You come across all these hot spots that look pristine and low-key on Instagram. When you get there, you find out that they’re actually flooded with tourists and nowhere near what you imagined when you planned your trip.
Naturally, you want to escape the crowds as soon as possible and start looking for places to visit instead of Banff that are just as beautiful.
That means you’re likely here because you’re looking for inspiration about the next best place to visit that genuinely takes your breath away.
In search of a place that makes you feel at peace with who you are? Looking for a destination that elicits stillness and adventure?
Makes you forget about anything you’re not currently happy with in your life right now?
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I’ve got exactly the thing you’re looking for.
I’ve put together a list of must-see places that are stunning no matter how many times you’ve been there.
For now, they’re pretty low-key and underrated, so you won’t be sharing your visit with Instagram stars.
This post contains affiliate links, in which I may make a small commission at no extra cost to you.
Where to Go Instead of Banff
This list takes you to the Canadian Kootenay Rockies. My favorite place to visit instead of Banff.
About 10 minutes off the highway and then another 5 minute walk through the trees brings you to one of the most stunning lakes in the area.
It’s a small body of cloudy-turquoise water enclosed by huge cliffs.
A stunning spot for some cliff-jumping, a refreshing dip or a tranquil float on those sweltering dog days of BC summer.
Invermere on the Lake
The closest urban hub to Bottomless Lake is the town of Invermere.
It’s got the cutest most underrated downtown. It’s a great alternative to the Town of Banff, which is usually shoulder-to-shoulder these days and is mostly host to high-end or large chain shopping.
Invermere, on the other hand, has the same feel but boasts local shops and instead of a mountain cascading in the background, Windermere Lake is your backdrop which is just a different kind of beauty.
BONUS TIP: This place is just as beautiful in the winter, and if I may be so bold, magical. The downtown transforms into a beautiful Christmas Village, and the lake has a 34km track cleared for skating!
Fairmont Natural Hot Springs
If you keep travelling further south, you’ll come to the relatively well-known Fairmont Hot Springs.
There’s a mega resort and some urban conveniences built around these commercially developed hot springs.
I recommend avoiding the developed springs and go hunting for the source.
One of my favorite spots to visit when I’m in the area is both the original source of the springs and then the run-off area from the developed pools.
First, pull into the main parking lot for the pools. Park your car and walk back out to the way you came. A short hike up the hill will reveal the bath-tub size original source, which is usually too hot to dip anything more than your toes.
It’s definitely worth a visit though, as it’s quiet and invokes a sense of calm as you let your mind take you back in time thinking about the people who first discovered the area.
Now for the really stunning part (and my favorite of this whole list), the run-off. If you walk passed your car but before you hit the RV Park, start to walk downhill and follow the creek.
You’ll come to an area with lots of small mini pools that have been carved into the earth. If you keep walking another few minutes around the corner, this is when the magic hits you.
A warm waterfall greets you. And more pools vary in size to fit between one or two people at a time.
Where to Stay Near Fairmont Hot Springs
Fairmont Mountain Bungalows. These are the most adorable private little cabins that have their own kitchens, patios and BBQs! They’re also newly renovated on the inside; we had an awesome shower in ours!
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Lussier Hot Springs
Forget Banff Upper Hot Springs and come here instead. It’s a beautifully kept natural hot spring with 3-4 pools all varying in temperature. Each time I’ve been there there’s always been about 6-20 people there.
Busier than we’d all like, but every time I go I meet the best people, so that’s part of the appeal.
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If you stay on the same road as Lussier but keep going another 10 minutes you’ll come to a campground turn off for Alces Lake. Take this turn!! Take a walk through the campground to find the trail to the lake.
The water is crystal clean, sparkling clean and warm! I visited in the dead of summer and there were only a few people.
Also located in a provincial park is this stunning crystal clear lake surrounded by slate rock cliffs.
It’s definitely a goat trail, so a higher-clearance or 4×4 vehicle is recommended.
But once you’re here, it’s quiet, it’s tranquil and breathtakingly beautiful.
This whole area is wilderness solitude seeking mecca. We went exploring and found a river bend that felt like it was straight out of a Skyrim scene.
Radium Hot Springs
My favorite Banff alternative, Radium Hot Springs is a sleepy little village, home to about 800 full-time residents.
The main attraction is the mineral water hot spring, which is operated by Parks Canada.
But there are also great hiking trails that lead to waterfalls, and you are guaranteed to see big horn sheep if you stroll through town! Also, the geology around here is incredible.
Massive iron-red rock formations greet you on your way to the hot springs; hit it at golden hour for the best viewing!
Where to Stay in Radium Hot Springs
This is the northern most spot on the list, as well as the closest to Banff National Park. There are two great places I’ve stayed at and would highly recommend:
The Gateway Motel. This is a small family-run motel, and it was honestly the cleanest motel or hotel I’ve ever stayed in! It’s inexpensive and includes a homemade breakfast. We had homemade quiche and scones on our visit! It’s also walking distance to great restaurants.
The Radium Chalet. Stay here for incredible views of the Columbia Valley! This hotel has the best views in town, make sure to get a room with a balcony.
Watch the sunrise over the valley and the bighorn sheep eat their breakfast while you sip your morning coffee (included continental breakfast)!
I hope this inspires you to travel and experience some places in my backyard that I’ve fallen in love with.
For a more detailed guide and bonus tips when visiting the places above, check out my full post here.
I write these posts because I believe there are people out there like me, who want to find those hidden gems and sometimes avoid the same old tourist traps.
Are you like me? Have you visited the Town of Banff and Banff National Park and are looking for other places off the beaten path to discover first? Let me know in the comments below, a community of destination seekers is what I’m craving lately!
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