There are few places in the world more breathtaking and naturally beautiful than Banff, Canada. Nestled in the picturesque Canadian Rockies, this town is home to some of the best tourist attractions in North America, including the Banff National Park, a World Heritage Site since 1985. One of the best things about this amazing town is that there is so much to do and see year round that costs so little. If you are ready to travel someplace familiar and yet completely wondrous, then you need to know the seven reasons Banff is a backpacker’s dream destination!
The Banff area has been inhabited by humans for over ten thousand years. According to the Canadian National Parks organization, almost eight hundred unique archaeological sites have been uncovered, from those used by previous generations to those used by aboriginal peoples thousands of years ago. These sites are located throughout the Banff area and are a great way to not only enjoy the fabulous natural beauty of the region but also to learn something new about our shared human story. Oh, and these sites are all free, which makes them even more exciting!
Like most of the Rockies, Banff is full of awesome places to go hiking. Whether you prefer a gentle mountain slope or a challenging cliff face, the mountains around Banff have you covered with almost two thousand kilometers of hiking trails. Most of the trailheads are located in the Bow Valley area and fan out to some exquisite hidden vistas, including glaciers, summits, and lakes. Just pay for some snacks and hit the trail – you can’t get much more budget friendly than that!
The Banff Gondola
Got fifty bucks? Then you have all you need to experience one of the most incredible tourist attractions Banff has to offer: The Banff Gondola. The gondola offers amazing views of six mountain ranges in the Banff area. The gondola climbs almost 2,300 feet to the summit of Sulphur Mountain, where more history and attractions await.
If you have never seen a glacier, then you can’t miss your opportunity to get up close and personal with them (who knows, in 20 years they may all be gone!). Banff is right in the middle of an area rich in both glaciers and ice fields, and provides easy access to these powerful forces of nature. Different trailheads lead right to vistas where you can observe the slow moving strength of the ice as it carves its way through the mountains. Another free activity that is a must-see!
Lake Louise is the highest point in Canada. It is a glacial lake that is known for its distinctive emerald color, the result of rock flour in the water. Lake Louise has an almost glass-like finish to it and most days carries a perfect reflection of the Alberta sky. Just a short bus ride from Banff, this lake is one of this country’s absolute treasures and shouldn’t be missed. There are many hiking trails located around the lake; other popular and inexpensive activities include canoeing and horseback riding.
Banff truly stands as one of the most impressive natural settings in North America. It offers the discerning and budget-conscious traveler hundreds of options for entertainment, relaxation, and enjoyment, not to mention crisp mountain air and abundant, bright sunshine. A word to the wise for future Banff travelers: don’t let the snow fool you! The region’s high altitude and angle toward the sun makes sunscreen a must year round – don’t get caught without it!