While researching places to visit in Canada, I kept coming across pictures and articles of a place called Banff National Park. The small town is nestled in the Alberta Rockies. The town is know for it’s hot springs, hiking trails, skiing and natural beauty.
Banff is a resort town and is located in Banff National Park. The park itself boasts 6,500 square kilometres and is home to Bears and other forms of wild life. There are two towns in the National Park, Banff and Jasper.
How to get there!
As we were staying in Calgary city, we booked a day trip to Banff via viator. We arrived in Banff first thing in the morning and brought around on a tour bus to Banff’s highlights. The tour was about 9 hours and we were picked up and dropped off in Calgary. In hindsight, you could easily spend two days exploring the national park. So if you have the time definitely book an overnight stay. There’s loads of buses to and from Calgary, you can buy a ticket online for around $10 each way.
Getting around Banff is easy enough. As Banff is a National Park they are encouraging people to use public transport instead of a car. The shuttle is cheap and runs every 20 – 30 minutes. Leave your car in the car park and do your bit for the environment!
Where to go!
Banff Gondola Experience
Part of the tour was to visit Banff Gondola. This is probably the easiest way to see the six mountains and bow valley if you haven’t got time to hike. The gondola, not to be confused with a Venetian gondola, brings you to the gondola summit on Sulphur mountain.
Using the Sulphur mountain boardwalk to reach the highest point of Sulphur Mountain, Sanson’s Peak. The peak is named after Norman Sanson, who climbed the mountain every week for thirty years to check the weather. The boardwalk takes about 40 – 60 minutes to walk depending on your pace.
The gondola summit has a restaurant if you fancy a bite to eat, a shop if you feel like picking up a souvenir and a 360 degree observation deck. It also has an exhibition with the history of the mountain.
If you’re really into hiking or fancy a bit more of a challenge you can undertake the South East Ridge Trail. This trail runs along the edge of the mountain to the south to Sulphur Mountain’s summit.
The experience costs on average $60. A few ways to do it cheaper is to take advantage of their off peak times deal. Most noteworthy, the 20% after 5pm. Also, you can avail of the one kid goes free with a paying adult before 10am!
More information about Banff Gondola Experience : https://www.banffjaspercollection.com/attractions/banff-gondola/
Lake Minnewanka is the second longest glacial lake in Banff National Park. The Lake is about 21 kilometres long and 142 metres deep. Although it is the longest glacial lake, it is not the most popular so it’s a perfect place to escape the crowds that will flock to Lake Louise.
The Lake is filled with water from the Cascade River and numerous streams that flow down from Mount Inglismaldie, Mount Girouard and Mount Peechee.
The Lake itself has a really interesting history! In 1941 the lake was raised by 30 metres to supply the National Park with power. Minnewanka Landing was flooded and it’s residents were relocated to nearby towns. Nowadays, it’s a really popular place to go scuba diving because you can see the submerged village.
When you visit the lake you can take one of the boat tours. There are also biking and hiking trails to the north of the Lake if you fancy a walk or cycle. The trails lead to Stewart Canyon and some campsites.
Where to eat!
For a small town Banff has a ton of options for food, they have a full list of restaurants / cafes on the Banff website. Our tour guide recommended a small wood fire pizza stand in the shopping centre. The pizza was delicious and it was nice to support a small local business that uses local vendors and ingredients.
Being a creature of habit, I had to check out the Irish Pub. In comparison to other Irish pubs I’ve been to in Canada, this ranked very high. The inside is decorated very traditionally and the bar itself was imported from Dublin. I didn’t try the Guinness but if the Magner’s is anything to go by I’m sure it’ll make a good pint.
Where to stay!
We opted for an apartment in Calgary to enjoy both the city and the National Park. I’d highly recommend using AirBnB when in Canada, it’s a cheaper option than hotels and often a lot nicer. The apartment was clean, modern and easily accessible.
Our AirBnB : https://bit.ly/30fMWKm
Remember to …
Put the phone down and take it all in!
“Better to see something once than hear about it a thousand times”
Bon Voyage ,
More of my adventures here: http://chasingcaitriona.com/category/rest-world/