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Banff has a lot to offer for those interested in more off the beaten path experiences on guided Banff ecotours.

While most tourists don’t get too far from the main parking lots along the Bow Valley and Icefields Parkways that run through Banf National Park, guided ecotours allow you to get a lot closer to nature and learn about what you are seeing.

Here are some of the best ecotour adventure options available in Banff National Park.

1. Guided Hiking

There are more than 1,600 kilometres (1,000 miles) of hiking trails in Banff National Park. You can book a guided interpretive hiking tour to experience the backcountry wonders and have your best chance to see wildlife on a tour in the national park.

For an easy hike, there is Tunnel Mountain, Johnston Canyon or the Lake Agnes Teahouse. For more advanced hikes, I recommend Cascade Mountain, Mount Rundle, Sentinel Pass or Cirque Peak and Helen Lake.

2. Mountain Biking

There are over 190 km (118 miles) of mountain bike trails and another 360 km (224 miles) of cycling trails in Banff National Park but make sure you bring along your bear spray!

You will find excellent trails around the Banff and Lake Louise townsites and you can rent full-suspension bikes and hire mountain bike guides in both towns although the best mountain bike trails are in Canmore and Moose Mountain where there are fewer restrictions on trail building.

3. Stand Up Paddleboarding

Stand up paddleboarding (SUP) is a great way to experience the crystal-clear lakes of Banff National Park and see wildlife along the shores away from the tourist crowds around the parking lots.

You can go paddleboarding on Lake Minnewanka, Two Jake Lakes, Johnston Lake and the Vermillion Lakes (my favourite) near the town of Banff. However, I highly recommend hiring a guide and paddling boarding down the Bow River from Castle Mountain to the town of Banff.

4. Backcountry Camping

Most tourists in Banff National Park don’t get 20 minutes from a parking lot simply because there is so many amazing things to see beside the road.

If you really want a unique wilderness experience, hire a hiking guide to take you backcountry camping where you can see the true wonders of Banff National Park and experience Banff’s abundant wildlife in their natural habitat.

5. Mindful Birdwatching

If birds are your thing then Banff has more than 300 species of birds to enjoy. Whether you want to do bird photography or simply mindful birdwatching, hiring a birding guide is a good idea to learn about the birds and ecology of this unique mountain ecoregion.

The places I like to go in the morning for mindful birdwatching are Vermillion Lakes, the Johnstone Canyon to Ink Pots trail. Sundance Canyon and the Bourgeau Lake Trail. Anywhere along the Bow River tends to also good for seeing birds.

6. Mindful Stargazing

While we’re on the topic of mindfulness, another great way to have a profound experience of awe and wonder is to book a mindful stargazing tour where you just may see the Northern Lights (late August to mid-September is the best time).

Just 20 minutes outside of the town of Banff you will find dark skies with no light pollution and nearby Jasper National Park is the second-largest Dark Sky zone in the world.

7. Guided Icewalks

One of the most unique destinations in Banff National Park is the Colombia Icefields (it also borders Jasper National Park). Here you can learn about glaciers and the ecological importance of these icefields on a fascinating icewalk.

The season for this usually runs from May to early October and the interpretive guides on the icewalks will completely change the way you see glaciers and share many fascinating indigenous stories.

8. Guided Snowshoeing

While the majority of tourists come to Banff National Park in the summer, there are actually a lot of amazing winter hikes and shoeshoeing trips you can do in the park (along with some world class skiing at park’s 3 mountain alpine resorts).

Some of the best places for snowshoeing are Grotto Canyon, Sunshine Meadows

9. Caving Tours

Banff is world renowned for having some of the largest cave systems in the world. The Castleguard Cave is a limestone cave that features over 21.3 km of surveyed passages and it is currently Canada’s longest known cave system (it is only explorable in winter and on a multi-day adventure tour).

For a more accessible guided caving experience, I recommend the Rat’s Nest Cave a wild and undeveloped cave under Grotto Mountain just outside of the town of Canmore.

10. Horseback Riding

Walk in the steps of the first European explorers can through Banff National Park on horseback. There are a number of horseback riding tours that go from the main stables in Banff and from the many ranches in nearby Kananaskis Country.

If you want a really unique ecotour experience then I’d recommend booking a backcountry lodge trip, some options include Sundance Lodge, Halfway Lodge and Mount Assiniboine Lodge.

I hope I’ve given you some ideas for ecotours and unique nature adventures you can participate in to make your Banff National Park experience a memorable one.

Kyle Pearce

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