Banff National Park and Lake Louise: Canada’s Mountain Jewels

Canada is known for its incredible and natural beauty offering visitors to an endless variety of outdoor activities. Two of the most visited and treasured regions are Banff National Park and Lake Louise.

The park and the charming town of Banff are located about 75 miles west of Alberta’s metropolis of Calgary. The park is a UNESCO World Heritage site situated at the eastern edge of the Canadian Rocky Mountains that can be seen from as far as the city of Calgary. Banff National Park covers 6,641 square kilometers attracting tourists from around the world for its beauty and rugged mountainous terrain, featuring numerous glaciers, dense forest, and alpine panoramas. The area’s three resorts of Sunshine Village, Norquay Mystic Ridge, and Lake Louise provide some of Canada’s best ski slopes.

A number of shops, restaurants, and hotels ranging from small to mid-size can be found in the town of Banff where a majority of travelers stay during their visit to the area. The town is home to several hotels ranging from budget hotels to the magnificent Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel overlooking the surrounding valley. Several hotels provide guests with breathtaking views of the Rocky Mountains that many refer to as magical upon waking up in the morning.

Visitors have an option to dine at a select number of fine dining restaurants or choose to purchase their own groceries at the local food market. Alberta prime rib is a local specialty and is served in area restaurants along with a variety of side dishes. For those with an enormous appetite can order a 24-ounce or larger portion referred to as mountain cuts.

During the summer season, a variety of outdoor activities are available to tourists that include hiking, horseback riding, fishing, golf, and spa that is heated by the mountain’s natural hot springs. The incredible mountain vistas provide a perfect backdrop setting for these outdoor activities. During the winter months, the park changes into a winter wonderland with an ideal setting for skiing, snowboarding, dog sledding, and snowmobile tours. A shuttle service carries skiers and snowboarders to any of the area’s three ski resorts. A number of shuttle stops for pickup and return service are offered local hotels.

About 35 miles further inside the mountain range lies Lake Louise, one of North America’s largest ski destinations. The ski resort is well known for world-class events including the FIS Ski World Cup circuit often referred to as the Lake Louise Winterstart World Cup. The event attracts high-profile downhill skiers from around the world. Lodging is available at the luxurious Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, situated on the eastern shore of Lake Louise.

During the winter months, the lake is frozen over becoming a skating spot enjoyed by the many visitors to the area. During the course of the summer season, white glistening snow-capped peaks can be seen from the lake together with the glacier that turns into an emerald green color. During certain times of the year, the lake provides a beautiful mirror image of the mountain and glacier. The setting provides tourists with one of the most unique and breathtaking scenes in North America. Although no boats are allowed on the lake, visitors can rent a canoe to get a different view of the glacier and mountain peaks.

The Lake Louise Sightseeing Lift, Gondola and Interpretive Centre is open year-round providing a one-of-a-kind opportunity to dine in the beautiful Lodge of Ten Peaks. From high above (6,850ft), visitors can view spectacular panoramas of glaciers, natural springs, wildflowers and wildlife such as grizzly bears. A variety of summer activities such as guided walking tours and hiking trails are offered to visitors. Winter activities provided at the resort include cross-country skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, dog sledding, and ice skating.

Another major attraction to Banff National Park and Lake Louise is the variety of wildlife. On any given day, deer and elk can be spotted along the roads and highways with some occasionally wandering into the front entrance of the Banff Springs hotel. The road leading up to the Mystic Ridge / Mount Norquay ski resort is one of the best spots to observe wildlife including curly horned mountain goats. It makes for a perfect photo opportunity.

Remember when hiking through the region of the possibility of coming across bears. It’s important to pay close attention to the local rangers and reports of bear sightings. Stay away from the trails were bears have been spotted.

Canada is a country of natural beauty and nothing is further from the truth than the Banff and Lake Louise region. It is truly a magical place that attracts visitors from all corners of the world 365 days a year.

Tony is a #freelance #photographer and #writer specializing in #lifestyle/#travel, and #fine #art. Enjoys traveling and learning new #cultures.

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