Alpine April--A wonderful week in Banff

Springtime in the Rockies is a great time for hiking, biking, viewing wild animals, and sightseeing. Our April week in Banff included everything, even the Northern Lights!

Alpine April--A wonderful week in Banff

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by madaunt on August 14, 2003

Even before you reach the spectacular sights and recreation of Banff National Park, the road trip from Calgary to Canmore offers wonderful scenery from the modern, new city through ranchlands, farming country, the foothills, and on into the mountains. Sightseeing in April is unbelievably good: the Rockies are still snowy on the peaks, the trees in the forests are "breaking bud" with soft, beautifully green, new growth, the flowers in the Alpine meadows are just coming into bloom, and the wild animals and their young offspring are feeding everywhere. The drive from Banff to Jasper is also a thrill-of-a-lifetime: mountains, rivers, glaciers, bears, moose, elk, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, and tourists from all over the world. We shot four rolls of film on this single day trip and we could easily have taken even more photos.

The spring days were sunny enough for shorts and T-shirts with our hiking boots. At Lake Louise -- one of the most beautiful places on earth! -- snow and ice covered the ground but the sunshine was so warm that we never needed jackets. And the nights were so exciting we never wanted to go to sleep: we saw amazingly colourful Northern Lights and deer and elk trotted past our chalet every evening. For wildlife of the human kind . . . the bars and lounges in Banff and Canmore offer friendly atmosphere, country music, and a big Western welcome.${QuickSuggestions} Plan on driving to Lake Louise and to Jasper on two separate trips because there is so much to see and do. Take lots of film and then you will probably buy even more on the way. To see plenty of wild animals, go out near sunrise and sunset. This is when you will see more of the large, herbivorous animals such as elk, deer, bighorn sheep, and mountain goats. Bears, big cats, buffalo, wolves, and moose are more likely to be active in the full light of day and you want to see all these animals from a safe distance. The bears are coming out of hibernation and they are hungry and cranky and have cubs. Wear bells and make a lot of noise anywhere that you might encounter bears. Keep well away from buffalo. Every year, tourists are injured and even killed if they are foolish enough to get close to bison. And because the moose are all lovestruck and trying to find mates, you might want to observe these magnificent, amazingly graceful creatures from a very long distance. Plan on seeing them ONLY through binoculars. ${BestWay} Banff has great trails for hiking and biking. Trails vary in length and difficulty but they all offer wonderful scenery and animal sightings. Check with your travel agent, resort staff, and the local Tourist Information in Calgary, Canmore, or Banff. Timing is crucial. For example, when we were on Pigeon Mountain in mid-April, we were warned against hiking toward Mount Allan, a favoured breeding ground for bighorn sheep. In winter, however, Mount Allan is a great for skiing and, in high summer, hikers are welcome.

Driving is also great for sightseeing but always drive carefully. We came around many blind bends and found animals smack in the middle of the road. The sheep, goats, deer, and elk like to lick the salt off the road. And many animals are just like us: they find travelling on the open road much easier than crashing through the bush. When we saw a young female moose trotting purposefully along the highway ahead of us, we slowed to a walking pace just to watch her. When our car was too close for her liking, she leapt effortlessly over a ten-foot fence…which was intended to keep the animals off the road.

Banff Gate Mountain Resort

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by madaunt on August 14, 2003

Best Things Nearby:
The East gate of the Banff National Park is only about 15 minutes away from this resort and "The Big City" of Calgary is a scenic drive of 55 miles. From this resort, one easily access great hiking, skiing, and wildlife trails. Also, the world-famous destinations of Banff, Jasper, and Lake Louise are all close enough for easy day trips.

Best Things About the Resort:
The individual chalets all have incredible mountain views from every window and deck. Graceful deer ambled past our chalet every evening. Because this resort is located right on Pigeon Mountain, there are good hiking and ski trails on site. And even the indoor swimming pool and the hot tub are surrounded by huge windows so that you can see the mountains while swimming or soaking.

Resort Experience:
We loved the directions we got when we picked up our rental car in Calgary: "To get to your resort, head for Deadman’s Flats then drive halfway up Pigeon Mountain." We felt as if we were really in the Wild West. And the trip from the Calgary airport to the Banff Gate Mountain Resort is spectacular in itself. Calgary is a prosperous, exciting place where even the bankers wear stetsons. The city is full of green ravines, rivers, and wonderful parks as well as skyscrapers and all the other features of a young metropolis. Soon after we left the city, we were on broad open plains, with the foothills and the Rockies in the distance. The 55 miles to our resort passed very quickly.

