Day 7 – Last Day, First Park

Saturday, August 29, 2017

We got a bit of a later start than we’re used to this morning. We didn’t get on the road until 7:30 a.m. We took a quick ride over to Banff’s Cave and Basin to get ready for a morning hike. Little did we know, the caves and basin around this area happened to be where Canada’s first National Park was created back in 1885. Our hike started along the Bow River.


Bow River

The first half of the trail was beautiful and peaceful.


Trail to Sundance Canyon

Once we got closer to Sundance Canyon, the mosquitos came out in full force. At any given point, I’d glance down and see 4+ mosquitos on each calf. Because of these nasty bugs, we picked up our pace. The falls running through the canyon were pretty, but we didn’t stop to enjoy for too long. On our way back down, we shared the trail with a pack of mules carrying goods up the trail. Two of the mules had broken loose from the pack and seemed a bit startled. The gentleman in charge got the mules back in order pretty quickly. Shortly after that, we saw a crew riding horseback up the trail. We got back to the car and headed to our next spot. Our next hike was going to be our final one for the week, Tunnel Mountain trailhead. We ate some lunch before heading up. This was a pretty steep climb, but the views were worth it. We got a beautiful view of the town of Banff and the Bow River Valley. We hung out at Banff’s most popular summit (because of the location & distance) for awhile before heading back down.


View of Banff from the Tunnel Mountain summit

When we got to the car, we walked around the town one last time before grabbing an early dinner at a Louisiana style restaurant. We followed that up with a quick scenic drive by the Vermillion Lakes. Then it was off to Calgary for a few hours of sleep before catching an early flight. We’re staying at an Air BnB with a few others. It feels more like a dorm/hostel located in somebody’s house. One of the guys has been living here for four months, while another just arrived yesterday. We didn’t spend much time with the guys because we wanted to get packed up and try to catch a few hours of sleep before our 3:00 a.m. alarm goes off.



Day 6 – Take a Bow

Friday, August 28, 2017

The hot tub, mixed with a good night sleep, must have been the key combination. Our legs and feet were feeling pretty good when we woke up this morning. We got ready and headed to Peyto Lake. It was a quick 10 minute walk from the car to the lookout spot. Once again, we beat the crowds.


Peyto Lake

The color of the lake and the surrounding mountain peaks made for a spectacular view. From the lookout point, there was a cool hike that we wanted to try. We hiked through a prairie area up a pretty decent incline. We ended up sharing the trail with a few marmots. As we continued up the very quiet trail, beautiful views of the mountains appeared. Finally, when we got to the summit, we had a picture perfect view of Bow Lake. We were the only people at the summit, which was super cool. The temperature cooled off the further up we went, so we quickly started back down.


Bow Lake

Again, the hike down was very peaceful as we only ran into one or two other groups. Once we were back down at the Peyto Lake lookout area, it was super packed. I was really glad we got there early. We headed up the road to Bow Lake. We ate a quick lunch at the car before venturing off to Bow Glacier Falls. This was a super cool trail, which began by running along the beautiful lake.


Bow Lake

Once we got to the end of the lake, we climbed over the rocks and boulders that lined the Bow River and it’s tributaries. Eventually we got to a beautiful lookout point, which overlooked the Bow Valley and Bow Glacier Falls. We kept going and ended up making our way up to the base of the falls. There wasn’t a trail marked for this section, so we did our best to climb over rocks and through streams. The view from the falls was breathtaking. We hung out here for awhile enjoying the cool mist from the falls on our backs.  We slowly made our way back down and around to Bow Lake.


Path through Bow Valley

We decided our feet could use an ice bath, so we took off our boots and hopped into the ice cold water. It felt great on our sore feet, but we couldn’t stand for too long without going numb. Once our feet dried off, we got into the car and headed back to Banff for dinner. We found a cheap pub and made our way to Rundle Cabins. The cabin we’re in isn’t the nicest place we’ve ever stayed, but the bed and shower should do the trick.





Bow Glacier Falls

Day 5 – “We’ve made it this far…”

Thursday, August 27, 2017

We set out early this morning in hopes of beating the mad rush to Lake Louise. Lake Louise is the most photographed lake in the world, so we wanted to get there early and beat the crowds. We were sure happy we did. The sight did not disappoint. The water is so clear and beautiful, words (nor pictures) do it justice. The lake was formed by glaciers and is still fed by glacial runoff. Because of this, Lake Louise (and many other lakes in Banff) are tucked in between mountain peaks. While at the base of the lake, you’ve got an awesome view out Mt. Victoria.


