How to Enjoy the Best of Banff, Without the Crowds

Banff feels greater than an atypical resort city. Located simply over an hour west of Calgary, Alberta, the japanese facet of Banff wraps round Tunnel Mountain, whose ridgeline resembles the profile of a sleeping buffalo. The Stoney Nakoda First Nation, one of many tribes with hundreds of years of historical past on this space, calls the mountain Sacred Buffalo Guardian. It acts as sentinel over the waters, herbs and medicines that develop beneath it.

And that better sense of the mountains being very a lot alive is indeniable. An brisk pressure that additionally runs by the water ,bushes and wildlife connects you to the jagged spires and limestone partitions of the Canadian Rockies. Towering peaks which have stood for greater than 50 million years make you are feeling without delay invigorated and diminished.

Mountaineering underneath the Canadian Rockies at Sentinel Go. Banff Lake Louise Tourism/Jake Dyson

The highly effective panorama’s skill to encourage each interconnection and humility additionally fuels an enormous quantity of visitation. Greater than 4 million individuals from round the world go to Banff and surrounding Banff Nationwide Park annually. They arrive to faucet into this power, and to see the alpine lakes, expansive glaciers and steaming sizzling springs that make this 2,500-square-mile park a much-deserving UNESCO World Heritage Web site.

In the summer time, climbing trails can resemble strains at Disneyland, and well-known vistas are overrun by shoulder-to-shoulder crowds. However that doesn’t imply you shouldn’t go to Banff; it’s only a matter of timing your go to so you’ll be able to hike, bike, climb, and extra, with out the overwhelming crowds.

The unbelievable colours of Banff’s alpine lakes draw tens of millions of guests, however time your go to proper and there are nonetheless alternatives for (close to) solitude. Banff Lake Louise Tourism/Jake Dyson

Plan a go to for late October/early November throughout the Banff Mountain Film Festival, a 45-year-old celebration of mountain tradition that showcases over 100 movies annually and contains panels and workshops with skilled athletes like Sasha DiGiulian and legendary adventurers like Reinhold Messner. Many attendees have been coming to the pageant for 20 or 30 years, and the enthusiasm for the outdoor is palpable and contagious. Purchase your passes early – premiere occasions promote out early and keen patrons line up an hour or extra prematurely to get seats.

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The Banff Centre, residence of the Banff Mountain Movie Pageant. Banff Lake Louise Tourism

The pageant takes place at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, a contemporary campus tucked into the facet of Tunnel Mountain and strolling distance from downtown Banff. Spend the mornings adventuring outdoors after which settle in for the night’s movies to get pumped up for the subsequent day of exploration.

This time of 12 months can run the full gamut of climate: Someday you is perhaps climbing briefly sleeves, the subsequent you’re donning a snow jacket. However with an open thoughts, climate shifts present spontaneity and selection. Give up to what the climate has in retailer, and embrace whichever actions the parts enable.

A good way to discover the park is with a mountain information. Banff was the first place to carry the Swiss Mountain Guide tradition to North America again in 1899. The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise’s Mountain Heritage Program pays tribute to these guides, and presents half- and full-day excursions all through the park. Relying on the climate, guides can take you climbing into the alpine, canoeing on Lake Louise or stargazing through snowshoe.

Lake Louise Sunrise
A freshly frozen Lake Louise. Go to at dawn for uncommon tranquility at this world-famous website. Gabriela Aoun

If you happen to can swing it, keep an evening or two at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, to get pleasure from its otherworldly location overlooking the piercing turquoise waters of Lake Louise. When the glaciers above Lake Louise soften in the spring, the water feeds the lake and deposits glacier silt that offers it an electrical teal hue.

The placement of the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise can’t be beat, however in case you can’t keep right here, not less than ensure you make a day journey to get pleasure from the lake and hike close by trails. Banff Lake Louise Tourism/Paul Zizka

Early November is usually the good time to stroll and even skate on Lake Louise — as the temperatures drop beneath freezing however snow has not but coated the lake’s floor. It’s additionally a good time to hike fashionable trails like Lake Agnes or Plain of Six Glaciers with out crowds. Each trailheads start at the lake and climb into the mountainside for dramatic overhead views.

If the Fairmont is out of attain, seize a room at Moose Hotel and Suites, an unpretentious, fairly priced 4-star lodge in Banff. It’s strolling distance from every little thing on the town and contains a rooftop sizzling pool with mountain views that may be loved 12 months spherical.

Stroll on glaciers alongside the Icefields Parkway, connecting Banff and Jasper Nationwide Parks. Banff Lake Louise Tourism/Mike Seehagel

You’ll need to lease a automotive in order not to miss another must-sees, like the Icefields Parkway that connects Banff to Jasper Nationwide Park and passes greater than 100 glaciers, or to descend into half of the longest cave system in Canada, at Canmore Caves. Animal lovers may enterprise out of the park to go to the Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary, though you’re positive to see a lot of wildlife it doesn’t matter what, together with elk, bighorn sheep, and perhaps even a grizzly bear.

Ensure you don’t miss a hike by Johnston Canyon, the place waterfalls freeze in the late fall, and cascading water is suspended as ice that reaches down right into a river, the place crystal-clear water rushes underneath thick layers of ice.

Rock climbers from newbie to superior can link up with Yamnuska Mountain Adventures for guided climbing journeys, and people who need to acquire extra distance than elevation can lease fats bikes from clothing store Snowtips-Backtrax to trip on lakeside roads closed to vehicles in the winter.


As snow begins to cowl Banff in late fall, fats biking is an effective way to discover. Banff Lake Louise/Jeff Barlett

There are a lot of worthy meals choices in Banff, many of that are inexpensive and have vegan and vegetarian choices. For breakfast, attempt Touloulou’s for heaping parts of Canadian-Creole (it’s a factor) or Juniper Bistro to get pleasure from dramatic views and a comfy fire. Vegans will recognize Nourish’s plant-based consolation meals for lunch, and at dinnertime Bear Street Tavern boasts 11 artistic pizzas (“The Three Pigs” contains pulled pork, smoked bacon and pork stomach), whereas Park Distillery presents free distillery excursions earlier than a flannel-clad server brings you house-made cornbread and a bison burger.

Park Distilery
Come for the drinks, keep for the meals at Park Distillery. Banff Lake Louise/Hendrickson

There may be extra to do in Banff than you’ll have the ability to match into one journey, and so don’t focus an excessive amount of on checking issues off your itinerary. As you go by city, search for at the Sleeping Buffalo, and simply let your self really feel the spirit of a spot that may all the time be greater than the crowds who flock to it.

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A peaceable skate on Lake Minnewanka. Banff Lake Louise/Paul Zizka

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