The Classics: Banff National Park
In the southern Canadian Rockies lies Banff National Park. It’s Canada’s oldest National Park and covers an amazing 2,564 square miles. I decided to spend 2 days exploring some of its classic sights. There are a ton of things to do here, so this list is just a few of my favourites!
1. Vermilion Lakes
My first stop was Vermilion Lakes. Sunrise starts a little later this time of year and this spot gives you an amazing view Banff’s most recognizable feature: Mount Rundle. If you’re lucky enough to get here before the sun rises, you’ll have a view of Banff’s glow lighting up the mountain while brilliant stars shine overhead.
2. Johnston Canyon
This beautiful trail is about a 20 minute drive from Banff. A well-established parking lot and trail system makes really easy access to the area. The entire walk is beautiful, however the 3 main features are the lower falls, upper falls and inkpots. We visited the lower falls, which were beautifully encapsulated in ice. We then took a detour off the beaten trail to a lesser-known sight at the bottom of the upper falls. This cave offers an awesome view of the scale of the canyon.
3. Two Jack Lake
Across the highway from Banff has to be one of the most beautiful roads in the park. It offers up 3 amazing sights you can either enjoy from the warmth of your car or take a quick walk down to really appreciate. Taking a breather we decided to park on the lakeshore to enjoy this view.
4. Cascade Ponds
As the sun went down, we decided to post-up one of the only areas established to have a winter fire. This area has a walking trail, hut for group cooking, picnic tables and fire pits. Definitely a great spot for smores!
5. Lake Minnewanka
For over 100 centuries people have camped along the shores of the “Lake of the Spirits.” It’s legend lives on for anyone who visits this special place. Not only are there amazing views offered from the shores, but the original townsite is now underwater- offering up a view for anyone brave enough to scuba dive it’s cold waters.
This place is also known for the frequency of Aurora Borealis, the Northern Lights. We were lucky enough to fight away the cold for a few hours to take in the awesome show.
6. Icefields Parkway
If you HAVE to leave, then taking the scenic route is the best way home. The Icefields Parkway extends the length of the Rockies from Banff National Park to Jasper National Park along the continental divide. It offers up some of the most remote and wild portions of BNP, but even the drive will have you dreaming of adventures to come. The sights include Herbert Lake, Crowfoot Glacier, Bow Lake and Peyto Lake. The best way to experience it is to put on some warm clothes, grab your keys and go for a drive.
These are just a few of the roadside attractions inside the amazing Banff National Park. Don’t forget the hundreds of hiking trails, backcountry camping, ice and alpine climbing, swimming as well as the multitude of wildlife. Let the Classics inspire you to start dreaming up your own adventures in BNP!
Written by Stephen Underhay.