In 1883, three Canadian Pacific railway workers stumbled upon a hot springs at the base of Sulphur Mountain. Two years later, the government marked off a 2,564-square-mile plot of land, preserving the hot springs and the surrounding wilderness as Banff National Park.
Today, Banff’s scenery is no less spectacular than it was a century ago. It’s a place to bring a wide-angle lens and sensible shoes. Hike along the park’s trails-they’re short, well-built, accessible and easy on the knees. With more than 1,000 miles of options, you can lose yourself among soaring peaks, glittering ice fields, emerald alpine lakes and cascading waterfalls. For a longer adventure (7.1 miles), explore both banks of the Bow River. You’ll see anglers and rafters, who might inspire your next day’s activity. Join them on the Bow, or take on the more aggressive waters of the Kicking Horse or Kananaskis rivers. For a more leisurely outing, paddle Vermilion Lakes, Moraine Lake or Lake Louise.
Although many parts of the park are closed to cyclists, Icefields Parkway from Bow Summit to Lake Louise isn’t. Pedal or drive the 25 miles to dine in a vintage rail car at Lake Louise Station. Or return to Banff for fondue and a singalong at Waldhaus, a short stroll from the elegant Banff Springs Hotel. You can’t miss the grande dame: She stands at the base of Sulphur Mountain like a genteel sentry.
•DON’T MISS Johnson Lake (near Lake Minnewanka) is one of the most stunning swimming spots in the world.
•BEST DEAL June 1-Sept. 30, two people can get one night’s stay at the Banff Springs Hotel, three meals, golf with equipment rentals and a wide selection of outdoor activities for $784. 800-441-1414; fairmont.com