July 29 - August 2, 2018: Banff, Alberta Canada
We knew that the campgrounds around Banff would be crowded, so we opted to stay on the North side of Banff. Our first night we boondocked at Protection Creek Campground. The campground was big and really open. No problem finding a space, but there was also no privacy or shade. As soon as we set up camp, we headed off to Banff to get the lay of the land. It was 25 miles to Banff so we decided we wanted to find a campspot closer to town so we could ride our bicycles around vs. driving. We'd spend that night there and then moved the next day.
View from our campsite at Protection Creek
Protection Creek campsite
Views along the way from Rampart Creek Campground to Protection Creek Campground. Some of this was along the Bow Valley Scenic Byway.
First, the town of Banff was CRAZY busy with tourist. For me, it was a shock coming from the nice quiet Rampart Creek Campground the days before. Huge charter buses lined the backstreets and rv's, trucks, cars, etc were all trying to navigate the roads and parking lots=CRAZY. Add to this that we were driving around looking for a new camp spot for the next day, stocking up on groceries, etc. So...my first impression of Banff was..."get me the hell out of here!"
Needless to say we found a new camp spot Two Jack Main Campground which is 6 miles past Banff near Lake Minnewanka. So we up and moved camp spots on August 1 again boondocking.
Our 2nd day in Banff we decided to not go into town and took a bicycle ride from our campsite to Lake Minnewanka, then Johnson Lake, then rode the Water Tower Trail back towards town and Cascade Ponds. We wanted to find out where to catch The Legacy Trail (formerly Trans-Canada Trail) to ride it into town the next day. This was a mix of road, single trail dirt, and gravel. This days riding was about 18 miles roundtrip.
The next day we rode our bicycles into and around town. Once in town, we rode parts of the Bow River Trail, to Bow Falls, to Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel and parts of this was on The Legacy Trail. All of this was paved or gravel. Total miles this day was 22.5.
Cascade Ponds behind us
Consulting the bicycle map at Cascade Ponds to find best route back to campground
Stopping for a picnic lunch along the Bow Valley River. It is turquoise and so clear!
The pathway to Bow Falls
Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel
We decided to stay another day in Banff (doh....go figure). Partially because we wanted to do some more bicycle riding and also we have a confirmed stay through Boondockers Welcome for Cardston, Alberta on August 2. So...the next day we rode our bicycles into town again, went to the Farmers Market to listen to live music, had Cow Ice Cream (for the 2nd time the stay), rode The Legacy Trail to First Vermilion Lake, Second Vermilion Lake, Third Vermilion Lake, and a few other trails in the area. Unfortunately, there was a thunderstorm the day before that caught some fires in the area so it was really smokey and ash was falling this whole day. The day before we decided we wanted to visit the Banff Upper Hot Springs, so...to end our day of riding, we rode our bicycles there. Due to the thunderstorms which were still in progress, they closed the Hot Springs. So we got a raincheck to use the next day. Total miles this day was 40.
There are a TON of rental motorhomes, campers, rv, and...vans. The van are painted all funky (like the one above) and totally cool!
Cow Ice Cream - YUMMMM
The Fenland Trail
Vermilion Lakes Trail and Mount Trundle behind us
Overall, I am glad we stayed extra days in Banff. By riding our bicycles vs. driving the truck, we were able to see other parts of the town, stay away from the busiest areas, and see some great country.