Banff & Lake Louise

Banff National Park, Canada

Banff National Park is one of Canada's great national treasures, attracting millions of visitors worldwide every year. Covering a portion of the Rocky Mountains, the park is home to beautiful turquoise lakes that mirror the snow covered peaks, along with glaciers and forests. Since 1985, it has been included in UNESCO's List of Protected Natural and Cultural Monuments.

The jewel in the crown would have to be Lake Louise, one of the most popular places to visit in Alberta. With its sparkling blue-green water of the lake, which is set against majestic peaks and glaciers in the background that hardly ever fail to impress.

The Town of Banff is situated at the south end of Banff National Park surrounded by mountains. In the summer months Banff is jam packed with visitors who come to visit the Canadian Rockies, while in the winter time mainly skiers descend to enjoy the ski slopes.

The Icefields Parkway on Highway 93 is one of the most scenic drives in Canada, with 230 kilometres of glaciated high mountains, connecting Banff and Jasper National Park. A major highlight along the Icefields Parkway is the Columbia Icefield. It is at this point where the Athabasca Glacier extends down from the heights above allowing for you to walk right up to the toe.

If you are after a magnificent view of the town of Banff and the valley, then head to Sulphur Mountain and take a ride on the Sulphur Mountain Gondola, it is one of the most popular things to do in summer.

Wildlife is another great tourist attractions of Banff National Park, with more than fifty species of mammals being able to be found in the National Parks of the region including Black Bears, Grizzly Bears, Big Horn Sheep and even Marmots, Elk and Deer.

Banff is also known for its fantastic Hot Springs. Located just a short distance from downtown, the Springs have been soothing visitors since 1893. The water is hundreds of years old and directly comes up from a source three kilometres underground. The view from the Hot Springs Pools across to Rundle Mountain is outstanding.

Just 11 kms from Banff is Lake Minnewanka, it is the largest Lake within the National Park and a scenic spot often frequented by Bighorn Sheep. A popular walking trail leads along the shore and up into the surrounding mountainside. It is also worthwhile continuing onto Two Jack Lake, where canoes can be rented. Lake Minnewanka is a fantastic place for mountain biking with trails extending along the shoreline.

Sunshine Village Ski Resort is just a short drive outside the Town of Banff and is one of the top two ski resorts in Alberta, along with Lake Louise. The resort offers a variety of terrain and runs for beginners to advanced skiers. In the summer months the Sunshine Village runs its gondola for those great panoramic views.

As previously mentioned the jewel of Banff National Park is Lake Louise with its shimmering turquoise green water surrounded snow-capped mountains rising up to 3,000 metres high. Canoeing is a fun pastime to do when at Lake Louise and you cannot get a more breathtaking view of the famous Fairmont Château Lake Louise than from the shoreline in front of the hotel. Well known from its picture perfect postcards Lake Louise is a starting point for some rewarding hiking trails, the best of which is perhaps to the Plain of Six Glaciers, which starts in front of the Château Lake Louise and finishes at a historical Tea House, situated beneath the Victoria Glacier. The best thing about this trail you can stop at any point and turn around.

Just north of Lake Louise you will find Bow Lake, just below the Crowfoot Glacier and Bow Glacier. The Lake's still and clear waters mirror the towering, snow-covered peaks of the continental divide. These Glaciers form part of the great Waputik Icefield where you can walk along the Lake to a Waterfall.

The Bow Valley Parkway runs between Banff and Lake Louise and offers an alternative route to the busy Trans-Canada Highway. Towering above it, is Castle Mountain, whose Eisenhower Peak is 2,728 metres high. The Bow Valley Parkway also offers a great chance to see some of the park's wildlife. One of the most popular stops along the Parkway is Johnston Canyon with its two waterfalls. There is a trail that leads through the Canyon, with bridges along the steep cliff walls. The path continues for six kilometres on the far side of the Canyon, leading up to the Ink Pots, a group of Springs. Two of these are particularly striking because of the bluish-green colour of the water.

The Big Beehive Trail above Lake Louise is a real mixture of easy to challenging hikes. Here you will see some of the most amazing locations in the park including turquoise lakes, soaring mountain peaks, massive glaciers, wildlife and waterfalls. If you reach the Lake Agnes Teahouse and are craving additional views, consider continuing upwards to the Big Beehive.

If hiking or walking is not your thing then why not take the Lake Louise Gondola. The Gondola is located at the Lake Louise ski area across the valley. The Gondola ride takes approximately 14 minutes and takes you to an elevation of 2,088 metres where the views at the top are simply breathtaking.

Another must-see is Moraine Lake in the Valley of the Ten Peaks. It is as impressive as Lake Louise with picturesque turquoise coloured water surrounded by Ten Peaks, each more than 3,000 metres high. The 1.5 kilometre flat easy walking trail runs along the northwest shore with the most scenic walk taking approximately 20 minutes and involving a short climb up the Rockpile Trail to the best view of the lake. However, a popular, yet more strenuous hike leads from the Lake to the Sentinel Pass, one of the highest mountain passes in Banff National Park.

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