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Canadian Rockies

Lake Louise Fall Festival


Horseback Riding to Plain of Six Glaciers Tea House in Lake Louise (photo: Banff Lake Louise Tourism and Paul Zizka)


Sept 5 to Oct 5


There is no better time to see the scenic splendor of Canada’s most famous lake (with its iconic Victoria Glacier backdrop) than during this month of special events that include:
Sept 6: Photography Workshop: What Can I Do to Make My Photos Special? (Parks Canada and Banff Photography)
Sept 6 and 13: Guided Interpretive Hike at Bow Glacier Falls trail with Yoga and Meditation (Parks Canada)
Sept 6, 7, 14, 20 and 21: Special All Day Horseback Trail Rides (Brewster Lake Louise Stables)
Sept 20: Photographing the Fall Landscape (Lake Louise Sightseeing Gondola)
Sept 20 & 21: Bear with Me Presentation by Casey Anderson (Sept 20, The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise; Sept 21 Lake Louise Sightseeing Gondola)
Sept 20 & 27: Autumn Glory: The Secrets of the Alpine Larch Tree (Great Divide Nature Interpretation)
Sept 21: To Burn or Not to Burn? (Parks Canada at Lake Louise Visitor Centre Theatre)


From mid September to early October, alpine larch tree needles blaze yellow-gold before they shed for the winter. These Lake Louise walking and hiking trails are recommended for their exquisite fall colors:
Larch Valley to Minnestimma Lakes: 4.3 km one way; 535m elevation gain; 3.5 to 4 hour round trip
Plain of Six Glaciers Tea House: 5.5 km one way; 420m elevation gain, 4 to 5 hour round trip
Lake Agnes Tea House: 3.4 km one way; 385m elevation gain; 2 to 3 hour round trip
Saddleback: 3.7 km one way; 595m elevation gain; 3 to 4 hour round trip
Taylor Lake: 6.3 km one way; 585m elevation gain; 4 to 5 hour round trip
Boulder Pass: 8.6 km to pass; 640m elevation gain; 6 to 7 hour round trip
Lake Louise Sightseeing Gondola Trails: Kicking Horse Pass Viewpoint; 1.7 km round trip; 50m elevation gain / Ptarmigan Valley Viewpoint; 3.4 km round trip; 280m elevation gain; Pika Trail; 2.5 km round trip; 140m elevation gain


Ongoing summer and fall activities at Lake Louise include:


Return to Lake Louise in winter for additional activities that include:

Banff: Top Rated Travel Destination

By Jack Newton and Lisa Stephens


(photo: courtesy Banff Lake Louise Tourism / Paul Zizka)

Banff National Park has been awarded “Canada’s Top Attraction” honors by the over 5000 Canadian travel industry professionals that cast ballots for the 2014 Agents Choice Awards. For the third time since 2008, Banff eclipsed other travel hot spots such as Niagara Falls, Whistler and Algonquin Park.

“For Banff to be recognized yet again as the number one destination within Canada by travel agents is a fantastic accolade and a testament to the never-ending appeal of Banff National Park for visitors”, says Ryan Elliott of Banff Lake Louise Tourism. Indeed, Banff is a favorite playground for four million travellers that come to the park from around the world each year.

To help you make the most of your time in Banff, Where Canadian Rockies editors have compiled Best of Banff lists:



Banff Gondola (photo: courtesy Banff Lake Louise Tourism)

Banff’s Top Attractions

  1. Sightseeing Lifts: Banff Gondola, Lake Louise Sightseeing Lift and Mount Norquay’s North American Chairlift
  2. Banff’s ‘Big 3’ Ski Areas: Lake Louise, Sunshine Village and Mount Norquay
  3. Banff Upper Hot Springs: Outdoor pool, spa and heritage display
  4. The Fairmont Banff Springs and The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise Hotels: Historic charm, public areas and on-site activities
  5. Banff Lake Cruise: On Lake Minnewanka



