I’m back and sheeesh it has been a WHILE! Today I want to share with you a very special trip I went on with my family a couple of weeks ago, Banff National Park in Canada! I also visited Jasper and Yoho National Park, which are very close to Banff, but most of my adventures were in Banff National Park. There was so much beauty in this trip, so I will just be sharing the highlights. If you want to see more of the amazing sights, I suggest taking a trip to see it in person, right in front of you. It truly is an experience you will never forget.
We actually flew from California to Calgary, a large city about three hours away from Banff. The view going from Calgary to Banff was a little preview of the wonders we were going to see inside the park. I mean just look at this!
After finally getting inside the park, we go on a moderate, yet rewarding hike, and saw some of the beautiful waters Banff is famous for. This is called Grassi Lake Hike, and I definitely recommend it because, in addition to this stunning view, you will also see waterfalls, creeks, and other lakes on the way up to the final destination.
Then, after going on a couple other hikes, we went to the iconic Johnston Canyon. I hear that it can get quite crowded during the day, but I went around seven at night, and it was raining pretty hard so we got the canyon mostly too ourselves. The trail is nicely kept up and is built so you can see the water in the canyon very well. Water falls, rocks, and creeks of crystal blue flow through the canyon and make a beautiful sight!
But perhaps the best part of this canyon is the secret cave, pictured below.
This is the most captured spot in the canyon so I’m not sure if it is even a secret anymore, but stunning nevertheless. After you reach lower falls, you have to go off trail sometime to get to lower ground, and eventually the cave. YOU HAVE TO GO OFF TRAIL. We were confused and actually missed I think where a lot of people usually access this because we thought there was a trail leading to it. Well there is a mud trail, but not a paved, obvious trail. There are many ways you can come down here though and we found a small muddy and slippery passageway and made it to this cave. So stunning.
The next morning we showed up to Lake Louise at around 10 in the morning and got parking. This is an extremely rare circumstance, as in general, parking spots are VERY hard to come by after 7 in the morning, but since it was raining, we were able to find a parking spot, no sweat. Here is the amazing Lake Louise. Iconic, and totally deservingly so.
From Lake Louise, you can walk up a tough, but again, very rewarding trail to Lake Agnes. The walk was pretty muddy and took about two hours to get up, but we were met with this stunning view which is supposed to look even better in clear weather. The magnificent glaciers surrounding the lake and the reflections, dancing on the surface, make the whole walk worth it. It even has a little (always busy) teahouse, with everything hiked up each day. It is very cozy, and offers every type of tea you can think of and simple sandwiches, pastries, and soups. I really recommend going up to Lake Agnes because it is simply so beautiful and remarkable.
After we ate at the teahouse and descended down to Lake Louise, we walked around the lake to admire it from every view. I recommend taking time at this iconic lake instead of just snapping a picture and going. Read about its origins and history, take a scenic hike, and access other lakes. You can honestly spend a whole day at Lake Louise if you take advantage of all its trails and its beauty.
Another beautiful and well-known lake was visited by us later that day. We went to the equally gorgeous Lake Moraine! This lake is deeper in color, a little smaller, and low-key, and super picturesque. I definitely recommend stopping by, and even maybe canoeing in it as it’s slightly less expensive than Lake Louise and such a pretty deep blue.
The next day, we saw about a dozen more lakes, each more beautiful than the next!
We also visited the cozy Banff town. This is a really nice town, featuring high-end stores like Lululemon and Patagonia which I find pretty remarkable in a National Park. There is a ton of variety of restaurants, but be prepared to wait as there are usually a lot of hungry visitors. A cool place to stop by at is Cow’s Creamery an ice cream shop, full of quirky cow inspired flavors (ex: Moo York Cheesecake and Cowconut Cream Pie)! I went there twice during my time in Banff because it was so good!
Going into one of the other National Parks I visited, Yoho National Park, we went on an all day hike to Lake O’Hara! This is a hidden gem, and would literally be the next Lake Louise if it wasn’t so inaccessible. You have to book tickets to the shuttle that take you to the base of Lake O’Hara months in advance and they sell out seconds after they go live. The alternative is walking 11 km. And that’s what my family did. We walked the boring, easy, but long hike there. However, the real fun does not start until you get out of the base. From the bottom, we walked 4 more uphill kilometers, reaching this beautiful birds eye view of the Lake O’Hara!
We also were able to see the stunning Lake Oberlin after hiking up a little further!
Lake O’Hara was one of the best experiences I’ve had. If you are moderately active and want to see this wonderful lake, I would suggest doing it, even if you have to walk the 11 km! It’s worth it and you feel like you’ve conquered a mountain after you’ve completed your 20 km total hike and hitch the shuttle back! (You can usually get a ride back even if you have not bought tickets in advance so bring some cash)
Another great lake we saw was Emerald lake, which is close to Lake O’Hara and great to visit if you don’t want to hike the long trail.
Moving on to Jasper National park, also pretty close to Banff. We saw many more sights, wildlife (three bears, a couple dozen cow elk, and a ton of bugs), and even did a star gazing event (cool, but don’t expect seeing a sky full of stars in the summer, when it barely even gets dark).
We went canoeing in Jasper, on top of the cool, crisp water, and surrounded by huge mountains.
We also visited Lake Maligne, Jasper’s “Lake Louise.” We went on a boat cruise to Spirit Island, a remote and sacred peninsula. This is actually the place where Jasper got its fame. It is stunning and the boat ride there was relaxing and informative thanks to our guide!
Our time in Jasper was short but wonderous, visiting numerous lakes, hiking on interesting trails, and getting about a thousand mosquito bites. I have much more pictures but really then I would have to show you my whole camera roll of 1,000 pictures from this trip.
The drive from Jasper to Banff, or the Icefield Parkway Drive is one of the most spectacular scenic drives of all time. I personally really enjoyed it and seeing its diverse sights. One of the coolest things I saw on this drive was the Athabasca Glacier, a real life, glacier, majestic and glorious right in front of me. Pretty sick. you can even drive up there, like on the glacier, but it’s kind of terrible to do so and melt this natural wonder with the gas from your car and the heat from your body.
Another cool thing we did, was we hiked the Parker Ridge Trail. This was one of my favorite if not MY FAVORITE hike we went on this whole trip. Moderate level, with views the whole way up! We even saw some wild sheep!
Finally, one of the last Lakes we visited was Peyto Lake. A crazy blue lake, that looks almost unreal! The best view of the lake is if you walk through the loop trail but then break out to get closer to the lake. This is a more private and peaceful lookout of this beautiful body of water!
There were so many more fun things that we did and saw, this is just a sampler of Banff National park and its surrounding wonders! I really loved this trip and enjoyed all the beautiful hikes, and stunning waters. The only thing I have to say is: “Come see it for yourself one day!”