Hiking has always been our favorite form of vacation. We've hiked through a number of national parks in America. But Banff (the town and the park, in Alberta, Canada) was different.
The picture-perfect town of Banff sits squarely inside the national park, making it unique in several respects. First, you can't get there by plane. You can fly into Vancouver or Calgary, and take a cushy motor-coach ride into Banff. Second, you can live in the town only if you work there. So urban sprawl is nowhere to be found.
Third, the town is IN the mountains. Cascade Mountain (elevation 3000 ft.) was literally outside our front door where we stayed on the northwest edge of town. Fourth, all wildlife is protected. Take an early morning walk, and you'll be just as likely to see elk by Bow River as you will be the early risers. (Don't try to pet or feed the elk; they are wild.)
All the animals have rights to your petunias or whatever else grows in your garden. So residents have an ingenious way to keep the animals off their lawns. They put 'rumble strips' across their driveways. The animals don't like to hear their hooves, paws, or claws clang on the metal.
Makes for a peaceful co-existence. Animals also have their own sod bridges over main highways, so their seasonal migrations aren't disrupted by man's need to get somewhere.
Banff is home to elegant shops, delectable international dining, museums, and tasteful entertainment.
When you get tired of hiking, you can dine in elegance or simplicity in the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise―with its own plethora of shops that makes it a self-contained town in the middle of the mountains.
Each park has its own 'signature' sites. For example, Yoho is home to many remarkable waterfalls. 'Yoho' is a Cree expression for awe. Its most striking waterfall, Takakkaw Falls, is one of the highest in Canada. The Cree name means 'magnificent'―and it is! Words fail to explain it in any other way.
Also walking up a glacier, and seeing wildlife up close, including pikas, marmots, Canadian beavers, mountain goats, and elk. Don't forget that, it is a bear country. So be prepared and stay alert.
You can take short, easy hikes; day hike, or pack in for the back country. Banff adventure can also come with unexpected bonuses: many parks so close by, and a total absence of CITIES. How refreshing!