The Banff area is a mecca for hiking enthusiasts. Trails abound everywhere, and there are some for all ages, durations, and levels of difficulty. Whether you are looking for a casual riverside stroll or some serious vertical elevation, you can definitely find a suitable trail in Banff National Park. Just find one of the many good hiking guidebooks available for the Canadian Rockies: try your local bookstores, or even the airport gift shop when you arrive in Calgary.
Most Banff hotels have trail maps and hiking information available. Check with the concierge desk for the latest information, including weather forecast, trail conditions, and any reports of animal activity (i.e., bears). Good sturdy shoes are a must for most outings. You should also dress warmly, since the air can be cool in the higher elevations.
While there are no formal plans for a WWW2007 hiking expedition, attendees are strongly encouraged to pursue as many outings as they can during their trip.
Here is a short list of trails that are in or near the Banff townsite. These are organized roughly by distance from the conference hotel.
- Bow Falls Trail: This popular pathway is the best way to get back and forth between downtown Banff and the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel. The roaring falls showcase Mother Nature at her finest. An absolute must!
- Cascade Gardens: Hidden behind the original Park Headquarters building, just above the bridge crossing the Bow River, you will find a Japanese-style rock garden with pathways, water ponds, and fountains. Resplendent with flowers in July, the gardens are still fun to explore in May. You can take a great hillside photo of downtown Banff Avenue, with spectacular Cascade Mountain in the background.
- Cave and Basin Trail: Trek the hillside trail where the early pioneers discovered Banff's famous mineral hot springs.
- Marsh Trail: An informative nature trail next to Cave and Basin, with a boardwalk built for families with strollers. Great for young kids: you usually see squirrels, ducks, geese, and fish, and sometimes horses.
- Fenland Trail: A peaceful nature walk in a majestic forest, with glimpses of a riverside habitat.
Here are some more favourites, though you might need a car to get to them:
- Tunnel Mountain Lookout: Across the river from the conference hotel is Banff's local misnomer, Tunnel Mountain. An aggressive one-hour climb gets you to the top of this hump, shaped like a sleeping bison. Spectacular view. Bring a lunch if you want. Good practice before doing Sulphur Mountain.
- Hoodoo Trail: A winding trail skirts Tunnel Mountain above the Bow River, leading to some peculiar rock formations called Hoodoos. Spectacular view of the Bow River Valley, with the conference hotel in the distance.
- Sulphur Mountain Lookout: If you don't want to pay for the 8-minute gondola ride to the top of Sulphur Mountain, then you can hike there yourself in less than 2 hours, and you will appreciate the vista even more when you arrive on top! Warning: the trail will be muddy and snowy in places.
- Johnston Canyon: Hike the interior of a water-carved canyon, using an iron walkway bolted onto the side of the canyon. A 30-minute effort gets you to your first reward: the Lower Falls. Another hour gets you to the Upper Falls, if you have the stamina. The path will be muddy, snowy, and icy in places.
- Grassi Lakes: A wonderful trail on the flank of Mount Rundle, just between Banff and Canmore. The trail gives you a closer look at the Bow Valley, and several mountain lakes.
- Lake Louise: After a 45-minute drive to Lake Louise, you can stroll the paved trail to the other end of the lake. Note that the lake may still have ice in May, and the "Tea House" trails may not be open yet. Check first.
- Moraine Lake: A short distance from Lake Louise is the majestic setting of Moraine Lake, framed by a backdrop of ten mountain peaks. One of the most memorable photos you will ever take.
Graduate student Jean Cao at the University of Calgary has volunteered to be a point of contact for hiking-related questions. She can give you tips and recommendations on hikes, or help you link up with others who might also be interested in hiking before, after, or even during the conference. Feel free to get in touch with her.