WHERE TO VIEW WILDLIFE AROUND BANFF NATIONAL PARK
Many tourists visit Banff National Park from around the world for its beauty and hope to see wildlife during their visit and wonder where to view Wildlife around Banff National Park, in this article you can learn the most popular spots in and around Banff where you can view wildlife.
The very best times to see wildlife throughout Banff National Park are the off-season, spring, fall and winter. Summertime is still a good time of the year but it is a little too warm for many animals during the heat of the day.
You have a better chance of viewing the larger mountain animals in the summertime near dusk or dawn.
If you are getting out of the vehicle and hiking, do be prepared. Being a little loud is going to minimize the chance of surprising animals. Bear spray, a walking stick and a cellphone are all good ideas to carry when off the road.
Before any adventure into the wilderness of the Canadian Rocky Mountains, no matter the time of year, check weather conditions. Storms can move fast through the Rockies, as most weather systems come from the west coast and join the normally cooler air of the Rockies. Be safe.
Located just outside of the town of Banff, there is a very accessible hike to take you to the top of Sulphur Mountain. Or, you can do as the many do, opt for the ever-popular, much less grueling, gondola ride to get to the top of Sulphur Mountain.
The hike will expose you to more opportunities to see wildlife as you are in their terrain. The gondola ride is surprisingly great for viewing wildlife from above.
Once at the top, there is the boardwalk from the Upper Summitt Gondola Terminal to Sanson Creek, where the very unique bighorn sheep are a common sight throughout this alpine territory. Marmots, ground squirrels, chipmunks, grey jays, eagles, and many other birds, all make this area home as well.
A good zoom lens and binoculars are great for viewing and photographing, and it also lets us humans stay a good distance away, so as not to ‘invade’ the wilderness’ privacy.
VERMILLION LAKES DRIVE
Located just five minutes west of Banff, the Vermillion Lakes road is a 4.3km section that gives greater opportunities to see mountain wildlife in its natural habitat. Once at the lake, take a load off and enjoy the scenery and spot the wildlife.
Vermillion Lakes Drive is a part of the Banff Legacy Trail.
BOW VALLEY PARKWAY
Also known as Highway 1A, the Bow Valley Parkway is an alternate route from Cochrane to Canmore. Highway north 22 from the TransCanada, will lead to the Bow Valley Parkway.
This is renowned as being one of the best drive-by locations to see wildlife. Winding through the foothills to the mountains, without having to deal with the busy highway traffic, makes this route a favorite.
Bears, elk, moose, deer, wolves, and bighorn sheep are some of more commonly seen larger animals, but one never knows what is out and about on any given day.
BANFF SPRINGS GOLF COURSE
An important wildlife-corridor that connects the Banff townsite to the eastern section of the Bow Valley and finds some of the world’s most scenic golfing and plenty of wildlife roaming in their habitat.
The Elk rutting season in September – October, is the time to hear plenty of elk-bugling and the chance to see the antlered males trying to show off for the ladies.
Keeping your distance at this time is imperative.
This is all a wilderness area with the chance to see mountain wildlife from the safety of your vehicle. Grizzly and black bears, elk, moose, mule deer, cougars, and many of the other animals that inhabit the area can be spotted along this route.
LAKE MINNEWANKA LOOP
Two Jack Lake
Most of the activities available within the Loop are found at Lake Minnewanka.
This glacial lake is the largest in Banff National Park at 21 kilometers (13mi.) long and 142 meters (466 feet) deep, and it is an unbelievable blue. The warm months of the year make it easier to enjoy the variety of the area including wildlife, but winter-play is alive and well at Lake Minnewanka.
Plenty of picnicking areas, cooking areas, canoeing, diving, trails, swimming (brr), biking trails, and plenty of roads to mosey on and catch sight of whatever wildlife happens to be out.
Two Jack Lake is part of the loop here that takes drivers through the heart of the land, giving zoom cameras and binoculars their chance to shine. Cascade Ponds can be accessed on the way back to Banff.
Grizzly bear, black bear, moose, elk, cougar, wolves, and bighorn sheep, all of the Rocky Mountains’ big-game can be found in the Lake Minnewanka Loop area.
TUNNEL MOUNTAIN DRIVE OR HIKE
(also known as Sleeping Buffalo)
Wild Bison were reintroduced to Banff National Park in 2017 and for everyone involved from the indigenous communities to locals and travelers alike, it has been a smashing success.
Because of the mountain’s lesser grade and location (in the heart of Banff Townsite), it is a very popular location. It is only a 4.3 kilometer (2.5mi.) round trip along the pathway with a fantastic, panoramic view of Banff townsite and the Bow Valley.
The drive itself is slow-moving as it is well used with bicyclists and hikers, but there is a good chance of seeing Grizzly bears, black bears, or elk.
BANFF LEGACY TRAIL
Bicyclists and walkers have the chance to see plenty along this 22.3 kilometer (14mi.) paved pathway and parkway between Canmore and Banff. A single bicycle ride one way could be 90 minutes, so a round trip could be close to 3 hours.
There are multiple rest stops and picnic areas along the way.
Take your camera, binoculars, some snacks, some liquids, and enjoy the wildlife that is found along the way. Still being in the wild, but closer to the TransCanada Highway, keep your ears and eyes open for elk, moose, deer, birds, and bears.
ICE FIELD PARKWAY
Aside from being one of the world’s most beautiful drives, the Parkway is also a top spot for seeing Canadian wildlife from the comfort of your vehicle.
It is often described as a Rocky Mountain Safari from those who have checked this world-class scenic drive off their bucket list. There is no Bwana leading this safari, just you and your wheels.
While still in Banff National Park, take Highway 95 north from the TransCanada #1 Highway.
The key to seeing wildlife is to take your time. Absorbing the ambiance of driving through this mountain-wilderness is part of what makes the scenery more memorable – and you’ll spot more wildlife with more patience.
Grizzly and black bears, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, cougars, elk, moose, and wolves are some of the animals you might see on this drive.
A zoom lens for the camera, good binoculars, and checking the side of the road and off the side into the woods will increase your chances of spotting wildlife.
The wildlife of the Canadian Rockies is something to behold.
If you’re driving from Calgary consider driving through Kananaskis Country, as this is also a very popular Drive for viewing wildlife in Canadian Rockies.
Private Tours Available
If you are visiting from out of town and you are not familiar with the area, we can arrange day trips from 2 – 30 passengers. Let our experienced drivers take you on a private tour of the area.
Sightseeing from a luxury vehicle without the stress of driving and directions can make for a more relaxing and memorable experience.
We can arrange tours in sedans, limousines and tour buses. Whatever your group size, book with AM PM Limo for an outstanding, unforgettable tour.
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