By Victoria Boster –
The glaciers that once covered the Canadian Rockies retreated long ago, leaving behind an unmistakable beauty in the turquoise green lakes, wide sweeping valleys, and scenic canyons and rock formations- all evident in the vast wilderness known today as the Banff National Park.
Located inside this park are the two charming town sites of Banff and Lake Louise. Both villages offer accommodations and dining to meet any travelers budget. Shopping, leisure activities, cultural opportunities, and night life are abundantly available.
THE most famous reason to visit Banff National Park, however, is to experience the richness of the great outdoors- an experience that is unparalleled anywhere else in North America.
Visitors atop any mountain in the Canadian Rockies will be awed by the jagged peaks and the unspoiled wilderness of the Banff National Park. The same sights that greeted explorers, mountain climbers, and adventure seekers over 100 years ago- have remained virtually unchanged today. Visitors from all over the world come to this place of beauty to catch a glimpse of big horn sheep, moose, elk, and mountain goats- all of which roam freely across the mountains, valleys, and right down the highways.
Lured by the rumor that the Canadian Rockies are considered to be some of the most spectacular scenery in North America- my husband and I set out to see for ourselves if this could possibly be true–
There are only a few unique places in this world where the majestic beauty of the scenery sends your visual senses into overload. Banff National Park is one of those places. Jaw dropping- spectacular- you will run out of words to describe the serene mountain setting and surrounding forested valleys. Here you can be utterly alone in the silence of the forest one minute and in the next you can be shopping, dining, or leisurely strolling in one of the quaint little villages.
Nature in this part of the world is awesome and beautiful- but deserves our utmost respect. Unpredictable and ever changing weather requires visitors to be prepared for all variances. Know that in advance and pack for your trip accordingly.
We spent a fabulous week visiting in and around the Banff National Park. Based on our own itinerary- here are my suggestions for experiences to enhance your own future visit–
1. A picnic and hike at Elbow Falls is the perfect introduction to the outdoors here in the beautiful Rockies. As you are driving towards Banff, plan to stop by Bragg Creek for some picnic supplies. Continue on to Elbow Falls where you can walk the easy trails that meander along the fast flowing mountain stream. Picnic tables are situated all along the trail and the spectacular falls. This will be your first incredible photo experience with your camera- so be ready.
2. Nestled in the valley between the snow-capped mountains- the town of Banff is only steps from the wilderness. With shopping, dining, and accommodations to meet every budget, this little town has something for everyone. You could easily spend a day here- or perhaps consider making this your base for your National Park experience. Want a budget friendly souvenir to take home? Go to any of the grocery stores and purchase the locally made Saskatoon jam.
3.The Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel is often considered to be the Jewel of the Rockies. Be sure to set aside some time to explore this architectural wonder both inside and out. Consider a casual lunch at the Rimrock lounge inside the hotel- the views from your table will be fabulous.
4.Walk or drive just down from the Banff Springs Hotel to the scenic Bow Falls. Leisurely stroll the path beside the stream and the falls. This is a photographic opportunity not to be missed. Like the view of the Banff Springs Hotel in the above photo? You can take this photo from the Bow Falls path.
5. You came to see wildlife- right? DO THIS!! Drive to the Fairmont Banff Springs golf course (located just below the hotel) at dusk. A large herd of elk live in the forest beside the golf course. Park and wait patiently- you will be rewarded when they all gradually saunter out of the woods to graze on the golf course. Have your camera ready!!
6.With hundreds of miles available for hiking and walking in the wilderness- get outside!! There are hiking trails here for all abilities. My favorite easy half day hikes; Silverton Falls, Johnson Canyon (both the Upper and Lower Falls), and Fenland Trail. The photographic opportunities here are unlimited!
7.Lake Louise is the most famous glacial lake in the Canadian Rockies and is located about 45 minutes from the town of Banff. Drive the scenic Bow Valley parkway between Banff and Lake Louise for some spectacular views. The lake was still partially frozen for our visit- the turquoise waters were just beginning to thaw. Regardless of the season of your visit- you will marvel at the true beauty of this world famous lake.
8.Leisurely stroll the path that encircles one side of Lake Louise (the other side is bordered by the jagged mountain cliffs.) You can walk to the end of the lake or hike further across the glacial terrains to the famous tea houses waiting at the end of the trails. The Lake Agnes trail and the Plain of Six Glaciers trail are both hikes for intermediate ability hikers. Your reward will be the aroma of fresh baked bread and steaming hot tea waiting for you at the end!
9. The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise is situated right on the banks of Lake Louise and rewards it’s visitors with the most spectacular views of Mt. Victoria and Victoria glacier. Stroll the grounds and most definitely walk around the inside of this historic hotel. If time allows- enjoy a casual lunch at the Lake View Lounge. The views from this beautiful restaurant are world famous.
10. Ride the Banff gondola to the top of Sulpher Mountain for a panoramic view of Banff and the Bow Valley. On a clear day you can see for over 90 miles! You can climb the boardwalk to Sansom’s Peak for even more incredible views. Want to celebrate being on top of the world? The beautiful Regal View restaurant at the top of the mountain has panoramic vistas that are unbelievable.
Whatever you choose to do- your trip to the Canadian Rockies will provide a lifetime of great memories. To see more of our travel photos and read about our incredible trip to the Rockies please visit my blog at Vicki- 2 BagsFull.com.
With her bags always in a state of readiness, Vicki yearns to travel to places she has never been. She and her husband have traveled around the world; her photo essays beautifully detailing the amazing places that she has visited. When she is not on the go, you can find Vicki at her blog http://www.vicki-2bagsfull.blogspot.com/.