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Overnight in Banff
Banff National Park is considered to be the jewel in the crown of Canada's National Park system. Established in 1885, it is Canada's oldest National Park and one of the most visited parks in North America.
Plan to spend a minimum of a couple of nights in Banff to take in the atmosphere and see everything the town has to offer. Be sure to check out:
- Cave and Basin Hot Springs - This is the birthplace of Banff National Park. In the early days, bathers descended into the cave by means of a ladder through a hole in the cavern ceiling. Since then a tunnel has been burrowed into the chamber so that visitors can view the historic site. Inside the grotto, jagged rock walls arch above steaming Cave Pool, fed by sulphur springs flowing at 675 litres a minute. If you have purchased an Annual National Parks pass, your pass will give you admission to this attraction.
- Sulphur Mountain - One of Banff's most popular attractions is the Banff Gondola. Gondolas rise 690 metres to the summit ridge (2,348 metres) and a sweeping panorama of mountains and valleys. This gondola, operated by Brewster Attractions, is a CanaDream Club partner and a discount is available when booked through CanaDream.
- At Banff Upper Hot Springs, a rich in minerals outdoor swimming pool is open year round. Ask us about a discount at this attraction when you book through CanaDream.
- Archives of the Canadian Rockies - These archives house a community library and research center for the history of the region.
- Banff Natural History Museum - Specimens of wildlife native to Banff National Park are displayed here. This is a National Historic site and admission is free when you show your Parks Canada National Parks Annual Pass.
- Luxton Museum - Indian lore and customs are shown in dioramas at the museum, which is built to resemble a 19th-century fur-trade post.
- Visit the Banff Springs Hotel, a former Canadian Pacific Railway hotel constructed in Scottish Baronial style within easy walking distance of downtown Banff. In the Fall, you can often see a Stag with his harem grazing on the lawn next to the hotel. While at the hotel, walk the short trail down to visit Bow Falls.
- Visit the tourist information centre for more ideas about what to do and see. How about a rafting trip with Canadian Rockies Rafting?
Overnight in Banff
We’re recommending only a short drive today – as far as Lake Louise
For most, the first stop will be at Lake Louise itself. During the summer months, the car park fills quickly between 1000 and 1600 so it may be a good idea to postpone your visit until later in the day. Instead, we suggest you head at least part way up the Icefields Parkway. While you don’t have time on this tour to travel the complete length of the highway, travelling as far as Bow Summit will provide you with a taste of the scenery and wildlife in the area. Be sure to stop at the viewpoint near Hector Lake. In the early morning and late evening, when conditions are right, the reflections of the mountains in this lake are magnificent. 33 kilometres from the junction of Hwy 1 and the Icefields Parkway you should catch your first glimpse of the Crowfoot Glacier, a spectacular toe of ice that hangs down over a cliff-face. Just beyond Crowfoot Glacier are the crystal clear waters of Bow Lake with Num-ti-jah Lodge on its north shore. 7 kilometres further on you’ll reach the peak of Bow Summit. Turn off here and take a short drive to see the soft aqua blue waters of Peyto Lake and the rugged beauty of the Mistaya River valley stretching out before your eyes. Return to Lake Louise along the same highway, watching out for black bears who may be feeding on roadside berry bushes during the summer months.
If you’re more into adventure than travelling up the Icefields Parkway, consider a white water rafting trip with Wild Water Adventures, a rafting company based in Lake Louise.
On arrival back at the Lake Louise village, take the short steep road up Lake Louise Drive to Chateau Lake Louise and the lake itself. With its blue-green water and dramatic mountain setting, this is the best known and most admired lake in the park. The magnificent glacier at the end of the lake was named for Queen Victoria and the lake itself, named after one of her five daughters. Stroll through the flower filled grounds in front of the Chateau or visit the hotel itself. From the dining room, picture windows frame the lake and glacier perfectly. Canoes can be rented from the boathouse or you can see the lake on foot by walking the Lakeshore Trail.
If you enjoy hiking, plan to come back here tomorrow to enjoy a fairly strenuous hike up to the tea house for a spectacular view overlooking the lake and the Chateau.
On your way back down to Lake Louise Village, you’ll notice a road heading off to the right. This road will take you to Moraine Lake and the Valley of the Ten Peaks. Moraine Lake is the sister lake to Lake Louise and the 12.5km drive (closed in winter) has a number of pull-offs where you can stop to take photos and view the jagged peaks beyond the lake. Once at the lake, stroll to the far end on the well-built lakeshore trail, take a short walk to nearby Consolation Lakes or go canoeing.
Return to your campsite at Lake Louise. If you don’t feel like cooking your own meal tonight, there are a number of options in around the village for dining including the Lake Louise Station Restaurant and the Post Hotel.
