Rock­ies whirl­wind

Five stun­ning banff-and-area sights in 24 hours: one night’s stay — and a game plan — are all you need to soak in the most stun­ning sights, as Lindsey Ward found with her fam­ily.

Tillsonburg News - - TRAVEL -

Day 1, 5 p.m. Banff Gon­dola

din­ner time is the best time to hit up the banff gon­dola if you want to beat the crowds. and it’s not like you’ll starve; the newly ren­o­vated com­plex at the top of sul­phur moun­tain has both a ca­sual café and a li­censed bistro. our boys, 5 and 3, loved com­par­ing their lit­tle paws to a griz­zly bear’s at the new in­ter­pre­tive cen­tre. af­ter that, we took an ad­di­tional one-kilo­me­tre board­walk (con­sist­ing of endless, al­beit kid-friendly, stair­cases) to the old stomp­ing grounds of park me­te­o­rol­o­gist nor­man san­son, who climbed sul­phur ev­ery week for 30 years to check the weather and, pre­sum­ably, take in the jaw­drop­ping views of the banff town site and its six sur­round­ing moun­tain ranges.

Tip: pre-pur­chase tick­ets on­line so you can by­pass the box of­fice lineup. bonus: Kids five and un­der ride free.

Day 2, 7 a.m. Mo­raine Lake

as soon as we reached the top of mo­raine lake’s aptly named rock­pile trail, we dis­cov­ered the view that was worth the 5 a.m. wake-up time: ten snow-capped moun­tains tow­er­ing over a glacial lake in a star­tlingly bold shade of turquoise. this Val­ley of the ten peaks im­age is the same one they used on the back of the 1969 and 1979 Cana­dian $20 bills. Why so early, though? de­spite be­ing one of Canada’s most pop­u­lar nat­u­ral gems, mo­raine lake (a 40-minute drive from banff ) has a small park­ing lot. once the lot and sur­round­ing road­ways are full, around 7:30 a.m., the park bar­ri­cades the ac­cess road. dur­ing the sum­mer, your chances of be­ing one of the lucky few to get waved through be­tween then and 7 p.m. are slim. so plan ac­cord­ingly.

Tip: the tim Hor­tons in banff opens at 6 a.m.

Bonus: ad­mis­sion is free, and mo­raine’s rock­pile and lakeshore trails are short, easy hikes that al­low the whole fam to bask in the view.

10:30 a.m. Lake Louise

you can’t re­turn from banff na­tional park with­out a photo of lake louise. that’s like go­ing to paris and not see­ing the eif­fel tower. there’s some­thing so en­chant­ing about the world­fa­mous lake (about 30 min­utes from banff ). the sight of the glis­ten­ing turquoise wa­ter nes­tled be­neath the high peaks sur­round­ing the Vic­to­ria glacier, all over­looked by the pala­tial Fair­mont Chateau lake louise brings the world to a stand­still. We failed to get a spot in the park­ing lot (peak hours are 9 a.m.7 p.m.), but scored a makeshift space off the trans-Canada High­way and hiked a hilly path that runs par­al­lel to the road.

Tip: ditch the selfie stick for a photo taken by a fel­low tourist. bonus: again, no ad­mis­sion fees, so you might be will­ing to splurge on a $105-per-hour ca­noe ride.

1 p.m. Takakkaw Falls

once you’re in lake louise, you might as well travel an ex­tra 40 min­utes into b.C.’s yoho na­tional park to see takakkaw Falls. you won’t re­gret it — un­less you’re driv­ing a mo­tor home, in which case you should avoid the nar­row road to the falls, which in­cludes a switch­back. but it’s worth ev­ery hair­pin. takakkaw (tak-ah-kaw, mean­ing “it is mag­nif­i­cent” in Cree) Falls plunge from a height of 380 me­tres, but are sur­pris­ingly ac­ces­si­ble. it wasn’t as busy there, and we were able to get a spot in the park­ing lot mid­day, mid-au­gust. a short, well-main­tained trail got us right to the base of the falls (next time, we’ll bring a rain­coat). and my brave hus­band and older son even climbed part­way up the moun­tain for a closer look.

Tip: the avalanche-prone road is closed from oc­to­ber-June. bonus: guess what? it’s free!

4 p.m. Cas­tle Moun­tain/ town of Banff

While it’s not a tourist at­trac­tion per se, you can’t help but oogle Cas­tle moun­tain as you head down High­way 1 be­tween lake louise and banff. es­pe­cially late in the day, when the sun casts an apri­cot glow over its dis­tinc­tive peaks. Cas­tle moun­tain is lo­cated near the re­mains of a 19th-century min­ing set­tle­ment and a First World War prison camp — and it’s also close to the banff town­site, which was a good thing for us at the time, since we were fam­ished.

Tip: barpa bill’s hearty barpa burger (loved by lo­cals for its tzatziki top­ping), bat­tered fish and home­cut fries for the kids hit the spot.

Bonus: Cook­ies and cream-topped pas­try and gelato from beaver­tails gave us our fi­nal rush of the day.

Chris Bruneau PhOTO

Rid­ing the Banff Gon­dola is eight min­utes of heaven. Be­low left, Lake Louise is a Cana­dian Rock­ies must-see. Be­low right, go off the beaten path to (lit­er­ally) soak in Takakkaw Falls.

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