John had been to Canada before and had done the drive from Calgary into Banff. Unfortunately at the time he did it the weather was abysmal so he didn’t get to enjoy the stunning landscape he was driving through. It was one of the things on our trip was we had to do the drive on a nice clear day. After five days of mostly rain in Calgary the skies cleared up and we were in for perfect days in Banff.
Most people when they hear Banff and Jasper think of the tiny little towns. There is actually a huge amount more to both Banff and Jasper. They are just the little towns named after the national parks to which they subside in. Be prepared for lots of people in the towns especially in Banff but if you are there to enjoy the nature then you will easily find secluded wilderness walks not far from the towns.
We took our time on the drive enjoying every moment of the incredible scenery. The mountains growing, the forrest’s widening and the rockies becoming rocky. We stopped off in Canmore on the way to take a little walk around the town. It is not officially in the national parks but it has chosen to abide by many of the same rules. Many of the buildings are in the similar style which gives the place a lovely and mountainous feel.
From there we crossed over into Banff National Park. It really is a stunning place. We made our way straight into town and to find a place to stay. If you are going there in peak season I would definitely recommend booking a camping ground in advance.
We found a few campgrounds were fully booked but we ended finding a perfect spot out toward Lake Minnewanka. Said Mini Wonka not wanka as we all want to say it. This was at the Two Jack Main Campground. If needed there are also overflow campsites.
It is common to see mountain sheep on the roads out near Lake Minnewanka. We saw lots in our time there, at one point there was a big herd of about 30 on the road. There are also lots of elk around too.
We stayed in Banff for five days of beautiful perfect weather. It was so nice to get out and about and do lots of hiking. We did on average 15-20km each day in either long hikes or a few shorter ones. They were all stunning.
One of the hikes to do from town that is awesome is a short trip up Tunnel Mountain. It has beautiful Panoramic views over Banff town below and even better of the river and mountain behind.
We had asked around to some of the parks guides for some hikes they would recommend in the area. Corey Pass was one of these. It is not for the faint hearted. This trail is not too long in distance but it is steep. The first few Km’s just go straight up. After having mostly sat in a car for a good while we were really tired. It was actually the steepest hike of all the hike we did in the whole trip across the country.
It is worth it though. There are many places to catch your breath and enjoy the every changing view. When at the pass you can return via the same trail or take a loop. We took a loop which led us back down a slippery gravel trail then into the woods. It was a good day.
We were tired after so we went into town for dinner. Magpie and Stump was our choice for the evening. A really good mexican restaurant. John had actually been to the same place about 12 years earlier. It was still good!!
Another stunning hike we did while in the Banff area was Bourgeon Lake and Harvey Pass. The first part of the hike is a nice steady climb up to Bourgeon Lake. It was the perfect place to sit and have a late lunch. We had originally planned on only doing this part of the hike. The lake is nice and little situated below a big ridge and summit above. There were lots of cute chipmunks and Marmots running around.
From there we decided to head up to harvey pass. Only an extra few Kms and a bit steeper but well worth it for the view. Everywhere you looked was just out across the tops of other mountains in the rockies. The leaks seemed to go forever it was beautiful and so peaceful.
When you are up on harvey pass you can continue on to the summit if you wish also. We didn’t do this as it was pretty cold and windy up there and we were not prepared for it. Also it was getting later on in the day. We didn’t know about the summit hike until we got up there so another day we will make it.
After our awesome days spent around Banff town we headed out to Lake Louise. Here we spent one night. We arrived to Lake Louise around lunchtime. It is a tiny place and is crazy busy for tourists. We knew this before going there and that not to even try to go to the lake between 10am and 5pm.
We just went straight into the Parks Canada Info centre to find out about all the things we wanted to do and plan it for the next day. Here we asked the staff what they would recommend we do for the afternoon instead of heading into the lake. Their recommendation was get out of Banff and go to Yoho for the day. So we did.
We took the short and awesome drive out into the Yoho national park. Our first stop was Emerald Lake which was busy enough there and hard to find a park. We walked around the lake. It is a nice walked with diverse forestry.
After that we went up to Takakkaw Falls. It was super interesting. This is a Burgess Shale site which means it has fossils of sea creatures found on top of the mountains and ridges from when it used to be a sea bed.
The Falls themselves are quite big and beautiful and you can take a nice walk up to the base of them. For us one of the best parts was the big storm brewing in the distance, looming over the surrounding mountains.
Watching it come over we decided it was a good time to head back into Banff Park. All the campgrounds around were fully booked so we went into the overflow carpark for the evening. We set ourselves up and had dinner. It was the perfect time to head out to view the lakes after dinner. We were able to drive right up and even get a close car park. We could see where the traffic was backed up to.
We went to see both Lake Louise and Moraine Lake. Both were stunning and deserving of their attraction. On the way up we saw our first grizzly bear on the road side. Apparently she is there often. There were lots of idiots getting out of their car to get close to take pictures. Even with their kids. Some people are not smart.
The next day we were up early and into Lake Louise before 8.30. We got a park in the car park and were some of the first hundred people out on the trail. Here we had breakfast and made some lunch before setting out on our adventure for the day.
The journey for the day was the tea house’s trail around the lake. First we climbed up to the Lake Agnes tea house. Here we were just in time to get one of the last tables before the queue started. It is an beautiful tea house settled part way up the mountian with a great view overlooking a small mountain lake. We had a tea there and got some take away sandwiches.
We continued on our route higher and to the back of Lake Louise. There were some great places to stop and enjoy the view overlooking the glacier carved pathway down to the lake and beyond. At one of these we had our sandwich and some soup for lunch. It was a perfect setting.
The last stop was at the plain of six glaciers. Here there was another swiss style tea house nestled into the mountain side with a perfect view. We had some more tea and some cake. It was super cool!
The hike back down was also beautiful.
We were back around mid afternoon and had to fight our way through the crowds of people surrounding the lake front lookout. It was mental!!! We got back in the car and headed out of town and out of Banff. Making our way into Jasper.