Just a short drive (or walk) westwards from Banff are the beautiful Vermilion Lakes. This area is made up of three lakes in the Bow River valley, all of which are separated by wetlands. Tracing the outline of the lakes is a scenic 4.3km road with a number of picturesque little jetties and benches to rest, relax and enjoy the spectacular scenery that the Rocky Mountains have to offer. Vermilion Lakes boasts one of my favourite views of all time - that of Tunnel Mountain and Mount Rundle standing majestically side-by-side (see last photo).
In the winter, the water freezes over making it possible to walk and even ice skate on the lake. In the summer, you'll often see cyclists, hikers, dog-walkers and joggers on the path whilst kayaks and canoes enable water-bound exploration. A wealth of wildlife can be sighted at the lakes also: a multitude of birds, elk, coyotes and even the odd bear if you're lucky.
The prettiest route to the lakes is through the forest that borders Banff: follow the Fenlands Trail and it'll take you there.
One of the most popular hikes in Banff National Park is a trail that takes you to the top of Banff's smallest summit - Tunnel Mountain. Its close proximity to town, easy-moderate switchback trails and its rewarding views of the Bow River, Spray River, Banff Springs Golf Course and the Fairmont are some of the reasons for this. There are also some amazing panoramas of the surrounding mountains - Cascade, Rundle, and Sulphur. On our hike we were lucky enough to see a number of chipmunks scurrying along the trails and six huge elk grazing in the forest.
The hike is 2.3km long with a 300m elevation gain and takes around 1 and a half hours to get up and back down.
To find the start of the Tunnel Mountain hike is easy. From Banff Ave, head to the top of Wolf Street, turn right onto St Julien Road for around 5 minutes and then on your left you will see a sign for Tunnel Mountain with lots of interesting information and a car park.