Weekend Getaway in Banff

Sometimes you just need to getaway from the big city, the traffic, the kids, life in general and just come to the mountains and remember how to breathe…

Q: I need to take my wife away for a quiet weekend to Banff or Jasper National Park, without the kids. We would like a nice room with a jacuzzi or fireplace and have a quiet dinner closeby. Where should we go?

A: I know the ladies in our office swoon over the oversized bathrooms at Buffalo Mountain Lodge, large claw footed soaker tubs, slate tile heated floors and plenty of counter space. You can enjoy a quiet bottle of red wine by the wood burning fireplace, while you wait to get ready for dinner. It’s only a short walk away through the wooded trails.

The modern styled Juniper also offers sunflower showerheads and Jacuzzi tubs, all with stunning views across the Bow Valley. Also excellent onsite dining at the funky Mukamuk.

The Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge always brings out the romantic in me as I see couples walking hand in hand beside the laketrails to the main lodge for dinner. Edith Cavell is formal dining but with the best view in Jasper.

Q: I’m planning a getaway and I just want to relax. No cars, no people, just a cabin in the woods. Does anything like that exist?

A: These secluded getaway lodges do exist, mainly past Banff, heading towards Lake Louise or Yoho National Park. Emerald Lake Lodge is located exclusively on the lake, jutting out onto a peninsula, accessible only by a private bridge. Vehicles are left outside in an overnight parking lot. Luxury style cabins with private decks, fireplaces and no TV’s, but don’t worry, you will be busy enjoying the hottub, firepit, walks or skiing around the lake and the great games and reading room in the main lodge. You barely have time to turn up for dinner.

Moraine Lake Lodge also offers a similar experience, along with wilderness talks in the library of an evening and canoeing on the lake.

Fabulous onsite dining is available at both properties. Although both can be popular sightseeing spots in the peak summer months, you have the place to yourself in the evenings and first thing in the mornings. Fall and winter are ideal as there are usually only a few guests staying at the lodges.

Q: I hear Banff can be really busy and expensive in the summer months. Are there any quiet or cheaper times to come?

A:It’s all in the planning. Yes, Banff, Lake Louise and Jasper hit their peak rates during July, August and early September, but you can still find deals or affordable places to stay, so don’t write off a visit during these months.

Best value months are October, November and December – after our ThanksGiving (2nd weekend in October), until just before Christmas. What a great way to relax after a busy summer and before the craziness of the holidays.

If winter doesn’t scare you, then January has tonnes of snow and there is always a hottub, fireplace or bar to warm you up.

Q: I’m coming to the mountains on a holiday weekend. Are there any special parties or events I should know about?

A: Apart from the usual, there are a few unique holidays listed below. We’re locals and some of us are still single, so we always know where the best parties, nightclubs and restaurants are for each holiday. Just ask us!

  • New Year’s Eve
  • Family Day (unique to Western Canada – usually third weekend in Feb – very busy)
  • Valentine’s Day
  • St Patrick’s Day
  • Easter
  • May Long Weekend (first ‘summer’ weekend kickoff)
  • Canada Day
  • Melissa’s Road Race Weekend (marathon race throughout the townsite) 3rd weekend in September
  • Halloween
  • Christmas

 

Banff Hiking

Banff HikesYou can’t help but be inspired by the stunning mountain scenery to go for a walk or hike in Banff National Park.  Whether that be a short stroll around a turquoise blue glacial lake, or a full day trail into the backcountry.

Q: Where is the best Banff hiking?

A: Everywhere.  There are stunning vistas from just 5mins off Banff Ave, and even some of the heritage walks around the townsite offer an interesting insight into the history of the area.

Best to get some professional help, ahead of time.  Buy a guidebook.  We still use “Don’t Waste Your Time in the Canadian Rockies” by Kathy Copeland, but there are many many more.

The staff at the Parks Canada Info Centres (Banff, Lake Louise & Jasper) are also a great source of Banff and Lake Louise hiking trails, helping you narrow down the section by time, elevation gain, views and proximity.  It’s always a good idea to check the conditions of a trail there as well, as they could be closed due to conditions or animal activity.

Q: I still want to see great scenery, but I don’t want to hike strenuously for a full day, what’s the best day hike in Banff?

A: Discover Banff Tours offers a guided Banff hike into Stanley Glacier each Tuesday and Thursday.  This moderate hike takes you through a previous fire burn, where shoulder high fireweed paint the forest floor bright pink.  Continue into the amphitheatre where you are surrounded by sheer cliffs, a hanging glacier and waterfalls.  It’s one of the lessor known (and less crowded) mountain hikes that rewards you greatly for a little effort.

Of course if you want the experience of a true mountain climber, you can cheat a little and take a helicopter to the mountain peaks.  The Stoney First Nations Heli Walk Tour takes you by helicopter to mountain peaks where you can enjoy a 1hr stop in a high alpine meadow.  A truly memorable experience.

Q: What about bears?

A: It’s highly unlikely that you will have a bear encounter.  Reduce your chances even further by letting them know you are in the area.  Bears don’t like to be surprised so holler out as you hike.  Don’t bother with those silly bear bells.  While they make a nice souvenir, on the trail you always see people wearing them, before you hear any sound.    The human voice carries further.  You can make a game of it, coming up with different catch phrases – lines from movies are great, “Nachooooo Libre”

Some areas are restricted access, at certain times of the year, only allowing hikers in groups of 6 or more to reduce the chance of animal encounters.  That’s another great reason to join up with a small guided hiking tour.

Q: I’d like to camp in the backcountry, but I don’t have the gear?

