With snow-capped mountain peaks reflected in turquoise lakes, exploring the picture-postcard sights of Banff National Park is a must when visiting the Canadian Rocky Mountains. The park is home to two of Rocky Mountaineer’s destinations, Banff and Lake Louise, making it easy to spend time here either before or after your train journey. Established as Canada’s very first national park back in 1885, it now welcomes more than three million visitors each year, keen to take in those iconic views, paddle the lakes, and breathe in the fresh mountain air. Just taking a walk among the alpine surroundings is an experience here, but there’s so much more to do. Here’s a list of five things you can’t miss when visiting Banff and Lake Louise.
Banff Gondola: Head up Sulphur Mountain for a jaw-dropping view of six mountain ranges, the Bow Valley and the town of Banff itself. Once you’re up there, take the Sulphur Mountain Boardwalk to Sanson’s Peak for the ultimate view, then indulge in lunch at the award-winning Sky Bistro.
Afternoon tea at Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise: The majestic hotel that stands today is a far cry from the modest log cabin that originally opened on the site in 1890, but it’s still faithful to tradition. A classic way to spend an afternoon, you can sip tea (or Champagne!) and nibble on finger sandwiches, scones, and sweets as you take in the spectacular view of Lake Louise and the Victoria Glacier. If you’re arriving later in the day, visit the Walliser Stube restaurant for its famous fondue.
Lake Minnewanka: This glacial lake offers you the rugged, wild beauty you came to the Canadian Rockies to see. Stretch your legs on the Stewart Canyon Trail, an easy, flat one-hour hike. Or take to the water on a Lake Minnewanka cruise, an hour-long guided tour where you’ll get a stunning view of mountains rising vertically from the water’s edge, and likely glimpse the bighorn sheep, bald eagles, osprey and deer that call Lake Minnewanka home.
Banff Upper Hot Springs: The bathhouse at these natural hot springs might date from 1932, but local Indigenous Peoples have a much longer history of soaking in the restorative waters, naturally full of minerals like sulfate, calcium and magnesium. Popular with locals as well as visitors, the steamy waters at Banff Upper Hot Springs are pushed up two kilometres (1.25 miles) from the earth’s crust, and are kept between 37°C and 40°C (98°F and 104°F).
Local flavours of Banff: After you’ve worked up an appetite in that fresh mountain air, enjoy a real taste of the Canadian Rockies. Alberta’s beef is justifiably famous, and you’ll find it lovingly prepared at Chuck’s Steakhouse. Locally sourced ingredients take centre stage at Eden at The Rimrock Hotel, and at Three Ravens at the Banff Centre. Or toast your time in Banff National Park with craft spirits at Park Distillery, or a local brew from Banff Ave Brewing Co.