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Discover Banff Tours

by K Gordon Schultz

Guided Tours in Banff National Park

Ever since the amazing beauty of Banff National Park were first discovered, people have been flocking here to experience for themselves its natural wonders, this includes Native Americans thousands of years ago, although they may not have had the concept of vacationing that far back.

For people visiting Banff, the question can often be is how to get around, and how to see all the highlights – especially if you have limited time and/or you don’t have you haven’t rented a car.

But there’s no need to worry, there are plenty of Banff guided tours available.

Go Go Gondola

The high point of this tour (literally) is certainly the Banff Gondola at Sulphur Mountain. Sulphur Mountain is the birthplace of Banff National Park. Workers on the Canadian Pacific Railway, with the help of explorer and amateur comedian Joe Healy discovered natural hotsprings. After a protracted legal battle over who actually owned the rights to the area.

Spend just 8 minutes on the Banff Gondola and you’ll be near the summit of Sulphur Mountain, 2,281 metres (7,486 ft) above sea level. From there you’ll have the opportunity to get great panoramic photos, and views, of Banff and Banff National Park.

Once you’ve taken in the amazing beauty up here, you can grab a snack at the summit restaurant, or pop into the gift shop to pick up some great Banff Gondola swag.

Emeralds in the Wild

The only thing that matches the beauty of Banff’s mountaintops are its emerald colored lakes.

Emerald Lake provides a beautiful example of one of the more interesting phenomena that occurs in the Canadian Rockies. The highest peaks of the range capture weather that comes in from the Pacific Ocean to the west. Clouds get hung up on the peaks and discharge their moisture down the slopes of the mountains.

Where the slopes gather water, you get patches of coastal rainforest, quite different from the landscape elsewhere in the Rockies. Western red cedar trees and devil’s club, a large plant with thorns and maple-like leaves, are common in the rainforest patches. One of the most well-known such patches is the west side of Emerald Lake.

It’s quite obvious to even the most casual observer, the great difference between the west side and east side of the lake. The vegetation, the water, the atmosphere; all of it points to the difference. There are interpretive signs posted around the lake to further explain it.

But, of course, Emerald Lake is much more than an interesting quirk of weather. Down at the lakeshore, for example, you can also learn about the Burgess Shale, a quarry visible from the shore via a telescopic lens. An exhibit will tell you all about the fossils found in the quarry. Besides a guided tour you can take from the Burgess Shale Research Foundation, this is the closest you can get to the quarry.

Come to the lake in late May or early June, when the snow is melting , and you’ll see spring flowers come into bloom. Bright yellow glacier lilies herald the coming of the new season. Hot pink calypso orchids come shortly thereafter.

Two other great lakes you’ll want to check out in the Rockies are actually very close to the town of Banff. These include Two Jack Lake and Lake Minnewaka.

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