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Banff on foot, horseback or skis

@ Paul Zizka

@ Paul Zizka

Located about 130km west of Calgary, Banff is Canada’s first national park, designated in 1883.

While summer is popular for hiking, mountain biking, photography, and climbing, the best time to view its seasonal colour is during autumn when the larch trees – the only coniferous trees to lose their needles in winter – turn yellow. In winter, it’s a mecca for downhill and cross-country skiing with its 3 major ski resorts; ski season runs from November to May, and in addition to skiing, you can go ice walking, snowshoeing, and dogsledding.

As Canada is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year, entry to Banff – like all of Canada’s national parks – is free. It’s a great time to visit some of the park’s highlights.

One of the most iconic hikes in the Canadian Rockies is the Plain of Six Glaciers, which takes hikers along Lake Louise before ending up at the historic Plain of Six Glaciers Tea House. A fun way to get to the Tea House is to go on horseback with the legendary, real-life cowboy clan that has been part of Banff’s history for six generations.

Then there’s the classic alpine traverses, the Wapta Icefields, a series of vast but gentle icefields that stretch for miles across the Great Divide of the Canadian Rockies. It showcases the stunning scenery of the Waputik Range, and is a destination for hiking and mountaineering in summer, and for ski touring in winter.

For a more scenic exploration, the Johnston Canyon Icewalk has a series of trails and steel catwalks that provide easy access into a deep, narrow canyon where you can see thundering waterfalls frozen by the chill of winter.

Read more about Banff’s activities in our latest issue!

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