A May 2004 trip
to Banff by Lovestogo
Quote: Our journey through the Canadian Rockies found millions of evergreen trees, snow-capped mountains, emerald-green and crystal-blue lakes, diverse wildlife, spectacular glaciers, and ever-changing mountain landscapes. What a wonderful time we had exploring the Rockies in Oh Canada!
This was our first visit to Banff, Canmore...Home%20of%20the%20Beautiful%20Three%20Sisters"target="_blank">Canmore, and the Canadian Rockies. We quickly discovered that even with the best-laid plans, 2 weeks was not long enough to see and do everything!
Some of our most favorite and memorable things to do were:
Use credit cards for as many purchases as possible since the exchange rate is better.
The Trans Canada Highway is the major link between Calgary and Banff/Lake Louise. Use extra caution when driving because everyone is doing the same thing -- looking at the spectacular scenery around them!
Fill up the gas tank every morning before starting on the day's journey. Gas stations on some scenic drives are few and far between.
Always have a jacket with you and dress in layers. The day may start off warm and you in shorts, but it can change rapidly. If you are in layers, you can easily adjust to the varying temperatures.
A short walk or hike can provide a wonderful memory. Sometimes the best sights are just around a bend or over a little hill. Get out of the car and explore.
If you are a wildlife enthusiast or just looking for something out of the ordinary to do, stop by the Banff Park Museum. Admission is for adults and for children. Here you will find life-sized exhibits of animals that you may never have the opportunity to see. People of all ages will enjoy this museum.
A car is required to fully enjoy the beauty of the Canadian Rockies. The area is spread out, and the scenic drives are just too beautiful to pass up.
A good way to see the town of Banff is to do a walking tour. The walk from downtown Banff to the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel and Bow Falls is only a few blocks. If you can walk a mile or two (one way), this is a beautiful way to see the city.
If flying into Calgary, rental cars are available onsite at the airport from Budget, Alamo, Thrifty, Hertz, Avis, and National. Enterprise and Dollar are just minutes away and will pick you up.
During our 2-week stay, we ate at the Mountain Restaurant several times because of the variety on their menu. Sometimes our appetite level or desire for the same type of cuisine was not together, so this restaurant had something for each of us. If we couldn’t make up our minds, we headed to the Mountain Restaurant. The food was always delicious, the portions were huge, and all, but one, servers were extremely polite and highly efficient.
We ate breakfast one morning at the Mountain Restaurant, and each of us had the deluxe omelet. A jumbo omelet it was, as it consisted of three jumbo eggs stuffed with cheddar cheese, bacon, ham, onions, mushrooms, and green peppers - all for C$12. Breakfast hours are from 7am to 11am.
Several evening meals were also eaten here, and we can attest to the Stuffed Pork Loin, served with steamed vegetables and new potatoes (C$18), Swiss and Mushroom Burger accompanied by a salad (C$14), Fish-and-Chips with choice of fries or salad (C$10), Fettuccine Alfredo with garlic bread (C$17), Curry Chicken (C$19), and Teriyaki Chicken (C$17), all being absolutely delicious.
Lunch is served from 11am to 5pm, with smaller portions and a cheaper price. Most items on the lunch menu are around C$10. The burgers, fish-and-chips, etc., are the same price, both at lunch and during the evening meal. Most items on the evening menu are between C$10 and C$20. A fully stocked bar provides drinks or a glass of wine to complement your dinner selection.
The restaurant has an enclosed window area that provides astounding views, but the tables are placed too close together for an enjoyable meal. However, most people still opted to sit there because of the beautiful views they had while eating.
Mountain Restaurant is open every day from 7am to 10pm.
Another plus for the Mountain Restaurant is the gift shop located next door. We found it to have one of the best selections, quality, and prices for Canadian souvenirs. A vacation is not a vacation unless you bring home a T-shirt or some other type of memorabilia. Enjoy the shopping and the food!
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on May 29, 2005
200 Village Road
Attraction | "Climbing Columbia Icefield's Athabasca Glacier"
The Columbia Icefield is one of the largest accumulations of ice and snow south of the Artic Circle. Lying in the middle of this 125-square-mile ice field is the Athabasca Glacier, which can be seen from the Icefields Parkway, and is easily accessible either by snocoach or walking.
When planning our trip, the snocoach tour caught my eye as something fun to do. We arrived at the Icefields Visitor Center and went inside to locate the restrooms and have a look around. We found the Snocoach Tours, a Parks Canada information desk, a gift shop, and the hotel’s front desk on the main floor. The second floor had a full dining room, an overpriced cafeteria, and a café with snacks/drinks. The third floor housed the 32 hotel rooms.
We went to purchase tickets, and after looking at the lines, stepped back to reevaluate. People were everywhere in an area that resembled an airport departure lounge, waiting for their assigned departure time. As we stared out the window and contemplated what to do, I suddenly suggested that we climb the glacier! Our friend Chris and my husband stared at me while I explained that we could get some exercise, save over $90, and have an unforgettable experience!
