Here we are, already on part 2 of our Glacier/Banff National Parks trip. After the 5 hour drive from Montana to Alberta, we settled in our cozy cabin at the foothills of Lake Louise. We stayed in the Wilson Cabin at Paradise Lodge and Bungalows, which featured a queen size bed and cast iron fireplace. The room was beautiful, quiet and conveniently located within a 5 minute drive of Lake Louise. The only downside was how cold the room was–even with our thermostat set at 30 Celsius, it still felt like the heat wasn’t working. So we threw on our onesies and piled on the blankets to stay warm.
Our first night in Canada consisted of checking out the Lake Louise shoreline, a brisk hike on the nature trail and a delicious fondue dinner at Walliser Stube, one of the Fairmont Chateau‘s many fine dining establishments. And although it was a great meal, it was very pricey, as was the entire town of Lake Louise. There aren’t many dining options, so you need to make reservations EARLY and plan to burn a hole in your wallet. That being said, the food at every place we went to was exceptional and worth every penny.
Lake Louise Shoreline Trail
This is a VERY easy and flat 2.5 mile walk around half of Lake Louise. It begins at the waterfront, just right of the Boating Dock, and ends at the trailhead of the Plain of Six Glaciers. The first 5 minutes of the walk is very crowded, with hoards of international tourists hounding the shoreline for that classic blue water/glacial mountain background photo, but you easily lose the crowds once the pavement turns to gravel. You’ll get some of the best views of the Fairmont Chateau from this hike, along with an up close view of the glistening blue waters of the lake. After the walk, we changed into nicer clothes and headed out to make our reservation at Walliser Stube. Note that if you dine at any of the restaurants in the Fairmont, you’ll receive free parking at the hotel, which is much more convenient than trying to fight for a spot in the public parking lot.
Canoeing Lake Louise
Totally worth all the hype it’s given. This one hour canoe ride on the lake gives you just enough time to make it from one end of the lake to the other, with plenty of time for photos. It was pretty pricey, around $105, (not even surprised anymore considering it’s Canada) but very fun and peaceful. And yes, the water is actually that blue!
Plain of Six Glaciers Hike
This was another one of my favorite hikes on the trip. It was definitely the most strenuous, due to it being a straight uphill shot up to the glaciers with minimal flat land. Most people only make it as far as the Plain of Six Glaciers Tea House but we hiked all the way up to Victoria Glacier, which it an absolute must-see. Do NOT skip the extra 2.5 miles it takes to reach it! Once we got to the Tea House, we enjoyed a cup of tea (I opted for a maple black tea while Sarah got an herbal berry tea) and some chips/salsa. Everything at the tea house is made fresh each morning on a propane stove, as the house does not have any electricity. Each worker hikes up, spends 5 days there, and then hikes back down–so tip your servers well, they deserve it! There is a large assortment of teas, cakes, soups and appetizers to choose from. Just note that it is CASH ONLY, so bring those Canadian and American dollars with you! After our tea break, we hiked an extra 2.5 miles to reach the actual Plain of Six Glaciers, where we could see the the famous Victoria Glacier, the remnants of other melting glaciers and the tiny blue dot of Lake Louise in the distance. It was a fantastic hike and one of the best hikes I’ve ever been on.
During our time in Banff, Sarah and I had made it a goal of ours to jump into Lake Louise. Do it for the ‘gram, right? Well, we thought, what better time to do it than after our long 11 mile hike up to the glaciers! We did not, however, anticipate the lake being as cold as everyone said. But we jumped in anyways and it was amazing. Although I managed to sublux my shoulder in the process due to hitting a rock, jumping in was worth having my shoulder loosely hang from its socket for the next few weeks. We even inspired some guys to jump in right after us! #trendsetters
The last stop this day was dinner at The Station Restaurant. The prices were were thankfully much cheaper than the Fairmont’s prices and the food just as good. Our server was awesome (can’t remember his name but he loved to ski = besties) and the vibe was very chill. Sarah and I shared a buffalo burger, mac and cheese and a salad, all of which were delicious! We ended the day with a sunset at (where else?) Lake Louise.
Vermillion Lakes Sunrise
Another bucket list item of ours was to see the sunrise from Vermillion Lakes. Although it wasn’t easy to get up at 4:30am, we did anyways and it was completely worth it. If you decide to go, drive to the second lake, where there is a dock that you can set up a blanket and enjoy the sunrise from. Sarah and I wore our moose flapjack onesies and got some great shots!
Since we were up so early anyways and very awake after our sunrise photoshoot, Sarah and I made the short drive to Johnston Canyon to see the falls without the crowds. I only hiked up to the lower falls, as my hikers knee was acting up that morning, but Sarah made it up to the upper falls, which I was told were worth it. It’s a very hilly hike but pretty moderate and makes for a nice short side trip. However, we’ve been told that it gets very busy very fast. We arrived around 7am but on our way out, we began seeing tour buses arriving and the people flowing in. Afterwards, we headed to downtown Banff for some hearty breakfast at Melissa’s Missteak and souvenir shopping, before heading back to our Lake Louise cabin for some R&R and the gondola in the afternoon.
Banff Gondola at Sulfur Mountain
It was a tough choice between the Lake Louise Gondola and the Banff Gondola but ultimately we chose the Banff Gondola because of its views. The Lake Louise Gondola is renown for its wildlife spotting but those are unpredictable, especially in the evenings. We also chose to go in the evening to avoid the crowds. Most people don’t know that the gondola is open until 9:30pm and that the crowds disappear after ~5pm. So instead of parking 2 miles away from the entrance, hiking uphill and being forced to share a gondola with a group of tourists, we arrived in the early evening. There were no lines and we parked a mere 20 meters from the entrance. And up we went!
Our last bucket list item was also achieved here–to shotgun a beer at the top of a mountain. After a brief walk along the boardwalk at the top of Sulfur Mountain, we asked a group of people to film us with our GoPro and take pictures of us shotgunning said beers. The photos turned out really cool (and yes we did drink the whole beer!). A few snapshots later, we headed down the mountain and took in our last sunset on the drive back to our Lake Louise Cabin.
Hope you enjoyed Part 2 of our Glacier/Banff trip!