The Gondola overlooking Banff & The Canadian Rockies – roll out of bed and onto the gondola it’s that close, Banff Avenue, Cascade Gardens & Surprise Corner – all 5 minutes drive, Vermilion Lakes – 10 minutes drive, Two Jack Lake & the Lake Minnewanka Loop – 20 minutes drive. Arrange a photo tour starting and finishing at the Rimrock Hotel by contacting us at email@example.com
In a nutshell: If you are looking for a luxury hotel that is in a prime location in Banff and allows you to have a good balance of peace and quiet to get away from Banff crowds, while enjoying and relaxing in their beautiful spacious rooms with stunning views, then this is for you.
Bonus #1: Pomeroy Kananaskis Mountain Lodge, Autograph Collection
Ohhhh the spa at The Pomeroy Kananaskis Mountain Lodge. The Nordic spa. There was a time where I would recommend this hotel to people and say “you should stay at Pomeroy Kananaskis Mountain Lodge” and their response would be “you mean that place with the spa?” Now, move over Nordic spa, your sister is the house!
Situated in the centre of a network of Provincial Parks within Kananaskis, under vast, sharp, domineering mountains and triumphed by Mount Kidd is the lesser known hotel in town, Pomeroy Kananaskis Mountain Lodge, Autograph Collection. In case, you are wondering what the Autograph Collection is, it is an adventure seeking, uniquely designed boutique hotel group under Marriott Hotels. When I say “the lesser known hotel in town” I am referring to the hotel that Fairmont should be worried about.
Re-branded and renovated in 2017, it has 247 uniquely designed rooms, six restaurants, a large outdoor Nordic spa with an ample amount of outdoor and indoor activities for you and your families, including nightly events around a bonfire and an outdoor gear rental shop. Whether you want to hike or climb in the mountains all day or sit in the nordic spa, it is truly a place for everyone. It is also worthy to note, that they have more extensive family activities programs and babysitting services available than any other hotel in the area. More affordable options also exist on property called Cross Waters Resort and Mount Kidd, which offer slightly different experiences and lesser pricing and are not a part of the Marriott brand.
Recommended time of year: Any time of year. There are extensive activity options for both summer and winter. What makes this place extra special is its 10 minute drive to Nakiska ski hill, the site of the 1988 Calgary Olympic ski competitions and the Kananaskis Golf Course next door.
Photography locations nearby: Valley views abound from the trails surrounding the lodge, Wedge Pond – 10 minutes drive, Barrier Lake – 15 minutes drive, Mt Kidd river view – 20 minutes drive, Kananaskis Lakes – 30 minute drive. Arrange a photo tour starting and finishing at the Pomeroy Kananaskis Mountain Lodge by contacting us at firstname.lastname@example.org
In a nutshell: If you are looking for a luxury mountain hotel that has an authentic, down to earth culture with a larger variety of amenities and activities, but is situated away from the mecca of tourism in Banff then this is for you.
Bonus #2: Emerald Lake Lodge
I often compare the “feel” of this lodge as if I were a character in the classic movie “Dirty Dancing” with romantic “camp” like vibes. True to its name; Emerald Lake boasts a beautiful jade colour that is absolutely captivating. The classic shot of the lodge with its reflected mountain backdrop, is why photographers are attracted to this wilderness setting. Just wait until the lights comes on in the evening and the crowds disperse.
With 85 comfortable units situated in 24 chalet-style cabins, Emerald Lake Lodge is located in Yoho National Park in British Columbia bordering Banff National Park, 30 minutes West of Lake Louise. Built in 1902 by the Canadian Pacific Railway the lodge is something else due to its rich history. The lake was discovered in 1882 by a guide named Tom Wilson who stumbled upon it during the construction of the Candian Pacific railway when his horses went missing. He tracked them down to the lake and was finally able to name a lake ‘Emerald Lake’ and have it stick (Lake Louise, which he also ‘discovered’ in the same year with the help of local indigenous peoples was also named Emerald Lake by Wilson with the naming lasting from 1882-1884). With its century-old fireplaces and an oak bar salvaged from an 1890’s Yukon saloon, there is no shortage of history within these walls. The grounds feature a dry sauna, stainless steel hot tub and fitness room (although, I guarantee you will be out walking the lake view trail as soon as you get the chance). All rooms are comfortable and feature private baths, balconies and wood burning fieldstone fireplaces.
Recommended time of year: I highly recommend this lodge during the summer months from June-September, where the lake can truly shine at its finest and photography and hiking options are prime. There are many special locations nearby which can only be accessed during the summer months, such as the Burgess Shale (a UNESCO world heritage fossil site located on the shoulder of Wapta Mountain which is Parks Canada guided only) and Takkakaw Falls (the 3rd highest waterfall in Canada).
Photography locations nearby: You are basically marooned on an idyllic island while staying here so start photographing those quintessential Canadian Rocky Mountain glacial lake views right off your doorstep!, The Natural Bridge – 5 minutes drive, Takkakaw Falls – 30 minutes drive, Back of Emerald Lake – 40 minutes walk flat, Wapta Falls – 30 minutes drive + 30 minutes walk flat. Arrange a photo tour starting and finishing at Emerald Lake Lodge by contacting us at email@example.com
In a nutshell: This lodge is truly a romantic & historical place to get away – with no cell reception it is the perfect off the grid location with which to experience the Canadian Rockies and to have your mind boggled by the beauty of the landscape.
If you are looking for things to do in Banff during your stay at one of these amazing accommodation options then why not take a photo tour with us! We can pick you up and drop you off at any of these hotels & resorts. You can find out more about our photo tours in Banff National Park here – https://www.mountainphototours.ca/year-round-photography-tours-in-banff-canmore-alberta-canada/ or contact us using the form below for more information:
We also offer more intensive multi day photography workshops in The Canadian Rockies and can also customize a photography experience in Banff to your needs. Sign up for our mailing list below for special discounts and to hear about any new photography workshops that we have coming up. Thanks for reading!