The economic downturn is no reason to stay inside on your next holiday. Living in Canada offers us tonnes of affordable domestic trips, even to world-class destinations like Banff National Park. Combine a resort package with a hiking holiday, or explore the great outdoors on your own terms, camping in between hikes.
Of course, if you’re heading out on a cheap vacation, you’ll need to plan to make sure you save the most money possible. Transportation to accommodation in Banff should be cheaper in the shoulder seasons. Because Banff National Park is busiest in the winter, when skiers flock to the pistes, spring and autumn are often cheaper, less crowded, and just as beautiful.
As in any tourist destination, you’ll find no lack of activities to spend money on, but thankfully hiking is free! As much as you want to save money, however, don’t skimp on a good trail guide or hiking map before you head off. Here are some hikes of varying difficulties and lengths.
Lake Agnes Tea House
It’s apparently a tradition to drink tea at the top of a mountain when you’re in the Canadian Rockies, so start your budget vacation by trekking to the tea house on the shore of Lake Agnes from Lake Louise. This hike is not too strenuous; you’ll climb about 400 metres over the course of 3.5 kilometres. The terrain is forested, giving way to the “lakes in the clouds” of Lake Agnes and Mirror Lake.
The trailhead for the Lake Agnes hike begins in Lake Louise by the resort grounds at the bronze, Swiss-mountain-guide statue.
Stretch your budget to include a cup of tea at the teahouse and enjoy the mountain scenery and the feeling of having accomplished a great day out for the price of a hot beverage.
After reaching the tea house, you can follow other trails a bit farther. Try the Lake Agnes lookout, which goes to the back of the lake, about 500 metres. Or, if you feel like more tea, there’s also the High Line Trail, which will take you another five kilometres to the Plain of Six Glaciers Tea House.
This moderate hike in Banff won’t require as much effort as you are probably thinking — it’s named after the waterfall that looks like a giant’s staircase that you’ll see on your trek. You can combine the Giant’s Steps hike with the Lake Annette Highline Trail and make a loop of about 8 kilometres, or simply hike up to the waterfall and turn back. Although the most significant landmark on the trip is the waterfall, most hikers say the best part of this trek is the view of the surrounding peaks.
If you’re camping, the Paradise Valley campground is near the Giant’s Steps waterfall and can be reached via a 10.1-kilometre one-way hike from the Paradise Valley parking area.
Another great hike that visitors characterize as moderate to difficult is the hike to Rockbound Lake. Longer than the hikes to the teahouses or Giant’s Steps, this hike is steep in places, especially near the lakes. The hike is about 17 kilometres long.
The hike begins in the forested lowlands, and then quickly ascends Castle Mountain and Helena Ridge. In spring, you’ll see wildflowers in the meadows as the trail plateaus. The trail gets steeper after the approach to Tower Lake and is quite steep for the last kilometre up to Rockbound Lake. Tower Lake takes its name from the “towers” of Castle Mountain above it, while Rockbound Lake gets its moniker from the high surrounding cliffs.
The trailhead for this hike is on Highway 1A about 100 metres south of the intersection with Highway 93.
If you’re looking for day hikes and have the stamina for a 12-kilometre one-way jaunt, the trek to the summit of Mount Borgeau has fantastic views for the length of the trail. Or, if you’re content not to summit, you can turn around at Lake Borgeau, at the 7.4-kilometre mark. This hike is particularly good for wildlife spotting — keep an eye out for sheep, ptarmigan and various rodents along the way.
To reach this trail, follow the eastbound lanes of the Trans-Canada Highway west of Banff and look for the turnoff.
Post by Erica Taylor
Picture Credit: Hiking Banff from bug bog. com