A roadtrip through western Canada isn’t complete without a visit to Banff National Park. Everybody knows the postcard worthy bright blue Lake Louise and Moraine Lake, but this area is home to many more treasures.
Banff National Park is a national park of Canada located in southwestern Alberta and is part of the Rocky Mountains. It covers an area of about 6641 square kilometers and includes the towns of Banff and Lake Louise.
Banff was the first national park of Canada, founded in 1885, and was originally called Rocky Mountain Park. The park was later expanded and renamed to the Train Station situated along the Canadian Pacific Railway. In 1984, Banff was, along with other parks in the Canadian Rockies, included on the World Heritage List. Banff National Park annually attracts nearly eight million visitors.
There are several glaciers, mountains and rivers in this park, including the Columbia Icefield. In order to reach most sites there is the Icefields Parkway (Highway 93) of 230 km (143 miles) from Lake Louise in Banff National Park to Jasper. Source: Wikipedia
Banff National Park is so vast that you could spend months to discover everything. Banff National Park is part of the majestic Icefields Parkway, it hosts many of the most beautiful lakes of the Canadian Rocky Mountains and much more. No lack of natural beauty in this infinitely beautiful environment! In this blogpost I present my favorite places in and around Banff, which can be admired from a viewpoint or after a little physical exertion.
Grassi Lakes are located in the nearby town of Canmore, half an hour’s drive from Banff. These are two small transparent lakes located in a picturesque setting. The hike to these lakes is very popular with the locals. I had no idea about the existence of these lakes before looking for a nice hike around Canmore. After seeing the photos, I couldn’t hide my enthusiasm. We would hike to these lakes on the last day of our roadtrip!
The trail is very accessible. You can choose the easy option, a gravel road climbing slightly to the lake. The difficult trail goes through a wooded area to the Grassi Lakes Waterfall before climbing steeply to the lake. Both options offer a beautiful panoramic view of Canmore. We choose the easy hike since we have a long day ahead of us. The trail climbs gradually and even parents with strollers are walking up here. From the second lake it’s possible to walk up a little further through constructed rock stairs and rocks. It’s a popular spot for rock climbers. At the top there is a small lake, which is nothing compared to the turquoise Grassi Lakes. When we are about to hike down, a group of bighorn sheep are just finishing their hike up on the regular road. The animals are neatly walking in a row one behind the other, after which they quench their thirst in the lake in an equally orderly way standing next to each other. A funny sight!
Hiking to Consolation Lakes
The hike to the Consolation Lakes starts at Moraine Lake. It’s an easy hike of about 1,5 hours to 2 hours (6 km round trip) and very popular among tourists. The wooded trail climbs gradually and once you reach the tree line you find yourself in a wonderful setting. Running water, an abundance of pine trees, rocks, snow capped mountains and a crystal clear lake. Once you reach the lake you are treated with a breathtaking view of Quadra Mountain and hanging glaciers. As a nature lover you can’t ask for more! We climb over the rocks to take pictures of the lake and enjoy a lunch break surrounded by tranquility and natural beauty. It’s possible to continue hiking to Upper Consolation Lake. This challenging and awkward route over boulders should be well worth the effort. Yet we choose to skip this part because we have a lot more on our schedule this day.
Lake Louise en Moraine Lake
These most photographed lakes are a must see. They differ greatly from one another but are equally stunning. Still I liked the less touristy and slightly rougher Moraine Lake more. There are plenty of hiking trails around the lakes. From Moraine Lake to the Consolation Lakes as previously described and from Lake Louise to Lake Agnes. If you don’t like hiking can also opt for a canoe trip on the azure lakes or just enjoy nature from the lakeside.
Natural Bridge and Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park
Yoho National Park is situated just over the border of Banff National Park. A beautifully rugged park that is well worth a detour. Here you can admire Emerald Lake and Natural Bridge. Emerald Lake obviously is a magical emerald colored lake. Natural Bridge, as its name indicates, is a natural bridge. It’s a very touristy place but really worth a stop. It’s not necessary to walk far to admire these gems. Both Emerald Lake and Natural Bridge are located just a few steps from the parking lot.
The Lake Minnewanka area is magnificent. It’s the longest lake of the Canadian Rocky Mountains and a true paradise. I extensively wrote about Lake Minnewanka and surroundings, where nature and wildlife go hand in hand.
Hiking in Johnston Canyon
Johnston Canyon may be a very touristy place, but this certainly doesn’t make it a less attractive place. This canyon is located on the Bow Valley Parkway, which is a great drive if you want to spot wildlife. We hike early in the morning to avoid the crowds. The constructed walkway is well maintained and includes bridges and railings. The route follows the banks of the canyon and leads past several waterfalls and lots of playful squirrels. From the last waterfall it’s possible to hike back using the same constructed walkway or to hike to the upper inkpots. Unfortunately we haven’t visited them.
Hiking in Elbow Valley
The Elbow Valley is located between Banff and Calgary, at the foot of the Kananaskis mountain ranges. It’s slightly hilly to mountainous. We visit friends here who recently immigrated to these beautiful surroundings and go on a 4 hour hike through forests, along winding rivers and beautiful flowering meadows. Kananaskis Country is not far from here and this area offers numerous hiking trails and lots of natural beauty.
Which places did you visit or would you like to visit in and around Banff?