Banff National Park, and its surrounding area, is one of the most beautiful spots on earth. Rugged peaks, lush green forests, pristine deep blue lakes, glaciers, waterfalls, and tons of wildlife. Pure majesty and awe. I first visited and hiked all over the region with my parents and siblings as a teen, and fell in love with the area so much that I told myself I would honeymoon here some day. That dream came true when Jeff and I married in August 2009.
This is part two, in a two-part series on Banff National park (see part one). Here are some of the highlights of the region we visited – click on the headline for each to see the full review.
Regularly listed as one of the most scenic drives in the world, we saved this gem of a road trip for the day with the best weather forecast of our vacation. Beautiful mountain vistas and recurring glimpses of the unworldly blue river and lakes of the same color greet you all the way along to the actual icefields. And we were fortunate to stumble upon a black bear walking right alongside the highway in search of food.
This 3-4 hour guided tour by IceWalks – crampons, arctic gear, and all — was one of the true highlights of our Banff vacation. I hiked this glacier with my family in the mid 80s, but lone hikers are no longer allowed. We don’t generally go for guided hikes, however this one is well worth it!
The trekking is slow and cold and wet, but the experience is surreal. The views are simply stunning, and you get to claim bragging rights over the bulk of visitors who ride the cushy all-terrain buses.
Once you’ve had your fill of glaciers and snow, head on down to nearby Canmore for some spectacular mountain biking at the famous Nordic Centre — sight of the cross country ski park for the 1988 winter Olympics. We, being novice mountain bikers, took a private lesson and kept to the easier trails, but it was an absolute blast. The lessons and rental rates are very reasonable, and the scenery is majestic. As a bonus, you get to check out the cross country skiers doing their year-round training on skis attached to roller blades.
When we checked in to our Canmore resort, we saw pamphlets for this local dinner theater show and immediately dismissed it as way too tacky and touristy for us. But we kept hearing good reviews. And it claimed a menu that provides a sampling of cuisine from every single Canadian province (we were still searching for illusive Canadian cuisine). So we decided to have a bit of lighthearted fun and booked this for our final evening in Canada. The show was spectacular! The cast was great, we laughed until our stomachs hurt (not easy after that full dinner), and they made fun of everything Canada while bragging about all things Canada. The food was decent, but the variety made it worthwhile. This show turned out to be one of the true highlights of our trip. For some reason we never blogged this activity, even on our food blog, so I’ve included a fun video to give you a better feel for the show.
Featured photo at the top is stunning Peyto Lake, one of the stops along Icefield Parkway.