Lake Agnes Teahouse (photo: courtesy Banff Lake Louise Tourism / Paul Zizka)

Banff Best ‘Hidden’ Attractions

  1. Tea Houses at Lake Louise: Hike to rustic Lake Agnes and Plain of Six Glaciers tea houses
  2. Mount Norquay’s Via Ferrata: Guided mountain climbing using cables, ladders and a suspension bridge
  3. Cave and Basin National Historic Site: Birthplace of Canada’s National Parks
  4. The Banff Centre: Centre for the Performing Arts
  5. Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies: History and art galleries



Sunshine Meadows (photo: courtesy Banff Lake Louise Tourism / Paul Zizka)

Banff’s Most Scenic Sites

  1. Sunshine Meadows: One of Lonely Planet’s “Top 5 Hiking Areas in Canada”
  2. Lake Louise and Victoria Glacier: Especially striking at sunrise; lakeside trail, canoe rentals and sleigh rides
  3. Vermilion Lakes and Mount Rundle: Banff’s most iconic view
  4. Bow Valley Parkway: Scenic alternative to the TransCanada Hwy between the Town of Banff and Lake Louise
  5. Moraine Lake: Valley of the Ten Peaks view and excellent hikes



Glacier Skywalk (photo: Brewster)

You may wonder why the famous Columbia Icefield, with its new Glacier Skywalk, Glacier Adventure Ice Explorer and Athabasca Glacier Icewalk, did not make our Best of Banff list. While high on the ‘to do’ agenda of Banff visitors, the Columbia Icefield is actually located in neighboring Jasper National Park.



Banff Avenue Shopping (photo: courtesy Banff Lake Louise Tourism / Paul Zizka)

Don’t miss the Town of Banff itself. It’s charming downtown shopping and dining district, Bow River walking paths, museums and historic sites, and sublime scenery are big draws for travellers.

“Canada’s Top Attraction” Agents Choice Award is recent recognition of the enduring appeal of Banff to tourists that began when the Canadian Pacific Railway arrived in 1883.

Gluten-Free Dining

Restaurants in the Canadian Rockies routinely accommodate special diets

By Sara Samson


The salmon entrée from Banff’s Elk & Oarsman proves that gluten-free dining can be a tasty treat.

You’ve probably noticed the term ‘gluten-free’ popping up on restaurant menus everywhere, including here in the Canadian Rockies. Being gluten-free is trendy right now.

For most gluten-free aficionados, cutting wheat, barley, rye and oats out of the diet is a lifestyle choice that they hope will aid in weight loss, digestion and overall health. But for those who suffer from celiac disease, eating gluten-free is a necessity. The Canadian Celiac Association estimates that for one in 133 Canadians, the ingestion of gluten causes the immune system to attack the lining of the small intestine.

Some people claim to suffer from non-celiac gluten-sensitivity, where digestion issues like bloating and cramping occur without damage to the intestine. Since there is no test for gluten-sensitivity (as for celiac disease), there is controversy regarding the validity of this condition.

Virtually every good restaurant in the Canadian Rockies offers gluten-free menu options or gluten-free preparations on request. Some local eateries specialize in gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan and other alternative cuisines.

At casual Coco’s Café in Jasper, owner Lynn Wannop suffers from gluten intolerance herself and takes the issue seriously. “I’m very strict about cross-contamination, so we sanitize the kitchen before making anything gluten-free,” she says. Foods served here are made from scratch, even choices that incorporate gluten-free puff pastry. “It’s nice for celiacs that travel to have fresh, homemade options,” notes Lynn.

In Canmore, Sage Bistro owner Todd Kunst has created a dinner menu that is almost entirely gluten-free. As demand grows it becomes easier for both the kitchen and guests if gluten-free options are readily available, he notes. Todd has made his lunch menu more gluten-free friendly by offering gluten-free crackers and buns, and by removing breadcrumbs from burgers. “It’s easy to accommodate people with dietary restrictions as we make most of our dishes in-house,” says Todd.

