Banff National Park:
From Canmore, the town of Banff isn't far away, only about 25 kilometers, or 15 miles. Along the way, you'll pass into Banff National Park, and pay your admission fee as you enter. As you arrive at the town, there are two exits: Banff Avenue comes first, then Mt. Norquay Road. The second exit is closer to downtown, but my motel was on the east end of town, so I took the first exit.
My first scenic stop in Banff was just a stone's throw from the interchange:
Cascade Falls is a small ribbon of water that pours over the mountainside. If you're anywhere near the first Banff exit, you can see it -- and if you climb up to the base of the waterfall, you'll get a great view of the valley that stretches from Canmore to Banff.
As you exit Trans Canada 1, head north (away from Banff, towards Lake Minnewanka), then pull off the road at the dirt parking area on the left (the parking area isn't marked, however, there is a sign for Cascade Lakes, on the opposite side of the road).
From the dirt parking area, walk across a grassy field -- it's actually a landing strip for small planes.
After a short but lung-straining climb up the side of the hill, I was standing at the base of the cascade. The first amazing thing I noticed was, the water simply disappears at the base of the falls! The stream tumbles down the side of the mountain, and pours into a gravel riverbed, and then it's gone. I could stand directly in front of the waterfall, only 3 feet away (I guess I should say one meter), and I was completely dry. Notice the disappearing act at the base of the waterfall in this next picture:
After marveling at the waterfall itself, I turned around. The climb up the hill had given me just enough elevation to rise above the surrounding trees, and provide a sweeping view towards Lake Minnewanka (to the east)...
... and Highway 1 and the Bow River Valley to the south. Canmore is at the other end of this valley -- so close you can almost see it. With the water providing soothing splashing noises nearby, I took a few minutes to soak in the scene. After years of planning a trip to the Canadian Rockies, I was finally there.
Unfortunately, those picture-perfect clouds that filled the Bow Valley quickly turned ugly, as I headed to my next stops in the Lake Minnewanka area.
Cascade Falls is a popular place for ice-climbing in the winter months.
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