November 24, 2014

Winter Adventures In Banff National Park

Sometimes you just need to go on an adventure, no matter the weather, the road conditions, or what you could be doing at home. We cast all that aside the other week to escape to Banff for a few days, to see what kinds of adventure we could rustle up.
If you wear enough layers (and can still walk), you can hike into frosty, snow-capped woods. We tried a few trails near town; Fenland Trail, Marsh loop (seen above), and the Cave and Basin trail and boardwalks. More often than not, it's the gorgeous scenery, not the cold, that takes your breath away!
Whenever we are in the mountains wildlife is on my mind, yet the only wildlife we saw were a few little chickadees and one shy squirrel. Deer made an appearance, but they showed up in our hotel parking lot, not the least bit concerned with all the tourists taking pictures near them.
Our routine for the trip was first to hike, come back to the hotel to warm up and eat lunch, then hit the trail again for the afternoon. On our first morning we hiked to a viewing platform with a beautiful panoramic view of the Banff Springs Hotel.
We decided to visit the hotel one evening and tour around (it goes on and on, rooms galore!), but those pictures will take up their own post.
One morning it was particularly frosty so we decided to visit the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies. My absolute favourite exhibit (though it's hard to even pick a favourite) was 'Side by Side, Paintings by Peter and Catharine'. Peter and Catharine Whyte lived and painted in Banff in the early 1900's and are the founders of the museum. Their paintings are impressionistic and (to me) really embody the spirit of place. If you have been to Banff you can almost smell and feel each area just by looking at the paintings. I'd like to move the whole collection to my living room, but I settled for bringing home a print of one of our favourites.
Also near town is the Cave and Basin National Historic Site, where we braved the sulphur smell of the springs to hike Marsh Loop and explore boardwalks around the interpretive centre. Natural mineral hot springs are something to see in winter. The steam rising from warm ground water covers everything in a thick frost, yet anything growing in or beside the water is completely green. Some people even let some (un-natural) tropical aquarium fish loose in the pond and they have survived and reproduced. It was quite a sight to see dalmation mollies swimming around in a pool when we were bundled up to the nines with frost nipping at our noses.
The warm steaming water felt great on chilly fingers and later that day we enjoyed a dip in the Upper Hot Springs. It was during evening hours and so wonderfully quiet. If you go later at night, chances are you'll only hear one kid singing 'Let It Go', as compared to the ten you might hear during daytime hours. Also, the frost build up on your hair is fabulous.
Banff is packed with unique little shops, which we wound in and out of during a few warm-up hours between hikes.
We thought about renting snowshoes from Banff Adventures, but we found the trails quite manageable without much gear, and made due with our hefty winter boots. One saying kept running through my mind during our time away; "There's no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather" (John Ruskin). As long as you are dressed properly, no winter adventure is out of reach!
The time away was refreshing and soul-satisfying. I may have just come away with a few more stars in my eyes, and heart full of gratefulness.

“Long, blue, spiky-edged shadows crept out across the snow-fields, while a rosy glow, at first scarce discernible, gradually deepened and suffused every mountain-top, flushing the glaciers and the harsh crags above them. This was the alpenglow, to me the most impressive of all the terrestrial manifestations of God. " 
(John Muir)


  1. Looks like fun! I am glad you have had time to relax, it was well deserved. You have definitely made me more excited for my trip to Banff this Spring!

    1. So excited that you get to see Banff in the spring! It is amazing in all seasons. We may just have to road trip down again when you are here! :)