Banff is of course famous a ski destination. This small Rocky Mountain town is blessed with lots of snow during the winter months. But it is also a great location to run. There are numerous trails, quiet roads and awe-inspiring scenery. Banff hosts major running events each year: Melissa’s 10K and 21K is held in late September and sells out fast; the Banff Marathon in June offers runners a chance to to experience the only 42.2K race in North America that is run entirely in a National Park; and the Winterstart 8K in November is a fun night run with bright costumes and glow sticks. The Subaru Banff Triathlon is also held every September. Be prepared for a cold swim in Two Jack Lake if you compete in this one.
Tunnel Mountain Road Loop
This route is ideal for a quick run and if you are concerned about wildlife, this route is close to town so you will feel safe. The streets are unlit though, so bring a headlamp if you plan to run it at night. Start behind the Banff Information Centre (corner of Banff Avenue and Wolf Street). Head out of town up Wolf Street and after just a couple of blocks turn left onto Otter Street. Here you have a steady uphill climb, but it’s worth the work as you head up to the Tunnel Mountain hotels and start to get great views over the town. Most of the climbing happens in this kilometre stretch; when you see the hotels at the top of the hill, breathe a sigh of relief that the toughest part of the run is done. Take a right in front of the Tunnel Mountain Resort hotel. You’re now on a quiet road – spot the occasional big born sheep or deer up here – and the road rolls gently up and down to keep it interesting. There is no sidewalk here but traffic is minimal and this section is even closed for traffic during winter, so you can follow a well-trodden path in the snow. After a final short but steep hill you will see a well-marked trail on your left for the hike up Tunnel Mountain itself. If you want to stay on the pavement, you can enjoy the descent down, past the Banff Centre (with massage facilities and hot tub), ignoring any turns to the right and staying to the left as you continue down and back towards town. The final section past Surprise Corner offers great views over to Sulphur Mountain and the famous Fairmont Banff Springs hotel. You are now on Buffalo Street where the road levels out. Take a right onto Beaver Street for the final few hundred metres back to the Info Centre. gmap-pedometer.com/?r=5803870
Vermillion Lake Road Out and Back
This road is for sightseeing traffic only and has a 30K speed limit, so you’re likely to see other runners and cyclists out here. It has a really peaceful feel to it, although it’s also an ideal location to do a speed workout as there are no road crossings and it’s probably the flattest route you will find in Banff. Start your run at the parking area at the Fenland trailhead (follow the signs out of the town to Mount Norquay, parking is on the left just before the highway). After about 100m on the side of the main road, take the left turn just before the highway – you are now on Vermillion Lake Road. With a few gentle rolls, but nothing significant, you can zone out and enjoy the views of iconic Mount Rundle to the left as well the three Vermillion Lakes. This is a great place to look out for waterfowl. After 4.5k, you will reach the end of this dead-end route, so simply turn around and retrace your steps while enjoying the views of Edith and Cory Mountains to your left. gmap-pedometer.com?r=5803702
Lake Minnewanka Road Loop
Start from Banff Avenue in the centre of town and run out of town along the sidewalk until you join the Legacy Trail paved bike path just past the Inns of Banff hotel. Follow this path past the Rocky Mountain Resort and then carefully cross the highway so you are now facing traffic and head under the highway, following the road signs signalling straight on for Lake Minnewanka. Shortly after crossing the second cattle guard, the road begins to climb. After about 100m, fork right to join this looped road to run counterclockwise. There is no sidewalk but this is a sightseeing road so traffic is generally sparse and slow, although look out for the bighorn sheep, common along the rocky slope as you pass Two Jack Lake. From the town to Lake Minnewanka, the road is rolling but you climb a total of 140m and no more than a few hundred meters at a time are flat. Once at Lake Minnewanka, enjoy the majestic views of this aqua-coloured lake stretching to Devils Gap. There’s an outhouse in the winter and a concession stand in the summer with a washroom. Continue counter-clockwise on the loop for a slightly shorter, and downhill, journey back to town. In the winter, the shorter side of the loop is closed so your run would be a kilometre or two longer and would be an out-and-back past Two Jack Lake both ways. gmap-pedometer.com/?r=5803715