Banff. The final stop on our exploring Canada trip.
And in some ways, it was the one I’d been looking forward to the most. When I first knew of our move to Canada, I imagined the iconic high street with a backdrop of mountains.
Banff is a truly stunning place, and it’s about a 1.5-hour drive from Calgary, so fairly accessible too.
But I am going to backtrack a little first.
Last post I wrote about our stop in Jasper and the Athabasca Glacier. The hike was something we’d planned to do on the journey from Jasper to Banff well in advance. However, the Icefields Parkway is an absolutely amazing drive from start to finish.
We left Jasper early in the morning, and passed elk along the side of the road still in semi-darkness. By the time the sun had risen, we were high in the mountains and snow was falling. The extra sheet of white made the mountains ever more breath-taking, and despite being against the clock, we made a couple of quick stops to soak it all in.
Following our Athabasca hike, we warmed up in the Icefields Visitor Centre, only a few minutes’ drive away. It is from here you can do the Athabasca bus tour and also the Glacier skywalk – which we did!
The glass-floor experience and slightly bouncy bridge is probably not recommended for those afraid of heights!
Following lunch, we continued our drive through the mountains, stopping at the very snowy ‘Bow Summit’ and ‘Bow Lake’ itself. It was like a winter wonderland.
Then it was back on the road. The Icefield’s Parkway ends at the famous Lake Louise. We also made a short detour to Moraine Lake.
Our final full day at Banff came around far too quickly. In the morning, we decided to hike up one of the trails, which climbed a mountain overlooking the town.
We couldn’t believe only five minutes into the trail, we spotted an enormous elk sitting about a metre from the path amongst the trees. He seemed very calm – but we still took a detour around him, not to disturb him (his antlers were huge!). It was spectacular to see such a large wild animal up-close. It’s one experience glimpsing an elk from your car window, another entirely when you are quite alone in the woods. Exciting but also a little scary!
We were on wildlife lookout for the rest of the walk, but didn’t spot anything else. I’m a little disappointed we didn’t see any bears during the whole trip, as that would have been the icing on the cake!
The afternoon was spent exploring Banff itself, seeing Bow falls (a 20-minute walk from the centre) and driving to Johnston Canyon to catch a couple more waterfalls.
I was sad to say goodbye to British Columbia and Alberta. The scenery really had exceeded my expectations, and I’m so glad we made the effort to visit west whilst living in Canada.
It’s somewhere I’d like to go back to, one day. I feel like it’s a part of the world with so much to offer – and we only really touched the tip of the iceberg.
But for now, it’s back to Toronto. Our next big adventure will be moving back to the UK.
I have another ‘expat post’ in the pipeline, reflecting on how I am feeling about that move now things are coming to an end. In the meantime, if you missed any of my other ‘Exploring Canada’ posts you can find them in the ‘more’ section of my blog, the first post, about Vancouver, is here.