Travel

The Canadian Rockies – Calgary, Banff National Park

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Calgary

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View from the flight between Calgary and Seattle

Note : If you want to read an overview of my journey through The Canadian Rockies, you can check out my previous article here.

My Canadian Journey started from Seattle. and taking a small flight to Calgary. Calgary does not have much to offer.

Simple flat lands and a downtown area. And there’s nothing too impressive about the downtown area, and there’s grasslands but scarce in trees. Getting lunch in Calgary, we set off to our first main location and the start of the rockies, Banff.

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Banff National Park

Overview :

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  • The Banff Town : Walk through the picturesque town of Banff and soak in the hustle bustle of the area. There are plenty of restaurants and cafes to grab lunch here.
  • The Bow Falls : The Bow Falls is not too extraordinary, a simple height of 10 – 12 meters. What makes it really beautiful is the vegetation around and the crystal clear blue water. The highlight for us was a beautiful sunny day at around 14 – 15 degrees.
  • Gondola Ride to The Sulphur Mountain Range : The main attraction being The Samsun Peak, the tallest amongst this range. There’s two ways to go on this peak, one can take the Gondola, or trek all the way to the top! It would make for a beautiful 4 – 5 hour trek!
  • Short Boat Ride on Lake Minnewanka : Minnewaka is the largest lake in Banff. Expect incredible mountain scenery, rocky cliffs,  and emerald green waters. If you’re lucky you might spot grizzly bears and bald eagles too!
  • Moraine Lake : Moraine Lake is a glacially fed lake in Banff National Park, 14 kilometres outside the Village of Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada.
  • Lake Louise : The water in the lake is different shades of blue, thanks to the varied depths and plants beneath, and beyond the lake are some frozen waterfalls, that are really beautiful. (Check out in detail in the next post)
  • Emerald Lake : Although a part of Yoho National Park, it is only 73kms from Banff and really beautiful. (Check out in detail in the next post)
  • Johnston Canyon: Situated half an hour away from Banff on Bow Valley Parkway, this is a really nice, albeit crowded, hike through a gorge. It’s an easy trail to the Lower Falls, and if you want moderate exercise, make your way to the Upper Falls. (Check out in detail in the next post)

Author’s Note :

The Banff Town

Banff Town at 7 am

Banff is almost a 2 hour journey from Calgary. This route isn’t the most scenic through the journey, but there are some beautiful landscapes and you’d very soon realize there’s something beautiful coming your way. Banff is a really small town, located in Alberta, within the Banff National Park and has a lot of character and color. It is surrounded by snow clad mountains on all sides, and the weather there is anywhere between 10 to -25 degrees. We were lucky enough to go during a warmer season and it wasn’t too windy and a decent jacket did the trick for us.

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Banff Avenue at 4pm

There is one main avenue, known as The Banff Avenue, all the gift shops, restaurants, other shops, hotels and the local school are all on this avenue only. Going straight on this route takes you to The Fairmont Hotel and The Bow Falls. The population of Banff is anywhere between 2000 – 2500 people and one must obtain the permission of the local body before finding a place for residence here. The whole town runs solely on tourism and hence you can expect good hospitality and warm people. We stayed at The Ptarmigan Inn, one of the many hotels located on the Banff Avenue.

Fun Fact : All the crossroads in Banff are named on the local animals found in the area!

The Bow Falls

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The Bow Falls

The Bow Falls is not too extraordinary, a simple height of 10 – 12 meters. What makes it really beautiful is the vegetation around and the crystal clear blue water (which doesn’t seem as special once you go ahead on this trip). The highlight for us was a beautiful sunny day at around 14 – 15 degrees.

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Sulphur Mountains

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View from the gondola

Going forward from the Bow Falls, is another tourist attraction known as The Sulphur Mountains, and the main attraction being The Samsun Peak, the tallest amongst this range. There’s two ways to go on this peak, one can take the Gondola, or trek all the way to the top! It would make for a beautiful 4 – 5 hour trek! Going up from the Gondola, the view is just breathtakingly magnificent. It isn’t too cold on the top, but its very windy and that makes all the difference. One has to climb a total of 257 Steps to get to the top of the Samsun Peak.

