The Amazing Mountains of Banff – Cross Canada Adventure

After a fantastic stay in Kamloops with Megan, we jumped on a bus to Alberta, to the scenic Rocky Mountain paradise of Banff.

Now, I’ve been to Banff many times throughout my life, and even lived there for a summer, but I still experience a great sense of awe whenever I visit the Rocky Mountains. Towering snow-capped peaks, radiant turquoise glacial lakes, and thick green pine forests surround you as you drive through the winding roads. Sometimes the road travels between sheer cliff faces where the path of the highway has been blasted right through solid rock, and you feel like you are sneaking right underneath the nose of a sleeping giant. Then you turn the corner and your breath is taken away by an enormous valley ringed by a row of jagged grey peaks so tall that mist surrounds their tops.

I can only imagine how amazing they would be to someone who has never seen mountains of this scale before.
Our major adventure in Banff was climbing Sulphur Mountain. This is one of the enormous mountain peaks which overlooks the town, and it offers absolutely amazing views of the larger-than-life Rocky Mountain valley that Banff is hidden within.

To get to the top, most people will take the Gondola. However,  Lee and I decided to tackle the challenge of hiking up the mountain instead, because we heard a rumor that we would get a free ride down if we made it up to the summit on our own steam and as typical backpackers we jumped on the chance to make the experience cheaper.

Hiking Up Sulphur Mountain!

Well, it was the hardest I’ve ever worked just to save a few bucks, but the fresh alpine air and the stunning views as we made our way up the mountain were totally worth it. It took us just under two hours of huffing and puffing up switchbacks, and when we started to see snowdrifts we knew that we were getting close to the top. Although my legs were sore for a day or two, I am so glad that we decided to make the climb. It feels truly amazing to stand on the peak of a huge mountain, knowing that you climbed up there all by yourself!

The View From the Top of Sulphur Mountain
Before cashing in on our scenic gondola ride down, we wandered around the lookout points at the top of the mountain. This is where Lee spotted his new favorite creature for the first time! The tiny little chipmunk melted his heart, and he spent several minutes carefully sneaking up on it and lying on the wooden walkway with his camera lens through the railings to capture a photo! Although I have seen chipmunks a million times, I always find it neat when Lee discovers something in Canada that is new and unusual to him.
Lee's New Best Friend
Lee's New Best Friend
On one of our evenings in Banff, we headed down for some drinks at the Pump & Tap Tavern. As the evening progressed we started to chat to a few young travelers from England who were on a camping trip guided tour around the Rocky Mountains. They were fascinated by the scenery, the culture, and the wildlife and excitedly told us about sleeping in tents in the mountains and being somewhat wary of bears. Lee  and I ended up joining their table and carrying in conversation with the huge group of them until about 2am. Needless to say, that was the night that we got thoroughly “Banffed” as the expression goes.

I loved that these 20-somethings were having such a great time exploring Canada, but as they described their experiences I don’t think I would prefer the same type of travel. They were on a package tour sort of holiday, and although it was of a very youthful and adventurous style it was quite controlled. They had a set itinerary, with activities planned out for them and all supplies, transport and food organized in advance. I think that although this type of travel would be fun for a few days, I think Lee and I prefer the freedom to go with the flow. I wouldn’t want to know what I was going to be doing on day 16 of a 20 day trip, and with the way that we travel we usually don’t know until a day or two before. Although this type of spontaneity might be nerve wracking for others, we find it liberating and exciting.

The Walkways On the Peak of Sulphur Mountain
The Walkways On the Peak of Sulphur Mountain
After a couple of nights in Banff (because that’s all we could afford!) we jumped back on a bus and headed to our next stop: Calgary! Stay tuned to read more of our adventures…

Kelly Dunning

A Canadian freelance writer with a love of art, culture, literature and adventure, Kelly loves exploring foreign lands and expressing her experiences through the power of the written word.

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One Comment

  1. You are so fortunate to have gotten to spend so much time in such a beautiful place throughout your life. I hope I can make it there one day. When I traveled to the Americas, I did know where I would be each day (though I made a few changes during the trip) because I had limited time and wasn’t sure whether I’ll be able to come back, and there was so much I wanted to experience and so many people I wanted to see, that I had to plan if I was going to “have it all”. Yet I understand what you mean about the freedom you might feel traveling the way you do.

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