Monday, 29 August 2016

What to do in Banff National Park, Alberta.

Banff national park is b-e-a-u-tiful. Winding through the endless peaks of the Rocky Mountains was a phenomenal experience and one I highly recommend! Banff is just over an hours drive from Calgary, or you can use a few different bus companies - Greyhound is the cheapest at around $30 CAD return, else it's a $121 adult return from airport with Banff Airporter. The only problem with this however, is that it's super hard to get anywhere once inside the park! So it's best to rent a car/ motorbike/ even bicycle if you're feeling super brave. 

For entry fees (and camping fees) to the National Park itself check out this website here. For us, as 2 adults, it cost $19.60 CAD and latest till 4pm the next day. 

Lake Louise
We didn't leave Calgary till about midday, and picked up some snacks for our road trip along the way along with an amazing Tim Hortons - boy have I missed that place! Our first stop was Lake Louise, the most stunning emerald glacial lake you’ve ever seen. It’s named after the fourth daughter of Queen Victoria/ Prince Albert - Princess Louise Carolina Alberta – an able artist, sculpture and supporter of the feminist movement. Right next to it is Fairmont’s Chateau Lake Louise, a stunning hotel that will set you back $254 CAD if you book far in advance for the cheapest room but up to $539 CAD per night for the gold experience. There are several restaurants in the proximity of the hotel too, sure to set you back a few bob!

We chose to go canoeing on the lake, though I can't say that was particularly cheap either! It's $85 CAD per hour, or $75 CAD per half-hour. While you could get to the back of the lake and back in half-an-hour just about, for the extra $10 its worth keeping it the whole hour and taking it easy. Unfortunately for us, the weather was abysmal, it was raining quite a bit and was rather cold, but it was still enjoyable and a great experience. Each canoe holds either 3 adults or 2 adults and 2 small children, read more about it here. There are several other cheaper/ free options though, many hiking trails such as climbing Fairview Mountain, or Devils Thumb for example, or mountain biking trials too. Of course in the winter there's snowboarding, skiing, ice skating, ice fishing etc. 

Driving Loop
After Lake Louise, with crappy weather and little improvement in Adam's back (which somehow was causing him total agony out-of-the-blue), we decided to go for a drive to see more of the Rockies/ check out the scenery. Adam told me the drive would take about 3-4 hours, but somehow tragically miscalculated the route and it actually took closer to 9 hours. This was a huge shame as it meant it got so dark we couldn't actually see the scenery... Oops! Adam drew the route we took below, included the 'you slept from here to here' sign hahah. I didn't feel very well myself either, and we had drank too much wine the previous night and so I was knackered. As I said, I didn't miss too much though as it was so dark by this point! But what I did see towards the start of the route was gorgeous. Some photos attached below, including Kootney National Park. 


Johnston Creek
On Sunday at 3pm we headed back to Banff to visit Johnston Creek - it flows through a canyon and joins into the Bow River. There are several waterfalls and there is a constructed path along the side of the waterfalls that connects the lower and upper falls and is well sign-posted. It took about 45 minutes to get to the Upper Falls with a 215m-elevation gain. After that you can keep going onto Creek meadows or the ink pots, but Adam told me they weren’t really worth it. Apparently you can even ice climb in the winter! In the lower falls you can also go right next to the waterfall, but it requires queuing for a little bit, I recommend it if you have the time though.

You can see the queue in the background for the waterfall entrance
Inside lower falls

Upper Falls
Crawled into a cave...
Lake Minnewanka
Lake Minnewanka translates to Water of the Spirits in Nakoda, again it is a glacial lake, and one of the longest in the Rockies. Had we known in advance, we would have looked into scuba diving in the lake, apparently it's quite a popular activity! Of course Adam and I got our Open Water Certificate earlier this year in Thailand, and I'm desperate to use it somewhere else. It's 1450m above sea level, maximum depth of 100m, all dives are altitude cold water dives with varying levels of visibility. I found a website that had other dives in the area too, it's just such a shame that you need your own equipment, though I imagine you could hire it somewhere nearby. 

It also has tons of wildlife nearby it, and I was lucky enough to FINALLY see a bear! And not just one bear, but three bears... A mama bear and her two cubs. All the cars were pulled over on one side of the road and it turns out it's because they were all taking photos of these bears. I've been to so many places this trip where I was supposed to be able to see bears, but hadn't been lucky enough to see one yet, but of course just as we had decided to give up locating one, and drive out of the park, we saw them! Super adorable. It's a shame I couldn't get a good photo of them though :(.

Anyway, it was a wonderful weekend with wonderful company, and I really hope to come back one winter and check out the ski season and also to actually do some hiking! Unfortunately this time I had a bad pain in my side Saturday, and Adam had terrible back pain all weekend so we couldn't do much on that front, hence the drive around instead. 

So long Banff, you were stellar. xoxo

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