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Banff and Lake LouiseGo to Slide Show

Enter the tourist zone


When we mentioned to the park operator at Dry Gulch that our next destination was Banff, he asked "Why are you going there?"  This really caught me off guard, but also made me think about the differences between a community surrounded by provincial parks and wild spaces (Invermere) and community set inside of a National Park.

Driving Through Kootenay National Park

Barriers Are For Standing On
Kootenay National Park hits you immediately with the differences of being a park.  There are no power lines here.  No commercial signs, no residential driveways - just a single band of road through a huge valley.  We pulled over on the first pull off to take in the scale of a valley dedicated to conservation.

Roadside Daisies

Valley Without Powerlines

After a few minutes of appreciating where we were, we drove further into the park.  Our first stop was at the Dolly Varden Day Use Area - a small pull out with covered picnic tables, toilets and a kids play area to show how the highway crossing work.   The kids got a taste of mosquitoes.   I noticed some of the butterflies were perching to feed and so I had my first wildlife photo in the park.

Covered Picnic TableTiger Swallowtail Drinking From CloverTiger Swallowtail On Clover

Paint Pots

Our next destination is a place I've been to many times - the Paint Pots Trail.  The ample parking lot has a wheelchair accessible trail down to the river where a huge metal bridge crosses.

Standing On BridgeKootenay River With Mountains


From here, it is a short flat walk (but some sections of trail was better described as a chain of puddles) to a large field where orange soil has coloured everything.  There were some rusted relics of when this area was used for mining, but not a lot of history was presented.  Seeing the complementary colors was nice.

Claira Lost Shoe In MudClaira Touching Rust MudImpromptu Wet TrailOrange Soil With Stream Boundary

Marble Canyon

Back at the car, we drove down to the next parking lot.  It seems strange to drive up a few km the Marble Canyon Trail just to park again, but this is a new destination for me and I wanted to go for a walk.

American Dipper Flying ByGolden Mantled Ground Squirrel

This was a short walk over the canyon where the trails literally weave over bridges allowing you to see down into the canyons.  From the top you can see the power and spray of the river but you can't really appreciate the years of work the river has taken to cut this channel into the rock.  Perhaps in a cold enough winter you could walk up the river.

Kootenay River In CanyonCanyon Cutting Deep Into RockRock Bridge Over Canyon


After that, we drove through to Banff.  Our first night in Banff was at the Banff Inn - a 3 story hotel on the main road in Banff.  At $400 a night it wasn't cheap but finding a place with 3 beds on a July Saturday night in Banff seamed like a huge win.  I'm glad we booked it in May because it would have been impossible to find a place if you just "showed up".

Bike to Vermilion Lakes

We had the bikes on the truck for the whole trip.  The kids use them around the camp site to see the further destinations, but we decided to actually take a family bike ride.  The info center recommended the ride from the ride from the train station parking lot to the Vermilion Lakes and it was a really good recommendation!

Claira On Side RoadCrossing BridgeHigh Five Over Bridge


The lakes have small docks and bike parking racks.  The kids were soon knee deep in the lake trying to catch the small fish that live there.

Dock In Vermilion LakeStanding On Stone In LakeNara With Small Fish

Family At Banff Sign

Morning Walk at Cave and Basin Marsh

This is one of those places I remember from my childhood.  There is a small marsh below the Cave and Basin hot spring where the warm water from the spring goes into the wetlands.  What I remember was the introduced fish species that are apparently still swimming in the marsh.

Being a marsh, there were some waterfowl around.  There doesn't seem to be a tradition of feeding the birds here so the birds weren't anywhere near the boardwalks or blinds.

American Coot Feeding ChickSong Sparrow Looking For Bugs
 
  Common Yellowthroat Still WetCommon Yellowthroat With InsectGreat Blue Heron Looking For Breakfast
 
I asked at the information desk if the tropical fish are still in marsh and the desk person said - no - they would have been removed years ago.  The signs at the marsh seem to imply the tropical fish are still there.  I tried hard to see one (the water is moving fast enough that the surface isn't flat) but I didn't see anything tropical.  Apparently they change color for mating season which would make them easier to see.  The last sighting on iNaturalist was in 2000 so maybe they really were removed.

