Back to Banff - This time with family
After my trip to Banff and the Canadian Rockies with the PD back in 2015, I wanted to take my family there. The area is spectacular and I knew they would enjoy it as much as I did. In 2016, I headed back with my family and we enjoyed someone the same places I had seen before, but explored a lot of new areas. We were not disappointed.
Day 1 - Arriving in Calgary
We arrived in Calgary and stopped for a bite to eat. It was pouring rain as we drove around looking for a spot to park. We dried off inside of Murrieta's and had a great dinner before we headed out for the pleasant one and a half hour drive to Banff.
We checked into the Juniper Hotel, the same place the PD and I stayed in 2015 and settled in to prepare for our upcoming adventures.
Day 2 - Lake Louise
We woke up to a cloudy day. I was worried that our trip was going to end up as wet as the one from last year. We arrived to Lake Louise and the ever-present crowds. We stopped for a moment to take in the world class view. We then headed straight to the boat house to go canoeing.
Luckily for us, we passed a family that had VIP passes given to them by the hotel that not only allowed us to canoe for free, but bypass the line of people waiting for canoes and life jackets.
Before you could say "auspicious," we were in a canoe and paddling in the unreal glacial blue waters of Lake Louise. We made it all the way to the back of the lake, under the looming Victoria Glacier. On the way back, it started raining and we were glad to get back to the dock.
We warmed up, dried off, and had lunch at the Fairmont as the rain slowly cleared. We were ready to hike up to Lake Agnes and see the Tea House.
The well-traveled trail can be steep at times, but it's very pleasant with increasingly good views as you ascend. We passed Mirror Lake on the way up and stopped to enjoy it for a while.
We passed some horses and climbed the final steps to the Lake Agnes Tea House.
We stayed up there awhile, having some tea, coffee, and some snacks. We spent some time enjoying some of the benches around the lake. It is truly in a remarkable location, perched on the edge of the lake, overlooking the Slate Range with the Bow River Valley below.
We headed down as the rain started again. We drove back to town for dinner.
Day 3 Enjoying the town of Banff and hiking Johnston Canyon
We woke up to a sunnier day and decided to walk around the town. We had some breakfast and crossed the river to head to the Cascade Gardens, which was a beautiful. We headed up to the Cave and Basin historical site. On our way, we say an elk grazing calmly next to the road.
At the Cave and Basin Historic Site, we explored the cave below, and witnessed the Banff Snail, which only exists in the hot springs of Sulphur Mountain.
We decided to on the search for more wildlife and find a nice hike. We headed to nearby Vermillion Lakes, where there had been reports of wildlife.
While we saw no large wildlife, we did enjoy the view.
We then headed north of Banff to Johnston Canyon, where Johnston Creek flows toward the Bow River, having carved its way through limestone to form a very scenic gorge with several waterfalls.
On the way up, we saw a bear munching on berries in the bushes. It seemed pretty content, sitting on its rump while enjoying the juicy berries. It completely ignored the onlookers.
Our family always enjoys our hikes, so we took our time, taking in the sound of Johnston Creek and the sheer amount of water flowing over the waterfalls.
We made our way back to town and prepared to go far and wide the next day.
Day 4 - Icefield Parkway, Tangle Creek Falls, Sunwapta River, Athabasca Glacier
We headed out, aiming to see as much as we could see in one day. A benefit of being so far north is that the sun was setting well after 9:30 PM.
We drove up the Icefields Parkway, a well-maintained and travelled highway that takes you to more amazing sites than you could see on one vacation.
We made it as far north as Tangle Creek Falls, spending some time hiking around and enjoying the ambience of a huge waterfall mere steps from the road.
We then drove down to a turnout and enjoyed the view before deciding to make our way down to the Sunwapta River. The wide river plain was a stunning foreground to a view of Mount Kitchener to the south.
Everywhere we looked, we were faced with a jaw-dropping view. There were people lining up to pay money to walk out onto the Glacier Skywalk, but we enjoyed being away from the crowds and listening to the sounds of nature.
It was time for lunch, so we braved the crowds at the Columbia Icefields Discovery Centre. As we looked out onto the Athabasca Glacier, we all decided to make the trip out to it. We purchased tickets and took the giant rover out onto the glacier and were able to walk around on it. The pictures don't capture how blue it is. Or how cold it was.
Throughout the day, we pulled off to the side of the road to admire the many gorgeous views, or to stretch our legs. It was nearly dark before we arrived back into Banff.
It was a day completely full of wonderful sights and sounds.
Day 5 - Mount Norquay, Canoeing the Bow River, Vermillion Lakes
It happened so fast. Our last full day. We decided to head up to Mount Norquay, just above our hotel, to look for wildlife.
After a few moments scanning the grassy slopes above the ski resort for bears, we parked on the side of the road and hiked out onto a grassy opening in the forest. Before long, we spied two big horn sheep, making their way down the hill into the trees below.
We then spent a little time shopping in Banff before we adventured on. The day before was a long day of driving, so we wanted to maximize the time on our legs.
We strolled through Banff again, charmed by its position along the river and nestled between giant mountains, like attentive parents.
While my wife and daughter were in a store, I selected a bench along the Bow River and enjoyed the view.
I noticed a canoe renal place just across the river and, when they were done shopping, we headed over there and got our life jackets on.
We paddled up Echo Creek, hoping to reach the Vermillion Lakes, but got caught up in a narrow tributary, so we headed back to the Bow River and enjoyed our time there.
We floated and paddled and enjoyed our time on the river. We heard some excitement and some kayakers we passed told us that an elk had just swam across the river and was on the opposite side.
We paddled over to see if we could see the elk. Sure enough, there it was, next to the water, chomping on some apparently tasty leaves. We padded to the far side of the river and were able to watch the elk for a while before it was time to return the canoe.
Banff is cool.
After a great meal in town, we decided to maximize our time in Banff, so we drove out to the Vermillion Lakes, where we played on the edge of the lake and basked in the beauty that surrounded us.
Now that I've been there twice, I can't wait for the third time.