Lake Louise - in my opinion is nicer than Banff. While it is commercialized, it is a smaller scale. There are numerous hikes along the lake. There are 2 teahouses in the mountains that can only be reached by hiking. We haven't went there yet, but we plan on checking them out next summer.
Some of the pictures below are taken from a trail by the parking lot. The trail goes on a steady climb for 1.1 km. The elevation gain is 100 meters in this 1.1 km distance. It was a good work out for an early morning outing. When we got there, there was about 3 cm of snow on the ground so the trip up the trail and back down was a little slippery.
Shortly after driving through Canmore, we arrived at the southern entrance to Banff NP. Three of these very cute buildings owned by Parks Canada serve as places where you can purchase your required Park pass as you drive by. In our case, a Day pass for a group of 2-7 adults cost us C$14 (US$10).
Parks Canada is responsible for running 41 National Parks and 149 National Historic Sites across the country, and they really do a good job of keeping things presentable!
From Calgary, you can actually see the Rockies off in the distance. Once you get onto the TransCanada Highway and get past the Winter Olympics park on the outskirts of the city, you have a really good view of these snow-capped peaks. I stopped to take this photo of the scene as you approach closer and, in not much more than 1 hour, you are among the mountains and entering Banff National Park.
After entering the Park, the highway heads up the Bow River valley between the towering mountains on either side and seems to be headed straight at a huge peak. This is the 9800 foot (3000 m) Cascade Mountain, so high that the old glacial era was not able to erode its sharp peaks! Eventually, the highway swings left at the foot of the mountain as it continues to follow the river valley. At that point you are very close to the town of Banff on the left, but we kept on driving further north to Lake Louise.
The Rockies are not just a perfect habitat for wildlife such as bears, elk and bighorn sheep. You are very likely to encounter lots of small animals as well, such as squirrels, chipmunks and birds like Clark's Nutcrackers.
Pay some attention to them, these animals can be very much fun to watch as well.
In the north of Banff NP, close to the Athabasca Glacier and the border with Jasper NP, you can find the trail to the Saskatchewan Glacier. It is a very nice trail but rather steep. (3 km. one way; elevation gain 155 metres). Saskatchewan Glacier is the longest glacier that comes off the Columbian Icefields.
This is one of those trails where uphill and downhill really make a difference. Uphill it took us about 1 1/2 hour. The way back only took us a little over 1/2 hour, but the threatening thunderstorm over our heads might have helped to speed things up. The last part of the trail is rather level. If you reach this point keep to the left and follow the path, even though the glacier is to the right, since this will lead you to the best view of the Glacier and the Saskatchewan Valley.
To travel anywhere in the Canadian Rockies you need a park pass.
There are Park Gates in various locations & always manned by Rangers who will stop you to check your pass.
You can buy a day pass or upto 4 days, but if like us you are staying longer they will recommend an annual pass as it is cheaper.
The pass allows you to visit all National Parks in Canada.
My pass is still valid until June 07 if anyone wants it - please ask
Lake Agnes gets lost in the shuffle between its more famous sister lakes of Louise and Moraine but though smaller and a tad less pretty, it is surely a better place to find some solitude. Of course, to do that, you will have to head to the far end of the small lake.
Lake Agnes is only a 3.5 kilometer hike from Lake Louise though you pick up a fairly steep 385 meters of elevation along the way. This will bring you to a charming little teahouse that serves light snacks and beverages. For many, this is what makes this area special, for others it is a sign of over development. Since I do not use such facilities, I fall into the later category but there are only a couple in the park so there are numerous trails without such man made structures.
The round trip to the teahouse is around 2.5 hours. On the opposite side of the lake, you will escape 90% of the people that hike up to the teahouse and can continue on to make a circuit rather than return the way you came. You can also connect this hike to the Plain of Six Glaciers that way.