Lake Louise

We took a quick walk around the lake, which led us to the beginning of the Trail of Six Glaciers. We hadn’t done much research on this hike, but heard that it was pretty cool, so we gave it a go. As we rose above Lake Louise, the teal color seemed to get prettier and prettier. The trail went up in a hurry and was pretty strenuous. Just shy of the lookout spot, we stopped at a teahouse and enjoyed lunch. We crossed paths with a tour on horseback, but this was as high as they would go. We were pretty exhausted and thought about turning back but, “we’ve made it this far…” so we continued on. The remaining section was very steep and rocky, but the views were unbelievable. We saw some of the glaciers that still fed into Lake Louise. It sort of felt like we were walking on the moon because of the lack of vegetation this high.


Lake Louise off in the distance


Glaciers from Mt. Victoria










We slowly made our way partially down the trail until we came across a “T” in the trail. One way led us back down the way we came, the other would bring us to a lake called Mirror Lake. It appeared that we’d have to go uphill again to get to Mirror Lake and our legs were tired, so we chose to go back the way we came. Ten minutes later, Lacey said, “We made it this far… What if Mirror Lake is amazing and we passed up on it because of tired legs?” I didn’t respond, but we both turned around and headed back towards Mirror Lake. This was a pretty steep climb through the forest and along a ridge with a great view of Lake Louise and the surrounding mountain peaks. Once again, we came across a “T” and were faced with another decision. Once again, we chose the longer and more difficult route, which led us to Lake Agnes.


Lake Agnes

We then went to see Mirror Lake, which was believed by many, to be the spot where goats would go to brush their beards. Like everything we’ve seen this far, it was absolutely stunning. We made our way back down to Lake Louise and hopped in the car for a quick ride over to Moraine Lake. In my opinion, Moraine Lake might be more stunning than Lake Louise. We sat on a rock overlooking the lake and enjoyed the peacefulness of it all. We were totally exhausted so we grabbed a quick dinner and hit the hot tub at our hotel. I’m not sure what was more soothing for our leg muscles, the hot tub jets or the open air concept paired with views of the sun setting over the mountains in the distance. Either way, we’re ready and excited for two more days in this beautiful setting.


Moraine Lake

Day 4 – Waterfalls and Wildlife

Wednesday, August 26, 2017

Today we headed south from Jasper to Banff. This meant that we got another opportunity to make North America’s most scenic drive. We got a fairly early start with some Tim Horton’s coffee. We wanted to make a day out of this drive, since we had a series of stops we wanted to make and things we wanted to see. Before we got to our first stop, we spotted a herd of elk. There were eight total, including a few young ones.


Herd of Elk

We’ve been super excited to see all of the wildlife up here, so we stopped for a few pictures. We made our way south to the Valley of Five Lakes trailhead. This was a fairly leisurely trail, 5km in length. The trail began in the woods and ended up going past five beautiful lakes. Each lake was a different size, shape and color. All of the lakes were crystal clear. They consisted of some of the prettiest blues and greens that I’d ever seen. We hit the trail fairly early and avoided most of the crowds. When we got back to the car, the parking lot was full and we were pretty excited to have had such a peaceful hike. We grabbed a quick lunch and headed to Athabasca Falls. The falls were amazing, and like everything else, had a beautiful backdrop of the Rocky Mountains. It was cool to see and hear just how powerful the water rushing through the falls was.


Herd of Mountain Goats

We stopped at a few lookout points for some amazing views. We saw some more black bears and a herd of mountain goats along the way.


Tangle Creek

Our next big stop was Tangle Creek. This was a really cool waterfall. We climbed up the rocks along the falls, as this was nowhere near as powerful as some of the other falls we’d been to. We then headed to the Columbia Ice Fields, to check out the Athabasca Glacier. The glacier has been gradually receding. It was cool to see it now and try to imagine where it was years ago.


Athabasca Glacier

After the glaciers, we were determined to make it to our hotel in the town of Banff. We wanted to watch the U.S. Mens National soccer team take on Jamaica in the Gold Cup final. We had decided that we weren’t going to make any additional stops. We were good on our word, until we saw a sign for Waterfowl Lake and couldn’t pass it up. We did a quick hike through the woods to get to the lake. From the highway, it looked like this lake would amount to nothing… just some trees and a little lake. We were so glad we stopped. We took a short 5 minute adventure through some dense woods before the views opened up to the lake! This might have been the prettiest stop yet. We were all alone in the piece and quiet of nature.




Waterfowl Lake

We took some photos before calling it a day. We checked into our hotel in Banff (they FINALLY had returned our luggage) and found a place for beer, burgers, and soccer.


