The Canadian Rocky Mountains in Alberta, Canada are one of the most impressive sights to experience during the summer. Banff vacations are a popular way to relax, get outdoors and take in Banff National Park.
Get into the Banff National Park scenery right away by taking a horseback trail ride. Holiday on Horseback (1-800-661-8352 / 403-762-4551) leaves Warner Stables on Sundance Road for one to seven hour trail rides, as well as backcountry expeditions.
A guide takes groups along the Bow River and Bow Valley, climbs Sulphur Mountain, passes Bow Falls, through Spray River Valley and past views of Mount Rundle. For the kiddies, pony rides around the barnyard are available ($20.00 CAD for 15 minutes).
After a hard day out on horseback, there are two recommended options for taking it easy. Natural hot springs were discovered in Banff in the 1880s and the casual Banff Upper Hot Springs (1-800-767-1611 / 403-760-1346) is the modern day version of this wellness phenomena.
With temperatures between 37 and 40 degrees Celsius (98 and 104 degrees Fahrenheit), travellers and locals mix in the large pool to soak in the healing waters. It can get fairly busy, so try to go during the weekdays to avoid the rush. Rates are $7.30 CAD for adults and $6.30 for children and seniors. Swimsuit, towel and locker rentals are all under $2.00 CAD each.
The ultimate wellness vacation, though, starts and ends at the majestic Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel (405 Spray Avenue, 1-866-540-4406 / 403-762-2211). The Willow Stream Spa is a full service spa, but the highlight is the mineral pools.
Slip into the hot and cold pools (some with a waterfall) for a rejuvenating beginning or end to the day ($69.00 CAD for hotel guests, although access is complimentary if booking one of the spa treatments).
This sanctuary is less crowded than the public pool and the lounge space with optional food service makes for a full wellness experience. Oh, and there’s a fitness centre for those inclined to have a workout, too.
Driving up to the 19th century “castle” that is the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel (405 Spray Avenue, 1-866-540-4406 / 403-762-2211) is like entering a fairytale. Dark stones resemble a Scottish baronial castle and the interior is just as magnificent. Make sure to take the time to wander through the hotel- there are many picture perfect spots that make for great bragging rights to family and friends at home.
A definite favourite in the dining scene is the Waldhaus Restaurant (reservations: 403-762-6862). This Bavarian restaurant serves German and Swiss plates that are exquisite. The old hunting cottage atmosphere and polka music add to the atmosphere that feels like a remote Bavarian cottage. Dessert options are absolutely heavenly. Note that the restaurant is located a few minutes walk from the hotel.
Another activity that takes advantage of the beauty that is the Banff National Park is the Banff Gondola (403-762-2523). 360-degree views are glorious from the viewpoints on the upper gondola terminal. The ride takes eight minutes to the top, which is 2,281 metres (7,486 feet) above sea level. Adults are $29.00 CAD and children are $14.00 CAD, although children under five ride for free.