Many people look for a vacation destination where they can get out and experience the great outdoors. If this is you, one of the best places to go and experience this type of vacation is to Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada. Banff sits high in the Canadian Rocky Mountains and offers an incredible amount of diversions and activities. From viewing the spectacular scenery safely below to going out and experiencing it on water or on trail, the things you can do in Banff will create memories that last a lifetime.
Banff National park was established in 1885 and is the oldest national park in Canada. The park actually covers more than 2,500 square miles and is wildly famous for it’s natural beauty. The main area of the park that tourists come to is the community of Banff which is located in the Bow River Valley. The area can be reached by road and by train, with both methods of transportation offering some of the most beautiful views available in North America. The community contains a number of comforts including hotels, resorts, spas, restaurants, movie theaters, museums, and more. The park though is what attracts the millions of visitors that come there each year, and it features an incredible amount of activities, sights, and experiences.
The Hot Springs
When it comes time to relax, either as the main part of your visit or just after some of the more active parts, there is no better place to do it than at Banff Upper Hot Springs. This historic looking, but still luxurious spa and bathhouse brings all of the joys of a modern spa experience right to it’s guests, and does so with the amazing scenery of Banff National Park as a backdrop. Whether you go there for the pampering, the massages, the quiet times, or the hot springs themselves, a visit to the Banff Upper Hot Springs is guaranteed to be unforgettable.
Lake Louise, Lake Minnewanka, and the Bow River have been popular fishing destinations for a very long time. These waterways in and around Banff National Park can be fished by you too with relative ease. Fishing is allowed from the shore as well as from docks and rental boats. One of the best ways to get the full experience though is to hire one of the many charter fishing companies or tour guides to take you to the fishing spots that only the locals know about.
With it’s high rugged peaks, Banff National Park is an oasis for the mountaineer. Whether your specialty is mountain climbing, rock climbing, or high mountain hiking, the park has something just for you. There are even opportunities to go heli-hiking, where a helicopter will deliver you to a trailhead that would otherwise be virtually unreachable so you can experience the true back country, and then return to pick you up when you are finished.
Canoeing and Kayaking
There are opportunities in Banff National Park to experience the waterways there on an extremely personal level. Renting a canoe or kayak will allow you to explore Lake Louise, the Bow River, or the Vermillion Lakes at your own pace; stopping where you want and selecting your own route. This is a great way to see wildlife as you will not frighten them away as much as a large power boat would.
Not many people think about golfing in the high rugged Canadian Rockies, but when traveling to Banff you’ll be able take advantage of two beautiful and well respected golf courses. The Kananaskis Ranch Golf Course is located near the park and offers well maintained fairways and greens, and challenging holes for golfers of all skill levels. The Fairmont Banff Springs Golf Course is known widely in golfing circles for both it’s beauty and it’s high level of play. You’ll find this golfing opportunity to be that much more enjoyable with the rugged beauty of the Canadian Rockies as the backdrop.
Off Road Tours
You can see the amazing wonders of the park while riding on either a snowmobile or a four wheel all terrain vehicle. Participating in an off road tour in Banff National Park will allow you to not only see the same beautiful scenery that every other guest sees, but also go deeper into the back country where you will be exposed to things that few people get to see.
There are two ways that you can enjoy the Banff National Park area from the comfort of a gondola car. The Banff Gondola has been operating for years and takes you from the visitor’s area down below up to a height of nearly 7,500 feet where there are hiking trails and even a cafe to enjoy. The Lake Louise Sightseeing Lift offers views of the lake and the surrounding mountains as well. Enjoying the scenery from high above in one of these gondolas will stay with you for the rest of your life.
Boat tours are available on both Lake Louise and Lake Minnewanka, which is located nearby to Banff. This is an exceptional way to gain an experience that would otherwise be missed. Seeing life on a quiet Canadian Rockies lake will give you a very peaceful feeling. This is a wonderful option for both families, as well as those looking for a romantic activity.
Hiking and Nature Walks
There are a number of opportunities in Banff National Park to enjoy the outdoors by hiking trail. Many trails offer interpretive signs or guidebooks, while other trails are more rugged and designed to give you a first hand look at the back country. There are also guided hikes where knowledgeable guides will lead you into areas where few people get to see. Hiking in the park is one of the best ways to experience the incredible surroundings on a very personal level.
With a well maintained and extensive network of roadways, touring Banff National Park by car is popular with almost every group of travelers that comes it’s way. When you do decide to drive about the park yourself, remember to take along some of the many promotional brochures and pamphlets available so that you will not miss out on anything significant. There are also audio tours available, both on recorded CDs as well as electronic tour devices that can guide you through the various areas of the park.
Whitewater Rafting and Float Trips
The rivers that run through and nearby Banff National Park make themselves available to all kinds of recreation, including whitewater rafting as well as leisure filled float trips. You have your choice of a number of different outfitting companies to choose from, each offering trips through different areas and of different levels of excitement. Whether you desire a thrilling ride down a whitewater filled gorge or a slow and relaxing float down a lazy river, you can find what you want in the Banff area.
For those wanting to cover as much ground as possible and see as much of the park as they can, there is no better option that taking an aerial tour of Banff National Park through one of the many helicopter tour companies in the area. This type o sightseeing allows you to see all of the higher mountain lakes, ridges, and peaks. You will also learn a great deal from the very knowledgeable pilots/guides that take you on your trip.
Banff National Park has a fine network of caves available for exploring in what is known as Rat’s Nest Cave. This wild and unimproved natural cave has none of the features that more developed caving attractions have; there are no lights or handrails, this is somewhat more challenging but with the well trained guides leading the way you can experience this extreme setting in a very safe way.
You also have the option of enjoying much of the park from the back of a horse. Western Canada has a long tradition of horseback riding dating back to early exploration of the area. You can enjoy the park and the surrounding area this way by either taking to an equestrian trail or actually spending a significant amount of time at one of the many working and guest ranches in the area that cater to tourists seeking this type of experience. There are also horse drawn carriage rides available in certain areas of the park too.
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Visiting Banff National Park in the high Canadian Rockies is a real treat. By going there for a long weekend, or better yet for an extended vacation, you are treating yourself to not only one of the most scenic areas on Earth, but also one of the few areas that really does offer an outdoor activity for nearly every type of person. Many of the things you can see when visiting Banff National Park and the surrounding area are things that you cannot experience anywhere else in the world. If you are looking for a vacation destination that delivers a great deal of beauty mixed with an incredible supply of outdoor activities to participate in, you could do no better than choosing to spend your next vacation in Banff National Park.