As I prepare to pack my suitcase and embark on my upcoming trip to Italy, waves of excitement pour over me and derail all of my to-do lists. I have a one track mind at the moment: The will to roam is trumping all other aspects of my life. I cannot wait to start blogging about all of the stones that I overturn in such an incredible country!
Before I set foot onto new soils, however, I do want to document another trip of mine that I’ve been meaning to write about for a while. Banff has been one of my favorite locations to date, and a lot of people have been asking me for recommendations lately. I therefore want to reflect, scribble down some takeaways from my trip before leaving for my next one.
I was lucky enough to visit the incredible National Park last year during Canada’s 150th anniversary celebration. All parks offered complimentary admission so I was able to get into the park without added fees, but while that was a definite perk, I will be going back to Banff to really take advantage of all it has to offer. The trip was very short and my time was limited, so while I can definitely provide some insights and can share some gorgeous photos, there are still more things to see and do.
Know When To Go– Banff, Canada was actually a work trip: One of my clients needed onsite support for an incentive trip at the Fairmont Banff Springs in June of 2017. When I started researching the area I learned that I was actually visiting at a good time of year, and once I arrived, it was confirmed. The sun rose at 5 AM and did not set until 10PM, allowing ample time to maximize the day. While driving through the park, there was still snow on the ground and it was certainly still cold in the morning, but it promised great temperatures for mid-day hiking. The lakes were in the final stages of their thaw so while I did see some incredible scenery, I wish I was able to see Lake Louise in all her glory, a few weeks later. I still had to saturate my photos a bit to get the iconic lake color- The best time to go is from mid- June to the end of July.
The worst time to gallivant around the mountains? Early October to Mid-May, where many roads are closed due to falling ice and snow. Although the Winter season is great for hitting the slopes, the freezing temperatures and dangerous conditions limit things to do in the Park.
Rent A Car- I flew into Calgary International Airport in Alberta and had to drive an hour and thirty minutes (90 miles) to get to Banff. It was really easy to get a car at the airport, however; I rented one from Expedia a few days before. (Make sure you get one with GPS enabled in the event that you don’t have cell phone service in Canada!) I had no problem driving- all roads were exceptionally maintained, signs were easy to understand, and there was no traffic at all: It was a drive that I will never forget. (The scenery is so picturesque along the route- I pulled over about five times within the commute to take photos.)
Visit The Fairmont- Even if you don’t stay the the notable resort, make sure you venture that way for the photo opps. The castle is very impressive and although the rooms were not as luxurious as I was imagining (it is a very old establishment, and rumored to be haunted!) the amenities are worth noting. If you just want photos of the castle itself, I recommend visiting “Banff Surprise Corner” for optimal vantage points. It’s a great walk!
Ride The Gondola- The Banff Gondola Ride was one of the best things I have EVER done in my life. I am not usually afraid of heights but the adventure is one that stimulates even the most seasoned adrenaline junkies. I bought my ticket at the Gondola entranceway and boarded my fully enclosed pod, all by myself. As the capsule started to lift and rise above the trees, as my encasement began to sway gently back and forth, I suddenly felt like I had a lot to live for. During the 8 minute ride, feelings of excitement and fear flip-flopped as I tried to focus on taking photos and videos, diverting my attention away from the growing distance between myself and the ground.
Once at the the top of Sulphur Mountain, I regained my composure and almost dropped to my knees at the views. The terrain was otherworldly, and I was able to spend the next two hours exploring the mountain on boardwalk and stair-studded pathways. There is a restaurant onsite, as well as a museum and various lookout points that truly elevate the experience. I walked all around the mountain and took in every educational element that I could, but saved the summit platform for when I return with my husband.
Make The Trip To Moraine Lake- Banff is best known for Lake Louise, but I think that the more impressive body of water is Moraine. Situated in the Valley of the Ten Peaks, the snow-capped mountains make a fantastic backdrop for those iconic teal-lake photos. The roads to Moraine Lake are winding, shrouded by mountains and cliffs, and higher in elevation, so those in particular are closed until late May, conditions depending. Moraine Lake is half the size of Louise but definitely awe-inspiring. Next time, I actually want to stay closer to that location at the Moraine Lake Lodge in early July, so I can fully exploit the scenery, rent a canoe or kayak for the water, or hike one of the many trails up there.
There are so many other things to do within a 40 minute distance- Downtown Banff and Canmore destinations boast of cool shops, boutique coffee houses, restaurants, and more. Next time I’d love to see Takkakaw Falls, Emerald Lake, The Banff Upper Hot Springs, Bow Falls, and hike to the Lake Agnes Tea House. There is just so much to explore! My advice would be to just touch down in Calgary and drive as far west as you can, making stops along the way.
Perhaps I will map it out and book a flight one of these days- Looking back at all of these photos, I realize that I miss it dearly. If anyone has any other questions, I’m happy to share more! It’s undoubtedly one of my favorite places, a secret source of inspiration, unlike anything else that has moved me before.
Sulphur Mountain Sentiments
If there is a Higher Power,
If the doors of Heaven
Are hinged amid Earth’s highest entryways;
If Ancient Gods do exist and
Thrive in their divine realm,
Consuming ambrosia and drinking nectar
While pondering each mortal’s fate…
I’ve somehow crossed the
Gates of Mount Olympus,
Trailed through a pearl-white portal
To another time and place,
And I’m a believer.
For as my feet firmly stamped the soil
Of Sulphur Mountain,
As my frame hauled above all other hills
To a site where a wild wind summoned spirits
And stirred my own soul, whipping the
Breath from my lungs until
I was forced to stand still…
I witnessed, there, cedar stalks that stretched,
Soared until puffs of clouds collected on lean limbs,
Formed fragile, moisture-filled ornaments.
There were sulphur steam springs
Sprinkled on bare heights
And emerald lakes that elegantly contrasted
With a white- capped wilderness…
There were valleys of green,
Lush landscapes cut with silver streams, barely seen,
If not for the native game that guarded the canyon,
Gliding in circles, dipping at the sight of
Freshwater prey while calling out,
Casting an echo toward no spectator in particular…
Tears filled my eyes as I bowed my head in reverence,
For the kingdom was not of this world.