Category: Banff Activities

Four Seasons, All Wonders: The Canadian Rockies All Year Round

The only right answer to the question “When is it the best to see the scenic views of the Canadian Rockies” is “It depends”. The Canadian Rockies are special all year long – they have something to offer to each and every visitor, no matter what time of the year it is.

In the spring, there are some hiking trails you can visit while here – the lower ones, of course, as many of the higher ones are still snowbound, and can be pretty dangerous due to the “avalanche season”. But there are enough valley-bottom trails to take to discover the blossoming wonders of nature reviving after a long, cold season. If you visit the area in the mid to late spring, you’ll probably still be able to see ice on the surface of Lake Louise.

Things get even more interesting in the summer when nature is in full bloom. And “nature” here means not only flowers and forest fruit but also animals that go on with their daily life, feeding and seeking a mate. In the summer, all trails become available for hikers – and not only those. The best time to visit Lake Louise is between June and September when you get to witness the amazing beauty of the lake itself and the surrounding mountains in full effect.

The early fall is another great time to visit the mountains thanks to the orgy of color covering its forests. This is when nature dresses up in its most amazing gown to say farewell to the world before a long, cold wintertime – the combinations of alpine greens and all shades of brown and yellow mixed up with the amazing sunsets of a wonderful red will give the area a unique, amazing atmosphere that’s hard to forget.

And in the winter everything is covered in the cold, pure icing of snow, seemingly giving the world a fresh start, a purifying touch that will cleanse it of all the bad memories of the year behind. Even if it’s cold, life doesn’t stop in the area – you can still explore the icy wonders of the forest on snowshoes, skis, even dog sleds, and snowmobiles. And when the ice becomes thick enough to be safe, you can also go skating on the surface of the lake.

So, when is the best time of the year to see the scenic views of the Canadian Rockies? Well, the answer is “each one of them”. Every season has its selection of wonders to explore that are breathtaking and unique.

Banff Recreation Facilities

Banff Town Recreation Facilities – Sometimes, You Just Want to Toss the Football and Have a Picnic

Outdoor recreation opportunities are boundless in the Canadian Rockies and Western Canada, as are those for extreme sports. But sometimes you just want to play catch or toss the old football around, you know? Or maybe get family and friends together for a game of softball and cookout. Then head down to Banff.

Pick-up hoops at Banff Recreation Grounds, Banff, Alberta, Canada.Banff town has plenty of places to play and facilities for traditional recreation available all year long and regardless of the weather. In the summertime you can play baseball or have a picnic at the Recreation Grounds for example. From May to October, the Banff Recreation Grounds are the place to be for softball, soccer, rugby, tennis and basketball, Frisbee, kite flying, staff and birthday parties or any other type of group gathering. In the wintertime the grounds play host to skating, curling and, of course, hockey (this is Canada, you know).

The Banff Recreation Grounds include:

• 3 ball diamonds
• rugby/soccer field
• 3 shelters & multiple picnic sites
• outdoor surfaced basketball court
• 2 playgrounds
• washroom facilities
• 2 tennis courts
• a skate park featuring steel-framed surfaces covered with Skatelite sheeting

The grounds are located just a few minutes from the Banff Avenue bridge, on the west side of the Bow River.

Banff Recreation Centre

In the wintertime you can head to the Banff Recreation Centre on Mt. Norquay Road (before you reach the Trans-Canada Highway interchange). The centre is Banff is the hub for hockey and skating; it is the town’s only indoor winter ice facility

2010/2011 Public Skating Schedule
(effective Monday, November 15, 2010)
Tuesday, 1:30 – 3 p.m.
Wednesday, Noon – 1:30 p.m.
Friday, 1:30 – 3 p.m.

2010/2011 Shinny Schedule (Full equipment is required)
Tuesday, Noon – 1:15 p.m.
Wednesday, 1:45 – 3:15 p.m.
Friday, Noon – 1:15 p.m.

2010/2011 Public Skating and Shinny rates
Adult drop-in $4.50
Senior drop-in $3
Child drop-in (18 and under) $2
Adult ten-punch card $37
Skate rental (under 14 years) $3.50
Skate rental (over 14 years) $4.50

For more information call 403.762.1235 (recorded message) or call Margaret at 403.762.1238. Dates and ice times may change without notice.

