Next up on our journey through the Canadian Rockies, we arrive in Banff National Park. We tried to do as much as we could on our short visit here as the park is filled with so many natural wonders, its impossible to see everything. One of the final stops we visited before leaving the park was Lake Minnewanka, located just outside of the village of Banff. It is one of the most beautiful lakes to visit while in the Rocky Mountains, with crystal blue water and towering mountains in the background.
Banff was the first National Park in Canada (1885), established in order to preserve this beautiful place from the encroachment of humans when the Hot Springs in Banff was discovered. We’re lucky that they did because this part of the world is spectacular. There are too many mountains to count, and so much to explore if you have the time. There were many highlights, especially visiting the various glacial lakes that are scattered throughout the mountains.
We arrived into Banff NP from the north, as we had driven along the icefields parkway (highway 93) from Jasper. After a long day of traveling south, we still had time to stop at Bow and Peyto Lakes, but it was late in the day, and we arrived in Lake Louise after sundown.
We were lucky to have better weather in Banff than we did in Jasper, but we still had to deal with the recent snowfall. We had originally planned some amazing hikes, but our gear limited our options for hiking in the snow. It didn’t stop us, but it certainly slowed us down.
This was one of the downsides to visiting the Canadian Rockies in the shoulder season when winter can quickly alter your plans without any consultation with the visitor.
Our second day was supposed to be our biggest day of exploring, and we woke up excited to explore, but when we arrived at the turnoff to Moraine Lake, we found out that the road was closed for the season due to the heavy snowfall the previous couple days.
We decided to find other things to do; we had a large list of things to see, so we were not worried. Before we left we had to visit Lake Louise. This is one of the most beautiful and most visited locations in Canada. The crystal blue lake looks beautiful, with glaciers and mountains located up the valley. The crowds were incredible, as bus load after bus load of visitors crowded the viewing area.
We decided to take a walk along the shore of the lake to find some different views. The further we walked, the more the crowds thinned out and we were rewarded with some incredible views. We kept walking until the end of the lake and noticed the path that went up towards the glaciers was well-packed down, so we decided to see how far we could make it with our hiking boots.
We hiked for about an hour, pushing ourselves to go just a little bit further. When we arrived at the viewpoint, we knew we had made the right decision, as the views of the surrounding mountains and the Plain of the 6 Glaciers was unforgettable. We were out of drinking water and hadn’t planned on doing such a long hike, so we had to turn around at this point and return back towards the lake. The views of the lake on the way back down were perfect, and we couldn’t have spent the afternoon at a more enjoyable place.
We drove to Banff for dinner at a local brewpub, spent a well deserved hour at the hot springs, and checked into our hotel in Canmore. Our final morning before leaving Banff, we stopped at Lake Minnewanka and took a hike along Stewart Canyon. The views of the lake were incredible, but sadly the trails were too slippery to explore more, and we had to move on to new destinations.
Much like our experience in Jasper, there is just too much to see in one trip, but we have already started compiling a new list of things to do in Banff for our next trip. It really is one of the most incredible National Parks anywhere on this planet, and there is no shortage of things to do. Next time, we will return in the summer so that we can get into the alpine, but we’re pretty happy with how our trip turned out.