The Insider Guide

Après-ski partiers and serious climbers alike are drawn to Banff, the small resort town in the middle of Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada. You’ll find just about every outdoor activity imaginable here in the Canadian Rocky Mountains, whether that’s canoeing on the turquoise-blue waters of Lake Louise or hiking up to the glaciers at the Columbia Icefield.

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Let’s go! The Main Attractions

Millions of nature lovers visit Banff annually, and with good reason. Some just come to relax (a visit to the Banff Upper Hot Springs, anyone?) and take in the breathtaking views of nearby Mt. Rundle and Cascade Mountain, and others come with a jam-packed agenda. A trip to Banff isn’t complete without a stroll down Banff Avenue, filled with shops, restaurants and chateaus. You’ll wind up at the in-town Banff Gondola stop, which will whisk you up to an observation deck at the top of Sulphur Mountain, offering a birds-eye view of the six surrounding Rocky Mountain ranges. On the way back you’ll cross over the Bow River, which has a quick out-and-back trail – perfect for beginners or whole families – starting just outside of town and ending at the Bow Falls viewpoint. Planning a day trip? Head up to Lake Minnewanka, a windy, 17mi (27km) long glacial lake just northeast of Banff, for a hike, a picnic or a cruise tour on the water – some daring souls even scuba in the lake’s frigid waters. If you’re really looking to explore the Banff National Park, trek up to the town of Lake Louise (just down the mountain from the lake itself) and explore the smaller Lake Agnes. Don’t forget the obligatory stop at the Lake Agnes Tea House, which has been brewing up piping hot loose leaf teas to the lake’s visitors since 1905. Deeper in the park, situated in the Valley of the Ten Peaks, you’ll land at Canada’s “Twenty Dollar View” – Lake Moraine, a stunning blue-green lake featured on the country’s twenty dollar bills for several decades. Many canoe, bike and cross country ski in the area, while the Rockpile Trail, which follows the moraine (the ridges formed by a glacier’s movement), is another popular option. These are just some of the highlights in Banff, but there’s plenty more to do – read on for our off-the-beaten-track tips.

Neighborhoods in Banff