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Banff National Park

Banff National Park

June 29, 2011

Established in 1885, Banff National Park is the oldest national park in Canada, and is located in the Rocky Mountains, about 100 miles west from Calgary, Alberta. The park covers around 2,500 square miles of mountainous terrain, and includes many glaciers, ice fields, and a forest full of evergreens, along with alpine landscapes. There are also hot springs in the area inside a protected reserve, along with Lake Louise.


There are plenty of things to see and do while visiting the gorgeous park. A must-see is the stunning views from the Banff Gondola. It's a small lift that takes you on a 10-minute ride to the top of Sulphur Mountain. It's a little expensive at $29 for an adult and $14 for a child, but it's well worth every penny. Atop the mountain, you can relax, enjoy the crisp, clean air, and take in all the wondrous scenery.


For another breath-taking view and some good exercise, take a hike in Johnston Canyon to see some awesome waterfalls. The hike to the lower falls is only half a mile, and is even fully accessible by wheelchair. To the upper falls, it's only another mile from the lower ones, and it's definitely worth it. It's even set up to be hiked during the winter- just be sure to wear suitable footwear.


After a chilly hike, you're probably going to want to warm up. The Upper Hot Springs Pool is the perfect place to do just that, and they're open daily, year-round. They keep the water temperature at a relaxing 98 to 104 degrees Fahrenheit, the prices are decent ($7.50 for adults, $6.50 for seniors and children, or $22 per family), and they even have swimsuits and towels for rent at around $2 each. Inside you'll find the Upper Hot Springs Spa. The spa's services include aromatherapy, a steam room, and massage.


If you're looking to stay a few days in the park (and I strongly recommend you do!), the Skoki Lodge is a great place to stay the night. Skoki is a homey ski lodge that's right off the trail that goes from Lake Louise to the Skoki Valley, and it's the perfect destination for all hikers. It's a friendly little place with all sorts of cozy spots for you to hang around in, including a stocked library with a wood-burning stove and comfy couches to lounge on while you read. There's a daily afternoon tea, and also build-yourself gourmet lunch buffets set up right after breakfast, great for making yourself a picnic lunch to take along. Another staple food is GORP, which is a trail mix known as good old raisins and peanuts, but can be made with just about anything.