Two roads run parallel through the Bow Valley from Banff to Lake Louise (58km): the faster Highway 1 (the Trans-Canada); and the quieter Bow Valley Parkway (Hwy-1A), opened north of the river as a special scenic route. After Banff, there’s only one link between the two roads, at Castle Junction, 30km from Lake Louise. Both routes are impressively beautiful as the mountains start to creep closer to the road, and for the entire run, the mighty Bow River, broad and emerald green, crashes through rocks and forest. Despite the tarmac and heavy summer traffic, the surroundings are pristine, giving a sense of the immensity of the wilderness to come. Sightings of elk and deer are common, particularly around dawn and sundown, and occasionally you’ll spot moose too.
Both roads offer some good trails: one of the best day-hikes in Banff National Park is the Bourgeau Lake Trail off Hwy-1; Johnston Canyon, off the Parkway, is a classic short hike.