At the heart of Canada’s oldest national park, Banff sits amid some of the most scenic landscapes in the world, with stunning mountain and lake views wherever you cast your eyes. Add to this both wildlife sightings and outdoor adventure opportunities and you have all the elements for an unforgettable holiday.
A quaint little town surrounded by amazing natural beauty, Banff is a great base for exploring Canada’s oldest protected area, Banff National Park, which was first established in 1885. The lakes, mountains and forests provide visitors with the ideal environment for skiing, hiking, horse riding, mountain biking, climbing and canoeing and the ideal habitat for a wide range of wildlife including elk, deer, bighorn sheep, mountain goat, black and grizzly bear, coyote and river otters.
One of the best ways to enjoy the views is to take the Sulphur Mountain Gondola which rises to a height of 698-metres, providing panoramic views of the six snow-capped mountain ranges within the park. Boardwalks take you along the ridge at the top to observation decks and hiking trails. There are also two restaurants where you can take in the breath-taking views over a relaxing meal. Or for an aerial view of all this natural splendour, Heli-hiking is becoming increasingly popular. Guests stay in a mountain lodge and are flown to remote parts of the mountains, usually only reached by mountain goats or experienced climbers and guided hikes ensure you get the most from these excursions.
The famous Lake Louise is a 30-mimute drive from Banff on the scenic Bow Valley Parkway. This is a ‘must see,’ but we would also recommend a trip to Lake Minnewanka, just 10-minutes away by car. This is a beautiful lake where you can take a boat cruise, enjoy a picnic, hike the trails and enjoy the mountain scenery away from the crowds. Visitors can also drive or bike the Minnewanka Loop, a popular activity for wildlife spotting. For those with weary limbs, we’d also suggest a trip 4-kilometres south of Banff to visit Banff Upper Hot Springs for a soak in the steamy rejuvenating water.
Banff is a 90-minute drive west of Calgary and we think it has something to suit all moods, whether that’s taking a challenging hike, relaxing on the water in a canoe, riding the trails on horseback or taking tea at the Fairmont Banff Springs, where Marilyn Monroe would go to escape the media. For anyone visiting the Rockies, we recommend that a trip to Banff is an integral part of your itinerary.