- By kevin
- On Apr 17, 2018
- North America
- Travel Tips
If you're itching to experience the lifestyle of a Swiss skiing village, but don't want to fork over the cash for a trans-Atlantic flight, consider Banff. Here we talk about the best things to do in Banff, and you can book the Vancouver to Banff tours on the Globerouter.com website with discount price.
Best Things to Do in Banff
Though Banff is perhaps best known for its stellar slopes (it's considered one of the world's best ski destinations), its hiking trails are just as impressive – and free to access. No matter which trail you choose to tackle (there are a variety of options for all skill levels), you'll likely stumble upon indigo-tinted waters, fields of wildflowers and stunning alpine vistas.
Aside from Sunshine Meadows (found in Sunshine Village), travelers also recommend the Parker Ridge Trail, which you'll find in the Icefields Parkway Area of the national park. Though visitors do warn that the climb up this trail can be steep, they also gush about the views of the Saskatchewan Glacier seen at the peak.
Another must-visit spot for recent travelers: Tunnel Mountain. This peak, which the First Nations people refer to as the "Sleeping Buffalo," offers 360-degree views of Banff Town, the Bow River and the westward mountains, such as Mount Bourgeau. You'll find the trailhead on St. Julien Road near The Banff Centre.
Though it's located about 9 miles north of town, Lake Minnewanka is often described by visitors as the highlight of their trip to Banff National Park. You'll have to drive to reach the glacial lake, but once you get here, you can hike or picnic along its shores as you take in breathtaking views of the snow-capped mountains that surround it.
If you feel more comfortable following a guide, the Banff & Lake Louise Tourism office recommends several companies on its website. For more information on the area's trails, including their distance, elevations and starting locations, visit the Parks Canada website. Keep in mind: Prime hiking season runs from July through mid-September. Even in June, there is an avalanche risk at some passes.
Covering 130 square miles on the southern edge of Banff National Park, the Columbia Icefield is the largest body of ice in the Canadian Rockies. It's a bit of a drive from Banff Town (about 2 ? hours), but you'll quickly find the views are well worth the trip. Seasonal tour buses are available from Banff Town (such as this one offered by Discover Banff Tours and Brewster Sightseeing), but consider driving the Icefields Parkway (Route 93) north from Banff to enjoy the stunning trip, which is considered among the most scenic drives in the world. Along the way, you'll spot turquoise lakes, rushing waterfalls and impressive glaciers.
Whether you come on a tour or drive yourself, once you arrive, you'll hop on an Ice Explorer – a specialized bus that's equipped to handle the icy terrain – which will transport you out onto the glacier (an 80-minute journey), where you'll be allowed 20 minutes to explore. Departing Ice Explorers leave the Athabasca Glacier every 15 to 30 minutes. If you're short on time, you can purchase tickets for the Glacier Skywalk, a glass-floored observation platform that sits 918 feet over the Sunwapta Valley.
Recent visitors said this is a can't-miss sight in the Rocky Mountains, calling the glacier "breathtaking" and the guides informative and entertaining. If it's an experience you know you want to do, reviewers suggested booking tickets in advance as the tours – operated by Brewster Travel Canada – can get crowded and you may have to wait a few hours before departing on your tour if you neglect to reserve a spot. The crowds, along with the steep ticket prices, were a common gripe among visitors.
Tours are available daily from mid-April to mid-October; hours vary by month, but generally tours operate from 9 or 10 a.m. to 4, 5 or 6 p.m. It's recommended that you set aside three hours for the excursion, and wear layers and appropriate shoes (sneakers or hiking boots are best). Tickets for the combined Glacier Skywalk and Ice Explorer Glacier Tour cost CA$99 (about $77) for adults 16 and older; the experience costs CA$50 (approximately $38) for children between the ages of 6 and 15. You can save 10 percent when you book in advance online. If you decide to drive, you'll find ample parking is available at the Glacier Discovery Centre, where the Ice Explorers depart.