Overnight in Lake Louise
We have a couple of suggestions to begin your day today. If you enjoy taking photographs and getting up early, there's no place better to be than back at Lake Louise for the sunrise.
You’ll enjoy the solitude of the lake with no crowds and the reflections in the lake are not to be missed. If this isn’t to your taste, consider having breakfast at the Lodge of the Ten Peaks, followed by a gondola or chairlift ride up Whitehorn mountain for a panoramic view of Lake Louise and the surrounding peaks. Lake Louise Sightseeing and Gondola offers a buffet breakfast and gondola ride package at a very reasonable cost and discounts are available if you book this through CanaDream.
Today’s destination is Revelstoke but there’s so much to see before you arrive there. Continuing west on the Trans Canada Highway you’ll soon find yourself crossing the Alberta/British Columbia border and leaving Banff National Park. Here you will enter Yoho National Park. The first point of interest is at the Spiral Tunnels. From the viewpoint off Highway 1 you can watch a train disappear into Mount Ogden before exiting the 890m circular tunnel and crossing under the highway and entering a 992m circular tunnel in Cathedral Craggs. When the train is long enough, you can see the engine exiting the tunnel while the end of the train is still entering.
If you’re travelling between June and the end of September, look for the turn-off onto Yoho Valley Road and Takakkaw Falls. Takakkaw, loosely translated from the Cree language means something like “it is magnificent”. Follow the road for 13km to the parking lot where a short hiking trail leads to the base of the falls. Note that the road is narrow with two steep switchbacks and is not recommended for large RVs or trailers. If you have a vehicle over 24ft long, you may need to go up the second section of the switchbacks backwards. Information on how to do this is available from the information centre in Field.
Make sure you stop at Natural Bridge before continuing on to Emerald Lake. The natural bridge has been formed by the erosion of solid rock by the Kicking Horse River and is a popular place to stop. Emerald Lake is the largest of Yoho’s 61 lakes and ponds as well as one of the park’s premier tourist attractions. A short 5km hike will take you around the lake’s perimeter featuring informative signs explaining the ecosystem of a glacier fed lake and how it came to be there. Every view is a photo opportunity.
Continue along Highway 1 to Golden, a town of 4000 residents situated at the confluence of the Kicking Horse and Columbia Rivers. The Kicking Horse River is popular for rafting and there are a number of CanaDream Club partners offering trips on this river, should you feel the urge for a whitewater thrill. Revelstoke is reached by crossing the Roger’s Pass, one of BC’s great mountain crossings.At the summit of the pass, stop for a break at the Rogers Pass Visitor Centre or take some time out for hiking, picnicking or wildlife viewing. There’s a gas station here if you’re low on gas.
While today’s destination is officially Revelstoke, you may decide to end your day at Canyon Hot Springs and soak in one of the two natural mineral hot pools there. Set in the Columbia Mountains between Glacier and Mount Revelstoke National Parks, Canyon Hot Springs also has an excellent RV Park. If you
Before leaving Revelstoke, take a walk through the alpine city to see some 60 restored period buildings and, if you’re a train enthusiast, stop in to visit the Revelstoke Railway Museum.
Drive to alpine meadows in Mount Revelstoke National Park or visit Boo the bear at the Grizzly Bear Refuge at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort. Here you can also float above the clouds as you are whisked in a gondola to 7700 feet to take in panoramic views of the Rocky Mountains and the Columbia River Wetlands.
Your journey today will have you skirting numerous lakes and passing through many small towns. Highway 23 crosses the water at Shelter Bay where you board a free ferry to Galena. More hot springs await on the other side of the lake at Halcyon and Nakusp. Halcyon Resort features four mineral-rich pools and plenty of adventure opportunites. In the village of Nakusp, the local museum highlights the town’s pioneer history. For a peaceful retreat, stroll along the waterfront Japanese gardens then enjoy a dip in the soothing hot springs.
New Denver and Silverton sit on the eastern shore of Slocan Lake, where you’ll find museums, artisan studios and plenty of outdoor activity options. In New Denver, visit the Nikkei Internment Memorial Centre, a museum that pays tribute to the internment of Japanese Canadians during the Second World War. Hike or bike along the abandoned rail line which forms part of the Galena Trail. You can start this easy 13km (8 mi) trail from Three Forks or the lakeshore at Rosebery. Then visit Sandon, an historic gold rush ghost town that was once known as the “Monte Carlo of the North”.
