Mountains are awesome, in every sense of the word. There’s no better way to experience the full glory of the Canadian Rockies than by taking an eight-minute ride up Sulphur Mountain on the Banff Gondola. Just a short drive from the center of Banff, the four-man glass orbs provide a smooth ride up and a spectacular view—both down the valley and across six mountain ranges. Your eyes and ears will pop as you ascend to nearly 7,490 feet above sea level. Once you get to the summit, take a short self-guided hike, grab a seat at one of the restaurants, or just stand on the observation deck and marvel.
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The Beauty of the Backcountry
Experienced skiers wanting to connect with the tranquil backcountry of the Canadian Rockies have more than a few touring options. Cross-country skiing in the backcountry is not, however, for beginners. Those new to the sport will want to book a guided excursion away from the crowds and the avalanche risks. You can head out for a day in Kananaskis Country, between Calgary and Banff, or venture further into the mountains for a multi-day trip that visits such backcountry lodges as Shadow Lake or Skoki Lodge, a national historic site. Book ahead for either the simple lodges to which you bring your own food or for the luxury options that prepare dinner while you're out skiing.
Whether you’re an expert mountain biker looking for extreme downhill rides or a beginner simply wanting to get out and explore, you’ll find what you’re looking for in Calgary and Banff. Nose Hill, Edworthy Park, and Fish Creek Provincial Park in Calgary offer tons of trails. Canada Olympic Park, at the western edge of the city, has a mountain biking section that features beginner trails, intermediate paths full of jumps and obstacles, and expert-only runs with steep drops. If you really want to put the mountain into mountain biking, head further west to the Canadian Rockies. On your way to Canmore and Banff, stop to check out the riding scene around Bragg Creek and Kananaskis Country.
Hiking is an equal-opportunity activity in Canada, and trails exist for every age and ability in the magnificent Rockies. There are hundreds of miles of trails throughout Banff National Park. Some cross meadows bursting with Indian paintbrush, rock jasmine, and fireweed in summer; others contain rivers of scree or a series of grueling switchbacks. Start by checking out Johnston Canyon, Sunshine Meadows, Sulphur Mountain, and Cory Pass. The trailheads here are well marked; signage along the trails keeps hikers on track; and there’s breathtaking scenery everywhere you look.
The eclectic mix of people who spend time in the Canadian Rockies—from celebrated artists to Olympic athletes—helps breed a vibrant mountain culture.
From exciting adventures to high art, there's a wealth of cultural activities in and around Banff. Locals and visitors enjoy watching paddlers take off across Lake Minnewanka during a Dragon Boat race, or seeing cyclists overtake each other in the RBC GranFondo Banff—the continent's only big cycling race to run entirely within a national park. And don't forget the Lake Louise Pond Hockey Classic—a true Canadian experience.
Few mountain ranges in the world rival what you will see in Banff National Park. The Canadian Rockies are simply legendary- noted by the sheer size and infinite jagged peaks that you can't help but marvel at. This is Canada's first national park (third in the world) and is a place any outdoor lover will be giddy over. Summer time is peak season but a visit in the winter shows off the abundant snow and a special kind of magic that comes with significantly less tourists. Check out this video for some of the best ways to fill up your trip. We start with a hike through Johnston Canyon, an area that was once under water, but now showcases an Upper and Lower falls, that are both stunning to look at. Then, it's time to snowshoe through deep powder and above tree line across the Continental Divide with White Mountain Adventures. We wind down the day skiing at sunshine village, a resort that straddles the Continental Divide, which not only means that you feel like you are set apart from the rest of the world, but also that you can most always expect fresh snow. The mountain is full of daring terrain and back country ski areas. While here, check out Sunshine Mountain Lodge, which is Canada's only ski in ski out resort. Premiere rooms in the newly added West Wing open up directly to the ski resort.