Canadian Rockies: Banff National Park

In the fall of 1883, three Canadian Pacific Railway construction workers stumbled across a cave containing hot springs on the eastern slopes of Alberta’s Rocky Mountains.

Nestled amongst the peaks of the Canadian Rockies, Banff is known as a traveler’s mecca for good reason.

Nestled amongst the peaks of the Canadian Rockies, Banff is known as a traveler’s mecca for good reason. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

From that humble beginning was born Banff National Park, Canada’s first national park and the world’s third. Spanning 2,564 square miles of valleys, mountains, glaciers, forests, meadows, and rivers, Banff National Park is one of the world’s premier destination spots.

Banff National Park combines some of the most spectacular scenery in the Canadian Rockies with ease of access and a long tradition of catering to visitors.

The park is a Rocky Mountain wonder, a place of blue glacial lakes and alpine meadows, massive mountains and glaciers, canyons and waterfalls, mineral hot springs and abundant wildlife (from elk to bighorn sheep to black and grizzly bears), and breathtaking grandeur.

A popular activity in the town of Banff is to stroll the streets, shopping, seeing and being seen, all against the backdrop of fabulous mountain scenery. But Banff’s main role is as a starting point for the scenic drives and trails that bring visitors into immediate contact with the mountains.

Mt. Rundle, a prominent wedge-shaped peak, overlooks the townsite of Banff

Mt. Rundle, a prominent wedge-shaped peak, overlooks the townsite of Banff © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lake Louise is a glacial lake named after Princess Louise Caroline Alberta and is famous for its stunning emerald water that reflects the surrounding glaciers that formed it. The eastern shore of the lake is home to Chateau Lake Louise, one of Canada’s luxury railway hotels. Few scenes are more photogenic than the one from the lawns in front of the Chateau. A dark green forest, the emerald lake, and its backdrops of white-capped mountains combine to make an irresistible composition for the million or so visitors who come here every year.

Of all lakes in the Canadian Rockies, few can match the beauty of Moraine Lake. Located near Lake Louise this glacial-fed lake is a must-visit destination when you RV in the Canadian Rockies. Moraine Lake is set below the Valley of Ten Peaks and it rivals Lake Louise in beautiful and in fame.

The scenery is spectacular, especially when viewed from the top of the Rockpile to the left of the parking lot. There is a trail that takes you to the top of the Rockpile, follow it to the top and be “awed” by the view! You can also walk along the trail following the lake or rent a canoe to see everything up close.

Moraine Lake received its name from of the pile of rock which dammed the valley, creating this beautiful lake. First it was thought to be a terminal moraine (rock pushed along by a glacier), but now believed to be a landslide down the Tower of Babel peak to the south—or both.

The Vermilion Lakes are a series of three lakes located in the Bow River Valley immediately west of Banff © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Vermilion Lakes are a series of three lakes located in the Bow River Valley immediately west of Banff © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The first time I saw this gorgeous lake, I was stunned by its amazing color. The scenic mountains surrounding this lake make it a perfect scene.

See more mountains in a moment than most see in a lifetime! Ride to the top of Sulphur Mountain to experience a bird’s eye view of six mountain ranges. The Banff Gondola is located just five minutes from the Town of Banff, on the shoulder of Sulphur Mountain. The 360-degree view from the upper gondola terminal, view-decks, and Summit Ridge Interpretive Boardwalk offer the very best vantage point in the area.

Alternatively, the gondola at the Lake Louise Ski Resort provides exquisite views of the surrounding peaks and Lake Louise itself. Cruise for fourteen glorious minutes, in an open chair or a fully enclosed gondola, to one of the Banff National Park’s greatest views. From 6,850 feet the spectacular scenery is yours to explore at will—there are ambitious hikes to the summit of Mt. Whitehorn for the hardy and equally lovely short, leisurely strolls for those with more modest exercise goals.

Be sure to bring your camera to save your own special memories of soaring peaks, stunning glaciers, lush carpets of alpine wildflowers fed by clear bubbling springs, and-often-delightful glimpses of wildlife surrounded by the unspoiled beauty of summer.

Located in the Town of Banff, the Banff Upper Hot Springs has all the amenities of a modern facility in a splendid historic spa and bathhouse. You can relax in the comfort of soothing natural hot springs where travelers have come for more than a century.

The combination of connected waterways, the wildlife and the wetland environment makes the Vermillion Lakes a popular destination in the spring, summer and early fall months for many activities like kayaking, canoeing, wildlife watching and birdwatching.

The combination of connected waterways, the wildlife and the wetland environment makes the Vermillion Lakes a popular destination in the spring, summer and early fall months for many activities like kayaking, canoeing, wildlife watching and birdwatching. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Banff Upper Hot Springs is one of Banff’s most famous attractions, discovered in 1884, the hot springs were included in Banff National Park, the first National Park in Canada.

Banff Upper Hot Springs is featured on the Canadian Register of Historic Places.

Water Temperature is kept between 98- and 104-degrees Fahrenheit.

Other major attractions include Upper Hot Springs, Bow River Loop, Johnston Canyon, Banff Park Museum, and Icefields Parkway.

Worth Pondering…

Alberta Bound
This piece of heaven that I’ve found
Rocky Mountains and black fertile ground
Everything I need beneath that big blue sky
Doesn’t matter where I go
This place will always be my home
Yeah I’ve been Alberta Bound for all my life
And I’ll be Alberta Bound until I die.
—Lyrics and recording by Alberta born Country Music singer, Paul Brandt, 2004

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