Sometimes It’s Nice to Just Go Outside and Play

How about just turning the kids loose for a few hours at a playground? There are a number of playgrounds scattered around Banff that are appropriate for a range of ages and offer lots of opportunities for fun. The newest facility, at Banff Central Park, even features a climbing experience.

Other Banff playground locations include:

• Rotary Park
527 Banff Ave (designed for ages 2 – 5)
• Banff Elementary School
327 Squirrel St (designed for ages 5 – 12)
• Central Park
Buffalo Street at Bow Avenue (structure designed for ages 5-12)
• Banff Recreation Grounds
Sundance Road (designed for ages 2 – 5)
• Birch Avenue (designed for ages 2 – 12)
• Park Avenue (designed for ages 2 – 12)
• Middle Springs Drive (designed for ages 2 – 10)
• Jasper Avenue (designed for ages 5 – 10)

And don’t forget Banff Central Park for other diversions as well. Central Park. It’s the perfect spot to enjoy a picnic, listen to an outdoor concert, toss the Frisbee or just relax. It’s even a popular place to get married! Located alongside the Bow River, Central Park is a scenic home for outdoor cultural activities and public art. It’s facilities include:

• gazebo
• parkland
• picnic tables

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Banff Centre

Banff Centre: Supporting the Arts in the Canadian Rockies and Banff National Park

You probably associate Western Canada, the Canadian Rockies and Banff National Park with rugged wilderness, scenic beauty, and luxury accommodations – and we certainly wouldn’t argue with you! But for those that prefer a dash of culture to their vacations or holiday getaways, there are opportunities to appreciate the performing arts as well.

Banff Centre: the heart of the arts in the Canadian Rockies.The Banff Centre, a globally respected professional development institution for artists first established in 1933, presents public performances all year long in classical music, jazz, opera, drama, dance, new media, and film. There are also several smaller venues, pubs and nightclubs in Banff that offer live music. During the warmer months visitors can also take in outdoor performances at both the Banff Centre and in Central Park, in downtown Banff.

For film buffs Banff has a four-theater cinema that operates year around, naturally. Special film events include the annual Banff Mountain Film Festival, taking place in late October/early November of each year.

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Art Galleries in Banff

Art Galleries: There’s More to Banff than Scenic Beauty and Boutique Hotel Luxury

If you enjoy the galleries at Lake Louise, then you’ll want to make the trip an hour south down to Banff town.

Whyte Museum in downtown Banff, Alberta, Canada in the Canadian Rockies

Banff's Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies

The Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies in downtown Banff features a collection celebrating Banff’s artistic history. It also presents relevant, contemporary exhibits throughout the year.

Then there is the  Walter Phillips Gallery at The Banff Centre, which serves as a hub for the city’s contemporary arts scene, often featuring new media art forms. There are also a number of galleries in both Banff town and Lake Louise that feature traditional arts and crafts of Western Canada’s First Nations peoples as well.

There are many other art galleries in downtown Banff that specialize in various artistic mediums such as painting, photography, sculpture, jewelry and printmaking among other artforms. These galleries often present the works of lcoal artists with an emphasis on Canadian Rockies’ themes, as well as works of other Canadian artists.

Galleries in Banff include:

• About Canada Gallery
• Authentic First Nations Crafts (Old Crag Cabin, Bison Court)
• Canada House Gallery
• Canada Place
• Harmon Gallery
• Mountain Galleries (Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel)
• Quest Gallery
• Roy Andersen Photography
• Sedna Art Gallery
• Stratus Gallery
• Walter Phillips Gallery
• Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies
• Willock & Sax Gallery

Galleries in Lake Louise:

• Art of Man Gallery (Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise)
• Images of the North (Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise)
• Northern Art Impressions

Please visit our Banff National Park website for more information on Banff art galleries and museums.

