It is easy to fall in love with the Canadian Rockies postcard town of Banff, with it’s cute buildings and Cascade mountain backdrop. Arriving in Banff via Kootenay National Park, where Grizzly Bears were visibly out of hibernation, had us pumped to begin our Banff to Jasper road trip. But first we’d planned some easy hikes in Banff to see more wildlife and captivating mountain scenery. The Hoodoos and shortened Lake Minnewanka Hike are easy and can be completed in one day allowing time to hit the shops as well.
Read our One Week Canadian Rockies Road Trip Itinerary here.
Skies were impressively dark as we drove into town.
Two Jack Lakeside Campground is cheaper than Tunnel Mountain Village II and is very close to Lake Minnewanka (pronounced Minniwonka).
It was super quiet amongst the trees at Two Jack and morning and afternoon, elk grazed right outside our door. They were to become a common sight on this road trip, but that initial up close encounter was exciting.
On arrival (3rd June) the Ranger warned us that bears had been seen in the campground during the previous two weeks.
See Banff Campsites section below for details.
A somewhat shaky photo of elk near our RV at Two Jack Campground near Lake Minnewanka.
More Campground wildlife.
Lake Minnewanka Hike
This goat was scampering down the trail toward us and continued even when it saw us. Maybe it was partly tame.
The trail from the start point to foot bridge is 1.5 km (our hike). It continues over the bridge, with a return distance including the first 1.5km of 30km (allow 8 hours for full hike). In summer the track from the start point to bridge is likely to be crowded and it will most likely be necessary to hike further to find wildlife. Bear Spray is recommended.
You can see a map of the trail here.
Foot bridge over the Cascade River at Stewart Canyon.
Tunnel Mountain Village II RV campsite sits directly opposite the Hoodoos Trail and is close in to Banff town. See Banff Campgrounds section below for information.
What are Hoodoos
Soft and Hard layers of different rocks and sands are eroded by weather to form tall pointed dirt cones not unlike witches hats. These particular ones remind me of the giant termite mounds in Australia.
It is a short 1 km hike from the campground east to the Hoodoos. These weathered formations are relatives of the amazing Fairy Chimneys in Cappadocia Turkey, but less extensive. Still it was a lovely walk and not as crowded in early June as in peak season when thousands of visitors hike the Hoodoos each day. In the other direction the trail leads 3.5 km into Banff.
Partly tame elk and deer can be seen on this hike.
The views from the trail over the Bow River Valley to Mt. Rundle are superb.
Can you see the Fairmont Banff Springs hiding?
Click on the link below for the full trail map. We did a small section near the campground with these amazing views.
Before Leaving Banff we did go and have a closer look at the iconic hotel Fairmont Banff Springs.
Hot Springs in Banff
At the time of writing, Banff Upper Hot Springs is using 100% natural spring water. At 1585 metres they are the highest hot springs in Canada. In winter the natural spring water is not available and heated municipal water is used. Back in 1880 the Indigenous people used these springs as sacred places.
- 1 Mountain Avenue, 4 km south of Banff.
- Banff Local Bus Route 1 connects the city centre to the springs.
- Fee: Pools $8.30 per adult. Thermal Waters $11.35
- Two Jack Lakeside on Lake Minnewanka loop road, 12 km from the town of Banff.
- $27.40 up to 6 people. $8.80 for fire pit.
- Tunnel Mountain Village II. sits directly opposite the Hoodoos Trail in Banff.
- $32.30 up to 6 people. $8.80 for fire pit.
How to Get to Banff
Drive to Banff from British Columbia.
- Via Radium Springs on Highway 93 through the Kootenay National Park, turning right to the Trans Canada Highway to Banff. 135 km or 1 Hour 40 minutes.
Drive to Banff from Alberta.
- From Calgary On Trans Canada Highway. 127 km taking approx. 1 hour 30 minutes on fastest route.
- From Lake Louise 58 km taking approx. 40 minutes on Trans Canada Highway.
Banff National Park Pass
A pass is needed to visit Banff National Park including Icefields Parkway and Bow Valley Parkway. The Discovery Pass 2017 is free to celebrate Canada’s 150th Birthday. Passes printed on-line enable you to use the Park Pass Holders Drive-thru Lane.
Banff Visitor Centre
Go to the visitor centre at 224 Banff Avenue for:
- Information on Banff National Park, including maps, brochures, permits, backcountry reservations, up-to-date park information, weather, trail, road reports.
- Friendly helpful staff.
We visited the Banff Avenue location but there is another at 327 Railway Avenue.
Parking in Banff.
As in any town that gets inundated with visitors, parking in Banff can be difficult especially in an RV. We saw a whole row get fined for facing the wrong direction on the roadside.
- This site has parking information.
- You can find a map of parking here.
- Check your Wikicamps Canada App.
Banff Library, 101 Bear Street, Banff.
The library has free wifi, computer, scanner use. Printing from their computers .25c per page (8 1/2 by 11″, black & white).
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