Let's Explore Around Banff
Banff National Park is a popular and most talked about destination of Western Canada, this National Park is always filled with tourists from around the world. I have visited Banff town and National Park so many times and I still haven't seen everything in and around this place. There is so much hidden within the National Park area that one trip is not enough. I will cover the most popular and must-visit places around Banff Town and the Banff National Park in this blog.
Let's start with the Banff Gondola, What to see?
Certainly a very busy tourist destination during summertime. This place is easily accessible via car, the parking spot is very near to the Gondola Visitors Center, a short and easy 5 minutes walk takes you to the point from where the gondola starts, an eight-minute flight takes you on top of the mountain. The area on top of the mountain is very well developed for tourists with restaurants, cafes, gift shops, and the new imperative center to explore which is filled with so much information to take with you.
As soon as you step out of the building first thing you see is the panoramic view of the Rocky Mountain Range, a spectacular view of Banff Town and Bow Valley and if you hike up to the peak you will arrive at the Cosmic Ray Station a Historic Site of Canada that was built to study the cosmic rays, interesting right!! The Banff Gondola offers so much to do other than sightseeing and if you are lucky you will see some visitors gazing around the viewing deck, yes mountain goats love to come around and enjoy the green grass and they will pose for you so make sure to click some photos.
Banff Upper Hot Spring is another must-visit spot, this is a great place to unwind and relax. As soon as you take a dip into the steamy water your body feels relaxed instantly and all the aches and pains feel like going away. Banff hot springs are for everyone, they have three pools including a kids pool, a great place to be with your family. They are open until 11 pm and so the view gets better and better as the sun sets, enjoy watching stars as you let your mind and body relax. The history behind this goes many years back to the 1880s, in 1883 three railway workers came across the pond of hot steaming water, and then later Park Canada developed this site for visitors to enjoy all year round. This place is great to explore during winters with the best view of the mountains around you.
Admission is very reasonable. You pay $ 8.30 for adults, youth is $ 6.30 and seniors pay $ 7.30, kids under the age of 3 are free to enjoy the hot pool. They have lifeguards on duty all the time just in case any emergency arises. Head to the hot springs at the end of the day to wind down your evening, this place is very clean and offers to change rooms for male and female separately and if you forget your bathing suits don't worry they provide swimming costumes to rent at a reasonable price so you will be covered. Enjoy a warm dip with phenomenal views of the Rockies giving you the best views you can ever imagine.
Lake Moraine What to See?
Lake Moraine is another popular tourist destination and not worth missing. Turquoise lake in the middle of the mountains that gets even deeper in color and shines bright with the sunshine is such a beautiful sight to watch. This lake is situated in the Valley of Ten Peaks, just 14 KMs from Lake Louise Village and 57 minutes drive from Banff Town.
Shuttle buses run from Banff and Lake Louise Village to Moraine Lake, because of a very small parking space there can be long waiting especially during the peak season and it's advised to go there early in the day to avoid any delays. Lake Moraine is closed for the winter season as this lake is at an elevation of 1884 meters and it is difficult for the Park Canada Authority to keep it maintained and safe to drive during heavy snowfall, so the best season to explore the beauty is during summertime.
Color of the Lake, where does it get its beautiful color?
The Lake gets its color from the glacier water and it is said that the color gets intense as the glacier melts through the summer. This lake is such a beautiful scenic sight that makes every visitor say WOW what a beauty, I felt the view, I was looking at, was so beautifully created by mother nature that my eyes were not tired looking at it.
Best Point to view:
Once you reach the viewpoint, which you can hike to the top of a small hill that is well developed and has maintained stairs to climb. On the top you see the beautiful turquoise lake, I feel this is the best viewpoint to view the lake. I always like to sit down for a few minutes and appreciate what I am looking at, just enjoy the view and be thankful to mother nature for creating this beauty. I highly recommend climbing up the hill to witness the splendid views of the mountains and lake, best is to take a pause and breathe fresh air while you enjoy the views, trust me even the air feels so crisp and fresh.
When is the best time to visit?
Summer is certainly the most popular time to visit this place which is from May-August, however, Lake Moraine is also very popular during the Fall season.
