I hope you’re sitting comfortably with a cup of tea and biscuit as this is going to be a long old post about one of my favourite places in Canada.
After browsing Pinterest for hours on end, I compiled a mood board of destinations to visit whilst in Canada. One place frequented that board consistently and it was Banff. I dreamed of seeing Lake Louise, Moraine Lake, even of just being in the mountains.
So after two weeks on the ranch, three of us girls decided to rent a car and head to Banff. As Annabel was the oldest, the cheapest option was to let her drive, unfortunately she had never driven an automatic before. So after lunch, a tonne of paper work, $250, and a quick driving lesson round the car park, we were on our way.
The drive was maybe the most beautiful I have ever seen. I’ve never really spent much time in the mountains so absolutely everything seemed incredible to me. It sounds cheesy but it genuinely was breath taking. It was almost a disappointment when only an hour and a half later we arrived in Banff.
We had booked Samesun Hostel. It was a wise choice as SameSun is probably the nicest hostel I have ever stayed in. I think it must have been a converted hotel or something because the rooms were enormous and there is no way that someone built it with a hostel in mind. It’s a short 5 minute walk to the high street, there are different activities on every day and night, plus it’s within driving distance of Lake Louise and Moraine Lake.
Having no plans for the evening we decided we would join in with the evening activity of going to the hot springs. Turns out the hot springs weren’t that great. This is one instance where pictures can be deceiving, after a quick google image search it looked absolutely beautiful, they aren’t natural hot springs and you’re essentially paying for the view. Eloise can be hard to impress and she stated that it was ‘a glorified communal bath.’ Ick. After that statement I found it hard to enjoy myself. In all fairness, there are few hot springs that I have enjoyed so I am slightly biased.
High on life and freedom after two weeks of being isolated in the middle of nowhere we decided to head to the bar to make the most of being within civilisation again. A few drinks turned to too many (as it always does), and Eloise and I ended up stumbling back to our hostel room, she consequently made herself no friends when she tried to shush the whole room.
The next morning we decided it was lake day. We started off later than we would have liked as we were all a bit drowsy and hungover but we still managed to make it outside. We drove to Lake Louise first.
I think we chose the best time to visit Canada as the tourist season has dropped but everything is still just about open. Plus, this meant that we actually got a parking spot at Lake Louise.
After seeing Lake Bled this summer I thought I had seen a beautiful lake but Lake Louise just trumps it. No pictures or words will ever do Lake Louise justice, you just have to go and see it. Here are my attempts anyway.
We strolled around the lake until Eloise got too wary of bears and then we turned back. We didn’t go back to the car until I had found out how cold the water really was, it turns out it’s very cold and I’m glad I didn’t fall in after this picture was taken. I would not recommend a swim, maybe test the waters with your hand from the safety of a canoe but definitely do not swim, especially not in September.
Before heading onwards, we stopped for lunch in Lake Louise Town. We grabbed a sandwich from a trail café and headed to my favourite, favourite lake of all time. Moraine Lake.
I’m running out of synonyms for great lakes but just WOW.
Moraine Lake is a little less busy, a little bit smaller and just that little bit more blue. Plus there wasn’t a big ugly hotel in the background. There was also a kind of viewpoint that you could clamber up to get a high up view of the whole lake.
After a browse in the souvenir shop, we decided to head back to the hostel for a well deserved rest before browsing some shops.
On the way to the hot springs the night before I had spotted a Patagonia. I’m sure many of you will have heard of them but some of you may have not. Patagonia is an ethical outdoor store and they are FAB. Definitely check them out. I have looked at many of their wetsuits online but I’ve never actually seen a store before so this was a super exciting moment for me.
It was also our last night as the awesome threesome so we decided to go out for dinner to commiserate. We drowned our sorrows with steak, poutine and beer. What a combination.
On this day, we planned to hike to the Grassi Lakes in Canmore.
Before we could do any hiking, Eloise and Annabel decided that it was absolutely essential that we bought bear spray. $40, 45 minutes, a waiver and a long old lecture about how to actually use it, I was elected as bear attacker as I was the only one wearing a belt and could access the spray easily. It seemed like a lot of hassle but it’s probably better to be safe than sorry and with hindsight, I’m glad we had it after hearing some terrible horror stories.
When hiking to the Grassi Lakes, you can pick one of two routes; the slow and easy one or the fast and difficult one. Being the adventurous girls that we are, we opted for the latter. It was worth it as the views on the way up are stunning and due to the narrowness of the path, it’s far less likely that you would come face to face with a bear.
After half an hour we had expected that we would still have a while to go but it turns out that the lakes are just a little bit smaller than what we were expecting. In all fairness our expectations were very high after visiting Lake Louise and Moraine Lake. However, the more you look at the Grassi lakes the more enchanting they become, the water is really crystal clear and they are just so beautiful, framed with luminous green all around the edges.
On reflection, we definitely kept ourselves busy in Banff. Straight after lunch in Canmore we headed to Bow river to rent canoes. I acted photographer and enjoyed the tranquillity of being in the middle of a river, I kept my eye out for bears but no such luck.
Eloise went back out to look at shops so she could buy some souvenirs and I bought Charlie a present from Patagonia. We had the cheap dinner of noodles for dinner and before we knew it, it was 8pm and time to say goodbye to Eloise. It was quite emotional considering we had been sharing a room for the past 2 and a half weeks but we made plans to meet up again in Vancouver so we would be reunited again soon.
After a busy few days Annabel and I decided to have a peaceful day catching up with friends and family on facetime, wandering down the high street, running any errands we might have until I got bored at 4 and decided we should do something. I had a quick look on my pinterest board and after cross referencing the map we decided to head to Lake Bow. Best. Decision. Ever.
Along with the most beautiful drive, we only went and saw a BEAR. A little black bear digging by the side of the road. I’m sad I didn’t get a picture but there was a wildlife conservation man ushering everyone along to ensure that we didn’t disturb them but STILL! A BEAR! Absolutely a highlight for me.
The lake was beautiful but the highlight was absolutely seeing the bear.
The next day with a heavy heart, I left Banff to head back to Calgary. If you ever get the opportunity to go to Banff, take it. I promise you will not regret it. Keep an eye out for my top tips in Banff!