Banff National Park Things to Do Tips by richiecdisc
Banff National Park Things to Do: 404 reviews and 608 photos
a nice stop but do you have time on your ticket?
Banff is a fairly typical upscale ski resort kind of town, with lots of shopping, restaurants and bars. Everything seems to be made of wood or stone and it has rustic if ritzy feel to it. Of course, it's also a mecca for hikers, bikers, and paddlers making their way to the holy grail of Banff National Park. It is one of Canada's top tourist destinations in its own right and having been to Banff is a bit of a pilgrimage for any good Canadian. It's very popular with all tourists so expect it to be crowded.
It's almost a bit overwhelming as a National Park gateway town but you can't deny its amenities, convenience or scenic locale. All that great stuff comes at a price with hotel rates high and campgrounds that feature wireless and hot tubs. Of course, you can camp in the park but many prefer the creature comforts that Banff provides. As the biggest town in Banff National Park and a part of the park, you need to pay a park entrance fee just to stop in town. To their credit, parking is free aside from this one detail. For that reason, our stop in Banff was fairly brief. We only had till 4 PM on our pass and had to get on the road by that time.
We stopped by the very nice visitor center and did a little window shopping. It's a nice enough place but it sure would be a lot nicer if you did not have to pay to get in.
Directions: At the eastern end of the National Park of the same name. You have to drive through it to get out of the park! You cannot stop without paying the park entrance fee however.
the peaks with a fresh dusting of snow
Hiking in the Lake Moraine area is a bit more tricky than near Lake Louise due to a higher grizzly bear presence. This is seasonal depending generally on berries being around but the park reserves the right to close the area or install a group hiking mandate at any time. This basically means you can only hike in the area in groups of four or more since bears are less likely to bother large groups. The area around the lake is always open but hikes into the Larch, Consolation, and Paradise Valleys just above it can be thus restricted.
On our 2008 trip, there was a group hiking mandate in effect and to be honest, we did not have great weather so doing one of the hikes was not a priority. If the park was not set up in a pay-per-day format, we might have waited the weather out as we had done in countless US National Parks, but it did not seem worth the money to do so, especially with the summer rapidly disappearing before our eyes.
I did do the hike to Wenkchemna Pass on my first trip to the park in 1994. That year, I arrived in the park the day after a huge snow storm had hit the park. It was in incredibly clear day and the fresh dusting of snow on the Valley of the Ten Peaks was stunning. This hike is 9.7 kilometers one-way and gains 720 meters in elevation. You pass Eiffel Lake about half-way along the trail. I was knee deep in snow at some points!
Directions: Moraine Lake trail head.
unfortunately, the glaciers are receding
Many complain that Banff National Park is over-crowded and as Canada's most popular National Park, it does get its fair share of visitors but with over 1000 miles of trails, it is not likely all of them are jam-packed. Of course, the trails around Lake Louise and Moraine Lake get the most action so if seeking solitude, they are not your best choice. That said, we chose to do just that as with limited time in the park, I wanted to show my wife an area I knew to be quite beautiful despite the crowds and development.
The Plain of Six Glaciers is a 5.3 kilometer one-way hike that takes you along the shore of Lake Louise before rising up 365 meters into an alpine area featuring six glaciers. Unfortunately, the glaciers have receded a lot due to global warming and you may have to strain a bit to see some of them. It remains a beautiful hike though it is very busy up to a teahouse half-way up the trail. Beyond that it is a scree walk and thins out quite a bit. This is a pretty hike in itself but can easily be connected to the Beehive hike and Lake Agnes. By doing that, you will be hiking 14.6 kilometers which will take about 5 hours, only about an hour more than returning the way you came though you will have an additional climb by combining the two.
Directions: This hike is accessed via the Lake Louise trail head.
the quiet end of Lake Agnes
Lake Agnes gets lost in the shuffle between its more famous sister lakes of Louise and Moraine but though smaller and a tad less pretty, it is surely a better place to find some solitude. Of course, to do that, you will have to head to the far end of the small lake.
Lake Agnes is only a 3.5 kilometer hike from Lake Louise though you pick up a fairly steep 385 meters of elevation along the way. This will bring you to a charming little teahouse that serves light snacks and beverages. For many, this is what makes this area special, for others it is a sign of over development. Since I do not use such facilities, I fall into the later category but there are only a couple in the park so there are numerous trails without such man made structures.
The round trip to the teahouse is around 2.5 hours. On the opposite side of the lake, you will escape 90% of the people that hike up to the teahouse and can continue on to make a circuit rather than return the way you came. You can also connect this hike to the Plain of Six Glaciers that way.
Directions: This hike is accessed via the Lake Louise trail head.
gorgeous mountains lakes abound in Banff
For my money, Moraine Lake is even more beautiful than Lake Louise. It has even more incredible peaks that seem to go into infinity as its backdrop. It is aptly named the Valley of the Ten Peaks. Though smaller than Lake Louise at only a half square kilometer, it enjoys a similar blue green color due to it being glacier fed and full of a sediment known as rock flour.
A fairly flat well-maintained trail runs along its western shore and a very extensive network of trails begin at this trail head as well.
Directions: Moraine Lake is located 14 kilometers from the town of Lake Louise, off the Trans-Canada Highway.
certainly a stunner, Lake Louise
Lake Louise is Banff National Park's crown jewel and in park so packed with scenic beauty, that is saying a lot. As with most things renowned as the best, one should not expect to find it to themselves. It's not a remote lake that requires many days to hike to. As with all things that have parking lots with a short wheel-chair accessible path leading right to their edge, it can be crowded.
Lake Louise is not particularly large at less than a square kilometer. What sets it apart is its emerald color, the result of sediment in its water due to it being a glacier fed lake. Of course, it does not hurt that is has some incredible craggy peaks as its backdrop. Despite its grandeur it is very accessible and user friendly, only 5 kilometers from the small town of Lake Louise and just off the Trans-Canada Highway in Banff National Park.
It is named after the fourth granddaughter of Queen Victoria. One feature that perhaps spoils some of its natural wonder is the presence of Chateau Lake Louise right on its shore. Obviously, those staying in the hotel will likely feel differently about that. A very well maintained trail suitable for all hikers runs along its northwestern shore and quite a network of trails leave from here into many directions.
Directions: Lake Louise if right off the Trans-Canada Highway, 36 Miles or 56 Kilometers from the town of Banff.
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