Banff National Park :: Canada Travel Blog

Canada Road Trip #4: Banff National Park

Banff National Park in Canada

Next stop in our Canada journey is Banff National Park, a beautiful park filled with lakes and mountains. If you didn't saw our last Canada adventures on this travel blog, you can find them here: a trip to Vancouver, visiting Othello Tunnels, Okanagan Lake, and Kelowna. And now let's find out some great and interesting places and tourist attractions inside the Banff National Park in Canada and the Banff city.

For me, personally, Canada is almost all about nature and wildlife. I love all the Canadian National Parks, and the Banff National Park is one of my favorite. With a great mountain views, hiking trails and awesome lakes, this is definitely the place worth spending a few days. So, what can we see here, where to go, what hiking trails can we find here, and what are the best tourist attractions and interesting places in Banff National Park? Let's find out!

Castle Mountain (Eisenhower Tower) in Banff National Park, Canada

Castle Mountain (Eisenhower Tower)

Castle Mountain in Canada (that also was known as the Eisenhower Tower) can be found inside Banff National Park in the place called Canadian Rockies, just 30 minutes drive from the city of Banff. The castle-look of the mountain comes from the erosive process that was acting at different rates.

There are some controversies about the mountain name, which was originally known as the Castle Mountain (this name was given by James Hector in 1858), but it was renamed and known from 1946 to 1979 as the Eisenhower Tower, to honor World War II general called Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Due to many civilian protests and many petitions, the name Eisenhower Tower was in 1979 revert to the original name, the Castle Mountain. Only the smaller pinnacle on the eastern side became still the Eisenhower Tower.

Castle Mountain hiking trails

There are some great Castle Mountain hiking trails you can use, from very easy one called Village Trail (just 1 kilometer), three moderate, called Haig Lake North,  Haig Lake South and Paradise Lake (all a bit more than 4 kilometers long), to two difficult ones, called Haig Ridge (4,5 kilometers) and Gravenstaffel Peak (7 kilometers). All given distances are one-way, so remember that you will have to go back. The Castle Mountain hiking trails are free of charge, but remember that you are doing it at your own risk. If you want to see the hiking trails map, just click here.

Banff Merman in Canada. Source: Eviatar Bach / Wikipedia.

Banff Merman

There is not much knowledge about Banff Merman, the mysterious half-fish, half taxidermy experiment, but it was probably bought in 1915 from a Javanese salesman by Norman Luxton, a gold seeker, who almost died on his canoe expedition around the world. After he came back to Banff, he became a successful newspaper owner, an honorary chief of the Stoney native American tribe and the businessman. He also founded the Buffalo Nations Luxton Museum, and nowadays the museum is inside the house where he used to live.

There is also a story that says that Norman Luxton made the Banff Merman himself, but to taxidermy, you must be familiar with anatomy, sculpture, painting, and tanning, and it's unlikely that Luxton had such knowledge.

Nowadays there are more mummified mermaids in the World, mostly inside the Japanese temples, but also in the Seattle’s Ye Olde Curiosity Shop. But the Banff Merman is the only mermaid in the world that is a man.

Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel

Having huge history behind, Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel is a former Canadian Pacific Railway hotel that was built in 1887 in a Scottish and Baronial style. The hotel is located in the middle of the Banff National Park in Canada and is called the Castle in the Rockies.

There are stories that say that the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel in Canada is haunted. While you will be here, try to find the grand staircase. This is the place, where according to legend a bride has fallen and broken her neck on her wedding day. Some guests reported some strange noises across the Banff Springs Hotel.

Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel

In 1906, the huge eleven-floor tower has been built, as well as two large wings with more than 300 hotel rooms. During that time the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel tower was the tallest building in whole Canada. It was also added to the UNESCO World Heritage site. If you want to see the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel in Canada, you can even get there by foot from the city of Banff.

Lake Louise

Situated just 40 minutes drive from the Banff city, Lake Louise is one of the most beautiful lakes in whole Banff National Park, Canada. The lake is surrounded by huge mountains, which together with the blue and turquoise color of the water makes the Lake Louise a very awesome tourist attraction and an interesting place for photography.