A: Hmm, comfy bed, hot showers, delicious food and wine, sounds like my idea of roughing it in the backcountry.  There are a number of front and backcountry cabins in Banff National Park, that are require short hikes into – around 14km (9miles).  Once there they offer all the comforts of home with the scenery and remoteness of the backcountry.  Email (mail@banffinfo.com) or call us and speak with a Banff Info expert to help plan this special Banff vacation.

Q: What items should I bring on a hike?

A: A starting list should include – layered clothes.  It can rain, snow, hail, be windy and hot, all within one hour, at any month of the year, so best to be prepared with a breathable and a warm layer.  A map of where you are heading.  Cell phone, bear spray, lots of water, snacks, first aid kit, bug spray, sunscreen and a hat.

Of course don’t forget your camera, the scenery in Banff National Park is some of the most scenic in the world.

 

Columbia Icefields Parkway

Icefields Parkway Drive

Icefields Parkway

Stretching 230km (142 miles) between Lake Louise in Banff National Park and the Town of Jasper, the parkway offers easy access to one of the most spectacular landscapes on Earth.

The entire journey lies protected within the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks World Heritage Site, recognized by UNESCO in 1984 for its outstanding natural beauty and geological value.

Designed for leisurely sightseeing, a vast wilderness of magnificent peaks (many over 3,300 meters/11,000 feet), ancient glaciers, pristine mountain lakes and broad sweeping valleys greet travelers around every corner.

Home of the renowned Columbia Icefield, the largest reservoir of ice and snow in the Rocky Mountains. At 200 square kilometers, the Icefield straddles the provinces of Alberta and British Columbia, feeding 3 of the continents major river systems, which flow to the Pacific, Atlantic and Arctic Oceans.

Glimpse mountain wildlife in their natural setting; big horn sheep and mountain goats, black bear, elk and moose. If you are lucky, you might even see a grizzly bear, grey wolf or the elusive woodland caribou.

If this is your first visit to the Rockies, or even this part of the Rockies in particular, it is strongly recommended that you rent a GyPSy Guide with you to provide important commentary along the way of the spectacular lakes and mountains that make this a must see for so many people the world over.   This small device plugs into your car stereo and automatically plays commentary (triggered by GPS location points) about the beautiful scenery, stories of past adventurers, advice on where to spot wildlife, driving directions and quirky stories of Canada, as you arrive at viewpoints. Pick up and drop off in different locations, rent by the day or week.  A perfect travelling companion for the independent traveller.

There are a limited number of accommodations available along the Parkway, in addition to those in the larger towns such as Jasper, Banff and Lake Louise, so if an out of the way cabin or resort is what you’re looking for then we can certainly provide you with some options.

Whether you are driving straight through to Jasper, or you are daily sightseeing from Banff, it’s a full day of stops at viewpoints, watching for wildlife and hopefully some short walks/hikes.

Viewpoints that shouldn’t be missed include Bow Lake, Crowfoot Glacier, Peyto Lake, Big Bend and Weeping Walls, Athabasca and Sunwapta Falls and the highlight for many being the Athabasca Glacier, where you have the chance to take an IceExplorer tour up onto the glacier.

For those who are of reasonable fitness, the short but steep hike at Parker Ridge provides an unforgettable view and a great place to enjoy lunch.

As there are limited facilities on the road, we recommend that you pack a picnic lunch the night before and start the day with a full tank of gas.

Definitely a not to be missed thing to do while in Banff.

Banff Christmas

Banff Winter Wonderland Vacation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Well we are called the Land of a Million Christmas Trees.  For those who want to experience their first white Christmas and those who can’t get enough of it, Banff is a truly magical place during the festive season.  If you are looking for a castle in the mountains covered in snow and lavishly decorated then the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel will answer all your Christmas wishes.

It takes them two months to prepare the decorations throughout the hotel, which include a number of Christmas trees, boughs of cedar branches, gingerbread houses and Santa reading stories by a wood burning fireplace.

Very popular in the winter are the limited number of condo properties, Hidden Ridge Resort, Douglas Fir Resort, Banff Rocky Mountain Resort, Tunnel Mountain Resort and the only 2 options within walking distance of downtown are the Inns of Banff and the Fox Hotel & Suites. These properties all offer suites with separate bedrooms, full kitchens and fireplaces in the living rooms. You must pre book these (usually by August) to guarantee Christmas dates.

If you are making your way to the Rockies for Christmas, you will probably be flying into Calgary.  You can easily rent a vehicle and drive to Banff; we recommend to rent a SUV or 4×4 vehicle in the winter months. The TransCanada Highway from Calgary to Banff is kept in good winter driving conditions in all but extreme weather. It’s a relatively flat divided road. The TransCanada from Banff to Lake Louise is usually in poorer winter conditions, so you need to slow down. There is also a system of shuttle buses that service Calgary Airport, Town of Banff and the Ski Resorts that you can combine, if you do not wish to drive.

If you do not ski or snowboard there is still plenty for you and the family to do! Skate on Lake Louise, toboggan down the slope behind the Banff Springs Hotel, join an IceWalk tour of Johnston Canyon or Grotto Canyon, snowshoe to track animal prints in the snow, dog sled through the trees in Lake Louise, or go even faster through the trees on a snowmobile trip. If you are looking for a quieter relaxing pace, then soak in the natural hot springs while snow falls on your face and then warm up inside with a hot chocolate beside the fire.

On Chistmas Day there are many restaurants to choose from for your traditional turkey dinner. Almost all of the local restaurants will offer a specialized menu for the festive Christmas & NYE Dinners. Also popular are the large buffet brunches that you will find at the larger hotels, Banff Springs Hotel and the Rimrock Resort are two great places to celebrate Christmas!

Call (1877 226 3348 or 403 760 5007)or email us if you would like to speak with a friendly, knowledgeable agent (right here in Banff) who can help you plan your vacation like a local.