6 Fall Mountain Activities That Will Help You Relax
September’s best ways to find Zen in the mountains
Photography by Orange Girl
Autumn brings with it a change of colours and, more often than not, a mountain of stress. As summer vacations give way to the familiar juggling act, consider leaving the busyness behind to tap into what matters most. If Zen is what you’re after, look no further than the Canadian Rockies, where these six activities will let you reflect, recharge and refocus.
Canoeing and kayaking are wonderfully calming and meditative activities, thanks to the quiet repetition of paddle strokes and the serene feeling of floating through space. Bring your own boat up to the Rockies or rent one at Moraine Lake, Lake Louise or the Banff Canoe Club on Bow Avenue in the Banff townsite. Paddlers love following the Bow River to Forty Mile Creek and out to Vermilion Lakes, where impressive views of Mt. Rundle can be seen right from the boat.
Challenge your focus further by adding a balancing element to your water time. Stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) is a fantastic way to enjoy the mountain lakes in the fall, and it isn’t quite as hard as it looks. Locals will tell you to put in at Two Jack Lake or nearby Johnson Lake in Banff National Park or the Canmore Reservoir near the Nordic Centre. Bow Valley Stand Up Paddleboarding offers rentals and lessons.
Take a hike
photograph courtesy of banff lake louise tourism/Paul zizka
A stroll in the fresh air is often the best antidote to a busy schedule, and autumn is the perfect season for a hike amongst the lofty peaks. As temperatures cool, the larches in the mountains turn gold, providing a striking contrast to the bright-blue alpine lakes.
If these yellow needles are what you’re after, try Larch Valley, Lake Agnes and Sunshine Meadows in Banff National Park, and the Lake O’Hara region of Yoho National Park. Lake O’Hara can only be accessed by bus, so you’ll have a relatively crowd-free experience.
Take part in a mediative walk
If you can’t seem to calm your mind on your own, consider joining a guided meditation walk with Eco Yoga. According to the company’s owner, Ronna Schneberger, when people come to the mountains, “they miss this amazing sensory experience because they are shut down.” A guided walk through nature will help you relax your mind, tune into your five senses and sink into a more reflective space.
Another wonderful walk can be found near Fernie, B.C., on the road toward Island Lake Lodge. The 1.5-kilometre Old Growth Trail provides hikers a rare opportunity to see ancient cedar trees and revel in their awesome size and majesty. The hike finishes at the lodge, where you can have a drink or a bite to eat on the patio while overlooking the pristine lake.
Spend a day at the spa
Red Earth Spa.
The idea of the “spa” may seem synonymous with relaxation, but, according to Penni Ellis, manager at Red Earth Spa in Banff, there are a few things you can do to ensure you get into the Zen zone.
“Make it a day just for you, instead of a social event with friends,” she says. Ellis also encourages people to leave their devices behind, alongside their thoughts about work and home.
Look for treatments that let you free your body and your mind. Try the Dream Cloud massage ($165/75 min.) at Red Earth Spa and take home your own bottle of oil infused with lavender, bitter orange and other ingredients, or combine massage and meditation with the Chakra Massage ($105/60 min.) at Canmore’s Bodhi Tree Spa.
Stretch, breathe and ohm
Unroll your mat in the mountains for the ultimate in mind-body connection. Yoga gives you the chance to stretch out your kinks, breathe deeply and clear your mind. From arm balancing to guided relaxation, you’ll find a variety of interesting workshops to choose from at yoga studios throughout the Rockies.
You can also pop into regularly scheduled classes at almost any studio. Try Hatha Restore at Canmore’s The Yoga Lounge, Restorative Yoga at Banff’s Rocky Mountain Yoga or Essential Yoga Studio in Fernie, B.C.
Essential Yoga is also hosting a weekend retreat, Nov. 7 to 9, at the Elk View Lodge near Fernie – participants will learn all about what chakras are, how imbalances can affect your life and how to move past them. The weekend will also include a variety of spa treatments.
Go horseback riding
photograph courtesy of banff lake louise tourism/paul zizka
There’s a reason why horses are used for therapy: these beautiful creatures mirror your reactions and emotions. If you are tense or nervous, your equine friend will let you know, giving you a reminder to relax and simply enjoy the ride. Better yet, you can leave it up to the horse to watch its steps as you watch the breathtaking mountain scenery unfold around you.
Horseback riding is available throughout the Canadian Rockies, including Kananaskis Country and Banff National Park. From hour-long riverside trots to overnight outings, the back of a horse just might be where you find your Zen. Inquire about carriage rides if you’d rather be cruising behind the horse.