Unfortunately, the Lake Louise is very popular among the tourists, so it's much better and recommended by me to wake up early and then go to see the lake, as there will be much fewer people and will be much more quietly. You can rent a canoe here or hike one of the Lake Louise hiking trails.

Lake Louise in Canada

Lake Louise hiking trails

If you want to spend some more time near the Lake Louise in Banff National Park and see some more great views, you can hike one of the Lake Louise hiking trails. The eight most popular ones are:

  • Mount Saint Piran hiking trail (13 kilometers, 5-6 hours).
  • Lake Agnes hiking trail, plus Little Beehive or Big Beehive (Lake Agnes: 6 kilometers / 2-3 hours, Little Beehive + 2 kilometers / 1 hour, Big Beehive + 3 kilometers / 1,5 hour).
  • Larch Tree Valley and Sentinel Pass hiking trail (12 kilometers, 4-5 hours).
  • Consolation Lakes hiking trail (6 kilometers, 2-3 hours).
  • Eiffel Lake hiking trail (11 kilometers, 4 hours)
  • Wenkchemna Pass hiking trail (19 kilometers, 6-7 hours).
  • Plain of the Six Glaciers hiking trail (14 kilometers, 4-5 hours).
  • Lake Annette and Paradise Valley hiking trail (19 kilometers, 6-7 hours).

All Lake Louise hiking trails times are with the return time.

Moraine Lake in Canada

Moraine Lake

Banff National Park in Canada is filled with beautiful places and Moraine Lake is definitely one of them. Same as Lake Louise, it has a great turquoise and blue water and it's also surrounded by mountains. The watercolor makes the landscape almost surreal. Moraine Lake is just 20 minutes drive from the Louise Lake (just drive Moraine Lake Road), so it's a very good idea to visit both of the lakes while visiting Banff National Park.

Another huge advantage of the Moraine Lake in Canada is, that there are fewer tourists here as the place is not that popular, but the views and landscapes are still magnificent and breathtaking. While being here, I can recommend taking a canoe and swim a bit. IF you want, you can also use some Moraine Lake hiking trails.

Moraine Lake hiking trails

There are five great Moraine Lake hiking trails you can hike while being here. Of course, there are more of them, but those are my favorite.

  • Larch Valley hiking trail - famous from its Larch Pine trees, that turn yellow and orange in Autumn.
  • Sentinel Pass hiking trail - it is a continuation of the Larch Valley hike. It's a 12 kilometers trail and will provide you beautiful views of the Valley of the Ten peak.
  • Consolation Lakes hiking trail - very easy 6 kilometers trail. Be warned that this Consolation Lakes hiking trail is covered in snow almost whole year. You may also meet here Grizzly Bear, so it's recommended to hike this trail with a minimum group of 4 people.
  • Tower of Babel hiking trail - very unique trail with a great view of Moraine Lake, but it's a hard one to go.
  • Eiffel Peak hiking trail - 11 kilometers hard hiking trail, minimum 6 hours of hike.
Johnston Canyon in Canada. Source: Jonathan Mueller / Flickr.

Johnston Canyon

Johnston Canyon is a very beautiful, accessible and easy hiking trail located along the great Bow Valley Parkway. It's one of the most popular trails in Banff National Park, so be prepared that there may be some tourists. As with every tourist attraction and interesting place in the park, the best way is to start hiking early to experience serenity and solitude.

You will start your hike on a wide paved road that will follow you alongside the Johnston Canyon, where are some small waterfalls. After some time the road will change and there are few sections where you walk along metal catwalks that are fixed to the vertical cliff wall, that is awesome. Along the Johnston Canyon hiking trail, you will see two magnificent waterfalls, called Upper Falls and Lower Falls. Those waterfalls are hidden behind some rock cliffs, so look around and make sure not to miss them.

In the end, you will reach a small platform from where you will see an incredible panorama of Upper Falls. From here you can finish your hike, or go further Johnston Canyon hiking trail to get to the water bubbles on the surface of the ground, called the Ink Pots. Even if you won't decide to hike to the Ink Pots and will go back to the parking, the Johnston Canyon hiking trail will give you a great adventure and some adrenaline. You will find here one of the most beautiful views in the Banff National Park and the Bow Valley Parkway.