Restaurants in our area cater to international travellers with many diet requirements and requests. Eating gluten-free here is not a problem.

Editor’s note: For a comprehensive selection of restaurants, consult our Dining Sections (Banff, Jasper, Canmore and Lake Louise).

Anatomy of a Day Pack

By Robyn Moore


Choose a pack with features like those of The North Face Banchee 35; (flashlight/safety green shown):

• 35-litre capacity at under three pounds

• 8+ internal and external pockets

• Opti Fit harness system micro adjusts for a close and comfortable fit

• Sturdy aluminum interior frame for optimal control when loaded to 50 pounds

• Light ripstop nylon is both durable and breathable

• Perforated foam straps and pads wick moisture from the body

• Floating lid and beaver tail extends the pack’s capacity and allows extra gear

• Hydration pouch carries your water

• YKK zippers are guaranteed for life

• Women’s specific sizes are available

Use your day pack to carry:


(photo: Robyn Moore)

Sunshine Meadows: Top Rated Alpine Walk

Sunshine Meadows offers a remarkable combination of mountain scenery, colorful wildflowers and easy-to-access trails

By Jack Newton


(photo: Jack Newton)

After 35 years of rambling throughout the Canadian Rockies, the trails at Banff’s Sunshine Meadows continue to command my attention. The publishers of Lonely Planet Discover Canada guidebook are similarly impressed. They designate this one of the top five hiking areas in Canada.

Normally you have to walk for hours to reach treeline meadows, high alpine zones where the forest is sparse, colorful wildflowers bloom mid-summer and expansive vistas abound. But Sunshine Meadows is accessed in minutes via the summer shuttle that ferries walkers to 7082 ft (2159 m) and trails that fan out from the ski area nature centre. From here, I have taken trips ranging from a backpacking expedition to Mt Assiniboine (‘Matterhorn’ of the Rockies) to a one-hour stroll to Standish Lookout for a great view of pretty Rock Isle Lake.

My favourite day hike at Sunshine Meadows is the relatively easy 7 km (4.3 mi) loop past picturesque Rock Isle, Larix and Grizzly lakes. The route straddles the Continental Divide, traverses rocky ridges, crosses streams and skirts stands of larch trees that glow fiery gold in the autumn sun.

I also recommend the somewhat more difficult 18 km (11 mi) trip over Quartz Ridge to Citadel Pass; watch for trout lazily swimming the clear waters of Citadel Lake. Most walk the ‘there and back’ trail in a day, but Howard Douglas Lake Campground en route proved to be the perfect overnight stop for my daughter’s first backpacking experience.

If you would prefer to visit Sunshine Meadows’ more remote backcountry terrain with a guide, private and group excursions are available. Trip organizer Gord Stermann notes, “this high alpine environment is so unique and interesting that it’s worth exploring with a knowledgeable guide.” As for other worthy hiking areas, here are a few of my many favorites:

• Near Canmore, Grassi Lakes is a relatively easy walk and testament to the trail building skills of Lawrence Grassi. Far more challenging is the rewarding circle route around Mount Yamnuska; for an adrenalin rush, try scree jumping frontside slopes.

• Banff townsite’s Cave and Basin Boardwalks are easy strolls that offer fascinating insights into history and nature. I often take visitors to Johnston Canyon and Marble Canyon west of town. This summer, I’m eager to try the cables, anchors and suspended bridge of Mount Norquay’s new guided via ferrata route.

• The trails at Lake Louise also make Lonely Planet’s ‘top five in Canada’ list. The walk to Lake Agnes Teahouse is the classic. More exhilarating is the trail to the Saddleback and summit of Fairview Mountain; go early to enjoy the stellar Temple Mountain view in solitude.

