BANFF MUST-SEE SIGHTS AND ATTRACTIONS
Banff Upper Hot SpringsBanff National Park is Canada’s first national park and from it’s beginnings as a 26 kilometer hot springs reserve, Banff National Park is now 6,641 kilometers of majestic mountain scenery. Dating back to 1884, one of Banff’s premier attractions is the Banff Upper Hot Springs, which is a splendid historical spa and bathhouse with the magnificent background of Banff’s spectacular alpine scenery. Over the past century, travelers “take to the waters” as they enjoy the outdoor source fed pool and come to appreciate the ultimate in Rocky Mountain relaxation.
The Banff GondolaAfter a day of soaking in the mineral waters of Banff National Park, ride to the top of Sulphur Mountain to take in the bird’s eye view of six mountain ranges. The adventure begins with an eight minute ride to the summit in a modern and fully-enclosed gondola. The views only get better as you head to the Summit Upper Terminal which is your base camp for mountaintop activities. Several hiking trails lead away from The Banff Gondola at the summit complex and one of the most popular is the self guided interpretive walk to Sanson’s Peak. If you are an advanced hiker, you will want to test out the South East Ridge Trail that runs along the ridge of the mountain and leads you to Sulphur Mountain’s true summit. While at the top of the mountain you could also have an encounter with the local wildlife which includes bighorn sheep, hoary marmots, Clark’s nutcracker and the Canada jay.
Lake MinnewankaHome of the ‘Banff Crasher Squirrel,’ Lake Minnewanka is just a short 15 minute drive from the town of Banff. The Lake Minnewanka valley boasts some of the most interesting and beautiful scenery in the Canadian Rockies and one of the highlights is a lake cruise which offers unique photo opportunities, and a guided tour on the history, native folklore and geology of the region.
The Banff HoodoosThe Banff Hoodoos are giant freestanding pillars that have withstood the test of time and stand several meters tall. They are made of silt, gravel and rocks and are kept together by dissolved limestone. Over the years they have been shaped by wind, water and erosion and are protected by a very solid cap of rock. The Hoodoos can be found standing guard along the top of Tunnel Mountain, one of the smaller peaks in the Rockies which were originally called “Sleeping Buffalo,” among the Stoney Indians. We highly recommend taking a raft tour that launches from Bow River Falls, near The Fairmont Banff Springs which brings you between Tunnel Mountain and Mount Rundle, right past the Hoodoos. It’s the best way to encounter the natural beauty of the Hoodoos.
The Bow River FallsThe Bow River Falls are located near the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel. The falls occur just prior to the juncture of the Bow and Spray rivers. Movies buffs and trivia hounds may be interested to know that the 1953 Marilyn Monroe film River of No Return featured these falls.
A favourite of locals and tourists alike the Bow Falls trail is 1.2 kilomters long and consists of a series of stairs and railings. Take the trail from Central Park to the Surprise Corner Viewpoint. This is the vantage point for that classic “Castle in the Rockies” postcard view of the Fairmont Banff Springs. You don’t want to miss it!
Cave and Basin National Historic SiteThe Cave and Basin National Historic Site of Canada is located at the west end of Cave Avenue. It commemorates the birthplace of Canada's National Park system, which began there in 1885.
Visitor’s can walk into the cave, view the basin and discover the growth and development of Canada's national parks through interactive displays and exhibits. The tale of how the springs were discovered and the many tourists who flocked to the springs for its perceived regenerative powers in the early 19th century, is a truly fascinating page out of Canadian history. Naturally-occurring, warm mineral springs can be found inside the cave, and outside in an emerald coloured basin. The open-air mineral basin contains algae mats – which, upon close inspection, are the habitat for the endangered Banff Springs Snail. Also featured amongst the displays are compelling interpretive panels describing the World War I internment camp.