We drove across the road, passing year markers that showed where the glacier once had been. (It once was up to the visitor center’s steps). We grabbed our cameras, coats, and gloves and set out on a dirt and gravel path that snaked its way uphill to the glacier’s toe. As we climbed, the temperature became much colder, and suddenly, we were in ankle-deep snow. We had reached the glacier’s toe! An area marked by cones had been deemed safe for climbers, so up we went, stopping along the way to catch our breath, take photos, and enjoy the moment. Climbing straight uphill on the glacier was not easy, but coming downhill was even harder. Once we finished, we were tired but exhilarated! Many comments have been made since about me "being cheap," but what the heck, we climbed a Canadian Rockies glacier!
The snocoach tickets are C$32 (ages 16+), C$16 for children (ages 6 to 15), and free for those under 6 years old when sharing an adult’s seat. The snocoach travels a road that runs parallel to the Athabasca Glacier and then travels a short distance out onto the glacier. The Icefields Visitor Center is open mid-April to mid-October, with tours leaving every 15 to 30 minutes during the hours of 9am to 5pm April–September and 10am to 5pm in October. Reservations aren’t required, but this is tour bus heaven, so it is always busy/crowded. Allow at least 1.5 hours for the snocoach excursion.
Columbia Icefields is 80 miles north of Lake Louise and 60 miles south of Jasper on the Icefields Parkway (Highway 93 North). Provided you don’t stop to take advantage of the beautiful scenery around you, drive time is approximately 2 hours from Banff, 1 hours from Jasper, and 3.5 hours from Calgary.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on May 29, 2005
Attraction | "Bow Summit (Peyto Lake)"
There are no words or photographs that can capture or accurately describe the beauty of Peyto Lake at Bow Summit. It really is something you have to see to believe.
Bow Summit is approximately 42km (26 miles) north of Lake Louise on the Icefields Parkway (Highway 93). Bow Summit is not a mountaintop, but rather a height of land that separates waters that flow south to the Bow River from those that flow north to the Mistaya River.
Upon turning from the Icefields Parkways, a small parking lot is to your right, with restrooms. The main road continues up approximately a quarter-mile to a larger parking lot for buses and licensed handicapped vehicles.
On our first visit in early June, 2004, the road was barricaded with barriers and covered with more than ankle-deep snow. I had seen photos of this lake and was determined a little snow wasn’t going to prevent me from seeing it firsthand. As we walked uphill on the paved road, we encountered several folks coming down, and with looks of exhilaration, they all uttered the same words, "It’s… beautiful".
From the upper parking lot, a wide trail that is wheelchair-accessible leads down a short path to the overlook of Peyto Lake (1/10 of a mile). Once there, the overlook provides a panoramic view of what has to be one of the most breathtaking views you will ever experience.
Surrounded by dark green spruce, fir, and white bark pine trees, the deep, dark turquoise blue-green colored lake resembles a large arm that is slightly bent, with fingers whose color changes based upon the sun's every movement.
The lake’s deep-blue color does change as summer progresses and the nearby glacier’s melted water flows across a delta (large rock sediment that drops out of the water flow) and into the lake. This water is laden with finely ground particles of rock debris known as rock flour, which remains in the lake. It is not the mineral content of the rock flour that is responsible for the lake’s unique color, but rather the tiny particles of rock flour that reflect the blue-green sector of the light spectrum.
We made two visits to Peyto Lake, with our first visit (June 3rd) finding the lake’s fingers still frozen. A return visit to this most beautiful spot a week later (June 10th) found all the ice to be melted. To explore Peyto Lake up close, a steep trail leads down from the overlook, or a 1.6km trail leaves from the first parking area. (Beware, as this one is usually wet and soggy.)
The photos are spectacular, but the view in person is a million times better. To see the lake and the surrounding beauty, words simply cannot explain the feeling. But, oh what an impression it makes! If time is short and you have to choose what to see or do in the area, don’t leave the Rockies without seeing Peyto Lake/Bow Summit.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on May 29, 2005
Bow Summit and Peyto Lake
Banff National Park
Lake Louise, Alberta
Attraction | "Lake Agnes by Horseback"
Horseback riding has become one of our favorite things to do while vacationing in a national park. Being very novice riders, we search for a 2- to 4-hour ride that is moderate in terrain but provides a rewarding experience. Most of all, we want the gentlest horses.
We chose Timberline Tours, located at the Lake Louise Corral, behind Deer Lodge. They offered a 3-hour ride to the Lake Agnes Teahouse for $65. We made our reservations a day in advance and had our choice of either a morning or afternoon ride. We chose the afternoon ride, both for warmth and, hopefully, better photo opportunities.
After signing a waiver of liability, the three of us were matched to horses. My horse was named Tom and quite smaller than the other two. Chris’ horse was Skipper, and my husband still jokes that his horse, Bud, was just one letter away from Buc, as he would saunter along, then take off in a fast gallop to catch up.