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Banff Hoodoos, Hotsprings

Hoodoos, Hotsprings and Waterfalls: Natural Formations in and Around Banff

So wildlife abounds and scenic views are everywhere around Lake Louise, Banff town and  Banff National Park. But there are some fascinating natural phenomena unique to the Banff area that can be enjoyed year-round:


Ancient fields of sub-polar ice, glaciers remain landmarks of the Canadian Rockies. Local glaciers include:

• The Victoria Glacier, a hanging glacier at the back of Lake Louise
• Crowfoot and Bow Glaciers, both visible from the Icefields Parkway (Highway 93 North)
• Columbia Icefield, accessible from the Icefields Parkway (Highway 93 North) via Ice Explorer tours

Hoodoos are one of the many stunning formations in Banff National Park and the Canadian Rockies.

hodoos just outside Banff, Canada


• Lake Minnewanka
• Johnson Lake
• Two Jack Lake
• Lake Louise
• Moraine Lake
• Peyto Lake
• Bow Lake


These strange – some might even say unnatural-looking — sandstone spires created over thousands of years by erosion and believed to be spiritually significant among First Nations forefathers. Local Hoodoos can be seen from the Hoodoos Viewpoint, along Tunnel Mountain Road.

Natural Hot Springs

Cave and Basin Historic Site at Banff in the Canadian Rockies

Cave and Basin in Banff town

Of course there is the Banff Upper Hot Springs, but there are other local, notable hot springs. For example, a natural hot spring keeps ice off the third Vermilion Lake year-round. Then at the Cave and Basin Historic Site in Banff town one can visit the Cave, which features an interior pool and vent hole; the Basin, home to the Banff Springs snail; and along the Marsh Loop Boardwalk, two smaller springs bubble up from the mountainside, feeding the pools that are filled with pink bacteria, white and green algae, small fish, and insects.


Banff TravelBow Falls in Banff and Johnston Canyon along the Bow Valley Parkway are among the most spectacular falls in the area. Even in the winter months, the ice formations are beautiful. Bow Falls are particularly easy to see – it’s right in downtown Banff just above the confluence of the Bow and Spray rivers.

Looking for a guided tour or hike of some these places in Banff National Park? Look no further than the guides at Banff Travel.

Click here for more information on Banff activities, boutique hotels, resorts and other accommodations.

Banff Travel: for all your Canadian Rockies adventure here for Banff Travel

call toll free: 888-659-3394

211 Bear Street
Bison Courtyard
Banff, Alberta

Banff Wildlife Viewing

See Wildlife Against a Backdrop of Natural Splendor in Banff National Park

See amazing wildlife year around in Banff National Park in the Canadian Rockies.Some people describe the Canadian Rockies and Banff National Park as remote wilderness – towns and cities are few and far between scattered across the provinces of Alberta and British Columbia. While that is all certainly true, it’s not as if the region is not packed with residents – it’s just that most of them aren’t human.

Of course when you think of Canadian Rockies what’s the one animal you think of first? Grizzly bears! Or black bears, or brown bears. If you like bears, we’ve got bears.

Banff TravelBut that’s not all. Don’t forget elk, deer, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, coyotes, wolves, marmots, and ground squirrels, just to name a few; there are some 53 species of mammals in Banff National Park. Then there multitudes of bird and fish species throughout the alpine forest, lake and river environments of the park.

Is it any wonder that Banff National Park draws photographers, both amateur and professional, from all over the world? Of course many professional photographers that specialize in alpine and wildlife photography are based in of the towns and cities of Banff National Park and elsewhere in the Alberta province of Canada.

A leaping fox in an alpine meadow in the Banff National Park Canadian Rockies.What do you have to do to see and photograph this wildlife up close? Well, you can lace up your hiking boots and climb into the straps of your backpack – head out on any trail, even those in downtown Banff, and on any given day you are likely to encounter alpine critters going about their daily business.

Or you can get in the car – or motorcoach – and go for a drive or scenic tour. While wildlife conservation and habitat protection is of critical importance – that’s why the national parks were created, after all – there are some surprisingly easily accessible areas for visitors to the Rocky Mountains and Banff National Park to see wildlife safely and unobtrusively in their natural habitat — its an excellent opportunity for the whole family to enjoy, so bring the kids along.

