You’ve finished Cheryl Strayed’s “Wild” and you’re ready to lace up your boots and march into the forest. But where do you start? Banff, of course! Situated an hour and a half out of Calgary, the landscape is one of the most well-regarded natural parks in the country. Maybe you’ve ventured into its depths and maybe you haven’t yet, but there are always a few undiscovered things to try in the park. Here are some of the top ways to experience the great outdoors of Banff this summer.
Dive to Underwater Towns
Raise your hand if you uncovered a lost city on your last holiday. Well, it’s time to do it now! It’s not every day you see a sunken town underneath a deep blue lake, but if you’re diving in Lake Minnewanka, that’s exactly what’s waiting for you below the water’s hue. Back in 1912, Minnewanka Landing started to experience flooding, and was completely submerged by 1941. Today, you can scuba dive to the ruins of the old buildings, bridges, and benches hiding beneath the depths. Word to the wise: It’s always recommended to dive with a buddy in the cold waters. Hot chocolate may just be on order when you pop out!
Put Paddle to the Metal
Like Ryan Gosling’s eyes, Banff is known for its deep blues—lakes, that is. Stretching along and wrapping around the edges of mountains, some of the clearest bodies of water in Alberta call the park home. If you haven’t kayaked around the shores yet, hop into a vessel and get those paddles working. Two Jack, Vermillion, Lake Minnewanka, and Lake Louise are all are popular spots to dip an oar in. Don’t worry if you didn’t bring your own gear. Places like the Banff Canoe Club offer kayaks and canoes on the Bow River, Moraine Lake, and Lake Louise, and you can find motorized boats at Lake Minnewanka. “Row, row, row your boat” just got a major upgrade.
Grip Those Handlebars
You don’t need to win the Tour de France to feel like a champion on a bike. Feel the brisk Banff air and satisfying burn in your lungs as you charge forth across the winding paths. Jagged mountains and tall trees give the trails a transcended feeling unlike anywhere else. Let your hair whip back and forth Willow Smith-style as you pedal through the windy trails near the lakes and streams. Popular spots include Banff Legacy Trail with an expansive 22.3 km paved road and multiple picnic spots along the way, if you need to refuel before hitting the trail again. If the kiddos are with you, you might want to check out Fenland Trail. At 1.8 km and an elevation gain of 2 m, it’s an easy loop for beginners. Training wheels never had a more epic setting.
Get Vertical on the Mountain
If you really want to experience Banff, you’ve got to move vertical. This is a place known for some of the best hikes in the country, with postcard views to make all your friends jealous on Instagram. Mount Rundle is a good place to start, with an 11 km roundtrip course, 2,950 m height, and elevation gain of 1,577 m. The Sulphur Mountain hike is another favourite, with viewing decks at the summit that overlook Mount Temple, Mount Rundle, and Cascade Mountain. The hike is around 12 km round trip, with an elevation gain of 660 m. It’s easier than some trails, with an adjacent gondola that allows you to ride down once you’re done. Oh, and if you really want to get some high up views, book a helicopter tour of the area. It’s one of those top things to do in Banff that takes sightseeing to such great heights.
Cruise the Icefields Parkway
You know that long commute you make for work every day? Yeah, Icefields Parkway is nothing like that! Stretching 232 km between Lake Louise and Jasper, it barrels through the forests, with mountain faces standing in for lamp posts. Most people stop at the pullouts to take pictures or walk a few minutes to any of the stunning attractions along the route, including Herbert Lake, Peyto Lake, Bow Glacier Trail, and Mistaya Canyon. Icefields Parkway: Making other roads jealous since 1940.
Get ready to get a little dirty in the great outdoors of Banff. Big skies, fresh air—it’s a kick to the senses in the best of ways. And remember this, when it comes to Banff, camping isn’t your only option to explore the landscape. You can always stay at famous places like the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel or Rimrock Resort Hotel where you can shower after your hike or bike ride and feel so fresh and so clean clean.
It’s time to see what Banff is all about. Lace up those boots and get ready to discover more of Banff’s nature waiting just beyond the bend!