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Friday, November 9, 2018

Stowe Pinnacle Hike, Vermont

I love fall and damn do I love Vermont.    So yes, you guessed it, I really really love fall in Vermont.  

There is something about the colors here, the sweeping panoramic views, the green mountains marking the horizon, and of course, the terrific outdoorsy people.  There is so much charm and color wrapped into one beautiful state that it is simply impossible to visit Vermont and not fall in love, especially between the months of September and October.  Its one of those towns you visit and you say "yep, I could live here" and then you spend the next five years looking at real estate listings for properties you can't afford. Guilty as charged. 

Sunday, November 4, 2018

A Guide to Castle Country

So you want to explore Castle Country, that area between Salt Lake and Moab that is a hidden gem.  An area where you can hike, bike, climb, ride ATVs, watch stock car races, walk through quaint a Main Street, buy art, shop, and dine.  All very dog friendly, affordable area and all without the crowds.  If this sounds like your kind of weekend, then Castle Country is perfect for you.   An area that was dubbed a layover between the city and Moab's red rock is so much more than a pitstop.  It's a fantastic place to spend the weekend exploring historic towns with so many recreation opportunities.  So to all my Salt Lake City friends, who want to explore a new part of Utah just two hours south of the city, this post is for you. 

Friday, November 2, 2018

Visiting Historic Helper, Carbon County Utah

When you walk down the main drag of an old western town, you can't help but feel like you've been transported back in time.  The little "city" of Helper, next door to Price where I had been playing and staying for this trip, was just that type of town.   Walking down this quiet Main Street on a Monday afternoon, I had my eyes peeled for a tumbleweed or two blowing across the road to really set the scene.  You take in the quiet, you relax a little, time sloooooows down.  

Maybe you came for the history, or perhaps you came for the art.  Maybe you are one of those Moab Layover types who "always wondered what was in Helper".  This city once known for its railroad and mining industry, has created its own unique and updated identity.  To me, Helper, Utah is a mix of Banff's iconic Main Street mountain view (desert edition) mixed with some Park City sidewalk style, a blend of old mining and railroad history, and then throw in a whole lot of Route 66 style.  Read on to see exactly what I am talking about. 

Monday, October 29, 2018

Wood Hill Trail System - Price, Utah

When the local bike shop owner asks you if you want to ride some more technical trails, and you haven't sat on your mountain bike in a long time until this trip, you should probably say no.  You should probably stick to the flowy easy type of trails you were riding the day before to keep your ego (and the bike) intact.  But instead, without hesitation, you nod your head with an enthusiastic SURE as your inner Katie is suggesting NOPE.  

You will probably notice the lack of photos in this post and the reason is pure and simple - I had a sure grip on my handlebars as we twisted and turned through tight trails, steep little pitches, gravel washes, navigated through overgrown desert brush.  My feet were snapped into my pedals making last minute decisions to stop nearly impossible as I navigated boulders and washes along technical portions of the trail, terrain that was not forgiving.   This was not the pedal and selfie sort of trail.  

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Riding the Good Water Rim Trail - Wedge Overlook & Little Grand Canyon of San Rafael, Utah

It's hard to describe the soothing sound of the gravel and sand crunching under your tires as you twist and turn through flowy remote singletrack.  It's a sound any mountain biker knows and loves (and craves), the quiet of the mountains in stark contrast with the sounds of the trail.  And then there is the insane view ahead of you as you are doing something you love - it creates that sort of mood that makes you stop and ask yourself "Is this really my life?".  Pedaling away and paying close attention to the trail as it rides the rim and snakes along the canyon wall.  These canyon walls drop over a thousand feet into the San Rafael river below just a yard or two to your right.  To your left, you have an endless expanse of small cacti and desert brush sprawling back towards the gravel roads.  You are also virtually alone since the trail is not a popular one which reminds you that you have just found a hidden gem.  It is a perfect fall day on my bike and I am reminded that life is well in the San Rafael Swell.  

