Whoop whoop on July 25th we were out of quarantine and healthy! That’s the first great news. The second fantastic news is that we were ready to explore and what best than to start with our Calgary neighbour, Banff National Park? Banff is conveniently located a short 1h30min-drive from Calgary. And in just a couple hours, you’ll enter the gates of heaven on earth… at least my definition of heaven : big snowy mountains, turquoise blue lakes and hiking galore.
We had been through Banff a couple times by now (since I am still so slow on writing the articles sorry), at the very beginning and right at the end – full circle. The first time, we visited Lake Louise and Moraine Lake as well as the town of Banff itself. The second time, we actually saw Bow Lake and did the hike up Lake Agnes. Both experiences were fantastic and the only thing I would have done differently is that I would have gone during the week and not on the weekends. The park is so close to the city that it does get very very busy on weekends. Lake Louise was packed the first time we went and it made me enjoy a bit less. Also, Peyto Lake was closed for road work and I hope I can check this one out very soon. But anyway, sometimes Vanlife takes you to places during the weekend and you can wait it out or still go explore, which is what we did.
1. BANFF TOWN
Don’t skip on Banff town if you’re planning on going to the National Park. The quaint city is beautiful, surrounded by snowy peaks and crossed through by the turquoise Bow River. The small cafés and the luxurious hotels are a sight to see. We did a quick trail around town with Nola on leash. All trails are paved and accessible for everyone to enjoy. The one we took led us to a view over the Fairmont and made us regret that the local springs were closed.
2. LAKE LOUISE
The first time we saw Lake Louise was a Sunday afternoon around 1pm. A couple things to not do…Come in the middle of the day when the sun hits the lake a little too hard and on a weekend when it’s overcrowded. I did not see the beauty of Lake Louise that time and couldn’t stop telling myself that we had to come back because for sure, I was missing out of something amazing.
So the second time (a month later), we woke up at 5am, drove to the top of the road to join the parking lot and waited a bit for sunrise. That day, not a lot of people were here and a huge storm had hit in the area the previous night. The atmosphere was eerie. That’s the day we hiked up to Lake Agnes (the trail starts on the right bank of Lake Louise, see point #5 for pictures and information) and when we came down the sun had come out, which gave for a ton of different pictures and ambiances.
3. MORAINE LAKE
I won’t be very groundbreaking by telling you this was my favourite lake out of them all. The colour of the water is simply unreal and the hike to overview the lake is short and sweet, making it one of the most rewarding short walk in the history of times. Moraine Lake was named after the moraines, deposits of rock flour and other minerals that give this colour to the water. Despite being one of the most visited lakes in Canada, it should not be missed by people who usually prefer to stay off-the-beaten path.
4. BOW LAKE
Not much to say about Bow Lake. It’s very beautiful too but we just walked around the shore and moved on. However, I am pretty sure you can hike around it and get closer to the Bow Glacier, which is so pretty.
5. LAKE AGNES & LITTLE BEEHIVE
So, after writing the last 4 parts of the article, I realize I haven’t really added any value to what you could already have read on other blogs regarding Banff. We did the classic circuit and really didn’t do anything out of the ordinary. Until this part…
This is where I am able to actually give you something that not everybody does in Banff. The hike is short (only 7kms roundtrip) but it’s steep. So tie your hiking shoes on, bring your appetite and some cash and you won’t regret it. The hike up Lake Agnes teahouse is not the hardest hike around but due to the steepness it probably doesn’t get as busy as the flat hikes around the lake. And the best part about it is you can grab a tea and breakfast or a sandwich once you get up there! Now, add 1 km in and 1 km out (a total of 9kms roundtrip) and you’ll have yourself the single most incredible view of Lake Louise.
For this hike, we left around 6:30am from the right bank of Lake Louise, right after the Fairmont Hotel. The hike goes up really fast and keeps a steady incline all the way until the end. After a couple kms, you will be able to take a break at Mirror Lake. Not my favourite especially with what comes next but still beautiful and interesting because it’s more of a pond than a lake.
The last km up will take you to the teahouse and spectacular Lake Agnes. The tea house opens at 8am and gets busy so I would suggest you go early like we did. We arrived right at the opening and didn’t regret it because we were up there with only a couple other groups and were able to enjoy the peacefulness of this place. The trail itself takes you through some pretty amazing views on the range surrounding Lake Louise.
Lake Agnes is located at an elevation of 2, 135m and is relatively small (0.52 km², compared to 0.8 km2 for Lake Louise). We were lucky to see it under the sun, just before the fog rolled in again. We both had a tea (a chai for Bobby and a meadow berry one for me) and a couple tea biscuits. Bobby also tried their protein ball and mountain bar, which were super delicious and healthy!
On the left side of the lake, you can go hike Big Beehive, which will take you towards the Northern shore. We took the right side trail, which follows a path called “Little Beehive“. Only 1 km up and you’ll get a wonderful view of Lake Louise and the Continental Divide. We literally only crossed the path of 1 person on that trail and she was a French girl living in Montreal. How small is the world. Anyway, I would really recommend you push up there because it’s really worth it at that point. That last picture below is absolutely my favourite. How insane is the colour of the lake? The clouds coming up? The waterfall at the top of the mountain?
Hope that with this hike I brought you something a little more original to do around Banff. Even if the classic circuit should absolutely be done and enjoyed because it IS well-known and crowded for a reason. That reason being, these lakes have no equal in North America. Their colour, their size, the Rockies surrounding them are all a spectacle not to miss.
Next time, I’ll talk to you about Jasper and the Icefields Parkway, which we visited only a few days ago (the second time we went to Banff), on the way back from our adventures in BC. A little shake up in the timeline but whatever ;).
Talk to you soon,
Coco, Bobby, Nola & Vanito!
COPYRIGHT: All pictures belong to Fanny Cohen Sanchez, @fannychn on Instagram, Three Times Nine 2020.