It’s not hard to take a good photograph when visiting Banff – simply look upwards, point and shoot. However, without too much effort you can turn some good holiday snaps into great ones. All you need is a set of car keys (and a car) or if the temperature allows, a bike.
1. Vermilion Lakes
The entrance to Vermilion Lakes is situated just by the Mt Norquay road junction with Highway 1. The 4.3 km road winds along the shoreline of the 3 shallow Vermilion Lakes against an unspoiled Canadian Rockies backdrop. Sunrise or sunset both make a magical time to visit in any season.
A top tip for those looking for that elusive reflective shot of Mt Rundle in winter is to drive to the 2nd lake and find the permanently open stretch of water just by the road.
2. Mt Norquay Access Road
If you want to get a bird’s eye view of Banff without having to climb up 3000m or pay to go up the Sulphur Mountain Gondola, there is a great viewpoint off the Mt Norquay road. From the Highway 1 junction it is about a 10 minute drive up a series of switchbacks (we recommend winter tyres between November and April) until you reach the lookout, which offers spectacular views of Banff below and the surrounding mountain vistas!
3. Lake Minnewanka
A must see for any Banff visitor, Lake Minnewanka is a 15 minute drive north east out of town – just follow the signs! During the summer months Brewster offer guided boat tours, while winter offers the chance to walk across the vast frozen lake, just wrap up warm as the wind can pick up!
4. Two Jack Lake
Neighboring Lake Minnewanka is Two Jack Lake, which offers phenomenal shots in any season. Top tip is to park up and head left along the lake shoreline at sunset to get shots of the red glow over Rundle and Cascade mountains!
5. Johnson Lake
On the same road as Two Jack Lake, but a little more hidden down a 3km paved access lane is Johnson Lake. The circular lake walk offers the opportunity to capture the Banff ‘skyline’ from a variety of angles!
The mysteriously named Hoodoos can be found by heading up the Tunnel Mountain road and pulling into the car park opposite the camp site. While the elevated views of the Bow River are great, a scramble down to the pointed rock formations is well worth it!
7. Bow River
You don’t need to leave the Banff Town site to find some great shots. Simply join the river walk that starts near the railway crossing and follow this for an hour so down to Bow Falls, crossing the river at either the foot or road bridge.
8. Sundance Canyon Trail and Marsh Loop
For those feeling a little more adventurous the Sundance Canyon Trail and Marsh Loop offer the chance to walk by the river west of Banff. Park at the Cave and Basin (free) and follow the signs. The clearness of the Bow River makes for some absorbing reflective shots!
9. Surprise Corner
Many don’t realize that you need to cross the Bow River to get the best shot of the famous Banff Springs Hotel. Follow the road signposted to the Banff Centre until you reach Surprise Corner, and can look down on the majestic castle in the mountains!
For those who are not interested in leaving the comforts of downtown, then the easiest shot of all is on the town’s only road bridge across the Bow River. Wait for a gap in the traffic, and once safe simply shoot the iconic image of Mt Cascade overshadowing Banff Avenue!
Happy Banff snapping!
A picture story where Fall colours meet mountains, lakes and the onset of Winter in Banff National Park.
Mt Rundle reflecting in the calm waters of Two Jacks Lake.
Snow-dusted trees along the banks of the Bow River.
Golden larches above Moraine Lake in the Larch Valley.
Looking at Lake Minnewanka through the eyes of Fall.
The view from Highway 1 as you drive through the park.
Magical sunset over Johnson Lake.
The view of the Three Sisters from the park’s east gate.
The changing Fall colours at Sunshine Meadows.
Winter trying to take hold at Vermillion Lakes…
And on Mt Rundle
And then finally succeeding.
Welcome winter to Banff National Park – thank you for a WonderFall journey!
Hi, my name is Molly the Dog and I am a guest blogger on West Coast Discovered. I was inspired by the twitter work of the Banff Squirrel to tell you about one of my favorite hikes in Banff, the Sundance Canyon trail.
As I don’t live in Banff, I am usually reliant on my human family to drive me to the Cave and Basin car park. I don’t mind riding in the trunk as I get more room that way to stretch out. I have heard it’s a good idea due to some complaining at the front of the car to get there reasonably early on a weekend as parking can be a bit harder to find!
- Half-day trip, allow 4 hours (the humans slow me down)
- Distance: 4.2 km one way to the start of the Canyon and then whatever you want to walk in the Sundance Canyon
- Moderate elevation gain: 145 m with a maximum elevation of 1545 m
This is one of my favorite hikes as it has lots of different highlights – many Rocky mountains, lakes, the Bow River, waterfalls and of course the Sundance Canyon!
- 0 km: You have two choices at the start of the hike, follow the pavement from the Cave on Basin centre, or take the more rustic trail from the base of the car park. I prefer the dirt path as it is better shaded and you are more likely to meet some horses from the Warner Stables – I love to track them! There is also a boardwalk for fishing and bird watching, where I have to be very quiet or I get told off! You might also get to meet some local residents, although I found the squirrels to be quite protective of their trees!
- After a 1km or so you end back on the pavement and follow the Bow River. This is my favorite part of the walk, not only for the stunning Rocky mountain scenery but because I can go for a quick dip in the glacially fed water to cool down while the humans take photos of the sharp peak of Mount Edith. Stand back when I get out though, I do like to dry off by soaking everyone within 6 feet of me! #MollyWaterBomb
- After 2.5km you head away from the river and start a gentle climb up to the Sundance Canyon about 1.8kms away. I spend most of this part of the route enjoying the smell of the wildflowers which line the banks! There are also some fancy pit washrooms and a picnic area for the humans.
- After 4.3km you will reach the start of the Sundance Canyon. There is an interesting sign that tells you about how it was formed. There is also a bike rack for those who don’t like putting their feet on the ground. After this the fun starts! You get to clamber up rock steps and explore the waterfalls of the canyon as well as cross a few wooden bridges.
- Sundance Canyon Trail Loop: After you have explored the canyon you can spin 180 degrees and head back the way you came or choose to carry on and complete a more challenging loop (makes the hike 12km all in) which leads to a ridge and then a walk back through the forest to join the main trail 3.3km out from the car park.
- Marsh Trail: To keep things interesting, I like to take this 1.6 km trail on the way back as it runs along the banks of the Bow River to the marsh and then turns right at a junction and crosses a dyke to return to the Cave and Basin parking lot. There is a small beach which is great place to take another dip and bark at passing canoes!
You also get 360 degree views of the Bow Valley from here too!
- Watch out for horse riders – they have their own separate trail but I don’t think they are as well trained as me! Never seen a horse do a high five or a spin for a biscuit!
- As a dog I have to be kept on a lead which is not great but I guess it stops me chasing squirrels or getting myself into trouble with a Grizzly bear!
- The Bow River is pretty cold – I reckon only dogs can handle it!
- There are a few bugs around given the proximity to the wetlands – bring spray but keep it away from me!
- The Cave and Basin had a good café selling ice cream #hint
Happy exploring my canine and non canine friends!
Molly the Dog