Today we explored the town of Banff for our last day in the Canadian Rockies. The downtown area along Banff Avenue is the shopping boutique and restaurant strip with a mountain village feel. The Bow River flows south of downtown, which you cross to get to a few tourist attractions around town.
Our first stop was Sulphur Mountain and the Banff Gondola. The fully enclosed gondola cabins hold four people and glide up the mountain quietly during an eight-minute journey to the top. Unfortunately the upper terminal building was under construction (it's due to open later this summer), but the 360 degree views at the top are pretty spectacular as you walk along the one kilometer ridgetop boardwalk. There are not only great views of the town of Banff, but also all the surrounding mountain ranges. We had brief periods of drizzle and sunshine as we walked around and even saw some ground squirrels and mountain sheep before heading back down the mountain.
Next we went to Cave and Basin National Historic Site, the birthplace of Canada's national park system. In 1883 three railway workers discovered the hot springs and tried to make a claim for the land, which the government turned into a reserve in 1885. There is a boardwalk around the basin and hot springs, which flow down the hill into a mineral pool with different colored algae. Here you can also find the endangered Banff springs snail (which is why you are not allowed to touch the water).
The Buffalo Nations Luxton Museum along the Bow River looks like a log fortress. It is Alberta's oldest museum and has artifacts and life-size dioramas of the traditional life of the First Nations people from this region. I found the articles of clothing and related artifacts to be the most interesting part of the displays.
We then bid farewell to Banff, driving east on the Trans-Canada Highway to our next destination, Calgary. The Canadian Rockies slowly disappeared in the distance and the landscape became more flat plains. We made good time and knew we had hit the outer limits of Calgary due to the traffic. On our way into the city we passed Canada Olympic Park and the ski jumps that were used in the 1988 Winter Olympics. We managed to navigate our way to the International Hotel of Calgary in downtown where we are staying tonight. Tomorrow we will explore Calgary and then fly back to San Francisco.