Follow Highway 31A to Kaslo, whose natural harbour once bustled with activity as ore barges, rowboats, steamships and sternwheelers jostled for a place alongside the busy wharf. Tour the SS Moyie, the oldest surviving sternwheeler in the world. Launched in 1898, the sternwheeler is one of the most significant preserved steam passenger vessels in North America and is a must see!Overnight at Kaslo
Continue south along Highway 31 to Ainsworth Hot Springs to sink into more soothing mineral waters. This unique hot spring has a horseshoe-shaped cave lined with stalagmites and stalactites. Explore the cave or relax in the main pool overlooking picturesque Kootenay Lake.
From Ainsworth Hot Springs take the short drive to Balfour to await the ferry for your crossing to Kootenay Bay. There are no ferry terminals – just drive up and get in line. Make sure your propane tank has been turned off before boarding the ferry. The crossing is approx. 8km in length and takes 35 minutes, making it the longest free ferry crossing in Canada.
After leaving the ferry (ensure you stop to turn your propane tank back on and restart the fridge), travel on Highway 3A to Creston. The east shore of Kootenay Lake is a lively artist community, while Creston is well known for its orchards and its brewery, which produces Kokanee beer. Plan a visit to the Creston Valley Wildlife Management Area – a refuge for more than 250 bird species. Take the boardwalk trail to a three-story viewing tower or enjoy the nature programs at the Interpretive Centre.
From Creston, travel east on Highway 3 to Cranbrook, which has transformed from a thriving railway town to become the largest city in the Kootenay Rockies. Fuelled by the railway, the city’s 19th century heritage homes reflect the opulence of the city’s early years. Visit the Canadian Museum of Rail Travel’s award winning collection of restored railcars and locomotives, as well as the spectacular 1906 Royal Alexandra Hall. If you want to end the day here try Mount Baker RV Park, a nice campground located in downtown Cranbrook with large shade trees, a creek and a warm family atmosphere. Ask for your CanaDream Club discount (subject to some blackout dates).
Take Highway 93 to Fort Steele Heritage Town a restored Northwest Mounted Police Fort. Today, over 60 restored or reconstructed homes and buildings are waiting to take visitors back to the 1890’s. Take in the live street dramas, visit the blacksmith, ride a horse drawn wagon or steam train, or take in a Wild Horse Theatre show.
Drive north along Hwy 95A to Kimberley, a Bavarian themed community with a four-season alpine resort. This former mining town is now home to Canada’s largest free-standing cuckoo clock. In summer, listen to the sound of polka on the Platzl (the downtown pedestrian centre)! Kimberley is home to a non-equity summer theatre which typically produces a main-stage musical at the local theatre and a free outdoor vaudeville show in the town square. Visit the Kimberley Underground Mining Railway and ride the rails through the beautiful Mark Creek valley as you listen to the history of Kimberley and the Sullivan Interpretive Centre. Participate in a mining show and be exposed to working mine equipment. Rafting is also popular in the area.
Overnight in Kimberley.
Head north on Highway 93/95 to Fairmont Hot Springs. Fairmont’s year-round, crystal-clear hot spring pools beckon travellers into their steamy, mineral-rich waters. The resort also offers golfing, skiing, hiking, biking, horseback riding and spa services.
Continue on to Invermere and Windermere Lake, a great summer destination.
In downtown Invermere, browse through charming shops and visit the Pynelogs Cultural Centre, host to theatrical products, concerts and workshops year-round. If you’re in the mood for an ATV adventure, check out Toby Creek Adventures half and full day tours taking you to see some spectacular high alpine scenery. Nearby, Panorama Mountain Village is a four season resort that offers may outdoor pursuits, including hiking, biking, rafting, golfing, skiing, heli-skiing, snowmobiling and more.
Tonight’s destination is Radium Hot Springs, located in Kootenay National Park. This is one of the largest hot spring mineral pools in Canada. Soak away your tensions while gazing up at the red cliffs of Sinclair Canyon. Keep watch for bighorn sheep, which have long been local residents of the community. Ask us how you can receive a discount at the hot springs at Radium.
Overnight in Radium Hot Springs.
Your route today takes you over the Banff Windermere Parkway through Kootenay National Park. The road passes through spectacular mountain scenery west of the continental divide and follows the valleys of the Vermilion and Kootenay rivers.
These two valleys form the core of Kootenay National Park. There are plenty of pull-offs and lookout points along the way where you can get out and admire or explore the virtually untouched hinterland.
The Parkway meets Highway 1 at Castle Junction where we take the overpass and join the Bow Valley Parkway heading south to Johnson Canyon. Check in at the Johnson Canyon Campground (Seasonal – open mid-June to mid-September). This is a first come-first served campground and cannot be reserved in advance.
