Hi guys! Moritz and I are on vacation in beautiful Canada! In our first week, we explored the awesomeness of the National Parks Banff and Jasper with our friends Matt and Anne (check out Anne’s blog fannetasticfood.com for more fun information and pics about our trip!). Every day was packed with highlights but I did my best to put together the 10 greatest must-do’s when in Banff and Jasper!
1. Visit the Fairmont Banff Springs hotel
The Fairmont Banff Springs hotel is not only THE landmark of Banff, it is also a UNESCO World Heritage site. The hotel has been around for more than 125 years. It was built between 1887 and 1888 as one of Canada’s grand railway hotels and offers travellers with big wallets an exclusive accommodation while in the Canadian Rockies.
You can combine the visit of the world-famous hotel with a lovely hike: Start in the town center and follow Banff Avenue. Cross the river and head left. Now you can follow the beautiful Bow River until you reach the Bow Falls -> Picture stop!! After one or ten selfies, follow Bow River Avenue over the bridge. Turn right when you see a trail and follow it. It will lead you on a hill overlooking the river from where you can enjoy great views.
As soon as you see a bridge, look for a track on the right side of the trail and follow it down to the river. It will lead you up to the hotel. From there, follow the street down into town again.
2. Hiking at Lake Louise
Lake Louise is also located within Banff National Park. It is famous because of its beautiful emerald colour which stems from rock flour that is produced by the nearby glaciers.
At Lake Louise you find another impressive Fairmont hotel and UNESCO world heritage: The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise.
But there is much more to explore around the lake. The area is an eldorado for hikers. We decided to combine two hikes to get most of our day at Lake Louise: the 10.6 km Plain of six Glaciers and the 6.8 km Lake Agnes Teahouse. Those are two of the most famous hikes in the area – for a reason I can say. The scenery is stunning. The Plain of six Glaciers leads trough pine tree forests up to a viewpoint where you have fantastic views of several glaciers. Well worth the climb.
On the way back you can turn left at the sign, indicating Lake Agnes Teahouse. You have to climb up stairs for 400 meters but it’s worth it. Once you made it, you’ll find a beautiful lake and – you might guess it already – a teahouse.
3. Pay Moraine Lake a visit
Moraine Lake is another beautiful, glacier fed lake that will enchant you with its emerald colour. To get the best views, climb the rock pile close to the souvenir shop! You also find a lot of great hikes in the area.
4. Walk along Johnston Canyon – and make sure you don’t miss the Ink Pots!
Johnston Canyon was formed by erosion over thousands of years and offers spectacular canyon walls and scenic waterfalls. An iron catwalk will bring you to the Upper and Lower Falls. This part of the hike is quite easy and only 2.7 km long.
After the Upper Falls continue for 3 more km until you reach the Ink Pots, seven active, cold mineral springs. The turquoise colour looks nearly to beautiful to be real. Take your time, have a snack at one of the benches and explore the area before you head back.
As Johnston Canyon – especially the catwalk up to the Upper Falls – is one of the most popular hikes in Banff National Park, make sure you come here early in the morning or in the late afternoon to avoid the crowds!
5. Listen to howling wolves at Lake Dog in Kootenay National Park
Kootenay National Park is another national park in the Canadian Rocky Mountains and only a 30 minute drive away from Banff. If offers many more hiking opportunities and scenic spots. My favorite place was Lake Dog. We had to cross a long suspension bridge before a short but steep trail led us to this remote lake.
We rested at its shore and – here comes the reason why this place became so special to me – listened to howling wolves! I have never heard that sound before and it was beautiful and spooky at the same time. On the way back we tried another trail, hoping to avoid the steep climb – and we got rewarded! 🙂
6. Hike along Marble Canyon to the Paint Pots in Kootenay National Park
This hike is not difficult but offers a lot of beautiful viewpoints. At first, you will follow Marble Canyon which is filled with turquoise, glacial water. On your way you will pass some scenic waterfalls and bridges.
After Marble Canyon, I highly recommend hiking to the Paint Pots. It is another 3 km one-way but absolutely worth it. The scenery changes and you find yourself in the middle of these huge ocker coloured pots that were used by indigenous people to paint their faces.
When we did this hike, we were the only ones on the trail… well, the only humans at least…
7. Drive the scenic Icefields Parkway
The Icefields Parkway links Banff and Jasper National Park. It is 230 km long but you should plan a whole day for the trip as many viewpoints and hikes are on the way. And of course the glaciers!
My favorite stops include:
- Mistaya Canyon
Very close to the road. There are some hiking opportunities but simply sitting on a rock and taking in the views is amazing as well.
- Athabasca Glacier
The hike up to the foot of the glacier is steep but definitely worth it. Be prepared for the cold wind up there!
Photo credit: fannetastic food
Photo credit: fannetastic food
- Tangle Creek
A nice roadside stop. If you’re brave, you can climb up the rocks on the left of the waterfall.
- Athabasca Falls
Make sure you don’t look at the falls only from above. Follow the stairs through the old, nowadays dry canyon.
- Sunwapta Falls
What can I say, some more beautiful waterfalls… 🙂
8. Be amazed by the colour of Peyto Lake
Even if you don’t want to drive all of the Icefields Parkway, make sure you include Peyto Lake in your travel itinerary. Peyto Lake is fed by glaciers and the glacial rock flour is once more responsible for its incredible colour.
9. When in Jasper, visit the Valley of the five Lakes
This is a very easy, 4.5 km circuit hike that I can highly recommend. It will bring you to five lakes that shimmer in all different shades of turquoise! Simply stunning and beautiful!
10. Watch out for wildlife!
The National Parks Banff and Jasper are natural habitats for many different wild species. Even by driving from one scenic stop to another, you might spot the one or other animal next to the road. And of course you should keep your eyes open while hiking. We saw a bear in the Valley of the five Lakes but thankfully he was on the other side of the lake, doing his bear thing. If you prefer observing wildlife from a safe distance and in the safety of a car – as I do – make sure to make noise when you are on the trails. I for example clap my hands and sing all the time… That does not only scare away wild animals but other hikers as well… 😛
Here’s a selection of what we saw while in the Banff and Jasper National Parks:
Of course, this is just a tiny selection of all the great places you can visit and amazing hikes you can do when visiting the National Parks Banff and Jasper.
Have you visited the area too and have some insider tips? Share your thoughts with us in the comment section!
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