The Canadian Rockies, where shall i start ? That's a big mountain ridge that spans from British Columbia, Canada in the north to New Mexico, USA in the south. If we focus on the Canadian part, there are 2 major national parks and 2 other parks which are much smaller (I can't really understand why they are divided … When you travel you can't tell these are different parks). Banff is the southern of the two parks and closer to Calgary, while in the north you have Jasper. The little ones are Yoho and Kootenay.
My plan was to land in Calgary and drive to Banff, something like a 3 hour ride.I landed and went to get the car and in a moment of hedonism / recalling how much fun I had in Yellowstone, I decided to get a small SUV. I landed in the evening so ordered in advance some hotel nearby the airport. The next day I left for Banff not before stopping in a mall to get a local SIM card and some groceries. Lets just say I expected the SIM card part to be easier but that's a different story.
3 hours later I was in Banff, I bought the yearly pass in $68 which is valid for all parks. When I reached my room I noticed it as quite small but since I wasn't planning on spending too much time there, it didn't really matter 🙂 . I asked the guy there for some recommendations for such a cloudy day, because for example, it doesn't make any sense to use the gondola and not see anything … He gave me a map and I drove to Bow falls, small lovely falls not far from town. The next thing I saw was the "Hoodoos", kind of rock formations created and sculpted by nature forces, wind water and such. Then, for dinner I went to Eddie's a cool sports bar, where they air a few games in parallel, so I just sat on the bar with a great hamburger and a local beer.
The next day I woke up early, hoping to see sunrise over Vermilion lakes. There was no way I could see it. I drove by the lake shore but it was way too cloudy. Returned back to the hotel to have breakfast and then started driving towards Lake Louise. There are 2 ways to get there – one is highway #1 and the other, a more scenic, Bow Valley Parkway, where the Johnston canyon resides. According to the lady in the hotel it was the last day the canyon was opened before being closed for renovation.
The canyon is a good choice for a cloudy day since you don't really need to have visibility of anything like watching a mountain or a lake from far away. Temperature wise was great ! Something like 6 degrees, no wind, so when you're walking, you get warmed up. The trail itself is not too long but there's an option to extend it and visit the "ink pots", small water ponds.
Got back to the car, a little bit tired, and "refreshed" myself with a banana … and drove towards Yoho NP and more specifically to Takakkaw falls, which are quite high and seem like the water is bursting out of the rock. There was a short hike which almost gets to their pool and after that I moved on to Emerald Lake. You can say this is kind of the first lake I saw in the "Rockies" .
It was late afternoon, five-ish, so I hurried to do the lake shore trail. It was very nice, seeing the lake in its special color and as part of the trail you pass through the lake's "delta", the place where the river fills the lake, so obviously this is an area without trees. The other side of the lake has a different set of vegetation and this is because of climate. There's a high mountains that prevents light from coming in so temperatures are cooler and so on … The last part of the trail goes through a lodge which is located right on the lake – amazing !
From there I reached Deer Lodge in Lake Louise (highly recommended !) but my room wasn't ready so I searched for the town just to find out there isn't such. It's just a few stores with a big parking lot. This is also where the visitor center is located and it's always good to stop there to get some information.
Anyway it was already afternoon and my room was ready. This is when I realized how close the lodge was to the lake, within a walking distance ! So I went to see it for the first time (spoiler: there'll be many more to come). The colors weren't that nice so I returned to the lodge and remembered they mentioned something about a hot tub so decided to check it out. I'll try to describe the situation/scenery – Outside 2 degrees, I'm sitting in the hot tub looking at the Rockies and … it's snowing !!! This was really a surreal moment.
I woke up the next morning looked outside the window and didn't believe it, but I wasn't dreaming ! It snowed all night long so everything is white, c-r-a-z-y ! I decided to go to the lake quickly before all the tourists arrive. Now the color was grey/green with all the trees around it covered with snow, I was speechless. Of course I took loads of pictures – from the main point and also from other angles. After a while I went to get breakfast and decided to do the trail to Lake Agnes tea house.
When I returned to the lake the color was a strong turquoise. I start the trail, and of course it's uphill, and not too long after, snow starts to fall on me !! It's soooo fun, it's soft and fluffy 🙂 and I don't want it to stop. Already everything is white colored so the snow just adds to it. Once in a while you manage to sneak a look on the lake down below.
On the way to Lake Agnes the trail goes through the smaller Mirror Lake, which due to its size, is really dark (because of the trees). Eventually I reached Lake Agnes and the tea house where I didn't stop for a tea, but what I did do is continue on to the Beehive lookout. Right at this time the sun came out and provided great lighting conditions and a great view of Lake Louise in its glory !!
From here I started my way back, more or less in the same way, so I'll spare the details. I reached my card which was still covered in a layer of snow and decided to drive 15 minutes towards Moraine Lake. This was the lake that triggered my thinking about having this trip. I saw some image of it and made up my mind …
When I reached it, it didn't look the way I recalled it but it was nice in a different way because of different lighting and weather conditions which affect the lake's color. I started walking on the lake shore to see it from different angles. That was a short hike and following that I climbed "Rock pile" – a small hill which provides great photo-ops of the lake and its 10 surrounding peaks.
I was all enthusiastic and willing to go on another trail BUT on the trail there was a sign saying you must travel in groups of minimum 4 since this is bear country ! I looked around but it was only me (it was already late afternoon) so didn't take the chance … I'll need to come here again ! 🙂
I returned to Deer Lodge and visited the hot tub again which wasn't so good as the first time. Anyway … there was still some light out so I thought why not go see Lake Louise at sunset ? Don't know if you're following but this is the 3rd visit during that day !! So … I didn't get to see a colorful sunset but I noticed another trailhead on the left side of the lake, which seemed to be short, it was 1.7 km so "what can go wrong" right ? The sign didn't mention it was all uphill ! So I'm walking, alone, singing and whistling to myself in case there are any bears around. Along the trail you never see signs saying how much distance you covered or how much is left so I was about to quit when I saw some light … this was the balcony which provided great and different view of the lake.