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banff springs hotel with view of banff

Finding Wellness Among the Pines and Peaks of Banff

banff springs hotel with view of banff

The Rocky Mountains are in immaculate view from the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel. (Claudia Laroye photo for Vacay.ca)

The beauty of the Canadian Rockies as a year-round dream destination coalesces in the expanse of Banff National Park. Known for its epic winter ski conditions, summer recreation opportunities, and iconic landscapes, Banff is also home to indoor and outdoor wellness experiences that enhance the mind, body and spirit. From morning yoga to luxurious spa treatments, forest bathing and Indigenous medicinal walks, these wellness experiences put guests in touch with nature and enhance any visit to Canada’s original national park.

view of bow river from banff springs

The Bow River is glimpsed from the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, home to a luxury spa. (Claudia Laroye photo for Vacay.ca)

A Sacred and Spiritual Place for First Nations People

Banff has been an important and spiritual place for Indigenous groups for millennia. The national park is located within the Treaty 7 region of Southern Alberta, encompassing the traditional territory of the Blackfoot Confederacy (the Siksika [Sik-see–gaa], Kainai [Gaa-Naw], and Piikani [Bee–gaa–knee] nations (also called Peigan); the Tsuut’ina [Soots-in–naw] First Nations and the Stoney Nakoda Nations of Chiniki, Wesley and Bearspaw.

Many Indigenous groups view the distinctive mountain overlooking Banff as Sacred Buffalo Guardian Mountain by the Holy Springs. It has also been called Sleeping Buffalo Mountain. Many know it today as Tunnel Mountain, even though CP Rail eventually decided not to dig a railway through the edifice.

Visitors to Banff can experience the spiritual importance of Banff to Indigenous cultures on a tour with Mahikan Trails. Its owner, Brenda Holder, conducts trail walks and tours that introduce guests to the land, including to medicinal plants of special significance, such as tobacco, sweetgrass, and sage.

“We bring people to the land and connect people to the land through their stomachs, through their hearts and through their souls,” Holder notes.

hiking in forest

Hiking through the forest in Banff is a serene experience. (Noel Hendrickson photo/Banff Lake Louise Tourism)

She speaks of plants as “standing people” who have been gifted to us as protectors and providers, and that the connection to the land and animals is a sacred one that must be honoured and respected. Medicine walks take place all year, including in winter where there remains a surprising amount of flora to discover and appreciate.

Get Into the Flow of Yoga in Banff

Start the morning off with a virtual session with Banff Yoga Practice. Visitors can sign up for virtual classes or attend in person at their studio in town. The morning virtual walk-up flow class is a wonderful way to find balance, mindfulness, and stretch those sleepy muscles. If you choose to pose remotely, the studio sends out a Zoom link 30 minutes prior to the beginning of class.

lady practicing yoga

Get your flow on with Banff Yoga Practice, located within the historic national park. (Claudia Laroye photo for Vacay.ca)

Spa Life at Fairmont Banff Springs

Can there be wellness without spa treatments? If there is, we don’t want to know. Guests of the Fairmont Banff Springs hotel can access renowned face and body treatments in-house at the Willow Stream Spa, as well as lounge near soothing waterfalls and bathe in a warm mineral pool.

The luxurious 90-minute Redefining Body Wrap uses natural, non-toxic Tata Harper products in its deeply hydrating body treatment to calm the mind and rejuvenate and renew the skin. The treatment includes a smoothing body scrub followed by a nourishing body massage, wrap, and a restorative mini-facial.

banff springs mineral pool

Taking in the waters at the Fairmont Banff Springs mineral pool. (Claudia Laroye photo for Vacay.ca)

Picnic in the Fresh Mountain Air

Grab a regular or vegan “charcuterie” picnic to go at The Radiant. Opened in June 2020, this restaurant and arts and culture space located on Banff Avenue features an interior that harkens back to the glory days of Art Deco. There is no shortage of beautiful al fresco spots to spread out your checkered blanket, but if you’re hungry, walk your picnic over to the closest green space in Central Park, adjacent to the Bow River. (Tip: The Radiant also has a Barkuterie board, for your fur baby.)

food on picnic table

Need a lunch reco? Try a fresh vegan charcuterie picnic from The Radiant in Banff. (Claudia Laroye photo for Vacay.ca)

Forest Bathe Among the Alberta Pines

With its origin in Japan, the practice of a type of forest therapy called Shinrin Yoku or forest bathing, has taken root in Banff. This practice, which translates to “taking in the atmosphere of the forest”, involves spending time in forests and nature to help decrease stress, lower blood pressure, recalibrate the body and mind to a feeling of wellness and joy. The good news is you don’t need to wear your bathing suit to get the benefits of bathing among the trees.