Below are just a few places that are readily accessible for wildlife viewing in and around Banff town or Lake Louise:

• Vermilion Lakes Drive
• Minnewanka Loop
• Norquay Road
• Marsh Boardwalk Trail at the Cave and Basin Historic Site
• Bow Valley Parkway (Highway 1A)
• Icefields Parkway

Of course please remember to respect the wildlife; we want to make sure that it stays just that: wild! As the folks at Parks Canada remind us all, the environment her is beautiful but difficult; wildlife in the Canadian Rockies must devote all available energy to survival: feeding, resting, staying warm or cool enough, avoiding natural dangers, and producing healthy offspring. With the millions of visitors to Banff National Park each year, it’s important to remember that we must not disrupt animals natural activities, lest we take away from the energy they need for survival.

Looking for a guided wildlife hike or tour? Look no further than Banff Travel.

photography on this page © John E. Marriott

Click here for more information on Banff activities, boutique hotels, resorts and other accommodations.

Banff Travel: for all your Canadian Rockies adventure here for Banff Travel

call toll free: 888-659-3394

211 Bear Street
Bison Courtyard
Banff, Alberta

Banff-Lake Louise Gondolas

Enjoy Mountaintop Views and Wildlife – Without the Sweat! Take a Gondola

No Sweat! Use a Gondola to Scale the Canadian Rockies in Banff.Not everyone is willing or able to climb or hike up a mountain. And even when you are, you might not have time, or you might have the family with you, and the little ones might not be up for a strenuous steep climb.

Not to worry; that doesn’t mean you can’t get to the top of Canadian Rockies peaks and explore first hand the scenic wonders that can be found there. Gondolas are the perfect option and operate year around — during the warm weather months they ferry sightseers instead of skiers up and down mountain sides. Local gondolas include:

Banff Gondola

Banff Travel
Just a few minutes ride from downtown Banff – there’s a bus that can take you too and from the lower gondola station – the four-person Banff Gondola offers an 8-minuted ride with 360-degree panoramic views around Banff to the summit of Sulphur Mountain, at an elevation of 2,281 meters. 486 ft). At the summit is an observation deck with several outdoor terraces, as well as a restaurant and a gift shop.

There are also trails here – you can hike to the top of Sulphur mountain and take the gondola back down, or you can take the gondola to the top and hike back down, the choice is yours. Either way, don’t forget your camera; taking the gondola is a photographers dream.

Lake Louise Sightseeing Gondola

This gondola ride takes you on a 14-minute trip up to an elevation 2,088 meters. You also have a choice of riding in an open or fully-closed car. While you can enjoy the usual panoramic alpine vistas and access to meadows filled with wildflowers, springs, and other aspects of the alpine environment, one aspect of the Lake Louise gondola trips are the wildlife.

Animal sightings occur almost daily, according to gondola operators. These sightings include grizzly bears, black and brown bears, cougars, lynx, mountain goats, wolves, elk, mule and whitetail deer, moose, big horn sheep, wolverines, and many others.

The tour operators keep calendars of major animal sightings, and during the months the gondola is open for warm-weather tours, most days see major animal sightings. In September 2010, for example there were 15 days with major animal sightings; in August there were 29 days with animal sightings! What’s more, many of these are grizzly bear sightings. Click here for more information on the Lake Louise sightseeing gondola.

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Want to schedule a gondola ride? Check out Banff Travel.

Banff Travel: for all your Canadian Rockies adventure here for Banff Travel

call toll free: 888-659-3394

211 Bear Street
Bison Courtyard
Banff, Alberta

Banff GPS Tours

Mountains, Elevation Can Wreak Havoc on GPS Tour Systems in the Canadian Rockies

By Blake Baily

gypsy1More and more GPS tours on handhelds and in rental cars are being offered all throughout the world.

Many vacationers are finding GPS tours and GPS systems to be highly problematic, however. Many Canadian Rockies visitors discover that GPS tours and GPS systems can go in and out because of the mountainous geography and elevation. This is especially true when touring British Columbia (BC), Lake Louise, Banff, Canmore, Jasper and other alpine areas in the Rockies. Keeping and maintaining reception can be a huge issue.

Often GPS tours will require additional hardware hacking to make them usable in this terrain; this is also the case with satellite radio as well.

Your best bet: simply enjoy the grand scenery of the Canadian Rockies and then curl up with a good book!

Blake Baily is a tourism and travel editor who has written for Frommers, Trip Advisor and Moon Guides.

Yamnuska Mountain Adventures

Overland Trekking Adventures
For further information on guided tours in the Canadian Rockies, fill out the blue form on the right side of this page.