I spent this Sunday following local bike shop owner Mark Jespersen on the trails, trying to copy his stamina and style as we rode along on our mountain bikes.  I am on a beautifully built (and borrowed) Specialized Enduro and it is shifting like butter unlike my cranky mountain bike back at home.  This full suspension Specialized is making me never want to ride my hard tail again.  We are biking along an area called "The Little Grand Canyon" and "The Wedge" and I am left a little speechless as I take in the wide open space out in what feels like the middle of nowhere.  Its that "so small" sort of feeling that is so easy to find in the desert.  

Monday, October 22, 2018

Gordon Creek Waterfall Hike - Utah

There is something special about finding water in the desert, an actual oasis in a landscape of dry windblown sand and towering rock wall.  Back home, a river meandering through the woods of New England is just another stream, another water crossing, another chance to get your boots muddy.  But out in the desert water is such a precious resource and one that is fought over, celebrated, and respected.  It is the center of survival in the desert and you can find those luscious greens in a landscape of harsh browns, tans, and yellows.  Water and clean air are things I always took for granted living in the Northeast and moving west really made me appreciate some of the simple things so much more

View down the canyon 

This was a great hike as I am always in search of those beautiful places - the open spaces and towering waterfalls that make you feel so small in the world.  Between the towns of Helper and Price, there is a lesser-known creek that winds its way through the desert and cascades over series of desert rock to form Gordon Creek Waterfall.  The stark contrast of waterfall to desert rock in the middle of the desert with no one around makes for a beautiful hike and the perfect place to soak in the sunshine with friends.  On a sunny Saturday in late September, Amanda and I only saw one other person on the trail.  This means we spent a good 1.5 hours at the waterfall taking in the scenery and the solitude in front of this impressive waterfall, enjoying the day.   

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Fall ATV Ride in Utah's Castle Country

There are a few towns between urban Salt Lake City and outdoor mecca Moab that do not get a lot of attention.  They have been known as Pee Town (the place you stop to pee on your way to Moab) or the "Speed Trap" (Wellington) as you make your way to southern Utah’s famous deserts.  This area between these two famous hubs, portions dubbed Utah's Castle Country (you will see why) is a beautiful area very few even know exists.  This once booming area which grew rapidly as a coal mining town, has slowed down and since earned the reputation as "The Moab Layover". 

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Ensign Peak Hike - Salt Lake City, Utah

Salt Lake City has a few classic hikes. You know what I am talking about…. the hike you bring out of towners to, your chance to show off the city you adore and the mountains you love. I have a list of these hikes I keep in my back pocket, ranging from distance to elevation, summit views or solitude.

For a good sweat and a sunset at a unique location with views, I take them to hike the Living Room. For a long meandering trail above the city, we head to the Bonneville Shoreline Trail or head to Twin Peaks. But for a really quick climb to see the city before dinner, I take them to Ensign Peak. Anyone who has ever visited me out west has likely climbed Ensign Peak. 1/2 mile and you are there, with sweeping views of Salt Lake City below. You can see State Street and its parallel neighbors stitching out into the horizon. You can see the traffic and the city buildings standing in stark contrast next to the beautiful Wasatch Mountains banking the city. The sun starts to set and you can sit up here with a view, your thoughts, and a beer. I have hiked this spot a dozen times, with out of towners, to see the super moon, or just with my dog to clear my head. If you find yourself in Salt Lake City, with a hour to kill and a desire to see the city from a different view, I hope you head to Ensign Peak.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Mt. Aire - Millcreek Canyon, Utah

Pumpkin Beer on the summit of Mt. Aire
My plane landed in Utah at 10:15 and truth be told, I was out on the trails by 12:00.  I was itching to be back in the Wasatch, hiking Utah's beautiful mountains at the edge of Salt Lake City.  When trying to pick out a hike, I knew I wanted something I hadn't done, something close to the city, a shorter distance (but still a workout), and with some great fall colors and a view.  I put out a "call to action" on Instagram and when someone suggested Mt. Aire, I was sold.  Pretty views, peak, 4 miles round trip, steep and steady, just next door in Utah's Millcreek Canyon.  