Clich├ęs in Banff

Side SaladVegan Ramen At Chaya

Banff is a funny town.  It welcomes a lot of tourists and the restaurants reflect the demographics.  There are several Japanese restaurants (our favorite was Chaya), several Indian restaurants and building with three different South East Asian restaurants and lots of bars/western eateries.  Chaya has been in Banff for literately decades.  I assume that once you get a lease, you keep it because so little retail space is available and they aren't adding more in Banff.

Kakiage Udon At Chaya

Kids In Forest With Elk

The other cliche is seeing Elk in Banff.  They were ever present around the campground, forever stopping traffic.  I've seen Elk on every trip I have ever taken to Banff, it's just my lenses get better year over year.

Female Elk Near Campsite

This was my first time camping in Banff since childhood.  The campsites were well run.  There was plenty of firewood available which meant a constant smoke screen ran through the camp sites.  This is pretty sparse forest so there isn't much privacy in the sites, but you really can't beat the price.

Camp In BanffAluminum Wrapped Corn On Fire
 

Lake Louise and Moraine Lake

I've been to Lake Louise a few times as an adult, but I was not prepared for the summer experience - an impossible number of people trying to fit into a tiny parking lot.  To make it work, Parks Canada has a shuttle bus service that you have reserve and pay for 48 hours in advance.  I booked tickets for the 10am shuttle and we left camp in time for the drive up to the massive parking lot at the ski hill.

Waiting For Shuttle BusStanding At Lake Louise

Lake Louise With Morning Crowd

The Beehive
Lake Louise a great place for a day hike.  The most popular significant hike is up to the beehive and then the Tea House at Lake Agnes.  The trail up is very well maintained (only the last section is regularly walked by horses) but it is a steady climb over almost it's entire length.  You see people in active wear motoring up and people who need to hike more taking lots of rests.  Getting to the beehive (a rock formation) was a great first accomplishment.


Pushing on past the beehive, you get to a waterfall and then Agnes lake with it's Tea House.  Again, Banff in the summer strikes you - the line up for pastries was easily an hour long.  That said, there area around the lake was very clean, basically with paved  nice stones were arranged for seating. 

Lake AgnesHour Plus Line Up At Tea House
 
 
  Clarks Nutcracker At Agnes Lake
After a minute or two, we saw a pair of Clark's Nutcrackers come in and start cleaning up dropped food.  Most high traffic lunch spots of some sort of wildlife clean-up - usually some squirrels or chipmunks.  I don't see Clark's often, but we were clearly in their home here.

Clarks Nutcracker Flying By
 
  The crowds weren't getting any thinner so after lunch we turned around and started our return to the Parking lot.

Side View Of Lake LouiseViolets Trailside

When we did finally get off the mountain (3pm?) we were pretty tired.  We went into the Chateau Lake Louise (it once had quite a nice sandwich shop) and found $5 cans of soda.  That said, the bathrooms were easy to find and they had a station to fill your water bottle.  They did have a nice small book store (which is more than I can say of Banff) and I bought books for both the girls that had long since exhasted the books they brought with them on the trip.

We could have taken the bus back to the parking lot, but we chose instead to take the "interlake" to Moraine Lake to see that.  First for me, Moraine lake is beautiful and it's tiny parking lot is usually overwhelmed well before sunrise. 
 
  Moraine Lake

There is a short walk to a large pile of rocks by the lake where we took in the view.  We tried to buy an ice cream cone in the local cafe, but sadly they were closed.

Too Much Hiking For One DayFamily At Moraine Lake

 
After a long wait, we got on the bus back to the ski hill parking lot, back in our truck and back to Banff for the evening.  What a day!