Lake Minnewanka 

Third most beautiful lake in Banff National Park that I've visited is Lake Minnewanka. In addition to beautiful views, the Minnewanka Lake is known mainly for the fact that there is a flooded resort under its surface and inquisitive fish.

Minnewanka Lake in Canada

Flooded hotel Minnewanka Landing Resort

This resort hotel, called Minnewanka Landing Resort, was built in 1888, and it looked like a small village with few hotels and restaurants. There were boat trips here, fishing tours, hiking trails, and skiing during the winter. The resort near Lake Minnewanka met his end during the World War II when the hydroelectric capacity of the nearby explosives plant was increased.

In 1941 the Lake Minnewanka water level raised more than 30 meters, which completely absorbed the Minnewanka Landing Resort.

Nowadays, the Minnewanka Lake in Canada is famous between divers and if you are brave enough and can stand the freezing temperatures of the lake, you can dive and see the remains of the resort by yourself. Minnewanka Lake is just 15 minutes drive from the Banff city.

Town of Banff, Canada. Source: Ian / Wikipedia.

Town of Banff

Banff National Park is an awesome place in Canada with many great things to do and see and the town of Banff is the hub for the tourists to this National Park and probably here you should decide to stay to visit whole Banff National Park. This city is charming itself, so don't forget to spend here some time, wandering across the beautiful streets surrounded by the mountains on all sides.

You will find a lot of natural beauty and great landscapes around the town and many great places to explore. Go and see the bridge over the Bow River, visit downtown filled with people, eat something in one of the many tasteful restaurants, or just make some shopping in different boutiques.

The town of Banff is a great city and a perfect place to spend the night just before visiting the Banff National Park.

Cascade Gardens in Banff

Cascade Gardens

Probably the best tourist attraction in the Banff city is called the Cascade Gardens, which are small and awesomely landscaped garden area located in the south part of Banff Avenue. Those gardens are an awesome place to get away from the crowd in Banff.

In Cascade Gardens you will find a lot of small roads that will path you between colorful flowers, many different trees, ponds of water, bridges and even wood shelters or gazebos that are perfect for a picnic or just to sit a bit and relax. While being in the Cascade Gardens, make also sure to visit the office building, where you will find an amazing panorama down Banff Avenue.

Also make sure to take a camera with you, as the Cascade Gardens in the town of Banff is the perfect place to take some photos. The full address of the gardens is 101 Mountain Avenue, just search for the bridge over the Bow River behind the Parks Canada Administration Office. Of course in Banff National Park in Canada, there are much better places when it comes to running away from the people, but the Cascade Gardens in Banff are a small city oasis.

Conclusion

I hope you enjoyed my article about the most interesting places and things to do and see in Banff National Park in Canada. The area is filled with various tourist attractions and you have to spend at least a few days to visit the best of them: Castle Mountain (Eisenhower Tower), Banff Merman, Banff Springs Hotel, Lake Louise, Moraine Lake, Johnston Canyon, Lake Minnewanka, and Town of Banff. If you will decide to hike some of the trails, you may need at least a week.

If you have any questions or want to share any great place in Banff National Park that I've missed, feel free to write me a comment in the section below. 

Wojciech Kuźma

Hey there! My name is Wojtek and I am very happy that you came to my travel blog. I've been traveling the world for a few good years now and I still want more.

On my website I describe the adventures that have happened to me, you will also find here a collection of valuable tips for tourists and travelers. If you liked this article, be sure to leave a comment and read some more!


4.86 | 7 votes
Comments: 3
  •   10th September 2018, 01:03      https://roamancing.com

    I always enjoy my trips in the Rockies, and have to say, this is the first I have learned of the Banff Merman. Your photos are gorgeous and definitely do the Rockies justice.

  •   14th September 2018, 15:37

    Banff National Park is great, I still remember all these visited lakes, mountains and the town of Banff itself, and some time has passed since my last trip to Canada. This text was translated automatically. Original text is below: Park Narodowy Banff jest świetny, do dzisiaj pamiętam te wszystkie zwiedzone jeziora, góry i samo miasteczko Banff, a trochę czasu już minęło od mojej ostatniej podróży do Kanady.

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