• Near Jasper, I recommend Cavell Meadows for its wildflowers and Angel Glacier view; take the upper trail return to make the trip a loop. High alpine Skyline Trail offers incredible backpacking; most trekkers camp, but at my age Shovel Pass Backcountry Lodge is an attractive alternative.

The are many excellent walks in the Bow Valley and Jasper & Area. Visit parks information desks for more route ideas, and current trail conditions and closures.

Insider Guide: Ski Areas of Canada’s Mountain Parks

The region known as Canada’s Mountain Parks includes the UNESCO World Heritage Site that encompasses Banff and Jasper National Parks as well as Kananaskis Provincial Park east of Banff. This majestic wilderness with knock-your-socks-off views and more peaks than people is home to five Alberta ski areas.

Our world-class combination of tree lined and open bowl slopes, abundant snowfalls, high-speed lifts and on-hill amenities beckon skiers and boarders from around the globe. Read more…

More Than Skiing in the Canadian Rockies

You don’t need skis or a snowboard to enjoy these activities and events. By Kirsten Varsek


Mt Norquay’s Tube Park (Photo: Banff Lake Louise Tourism/Paul Zizka)

Speeding down the slopes on an inflatable tube is a delight for the whole family; groomed lanes ensure safe and smooth sliding. Nakiska Tube Park is the latest ($19, child $15), while Mt Norquay’s Tube Town (night-lit Fri and Sat) now boasts six chutes, two dedicated lifts and a kids’ play zone with a small sliding area ($30, child $20). At Lake Louise Sunny Tube Park you slide for $20 (youth $16).

Read more…

Marmot Basin’s 50th Anniversary


Historic Marmot Basin

Jasper’s enormous, scenic and almost always crowd-free ski area, Marmot Basin, turns 50 this year. George Andrew—Astoria Hotel owner, former Alberta Ski Team racer and 43 year ski instructor veteran—has skied Marmot Basin since 1962. George recalls riding a surplus Columbia Icefield snowcat to get to the rope tow that was installed in 1961.

Today Marmot’s modern lifts transport 12,060 skiers per hour, a fact that would have amazed cross-country ski guide Joe Weiss who named the area Marmot Basin in the late 1920s. The first trail was ‘cut’ in 1930, and in 1942 the British army trained here; that first rope tow was powered by an army truck engine. Read more…

Staying Warm in the Canadian Rockies

Wool, goose down & high-tech synthetics.  By Kirsten Varsek


Thermoball Jackets (Photo: The North Face)


Shopping for winter sport clothing can be daunting: so many styles have few discernible differences. We suggest attacking the maze of snow suits with the rallying motto: “I just want to stay warm!” Read more…

Canadian Rockies Climbing Walls


Climbing Hold (Photo: The Banff Centre)

Indoor climbing walls offer active respite from the cold. By Kirsten Varsek

If you want an energetic break from cold weather sports, visit our local indoor climbing walls. “Climbing is good cross-training; the balance and strength required transfer over to activities like skiing and snowboarding,” says Scott McKay at Canmore’s Elevation Place. Chris Neve at The Banff Centre Sally Borden fitness facility agrees: “Climbing builds upper and lower body strength, flexibility and endurance. Best of all, it’s fun!” Read more…

5 Icy Adventures in the Canadian Rockies


Icy Adventures include Ice Magic Festival (Photo: Banff Lake Louise Tourism/Paul Zizka)

Mountain fun can be served up on ice as well as snow. While skiers give on-slope ice the cold shoulder, frozen surfaces provide opportunities for good times at canyons, waterfalls and rinks. By Twyla Kowalchuk and Jack Wennot Read more…

Banff: Canada’s Top Tourist Destination

Banff Canada Top Tourist Destination

Banff: Canada’s Top Tourist Destination (Photo: Paul Zizka / Banff Lake Louise Tourism)

It’s no secret that Banff National Park is a stunning place and a worldwide tourist destination. But is Banff Canada’s top tourist destination?


Read more…