Walk across the road to Johnson Canyon and take a hike to the Lower and/or Upper Falls. This is Banff National Park’s most popular hiking destination. The path takes you into the depths of a canyon along catwalks and amongst spectacular waterfalls. See the impressive lower falls and walk through a tunnel to get an even closer look at the powerful effects of water. An early morning start may help you avoid the crowds. The trip to the lower falls is 1.2km one way with a 30m elevation gain. Allow approx. one hour for the round trip. Once you reach the Lower Falls, you’ll see a sign pointing you onwards to the Upper Falls. This part of the hike is 1.2km one way with a 120m elevation gain. On this complete Johnson Canyon trip, you will see even more waterfalls, the most impressive of which is the 30m high Upper Falls. During winter, these Falls freeze over and are popular with ice climbers. Allow 2 hours for the round trip to the Upper Falls from the carpark.
If you’re still looking for something to do after hiking to the Falls, consider a trip northbound on the Bow Valley Parkway (you’ll be doing the southbound trip tomorrow). The Bow Valley Parkway offers exciting opportunities for wildlife viewing and is a beautiful scenic drive.
Overnight at Johnson Canyon
It’s another easy drive today, allowing you plenty of time to stop along the way. Head south on the Bow Valley Parkway, admiring the scenery as you wind your way along this road at a leisurely pace.
The road joins Highway 1 just west of Banff. Look out for a viewpoint about 2km before the turn-off into Banff and pull off to admire the view. Often there are spectacular reflections of the mountains in the water here and you can catch a glimpse of the Banff Springs Hotel in the distance.
If you didn’t visit Lake Minnewanka during your stay in Banff, take the turn-off to the Lake and follow the Minnewanka Loop trail. Stop at Cascade Ponds, a beautiful recreational area with picnic tables beside a large pond in which reflections of the surrounding mountains often make for a great photo, especially when they are still dusted with snow. The loop trail takes you past Lower Bankhead, the site of an abandoned coal mine and plant, now interpreted by signed trails and exhibits; Upper Bankhead, site of the old coal mining community and now a day use area with a shelter and picnic tables in an open meadow; Lake Minnewanka, the largest lake in the park and popular for boating, fishing sailing, picnicking and hiking.
Lake Minnewanka (meaning “Water of the Spirits”) is a man-made lake, having been flooded in 1941 for a hydro-electric dam. The dam raised the lake 30m and submerged the town beneath it. Because of the presence of the submerged village, the lake is popular among recreational scuba divers.Rental boats are available, along with fishing tackle for a day out on this 19.7 km-long lake. You can also take a cruise on the lake. CanaDream Club partner Brewster operates its popular Banff Lake Cruise on the lake and discounts are available for CanaDream guests when booked through CanaDream. During the summer you often see big-horn sheep licking the salt from the road beside the lake. From Minnewanka, the loop continues on to Two Jack Lake, a sheltered lake with facilities for picnickers. Further on a road branching off the loop runs to Johnson Lake, another day-use area centered on a shallow lake ringed with trails.
Return to Highway 1 and continue on until you reach the junction of this highway and Highway 40 into Kananaskis Country. At this intersection is a Casino on First Nations land and is the base for Kananaskis Heli Tours flightseeing trips over the Rockies. A number of different tour options are available and discounted tickets are available by booking direct with CanaDream.
South of the junction on Highway 40, you’ll come to an area on the right called Canoe Meadows. This is a popular place for kayakers and white water rafting. Take a walk down to the water but be careful as the river level can rise rapidly in a short time due to hydro-electric operations up-river..
Overnight in Kananaskis.
Today there’s the opportunity for a trail ride at Boundary Ranch. The two hour Ridge Ride travels high above the valley to capture a breathtaking view of the entire Kananaskis area. As you wind your way down around the pond, you might catch a glimpse of a moose and her calf sunning themselves! Book through CanaDream to receive your CanaDream Club discount.
We have two suggestions for your return trip to Calgary, depending upon the time of year you are travelling:
- If you’re travelling between June 15 and December 15, you can take Highway 40 south through Peter Lougheed Provincial Park to Longview. Once at Longview, explore the area and search out the towns of Millarville (famous for its farmers market held on Saturdays throughout the Summer), Turner Valley (it was here, in 1914, that Canada’s first major crude-oil discovery was made) and Black Diamond. These towns are all part of Diamond Valley – the heart of the Cowboy Trail. For an unusual diversion, take a gas plant tour in Turner Valley. The tour tells the story of the area, once one of the most active oil and gas fields in the British Empire.
If you take this route, we suggest you then take Highway 7 east then Highway 547 and 24 to Mossleigh where you can spend your last night at Aspen Crossing RV Park. While it may seem a little out of the way, it will give you an easy commute back into Calgary in the morning to drop off your vehicle.