The spirit of adventure is defined in Banff - Canada's first national park. Walk the streets of this charming alpine village by the same name, 135 km west of Calgary, and you might find yourself face to antler with an elk, or, nose to nose with another mountain biker or hiker.
This adult playground is loaded with hiking trails, mountain bike routes, world-class alpine ski resorts, wildlife-viewing tours, backcountry lodges, alpine castles, unique shops and stellar restaurants. Be sure you visit the long awaited, newly reopened Storm Mountain Lodge, perched high on Vermillion Pass, about 20 minutes west of Banff townsite). Once a CPR bungalow camp, this cluster of log cabins and heritage lodge straddles sweeping views of the Sawback Range, Castle Mountain and the Bow Valley.
While mountaineers, entrepreneurs and nature-lovers are lured to Banff today, back in 1883 it was railway workers who were leaving their tracks on this rugged landscape. Legend has it that Banff was discovered by three of these workers - Frank McCabe and the McCardell brothers who noticed a plume of steam rising from a crack of rock, near the present-day townsite of Banff. Following it, they found a hot pool, which the world soon dubbed the Cave and Basin (now an historic site).
Ever since, people have flocked here to examine the waters for their healing properties. Today, you'll find top-notch spas, (some of which have been built around these original waters), golf resorts, art galleries, boutiques, terrific outdoor gear stores and the world-class Banff Centre, which hosts a summer-long international arts festival. Besides featuring the new Canadian opera, Filumena, there are scores of chamber music concerts, dance performances, art walks, readings and so forth.
However, what you will likely remember most about Banff National Park is Mother Nature's design - some 25 mountains each more than 9,840 ft. (3,000 m) high, ridges of hoodoos, canyons and the world's most photographed lakes, Louise and Moraine. Strict conservation policies enable visitors to often see healthy populations of big horn sheep, mountain goats, elk, bears, wolves and even woodland caribou.
Local outfitters can be hired to guide full-blown alpine climbs or to take groups horseback riding (from an hour-long trail ride to a 7-day expedition). Interpreters are always available to take visitors on heritage tours or an interpretive walk. One of the legendary experiences city slickers love is an evening trail ride with Banff's fabled Warner Brothers which includes a hearty cowboy.
ATTRACTIONS IN BANFF
Banff Upper Hot Springs
Banff National Park
ACCOMMODATIONS IN BANFF
Buffalo Mountain Lodge
Banff Aspen Lodge
Banff Park Lodge Resort Hotel & Conference Centre
Delta Banff Royal Canadian Lodge