Free Things To Do in Banff
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Located about an hour's drive north of town, Moraine Lake is the visual highlight of any Banff trip and labeled a must-see bucket list item by many recent visitors. Nestled in the Valley of the Ten Peaks, the lake mirrors the snowcapped peaks and is surrounded by backcountry hiking trails. The easiest trail is the flat Moraine Lakeshore path, which starts near Moraine Lake Lodge and takes about 45 minutes to complete (round-trip). As you walk along the lakeshore, you'll spot stunning views of Mount Fay and the Fay Glacier. If you've got a bit more time on your hands, consider embarking on the nearly 2-mile Consolation Lakes trail, which takes about two hours to complete. You'll encounter some elevation gains with this one, but you'll be rewarded with views of the high alpine meadows, enormous talus slopes and the Quadra Glacier. For a detailed list of all the available hikes in this area, visit the Parks Canada website.
When you're not admiring the bright blue waters from the trail (rock silt that's deposited into the lake from melting glaciers contributes to its vibrant hue), consider hopping in a canoe and experiencing it for yourself. You can rent canoes at the nearby Moraine Lake Lodge (rentals are available from mid-June to mid-September), which is also where you'll find parking and restrooms. Speaking of parking, recent visitors offer a word of caution: Parking becomes scarcer as the day progresses; if you can, try to get to the lake early in the morning. Not only will you have an easier time securing a parking spot, but you'll enjoy a little more peace during your hike or paddle on the lake. Canoe rentals cost CA$105 (or about $83).
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Though Banff is perhaps best known for its stellar slopes (it's considered one of the world's best ski destinations), its hiking trails are just as impressive – and free to access. No matter which trail you choose to tackle (there are a variety of options for all skill levels), you'll likely stumble upon indigo-tinted waters, fields of wildflowers and stunning alpine vistas.
Aside from Sunshine Meadows (found in Sunshine Village), travelers also recommend the Parker Ridge Trail, which you'll find in the Icefields Parkway Area of the national park. Though visitors do warn that the climb up this trail can be steep, they also gush about the views of the Saskatchewan Glacier seen at the peak.
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