Banff and Lake Louise – A magical combination
Located in the heart of the Canadian Rockies, 75 miles west of Calgary, sits one of Canada’s greatest treasures - Banff National Park. Here you will find the charming townsite of Banff, snow-capped peaks, steep canyons, lush forests, glacier-fed rivers and lakes, and and the jewel in the crown – Lake Louise.
Officially established in 1885, Banff is Canada’s oldest national park and, in 1984 it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The charming little town of Banff is the only one within the park and is the main hub of activity. It’s also the highest town in Canada!
Banff itself is a quaint mountain resort, with no shortage of hotels, restaurants and bars, and it’s a super place to while away an afternoon browsing the boutiques on Banff Avenue. You can stroll through the town to the Bow River and Falls which is a lovely introduction to the beauty of this area, and just outside of the town is Sulphur Mountain Gondola. The eight minute ride transports visitors up 2,300 feet, offering fantastic mountain views and a variety of hiking trails. On a clear day, there is an amazing view from the three terrace decks and the mountain-top restaurant.
An iconic sight in Banff is the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, built in 1888. Early on the plan was for it to be the largest hotel complex in the world and this castle-like grand hotel still preserves much of the glamour of the early days of railway tourism. The hotel is located on its own in a wooded area with lovely views of the surroundings and the town just below.
The wildlife is one of the great attractions of Banff National Park and more than fifty species of mammals can be found in the region. Large animals are most likely to be spotted in the early morning and the evening, and some of the most commonly seen animals in the park are elk, moose, deer, woodland caribou, mountain goats, bighorn sheep and black bears, plus grizzly bears also live in the park but are seldom spotted.
Banff has long been known for its fantastic hot springs, which were established in 1893. Located just a short distance from downtown, the water you'll enjoy comes up from a source over a mile underground – bring your swimsuit and a towel!. The view from the hot springs pools across to Rundle Mountain is spectacular.
There are a couple of routes from Banff to Lake Louise and the most popular is the world-renowned Icefields Parkway, which runs for nearly 150 miles up to Jasper National Park. Whilst Lake Louise is the jewel in the crown of Banff National Park, along the way you can also see the beautiful Vermillion Lakes, the stunningly turquoise Moraine Lake and Johnston Canyon with its cascading waterfalls and enjoyable hiking trails.
Lake Louise is a shimmering emerald green lake surrounded by jagged snow-capped peaks and glaciers. At the western end of Lake Louise, Mount Victoria rises to over 11,000 feet in majestic splendour.
Dominating the eastern shore you will find another iconic Fairmont hotel – the Chateau Lake Louise. In 1890, the Canadian Pacific Railway built the first Château Lake Louise on the moraine at the end of the lake. Easily accessible by rail, Lake Louise and the surrounding countryside soon developed into a tourist centre. The present day Château Lake Louise was built in 1924 after a fire destroyed its smaller wooden predecessor. A breathtaking view can be had from the shoreline in front of the hotel. Even if you don't stay here, it's a great place for a meal. From the resort, a paved trail runs along the water's edge with beautiful views of the lake, mountains, glacier, and the Château.
The Lake Louise Sightseeing Gondola is a lovely journey up 6,850 feet into the alpine landscape. Here you can enjoy short walks or a more strenuous hike. Or enjoy a meal at the Whitehorn Bistro, open for lunch and breakfast at the top of the Sightseeing Lift, with both indoor and outdoor dining with great views.
An alternative route to Lake Louise is along the Bow Valley Parkway, which has numerous viewpoints as well as camping and picnic sites. Towering above it all is Castle Mountain, whose Eisenhower Peak is nearly 9,000 feet high. The Bow Valley Parkway also offers a great chance to see some of the park's wildlife.
Whichever route you choose, you will certainly agree that Banff and Lake Louise is a magical combination.