The 70-room High Country Inn is a top mid-range choice for travelers who want a cozy and clean spot with good on-site features, including an indoor pool and two hot tubs. Thanks to a 2016 renovation, rooms are up-to-date and have a fresh color palette, as well as 40-inch flat-screen TVs, individual AC units, and more diverse amenity kits than comparable properties. Guests receive a discount at the attached Swiss-Italian restaurant and at partner ski shops in town. This hotel is an unexpected bargain and often books up early, so if you miss the boat, try your luck at the slightly less cozy Banff Ptarmigan Inn, where rooms are more contemporary and you'll get free breakfast.
High Country Inn sits quietly on the corner of Banff Avenue and Rabbit Street. Its blockish and dated brick facade is your first hint that it was built somewhere around the early '80s (1982 to be exact). It's another property on the block between Rabbit and Marten streets owned by Banff's Irwin family. Four years after opening, 24 more rooms were added along with the indoor pool area. The last renovations were done in 2016 and included a full-on revamp of the rooms and quiet halls; 2017 plans include renovations to the lobby and elevator. The front of the hotel peers out onto Banff Avenue, while the back offers glimpses of Stony Squaw, Cascade Mountain, and a bit of Norquay. The layout here consists of a central reception area in the center and long corridors of rooms jutting out from each side. There's also a cozy lobby off the entryway, with decent space to sit and a non-wood-burning stone fireplace.
Compared to the neighboring Irwin family properties, the High Country Inn manages to feel more homey, quiet, and private, even though it has more features and public spaces than Red Carpet Inn or Irwin's Mountain Inn. With the 2016 and 2017 renovations, this property is poised to be a top pick and solid mid-range option that gives you both a cozy contemporary style, plus good selection of in-room and on-site features.
Convenient and quiet location off Banff Avenue, within walking distance to town and public transport
High Country Inn has a nearly center location on Banff, and is just two blocks to the center of town. The hotel is next door to its sister property Red Carpet Inn, where travelers can grab the Route 1 public bus to Sulphur Mountain (buses to Tunnel Mountain leave from across the street), or guests can catch the free shuttle to the Banff Gondola and Upper Hot Springs right outside the Elk + Avenue hotel, a three-minute walk toward town. Free shuttles to Lake Minnewanka (every 20 minutes in summer from the high school) and the popular ski hills of Norquay, Sunshine, and Lake Louise (every hour from the railway station) are all within a 10-minute walk. Most trailheads are within about a five-minute drive.
Six-minute drive, 10-minute bus, or 16-minute walk to the Banff Pedestrian Bridge
Seven-minute drive to the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel
Eight-minute drive to Cave and Basin
10-minute drive or 15-minute bus to the Banff Upper Hot Springs
14-minute drive or 37 minutes via public transportation to Lake Minnewanka
11-minute drive tor 18-minute bus o the Banff Gondola
Stylish and contemporary rooms with huge TVs; some with fireplace and two-person whirlpool tubs
A major focus of the hotel's 2016 renovation targeted the 70 somewhat dated rooms, replacing carpets, completely revamping bathrooms, updating furniture, and brighting up the color scheme from warm neutral browns to icy grays and pops of blue. Guests will find gray-tiled entryways and bathrooms, hand-painted local landscapes hanging from subtly texturized walls, typically lots of natural light, and 40-plus-inch flat-screen TVs. It's also one of the few hotels in the area with individual AC units in the rooms.
The two-queen standard rooms feel slightly roomier than those with a king-sized bed, and upgrades to Superior Rooms bump visitors up to the top floor and include microwaves and guaranteed balconies. One-Bedroom Suites consist of a separate bedroom with a queen, plus another queen bed in an open living room area with table and chairs, and TVs in each room. Extra amenities include a shoeshine kit and shower cap. Couples are drawn to the Premium King Jetted Tub rooms for its romantic features like an electric fireplace, loveseat sofa, two-person whirlpool shower/tub combo, and big, semi-private balcony. Family Suites, meanwhile, come with a small kitchenette with microwave, sink, and setups for six. Note that only one of the three queen beds is private, and the others are divided by three-quarter walls.
Most rooms have balconies with plastic patio furniture, while all have coffeemakers, mini-fridges, and rainfall showerheads. Guests can expect shampoo, conditioner, makeup remover, and bar soap in the bathrooms.
More amenities than nearby mid-range hotels, including an indoor pool and two hot tubs
Unlike most other hotels in its category, High Country Inn can claim both an indoor pool and two big hot tubs. Full of natural light and covered in tile, the hotel's heated indoor pool area looks out onto Banff Avenue. It's snug and lacks loungers, but manages to fit two roomy hot tubs (one set at 100 degrees, the other at 104 degrees) -- all accessible through a small, worn changing room with a toilet and shower. There's also an oddly placed dry cedar sauna in the nearby carpeted hallway and free towels at reception. On the downside, there are no gym facilities.
There's no official on-site restaurant, but the attached Swiss-Italian restaurant Tocino offers a discount for guests and serves breakfast and dinner, including the Swiss classic fondue. Visitors heading out early for a hike can pre-order a grab-and-go breakfast box from Tocino (fee) and pick it up at the front desk on the way out. There's an event room on-site that's mostly used to serve private meals to tour groups, but it's equipped with an electric fireplace, projector, and bar area. The hotel's underground parking lot is also home to a 24-hour laundry room with coin-operated machines, a lending library, folding table, and TV (detergent is for sale at reception).
Freebies include 24-hour reception; all-day tea, coffee, and water in the lobby; Wi-Fi; unsecured ski storage; and a first-come, first-served spot in the above- or underground parking. There's no bike or ski rental on-site, but the hotel has vouchers for discounts at partner rental and gear shops in town. Playpens and cots are available for free on request, and there are a business computer station and ATM in the lobby.