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Banff Adventures

• A WorldWeb.com Travel Guide for Banff, Alberta.
Millions of years have carved out mountains, valleys and grottos making Alberta's Rocky Mountains a sportsman's paradise. Enthusiasts can find adventure in Banff year round by scaling towering peaks, climbing frozen waterfalls, diving to the depths of turquoise glacial lakes and spelunking deep, dark caves. Visitors looking for a more relaxing time can add a variety of activities to their itinerary: golfing at championship courses, fishing for trout in serene lakes or patiently waiting to see elusive wildlife.

OUTDOOR ADVENTURE ON LONG SUMMER DAYS

The extended days of summer allow recreationists to stretch out their adventures. The best way for nature lovers to take advantage of the light is to stay in the great outdoors. Visitors can join a camping and backpacking tour or rent camping equipment and book a campsite on their own.

Walking, hiking or biking along the winding trails of the Rockies are easily accessible activities for visitors. Thousands of trails zigzag the terrain around Banff, for all levels of fitness, from smooth, paved trails to more challenging slopes. The Trans-Canada Trail, a shared-use recreational trail that winds its way through every province and territory, is becoming the longest trail in the world. The Goat Creek Trail segment is an easy, rolling dirt trail that goes from Canmore to the Banff Springs Hotel. Adrenaline junkies can hike steep peaks above the tree line or climb the highest summits to breathe the fresh alpine air; there are plenty of companies that provide adventure equipment rental.


Another way to enjoy the outdoors is by staying at a guest ranch such as the Boundary Ranch, which provides a variety of activities, including horseback riding, wagon rides and calf roping. Holiday on Horseback offers exciting and educational interpretive trail rides and pack trips highlighting wildlife, conservation and environmental issues. Playing the lush fairways at the Stanley Thompson Course at the Banff Springs Hotel also makes for an active yet relaxing day.

Luminous glacial lakes and clear rivers are plentiful around Banff and can satisfy the appetite of any water-sport enthusiast. Rent a boat, canoe or kayak to navigate the smooth waterways or brave the rapids on a rafting tour offered by several tour operators in the area. Float serenely on a lake in a rowboat or go fishing in a secluded stream. Boat tours are offered by Minnewanka Lake Cruises, just 15 minutes from town.

WALKING IN A WINTER WONDERLAND

Though Banff is best known for downhill skiing and snowboarding at Norquay and Sunshine Village, there are also outstanding recreational opportunities for heli-skiing, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Skating is also a popular outdoor sport but must be done with caution on glacial lakes and rivers. Locals enjoy skating in town on the Bow River or at the outdoor skating rink at the Banff Springs. Stunning mountain views above and swimming fish below make skating on Lake Minnewanka, Two Jack Lake and Johnson Lake an exhilarating experience.

For a true Canadian experience, book a dog-sledding tour with Discover Banff Tours or go snowmobiling with White n' Wild Adventures, which provides gear and professional guides. Sleigh rides and tobogganing are ideal for families. Holiday on Horseback organizes sleigh rides, and there are many gentle hills perfect for tobogganing in and around Banff—remember to bring blankets and hot chocolate!

Backcountry accommodations like the private cabins of Brewster's Shadow Lake Lodge provide an ideal way to explore the pristine landscape and a cozy place to warm up between outings. See Mother Nature at her best during a magical ice walk; White Mountain Adventures offers guided ice treks in Johnston and Grotto canyons during the winter season, providing equipment and hot chocolate. Icefield Helicopter Tours takes visitors to the 50-metre-high (164 ft) Cline Gallery to see ice-covered waterfalls lining the canyon walls. There visitors can enjoy a gourmet picnic lunch while watching ice climbing.

TOURING THE PRISTINE WILDERNESS

Tours and sightseeing ventures can be appreciated on foot or by all manner of vehicles. See the awe-inspiring valleys and peaks from the air on a helicopter tour with Alpine Helicopters or Icefield Helicopter Tours, or view the landscape from an elevation of 2,451 m (8,041 ft) via the Sulphur Mountain Gondola. Alternatively, the Rocky Mountaineer offers rail journeys through the majestic Canadian Rockies.

Individuals and groups can rent bicycles or take guided bicycle tours through Banff Adventures Unlimited and the Ski Stop. The Ski Stop specializes in tours that educate riders about the surrounding environment. Bactrax offers moped rentals, a fun and exciting way to explore beautiful Banff National Park.

Some tour operators offer all-inclusive packages, which provide tourists with the opportunity to efficiently see all of the major sites, as well as meals and free time to explore the shops and amenities of the town. There are also a number of specialty tours, including photography and painting tours and wildlife tours. Roy Andersen, a commercial photographer with 20 years of experience, guides artists through the most picturesque sites of Banff National Park.

INDOOR FUN & RELAXATION

Bowling, water parks, climbing walls and day spas, as well as a number of historic sites and museums, provide indoor fun in Banff. The Cave and Basin Historic Site, discovered over 125 years ago, became the main lure to Banff and is the reason Canada's first national park was established. Natural, warm water rises in the cave and feeds multiple hot springs, including the Upper Hot Springs, one of Banff's premier attractions.

Guests can enjoy a personalized massage, a steam room, aromatherapy or one of the many aesthetic services at the Pleaides Massage and Spa located at the Upper Hot Springs. The Grotto Spa and the Red Earth Spa, both located in the townsite, also provide a range of relaxing therapeutic and aesthetic services.

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