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So on top of the peak is a small hut where an old lady used to live all by herself and there’s an exhibition of all of her tools.

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The Sulphur Mountain Range

Lake Minnewanka

Lake Minnewanka
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From the mountains, coming back down, we set off towards Lake Minnewanka. It is a huge lake, and a man made glacier lake about 28kms in length and 2kms wide. And the water in summer is around 4 degrees, making it unavailable for water sports. There is small ferry ride on the lake, with the guide telling you about local animals and traditions, and the history behind the great Banff Fire.

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Devil’s Gap at the end of the Minnewanka Lake

Devil’s Gap is a mysterious place. It is also a secretly beautiful place that must be seen to be understood.

Imagine a deep amphitheatre flanked by soaring mountains that trace a dark curving line against the bright blue sky. Green prairie land peers through in the far distance to the east. Picture the bald eagles that are nesting there, the Fairholme wolf pack roaming near the south shore and the occasional bear scaling the slopes of Saddle’s Peak.

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One part of the Devil’s Gap is a glacial path that winds through the far east end of Lake Minnewanka, near Ghost Lakes. The whole area is situated at the lake’s deepest point, 152 metres, and you’d have to travel 30 kilometres deep into the Canadian Rockies backcountry to reach it on foot.

A Still of the beautiful Moraine Lake
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Johnston Canyon

From Banff Town, we set out to our next location which is Lake Louise. It is a beautiful 2 hour drive through the National Highway 1. On the way, we took a pitstop at the Johnston Canyon. By this time, the weather had changed significantly, the clouds came further down, covering half of the mountains and leaving the other half barely visible.

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At the Johnston Canyon, there is a trek to get to the waterfall, divided into two parts :

1. The Upper Falls : This is a 1.5-2 mile upward trek and takes about a couple of hours to get to the top of the fall.

2. The Lower Falls : Less time consuming and easier, and the most ideal for tourists who are short on time.

Due to time constraints, we ended up doing only the lower Falls. It was still a very pretty sight, the fall was about 20-25 meters in height, and one had to enter into a small cave, about 2-3 people at a time, and enjoy the beautiful mist of the fall. I found this really nice video from ‘The Flying Dutchman’ of the Johnston Canyon, click here to see it!

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The route all throughout the journey, is so beautiful and so breathtaking, it just stumps you out. It is said the closer one is to nature, the more in touch he/she is to his/her soul and inner peace. Having experienced that in real, I cannot help but agree with it toally!

It just somehow manages to touch a nerve in your mind that’s usually as intact and out of sight as a bee in a garden of flowers.

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The route along the way!

The mountains, half covered with lush pine trees and the other covered in snow enveloped by a thick group of clouds and add small lakes and streams, with their crystal clear turquoise water to make The Complete Package. I could write a 1000 word essay on it and use the most expensive camera to click pictures, but nothing could do justice to what was experienced by the naked eye.

Fun fact : Alongside roads, you’d also find tracks for the the freight trains and passenger trains for tourists, provided by the Canadian Government for the Canadian Rockies package. These trains range from 4 upto 15 nights covering parts or the whole of the rockies, but are comparatively more expensive than normal road travel.

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Emerald Lake

The Emerald Lake on a bright sunny day in all it’s glory as captured by Audley.

The Emerald Lake in itself is very beautiful. Mountains in the background, the water a beautiful shade greenish blue. The still water makes it look lake it is one big gemstone. During a colder day, it is very common to see a thin sheet of ice covering the water beneath.

Here’s a video to show y’all how it was like a cold rainy day!

The Emerald Lake on a rainy day!
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Find out our experience at Lake Louise and Jasper National Park in our next post!

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