The Town of Banff is the main hub for Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada.
I make an early start from Calgary with conflicting weather reports indicating a cool, seven season day. Today will be a potpourri of short hikes around the Town of Banff in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada.
The Vermilion Lakes Road Just south off the 2nd exit to the Town of Banff, I make a quick right onto Vermilion Lakes Road. My short-term agreement with early morning coffee expired about 20 minutes ago and I know there is a washroom nearby.
I resume driving to find the end of Vermilion Lakes Road. I am gawking around at the fabulous scenery under angry skies, when a glance ahead reveals the end of the road is approaching me at high speed. I lock up the brakes and put the car into a counter-clockwise drift to come to a dusty, grinding halt mere inches from a large boulder barrier. Bit of excitement there - the adrenaline is pumping.
I take a moment for heart-rate reduction then make the return trip, stopping frequently for photo opportunities of shoreline marshland and mountains surrounding the Vermilion Lakes.
The Fenland Nature Trail - Elevation 4,535 ft.
The trail-head is at a parking area, picnic ground at the west entrance to the Town of Banff very near the Vermilion Lakes Road. The Fenland Nature Trail is an easy 2.1 KM, flat, picturesque, self-guiding, interpretive loop through a pristine, densely forested area which loops along a lazy bend in Forty Mile Creek on Bow River Flats. It is a beautiful nature walk suitable for nearly any age or fitness level.
Shoreline ice hangs in suspension over receding water levels creating mesmerizing mirror images. There is substantial evidence of beaver (big teeth, flat tail) activity in the area. Birds are abundant. It's a pretty place to relax and stroll.
I make a stop at Canada House for conditions before driving to the trail-head just beyond Cave and Basin on the north base of Sulphur Mountain.
It is a 3.2 KM one-way hike on an old paved road trail to a lovely little canyon. Slight and gradual elevation gain lead to a snow and ice-covered trail. I hike along-side the beautiful, turquoise Bow River. The air is crisp. Adjustment in walking pace is sufficient to counter fluctuating temperature.
The main trail ends at a picnic ground and the canyon begins almost immediately. This trail is polished ice and would best be done in late spring, summer or fall. I make good progress through the front end of the canyon until roaring water underneath the snow and ice dictate turning back would be sensible. The retreat is a controlled slide.
I shall return here in the summer and bicycle my way to Sundance Canyon so I can complete the 2.4 KM loop through an impressive overhanging canyon, waterfalls, cascades, huge boulders and a viewpoint overlooking the Bow Valley and the rugged Sawback Range behind.
On return to Cave and Basin I climb to the Upper Springs in sulphur-odor steam for a good view of Mount Norquay and Cascade Mountain across the Vermilion Lakes.
Tunnel Mountain - Max elevation. 5,550 feet after 900 ft of elevation over 2.3 KM of switchbacks.
The little mountain nestled between Mount Rundle and Cascade Mountain is a good thigh thumper. Trace evidence remains of the fire lookout at the summit from 1941 to 1967. There are commanding views of the surrounding mountains and of the town below.
Back down the mountain and over to Banff Hot Springs for an hour-long soak in 40 degrees C water. Air temperature is much cooler so I get the best steaming I've had since Yellowstone. It is mainly sunny with a bit of cloud and a brief dusting of corn snow. Absolutely fantastic.
On the way home I scout the Mountain View Cemetery nestled under Cascade Mountain on the way out of Banff National Park. Markers are mainly modern. There is a quaint maintenance house on-site and mountains loom above on three sides.