Things to Do
in Banff



Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel Willow Stream Spa

Enjoying the Outdoors at Willow Stream Spa
Photo Courtesy Fairmont Banff Springs


DISCOVER THE MAGIC OF THIS MOUNTAIN GETAWAY


This little mountain getaway is located in Banff National Park, can trace its beginnings back to the Canadian Pacific Railway and the discovery of the hot springs back in the 1880s by three young railworkers.

This discovery of hot water bubbling out of Sulphur Mountain was to be the beginning of Canada's first National Park and, with that, Canada's National Park system we all enjoy today.

So why is the townsite in a national park? Good question! It is of course unusual to have a town in a protected reserve, but a settlement of sorts was already there in order to support the buidling and running of the railway. Coal was also found early here in the mountains and it was this coal that would make train travel possible.

Men came looking for work and settlements popped up near areas of work. Once the hot springs were in a federal reserve, the area was marketed all over the world to the rich who could travel to the Rockies via the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) and relax in the comfort of the new CP hotel, the Banff Springs, where guests could bathe in spring water in the hotel!

William Cornelius Van Horne of the Canadian Pacific Railway believed that if they built a castle in the Rocky Mountains, people from all over the world would come!! And come they did!! Needless to say, Banff became the international resort it continues to be today.


WHAT'S IN A NAME?



Many people ask, where the town got its name from. Here again there is a tie-in to the railway: Banff is named after Banffshire in Scotland, which was the birthplace of two of the original Canadian Pacific Railway directors.

Camping on Tunnel Mountain
Tunnel Mountain Camping
Travel Alberta

Banff doesn't just mean grand hotels; camping on Tunnel Mountain offers you the best of both worlds. Wake up to the fresh mountain air and walk or take a short bus ride downhill to enjoy a hot coffee and hot mountain breakfast at one of the many little coffee shops or restaurants. After breakfast you can take a stroll down picturesque Banff Avenue and try some fudge and elk droppings (the chocolate version!!) along the way. Need souvenirs? You don't have to look far. Quality mountain clothes and equipment are at your fingertips. Need some new hiking boots or a new mountain bike? Or maybe a new snowboard or the latest in skis? You've come to the right place.

Known as the "Highest Town in Canada", Banff is located 1,384 meters (4,540 feet) above sea level with a population of about 7000 inhabitants. In the summer months, it is said that there can be up to 40,000 people! Luckily, many of these people are up for the day, or weekend and are looking at what they can do, not only in the town, but also in the national park (6,641 sq km or 2,564 sq mi.), so this number of people is not that noticeable. Is the town busy? Yes, I would recommend getting up early and making the most of the morning hours. The days of summer are long in the mountains, with the sun going down after 9! Then the Banff nightlife begins - which is also referred to as the 'wildlife'.

Cave & Basin National Historic Site
Cave & Basin
Travel Alberta

The town of Banff, located within the national park of the same name, can trace its beginnings back to the Canadian Pacific Railway and the discovery of the hot springs back in the 1880s by three young railworkers. This discovery of hot water bubbling out of Sulphur Mountain was to be the beginning of Canada's first National Park and, with that, Canada's National Park system we all enjoy today.

So why is the townsite in a national park? Good question! It is of course unusual to have a town in a protected reserve, but a settlement of sorts was already there in order to support the buidling and running of the railway. Coal was also found early here in the mountains, and it was this coal that would make train travel possible.


Van Horne
M. Finnigan

Men came looking for work and settlements popped up near areas of work. Once the hot springs were in a federal reserve, the area was marketed all over the world to the rich who could travel to the Rockies via the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) and relax in the comfort of the new CP hotel, the Banff Springs, where guests could bathe in spring water in the hotel! William Cornelius Van Horne of the Canadian Pacific Railway believed that if they built it, they would come!! And come they did!! Needless to say, it became the international resort it continues to be today.


SO WHAT CAN YOU DO TO ENJOY THE SURROUNDINGS?


So let's take a look at what there is to do in the town. First of all, when people come to visit, it is usually to seek refuge from their hectic day-to-day life. Getting back to nature and discovering the solitude (yes, even in the town!) can be a great way to start your get-away.



Hike up Sleeping Buffalo

Enjoy the View from Tunnel Mountain
Go on a walk or hike for starters up Tunnel Mountain - also known as Sleeping Buffalo - along the switchback trail. Tunnel is an easy hike with a gain of about 1000 ft (305 m) and from the top you have an expansive view of the Bow Valley and the townsite. King George VI and Queen Elizabeth even hiked up the mountain on their visit in 1939.

Can you see the Sleeping Buffalo in the picture? By the way - you can stop looking for the tunnel - there isn't one!! In the end, the railway decided not to tunnel the mountain, but somehow the name still stuck!



Hike or Walk

Interested in a "flatter" walk in nature? How about Fenland Trail? Located at the second entrance into the town, this trail offers you a forest and wetland environment where you can spot some wildlife, all the way from birds and squirrels to beavers and elk! This is really great for kids because they can also spot a lot of different animal tracks! They can draw them and try and guess what animal might have made them! You may even catch some canoers headed for Vermillion Lakes.


Kayaks on the Bow

Speaking of canoeing... At the Canoe Docks located behind the Mineral Springs Hospital on the corner of Bow Avenue and Wolf Street, you can rent a canoe or kayak for about $27 for 1 hr, 45 for 2 hrs and $60 for a full day. Go up to Vermillion Lakes and relax as nature unfolds before your eyes. Bring your camera for wildlife! Hard to believe such a quiet and tranquil place is so accessible so close to town. If you are interested in taking the canoe or kayak elsewhere, you can rent it for $75/day.


Bow River Promenade

Pick a place to picnic down by the Bow River after you have strolled the Bow River Promenade. (This is where my wife and I had our first "date"!) The setting leads to great conversation and the sound of the river clears your mind. Stop off at one of the many cafes and take some food to go. (Evelyn's Roasted Chicken and Cranberry Sandwich is my favourite!!) If you require picnic tables, follow the paved path down to Central Park. Relax and enjoy Banff's pretty peaks.


Bow Falls

Take a leisurely walk down to the famous Bow Falls! Walk down Banff Ave and cross the Bow River Bridge. Take a left onto a foot path that goes behind the YWCA and follow the river. Beautiful scenery and the rushing sound of the water gets louder and louder the closer you get to the falls. Before you leave home, rent "The River of No Return" with Marilyn Monroe and Robert Mitchum. You will, without a doubt, recognize the Bow!!


View from Sulphur

The Banff Gondola gives you a whole new perspective on the town and surrounding mountains and valleys. You have two choices; You can either hike up Sulphur and ride down or take the Gondola both ways. Once at the top, look around and imagine how the first explorers fought their way through the unbelievable terrain. After you've taken enough pictures, take the short boardwalk over to Sanson Peak and back. Hungry? The restaurant and cafe offer full meals and snacks with panoramic views!!




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