Picture of banffvalley During our stay in Banff town we spent some time exploring the immediate area. One of several fantastic views of the area is from the top of Sulphur Mountain on the southwest side of town. You can hike to the top or take the gondola which we recommend. How fun is it to hike up a mountain underneath a tourist-laden gondola? The view is worth it though, this is the Bow river valley stretching off to the north towards Lake Louise.
Picture of banff_above And of course the other direction is a stunning vista of the town of Banff. The 'hill' in the center is Tunnel Mountain which appears much more daunting from within the town. The Trans-Canada Highway cuts across the far left and Banff Springs Hotel can be seen in the lower center on the near bank of the Bow River.
Picture of bshotel Another view of the Banff Springs Hotel, one of the premier resorts anywhere in Canada. We didn't stay here but it's still an impressive sight. Below it just out of view in this picture is Bow Falls. Far back in the distance the line of the Sulphur Mountain Gondola can be seen. Not far from the hotel is the Banff's own hot springs. On our previous trip to Banff we skipped it and went instead to Radium Hot Springs in British Columbia. Impressed by Radium, we visited Banff's this time, though it wasn't nearly as nice. The pool is smaller and was far more crowded (as would be expected). The view was still impressive but not quite as spectacular as the one from Radium.
Picture of bshotel2 One more picture of the hotel from atop Sulphur Mountain at full zoom.
Picture of mtn_sheep2 Atop Sulphur Mountain there are several restaurants and another hiking trail along the ridge. If you're lucky you may also run across an adolescent mountain sheep like this one. Mountain goats (distinguishable only by reading the detailed signs along the trail which describe the differences between them), marmots and pika are also common.
Picture of hoodoos On the far side of tunnel mountain are the hoodoos (rock pillars) shown here. Not nearly as impressive as those in Dinosaur Provincial Park in eastern Alberta, these seem to be more popular. Probably due to their proximity to Banff's largest campground and the short trail to the overlooks.
Picture of norquay Mount Norquay on the north side of Banff is also the site of a popular ski resort. There is supposedly a trail somewhere along it that provides more impressive views of Banff from yet another direction. We were in search of non-hiking activities after Crypt Lake so we went horseback riding along the far side of Sulphur Mountain instead.
Picture of elk East of Banff are the ruins of a town once called Bankhead. It boasted the first residential electric service in Alberta in the early part of the 1900s. Built primarily as a coal mining town, at its height it was the premier town in the region. Now the larger buildings and much of the colliery and associated machinery remain. A trail leads through the ghost town which is where we found this elk (among others) grazing.
Picture of sheepfamily On the road to Bankhead we passed literally dozens of elk and mountain sheep along, in and near the road and parking areas. Here is our representative picture of one sheep family.

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