My trip to the Canadian RockiesDay One
I flew from Denver to Calgary, rented a car and drove to Banff. It was a little more than a two hour flight, and I got to Banff in the mid-afternoon. I stayed the first night at the Buffalo Mountain Lodge which is located outside of town, up near the top of Tunnel Mountain. It was relatively expensive, and I was generally disappointed with it, not being as luxurious as I had anticipated. I did, however, make use of the fireplace in my room and enjoyed a nice fire on what turned out to be a typically cool evening. That afternoon and evening I scouted town, finding the information center for Banff National Park, a few shops, restaurants and the hotel I was moving to the next day.
I checked out of the Buffalo, and after a leisurely breakfast and early morning in town, checked into the Banff Park Lodge. It is on a quiet side of downtown Banff, close to the Bow River. I had wanted to stay here the first five days, but it was full for the first night. It was reasonably priced, and I got a nice large room with a wonderful view of Cascade Mountain. It also had a great pool, hot tub and spa that I made frequent use of during my stay. I can recommend the Banff Park Lodge.
Late that morning and afternoon I hiked the C-Level Cirque and Stewart Canyon trails near Lake Minnewanka. Then I drove up the Bow Valley Parkway and hiked Johnston Canyon. Afterwards, I had a very nice meal at the cafe there at the mouth of the canyon.
I set the alarm to get on the road before dawn, and drove to Lake Louise for sunrise. After a few quick pictures, I had coffee and a snack in the Chateau. I then drove to Moraine Lake and scrambled on the rockpile for an hour or so before heading back to Lake Louise for some more coffee. I then crossed the Continental Divide and into Yoho National Park where I visited the Natural Bridge before taking a lovely hike around Emerald Lake. I had beers at the lodge there before heading to Takakkaw Falls.
I had another leisurely morning in town before heading up to Kootenay National Park. I hiked to the Ochre Beds, Marble Canyon and on the Fireweed Trail near the Continental Divide.
I spent the whole day in and around Banff, visiting the upper Hot Springs, the Banff Springs Hotel, Bow Falls, Tunnel Mountain and the Vermilion Lakes.
I checked out early and headed up the Icefields Parkway to Jasper National Park. Along the way I stopped frequently to appreciate the views, and also did a major hike at Wilcox Pass. I got to the town of Jasper around dinnertime, and checked into the Mount Robson Inn. It was reasonably priced but unremarkable with very simple facilities, the only exception being the restaurant which I enjoyed. I scouted town that evening, and bought groceries.
I drove down to Maligne Lake in order to take the first boat tour of the day at 10am. It was the only organized tour I took on the trip, and I enjoyed it very much and would recommend it. Your only other options to see the far end of the lake and Spirit Island are in a canoe or kayak which would take most of a day paddling, or an overnight backpacking trip. This is one of the few major attractions in the parks not accessible by road. I stopped at Medicine Lake, and hiked Maligne Canyon on the way back up the valley. I then stopped at the Jasper Park Lodge where I enjoyed beers and a snack before heading back to town.
I headed out to Mt. Edith Cavell and had a wonderful hike to Angel Glacier. I spent a good part of the morning listening to and watching ice fall off the glacier, and enjoying the absolutely beautiful setting. I then continued down highway 93A to Athabasca Falls, and then on to Goat Lookout.
I drove back down the Icefields Parkway, again marveling at what must truly be one of the most magnificent stretches of road in the world. I stopped at the Icefield Centre and to hike up to the toe of Athabasca Glacier. I also stopped at Saskatchewan Crossing. I then went to Lake Louise for another major hike up to the teahouse at the Plain of the Six Glaciers. This evening I checked into the Marriott Residence Inn at Canmore, which is just outside the park about 15 miles from Banff. Being outside the parks, Canmore is less expensive. The hotel is nearly brand new, and my large suite was the least expensive lodging on my trip. If you don’t mind the extra drive, I recommend it. It provided me the perfect opportunity to prepare myself for the upcoming flight back to reality.
After a drive above Canmore towards Spray Lake to Goat Creek, I headed back for one last tour of the shops in Banff. That wasn’t quite enough, so I also strolled around Canmore’s main street before having dinner. The following day I drove back to Calgary and flew home.