Friday, October 5, 2018

Backpacking the Moriah and Carter Mountains Traverse - White Mountains, New Hampshire

For someone who loves to spend time in the woods, who loves to hike, camp, sleep under the stars and drink wine by a campfire, it's surprising that I have never been backpacking.  Backpacking as in carried everything I needed for two days and one night deep into the woods to sleep under the stars, far away from a road or my car.  No car camping here, everything has to fit in an oversized pack on your back and there is no running back to the car for forgotten items.  Truth be told, I was always a little intimidated by the idea, but as I saw friends out in Utah on these great backpacking trips, I became more comfortable with the idea that I too could carry all my crap into the woods and sleep under the stars away from crowded campgrounds. 

I didn’t want to wing it so for my first backpacking adventure, I called my friend Ryan and we got some dates on “Katie Wanders Ryan Saunters” shared google calendar. Our original plan was to do an overnight on the CT section of the Appalachian Trail, some other backpacking trip further up north, and then tackle the famous Presidential Loop. Well, summer slipped on by as it tends to do and two weeks out I was looking at my google calendars reminder that it was PRESIDENTIALS WEEKEND (I had yet to step into the woods with my heavy pack and tent).  I asked Ryan to find something a little more doable for my first backpacking trip and he sold me on the Moriah and Carter Mountain Traverse in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. 

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Scuba Diving with Seals - Glouchester, Massachusetts

Diving in New England gets a bad rap.  It's murky, it's dark, there is nothing to see, the water is cold.... Oh, the list goes on.  For all the warm water divers out there, who only don their gear when the temperatures are warm and the water is clear, you are missing out on some amazing local diving.  Amazing sea life, famous ship wrecks, and artifact finding right here in our sometimes murky waters.  

If you are lucky, you may even get the chance to swim with something a little bigger than lobsters and flounder.  Over labor day weekend, I had this awesome opportunity to spend some time in the water with some of New England's favorite residents, harbor seals and gray seals. 

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Summit New England Challenge - 6 states and 6 summits

So you want to the best views in New England?

Well dear reader, you are going to have to work for it.  As someone who loves the mountains I may be biased but in my opinion, some of the best views of New England are seen from her highest summitsA year ago today, I was standing on top of Mount Katahdin, Maine's highest summit and my last New England peak to conquerConquering all six New England summits took a lot of planning (like a lot, a lot).  But let me tell you, that feeling on the top of that last mountain, surrounded by awesome friends and the most amazing views of Maine knowing I had just planted my hiking boots on each New England state's highest summit felt g-o-o-d.  It's worth the planning, every hour in the car, and every uphill climb, even over those boulder fields. 

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Overlook Mountain Hike - Ruins, Fire Tower, and a View - Catskills, NY

By the beginning of the summer of 2018, I had finished my New England High Peaks and I vowed to venture out of the six states we refer to as New England.  Until this summer, I paid little attention to the Empire State outside of trips to New York City, days spent watching the horses race at the Belmont, or to spend some time at the beach in the Hamptons.  When July rolled around, I wanted to spend some time in the woods of New York - I wanted to soak in the streams, float in the lakes, hike wooded trails, and drive through those quiet back roads.  Dreamy, right?

 It all started with the Adirondacks as I convinced my parents that this part of New York was worth four days during fourth of July.  They enjoy anywhere with a 50 amp service for their RV, so off to Ausable Chasm in New York we went.  We spent the holiday hiking, eating, camping, rafting, biking, drinking, and swimming through northern New York.  After this trip outside the city and Long Island limits, I was hooked. 
Gimme all those mountain views and lazy streams.

Monday, September 3, 2018

Turning 30 (A Recap) and 13 Pieces of Advice for 20 somethings.

This blog is full of trail guides, trips to breweries, scuba diving spots, and travel itineraries.  But once in a while I find myself sitting behind my Mac, typing out events going on in my life behind the veil of summit photos and casual candids.  I've written about lessons in losing, yearly recap posts (
201420152016 & 2017), and even my thoughts on 28.  Given my occasional dabble into things that are serious and often hard, I knew I had to commit to something good for 30.  I will let you be the decision maker if this is that "something good".  

I had been planning on writing a post on turning 30 for a long time, but 30 came and went and I still wasn't finished with this post (can't hit publish, can't hit publish).  I am glad I had writers block because as it turns out,  I learned a whole lot after the day I turned 30 (I learned a whole lot more these past two months.....).  I suppose leaving your 20's isn't as transformative as you think.  Lesson 1a?

