Banff – Experiencing the Canadian Rocky Mountains.
Banff is located in Alberta, Canada and is one of the most breathtaking places that I’ve had the privilege of visiting. Banff is a National Park and can often be quite expensive to visit, unless you have friends or family members there to stay with; however, I have visited Banff several times and would highly recommend saving the money, if needed, to experience it’s natural beauty. Below is a map outlining this gorgeous National Park.
As previously stated, if you enjoy experiencing natures natural phenomenons, you’ll be astonished with Banff. Although it is located in the heart of the Canadian Rocky Mountains, which you all might presume is far too cold for your liking, believe me when I say there is enough to do there to keep you cozy and entertained. You’ll see below a list of 5 “must do” experiences in Banff.
1. Lake Louise & Moraine Lake
You may have already heard stories of Lake Louise as it is THE place to see when visiting Banff. Lake Louise is nothing less than phenomenal. It is crystal clear turquoise glacier water, surrounded by mountains. People often attend Lake Louise to simply take pictures and leave; however, you can also kayak/ canoe on it as well. Lake Louise is a very busy spot but, if anything, its the number 2 spot I would recommend anyone to experience. Moraine Lake is, in my opinion, more beautiful than Lake Louise and therefore is my number 1 recommendation. Moraine Lake is approximately a 15 minute drive from Lake Louise and I have yet to be able to find it on Google Maps. We were introduced to Moraine Lake as some friends of ours live in Banff and told us how to get there. I would highly recommend asking the locals how to get to Moraine Lake or, in the alternative, please feel free to contact me and I would be happy to speak to our friends and seek directions for you. Nonetheless, Moraine Lake is far less busy than Lake Louise as a significantly less amount of people are aware of it so you can enjoy the serenity of it far more.
You’ll see below two different photos. On the top, is a professionally taken photo of Lake Louise. Below it, is a panoramic photo I took of Moraine Lake during my visit there.
2. Banff Upper Hot Springs
Banff Upper Hot Springs is an incredible experience. If you’re like me, you’re probably thinking “I am NOT going swimming in a pool, outside, surrounded by snow-covered mountains” but let me tell you, I was wrong. The setting I just described is correct, it is a swimming pool located outside surrounded by mountains, often covered in snow. But miraculously, it is a hot tub made out of natural spring water which flows down from the mountain. It is a little chilly walking out to the pool in a bikini, and the mountain does smell like sulfur, but if you can overcome those two minor downfalls, then you can experience an all natural hot tub, located on the side of a mountain, overlooking more mountains. I was speechless for the first half of my time in the hot spring as I was taken aback from the view surrounding me.
3. Climbing Sulfur Mountain
Sulfur mountain is an incredible and breathtaking (literally if you’re out of shape like I was but also figuratively) climb! It’s elevation is 8,041 ft. The name itself doesn’t sound very appealing but I don’t recall the smell of sulfur being too prominent and, if it was, I got over it quickly. This climb begins by taking a gondola ride up the mountain for 8 minutes, which feels like 15-20 when you’re surrounded by such beauty. When getting off of the gondola, you arrive at a very nice restaurant that is situated on Sulfur Mountain. There are also gift shops inside etc. Outside is almost like a massive wooden deck. You can look over the railings and view below you or just simply enjoy the sights around you. There are binoculars surrounding this wooden platform for people to use. My favourite part of Sulfur Mountain was that the wooden platform leads a pathway all the way to the very top of the mountain. We walked this pathway for quite easily 45 minutes to an hour, if not more, and reached the top of Sulfur Mountain. It was quite the climb, especially because we were not fit at the time but it was worth every breath. At the top of the mountain there is a little shack which is actually a meteorological observatory building in which you can look through a window and see it’s furnishings from over 100 years ago.
4. Grizzly House
The Grizzly House is on the main attraction strip in Banff. It is a 3 or 4 course meal restaurant and is known for its exotic meats fondue. We attended this restaurant for our anniversary one year and were astounded by its uniqueness. Of course they also have a seafood fondue menu as well as a Canadian meats menu. We chose the exotic meats fondue because it isn’t every day that you get to try exciting new things. The meal began with a cheese and bread fondue. The bread came in little cubes and we had poker sticks to dip them in the cheese. The cheese was so rich and delicious but, of course, who doesn’t love cheese? Then came the exotic meats. I cannot remember all that we tried but I recall having venison, kangaroo, crocodile, shark and frog legs. The meats came separated on a plate with different dips to try and a hot stone for us to cook our meats just the way we like them. I personally am a huge fan of the hot stone cooking. I did, however, find that this experience is all mind over matter and, unfortunately, I was having a hard time seeing the meats raw and then watching my fiancé cooking them and thereafter eating it. Crocodile was my favourite and frog legs were my least favourite. We concluded our dinner with a scrumptious chocolate fondue. We had an assortment of fruits, again with poker sticks to dip the fruit in the chocolate. It is a fairly expensive restaurant but they take their time so that you can enjoy everything. I believe the duration of our time at the restaurant was approximately 2 hours. This is one of the best restaurant experiences that I’ve encountered thus far in life. Although I had a hard time stomaching the meats portion of the meal, I would still recommend it to anyone and everyone.
5. Skiing/ Snowboarding
Of course skiing/ snowboarding would be in this article as I am writing about Canada as well as the mountains. I personally haven’t been skiing since I was a young girl. My fiancé, however, had been snowboarding at Sunshine Village and Lake Louise (which is the name of the ski hill, not the actual lake). For anyone that genuinely enjoys skiing/ snowboarding, Banff comes highly recommended as it is within the mountains and has 3 hills that I know of, Norquay being the third. Skiing/ snowboarding in the mountains is different than regular hills for obvious reasons. My fiancé’s favourite hill is Sunshine as it’s the biggest out of the 3 hills. Skiing/ snowboarding down a mountain is different in the sense that you take both gondolas and chairlifts for approximately 20 minutes up the mountain. You then ski/ snowboard down the mountain on a clear path that is outlined by trees on either side of you. You can detour off of the path as a sort of freestyle but it is not recommend whatsoever as it is far too dangerous. During the month of March, Sunshine hosts something called Slush Cup. Slush Cup is an event wherein people dress up in an assortment of costumes and they ski/ snowboard off of a jump over a pool of ice water, in an attempt to ski/ snowboard across the water, but many do fail to clear the jump and end up falling in the ice water. Anyone can sign up to partake in this event if they like, either hanging out and watching while having a drink (B.Y.O.B. and ski patrol comes around to pick up your empties to prevent littering) or to partake in attempting to clear the jump over the ice water. There are also bands in the chalet for entertainment. Essentially it is a giant party in the mountains which my fiancé would highly recommend if you’re in Banff in March. The Slush Cup event is actually free to attend, you’re just required to pay $10 for the gondola ride up the mountain. Aside from Slush Cup, Banff is actually 1 out of 2 places to be the highest recommended to ski/ snowboard in all of Canada.
Here is a link for hotels in Banff, for your ease of reference: Hotels in Banff
I hope that you have a chance to visit the gorgeous natural wonders of Banff, Alberta, Canada. If you do ever visit Banff or ever have, please comment as I’d love to hear about your experiences there as well!