Canadian Rockies Continued
Updated: Jan 16
After leaving Jasper and the Icefields Parkway we were getting into somewhat familiar territory. In 2000, Larry and I spent a one-week vacation, for our 30thanniversary, visiting Glacier National Park, including the Canadian portion at Waterton Lakes, Banff and Lake Louise. Consequently, we had some expectations based on our prior, whirlwind visit. Oh, how things change in nineteen years!
Our first venture into the Lake Louise area almost caused us to cancel our campground reservations. The traffic congestion was worse than any commute situation you can imagine. We were, I will say, at least impressed by the traffic directors stationed at every major intersection. What a dangerous, thankless job. It was mid-afternoon, and parking was full at Lake Louise and Moraine Lake. We were advised at the visitor center it was nearly impossible to get to Lake Louise between the hours of 7:00 AM and 7:00 PM or to Moraine Lake between 5:00 AM and 8:00 PM. Our year 2000 visit we casually drove up to both lakes with no issues, now we couldn’t even get to them. Initially we were pretty discouraged by the whole scene, but we decided to follow our own advice and make the best of it.
We set our alarm for 6:00 AM and made the Lake Louise parking lot before it filled up, and the hike to the end of the lake was very peaceful and enjoyable. By the time we returned to the main viewing area of the lake, the crowds had arrived. To our surprise, however, we found that Deer Lodge, only a couple of hundred yards from the overcrowded Chateau area, served breakfast in a lovely lodge setting and was nearly undiscovered. We enjoyed a relaxing breakfast, separated from the madness just steps away. We had a similar experience at The Station, a converted railway station, again only a few blocks from the mayhem. There we had a pleasant, quiet lunch on the patio next to their garden. We were glad we stayed after all.
Since we couldn’t get to the lakes midday, we decided to check out the nearby gondola ride. It was another pleasant surprise, and actually seemed to be underutilized. There weren’t any long lines purchasing tickets or scheduled times for the chairlift. We just walked right up when we were ready. We didn’t have any expectation regarding the view, but were rewarded with stunning, long-range views of Lake Louise and the surrounding mountain range. It was breathtaking. To make it even better, there was a beautiful restaurant with outside seating, incredible views, and a delicious cheese fondue platter, of which we took full advantage.
And Moraine Lake, you ask? I can tell you it’s beautiful from our previous visit. This time, however, we didn’t make it. We attempted an 8:00 PM visit, but got caught in a two-mile traffic jam with everyone else trying to make a late run, and we gave up. We heard that 4:00 AM was really the best time. No thank you! With all the craziness, we still had an enjoyable time at Lake Louise and made some great memories. We were successful in making the best of it!
Banff was a different story. Thank goodness. It was one of my favorite places on our previous trip, and I would have been extremely disappointed if it had become a “Lake Louise”. Certainly it was very busy, but not overcrowded. We usually got into town around 9:30 AM and found it fairly quiet with ample parking. Banff is a picturesque, little town, surrounded by mountains, filled with flowers in large containers in the middle of the streets and baskets hanging along the walkways. What’s not to like? It has acres of parks, including the lovely Cascade Gardens overlooking town. Green spaces with picnic areas are all along the Bow River that runs through town and by the crystal blue Bow Falls. It’s has great restaurants, little shops, and has an inviting public library with terrific, free Wi-Fi! The gondola on the edge of town is reasonably priced, takes you up to the most spectacular views of the surrounding mountain ranges, and has a huge visitor center on top with several dining options. In addition, we learned near the end of our visit, it has a convenient shuttle system running all through town and to all the major attractions. We spent six days in Banff and the surrounding area, and could have stayed longer. It’s still on my list as one of my favorite places.
The Canadian portion of our trip was coming to an end. Only Waterton Lakes remained, and we only had two nights scheduled there. We were excited about returning “home” to miles not kilometers, gallons not liters, and dollars that didn’t need converting, however, we knew it would be bittersweet. The Canadian Rockies are breathtaking and nothing else on our trip would quite compare to them. The adventure this year, however, was Jasper to Jackson and we still had miles to go to get to Jackson!