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Bingham Falls - Stowe, VT

Picture this, a short scenic hike to a beautiful waterfall with an emerald pool in Stowe Vermont.... a swim in the refreshingly cool pool below included.  

Places like this, and mornings like this one, are some of the reasons why New England is such a beautiful part of the planet.  Trying to describe New England to my friends out west was always a challenge.  Sea level is not as inviting to people who strive to conquer Colorado's 14 footers, or people who love to sneak into the backcountry sight unseen for 5 days.  We may not always have those classic deserts, insane summit views, or towering prominent peaks.  BUT, what we do have is amazing bodies of water, ranging from woodsy waterfalls to beach coastlines.  And the green.  Here in New England, there is just so much green... oh how I missed this level of green. 

Monday, August 27, 2018

Idletyme Brewing Company - Stowe, VT

If you have been following Katie Wanders for a while, you probably know a few things to be true:  1) I love to be active and 2) I love to park my behind at a brewery immediately after said activity.   Hike/Ski/Run, Beer, Repeat.  And if I am being honest, it has to be good beer - preferably local, preferably new to me.  As some may tease, I have a loose set of rules when it comes to boozing in various locations.  You can drink a Narraganset on the Block Island Ferry... you can drink a PBR on a ski mountain, but in about every other situation, it has to be good beer. 

After a great hike up Mount Hunger, three silly sweaty hikers left the trailhead and immediately drove to one of the local breweries to drink cold beer (and cider, and vodka) and order everything on the menu that was deep fried or smothered in sauce and cheese.  A few hundred calories burned and a few thousand consumed.  It was a weekend for the books, just not the scales. 

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Hiking Mount Hunger - Waterbury, Vermont

Spending time with your favorite gal pals up in the Green Mountains on a sunny Saturday is the ultimate "reset" for the tired soul.  Friday at quitting time we packed up the car with 8 bags of snacks, roughly 200 spiked seltzers, and our best 90s playlist for the drive north to Stowe, Vermont.  We woke up early Saturday morning and grabbed some coffee, bagels, and bacon before heading to the neighboring town of Waterbury, Vermont for our hike.  We rolled the windows down as we drove to the trailhead, blasting our favorite 90s jams, singing all the words we thought we knew.  Every good adventure starts with the windows down and the music up.  

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Citizen Cider - Burlington, Vermont

Citizen Cider
It is hard for me to go to Vermont without spending at least $100 in beer to bring back home to my well stocked fridge or to thirsty friends.  This trip was no exception and after biking Burlington for the day and a delicious lunch at Sweetwaters, I hopped back on my bike to check out the well known and loved Citizen Cider. 

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Ferry Crossing New York to Vermont - Biking Burlington

Ferry entering Port Kent, NY 
When you spend four days in northern New York, you have some time to cross state lines and explore beyond the Empire State.  Up in Ausable Chasm, you can do this quite easily (and affordably) in neighboring Port Kent.  You can leave New York behind and take an hour cruise across Lake Champlain over to Burlington, Vermont.  One scenic boat ride is all it takes and you can swap quiet Ausable for bustling Burlington, home to amazing breweries, great food, and amazing bike paths.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Ausable Brewing Company - Adirondacks, New York

One of my favorite and I mean favorite ways to end a great day of hiking Indian Head Overlook is by sipping tasty local beer at a craft brewery (extra point if its a new one).  Trying new breweries is always fun, but beer just tastes so much better after a long hike, mowing the lawn, or in the back country areas of ski trails - can I get an amen?  When Ryan mentioned passing by a brewery on his way to the campground, we quickly added Ausable Brewing Company to our list of must-see before we leave.  Maybe it was the hike, maybe it was this gorgeous piece of property, but views of Indian Head followed by local cold beer in an oversized Adirondack is just about the best way to celebrate a Saturday. 

