During the summer and fall, I’ve been known to blow off a trip to Banff. “Too crowded,” I’d say, opting for quieter places in the Alberta Rockies. But here’s the catch – Banff is stunning at any time of year, the crowds are proof that we happen to have one of the world’s loveliest places right in our backyard. I’ve encountered the best of both worlds, by finding some treasured gems in Banff that are ever so slightly off the Banff Avenue beaten path. Here’s my top five:
1. Buffalo Mountain Lodge
Beautiful rooms, wood fireplaces, excellent dining. Buffalo Mountain Lodge is just up the hill from town but feels miles away. The lodge features a beautiful stainless steel hot tub where you can enjoy the quiet and soak away under the stars.
(Images courtesy of Buffalo Mountain Lodge)
2. “My Meadow” on Norquay Road
One of my favourite perches when I need a few minutes of down time. Head up Norquay Road (towards the ski area) and park at the viewpoint…walk through the trees and cozy up to the grass on the large, sloping meadow, offering incredible views of the town of Banff and Mount Rundle. There’s often mountain sheep nearby and wildlife near the road.
3. Tunnel Mountain meadows and trails
Tunnel Mountain’s winding trails and roads afford some great scenery of the Bow River, Hoodoos and the Bow Valley. Climb up to the top for a quick thigh burner or explore the various trails in the trees. “Surprise Corner” offers incredible views of the Fairmont Banff Springs, Bow River and Mount Rundle. You can even kickstart winter with the annual 5 mile-long “Winterstart” night run which makes its way up Tunnel Mountain after dark.
4. Vermillion Lakes
Take the road (on your bike is best) to the west of the townsite and find a dock to relax on and watch the day float by.
5. The Block (just off Banff Avenue)
After a day burning off calories, re-fuel at this new establishment offering great tapas to share with friends.