This beautiful valley just changes completely with the trees changing color to orange and yellow as we transition into fall and the view of the valley gets even prettier, words cannot justify the beauty of this place honestly. If you enjoy canoeing on the serene water, then lake Moraine is the place for you, this lake offers canoe to rent, other than canoeing they also have many different trails for hikers to explore. Some of the trails are easily accessible while there are some difficult trails for someone who is adventurous and likes to challenge himself. All these trails offer beautiful nature walks with small streams and waterfalls along the hike. This tourist destination is just splendid and cannot be missed. One of the most popular hike that starts from Moraine lake is the Larch Valley hike, most visited during fall and this hike has gained much popularity on social media in last few years.
Let's drive to Lake Louise now, another pretty lake, a fun fact to share- out of the natural lakes in the world Canada has 50%, Interesting! Right!! Lake Louise is one of the most popular lakes of Western Canada and the most loved tourist destination, this lake is just 2 hours drive from Downtown Calgary and 23 minutes drive from Lake Moraine. This magnificent beauty is also surrounded by a magnanimous mountain range adding so much value to this lake. This lake is glacier-fed and the greenish-blue color gets deeper as every summer day goes by. Many photographers from all over the world come to capture the beauty of this place, especially during sunrise. They say the sunrise is just divine to watch as the sun rises from behind the mountains the bright sun rays sparkle on the lake making it so magical to watch.
Lake Louise also offers canoe to rent. Enjoy the views as you paddle through this lake, appreciate that quietness and listen to the musical noise of water as the paddle cuts through the water, I feel this sound is so soothing it instantly relaxes your mind.
What to do at Lake Louise?
This lake also has many winter activities to enjoy like ice skating on the frozen lake or sit back and enjoy horse sleigh ride in the winter. This horse ride takes you along the lake and goes all the way up to the frozen waterfalls where you see some fearless climbers climbing the frozen falls. And if you are creative and enjoy snow then come visit their Ice festival. Lake Louise hosts an international ice sculpture festival, artists from all over the world come here to take part in this festival. Walkthrough the magical icicle land and watch these artists design and sculpt a piece of ice into a fascinating Ice Sculpture.
Trust me it is quite an experience to watch these artists showcase their craft . This event usually starts mid-January and goes on until the end of January every year.
Lake Louise also offers many different hiking trails,
One of which I did in 2019 the Tea House hike. It is a great two hours one-way hike which leads to lake Agnes and the most endearing tea house. Lake Agnes and the Tea House is on an elevation of 2135 meters and it is on an Elevation of 368 meters from Lake Louise. The Lake Agnes Tea House is a family run business, this Tea House is the oldest in Canada. This place was originally built as a refuge for the hikers in 1901 and later started serving tea in 1905. Even today this family works hard in running this Tea House, they live here during summertime and put in lot of effort to make their visitors happy, they go up and down a couple of times to fill up their inventory even the children in the family work hard. Enjoy their freshly baked treats and some unique collection of tea that will certainly impress you. Sit down on their rustic style patio and enjoy the superb view of Lake Agnes while you take a sip of your warm tea. Next time when you visit Lake Louise keep some time aside to explore this hike, just a heads-up this hike does get steep and the last bit of 15 minutes is rocky and very steep just uphill so it's always good to come prepared to wear hiking shoes that have a strong grip for safety.
Returning to Lake Louise from Tea House hike
If you have less time and are looking for something a little bit more relaxed then what better than driving through some scenic routes where you enjoy nature, picturesque views, and maybe spot some wildlife doesn't that sound exciting.
Some of the most scenic drives around Banff are :
Icefield Parkway is a National Park and this route connects Banff to Jasper, offers the most scenic drive with streams, waterfalls, lakes, and dense forest along the way, this is also a good drive to spot wildlife especially during dusk and dawn.
The Trans-Canada Highway this stretch from Banff to Lake Louise is eye-catching. This route passes through some of the most Iconic mountains like Mount Castle and Mount Temple with the Bow River flowing parallel to the highway making it even more splendid.
My most desired drive around Banff is the Lake Vermillion drive, this is just off highway 1, this road is parallel to lake Vermillion giving you the best possible view as you drive further, another great route to spot wildlife as they come to feed on the plants around this lake. Many photographers have spotted grizzly bears enjoying salmon fresh from the lake.
Next time you visit Western Canada make sure to check this blog and plan your trip accordingly so you don't miss on any popular spot.