Our final stop in the Canadian Rockies was ever-popular and very crowded Lake Louise. Located in Banff National Park, it’s one of the best known lakes in the Rocky Mountains. Even a little girl we met in Montana gushed with excitement when she overheard me mentioning it to her parents.
If you’ve missed our previous Canadian Rockies tales, click on the posts below for a catch up:
We didn’t waste time once Betsy was set up at the campground. We hadn’t seen a single bear during our past few Canadian stops, and we hoped we might catch a glimpse of a grizzly while riding the Lake Louise Gondola. But no such luck during our 14-minute cruise up to 6,850′. Happily we were rewarded with some pretty spectacular scenery instead:
Grizzly bear sightings happen here, hence the area is known as the Home of the Grizzly Bear. Huge amounts of money have obviously been spent on fencing to keep the bears and humans separated:
After taking in the views and with no bear in sight, we rode back down on an open chairlift, breathing in fresh mountain air as we relaxed.
After the ride we swung by Lake Louise and did a quick “recon” just to see what was in store for us over the next few days:
Hordes of people congregated along the lakeshore taking all manner of selfies and posed shots:
Plain of Six Glaciers Tea House Trail
Judging from the tour busses and overflowing parked cars throughout the area, we knew an early start for our hike the next morning was mandatory. Despite the 29º morning chill, we bundled up in layers (for the first time I wore two pair of pants) and followed the Plain of Six Glaciers Trail. Several tourists were already strolling along the shore trail before 8:00am, but we left the majority of them behind as we started more serious climbing.
The 6.8-mile trail is a moderate hike, and we added an extra mile to Abbots Pass while gaining 1,215′. We traveled counter-clockwise via Mirror Lake in the shadow of Beehive Mountain.
We meandered along streams, waterfalls and forested areas until the landscape eventually became more rocky and barren. It revealed fully the valley below the mountains, long ago carved out by the glaciers that gave this trail its name.
For most hikers the tea house is the end of the trail. The original tea house was built in 1924 by Swiss guides employed by the Canadian Pacific Railway. It’s still in operation, and the staff rotates out each week, hiking back out as the new staff comes in to take their place. Food and supplies are replenished via helicopter.
We continued on an extra round-trip mile along a lateral moraine to the Abbots Pass viewpoint:
Abbots Hut, originally built in 1922 by Swiss guides working for the Canadian Alpine Association, is a staging point for serious climbers in the area. It was named after an American named Philip Abbot who fell to his death in 1896 on Mount Lefroy. Apparently he was North America’s first recorded climbing accident. Today supplies are flown in, and ambitious climbers can access it via British Columbia or from Lake Louise.
After being blown away by the enormity of the mountains (11,000′ and higher) and glaciers, we began our long slog back to Lake Louise. The return offered a different perspective of the impressive mountain features surrounding the lake.
Arriving back at our campground, Dave and Faye had settled in next to us and we were thrilled to see them again. They had just arrived from their 61-day Alaska Caravan, and we were excited to hear all about their adventures and activities. It seemed they had brought the sun with them, as it remained sunny during the whole time we hung out together.
During dinner we agreed that we had to be at Moraine Lake early the next morning to beat the crowds. This lake is as popular as its cousin just a few miles away, with tour busses a-plenty. And for the second day in a row the temps were in the high 20’s when we headed out.
The best way to appreciate the beauty of this famous alpine lake is to follow a flat, easy trail that weaves through its shoreline trees.
For another view of the lake we hiked up “the rock pile” just as a busload of tourists arrived.
The view from the top of that rock pile was one for the books! Gorgeous, fabulous, stunning. The iconic image of Moraine Lake and the Valley Of The Ten Peaks was used on the back of the Canadian twenty dollar bill between 1969 and 1979. The beautiful deep blue water with a backdrop of towering snow-capped mountains is one of the most photographed spots in the Canadian Rockies, and possibly in all of Canada.
Our walk along the shoreline and on the rock pile was short, and we were pumped up for a few additional miles. So we decided to tackle another trail that lead to Consolation Lake.
This lake is a key area for grizzly bears in Banff National Park, and it’s where we saw a sign requiring hiking in groups. The area encompasses critical bear habitat where a concentration of female grizzlies live and raise their cubs, hence visitor access is managed to protect visitors and minimize disturbance to bears.
The 4-mile round-trip trail to Consolation Lake got a bit tedious at the lake, because we had to climb over large boulders and rubble fields to reach our destination. But our reward was yet another crystal clear lake.
Later on, the four of us had a wonderful time comparing stories of our Alaskan Adventures, and there were hints of returning there together. Dave and Faye shared smoked salmon and halibut they brought back, and I cooked Pancit and Lumpia. Between fun hiking, good food and great happy hours we had a ball at Lake Louise. For sure we’ll meet up again down the road.
Finally, it was time for our 26th border crossing as we re-entered the U.S. on a cold and rainy day. It’s great to be home!
That wraps up our magical time in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. Our almost 5-week stay gave us experiences far beyond our expectations. The jaw-dropping landscape and postcard-perfect scenery kept my cameras humming. We think we came at the right time to avoid the worst crowds, the penalty being some chillier than expected weather. But we’ll never forget this part of our adventure!