Sightseeing on the way to Banff, in Banff and around Banff


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North America » Canada » Alberta » Banff
July 30th 2012
Published: August 15th 2012
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30th July ’12 Golden to Banff, Alberta

OK so we thought we were getting up at 9 am but hadn’t counted on there being a time difference, so we were actually up at 10 am. There wasn’t as far to drive today though so it was fine. Our first stop today was to see the Spiral Tunnel, yes another one of those railway engineering feats up the side of a mountain. At the look-out point it took us a while to suss out it was actually on the other side of the valley, half way up the mountain. You could see an entrance and an exit tunnel but that was it, marginally better than the one in New Zealand but without the cute wire coat hanger model to look at this time! Maybe if a train had been going through it might have been more of a sight, who knows?

Further up the road we came to the car park for the Tak’akkaw Falls, the second highest waterfall in Canada and this was most definitely impressive! A great thundering body of glacial water roaring over the mountain top and dropping down onto the rocks below. We hiked up to near the base and got covered in spray, but I do love a good waterfall!

Further still up the road and we came to the Emerald Lake, which was a very nice green lake, high mountains and forests. Then it started raining but we weren’t going to let that stop us so on we went up to Moraine Lake and guess what?...a pretty green lake, high mountains and forest. This was also where the Burgess Shale was – where lots of fossils were found.

Then it was back to the highway and onto the famous Lake Louise. The cars were all backed up queuing for parking spaces, but by heading up to the furthest one away we managed to get a spot. By now the sky was pretty dark and there was the odd rumble of thunder. There were LOTS of people here and another pretty green lake, high mountains, ahanging glacier and forests. Then it poured down and everyone ran for cover and the views were vanishing rapidly. Back at the car we decided it wasn’t worth making our final stop at the Johnstone Canyon because the weather was foul. So we headed straight for Banff where
Spiral TunnelSpiral TunnelSpiral Tunnel

Get your magnifying lenses out!
it turns out it was really hot and sunny.

Banff is a lovely little town, very touristy but picturesque, ringed by high mountain ranges and with streets all named things like Bear, Wolf and Caribou.

We found our motel – which was more like a 3 storey concrete block, wedged in between a couple of pretty inns, but it was close to the town centre and for Banff a reasonable price. We had to check in at the lovely inn next door which owns the motel also. We got the key, walked back along the pavement and I went over on my ankle!! Not as bad as before but enough to get the ankle strap back out of retirement – I don’t believe it!

Our room is on the middle floor and was like walking into a sauna, it is so hot!! Howard soon had the window open, the door open and the outside exit door open to try and cool it down. After using the ibuprofen gel and strapping my ankle up we went out for a look around. We didn’t get very far but at least I can walk on it.

Back at the room it was back to the old elevated ankle and ice routine. Howard went out to the inn for ice and came back saying try and get out here there’s something to see and there was, a deer munching on grass in the motel car park!

That night was a bit of a nightmare as the people in the room above kept crashing, banging and charging around until after 1 am.

31st July ’12 Banff, Alberta

Knackered, hot and sticky wasn’t the best start to the day, luckily the people in the room above have checked out so we don’t have to change rooms.

So, another lovely sunny day and we drove back to see Johnstone Canyon. My ankle isn’t too bad, it just feels like someone has given it a good, hard kicking and its wobbly, so I’m keeping it strapped up.

On the way up to the canyon car park lots of cars had stopped, so I got out the camera and when it was our turn to get to the stopping point there was a caribou near the edge of the road, happily munching away and completely ignoring all the cars and
Tak'akkaw FallsTak'akkaw FallsTak'akkaw Falls

Spot Howard
cameras. It had huge antlers!

Then it was on to the packed car park, luckily a car pulled out just as we got to it so we did manage to get parked. We started the canyon walk which was very pretty – a narrow, steep high sided canyon with a very fast flowing river.

After walking through the forest the path turned into a board walk suspended from the canyon side out over the river. After a mile my ankle called a halt and we went back.

Returning to Banff we did the Tunnel Mountain Drive, but there isn’t a tunnel. Then we went up the other valley side to Sulphur Mountain. We actually paid to do the gondola ride up to the summit! This was pretty special, it was a long way up with great views. At the top there is an observation deck with 360 degree views around all the valleys and mountain ranges – Howard scampered around taking hundreds of photos. You are literally on the top of the mountain, 7000+ feet up, which was kind of cool! A boardwalk has been built out along the ridge out to another tower but as it was all steps I didn’t attempt it. There was enough to see where we were, looking down over the tiny town and for miles off into the wilds beyond.

Coming back down was a bit hair raising, rushing out over the edge and then suddenly dropping down, but good fun and definitely worth doing.

Our route back into town took us past the turning for Bow Falls so we stopped for a look. I think the term Falls was stretching it a bit, particularly after seeing the Tak’akkaw Falls yesterday. It was more like a particularly torrent stretch of water but pretty enough.

Tea was in a food court we found in the basement of a small shopping mall near the motel and was cheap and tasty. Then we went to the pictures to see The Dark Knight which was a cracking film and made me wonder why I hadn’t watched any of the others!

It was still boiling hot in the room but upstairs was silent.


Additional photos below
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There's a deer in the car park!
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Gondola ride


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