What’s there to see in the town of Banff, you may ask. The answer is, plenty! There are not just interesting sights along downtown Banff, but also short walks and hikes near Banff that one could take.
The Banff Visitor Centre was located in Wolf Street, only one street away from where we stayed at the Elk & Avenue Hotel. A large stone building, it houses information counters staffed by Parks Canada and Banff-Lake Louise Tourism. If you intend to do some hiking or backpacking, then this is an important stop for you. Park permits, camping permits, fishing licenses and maps are sold here. There are also current reports on trail conditions, and the latest mountain weather forecast.
The Rundle Memorial United Church in Banff stands at the end of Banff Avenue, nearer to where the Bow River Bridge was. It may be the only church that you see along downtown Banff, and is a historical building which was in existence since 1886.
The Banff Park Museum is the oldest natural history museum in western Canada and is a National Historic Building. It houses the park’s collection of mounted specimens of birds and animals native to the park.
It is located further down from the Rundle Memorial United Church, and is nearer to the Bow River Bridge.
The Cave & Basin Historic Site is within walkable distance from downtown Banff. You will just need to cross the Bow River Bridge and turn right into Cave Avenue. It is so accessible that most people would prefer to walk, although this site is also accessible by public bus.
If you are keen, there are numerous other places of interest other than the Cave and Basin Historic Site within Banff that the public buses can take you to. The public bus stops at numerous points along Banff Avenue, and for an affordable fee of CAD $2 will bring you to places such as the Upper Hot Springs, the Banff Springs Hotel, the Banff Gondola, and the Tunnel Mountain campsite. If you are keen for a longer trip not serviceable by the public buses, the Johnston Canyon will be a wonderful choice of day tour. It was unfortunately closed to visitors when we visited.
Bow River Trail
It took us the greater half of the day to walk from the Elk & Avenue Hotel to the end of Banff Avenue where the Bow River Bridge was. That was, it took us the greater part of the day to complete this walk because we stopped multiple times at the shops along the way!
Looking back at downtown Banff near the end of Banff Avenue.
Banff is a mountainous resort town, and on sunny weather, one will be able to see the numerous peaks of the mountains in the background. From the end of Banff Avenue, the Cascade Mountains looms behind, although in this picture, it is mostly covered by low hanging clouds.
Standing on the Bow River Bridge – which was mainly for cars, with pedestrian sidewalks on the two sides.
At the end of the Bow River Bridge is the Cascade Gardens, a place that we did not have time to visit although we stayed 2 nights in Banff. It is said to be a most excellent place, so if you tire of the crowds in downtown Banff, the Cascade Gardens could be a great avenue for a reprieve.
On the Bow River Bridge, one can spy the The Fairmont Banff Springs nestled like a castle within the mountains. There was also a pedestrian bridge that crosses the Bow River, and that was built exclusively for the use of pedestrians only.
The The Fairmont Banff Springs is the sister of the exclusive Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise.While we had enjoyed our stay at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise earlier in the trip, we just had to make do with a cheaper alternative for our stay in Banff at the Elk & Avenue Hotel.
Honestly, by the time we reached Banff Town near the end of our trip, we were quite exhausted physically. Even though several sights such as the Banff Hotsprings were easily within reach, we only made do with exploring the fringes of downtown Banff during our 2-night stay here.
The Bow River Trail at the end of Banff Avenue was the only short hiking trail we took. The Bow River trail was actually very long, but we focused our efforts only around Central Park.
Some really peaceful views around the park.
And some great views of the mountains beyond.
From the Bow River Trail, we could access the wetlands and get a more exclusive view of the Bow River from below the bridge.
Of course, having come so far, we also went up the red pedestrian bridge to explore.