Rockin’ in the Rockies-Part 3: Lake Louise, Banff and Yoho National Parks

We were sad to leave Jasper National Park after such fantastic wildlife viewing. But the drive south on the Icefields Parkway that connects Jasper and Banff was stunning on a sunny day. We stopped briefly to view the toe of the Athabasca Glacier. (We had actually walked out on the glacier back in 2008 when we took the shuttle with my mom and Aunt Hilda.)

One of the dozens of amazing views on the Icefields Parkway
And another...
And another
The toe of the Athabasca Glacier, part of the Columbia Icefield

Our short journey of 143 miles took us to Lake Louise Campground in Banff National Park. From the campground, we explored by hiking and biking beside the Bow River.

Walking along the Bow River

Lake Louise has gotten very crowded, but we parked before 10:00 one morning and enjoyed the incredible blue-green color of the lake water. This gorgeous setting explains why this site is so popular. We had previously canoed on the lake and walked around the lakeshore—both on cloudy days–so today’s sunshine was welcome.

Lake Louise is breathtaking.

We hiked the Lake Agnes Trail to the teahouse, our most ambitious hike of the trip thus far—just over 5 miles round trip, with the first half being straight up (an elevation gain of about 1300 feet) and the top half filled with many patches of ice and snow.

On the Lake Agnes Trail you can still see Lake Louise below.
There was snow next to the trail as we climbed to 7,000 feet.
And we had to hike through ice and snow in some sections. Glad we had our poles.

The teahouse itself was a fun destination at 7,000 feet, and we ate lunch next to Lake Agnes, still covered with a thin layer of ice. The trip down the hill gave us more scenic views of Lake Louise.

The Lake Agnes Teahouse at 7,000 feet. Wait staff have to hike up every 3 days.
Lake Agnes was still covered in ice and surrounded by snow--in June!
Mirror Lake and the Beehive--on the Lake Agnes Trail
A waterfall on the Lake Agnes Trail

Later we parked at the Park and Ride (aka the ski resort area) and hopped onto the Moraine Lake shuttle (reserved ahead of time and the only way to get to Moraine Lake in the summer). It was wonderful to see Moraine Lake on a sunny day, with that glorious color that we just don’t see on lakes in Southern California.

Moraine Lake, named for the glacial deposits of dirt and rock left behind.

A short, steep hike to the top of the Rockpile gave us fantastic views of Moraine Lake and its surrounding peaks, before we headed back on the shuttle and collapsed from our 20,000 steps today.

The rockpile we climbed to get views of Moraine Lake. They have steps carved into the backside, so it's not that bad!

While camping near Lake Louise, we did a day trip over to Yoho National Park, which is in British Columbia, but adjacent to Banff National Park. We had previously canoed on Emerald Lake in Yoho, and this was our third opportunity to see this striking lake and the mountains reflected in it. We highly recommend this easy paddle (on a calm, sunny day, that is), but get there early or parking will be a challenge.

Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park
The snowy peak above Hank's head is called Michael Peak.
The reflection of the mountains in the lake is mind-blowing.

We were disappointed that Takkakaw Falls was not yet open for the season, but we stopped to see where the Yoho and Kicking Horse Rivers come together.

We also enjoyed the upper and lower spiral tunnels, that were quite the engineering feat when built in the early 20th century.

I think this is the Yoho River, but I could be wrong.
A train going through one of the spiral tunnels

We also learned a bit about the fossils that have been found in this area–in the Burgess Shale of this region.

Fossils embedded in shale

Back in Banff, we drove along the Bow Valley Parkway in the evening to try and find bears, but no such luck. Even so, it’s a beautiful drive—more peaceful than the faster freeway next to it.

A view of Castle Mountain from the Bow Valley Parkway
A view of the Bow River and surrounding mountains along the parkway

After three nights in the Lake Louise area, we drove our RV 40 miles south to the Tunnel Mountain Trailer Court Campground just outside the town of Banff, and still within Banff National Park.

This sign when you enter the town of Banff is usually popular!!! We never had a chance to take our own pictures there.

Just down the road from the campground, we viewed a few elk in the Bow River below and spotted a small group of hoodoos (similar in structure, but less colorful than Bryce Canyon). We could also spot the Banff Springs Hotel from a lookout near the campground.

A few elk played in the river below this stunning mountain.
Hoodoos near our campground
The iconic Banff Springs Hotel

After barbecuing cheeseburgers for dinner, we headed out on a scenic drive to the Vermilion Lakes, where we spotted an osprey, several ring-necked ducks, and a beaver.

Hank, the master barbecuer
The Vermilion Lakes near Banff with Mt Rundle in the background
Ring-necked duck

Next morning we rode our bikes on a portion of the Bow Valley Parkway that is closed to cars at this time of year. Almost everyone else we saw was riding e-bikes, but we huffed and puffed (and occasionally walked) up the hills and coasted down for 11 miles, seeing lots of bear scat, but no actual bears. We think Hank’s brother Mike would have loved this bike ride on the Bow Valley Parkway (though he probably would have ridden much further or faster on his excellent road bike than we did!). Hank previously rode the parkway in 1987 when he came up to do the Golden Triangle 300-kilometre group bike ride (this was before we were dating—I never would have done that ride!).

Setting up our bikes for the ride on the Bow Valley Parkway
So many beautiful scenes along this bike ride

Back to the RV before thunderstorms kept us inside for a few hours. Then we ventured into town for dinner at Three Bears Brewery (Melissa’s MisSteaks—highly recommended—was closed for a private event ☹), followed by a few minutes of exploring the trendy and crowded town of Banff.

The town of Banff is surrounded by gorgeous mountains.
A very picturesque, very touristy town

We realized that we probably could have stayed more than two nights in Banff, since there are lots of hikes and biking trails we did not get to explore. It’s always good to have a reason to come back to beautiful places like Banff and Yoho National Parks.

Saying good-bye to Banff National Park...for now.

6 thoughts on “Rockin’ in the Rockies-Part 3: Lake Louise, Banff and Yoho National Parks”

  1. GREAT photos (again!!) 🙂 Glad you got some blue sky on the Banff-Jasper drive! Looks like
    weather won’t be quite as nice for our Waterton visit ….. darn! See you soon!

  2. Good memories, some of my favorite places in the world! I have been blessed to have visited all those locations so many times in my lifetime.

  3. I do love the color of the water! It blows my mind every time. And I never tire of the Rockies. Love the pictures! Mary


Leave a Comment