While I had a friend visiting Canada for the first time, I thought it was mandatory to take her to Banff, seeing as it is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Canada. But what is there to do besides just walking around the townsite?
We started the day with a hike. After making a quick stop at Beamer’s in Canmore for some mountain coffee, we drove to the Tunnel Mountain parking lot. Currently the lower lot is under construction so only the upper lot has available parking. We went on a weekday, so we managed to get a spot, but on a weekend you may need to hike just to get to the trailhead. We arrived at 11:20 and managed to take the spot of a leaving vehicle.
The hike went faster than in the winter, taking only around 20 minutes to reach the ridge. The switchbacks mean a steady incline through these first 20-30 minutes, but the total elevation is only 267m, which means it is short and sweet to the top. From there, we slowed our pace to stop at the viewpoints on the way up to the end of the hike, and the red Adirondack chairs Parks Canada leaves along popular trails.
We sat on the rocks at the top of Tunnel Mountain (just passed the chairs) and took in the view with a few other hikers. After eating a snack we decided to make our way back down. We got back down the hike quickly as well, arriving at the bottom at 1 pm, making our total time about an hour and a half, almost equal parts walking and photography.
We drove into the Banff townsite for lunch and some souvenir shop browsing. Once we had made our way up and down Main Street, we returned to the car and made a quick detour to the scenic drive around Vermillion Lakes.
I had only seen Vermillion Lakes from Highway 1 as you pass by continuing on to Lake Louise or BC. The drive was gorgeous, and many families were out using the road on bike. If we had planned to stop here ahead of time, we could have planned a walk or bike ride in the area.
The view from Vermillion Lakes of Tunnel and Rundle mountains is the same iconic view of the area that frequents paintings and photographs in Banff’s many galleries. We took some photos of the area, dipped our fingers in the frigid water, and drove back into the city.