I’m not exactly sure when I fell in love with the idea of Banff. My husband will tell you it was during Sean’s season of The Bachelor when he made the girls do a “Polar Plunge” to prove their undying love (why?), but the truth is, it was even before that. I think I came across an image of Moraine Lake during the EARLY days of Pinterest and had it at the top of my bucket list ever since. And the truth is, it lived up to all the hype… and more. We went during peak tourist season so was it crazy as all heck?! Absolutely! But 100% worth it! Being there only four days, we felt like we just got a quick taste and have about a mile-long list of hikes we want to do on our next visit!
Our first two days were supposed to be full of rain and storms, so we didn’t try anything too crazy as you don’t want to get stuck on the top of a mountain in the middle of a thunderstorm. We checked out Lake Minnewanka, Mt. Norquay and Tunnel Mountain on day one and then drove up the Icefields Parkway on day two, stopping at Emerald Lake (i Yoho), Peyto Lake, Columbia Icefields at Athabasca Glacier, and the Columbia Skywalk. Peyto Lake was probably my favorite site on these two days and it’s actually super easy to get to — it’s just a super short (5-10 minute) hike from the parking lot to the lookout. I’d almost never suggest this normally, but we skipped the “official” lookout and found the view to be even better from below. The color of that lake was unreal and I’d told Rob I was going to cry because it was just so beautiful!
Day three we set out to hike the Sarrail Ridge trail — unfortunately, we hit yet another roadblock… this time not weather, but grizzly bears! The trail was closed on account of a mother and her babies being seen the week prior and so with no backup plan in place, we scraped together what little amount of internet we could surmise in the middle of nowhere and found the Tent Ridge hike wasn’t too far away (well, only a few miles but an hour plus down a gravel road). In all honesty, I think fate was on our side because this was one of the coolest hikes I’ve ever done. It was about 7 miles long and the majority of it was spent on the ridge of a u-shaped mountain overlooking Spray Lakes and the valley below. You had to do a vicious rock scramble to get to the top and then it was up and down, up and down, the rest of the way across! We were exhausted by the end and finished the day by eating all the carbs we could find in Banff :)
The last day was split between Moraine Lake and Lake Louise. It wasn’t our plan to cram so much into one day, but we wanted to visit both on a sunny day so we had to shift our plan! We woke up WAY before the sun came up so we could get a coveted spot in the tiny Moraine Lake parking lot for sunrise (I say totally worth it, but Rob might disagree). This was *the* spot that drew me here in the first place and it was everything I imagined and more. After hiking a few of the nearby trails in the morning, we spent the early afternoon kayaking on the lake. The water was so untouched that you could see all the way to the bottom of this massive lake — it was totally unreal. We then headed to Lake Louise which is stunning in it’s own way. It’s a completely different color than Moraine — more of a milky turquoise — but nonetheless beautiful. We hiked up to the Lake Agnes Tea House (one of the oldest, highest tea houses in Canada) and after a brief snack continued on our way up to Big Beehive. 10+ switchbacks later, we we were met with an aerial shot of Lake Louise! Banff, you were so, so stunning — I promise, we will be back for a longer trip!