Monday, July 23, 2018

Indian Head and Lower Ausable Lake Hikes - Adirondacks

With all the New England summits down, I am excited to start expanding my "hike list" outside of some of New Englands famous high peaks.  Don't get me wrong, I loved standing at the top of Kathadin (ME), hiking the 13 mile loop around Greylock (MA), following the AT to the top of Bear Mountain (CT), seeing the fall foliage on Mount Mansfield (VT), and tackling famous Mount Washington (NH). But I was excited to escape New England for a long weekend in New York to see what hiking the Adirondacks was all about, to see a part of this big state outside it's famous city. 

Before I left for New York, I sent out a "call to action" for a list of everyone's favorite hikes in the area.  Google provided me with some pretty good options but when a friend posted on instagram about her favorite hike in the entire northeast which just happened to be in the Adirondacks, she caught my attention.  I changed my google search to scour the internet for pictures of somewhere called "Indian Head".  What came up on my screen was one of the most beautiful overlooks I have seen here.  It was a large rock cliff hovering over charming Lower Ausable Lake where you could take in the amazing view of the High Peaks Wilderness and the iconic lake below.  All it took was a few photos of this spot and my Saturday was planned in the land of no cell service, following pristine streams and wooded trails to this amazing vista. 

Friday, July 20, 2018

Visiting Ausable Chasm, New York

So often in life, we take advantage of the little things.  We get so wrapped up in the "need to do" and daily sing song of life that we forget to do whats really important - spend time with people we love.  In this digital and forever-connected age, it's so easy to let friendships and relationships slide to the wayside when we cant find time to make it work.  While I can be just as guilty, since moving back to Connecticut two years ago, I have a greater appreciation for spending time with the people I love.  2,282 miles will certainly give you perspective on how lucky you are to spend time with the people who mean the most to you.  

This spring, I bought a house and have been forever grateful to the help of family and friends in turning this place from a fixer upper to a home (theres nothing like free labor and expertise to make you realize how lucky you are).  So in the spirit of spending more quality time with family and friends and when my parents suggested a fourth of July trip somewhere (anywhere) just to spend time together as a family, I jumped at the chance.  I was excited to spend some time with these humans and for the first time in a while, without a paint roller or drill in my hand.  While everyone else in my family was busy or had their reasons for not wanting to join, I happily tagged along with my parents and planned a four day weekend nearly 5 hours away in the gorgeous Adirondacks of upstate New York. 

Monday, June 25, 2018

For the love of farms - Stone Acres Farm - CSA Review in Stonington, CT

Living in the beautiful town of Stonington (in the most quaint little borough) has so many perks from dining at its great restaurants to diving off the local beaches and wharfs.  But one of the best parts of living in this little borough by the sea is having access to some of Connecticut's freshest seafood and excellent local farm produce.  While living in Stonington, I had the opportunity to try out Community Supported Agriculture at a local farm just a few miles from my house.  Today's post is my review of a summer CSA from the beautiful Stone Acres Farm. Read about what CSA is, see exactly what you can expect, and see if a CSA is the right pick for you. 

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

A weekend at Squam Lake, New Hampshire

Its been a month since my last post and I have to admit, this is the longest quiet spell that KW has had in a while.  Life has sent me into a tailspin and I have been living by the motto "when you reach the end of your rope, tie a knot in it and hang on".  After a few stressful weeks, I decided to step away from some of the noise.  I grabbed my dog, my friends, and my camping gear and headed north for a weekend in the woods and on a quiet lesser-known lake in Central New Hampshire.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Arizona Wrap Up - Activities and Video

If you find yourself in Arizona, you will soon discover how much there is to do and see out here in the desert.  In just 3.5 days I was able to go hot air balloon riding, drive Tomcars through the desert, spend hours relaxing in the spa, attend a western chuckwagon dinner (complete with bull riding and line dancing), hike among the saguaros and chollas, and enjoy some of Arizona's amazing Mexican food.   

So like most of my wrap up posts, I figured I would share some of the best things I ate, what I did while visiting this beautiful state, and a video of my short stay in the Grand Canyon State.  

Recap Video 

The best thing I ate was easily breakfast at the Boulders Resort and Spa.  If you find yourself in Scottsdale, stop in to order the chilaquiles.  I ordered this more than once and plan to find a way to recreate this amazing breakfast.  Chicken, salsa verde, beans, and the perfectly fried egg are just a few of the ingredients in this amazing breakfast.  

