Where to go, what to do?
Banff is the jewel of the Canadian Rockies. We suggest planning enough time in the area to visit Lake Louise and the Teahouses, Moraine Lake and Larch Valley (in September this valley is covered in yellow larches surrounded by ten snow-covered mountain peaks), Johnston Canyon (but don’t miss out the magic of the Inkpots as many people do), and the Minnewanka Loop (3 lakes, each more beautiful than the other. If you are lucky Mt Rundle is mirrored in Two Jack Lake).
One of Banff’s main tourist attractions, the Gondola, takes you to the top of Sulphur Mountain, or, for the more adventurous, you can hike up one side of Sulphur Mountain and down the other. An amazing but less well known Canyon is Marble Canyon. Here you can learn the history of the Ocre Beds and Paint Pots and, at the Fireweeds, why fire is so important for the Park. You can also visit the Cave and Basin (the site of the founding of the National Park) and walk around the Marshlands and Fenlands to observe wildlife, or visit the Upper Hot Springs for a dip in the mineral pool. The impressive Bow Falls are just behind the Banff Springs Hotel, a National Historic Site you can visit for free . . . unless you decide to treat yourself to a cocktail at the fabulous Rundle Lounge with its million dollar view.
We have hiking and street maps at the lodge and we can give you many recommendations about the different trails and activities to fully enjoy the National Park. The Glacier Trail will take you to impressive lakes, canyons, mountains, waterfalls and the famous Columbia Icefields. Should you be “into” glacier hikes you can visit Stanley Glacier (5km) and why not hike up to Bow Glacier (7km) or Peyto Glacier (10km). One of the very best hikes to see glaciers is going on the “Iceline” in Yoho. If you are a hiker looking for an adventurous, lasting and significant experience in the wild Rocky Mountains, we recommend the guided hikes in the Yoho Valley (Takakkaw Falls) or to Stanley Glacier or the Plain of 6 Glaciers with views of Lake Louise and Victoria Glacier and the infamous Death Trap. Amazing, but longer hikes into the backcountry take you to Healy Pass and the Monarch Remparts, Harvey Pass and, if you continue to the top, Mount Bourgeau. We also like to hike up Cascade Mountain via its grand natural Amphitheatre. For great views and steep slopes we particularly recommend the roundtrip via Cory Pass and Edith Pass. Paradise Valley via Lake Annette is exciting as well (the name tells it all) or ghost hunting via Halfway Hut to Skoki Lodge.
If you rent a car, I would definitely visit Kananaskis Country (where they filmed Brokeback Mountain, and Grizzly Falls and Inception)
via the dirt road please, as this is not your car and this is the second most beautiful road after the Icefields Parkway. Stop at Chester Lake or hike closer to Mt Assiniboine (the Matterhorn of the Rockies) for a great picture opportunity.
If you are lucky you might even be able to visit Lake O’Hara, a valley more beautiful that Lake Louise and Moraine Lake taken together. Unfortunately, you cannot go by car and admittance is limited. You will need a bus ticket. Good luck; they sell like The Rolling Stones concert tickets!
One of the most awesome panoramas with glaciers, meadows, lakes and mountains is from Helen Lake. Speaking of meadows, the Sunshine Meadows are world renown with over 250 different flowers or hike to Helen Lake or Niles Meadows.
Experience a high of adrenaline bagging some of the Park’s famous “scrambles” to exciting Mountain Peaks. We recommend Mt Norquay, Mt Cory, Pilot Mountain, Storm Mountain, Mt Whymper, Mt Niles, Cascade Mountain, Castle Mountain, Mt Temple, Cirque Peak.
There are also canoe trips, horseback riding, quads or white water rafting. What about a morning or evening wildlife safari? Whether you prefer hiking, climbing or mountain biking, in and around Banff there are trails to suit every level of experience.
Banff also has a very active cultural scene, with museums, art galleries, and many cultural events. The “Banff Centre” is world renowned for its exhibitions and performing arts. In the evenings, you can enjoy many restaurants, pubs and entertainment venues. At Wild Bill’s Saloon you can enjoy live country music. There are also many shopping opportunities with quaint shops and cafes. One of our favorite restaurants is the “Saltlik.” We and many of our guests agree it is one of the best steakhouses we have ever tried. There are many restaurants offering all kinds of worldly cuisine: we recommend “Giorgio’s” for Italian, the “Balkan” for Greek, or “Coyotes” for healthy southern cuisine. There are many Chinese and Japanese restaurants as well, and even a Sushi Train. And for truly Canadian fare, we recommend the “Maple Leaf”.
We are booking agents for “Discover Banff Tours”, “Holidays on Horseback”, “Rockies Rafting. We can arrange to book tours with them or other adventure companies.
Check out the “Blue Mountain Lodge Facebook” page for more stories and suggestions, also accessible from our Home Page. Just make your choices and we will take care of the details.