Ronna Schneberger is a certified practitioner of Shinrin Yoku and owner of Forest Fix in Banff. Her guided forest-bathing practice invites guests to immerse themselves into a meditative session of observing and being present among the trees.

tea pot and cups in grass

Steeped pine-tip tea is a beautiful ending to the Forest Fix experience. (Claudia Laroye photo for Vacay.ca)

“Connecting to nature is something we really need to do,” says Schneberger. “You can feel a mind and body reset by just going and sitting in the forest, listening to the wind in the trees, the birds, and the water, with intention.”

Her invitations to experience the forest around Banff help guests slip into a reflective state that has them looking at trees in a whole new way.

woman sitting with teapot in forest

Enjoying moments in the forest with Forest Fix founder Ronna Schneberger. Credit: Claudia Laroye

Wellness at the Castle in the Rockies

Dubbed Canada’s “Castle in the Rockies”, the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel is a landmark that has been providing legendary hospitality for more than 130 years, including wellness and farm-to-table dining. The Banff Springs has partnered with Three Sages, an app that offers succinct, accessible and carefully curated wellness experiences. Something they call “Sips of Wellness”, a program designed to help people integrate healthier practices into their lives and make travel less stressful.

Guests can access the program via their in-suite television. Select the category “All Be Well” to choose from the playlist categories: yoga, stretch, mindful breath, mindfulness, and sleep.

Where to Nourish the Body

Banff has a fantastic variety of restaurants and food purveyors. Nourish Bistro is the town’s premier vegetarian oasis. Since 2005, Nourish has been committed to providing innovative vegetarian and plant-based cuisine. Featuring inventive craft cocktails and farm-to-table ingredients, the restaurant also serves a delectable 27-ingredient order of nachos.

nachos at nourish bistro

The 27-ingredient nachos at Nourish Bistro are a must when in the mountains. (Claudia Laroye photo for Vacay.ca)

The brasserie-style Vermillion Room at the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel is a grand deep blue velvet and brass dining space with a kitchen that serves dishes with French elegance and Canadian charm. The healthy dining menu is headed up by new executive chef, Chi How Kit, appointed in July 2021, and features French favourites like escargots, rotisserie chicken, and steak frites.

mushroom gnocchi with cheese

Delicious mushroom gnocchi at the Vermillion Room, one of the many eateries inside the Banff Springs Hotel. (Claudia Laroye photo for Vacay.ca)

Private In-Suite Brunch or Dinner

The Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel inaugurated its private in-suite dining experiences in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Available to guests for brunch or dinner and offering two exclusive menus, these experiences are offered in the privacy of some of the most historic, intimate, and scenic views of the hotel. The in-suite family-style brunch experience features breakfast favourites such as eggs Benedict, pancakes, fresh fruit and yogurt, as well as make-your-own mimosa ingredients. 

lady enjoying breakfast

Writer Claudia Laroye enjoys a mimosa during the private in-suite brunch experience at the Fairmont Banff Springs. (Photo supplied by Claudia Laroye for Vacay.ca)

Tips for Visiting Banff

  • Plan your visit and book hotels, meals activities or rentals ahead of time for the best experience.
  • Leave your car parked and explore Banff and Lake Louise by bus, bike or hiking boot. Visit explorethepark.ca for local tips on the best ways to get around.
  • If you are planning to visit Moraine Lake and Lake Louise, the best way is to reserve a Parks Canada shuttle ahead of time to guarantee a seat. Learn more.
  • Banff and Lake Louise is ready to welcome Canadians this fall. Watch welcome video.
  • There is a lifetime of experiences available in Banff and Lake Louise for all ages and interests. Stay longer and explore more.
  • Visit banfflakelouise.com/travel-information for the most updated travel information.

Claudia is a travel writer and editor in Vancouver, Canada. She writes about adventure, family, food and wine, luxury and sustainable travel for print and online publications around the world. In addition to travel, Claudia loves chocolate, guacamole and pineapple margaritas.

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