Living Like a Local: Banff National Park
As Both a Town and a National Park, Banff is Chock-full of Fun Things to do for Everyone
By Judi Zienchuk, Ryerson University.
Whether you’re just passing through on a road trip through the mountains, or staying for the whole summer, Banff has plenty to do for everyone. After working there for 4 months, here’s a list of a few of my favourite park pastimes:
Climb a Mountain
You can’t pass through the rockies without reaching the top of a mountain! Luckily, there are tons of options right in the town of Banff. If hiking isn’t exactly your cup of tea, take the Sulphur Mountain Gondola to the mountain’s peak to enjoy some stunning panoramic views. If you’re feeling sneaky, you can take photos from the top and pretend you made the trek. If you want to actually climb a mountain, but don’t have much experience, go for Tunnel Mountain. It only takes about 30 minutes to get from the base to the summit and you can see the whole town of Banff from the peak. Finally, if you’re a true mountain man / woman, Cascade is a challenging peak to conquer, but makes for a rewarding accomplishment!
Paddle the Bow River
Canoes and kayaks are readily available for rent either for the day, or by the hour from Blue Canoe, where you can paddle down the river to the scenic Vermillion Lakes. Water levels can change drastically throughout the summer, so try to avoid trips when the water is dangerously low or high, as conditions can get rough.
Ride a Horse
There are two horseback riding companies in the town of Banff, both offering 1 hour, 3 hour and overnight tours. If you’re looking for a unique way to see the park, each of the tours take you along several wooded pathways and even across rivers. Don’t worry if you don’t have much riding experience, the 1 hour tour is catered to beginners, and you’ll travel with a well certified guide. The overnight route is a little more challenging, but camping under the stars after a day on horseback is an amazing experience.
Go for a Swim
Nearby Johnson Lake and Lake Minnewanka are both right outside the town. Johnson Lake has a sandy beach area, rope swing and hiking trails while Lake Minnewanka offers boat tours and even scuba diving to explore a now-sunken mining town. Both of them are close enough to bike to and Banff has several rental shops where you can pick one up.
Rest up With a Soak in the Hot Springs
Closer to the base of Sulphur mountain, you can find a natural hot spring pool, which is a great way to rest your tired muscles after a long day after a long day of adventuring.
Party it Up!
As a place people flock to to have fun, Banff is home to 3 clubs that are packed all weekend long. Hoodoos, The Dancing Sasquatch and Aurora get tourists and visitors from Calgary every weekend and serve the local crowd on Sunday nights. If you end up at The Dancing Sasquatch, make sure to order one of their signature Time Machines.