Johnston Canyon

If you have only a single day in Banff National Park and you plan on getting outside at all, you are probably visiting Johnston Canyon.   A huge parking lot was already overfull by the time we arrived and we were very luck to get a parking spot in less than 5 minutes.  Great bathrooms at the entrance and again wide, almost paved trails.

Much of the trail in the canyon is actually steel walkways bolted into the rock.  This makes the trail flat and right over the water without any saftey concerns.  I also makes this trail spectacularly expensive.

Walking Trail Above CanyonCrowded Walkway Under Stone

End Of Easy Walk
When you get to the first falls there is a bridge over the river to a closer viewpoint.  When we got their, the bridge had a half hour line up.  The bridge is modern and steel and could carry lots of people but at one point (many years ago) this was just a fallen tree across the river.

Claira Taking Photo From Bridge

After your long wait, you get to go up a tunnel to the close viewpoint. 

Waterfall Cutting Through RockWalking Up Cave To Waterfall View

After seconds, you are soaked from the spray of the falls.  There is a small fenced off standing area big enough for one good sized family.  Once you are wet enough, you turn around and got back to bridge.

Waterfall Pano

Our kids were tired - we turned around and went back to the truck with a brief stop for ice cream.  Futher up the trail there are more waterfalls to see - I walked up to High Falls in October 2003.  This place is also completly different when it freezes in the winter and you can climb the ice falls - I visted in on New Years Eve, 2000.

Heading North


Elk With Valley View
This morning we are driving North to Jasper.  Driving out of the campsite, we saw Elk with a great view of the mountains behind. 


When we got into town, we found a farmers market in the museum parking lot.  We filled on some BC veggies (they came from past Radium) and Nara found a large focaccia round that she ate over the following days.  Lots of local artists with fantastic photos, paintings and illustrations were trying to split dollars from tourists.

Mountains Behind MarketCoffee Camper VanBanff Market

We drove North toward Jasper, the next leg of our trip.



