Wet Weather Activities in Banff
When I thought of Summer in Banff, images of swimming in lakes of aquamarine, and hiking through snow-capped mountains with the sun on my face, and elk grazing in the distance came to mind.
When we arrived in Banff, we realised that it can rain or snow in any season.
And oh, did it rain while we were there.
In our week’s stay, the weather varied between light, but persistent rain, to torrential rain every day. Tunnel Mountain, where we stayed, wasn’t visible for the cloud cover.
And the temperature sat around 10 degrees Celsius — in Summer.
But there are plenty of things to do in Banff when it rains!
- Museums and Galleries – Banff Park Museum
We’re not going to see ANY bears, I’d sulked.
And this was even before the inclement weather reared its ugly head.
I just have a bad track record with seeing bears in Canada. Squirrels, chipmunks, deer, elk, woodpeckers, blue jays … I’ve seen them all. But never, ever a bear.
Now I can say I’ve seen a bear in Banff.
Not a live one, but one that used to be alive. The Banff Park Museum is one of western Canada’s oldest natural history museums and the oldest federal building in a Canadian national park, opening in 1903. Most of the exhibits used to be alive!
Many of the animal displays are in 3D, full sized scenes, which apparently was a radical approach to displaying animals in the early 20th century.
The oldest animal on display is the red-breasted merganser, collected in 1860. And the most recently acquired animal is the black wolf, killed on Lake Minnewanka road, and added to the museum in 1981.
Some of the animal placements are a little comical. In the early 20th century, it was fashionable to arrange the features of animals depending on their stereotypes, so the wolves and bears wear snarls, and the deer look docile. The Museum’s 1914 handbook describes the wolves as “cunning and merciless”, and the white-tailed deer as “happy and carefree”.
Location: 91 Banff Avenue, next to the Bow River Bridge & Central Park, Banff, Alberta
Cost: Adult $3.90, Youth $1.90, Family/Group $9.80
Also recommended: Radium Hot Springs
- Dining and Drinking – Wild Flour Café
Banff’s Artisan Bakery bakes its bread in small batches daily, with hand shaping and long fermentation periods and baking. Aside from organic loaves and fresh parties, the bakery’s café provides delicious meals for breakfast and lunch.
Even vegans and gluten-free diets are catered for. And all the coffees are organic and fair trade. If you’re an Australian or European visiting Canada and you are at your wits’ end with craptastic drip coffee from Starbucks and other chains, this cafe has REAL COFFEE as my mother would call it (she was a little shocked by the quality of coffee in North America).
On both of my visits I had salads followed up with the vegan chocolate cake, which is moist and to DIE FOR. Their pastry/dessert chef must be a genius.
Just try and get in before the lunch rush, they seem to sell out of the favourites early on.
Also recommended: Tony Roma’s, Boston Pizza.
- Hiking – Bow Falls Trail
Many of the trails become unsafe to hike on with heavy rain due to low visibility and slippery tracks.
If the rain is light and you have wet weather gear, there are several trails around Downtown Banff if you are careful and wearing footwear with good grip.
The Bow Falls Trail is an easy walk down past the Banff Museum, across the bridge, and towards the historic Banff Springs Hotel. You get to see the beautiful aquamarine river, and we were lucky enough to sport a large male deer on our walk.
Be warned, though, the falls are not “waterfall” sized. North Nomad and I walked straight past them! They’re more on the size of rapids rather than waterfalls.
Also recommended: Cave & Basin Trail
If the weather gets seriously dire, there’s always the cinema in the town centre of Banff.
Or, at a pinch, there’s a Redbox at the Safeway, where you can hire DVDs for a dollar or two a night. Our entertainment one particularly blustery and wet evening was The Lego Movie, rented from the Safeway Redbox.
Location: Cinema – 229 Bear St, Banff, AB T1L 1G4. Safeway – 318 Marten St, Banff, AB T1L 1B4.
- Daytrips – Johnston Canyon
Sometimes you just have to bail on your intended destination and search for drier pastures!
Our trip to Johnston Canyon coincided with the annual GranFondo Bike Tour in Banff – an anuual race that over 1,500 cyclists take part in. Much of Banff and the surrounding roads were blocked off on the day for the race.
We got to the turn off for Johnston Canyon and had to park our RV up waiting for the police to open the road. And then when we reached the trail for the canyon, we were there with possibly hundreds of other tourists who had the same idea.
Luckily, us Nomads are speedy walkers, and we got in some great views of the beautiful river and falls. The gorgeous clear blue water in this area rivals anything we’ve seen surrounding tropical islands.
When we’d finished the walk, the carpark was full, and cars were parked a mile or so on the road outside. So again, go early if you want to beat the crowds!
Hopefully we can get back to Banff for another visit next time we’re in Canada to live, either in the Summer to do some proper trekking and swimming, or for some snowboarding in winter!
Have you had any vacation plans thrown out the window for bad weather?