Banff National Park is one of the most beautiful National Parks in Canada. Located in Banff, Alberta just west of Calgary, travellers/explorers/adventurers come to visit from all over the globe. With over 3,000,000 visitors annually, it can be extremely busy and accommodation can get very expensive. With the introduction of Air BnB to the travel world, your options are much better than staying in a hotel, but the prices are still very competitive with accommodation averaging $150-$200 a night. If you are travelling on a tight budget, a hostel is still your best option.
There are three hostels to choose from within the town of Banff. Banff International Hostel and Samesun Banff hostel are both located on the main street running through town, making their location extremely convenient. Hi Alpine Banff Hostel is located up on Tunnel mountain, about a 20min walk up hill from downtown. Banff international and Samesun Banff may be your first choice for convenience, however, they are the more expensive and are often fully booked up months in advance. It was for these reasons, that I ended up staying at HI Alpine. And I am glad I did.
Airport shuttle service dropped us off right at the front door of the Hostel. We checked in and got our room key. I was travelling with my friend Jeff, so being that I am female an he is male, we got a co-ed dorm. I booked our beds 1 month in advance and they were already close to being sold out for the dates that I was travelling. Keep in mind that we were arriving on the Friday of a Canadian Holiday weekend. It was much busier that weekend than it normally would be. So be advised that if you plan on visiting Banff during any of their peak tourists times, I wouldn’t take the chance of leaving your booking until the last minute.
Our dorm was relatively small but the drawers under the beds made very good use of space, allowing Jeff and I both to unpack our clothes and tuck our bags in a corner.
The lockers on the wall, provided a spacious place to store my valuables. I was able to fit my drone, camera and all monies and documents, with room to spare. Just remember to bring a lock. If you forget, there is a hardware store downtown, that sells locks and almost anything else you might have forgotten.
After sorting out our stuff, we explored the rest of the facility to see what it was like. This was Jeff’s first time staying in a hostel, and not knowing what to expect, he was very impressed.
As a Chef, the kitchen facility was what impressed me the most. They had converted a commercial kitchen that was obviously put in for the previous use of the building, into a communal kitchen for the guests. It included a well organized walk-in-fridge, and commercial stove tops. Of which there were 2. Stainless steel prep tables were clean and spacious. At no point during our stay did we have trouble finding room in the kitchen to prepare our meals during peak dining hours.
Just Beyond the kitchen was a spacious dining area with tables for about 20 and a television that was most often playing local news.
Like a true amateur, I neglected to take any pictures of the rest of the hostel which was quite nice. For this, I apologize.
The Storm Cellar is a small bar in the basement that had a different happening every night such as Karaoke or trivia. It’s not the nicest bar, but they put a good effort in to make the best of it and it’s a decent option to get a drink if you are not feeling much like making the trek into town. On the main floor just past the front desk was a small restaurant called Cougar Pete’s that was open during specific hours of the day and often had a special of some kind at a very reasonable price. I didn’t partake in the dining at Cougar Pete’s but by reputation it was pretty good indeed.
The location of the Hostel is inconvenient, however, to make up for this, the Hostel provides every guest with a free local bus pass to make it easier for you to get in and out of town to check out the sights. The bus ran every hour when I was there and was a fine alternative to walking up the hill when you may be too exhausted from a day of Hiking or Skiing. Although, I would still recommend renting a car if you can afford it. Onsite they have private accommodations by way of cabins and rooms for those that do not wish to stay in a dorm and the price is still significantly better than that of a local hotel.
HI Hostels have not let me down thus far for being a true Canadian hostel group that lives up to any global standard, and HI Alpine Banff is no exception. I would return to stay here again without hesitation. With the clean facilities, friendly staff, and beautiful location at the top of Tunnel Mountain, it is worth the hike from town. For more information on memberships with HI Hostel Group or to check out any of the other Hostels they have across Canada, visit HIHostels.ca.