No trip to Calgary would be complete without venturing out of the city and towards the imposing Rocky Mountains that sit on the horizon almost every way to look. The iconic town of Banff sits within the National Park and provides the perfect picturesque base point for anyone wanting to explore, ski or hike (all weather dependent) up in the mountains.
There are many ways to get up to Banff – you can go direct from the airport as soon as you land in Calgary (but why miss out on all the fun Calgary has to offer?!), hire a car, take a taxi or the far more economical method of taking a Greyhound bus from Calgary Bus Station. For roughly $15 each way (as with any bus ticketing the price can go up and down a lot!) I travelled up to Banff on a Greyhound and felt like I was starring in my very own movie. The bus station in Calgary is easy enough to get to on the very simple train system in place, and the journey itself is only 1 hour 40 minutes on a very comfortable coach designed for people going on much longer journeys! The bus pulls up in Banff, just on the outskirts of two and about a two minute walk from Tim Hortons!
My first stop was Tim Hortons for a warm cup of steeped tea (it was -18 outside) and to use the free Wifi to check my plans for the day ahead. I knew I wanted to explore part of the national park but also knew that being alone in the mountains in the middle of winter was a frankly stupid thing to do so I checked the status of the conveniently located Fenland Trail on the parks website which gave me the all clear to explore this centrally located, short and within easy reach of people but still absolutely stunning and beautiful trail! Even in the middle of winter with regular snowfall this was a well worn trail, so I felt pretty safe and secure as I wandered through it, and regularly bumped into dog walkers and the like! There’s nothing quite like walking through snow covered trees, over frozen rivers and then suddenly looking up and seeing a mountain set against the clear blue sky.
After exploring the trail I headed into the main town which can definitely take claim to being one of the most beautiful towns I have seen in a long time. Taking inspiration from many Alpine resorts, the generally low level buildings all have a cosy and welcoming feel. I was particularly taken in by the Christmas shop which despite the small frontage is like the TARDIS inside and I was enthralled by all the festive decorations available!
It’s worth bearing in mind that unlike Calgary, Banff is really set up as a tourist trap so prices are a little higher! However, if you hunt out a classic Canadian food stop like Tim Hortons then you should be fine food wise (cinnamon roll and tea makes a very indulgent and affordable breakfast!)
A short bus ride, for only $2 will take you to the base of Sulphur Mountain, where the gondola stretches above you. Travelling up the gondola isn’t cheap, around $50 per person, but in the winter it really is the best way to get up the mountain and experience the Rockies from up high.
Once you’re at the top words will fail you and not just because of the altitude. The views are stunning and no matter where you look they take your breath away. Even the icy -22 temperatures at the top of the mountain couldn’t dampen my spirits as I walked along the boarded pathway to the very top, taking in every second of it. Depending on your walking speed this journey could take ten minutes or less at a brisk pace but everyone stops, pauses, takes photos, pauses again and then moves another ten feet further along. The view is unlike anything else I’ve seen and you’re on top of the world so don’t rush it!