Banff and Lake Louise
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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
Clichés in Banff
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The crowds weren't getting any thinner so after lunch we
turned around and started our return to the Parking lot.
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.
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.
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!
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
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.
After your long wait, you get to go up a tunnel to the close
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.
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
. 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
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.
We drove North toward Jasper
the next leg of our trip.
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
Last Modified Sunday, January 22nd, 2023 at 00:12:54 Edit
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