This place is certainly not "off the beaten path" in the winter, otherwise known as Sunshine Ski Resort. However, what many people don't know is that there is a whole world to discover here during the summer. This is the largest alpine meadow in the world stretching some 15 km along the Continental Divide, at 2225m.
Normally, at this altitude, there is only rock and ice, but precipitation-heavy Pacific winds blow over this region, allowing a huge amount of alpine plants to thrive here, some specific to Sunshine Meadows.
You can reach this area by driving to Sunshine Ski Resort. You can either hike up the restricted access road (6.5km up a steep, dusty, boring gravel road), or save your energy and book a seat on the shuttle bus. The gondola is not open in the summer, like at Lake Louise.
There is hiking of all levels at Sunshine Meadows from very easy (Rock Isle Lake) to more difficult like Quartz Ridge or Citadel Pass. There is also access to Mt. Assiniboine Provincial Park from here. The shuttle bus is $20 for a return trip, and runs from June 20 to Sept. 30, depending on the weather. Phone ahead for shuttle times, but when we were there, the first shuttle went at 9 a.m., and last shuttle came down the mountain at 5 p.m. Also, be aware that if you are hiking at this high of an altitude, the weather changes very quickly. On our hiking trip there the weather changed from hot sun, to rain, to snow showers over the day, and this was in July.
Burgess Shale (Yoho National Park)
If you are interested in geological history and fossils, and are fairly fit, this 86th designated World UNESCO Heritage Site is for you.
The Burgess Shale began approx 500 million years ago, as The Cathedral Escarpment, on the edge of what was known as ancient North America, in a warm, shallow sea. Over millions of years, lifeforms were buried in layers of mud, and turned into fossils. About 175 million years ago, geological forces moved the deposits to their current locality, a mountain ridge in Yoho National Park.
There are guided hikes from July - September, costing approx $50.00 per adult. This is the only way to reach this highly interesting and educational area, as due to environmental and research reasons, access here is extremely limited. Besides killer views of the mountains, here is your chance to see a unique World Heritage Site, and to observe current excavation and research being done by some of the world's leading experts in fossils.
Location: The Burgess Shale is located near the town of Field, BC -- about 15 minutes west of Lake Louise.
Take the Skinheads Bowling
If you are running out of things to do, or need to let the kids blow off steam, or if it's pouring outside, a little 5 pin bowling is just the ticket.
A two-lane bowling alley is located in The Banff Springs Hotel, in the shopping arcade located near the parking lot. There are also pool tables there as well.
There aren't any skinheads here, I just like the song.
Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies
Here is a chance to escape to some peace and quiet and some air conditioning if needed, or to dump a whiny husband while you shop Banff Avenue. This place is "off the beaten path" in the summer, 'cause how many people want to see a museum in the middle of summer in Banff? This is also a great rainy-day activity, and will hold your interest for at least a couple of hours.
The museum opened in 1968, and was founded by Peter and Catharine Whyte, two artistic ex-Bostonians who explored and made Western Canada their home. Their interest in culture and philanthropy led them to create the museum. The exhibits concentrate on mountains and nature and their influence on art and culture. They also have an exhibit on the history and development of the Banff area as well, and offer local tours. One of their most popular is a tour of historic homes in Banff.
Location: 111 Bear Street, Banff. They also have a museum shop on Banff Avenue.
Peyto Lake is one of the most popular glacial lakes in Banff, but most people don't venture beyond the interpretive paths around the viewing point near the lake. On a busy August weekend, when tour bus after tour bus was pulling up to Peyto Lake, we were the only ones at Bow Lookout, with only a marmot to keep us company.
There used to be a fire lookout at Bow Lookout (hence the name) ; the advantage here is that in a relatively short period of time, you can get to a breathtaking view of the mountains and Crowfoot Glacier and Bow Lake.
Directions Get past the crowds at the Peyto Lake viewing platform, and head up the paved path, and turn right. Go past the dirt path (this descends down to Peyto Lake) Keep going, and you will reach a point where three paths converge. Take the middle one. This paved path will turn right, and then follow and old dirt road. Follow this old fire road up to Bow Lookout. This is a fairly easy hike, and takes about an hour one way. ( 3km one way, elevation gain 260 m)
Banff National Park Hotels
Pyramid Lake Road, 5 km from Jasper, Jasper, Alberta, T0E 1E0, Canada
Good for: Business
This is a fantastic place to stay if you are on a budget. The rooms are well equip with everything...more
Friend's of mine were visiting Alberta so we decided to splurge and share a room at the Fairmont...more
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