The third and final stop on our Canadian trip was at Banff National Park. Since Tim and I were determined to experience as much of the park as our short three days allowed, we pushed ourselves to hook up and get on our way early in the morning. Somehow it all came together and we pulled out of Glacier around 8:30 while most of our fellow travelers were still warm in bed.
Our destination was the world famous turquoise waters of Lake Louise. We arrived in Lake Louise village expecting to find a visitor center with RV parking. No such luck. Apparently in Canada the national parks are not as prepared for tourists pulling 25′ trailers as they are in the US. Not ones to be discouraged by a lack of traditional RV parking, we found ourselves a perfectly acceptable (although probably illegal) road side parking spot and walked to the visitors center where we forked over an astounding $60 for a three day national park pass. Nothing is cheap in Canada.
The nice lady who took our money told us that we wouldn’t find RV parking at the lake and it would be best to leave the trailer behind. She didn’t give us any hints where to leave it, but since we’re self-proclaimed experts at finding places to stow our 25′ home it wasn’t a big deal. We ended up in a parking lot near a train history museum with another RV and shuttle bus. As a bonus the parking lot was right next to the Bow River and Phineas got his first taste of the famous turquoise water.
After letting Phin splash around a bit, we unhitched and headed up the winding road to the lake. Leaving the Airstream behind turned out to be great advice since all the parking lots were full. Once again we ended up parked on the side of the road. A good number of the people who belonged to those vehicles were standing on the side of the lake. This was the scene as we approached the water’s edge.
I suppose with all those people around we should have asked someone to take our photo together. But we didn’t. Instead here is Tim looking at the water, and me looking at Tim.
There are a bunch of hiking trails around the lake, but since we already planned to hike with the group the next day, we left after only spending a short time gazing at the lake. From Lake Louise we headed to Moraine Lake which was only a short 10 km away (after a week in Canada I finally learned that 10k = roughly 6.2 miles). Along the way we spotted the most amazing, perfect looking series of mountain peaks.
Moraine Lake was much smaller, but no less stunning, than Lake Louise.
We found a less crowded spot on the edge near some large rocks for Phineas to enjoy a bit of on-leash wading and stick chewing.
The next day we returned to Lake Louise with about half of our traveling group for a hike. The weather was quite foggy and dreary, which made it hard to see the Victoria Glacier above the lake, but turned the water a very cool pale shade of aqua.
Weeks ago when I started researching hiking trails in Banff N.P. I came across a hike that began at Lake Louise and traveled up to a teahouse. A hike with any kind of food at the end is our kind of hike! Apparently others in our group agreed with these sentiments and a large group of us ended up hiking the somewhat steep 2km trail up to the Lake Agnes Teahouse. At the end we were rewarded with a gorgeous mountain lake.
And a teahouse.
The Lake Agnes Teahouse was originally built by the Canadian Pacific Railroad in 1901. The building was later rebuilt in 1981, but still features the original windows and chairs. Today it is a family run operation that caters to the thousands of tourists who make the trek up from Lake Louise every year. Dry goods are flown in by helicopter once a year and daily supplies are hiked up by employees and on horseback. They had a surprisingly good menu and we enjoyed a nice lunch of sandwiches and quinoa salad. I also had a very tasty ginger chia latte.
After lunch about half our group decided to continue hiking another 4 miles to the second teahouse while the other half turned back. The first part of the hike was a very easy trek through the woods offering occasional glimpses of the lake and hotel below.
About a mile from our destination the trail steepened and the light drizzle that had persisted all day turned to rain…and then hail. We quickened the pace and made it the teahouse cold, wet and ready for some treats. It was raining so hard that I didn’t stop to take a photo of the teahouse, but here we are on the porch enjoying the view, some chocolate cake, and of course, tea.
By the time we had our fill of sweet treats and hot beverages the rain had mostly stopped and we were ready to make the return trip.
The return trail descended a rocky open section, then through the woods to the lake shore. We followed the shoreline back around to the side of the lake where the trail began. The entire hike ended up clocking in around 9.5 miles. I’d estimate only a few of those miles were uphill, and with the exception of the mile when it hailed on us, it was a fairly easy hike. Especially since we got to visit two teahouses! We have a bunch more photos of Lake Louise from the walk along the shore so I’ll leave you with a few more shots of this amazing body of water.