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Hot Air Ballooning - Arizona

A hot air balloon ride has always been on my bucket list.  It was one of those adventures at the back of my mind, something I would do someday, somewhere at the bottom of my list.  Something I always wanted to do but for many reasons, never actually did.  

It's too expensive... there isn't a lot of it here... I am terrified of heights.... and on and on. When I had to chance to visit Arizona, and one of the activity selections was "hot air ballooning" I couldn't believe my luck.  Heck, I even passed up on whitewater rafting to wake up at 4:45 am and meet a bunch of strangers in a field somewhere in Arizona.   A Sonoran sunrise as seen from a hot air balloon - I finally had my opportunity to cross another item off the bucket list and step inside the basket of a hot air balloon.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Off-roading in the desert - Scottsdale, Arizona

Man, was it nice to be in the warmth of the desert.  After a week in Banff, spending my 30th birthday in negative-something-degrees, I was looking forward to - hell, I needed a week of warmth and sunshine.  And let's be honest, it is so much easier to pack shorts and tank tops than thermals, snow pants, and puffy coats.  After landing in Arizona, I embraced the sunshine and tolerated the chilly night famous to desert life.  But in the morning, it was shorts and sunscreen as we headed out to our first excursion of the trip.  

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

An Intro to the American Southwest

Scottsdale, Arizona
The desert was never high on my radar as a tried and true New Englander with a love of the ocean.  But travel enough and you can change your opinions on just about anything.  Truth be told, Utah is where I first fell in love with the desert and yes, most people forget that Utah is in fact, a desert.  This big state has a climate that varies from snow covered mountains to dry arid desert.  In fact, about 33 percent of Utah is true desert (average annual precipitation is five to eight inches).  It was in Utah that I really experienced my first desert, hiking among the slickrock of Moab and spending nights under a million stars at a quiet campground in the sand.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Guide to Banff in the winter - itinerary, tips, video, and cost

Turning 30 in Banff National Park

The last post of a series is always the best and saddest.  It's the best because I have already spent weeks recapping an amazing trip, detail by detail from what I did to what I ate.  I also get to share a fun video so you can see for yourself just how amazing these places are.  Sad because I can no longer talk about this beautiful destination and the amazing outdoor activities in the area.  But with one return flight home comes another trip planned somewhere else and this month was no different.  After landing back in the U.S. A I was on a plane next week for the American Southwest.  But before we get into saguaros and sunshine, let's talk about snowy Banff National Park one last time.

Visiting Banff National Park

I bet you now by know my trip to Banff National Park in the wintry month of February was purposely planned to celebrate my 30th birthday.  I wanted a unique destination, affordable pricing, and to see somewhere as beautiful (and popular) as Banff in one of its quieter seasons.  If you still need some convincing as to why you should head to Canada in one of her coldest months, then here are six reasons why.   If you are sold and want to see the beauty of Banff under a thick layer of snow, keep reading as I share fun facts on the park and area, information on getting to Banff, need to know details, and what I spent for 6 days, 7 nights in Alberta. 

Monday, April 9, 2018

Museums, Craft Beer, and Wolfdogs - Last day in Canada

View from the observation area at Cave and Basin National Historic Site (closed Monday Tuesday)

It was a whirlwind week in Banff National Park.  From three days of skiing, scenic drives, snowshoeing, ice walks, to dogsledding, we had seen a lot of different angles of this beautiful area in a short window of time.  Our last day of Banff was pretty open, stopping to see some of the museums and in Banff before making our way back towards Calgary where we would hop on a plane and head back for the states and temperatures above zero degrees.  We were up early, packing up the rental car with our ski gear and luggage with plans to stop at the Whyte Museum in downtown Banff and the Cave and Basin National Historic Site, famed to be where Canada's National Park system began.  Due to some lack of planning on my part, we pulled into the Historic Site to discover the visitor's center and cave was closed on Monday and Tuesdays.  We enjoyed the view and stretched out legs before jumping in the car to head to the Whyte Museum.  