Banff Motorcoach Tours

Leave the Driving to the Tour Guide While You Relax and Enjoy Banff National Park and Canadian Rockies

Relax and Enjoy the Canadian Rockies and Banff National Park via motorcoach tour.Looking for an easy an relaxing way to see the natural wonder of Banff National Park and the Canadian Rockies from the road? Then a motorcoach sightseeing tour is an excellent idea. This is a great way to explore in and around Lake Louise, Banff and other areas of the Albertan province nearby, such as Jasper.

Not only do you get to witness the scenic beauty, but the driver-guides will add to your experience with mountain lore, history and story telling. Furthermore, you can pay attention to the scenery outside the window and leave the driving to them.

There are many tour operators who provide motorcoach tours tailored to specific needs and interests, such as waterfalls, historic sites, wildlife viewing and others. A few of the more popular motorcoach tours include:

• Banff town: covering the local historic sites and viewpoints.
• Lake Minnewanka: a 15-minute scenic ride from downtown Banff to nearby Lake Minnewanka, where boat tours are available.
• Moraine Lake and Lake Louise: a 45-minute drive northwest of Banff along the TransCanada Highway to destinations including Moraine Lake, Lake Louise, and the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise.
Relax and Enjoy the Canadian Rockies and Banff National Park via motorcoach tour.• Columbia Icefield: a stunning drive up the Icefields Parkway north of Banff town and Lake Louise, on the border of Banff and Jasper National Parks. It is about 2 hours from the town of Banff or about an hour from Lake Louise to the Columbia Icefield, the largest body of ice in North America below the arctic circle. Here visitors can also embark on tours of the glacier itself, as well as an interpretive center.

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Visit Banff Upper Hot Springs

Luxury in the Heart of the Unspoiled Canadian Rockies Wilderness

Holidays and vacations are meant for relaxation. For some, that means a tent and wilderness solitude. For others, that means pampering. Fortunately for both kinds of people, Banff, Canada and Banff National Park offer options for both kinds of people.

If relaxing in soothing, hot, all-natural spring water is an integral part of your trip, then the Banff Upper Hot Springs is for you. While the Hot Springs are operated by Parks Canada, they are anything but rustic.

Banff Upper Hot Springs, Banff National Park, Canadian Rockies

Featuring an historic spa and bath house fed by natural hot springs, the Banff Upper Hot Springs offer all the luxury and amenities of a modern spa, including therapeutic massage. And seeing as they are just few kilometers from the town of Banff, they are set against a backdrop of spectacular Canadian Rockies alpine scenery. You can relax in the comfort of soothing hot water – while letting your eyes rest on majestic, snow-covered peaks and wooded valleys — where travelers have come for more than a century to enjoy the 1930s-era bathhouse and the outdoor, spring-fed hot pool.

The hot springs are family friendly if you’re looking for this to do with the kids. It features a children’s wading area and spacious changing rooms with heated floors that include dedicated family changing rooms, so parents can stay with and assist their children.

Banff TravelThe Banff Upper Hot Springs also have a day spa that offers a variety massage therapies, steam room, aromatherapy, and wellness treatments. The Hot Springs are open year around with extended hours during peak seasons.

For more information contact the Banff Upper Hot Springs Pool directly at 403-762-1515 or call our North American toll free Pool Information Line at 1-800-767-1611.
So you came to Banff and the weather turned bad. Not to worry, there is plenty to do indoors when the heavens open up and the mountain peaks are covered in mist. Be sure to visit the Cave and Basin National Historic Site, which provides a history of Banff National Park’s creation. Then there is the Banff Park Museum itself: an old-fashioned wildlife display where you are guaranteed to see some critters.

No Banff museum tour would be complete without stopping at The Whyte Museum, which holds the world’s largest collection of Canadian Rockies art and literature. Visitors wanting to learn more about the original inhabitants of the area should visit the Buffalo Nations Museum.

To book admission ahead of your visit to the Banff Upper Hot Springs, contact Banff Travel.

Click here for more information on Banff activities, boutique hotels, resorts and other accommodations.

Banff Travel: for all your Canadian Rockies adventure here for Banff Travel

call toll free: 888-659-3394

211 Bear Street
Bison Courtyard
Banff, Alberta