Banff is one of those places you’ll often see plastered across travel brochures for Canada, whether it’s the turquoise waters of Lake Louise in the summer, or the frosty slopes and sleigh rides in the winter. And for good reason too: it’s not coincidence you’ll recognise its scenery, but testament to its beautiful, varied landscapes that epitomise the values of the country itself: getting outdoors.
Having not ventured beyond the province of B.C. since moving to Vancouver last year, it was only right I should explore a little further. Fellow Brits will sympathise with my slightly sceptical idea of a ten hour drive to Banff in Alberta, but let’s not forget this is the second largest country in the world. So shoving our bags into the trunk of the car, we set sail for Banff National Park.
In all honesty, one of my favourite bits about roadtripping is stopping for breaks in the most bizarre of places that wouldn’t normally be a destination for you. Having worked up an appetite by the time we reached Hope, B.C., we pulled into one of the few options other than McDonald’s – the classy establishment of Rolly’s diner, although I’ll forgive you if you weren’t to know it is also recognised as the HQ of the Flat Earth Society. Whilst it certainly filled a hole, I’d be delighted for any fellow Brits to explain what the ‘Yorkshire Rarebit’ item of the menu is – anyone? No?
Having left Hope, we were off on the life defying – and famously dicey – Coquihalla Highway, but luckily made it through without a scrape. The terrain began to change and before we knew it, we were well into the Rockies.
Our next pitstop was the ski town of Revelstoke (or ‘Revy’ as it’s fondly known by locals). An interesting little town, it certainly has a wild wild west feeling to it, although we bypassed the local saloon in favour of the Taco Club, much recommended for fellow travellers passing through. The temperatures had also noticeably dropped as we edged our way closer to the Alberta border.
By 11pm, we’d made it! Welcome to the RimRock Resort, where we were spending the first night of our stay in Banff National Park.
Although our view didn’t reveal too much in the midnight black of outside, we were pretty stoked to wake up to spectacular mountain views in the morning.
Followed by two of my favourite things: coffee and breakfast! Whilst it was early, we decided to head over to the Banff Hot Springs just around the corner from our hotel to beat the crowds.
It was amazing to sit and soak in the snowy mountain views from 40 degree water in the subzero temperatures outside.
After a relaxing dip, we went into the town centre of Banff to explore the local area and see what the famous mountain town was like. It reminded me a lot of Whistler meets the Wild Wild West – a saloon with swinging doors wouldn’t be out of place!
Naturally, a nod to the UK! After exploring the town, we went for a walk along to Bow Falls, to see the famous Fairmont Banff Springs building which bears resemblance to a Scottish castle.
It was even more impressive from inside, where we stopped for a quick cup of tea and a glimpse across to the mountains.
If you’re lucky enough to have an afternoon spare in Banff, be sure to check out a few of the nearby trails for a steady hike. We checked out the Fenland Trail, which was so pretty with its river and mountain views – albeit super slippy in the ice, so make sure you wear good shoes!
And if you have a car, why not drive over to the well named Lake Minnewanka for a short hike around – or across, depending on the time of year you visit – the icy lake?
Next stop – Lake Louise!
What do you like to do in Banff? Leave your thoughts and recommendations in the comments below!