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Tales from the Trail: Banff National Park

The Hotel California of Alberta, Canada is where you can check out, but you can never leave.

Location: The Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel

Trail: Mount Rundle Trail in Banff National Park

Check out anytime you like…

Banff, Alberta is on the bucket list of many outdoor enthusiasts. The abundance of trails with stunning views of waterfalls and Lake Louise and the convenience of a hotel right inside Banff National Park make it a trail oasis for hikers and runners. But not all is what it seems to be with the conveniently-located hotel. The legendary Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel may be just the perfect spot for a spirited Hotel California-style tale of guests who may have checked in — but have never checked out.

As the story goes, a beautiful young bride was excited to be getting married in the opulent Castle Ballroom one evening in the early 1930s. The grand marble staircase leading down to the ballroom was festooned with decorations and candlesticks to set the romantic mood, and as she descended in her flowing white gown, she brushed against a flame, startled herself and tumbled violently down the stairs to her death. Ever since that day, guests of the Banff Springs have consistently reported seeing her apparition, still in her white lace gown, roaming the stairs and the ballroom, waiting for a ceremony that never took place.

Banff Springs is also home to a more jovial spirit, that of a beloved bellman named Sam McCauley who worked at the hotel for many years until his death in 1976. The faithful worker is said to have come back to his favorite place of employment to continue to do what he loved the most: assisting guests. Multiple visitors have found themselves in a jam — locked out of their rooms, needing assistance with bags, or requiring directions to a different part of the hotel — only to be helped out by a friendly bellman with a delightful Scottish accent who went above and beyond to make their stay enjoyable. He even accepted tips! Yet there’s been no such bellman employed by the hotel since the Scotsman McCauley’s passing. Shiver.

If you’re visiting the Banff Springs Hotel, you might want to conveniently “misplace” a room key or forget to take it with you on a trail run — and hope to be assisted by the friendliest ski-town ghost around.