Many complain that Banff National Park is over-crowded and as Canada's most popular National Park, it does get its fair share of visitors but with over 1000 miles of trails, it is not likely all of them are jam-packed. Of course, the trails around Lake Louise and Moraine Lake get the most action so if seeking solitude, they are not your best choice. That said, we chose to do just that as with limited time in the park, I wanted to show my wife an area I knew to be quite beautiful despite the crowds and development.
The Plain of Six Glaciers is a 5.3 kilometer one-way hike that takes you along the shore of Lake Louise before rising up 365 meters into an alpine area featuring six glaciers. Unfortunately, the glaciers have receded a lot due to global warming and you may have to strain a bit to see some of them. It remains a beautiful hike though it is very busy up to a teahouse half-way up the trail. Beyond that it is a scree walk and thins out quite a bit. This is a pretty hike in itself but can easily be connected to the Beehive hike and Lake Agnes. By doing that, you will be hiking 14.6 kilometers which will take about 5 hours, only about an hour more than returning the way you came though you will have an additional climb by combining the two.
It is Saturday June 7. We are heading south on Highway 93 on the Icefields Parkway. Hans pulled in to the parking area for BOW SUMMIT. (Elevation 2088 metres/6849 feet). We had to walk up a very steep path to get to the look-out. As you can see, there was still snow on the ground. As I am huffing and puffing on my way up, I'm saying to myself"This better be worth it!"
What we saw was an amazing panoramic view of PEYTO LAKE. Hans and I just stood there in awe. "Oh, my God, that is simply beautiful" The lake derives its brilliant blue hue from silt deposited by glacial melt that reflects in the sun.
Lake Louise is the most famous glacial lake in the Canadian Rockies and one of the most beautiful in the Western Hemisphere. LAKE LOUISE was named for Princess Louise Caroline Alberta, daughter of Queen Victoria.
The Bow Valley Parkway is the scenic alternative to Highway 1 from Banff to Lake Louise. Although not as stunning as the infamous Highway 93, it is still very much worthwhile driving along.
There are many stops on the road, including stops for the Bow River, mountain views and of course the beautiful Johnston Canyon.
We drove along this road twice. Once on the way back from Lake Louise. It was a miserable rainy day, so we didn't get the good scenery we were expecting. The second time we drove was the next day. It was a clear blue sky, and the road had just come alive with views and wildlife! We had the priviledge of meeting some Elk grazing at the roadside!
The turnoff to the Bow Valley parkway is just after Banff heading north on Highway 1, or take the Lake Louise turnoff if you are heading south.
As we were in LAKE LOUISE on June 7 and the ice was still melting, we didn't get to see the lake in all its glory. Ideally the lake is deep turquoise. I guess we will just have to go back again some day.
The area is otherwise known as Lake Louise Ski Resort in the winter. In my opinion, if you have to decide between the Sulphur Mountain Gondola and Lake Louise Gondola, choose Lake Louise, which gives you more bang for your buck, especially the ride and breakfast deal. You have a choice of enclosed car or ski lift chair. I would recommend the enclosed car if you are afraid of heights.
The price of the gondola ride includes presentations, the most interesting and informative one being on grizzly bears . The highest concentration of grizzlies in Banff National Park is in the Lake Louise area; the reason being the large number of berry bushes that started growing on the cleared land while the ski resort was being built.
We were at the grizzly bear presentation, and as part of it, were taken down to a small stream . When we returned up the path, there was grizzly bear poop on the trail. The sneaky bear had come and gone and had maybe been within 50 feet of us. Our guide also told us of how, on one of the last rides down, she passed over the splayed out sleeping form of a grizzly who decided to crash for the night in plain view on the ski hill. So, definitely, there may be a chance to see a grizzly.
Pyramid Lake Road, 5 km from Jasper, Jasper, Alberta, T0E 1E0, Canada
Good for: Business
Friend's of mine were visiting Alberta so we decided to splurge and share a room at the Fairmont...more
This is a fantastic place to stay if you are on a budget. The rooms are well equip with everything...more