Now that it’s January, we’re planning where we might travel this year while balancing out the vacation hours we have. Two Septembers ago, my husband and I decided to take a road trip from Vancouver to Calgary. We spent about a week to leisurely explore. It was a great way to experience Banff National Park in Canada.
We rented an SUV from Vancouver and spent one night in between the drive so that we could still enjoy the scenery without feeling rushed. Here are some of our highlights:
We were impressed by how beautiful this lake was with the alpine blue waters and snow capped mountain backdrop.
Along the left side of the entrance to Emerald Lake is a boat rental. We took a canoe out on the water while the winds were still and the water was nearly a perfect reflection. I’d highly recommend renting a canoe! It’s a worthwhile experience and hey, how often do you get to experience alpine waters up close?
I think our only regret was not booking a night at the Emerald Lake Lodge here. It’s right on the water and very private. We’ll have to come back again someday.
Lake Morraine was as stunning in person as it was in photos. We stopped by right before sunset and a second time at sunrise the next day to capture the best lighting. In September, we found sunrise to be better given the mountains started blocking the sunlight later in the day. Though it was tough to get up that early, it was well worth it. Before and just after sunrise, the winds were calmer and we were able to capture the stilled mirror reflection in the water.
Here we are after the sun has fully risen. As you can see, we definitely bundled up. It was only in the 30s that early in the morning. Bring layers and hand warmers! We brought several of these we’d used on past trips. You can purchase smaller packs too or the larger full body value packs.
As many guides will tell you, you don’t need to scramble up the rock pile to see the stunning views. There’s actually a trail that goes all the way up which is hidden around the pile.
You can also rent canoes here and stay at the hotel along the water. I felt Emerald Lake was the most stunning though. Plan accordingly because this lake is very popular!
Lake Louise & the Hike up to Lake Agnes Tea House
Lake Louise was also beautiful in its own right. It’s easily within driving distance of Lake Morraine so you could visit them on the same day.
There’s a beautiful Fairmont Chateau on the water here. It’s a dreamy spot to spend the night and have some high tea as well.
For a truly high tea though, you can take the trail to the Lake Agnes Tea House. For the average hiker (like myself), you’ll break a little sweat going up this trail, but it is totally worth it.
They have a huge selection of tea at the top. After the hike, reward yourself with their soup and warm apple crumble. They’re delicious and welcoming in the brisk air.
Our Hike Through Johnston Canyon & the Ink Pots
The hike at Johnston Canyon starts on a beautiful boardwalk where you can see waterfalls from above. The path follows the river and wraps around the canyon walls.
It’s further to hike, but we highly recommend continuing onto the Ink Pots. The hike through the woods opens up to this breathtaking valley with multiple pools of vibrant colors.
On your way back around the loop, you’ll find mushrooms throughout and this expansive cavern below the boardwalk.
We hiked down this mossy patch carefully to get to the cavern below. There’s a waterfall and stream that runs around this centerpiece rock. It’s a perfect spot to spend some time admiring nature. There were very few people here so we had it mostly to ourselves.
Here’s a view of the waterfall from the top:
We loved Banff and left satisfied with our fill of alpine lakes, mountains, and rivers. While I loved Yosemite, Banff is one great mountain after another. We travelled a little ways through Glacier National Park as well, but there’s still Jasper to visit too someday.
We drove the rest of the way to Calgary and flew back home to San Francisco. Hope you enjoyed the post and feel free to reach out if have questions about our trip!