After the previous day’s long hike, we decided to take it easy. We drove to the Town of Banff, within the national park. Whereas Canmore, where we were staying, has a population of about 14,000, the Town of Banff has fewer than 8,000 people. Banff is much smaller, though, and therefore has about 8 times the population density of Canmore.
In Banff, we drove to the base of Sulphur Mountain, where we took the gondola to the top. Here, too, our copy of the Lonely Planet failed us. Published in April 2016, the edition alleged that the gondola trip was $40 (Canadian) for an adult. Instead, each ticket was $64. Of course, perhaps the price had been $40 two years earlier when the book was being prepared for publication, but in any case, a price increase of over 50% seems unreasonable over a two-year period. Nevertheless, what I considered a high price for an eight-minute ride didn’t deter the hordes of tourists.
After eight minutes, we were 670m (2200′) higher, at the top of Sulphur Mountain. The gondola terminal at the top of the mountain was a three-story building that included a restaurant, gift shop, small museum, and observation deck.
Here is the view looking due north, toward the Town of Banff and Tunnel Mountain:
This is a stitched panorama facing southwest, toward the Sundance Range:
Batya on the observation deck, with a mirrored bear:
This is the view looking northwest, toward Sanson’s Peak, one of the high spots on Sulphur Mountain:
We walked along the boardwalk and soon reached Sanson’s Peak, where a small meteorological observatory building is still standing. This view is facing the northwest:
This is a view from Sanson’s Peak back toward the southeast, showing the gondola terminal atop Sulphur Mountain:
Back at the observation deck on Sulphur Moutain, I took a 200-degree panorama of the view centered on the west. Thus, the left side of the panorama shows a helipad adjacent to the gondola terminal and the southeast peak, the central part of the panorama shows the Sundance Range of mountains to the west, and the right side of the panorama shows Sanson’s Peak to the northwest:
Having spent about two hours at the top, we rode the gondola down the mountain. We had to share the four-person gondola with another couple, who boarded first and faced each other, so we had to do the same, rather than sitting side-by-side. This gave me the opportunity to photograph Batya enjoying the ride:
The view from the gondola, looking east
For those wanting a workout and not wanting to spend big bucks for an 8-minute ride, a nice hiking trail with numerous switchbacks works its way up and down the mountain:
Our next stop was the Cave & Basin National Historic Site, where admission was free when we showed our park pass. The Banff National Park, and indeed the entire Canadian national park system, had its origin here, when Canadian Pacific Railway employees “discovered” the hot springs (known to the indigenous people long before). Thermal treatments were considered healthful, and businesses began proliferating. This led the government to step in and declare a national park in order to preserve the springs.
This is the original cave:
There was also a small museum at the site. Outside, we enjoyed a 2.3km (1.4 mile) level hike known as the Marsh Loop.
A high dynamic range photo of Mt. Norquay:
Our last stop in Banff was a visit to Cascades of Time Garden (also called Cascade Garden). :
The gardens, which date to 1935, include the Parks Canada administration building:
The park includes about 50,000 annuals that are tended to by the staff. The garden can typically be enjoyed from May until September, depending upon the weather:
In addition to the flowers, planted on terraces, the park includes stone walls, ponds, and a number of gazebos made with burl wood:
If you are in Banff in the summer, it’s worth a trip to the gardens.
Next: The Plain of Six Glaciers!