Banff & Yoho National Parks

This morning’s wakeup was a brutal 4am alarm to catch our flight to Calgary, in the state of Alberta.

Our B&B near the airport wasn’t great, so not only did we have a short night sleep, but a fragmented one.

The flight to Calgary was pretty uneventful with Air Canada. A comfortable 4 hour flight and we’d arrived.

We rented a car and drove to Banff, a 1.5 hour drive away from the airport. The most beautiful regions are never easy to get to!

Our B&B in Banff was amazing. We had a whole ‘wing’ to ourselves with a bedroom, lounge and bathroom. It wasn’t cheap, but it was very comfortable.

As we arrived at midday in Banff, we dedicated the rest of the afternoon to stock up for the week ahead with food, and plan our trip.

We managed to also take a short walk up to the Bow falls viewpoint, which was a nice preview of what was to come.

Our B&B host was so helpful and gave us tips about the area and especially driving and parking conditions, tips that turned about to be vital.

Keeping consistent with our trip so far, we were in Banff during peak season (and actually also during a long holiday weekend in Canada, doh!), which meant that all the main sites were flooded with people eager to see the same things as us.

After discussing with our host and the information centre, we decided to wake up early the next day (5am early) to ensure we could get a car spot at Lake Louise.

Lake Louise was about 45min away from our accommodation, so leaving at 5.30am would ensure a car spot there.

As we drove to the lake, we passed Lake Moraine on the way and saw a road sign indicating that the car park was full already, at 6.20am!

Luckily Lake Louise’s wasn’t, so we parked up and made our way to the lake. It was breathtaking!

Going there early meant we could see the sun rise over the mountain and enjoy a peaceful period before thousands of tourist arrived for the day.

After taking some pictures, we headed to the Lake Agnes trail, the start of our 18km hike for the day.

This first trail was pretty easy, and took us around the mountains to see the Mirror Lake, and then on to Lake Agnes.

After a quick snack stop, we headed toward the big beehive, a trail taking you to the top of a mountain where you can enjoy an amazing panoramic view over Lake Louise.

The mountain was shaped like a beehive.. a bloody steep one! 1.3km up a rocky trail. We had to stop a few times to catch our breath, but the view from up there made it all worth it.

We headed back down and joined the plain of six glaciers trail, which takes you all the way back behind the lake and closer to some glaciers.

Another 5km walk, this time a bit easier than the big beehive, with cool views around the glaciers. It was nice to do, but not as breathtaking as the view over the lake because the glaciers didn’t have that much snow on them. I’m sure if the mountains were covered in snow this trail would have been amazing too.

We did hear two small avalanches though, and saw the end of one of them from afar.

As it was a hot day, the melting snow on the peaks causes a lot of avalanches in the area in spring/summer. Nothing close to us thankfully!

Afterwards, we headed back down and finished our walk lakeside, where a lot of tourists were now gathered. We were very happy we woke up early and avoided this pandemonium.

The next morning our alarm was set for 5am yet again, as we planned to visit Lake Moraine.

This time as we knew the car park would fill very early, we decided to drive to the ‘park and ride’ car park and catch the early bird shuttle that runs from there direct to Lake Moraine between 6.30 and 7.30am.

We’d been told that as the car park is so small, it gets full and they close the road off by 5am, crazy. Buses are fine though, so an easy decision.

We got on the first shuttle of the day at 6.30am, and painlessly arrived at Moraine Lake at 7am.

This lake is popular for a reason. It was incredible!

The lake itself is a beautiful blue hue and is so flat that is has an incredible mirroring effect in which you can see the surrounding mountains reflection. The combination of all elements makes it such a special place!

This is particularly true early, before the wind picks up.

The reason we got there so early as well was to be one of the first people to get a canoe.

We’ve seen so many cool pictures of people canoeing this lake that we wanted to have a go and to avoid disappointment and long queues, we wanted to be there extra early.

After some photos and chill out time, we made our way to the canoe place where we got first in line. So happy we did, as the line behind us got long pretty quickly.

Canoing this lake was an unforgettable experience! Especially being first, which meant that we had the lake and the view all to ourselves for a little while. No sleeping time is worth that quiet moment in the middle of a glacial lake.

After our canoing we had the most expensive coffee of all time ($7 for a cappuccino), before heading to Emerald Lake in the Yoho National Park about 45min away.

Emerald Lake was also a beautiful place to visit, and we enjoyed a leisurely walk around the lake (about 3km) looping back to the park entrance.

Finally, we finished the day at Takakkaw Falls up a steep mountain (that we drove this time), which was the perfect ending to a perfect day.

Tomorrow we will be driving 3hrs north up the famous Icefields Parkway road up to Jasper, where we will be staying 3 nights.

#TheDexplorers

TIPS

  • If you go to Banff during peak season, it’s definitely worth getting up early to visit Lake Louise and Moraine. If you’re driving, driving straight to Lake Louise is doable if you plan to get there before 7am. You’ll still find car spots. Lake Moraine though is another story. We thought that driving to the ‘park and ride’ and catching the early bird shuttle was painless, and allowed us to get to Moraine Lake before the big crowds and tour buses arrived. We’ve chatted to a few people that didn’t really like the 2 sites as they were overcrowded. We truly didn’t feel this way, and we believe that’s thanks to our early wake ups.
  • Our Banff accommodation was awesome. Pricey (nearly $300/night) but really good compared to other accommodation in the area. Click here for more details.
  • Canoing on Lake Moraine is out of control expensive. $120 for an hour. There is only one place you can rent them from, so they basically do what they want. It’s very expensive but so worth it. Proper bucket list item ticked off.

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