Banff, Canada’s first national park, is also its most widely visited. Some 3.9 million nature lovers swarmed the park last year—that’s 1.6 million more than arrived at Jasper, the country’s second-most-popular park. With fees being waived for 2017 (happy birthday, Canada!), those numbers are bound to surge even higher. Here are three ways to dodge the worst of the crowds while still seeing the best of Banff.

Hiking the Trails
Skip this: Ultra-turquoise Lake Louise is a stunner, sure, but walking its narrow path during high season can feel more like standing in line.
Go here instead: In-the-know hikers hit Banff Sunshine Village for pristine mountaintop lakes, blooming wildflowers, and a 360-degree view of the Canadian Rockies from the Standish Express chairlift.

Taking in the Views
Skip this: The Banff Gondola provides a tame glimpse of the park’s beauty, hoisting visitors to a tourist-mobbed boardwalk and observation deck.
Go here instead: Earn your views by scrambling along challenging via ferrata courses of ladders, handholds, and steel cables on Mount Norquay. It’s a shot of adrenaline the gondola can’t touch.

Spending the Night
Skip this: The town of Banff’s location within the park is convenient, but its streets are swarmed, and the souvenir shops are predictable.
Go here instead: Choose Canmore as your base, a town brimming with affordable restaurants, hip boutiques, and beautiful hiking and biking trails. Bonus: It’s 24 minutes from Banff by public shuttle.

Ready to book your trip? Here are 14 more experiences to include in your Banff itinerary. 

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