When visiting Canada, travelers should keep in mind the small town of Banff, Alberta. Located a couple of hours west of Calgary, Banff is one of Canada’s top tourist attractions for a variety of reasons. The breathtaking mountainous views, trails, waterfalls, lakes, rivers, gondola lift, caves, hot springs, ski resorts, golf course, and historical relevance are all part of these reasons. Let’s explore this special region more by highlighting six amazing destinations to experience in Banff, Alberta.
There are a few interesting facts to note about Banff; first, this small town is located within the Banff National Park, which is the oldest national park in Canada (1885); second, Banff is located in the Canadian Rocky Mountains and has the second highest elevation in Alberta at 4,600 ft; third, the town surrounds Tunnel Mountain (a.k.a. Sleeping Buffalo).
With only around 8,000 residents, Banff offers visitors an intimate setting with small town appeal. The historic atmosphere coupled with the awe-inspiring natural surroundings make this resort town a unique mountainous wonderland.
The main consideration for travelers to make is whether to visit in the summer or winter, as the temperatures in the winter can get as low as 8° F and as high as 30° F. Summer temperatures, which are normally a low of 45° F and a high of 70° F, are perfect for sight-seeing and comfortably enjoying the amazing destinations in this area, such as the six highlighted below.
1. Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel
Usually, resort hotels aren’t the historic destination travelers are seeking to experience, yet the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel is a different story. The world famous Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel was built in 1888 and is a National Historic Site of Canada, as well as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. With remodels and upgrades through the years, this fantastic hotel now combines history with modern luxury.
With 764 guest rooms and suites, this mammoth hotel looks like a giant castle (Scottish Baronial style architecture) with magnificent mountain views surrounding it. The hotel is situated in a perfect location for guests to play championship golf at the Fairmont Banff Springs Golf Course, go skiing at three nearby resorts, or to visit the many nearby attractions, such as Bow Falls.
2. Bow Falls
Along the Bow River and within walking distance of the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, Bow Falls is a great place to sight-see and hike. Although relatively small compared to some waterfalls, the 30 ft main waterfall is very accessible for visitors to see and experience from Bow Falls View Point.
Visitors can use the well-established walkways to go above the falls and see it from different angles, as well as to travel upstream and see the rapids and cascades leading up to it. Being just on the outskirts of town and within walking distance of the hotel, Bow Falls is a convenient and emblematic destination to experience.
3. Banff Gondola
One of the most amazing destinations to visit in the area is the Banff Gondola. The Banff Gondola summit facility sits on top of Sulphur Mountain at 7,486 ft.; this luxurious modern destination includes not only a spectacular gondola lift, but also:
- Three restaurants
- Above Banff Interpretive Center and Theater
- Observation deck
- Live entertainment
- Sunset festivals
- Sulphur Mountain Boardwalk
- Sulphur Mountain Cosmic Ray Station (National Historic Site)
- Castle Mountain Coffee
- Gondola Base (Starbucks, candy store, gift shop, fireplace)
The actual gondola lift seats four passengers and ascends or descends 2,292 ft. along 5,120 ft. of track line. Passengers can enjoy the awe-inspiring views of the 6 mountain ranges within the Bow Valley as they travel to and from the Banff Gondola base and summit.
4. Banff Upper Hot Springs
Located a few thousand feet from Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, the Banff Upper Hot Springs offer travelers a perfect place to take a dip outside in the fresh mountain air; sitting in a steaming pool of naturally-heated mineral water, they can take in the beauty of the surrounding forested mountains, rock cliffs, and the quaint town of Banff below.
After a long day of hiking, biking, skiing, golfing, snowshoeing, riding gondola lifts, swimming, and otherwise enjoying the Banff area, travelers will find the elegantly designed pool house a welcome sight. And, on the hill behind, they’ll see mineral water flowing down a brick-built water-way to a rounded pool below.
Banff Upper Hot Springs offers travelers a nice place to relax as early as 10a and as late as 11p. Being so close to downtown and Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, this destination is a must when visiting Banff.
5. Cascades of Time Gardens
On the south side of the Bow River, as it curves around Banff (a couple thousand ft. north of Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel), Cascades of Time Gardens sits directly across the bridge from downtown Banff. The historic Parks Canada heritage building is located within the garden and contains learning exhibits about Canada and its people. The beautifully landscaped and designed garden has many areas to relax and enjoy the view and verdant surroundings. Unique wooden gazebos and bridge structures are found along the cobblestone paths, ponds, and canals. Native flowers and shrubs color the way for visitors as they enjoy this special destination in Banff.
6. Cave and Basin National Historic Site
Cave and Basin National Historic Site is the original place where Banff National Park started (and Canada’s entire national park system); located three miles east of Banff Upper Hot Springs, this historic destination has thermal-heated mineral water coming from natural hot springs within a cave and basin area – this being part of a group of hot springs near Sulphur Mountain.
The Cave and Basin building and site has interactive displays, interpretive trails and boardwalks, tours, including lantern tours at night, seasonal exhibits, a gift shop and snack bar, and more. While in Canada enjoying their national parks, travelers can give an ode to their first park, which makes this an extra interesting and fun place to experience.
These six amazing destinations to visit and experience in Banff, Alberta are only a few of the many notable places this region has to offer. Yet, regardless of the exact travel itinerary chosen, Banff is sure to delight and amaze any traveler who finds their way to this unique wonderland in the Canadian Rocky Mountains.From the unique town design that winds around Tunnel Mountain to the high flying gondola lift that takes passengers to luxurious settings on mountain summits, Banff is a fascinating resort town with a mix of historical wonder, natural beauty, and modern luxury.