Side View Of Lake Louise
Altitude: 1924m (6312 feet)
Location: Go To...
Tags: Rocky Mountains
Dock In Vermilion Lake
Altitude: 1393m (4570 feet)
Location: Go To...
Tags: dock, lake, Rocky Mountains
Camp In Banff
Tags: camping
Claira Lost Shoe In Mud
Crowded Walkway Under Stone
Tags: crowd, Rocky Mountains
Claira Touching Rust Mud
Altitude: 1407m (4616 feet)
Location: Go To...
Waterfall Cutting Through Rock
Tags: Rocky Mountains
Aluminum Wrapped Corn On Fire
Common Yellowthroat With Insect
Species: Geothlypis trichas (Common Yellowthroat)
Altitude: 1389m (4557 feet)
Location: Go To...
Kids In Forest With Elk
Altitude: 1448m (4750 feet)
Location: Go To...
Side Salad
Vegan Ramen At Chaya
Standing On Bridge
Person: Claira, Helen, Nara
Altitude: 1423m (4668 feet)
Location: Go To...
Lake Agnes
Altitude: 2121m (6958 feet)
Location: Go To...
Tags: Rocky Mountains
Song Sparrow Looking For Bugs
Standing On Stone In Lake
Altitude: 1394m (4573 feet)
Location: Go To...
Too Much Hiking For One Day
Altitude: 1875m (6151 feet)
Location: Go To...
The Beehive
Altitude: 2020m (6627 feet)
Location: Go To...
Tags: Rocky Mountains
Female Elk Near Campsite
Species: Cervus elaphus (Elk, Wapiti)
Altitude: 1448m (4750 feet)
Location: Go To...
Elk With Valley View
Species: Cervus elaphus (Elk, Wapiti)
Altitude: 1453m (4767 feet)
Location: Go To...
Valley Without Powerlines
Altitude: 1369m (4491 feet)
Location: Go To...
Waterfall Pano
Tags: Rocky Mountains, waterfall
Claira Taking Photo From Bridge
Tags: Rocky Mountains
Walking Up Cave To Waterfall View
Tags: Rocky Mountains
Canyon Cutting Deep Into Rock
Altitude: 1497m (4911 feet)
Location: Go To...
Tiger Swallowtail On Clover
Species: Papilio rutulus (Western Tiger Swallowtail)
Altitude: 1168m (3832 feet)
Location: Go To...
Hour Plus Line Up At Tea House
Altitude: 2124m (6968 feet)
Location: Go To...
Violets Trailside
Species: Viola orbiculata (Western Roughleaf Violet)
Altitude: 2113m (6932 feet)
Location: Go To...
Common Yellowthroat Still Wet
Species: Geothlypis trichas (Common Yellowthroat)
Altitude: 1389m (4557 feet)
Location: Go To...
Waiting For Shuttle Bus
American Dipper Flying By
Species: Cinclus mexicanus (American Dipper)
Claira On Side Road
Altitude: 1384m (4540 feet)
Location: Go To...
Impromptu Wet Trail
Altitude: 1424m (4671 feet)
Location: Go To...
Clarks Nutcracker Flying By
Standing At Lake Louise
Person: Claira, Helen, John, Nara
Altitude: 1732m (5682 feet)
Location: Go To...
Tags: lake, Rocky Mountains
Coffee Camper Van
Tiger Swallowtail Drinking From Clover
Species: Papilio rutulus (Western Tiger Swallowtail)
Altitude: 1165m (3822 feet)
Location: Go To...
Mountains Behind Market
Tags: market, Rocky Mountains
Rock Bridge Over Canyon
Altitude: 1483m (4865 feet)
Location: Go To...
Walking Trail Above Canyon
High Five Over Bridge
Altitude: 1386m (4547 feet)
Location: Go To...
Golden Mantled Ground Squirrel
Altitude: 1497m (4911 feet)
Location: Go To...
Orange Soil With Stream Boundary
Altitude: 1427m (4681 feet)
Location: Go To...
Nara With Small Fish
Species: Culaea inconstans (Brook Stickleback)
Altitude: 1384m (4540 feet)
Location: Go To...
Tags: fish
Great Blue Heron Looking For Breakfast
Species: Ardea herodias (Great Blue Heron)
Altitude: 1388m (4553 feet)
Location: Go To...
Banff Market
Crossing Bridge
Altitude: 1386m (4547 feet)
Location: Go To...
Clarks Nutcracker At Agnes Lake
Species: Nucifraga columbiana (Clark's Nutcracker)
Lake Louise With Morning Crowd
Altitude: 1732m (5682 feet)
Location: Go To...
Tags: Rocky Mountains
Barriers Are For Standing On
Altitude: 1368m (4488 feet)
Location: Go To...
Family At Banff Sign
Person: Claira, Helen, John, Nara
Altitude: 1385m (4543 feet)
Location: Go To...
Tags: sign
Covered Picnic Table
Altitude: 1164m (3818 feet)
Location: Go To...
American Coot Feeding Chick
Species: Fulica americana (American Coot)
Altitude: 1387m (4550 feet)
Location: Go To...
Kakiage Udon At Chaya
Kootenay River With Mountains
Altitude: 1425m (4675 feet)
Location: Go To...
Tags: mountain, river, Rocky Mountains
Roadside Daisies
End Of Easy Walk
Family At Moraine Lake
Person: Claira, Helen, John, Nara
Altitude: 1883m (6177 feet)
Location: Go To...
Moraine Lake
Altitude: 1883m (6177 feet)
Location: Go To...
Tags: Rocky Mountains
Kootenay River In Canyon
Altitude: 1472m (4829 feet)
Location: Go To...
Tags: Rocky Mountains(14), lake(2), camping(1), dock(1), sign(1), mountain(1)
People: Claira(4), Helen(4), Nara(4), John(3)
From: John Harvey Photo > Blogs for 2022 to 2005 > Banff Jasper Road Trip > Banff
From: John Harvey Photo > John's Overnight Page > Banff Jasper Road Trip > Banff
From: John Harvey Photo > John's Overnight Page > Banff

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