“Are you going to ski?” and “What are you going to do?”
Those were the two most common questions I received when mentioning Banff, Alberta, as the honeymoon destination for me and my wife, Amanda. While there area is a hotbed of activity in the summer, my friends and family weren’t as sure what there was to do during shoulder season in Banff. Turns out, quite a bit! So much, in fact, that Amanda and I didn’t even have time to hit the slopes.
Travel around the area mandates vehicular transportation, and while car and bus rides can sometimes get sleepy, you’ll never have to worry about a boring landscape in Banff. “Scenic” doesn’t begin to adequately describe the majesty of the Canadian Rockies, and a simple drive around Banff National Park is breathtaking.
But don’t rush. With numerous roadside pull-offs, we wanted to stop and take pictures every few feet!
Located only 10 minutes away from the Banff city center, the Vermillion Lakes were a highlight of our trip. With the ice thawing, the water was so clear you could catch a perfect reflection of the mountains on the water’s surface. The paths surrounding the lakes are perfect for a daytime stroll, and with the promise of spring and a bit of luck, you can spot megafauna making their way to the water.
Hiking is available at higher elevations, too. Johnston Canyon is one of the more popular options in Banff, and the catwalks through the canyon allow a steady stream of visitors—especially in the summer—to reach their final destination, the Upper Falls.
Amanda and I, along with our small group led by Discover Banff Tours, had a wonderful experience. By visiting in April and arriving early (8:30), we had Johnston Canyon almost to ourselves and were able to enjoy a lovely morning hike. Just remember to bring crampons, because the paths can be icy that time of year, and it’s 1.5 kilometers to the Upper Falls. Your reward: a breathtaking waterfall that is still largely frozen, even in April.
Hiking not your jam? Take a drive 45 minutes north to Lake Louise. Known for its glacier-fed body of water and the beautiful Chateau Lake Louise, you can’t go wrong spending an afternoon walking around the Chateau and getting a bite to eat. Outside, the lake was still completely frozen, and we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to walk on the ice. One gentleman even rode his mountain bike across the frozen surface! It is impossible to put into words the feeling of standing on an ancient lake surrounded by towering mountains and viewing a glacier off in the distance.
Beyond Banff and Lake Louise, visits to Kootenay National Park for snowshoeing, Canmore for dogsledding and Cochrane to see the Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary rounded out our unforgettable honeymoon in the area.
TJ Olmsted, who has been with NTA since 2013, serves as an account executive for the association.
Top Photo: Vermillion Lakes
Photo by TJ Olmsted
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