Banff Hiking#6 in Best Things To Do in Banff
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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.
Another must-visit spot for recent travelers: Tunnel Mountain. This peak, which the First Nations people refer to as the "Sleeping Buffalo," offers 360-degree views of Banff Town, the Bow River and the westward mountains, such as Mount Bourgeau. You'll find the trailhead on St. Julien Road near The Banff Centre.
Though it's located about 9 miles north of town, Lake Minnewanka is often described by visitors as the highlight of their trip to Banff National Park. You'll have to drive to reach the glacial lake, but once you get here, you can hike or picnic along its shores as you take in breathtaking views of the snow-capped mountains that surround it.
If you feel more comfortable following a guide, the Banff & Lake Louise Tourism office recommends several companies on its website. For more information on the area's trails, including their distance, elevations and starting locations, visit the Parks Canada website. Keep in mind: Prime hiking season runs from July through mid-September. Even in June, there is an avalanche risk at some passes. Access to the trails is free.
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#1 Banff Sunshine Village
Located miles 11 miles west of Banff Town, Banff Sunshine Village offers 12 lifts, more than 3,300 skiable acres and a peak elevation of 7,200 feet. And thanks to its location straddling the Continental Divide, Sunshine sees more snow than its neighbors, meaning the ski season here is long – typically from early November to late May. The powdery terrain beckons skiers of all levels (another point of praise from recent travelers), and the Sunshine Mountain Lodge offers a great setting for dinner and drinks after a day on the slopes.
If you're not in Banff for ski season, you should still make a point to visit Sunshine, according to reviewers. From mid-June to early autumn, the Sunshine Meadows are open for hiking and provide visitors spectacular alpine views of the surrounding peaks, including Mount Assiniboine. Hiking is free and so is the shuttle from town, which runs from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.
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