With the leaves turning, temperatures cooling and the crowds dispersing, Fall is arguably the best time of year to hit the hiking trails before the deep freeze of a full on Canadian winter arrives. There is no more spectacular place to appreciate “WonderFall” hiking than in Banff National Park. Here are my 5 best day hikes and top tips to help you make the most of the last few weeks of the hiking season before the snow settles!
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Snowshoeing is often referred to as the fastest growing winter sport in North America, for lots of good reasons. It’s an inexpensive low risk activity, which makes for a great workout and requires only some warm clothes, a moderate level of fitness, no lessons, a pair of snowshoes and some snow!!
To find out the Top 5 beginner snowshoe trails in the Canadian Rockies click here….
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!
The best places are always the ones that only the locals know about. Those secret spots that allow you to connect with a location at your own pace without a crowded tour bus in sight!
Johnson Lake is one of those local’s spots that is just a 15 minute drive from Downtown Banff. Tucked away down a 3km paved access road, Johnson Lake is often overlooked by its more accessible neighbours – Two Jacks Lake and Lake Minnewanka.
Beyond its 360 degree mountain vistas, Johnson Lake is popular amongst the locals for the diversity of outdoor activities it supports in all seasons!
Winter Snowshoeing & Skating
When the snow settles, the 2.5km circular walk around the lake makes for some ideal snowshoeing.
With a relatively gentle gradient and minimal elevation gain the terrain is family friendly, while the views of Mt Cascade and Mt Rundle are spectacular!
If skating is more your thing, the frozen lake offers some excellent free ice skating! Just check out how thick the ice is first though!
When the snow melts the circular trial makes for an excellent and easy short hike. You can even bring your dog (must be kept on a lead). Note mountain biking is prohibited.
You can show your true local’s knowledge by hunting for the Hermit of Inglismaldieè’s Lodge. Billy Carver built the cabin in 1910, living as a recluse for 27 years! There are no signs so it is a true treasure hunt! Hint: it’s on the south side of the lake!
Of all the lakes in Banff National Park, Johnson is the warmest for swimming, and our favourite “sport” of floating. However, be warned that even the locals turn up in their hundreds on a warm summer’s day so best to arrive early or ride your bike!
The summer also makes for some epic sunsets!
The changing colors of the trees make Johnson Lake an idyllic time to visit with your kayak, canoe or paddleboard in Fall!
Whatever the season, join the locals and plan a trip to Johnson Lake to capture a taste of Banff National Park!
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!