Whyte Museum 

Our first real stop after the major fail at Cave and Basin was the Whyte Museum in downtown Banff, a museum dedicated to the history and preservation of the cultural heritage of the Rocky Mountains of Canada.  This was the perfect indoor activity to escape the breath-froze-my-hair cold and to learn a bit about the area.  You can see the bulk of the museum in an hour or so, learning about the history of the area, the cultural significance, and fun facts about Banff National Park.  We had a free pass to the museum included in our "Ski Big 3" passbook and were excited to spend some time learning more about this park we came to love.  The exhibits varied from bear safety to the foundation, early culture, and the location/access of the park.  If you want to escape the cold and learn about the park and the cultural history of the area, I highly recommend this museum 

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

6 Reasons to visit Banff (in the Winter!)

When I planned my 30th birthday in Banff and started to tell my friends, about my upcoming travels, I kept getting the same response over and over.  It went something like "That is awesome, I have always wanted to go to Banff... but in the summer".  Sure, Banff is insanely alluring in the summer with its sunny skies, turquoise lakes, and comfortable temperatures.  But in the winter, Banff is an quiet winter wonderland that should jump to the top of your bucket list.  And maybe, right before "visit Banff in summer". 

There are so many reasons you should visit Banff in the winter, ranging from scenic snowy peaks to budget-friendly options but for the sake of time and typing, I am going to focus on the Big 5. 

1.  The Scenery 

Banff is famous for its turquoise lakes and wildflowers. But Banff needs to be see with its white peaks and snow covered roads.  When I visited in January, it felt like every day a light dusting of snow coated the landscape. You start to feel like you are living in a snow globe featuring the most picturesque mountain town.  There is something about a blue bird day and crisp white mountains and trails that makes a winter day so darn beautiful.   Winter in Banff reminds you just how beautiful those cold months between November and April can be. 

2.  Inexpensive Lodging 

Banff is a town within a National Park.  Because of that, growth is regulated and currently, the town isn't getting any bigger.  What that means is while this place gets more and more popular, the lodging gets more selective and more expensive.  But in the winter?  Not the case.  There are more options for lodging and they are much more affordable.  A room in this resort was $100 a night in the winter, and $255 a night in July.  Its also already mostly booked up for the summer.  If you are on a budget - Banff in the winter is your best option to see this National Park.  

3.  (almost) Empty Streets 

Want to photograph beautiful Banff without all the people?  Winter is your friend.  The streets are quiet and you can walk through downtown without the masses or 54 tourists in the background.  This also means you can easily find a parking space and wont have to worry about traffic backing up on this road through town. 

4.  Bear - free

Terrified of grizzlies... or maybe just hyper aware (as you should be)!  Want to hike without worrying about these types of interactions with mother nature?  Go while the bears are hibernating of course!  This may seem silly but it is peace of mind to be in the woods of Canada and know the wildlife threats are greatly reduced.  If you are lucky, you may see some tracks in the snow in the morning.  But you wont have to worry about crossing grizzlies on the trail. 

5.  Popular sites are much quieter

In the winter, you can see some of Banff's most popular sites without all the crowds.  You can hike some of the most popular trails without seeing a single person.  You can make a reservation at the best restaurant in town without calling two months in advance.   I know I keep hammering the "less is more" in terms of crowds but for me, less people always means a better experience. Experiencing some of the most popular sites in Banff without all the crowds is one of the biggest perks to visiting this town in the winter.  

6.  Sled and Ski! 

My last point is the most obvious but is so important.  Visiting Banff in the winter allows you to experience world class skiing at three different resorts.  You get to experience this beautiful National Park, and get some runs in -  does this really need any more explaining?  And then theres dogsledding.  You only have a short snowy window to experience just how magical it can be to spend a quiet morning behind a dog sled making your way through the National Park.  

If you are looking for a reason to visit Banff in the winter, there are many.  World class skiing, budget friendly options, solitude, and of course famous snow.  The skiing, affordable price and the solitude was the reason I visited Banff in January instead of in its more popular seasons.  As much as I would love to see Banff in the summer, I have this lovely idea of a quiet ski town in my brain that just may stay like that forever.  Lake Moraine, you can keep your gorgeous color, I just might keep visiting Banff in the winter, so I can have the park to myself. 

Happy Traveling,