We had a quick, courteous check-in then went straight to our unit: a large, raised, A-frame type of chalet. Our unit was spacious, gracious, and luxurious. We had two large bedrooms with two full bathrooms, including a jacuzzi in the master bedroom. Both bedrooms had big, comfortable beds, natural-fibre bedding, and thick wall-to-wall carpeting, all of which seemed new or very well maintained. The kitchen was huge, bright, and extremely well-equipped with full-size, modern appliances. We had a large, natural stone fireplace, deluxe comfortable furniture, and warm wood panelling throughout, plus breathtaking views of the forests, mountains, and wildlife from every window and the huge sundeck. We enjoyed using the BBQ on the deck and sitting in front of the fire at night. I liked doing my morning stretches in the fresh air on the deck and even washing vegetables seemed like fun because there was a big picture window right over the kitchen sink and I could look out at the sky and scenery.

Banff Gate Mountain Resort
Box 8113
Banff, Alberta
(403) 678-6308

Banff National Park

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by madaunt on August 14, 2003

This is a huge park with mountains, forests, meadows, rivers, streams, lakes, and many, many wild animals. We spent part of every day of our one-week holiday in this park and saw new things every time we went there. There are organized activities at different times of the year and the park information stations have plenty of literature, schedules, and announcements. Along with all the natural wonders, there are also lots of modern amenities such as restaurants and clean restrooms. We didn't camp here, but other tourists told us that it is an excellent facility for tenting, too.
Banff Park Museum
92 Banff Avenue
Banff, Alberta, T0L 0C0
+1 403 762 1558

Lake Louise

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by madaunt on August 14, 2003

We have seen this jewel of a lake, described in summer as water painted with a peacock feather, many times. It is gorgeous year-round. When we visited this time in mid-April, the lake was frozen so it appeared to be a perfect pale turquoise, set against the dazzling white snow and the dark green forest. Because the snow was five feet deep and melting into large slushy ponds in some areas, we only walked partway around the lake. When we were at the most distant point from any shelter, the sun suddenly disappeared behind soft grey clouds and snow began to fall. At first the snow came as lazy flakes gently drifting down. We were amazed at how quickly the temperature dropped. Moments before we had been sweltering in the heat and stripped down to our T-shirts but, as soon as the clouds closed in, we hurried to put on our sweaters and jackets. Even then we were cold because an icy wind was soon blowing snow crystals into every tiny opening in our clothing. We dragged on hats, gloves, scarves, and ran as fast as we could to the Chateau Lake Louise. This fabulous hotel is both modern and baronial and luxurious beyond description. We found we could appreciate the beauty of Nature so much more when we were viewing the sudden snowstorm through the floor-to-ceiling windows of a fine restaurant.

If ever we have a second honeymoon, we are definitely going to Lake Louise!

Lake Louise Ski Area
Junction of TransCanada Highway and Highway 93
Banff National Park, Alberta, T0L 0C0
+1 403 522 3555

Icefields Parkway--from Lake Louise to Jasper

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by madaunt on August 14, 2003

The drive from Lake Louise to Jasper is one unbelievable sight after another. We encountered bighorn sheep, mountain goats, elk, deer, and one young female moose right on the TransCanada Highway. The scenery is so beautiful: frozen Bow Lake, the Crowfoot Glacier, the blue-white expanse of the ice fields themselves, and the toe of the Columbia Glacier. And after you leave the ice fields, there is the magnificent valley view of the Saskatchewan River. Every aspect of the view reveals peace and majesty. Then you reach Jasper, a post-card perfect town beside a blue-green river. Jasper in mid-April is full of flowers, friendly dogs, and tourists who all seem to be young, fit, tanned, and gorgeous. Just walking down a sunny street in Jasper, we heard six foreign languages: German, French (Parisian not Quebecois!), Spanish, Dutch, Japanese, and Norwegian -- and a large happy family of Texans who spoke their own Southern version of English.
Columbia Icefield
Columbia Icefield
Banff, Alberta

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