Lake Louise is probably the most famous lake in the Canadian Rockies, know for its beautiful landscape, strikingly green-blue water colored by the rock flour carried from surrounding mountains and a luxury hotel (The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise) that's been standing on its eastern shore since the early years of the 20th century.
Lake Louise is a glacial lake situated at 1,750 m above sea level, about 20km from Banff 5km from the hamlet of Lake Louise and the Trans-Canada Highway that turns west towards Golden at the Lake Louise hamlet (while the famous Icefields Parkway continues north to Jasper).
We take a Greyhound bus from Canmore to Lake Louise, and get off at the Samson Mall, around which the small not-quite-village of Lake Louise is concentrated. We want to have a look at the famous lake before catching an afternoon bus to Golden, where we have a couch arranged. It's cold but not raining or snowing and although it doesn't feel like May should – more like March or maybe early April – we are hoping that we could have a peek at one of the most famous sights of the Rockies.
We don't have a vehicle, though, and the perspective of a four-mile uphill walk along a road (or a three mile uphill walk through possibly bear inhabited woods) provokes a major whinge in the Older Child who is suffering from something between a severe cold and a mild flu and who always feels Very Sorry For Herself when her nose is running. We get fortified by a pie and a hot chocolate in a cafe in the mall and leave our packs in the post office (which seems to be a hub of all activity in the hamlet and functions also as a bus terminal, luggage store, internet cafe and a car hire place) before setting off, slightly gingerly, towards the road to the lake.
We walk up and as we walk, we attempt – halfheartedly as there is, after all, four of us – to hitch a lift in any of the cars that are passing us. Amazingly, within about ten minutes a car stops: it contains two French girls who agree to take us up the hill (and who, we find out, are also on the CouchSurfing website, just as pretty much anybody we meet traveling in western Canada seems to be). We pack in (there isn't quite enough space for six in the car, but it's only a few miles) and soon we are getting off in the car park at the top.
The 100 meters difference in elevation can be felt easily: it's colder, and there is snow everywhere. The lake is still frozen, with only a bit of melt at the eastern end where the Louise Creek leaves the lake on its 3km journey to the Bow River lower down. The surface is still covered in ice, and snow, and we can't see the famed emerald water reflecting the towering mountains that surround it. But it's still an impressive sight, and we embark on a walk along the lake's northern shore. The landscape is in a monotone now, with shades of white, grey and black dominating. The mountains look forbidding, especially Fairview Mountain on the southern side of the lake, whose rocky crags fall steeply towards the lake.
The lack of color makes one concentrate on the textures and patterns of snow, trees and clouds. The glaciers at the head of the lake are blazing white in the sun that trickles through the clouds, but our path is still overcast, and it will remain so all the way to the turning point two kilometers down the trial, when it becomes too slippy, and when the Older Child becomes to whingy and runny-nosed to go on. We are rewarded with a sight of a frozen waterfall at the hillside by the path, have our sandwiches and bananas perching down on large rocks sticking out of the snow and turn back towards the huge pile of the Chateau hotel (it's actually quite easy not to have it in the line of sight, despite its size).
As we walk out of the car park, we try to wave a car down (but we are prepared to walk, and downhill will be easier) and one stops before we even get on the road properly. A single guy in his sixties, in a large, black four by four, takes as down to the mall cheerfully and without any problems.
We collect our stuff, post a parcel with sub-zero clothing (which we optimistically but reasonably think we won't need anymore) back to the UK and decide to hire a car instead of taking the bus to Golden (it's only a little bit more expensive and will give us a chance to stop and detour on the way). Soon, a little red Dodge is all ours and after a steak dinner we are off towards the Great Divide, Yoho national park, British Columbia border and Golden.