It would be rare to find a visitor in Banff, known as the gateway to Canada’s Rocky Mountains, who is not determined to find the best Banff view of the postcard panorama. Who can blame them? Banff National Park is Canada’s oldest protected parkland and is designated a UNESCO World Heritage as part of the Canadian mountain range. It has been beckoning world travelers for over 125 years with it’s endless green valleys and jaw dropping mountain peaks.
No matter how many times we visit Banff, our packing includes multiple cameras, determined to capture yet a more spectacular Banff view. There is one small issue however. We are not the only visitors looking for that perfect viewpoint. Banff National Park greets more than three million visitors a year.
We have a confession. We are not particularly fond of crowds of tourists. What’s that you say? We are tourists so we are part of the congestion? Yes point well taken.
Our challenge is that we would prefer no other, or at least very few people we shall never see again, in our photos. To be honest we would prefer to have any place we travel to ourselves. The fray of selfie sticks and busloads of tour groups send the two of is into a rather irritable state.
So in all travels, Banff National Park being no exception, we are on the hunt for peaceful panoramas.
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Where to find the best Banff view
On a Sunday afternoon of a recent long weekend, we headed to Banff Norquay. With a scattering of cars in the parking lot we two tourists were all grins. A bit like finding the last cookie in the cookie jar kind of grin.
There at Mt. Norquay, just across the road from the town of Banff, we found no line up at the ticket counter or at the chairlift. Riding 10 minutes to the top, the views of Banff beside us played out in the silence.
For anyone unfamiliar with riding a chair lift it’s as easy as sitting down. The staff instruct you where to stand to get on and where to walk when getting off. Just follow the little red footprints cleverly illustrating the way.
During the ride a safety bar sits across your waist and provides an attached foot rest. Should you be nervous about getting on or off the chair just let the staff know and they can slow down the lift.
At the top of the chairlift the viewing platform provides the vantage point we were looking for. Not a selfie stick in site. Or take a short walk to other areas for just a different angle. Note the lack of crowds. Did we mention how clever we were feeling?
Steps from the top of the chairlift sits the newly renovated Cliffhouse Bistro. We would go so far as to say it is the best restaurant view in the entire park. How long did we have to wait for a table you ask?
One would expect for this world class view possibly an hour?
We waited exactly 0 minutes. You read that correctly. For this view. But don’t tell anyone. It will be our secret. Information on hours and dates when the restaurant is open can be found here.
Besides sitting open mouthed at the vistas there are other activities to take in at Mt Norquay. Many hiking and snowshoeing trails are available. Be sure to check with staff about wildlife warnings prior to setting off.
A wildlife corridor runs across the lower part of Mt Norquay. Depending on the season mule deer, big horn sheep, elk and grizzly bears can be seen on various parts of the hill and the drive up from the town of Banff.
For those who love adventure and would appreciate a higher vantage point (oh yes that would be us) the Via Ferrata begins from the deck below the Cliffhouse Bistro. Reservations are required and are available May – October. You can read more about our adventure on the Via Ferrata here.
Finding the best Banff view in winter
Several winters ago we discovered snow tubing. Lower on Mt Norquay, to the right of the chairlift, this winter activity is perfect for all ages. We have taken three generations of our family and let me tell you snow tubing is SO MUCH FUN! Do you think I am enthusiastic enough? Have a look for yourself here.
How about a little downhill skiing or snowboarding? Mt Norquay is the birthplace of skiing in the Canadian Rockies with the first ski run cut in 1926. There is that amazing view again with it’s winter coat on.
To be completely honest there are endless astounding views to be had in Banff National Park. Many involve hiking or climbing and we love those adventures. However we also realize not everyone has the ability or the want for such activity.
Sometimes even we just like a relaxing outing to see one of the most beautiful places on earth. We are happy to be able to say you don’t need to be especially fit to to share in this adventure. So much for keeping secrets. More information about the Banff Norquay chairlift can be located here.
With our sincere thanks to Banff Lake Louise Tourism and Mount Norquay for hosting our visit. As always all secrets and opinions are our own.