A fascinating (and free) adventure off the beaten track is to visit the Banff ghost town of Bankhead, located on the road to Lake Minnewanka. This coal mining town was closed when the park boundaries expanded to include it. Start by touring Upper Bankhead, which starts at the Upper Bankhead picnic area. This is where the upper- and middle-class employees lived; you can see their cement basements and even the old roads, if you look carefully. There is a short walking loop with interpretive signage.

The hike to the "C" level cirque, above Upper Bankhead, passes a number of sites associated with Bankhead, including the site of the old Cascade Hotel.Lower Bankhead (just down the hill and down the road from Upper Bankhead) is where the coal tipple and other operations were located. You will find a well-marked, well-signed interpretive trail which will show you the old shower house, the lamp house, and old pneumatic train of the type used inside the mine (to avoid sparking an explosion with a combustion engine), and much more.

If you roam off the Lower Bankhead trail, you may find the remnants of the camp where the Chinese workers lived.

The cenotaph for the young men of Bankhead killed in WW I lies adjacent to the Lake Minnewanka road, and is well cared for by the Royal Canadian Legion.

Finally, when you're walking through the side streets in the town of Banff, you will notice that many of the older houses have signs describing their history. You will find that some of them were moved from Bankhead to Banff. Also relocated to Banff was the Bankhead train station, which is now on the grounds of the youth hostel up on Tunnel Mountain, near the Douglas Fir Resort. Other buildings, including a large church, were moved all the way to Calgary.

If you google BANKHEAD BANFF you will get a number of websites with information on Bankhead, including some archival photos. The book Bankhead: The Twenty Year Town by Ben Gadd (available at the Whyte Museum gift shop and the Friends of Banff shop at the Banff Information Centre) gives lots of fascinating historical background.

The information on Bankhead was copied from this discussion thread on the TripAdvisor forum

Lussier Hot Springs

Instead of going to one of the several commercialized hot springs in the Canadian Rockies, how about going to a completely natural, non-commercial hot spring, namely, Lussier Hot Springs?  They are located in White Swan Provincial Park, to the east of Canal Flats.  You access White Swan Provincial Park from Hwy #93 that runs from Radium Hot Springs down through Invermere and Cranbrook on the west side of the Canadian Rockies, in what is known as the Kootenay-Rockies Region. 

Scenic Views

Scenic views are what the Canadian Rockies are all about.  Check out Inside Banff National Park : Scenic Views to find out about some of the more exceptional ones that you can enjoy without major hiking.   


Hiking is free, it's fantastic exercise, and it expands the range of scenery that you can access.