In Summer of 2017 some friends and I took a trip through several of Canada’s national parks. We found a cheap direct flight from Seattle to Calgary over a long weekend, and booked an Airbnb in Golden, British Columbia - a jumping off point for visiting the parks.
Our flight arrived late Thursday evening, so we spent a very quick night in Calgary before beginning the drive west towards Banff on Friday morning. Our first stop was about an hour and a half from Calgary in the town of Banff, a small, resort town in the center of Banff National Park. We collected a few maps, picked up a parks pass (which ended up being free in celebration of Canada’s 150th birthday), and had lunch.
We took a quick hike just outside of town and immediately encountered a bear and her cubs walking along the riverbank opposite to the trail. We quietly took a few pictures, before walking carefully in the opposite direction.
The Airbnb we’d booked was another hour and a half or so west of Banff in the neighboring province of British Columbia. On the way, we stopped to hike at Boom Lake.
On our second full day in Banff we drove to Lake Louise - probably one of Banff’s more famous attractions. The lake is a beautiful turquoise green color and it’s surrounded by snow-capped mountains throughout the year. The only structure along the lake is a very luxurious Fairmont Hotel and its boathouse.
We started the day by renting canoes from the hotel and paddling to the other side of the lake. The rentals were really expensive, but the views from the lake were gorgeous and well worth it.
After the paddle, we hiked up to a teahouse in the mountains above the lake. The hike was relatively steep but it offered gorgeous views the whole way up. We had a late lunch at the top of sandwiches and iced tea.
On our last full day in Banff, we took a longer more adventurous hike up the Larch Valley / Sentinel Pass. There are bears all over Banff, but this particular hike passes directly through Grizzly territory and Parks Canada recommended that hikers both stay in groups of four or more and carry bear spray. Lucky for us, we encountered no Grizzlies.
The hike up the pass was the most beautiful of the trip. The first half of the crisscrossed through alpine switchbacks before opening up to the base of a valley. Beyond the valley, another set of switchbacks through much rockier terrain led to a view of the valley below and snow-capped mountains in the distance.
On the way down we stopped for an ice-cold dip in one of the glacier-fed lakes in the valley. At the end of the hike, we took some pictures around Lake Moraine.