Things to Do in Banff
Halfway along the Icefields Parkway, the Athabasca Glacier stretches down to the valley from the Columbia Icefield.
A living remnant of the last ice age, Athabasca is one of the largest of around 30 glaciers in the Rockies’ largest icefield. The glacier is on the move, shifting several centimeters (inches) per day.
The highlight of a visit to the glacier is the Icefield Centre, which provides all the info you need to know about the formation of glaciers.
Guided hikes lead to the toe of the glacier from the center; it takes around four hours roundtrip. For a more novel trip to the glacier, hop aboard a snow coach for a unique drive across the icefield.
Kicking Horse River flows through the Canadian Rockies in British Columbia, from its source in Lake Wapta, south-west to the Columbia River and the town of Golden.
This wild river is the premier white-water course in the Canadian Rockies, offering exciting rafting over Class 3 rapids or more gentle Class 2 paddles.
Golden lies at the center of Kicking Horse Country. The town’s unusual covered wooden bridge over the Kicking Horse River was built in 2001.
Peyto Lake is blue—really blue. Because of its proximity to nearby glaciers, large amounts of glacier flour flow into the lake each summer, and these suspended flour particles–nothing more than ground rock–saturate the lake and give it its spectacular color. And despite its breathtaking surroundings, located in the heart of the Canadian Rockies in Banff National Park, there are few viewings that rival gazing down at Peyto Lake from the platform just off the Icefield Parkway.
While the five-minute, self-guided interpretive hike to the viewpoint takes in the most spectacular view of the lake, visitors looking for a touch more adventure can hike to the Bow Summit Lookout. This 2.5-hour hike leaves from the highest point on the Icefield Parkway and climbs above the tree line to offer spectacular views of Bow Summit, Observation Peak and Mount Jimmy Simpson. Marmots, picas and ptarmigans are commonly seen along the hike.
Known as the “Matterhorn of the Rockies” at nearly 12,000 feet up, Mt Assiniboine is one of the region’s highest peaks. When the mountain was first spotted on the Great Continental Divide between British Columbia and Alberta’s Banff National Park by Canadian scientist George M. Dawson in 1885, he named the peak Assiniboine because its dramatically pointed top reminded him of the teepees of the Assiniboine people.
Nestled near the crystal clear waters of Lake Magog, Mt Assiniboine provides a true backcountry experience; British Columbia’s Mt Assiniboine Provincial Park has no roads whatsoever. A trip to the park requires at least a six-hour, 17-mile hike via Bryant Creek near Canmore. Alternatively, you can take a helicopter to visit this UNESCO World Heritage wilderness of alpine meadows, glaciers and waterfalls.
One of North America’s largest ski resorts and claiming the title of Canada’s Best Ski Resort multiple times at the World Ski Awards, the Lake Louise Ski Resort has a deservedly stellar reputation, along with a jaw-dropping setting, overlooking the glacial valley of Lake Louise. With 4,200 acres of piste spread across four mountains, over 145 runs served by high-speed chair lifts, and the longest run clocking in at 8km, powder junkies will be spoiled for choice at Lake Louise, and there’s something for all ability levels. While adventurous types can make the most of the ample chutes, glades and bowls, beginners can cut their teeth on the gentler slopes and first-timers can brush up on their skills at the ski school.
Snow tubing, Nordic skiing, husky sledding and snowshoeing are also popular activities, while summer visitors can enjoy hiking in the hills, ride the 2,088m Sightseeing Gondola or go rafting on the nearby Kicking Horse River.
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