We have just spent five days exploring the stunning Banff and Lake Louise, going through Banff, Jasper and Yoho national parks with our free Canada 150 park pass. There is so much to do and see in this beautiful area surrounded by the Rocky Mountains, and we think Banff and Lake Louise are great areas to explore. Here are our top 5 travel suggestions.
Grab a canoe at Lake Louise
You may have all seen the amazing photographs of Lake Louise in both Summer and Winter. It is a beautiful place to visit and will take your breath away. Stunning turquoise waters encapsulated in epic mountains that drop steeply towards the waters edge. What they don’t tell you is how many tourists who take over the area with their selfie sticks, all trying to capture the perfect moment. The Lake is still beautiful, but probably doesn’t have the same sense of wilderness as it may have done all of those years ago when first discovered.
Our tip: We suggest hiring out a canoe for a hour and rowing away all of your troubles, and also away from the tourists! It is quite expensive but being in a tourist area it will be – around $110 CAD for the hour. We actually went out on a reasonably windy day where the water was a little rough. This made it a little more difficult to control the canoe but nothing a reasonably fit person couldn’t deal with and it was still totally worth it. Once you go towards the mountains it will feel like it is just you and the landscape. Bliss.
Love tea? Take a hike!
Located in Lake Louise is a beautiful hike that takes you high up into the mountain next to the lake. Taking a slow, calm walking pace on the hike will take over an hour to get to the top, but the tea and views are worth it. Along the way you will come across fellow hikers who will spur help to you on if you’re feeling tired. At the top sits a little tea house, located on Lake Agnes at 7,005ft above sea level. This high up you may still experience snow, even though its the middle of summer! It does get quite windy and cold up there, so be prepared to bring layers for the top and on a sunny day and thin layers for the bottom. The tea house itself is fairly small but serves great cake, hot soup and a large array of herbal teas from across the world. Being British, the hike for tea itself is well worth the effort. Make sure to bring cash as otherwise you will be disappointed at the top, as there is no card machines or internet. We were lucky enough to meet some great Canadians on our journey so the hike up there was full of chatting, learning and laughter. A moment for us that we will never forget.
Take an evening safari
Banff Tours do a relatively cheap evening safari so we decided to take the dip. The safari itself was 2 hours long and our driver was very informative. Along the way we learnt a lot about the local area and wildlife that inhabited it. There were a few stops along the way to take photographs of the stunning views. We saw a Grizzly Bear, some Elk and a small herd of bighorn sheep. I would say though that as this is around the local area of Banff you could easily hire a car for less money and drive around to find some wildlife and see the stunning views for yourself. We did come across a few cars along the way who had already come across a juvenile Grizzly. If you do decide to do this please make sure to be aware and understand the animal and its behaviour in its natural habitat. Respect the animals boundaries and never leave your vehicle as this is bear country after all!
Discover the Icefield
If you want to try something different head over to the Columbia Icefield. Around a 2 hour journey down the epic Icefield Parkway from Lake Louise can feel like a long time, but the stunning views of flowing rivers and majestic mountains that dominate the landscape you encounter on the drive alone make this journey worth it. Again this place gets super busy so try and get there early to get a car parking space or later in the evening. It may even be worth booking in advance to get money off and also make sure to take some food with you. When we arrived it was reasonable, however within an hour it was packed with people and you do at some points feel like cattle being herded. This is a very popular tourist trap so people are to be expected everywhere. The tour is run by Brewsters who also do a coach tour from Banff to the Icefield – but it’s very expensive and an incredibly long 7-9 hour round-trip, so it’s much easier to take a car instead (which means you can do all of those lovely stop offs on the way).
The basic package at just under $100 CAD per person included the ice tour and the sky walk. The tour onto the glacier was great fun and we got to experience the ice explorer trucks, which have been specially adapted for the glacier. The drivers are very informative and know their stuff! We advise taking warm clothing and suitable footwear as it is cold and can be very slippery and wet (it is ice after all!). We even experienced snow whilst on the glacier. What we do advise is to not be one of the annoying tourists who clearly ignore the safety rules. Many people up there ignored the boundaries set for them and were even very rude to the safety marshals. We saw people walking beyond the safety line, jumping around and letting their children out of these bounds just to try and get photographs. I must repeat, you are on a glacier, that is slippery and full of crevasses that you could fall into in one wrong step, so please be a good tourist and stay safe.
The skywalk is like an added extra, which was good fun and does test your bravery as the floor is made completely out of glass. You will naturally come across our pet hate – the selfie stick, and also tourists lying on the floor to try and get the glass photo. We did notice this blocked many other peoples pathway, especially those who were being extra brave on the glass but needed to hold the handrail, so please be respectful. 🙂
Take in a different view of the mountains
Overall this area of Canada was a very beautiful place and if you are an avid outdoors fan it never ceases to amaze you. We definitely suggest hiring a car as it makes travelling so much easier and you can find some beautiful spots you may not have planned along the way. Just beware that some areas are more touristy than others so if you want to avoid that experience try and get there early or plan for later in the day or evening.