Banff is one of Canada’s oldest and most scenic parks. It spans 6,641 square kilometers and is filled with the freshest air, stunning mountains, picturesque lakes, dense forests, numerous glaciers, and an incredible diversity of wildlife. It’s located in the Alberta Rockies along the Trans-Canada Highway, approximately 100 kilometers west of Calgary. Being an Albertan myself, I have the ultimate pleasure of driving to Banff on a whim if I so choose.
The drive to Banff is quite enjoyable; you’ll never put your camera down. The continual alpine landscape stirs the heart and renews the spirit.
I can remember years ago, seeing bears, deer, elk and moose along the highway and an onslaught of tourists stopping literally in the middle of the highway to take pictures. This conduct scared the animals and caused unbelievable traffic jams. To protect the wildlife from traffic fatalities and curious tourists, transportation planners, and scientists came up with a two-fold solution:
*Install fencing on both sides of the twinned highway to keep large animals from accessing the highway right-of-way.
*Construct wildlife underpasses and overpasses to connect vital habitats and help sustain healthy wildlife populations by allowing animals to cross under or over the highway.
I love these overpasses. They are well maintained, attractive and blend naturally with the landscape. There’s grass, flowers, bushes and even the odd tree growing on a few of them. You’ll find one approximately every 9 kilometers.
It takes about an hour and a half to reach the Town of Banff from Calgary. It’s a quaint resort town that caters to the deluge of travelers that visit every year. There’s ample hotels, restaurants, and souvenir shops. The biggest drawn inside the town is the Banff Springs Hotel.
The Banff Springs Hotel is located in the heart of the town and has been serving guest for over 125 years. It’s within walking distant to all the local attractions and amenities. One of these attractions is Tunnel Mountain.
The original survey for the railroad provided for a tunnel through the small mountain which appeared to obstruct the Bow Valley. A subsequent survey rerouted the railroad to the North, thus the need for the tunnel was eliminated. Although the surveying was completed in 1882, the name Tunnel Mountain remains to this day. It’s a small link with our railroad history and the part it played in our Canadian heritage.
There are innumerable sites to see outside the town, and one of my favorites is Lake Louise. Although there is a little hamlet, the main attraction is their pristine lake.
The lake was named after Princess Louise Caroline Alberta, who was the fourth daughter of Queen Victoria. It’s 5 km from Lake Louise hamlet. It’s 2 km wide and 1/2 km long and has a surface of 0.8 km2 (0.31 sq mi). The emerald color of the water comes from rock flour carried into the lake by melt-water from the glaciers that overlook the lake.
This lake is so splendidly beautiful. You’ll be mesmerized by the gorgeous emerald hues and the majestic presence of the Rocky Mountains background. Although you cannot walk around it, there is an awesome hiking path along the right side.
You’ll need good shoes and perhaps even walking sticks as you’ll be climbing uphill. There are several points of interest along the way. But alas, I was wearing my Birkenstocks and could not climb safely.
If you make it to the top, you’ll reach the Plain of Six Teahouse. It offers all victorious hikers incredible views of the glaciers and mountain that surround Lake Louise. Built by the Canadian Pacific Railway between 1924 and 1927, this tea house was originally constructed to house mountaineers en route to the popular objectives of Mts. Victoria and Lefroy. Hikers today can enjoy a wonderful menu of fresh drinks, pastries, and more.
The grandest place to stay in this area is the Chateau Lake Louise. Built over 100 years ago for outdoor addicts. Now it’s a luxury mountain resort open year-round offering guided mountain tours, hiking, canoeing, skiing and the best view ever.
Another attraction that does not get the attention it deserves is Lake Moraine. It’s a glacier-fed lake about 15 minutes from Lake Louise. It’s delightfully situated in the Valley of the Ten Peaks, at an elevation of approximately 6,183 feet (1,885 m). The lake has a surface area of .5 square kilometers (0.19 sq mi). Words escape as I try to describe the immense beauty of the color of the lake. The blue-green color is due to the refraction of light off the rock flour deposited in the lake on a continual basis. The lake, being glacially fed, does not reach its crest until mid to late June. When it is full, it reflects a distinct shade of blue. You won’t find as many tourists visiting this lake, and I’m kind of glad. It’s a peaceful place to get recharged and connect with nature. There’s a gift shop, restaurant and ample parking for RV’s. By the way, Lake Moraine was also on our Canadian Twenty Dollar Bill from 1969 to 1979.
If you’re thinking about visiting Banff, I would highly recommend it. It has everything a nature lover would want to experience from canoeing, camping, and hiking along scenic paths with a panoramic background. It just doesn’t get any better.