Banff - Tunnel Mountain. Trail particulars: Once in Banff, take St. Julien Road heading toward the Banff Centre. The trailhead parking is to the left of the road, just before the Banff Centre.
Amazingly enough, this is another "classic" hike D and I had never attempted before. For years I had the tendency to avoid Banff and area. The cost of entry to the Park kept going up, and often the townsite was just too crazy to deal with. This spring I finally realized how foolish it was to completely avoid the Park. We bought a pass and I've hardly been able to stay away since (ok, I still avoid the town on weekends).
This trail might be one of the most popular inside the Banff town limits, so expect to see lots of people. We started mid-day, so there were already quite a few hikers out. The hike is short (2.5 km, give or take), but steep. The payoff is amazing.
And since you're hiking up a mountain, the fun starts almost immediately:
The good news, since the path steers upwards so quickly, it isn't long before you start to see downtown Banff way down below:
This is just a little bit higher. I'd had no idea how flat the area west of Banff was -- or just how much of a valley Banff was in:
Most of the hike is spent hiking a trail on the south or southwest side of Tunnel Mountain. At one point there's a rocky plateau that makes you think you're near the top, but it's not so. The trail simply crosses over the mountain and works its way up from the north or northwest side of the mountain, looking out on the valley towards the highway. But the views here are absolutely spectacular:
This always reminds me how lucky I am to live in this area.
At one point, at the eastern most part of the mountain, the view is of Mt. Rundle, the mountain right beside Tunnel Mountain and probably the most well-known mountain in the area. This is the mountain that looms over Canmore and stands between Canmore and Banff. It always seems to look different depending where one is viewing it from -- Canmore, the highway outside Banff, the hot springs within Banff. It's my favorite mountain in the park, and from Tunnel Mountain we got a completely different view of it yet again:
Very cool and up close from the trail itself.
From here, it's a short walk to the actual summit and the chance to look down upon Banff and marvel at how far you've come in such a short time. There's plenty of room to stretch out and relax in the sun for a while, and many people on the trail did exactly that:
We didn't stay long as rain was threatening and we wanted to get back into town, but definitely a hike worth doing whenever you're kicking around town.