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.
A distant view of Lake Louise framed by Mount Victoria
If you’ve missed our previous Canadian Rockies tales, click on the posts below for a catch up:
–Planes, Trains and Automobiles
–Banff National Park
-Sightseeing in Calgary
-Visiting friends in Edmonton
-Wonderful Jasper National Park
-Captivating Icefields Parkway
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:
Some areas beneath the gondola make up a prime wildlife corridor where no hiking is permitted
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:
Touch the blue bar only to go through the gate for your hike (at your own risk). Thanks, but we’ll look elsewhere!
No red chairs here, but this nice wooden one provided views just as good!
We reached the top to enjoy a fabulous panorama of Bow Valley and its surrounding mountain range
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.
Lake Louise Ski Resort
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:
Who can blame them, this lake is gorgeous!
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.
A still Lake Louise on a cold morning. The backdrop of Mount Victoria and hanging Mount Victoria Glacier make this place a stunner
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.
Yep, looks like a beehive
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.
From previous experience, we knew that sunlight reflecting off the “rock flour” in the water is what gives lakes here their spectacular turquoise color
While taking pictures of the lake, this curious grouse seemed to sort of materialize from out of the bushes
Taking a break after hiking the first ridge line – from here on it was a steady hike up
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.
Hikers resting and/or sipping tea at the tea house
We continued on an extra round-trip mile along a lateral moraine to the Abbots Pass viewpoint:
The path continued along a narrow ridge, with a drop off to the glacier below
At the end of the lateral moraine we could barely see Abbot’s Hut. To the left is Mount Lefroy and to the right is Mount Victoria
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.
That speck at the top of the glacier is Abbots Pass hut, Canada’s highest national historic site
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.
Heading back to Lake Louise along the plains of the six glaciers (although I failed to identify them)
I finally saw a pika busily gathering his winter stash
Melt water cascading down from the glaciers carries the glacial silt (rock flour) with it. At this point the agitated water is off-white
Looking back at lower Victoria Glacier where we were just a few hours ago
Fairmont Chateau across Lake Louise
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.
Betsy parked side by side with Solitude
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 ready foursome – Dave, Faye, myself and Steve
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.
Moraine Lake encircled by the Ten Peaks, all of which top out over 10,000′
Photographers sharing notes
Is this cold?
For another view of the lake we hiked up “the rock pile” just as a busload of tourists arrived.
The rock pile behind us was the result of an avalanche
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.
The twenty dollar view from the rock pile
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.
Goofing off between boulders
Crystal clear Consolation 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.
Goofing off again by Bow River
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!
At the border on a soggy day – you never know what to expect here. They took away our rice!
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!
Next up: We’ve done it!