Banff and the Bow Valley

John is not impressed by tonight’s accommodation

On our previous visit to the Canadian Rockies, ten years ago, our first stop was in Banff which we remembered as being too busy to be really pleasurable. We decided to try somewhere different this time, but we did pop in to Banff to visit the Cave and Basin National Historic Site.

Canada’s National Park System was effectively born at these hot springs. Known to aboriginal peoples for millennia, they were “discovered” by three railway workers in 1883. So many people rushed in to try to make money out of the springs that, to avert an environmental crisis, the government stepped in to create a reserve. Today, what was the bathing pool is decked and, when we were there, was set up to replicate a camp at the time of the building of the Canadian Pacific Railway.

There were boardwalks to follow (see header image which mocks up the entrance to the first hotel) and we also hiked the Marsh Loop, a circular trail to the Bow River, where we met this impressive stag.

Planning a route in the Rockies isn’t difficult – there isn’t much choice other than East-West on the Trans-Canada Highway and North-South on the Icefields Parkway. The Trans-Canada skirts Banff which means we passed its exits several times. The first day we planned to visit the Cave and Basin, the queues to get off the highway were so long that we kept going east, took a detour onto the Bow Valley Parkway and stopped at Johnston Canyon with its multiple waterfalls.

To the east of Banff, we liked the small town of Canmore. Imagine having this view at the end of your street!

In Canmore, we bought these two hiking books which served us well over the next three weeks. Volume 1 included a loop walk in Bow Valley Provincial Park, an amalgamation of six interpretive trails which took us through moraines, riversides, lakeshores and forest paths. We couldn’t believe how quiet it was – we hardly saw any other hikers and ate our lunch alone in an enormous picnic area.

Coming up in the next instalment: Kananaskis, which was a lot busier.

Canadian Rockies: around Banff

Canadian Rockies 2007
Canadian Rockies 2007

My birthday is in July, which is wonderful because it means I can usually spend it on holiday. In 2007 I turned 50 and chose to celebrate in the Canadian Rockies. What a great fortnight we had! It was also the start of a run of annual North American road-trips, only broken last summer when we went to Orkney and Shetland instead. Normal service will be resumed this year….

After flying into Calgary, our first stop was Banff, though we weren’t staying in the illustrious Banff Springs Hotel as shown in the gallery – we were somewhere much more lowly. We had a wonderful few days amongst the lakes and mountains, most of which I can no longer identify with any certainty so have helpfully labelled “Near Banff”. You can probably tell from my body language and general demeanour that kayaking wasn’t for me; I much preferred hiking.

From Banff, we headed north on the Bow Valley Parkway to our next stop – Num-ti-jah Lodge. Coming up soon!