Our 3-hour journey through the woods with Roy, our guide, was both beautiful and serene. As we left the corral, the trail was extremely muddy with standing water. The horses didn’t seem to mind, but I was glad I was riding instead of walking! We encountered several areas with snow still on the trail due to the abnormally late snowfall, but it didn’t stop the horses as they climbed the steep trail.
About 45 minutes later, we stopped at Mirror Lake so the horses could rest for a short spell and get a drink. Mirror Lake is set below the cliffs of the Big Beehive and receives little wind, so a reflection of the snow-covered cliffs above was an added bonus to the emerald-green water that still had ice floating.
With our horses watered, we continued steadily climbing until we reached an area where we left the horses and continued on foot. As we climbed a set of stairs, I heard running water, and soon, Bridal Veil Falls came into view, with the water carving its way through a mound of snow and ice to flow rapidly over the mountainside.
Finally we had reached the Lake Agnes teahouse!
Lake Agnes is a cirque lake surrounded by jagged mountain peaks. On our visit, the lake was still mostly frozen and the teahouse had just opened days before.
Many hikers were here, having made the steep climb up to munch on a sandwich, cookie, or a piece of lemon-poppy-seed bread. Some were simply content to sip a cup of tea or hot chocolate, while others enjoyed the soup of the day. We sat on the teahouse balcony, enjoying the immense beauty of the Bow Valley and Lake Louise below us. The allotted 40 minutes flew by, and soon, we were descending the stairs, ready to start the return journey on horseback.
The best way to describe the Lake Agnes trail ride: "WAY COOL" and highly recommended!
P.O. Box 14
Banff, Alberta T0L 1E0
We did some easy walks/hikes while spending 2 weeks in the Banff and Canmore areas. These are strolls that anyone can enjoy on almost flat and wide, well-groomed trails or boardwalks. However, all three of these are also some of the most popular sites to see, so crowds are always around.
The Lake Louise Shoreline Trail is one of the busiest but also easiest trails that provides awesome views of the Chateau Lake Louise, as well as the lake itself. With very little elevation gain, the path follows the lake, is easy to walk, and is also wheelchair accessible, with the first 300m being paved. There are benches along the path where you can stop and enjoy the sparkling emerald-green waters of Lake Louise, and perhaps if you are lucky, someone will be canoeing or kayaking on the lake.
Near the end of the shoreline trail, there are some good rocks for climbing, and on our visit, quite a crowd had gathered around to watch several climbers. A good view of Mt. Victoria and the Victoria Glacier can be seen from the end of the lake. There was also grizzly-bear activity at the end of the lake, with a grizzly sow and her cubs nearby on our visit. The Plain of the Six Glaciers trail can be picked up at the end of the lakeshore trail.
Early morning is the best time for taking photos and to possibly avoid some of the crowds.
On our visit in early June, 2004, the lake was almost nonexistent, with the small amount of remaining water still covered with ice in places. This was one of the downfalls of visiting in late May/early June. However, we were able to walk on the bottom of the lake that normally is 75 feet deep. We didn’t spend much time doing this because the feeling resembled that of being in quicksand, the rocks gave way as the soft mud underneath had a tendency to sink in.
From the parking lot, cross the bridge and a short trail leads to the top of the quartzite rockslide that created Moraine Lake. This provides the best view of Moraine Lake and the Valley of the Ten Peaks.
The Moraine Lake Trail follows alongside the lake and is picked up right beyond the Moraine Lake Lodge. There were several spots in the trail that were muddy and had standing snow and water, so we tried to dodge them. Throughout the trail there was a couple of small wooden bridges to cross, and at one point, we were totally swarmed by mosquitoes. We were thankful at that point for our rain jackets! At the end of the lake, we sat on the wooden boardwalk and wondered what the view would have been had we been a couple of months later on our visit. Ah, but this will entice us to make a return visit!
Like Lake Louise, the best time for taking photos at Moraine Lake is in the morning.
From the parking lot, cross the bridge and go past the Johnston Canyon Lodge and restaurant for another easy hike that provides some beautiful canyon and waterfall views.
Johnston Canyon consists of seven waterfalls, and, for us, getting there was half of the fun. A catwalk has been built through the canyon, which is made of concrete, with a metal handrail to hold onto. This sometimes puts you out over the bubbling and swirling water, which adds excitement to the hike. The trail to the Lower Falls is narrow but wheelchair accessible and 1.1km (0.6 miles) in length.
From the Lower Falls, another trail continues for 2.7km (1.5 miles) that increases in elevation and goes from easy to moderate. (This trail is not wheelchair accessible). But the payoff is the Upper Falls, which thunders down almost 100 feet for a spectacular waterfall. There are benches along the way to sit, rest, and enjoy the views. Another trail (3.1km) leads from the Upper Falls to the Ink Pots, which are mineral springs whose sediments reflect sunlight, producing a brilliant aqua color.
The best time to visit Johnston Canyon for photos is early afternoon. Even then, we had difficulty in taking our photos due to the darkness of the canyon walls.
Johnston Canyon is also a very popular hike in the Canadian Rockies. There is no time for solitude here either, but the effects of water eroding through limestone can easily be seen on this short but enjoyable hike/walk.