Day 3 – On Top of the World

Tuesday, August 25, 2017

Lacey and I had decided last night that we’d be pretty bummed if we didn’t see any cool wildlife during out time in the parks. It was pretty fitting that we would see a black bear up close and personal (from a safe distance inside our vehicle) first thing this morning. We were on our way to the Sulphur Skyline trailhead.


Black Bear near Sulphur Skyline

We were told by the ranger that this was  great hike for seeing wildlife. We picked up a bear bell last night to tie onto one of our bags as an extra precautionary measure. Seeing a black bear before even getting to the trailhead didn’t help with Lacey’s nerves.

She sucked it up and we set off for the summit of Sulphur Skyline. The hike to the summit was 5 kilometers. I’ve run a few 5K’s in my life, but none that changed 700 meters in elevation. We set out, about 9:15 a.m. The first half of this hike was consistently uphill through a heavily wooded area near the Miette Hot Springs. We seemed to zig-zag through spruce and evergreens forever. Every once in a while we’d get a glimpse of the mountain peaks off in the distance.


Halfway up Sulfer Skyline

The further we went, the less trees we saw and more common the views of the mountains became. We finally got to a clearing of the trees and wished this was the peak. We were above the tree line and were able to take in some amazing views before trekking onward. The next half hour was, by far, the toughest part of the hike. We could see the peak, but the trail was so vertical that we had to take a quick breather every five minutes or so.

We powered through and made it to the summit in a total of two hours and five minutes. The views could not have been more worth it. All of the pain and struggle we went through (and will likely go through tomorrow) was totally forgotten the minute we opened our eyes and looked around.


Lunch with a view

We were on top of a mountain in the Canadian Rockies with a 360° view of nothing but mountain peaks and beautiful valleys. We spent the next 45 minutes enjoying lunch and the views.


On top of Sulphur Skyline

The top of the mountain was quiet when we first got up there. As time went on, the summit got much busier. We were happy to have beaten the rush to the top, so we could enjoy some peace and quiet.





We made our way down to the car and were met in the parking lot by a few herds of mountain goats. They were everywhere and seemed to be completely desensitized to humans. We made our way back to the highway and headed to the next spot.


Icing the feet in the middle of the lake

We made a pit stop at a random lake. This was a glacier fed lake with the deepest part being just under knee high. We walked out to the middle of the sandy, chilly lake. The cool water felt amazing on our sore feet.

We got back in the car and headed over to Maligne Canyon. We did a quick and easy hike along a beautiful canyon with lots of waterfalls and rushing water. We then took a ride over to Maligne Lake to snap some photos. We’d heard a lot about the recent forest fires, but this was our first time witnessing the damage. It was very sad and humbling to see all of the devastation. We captured our photos of the beautiful lake before heading back to Hinton for the night.


Maligne Lake

Day 2 – North America’s Most Scenic Drive

Monday, August 24, 2017

We caught about 3 hours of sleep before hitting the road to Jasper. According to many, the drive from Banff to Jasper is the prettiest drive in North America. We thought that we might as well judge it ourselves. After grabbing some coffee and a few groceries, we left Canmore, heading north towards Jasper. Before getting to Jasper, we’d have to drive through Banff National Park. The shadows of the mountains I saw last night were only a sneak peak at what’s in store for the rest of our trip. We made the entire 5 hour drive in one straight shot along the Trans-Canadian Highway, knowing that we’ll be heading south back to Banff on Wednesday. We were sure to take notes on the stops we’d be interested in making on the way back. Trust me, there was plenty to see. Though I admit, I haven’t driven many roads in Canada, I can definitely see how folks would think this is the prettiest drive in the entire country. Have you ever wondered how many different ways one can describe something’s natural beauty? Well, we tried to get to the bottom of that today, but we never ran out of ways to describe the sites we were seeing. It was truly unbelievable.


Pyramid Lake

We got into Jasper about 2:30 p.m. and were eager to explore and do some hiking. Our first stop was the visitors center in order to talk to a park ranger about how we should spend our time here. The next stop was to purchase some bear spray. Then, it was off to the trails. We did a 7 kilometer hike on Pyramid Trail. The trail was pretty quiet and gave us some spectacular views of Pyramid and Patricia Lake, Lake Annette & Edith, the downtown district of Jasper, as well as some stunning mountain peaks. For some reason, many of Jasper’s trails have red lawn chairs placed somewhere strategically, to give hikers a rest with a view.



Pyramid Trail


We made it back down in one piece, and well before dark. This trail seemed to be a good warm up for the week to come. We were pretty tired and had a few errands to run, so we headed north, to Hinton, where we’d be spending the next two nights. We got to our Air BnB spot, made a possible game plan for tomorrow, and now it’s time to hit the hay.

No sight of our luggage.

Day 1 – A ‘Rocky’ Beginning

Sunday, August 23, 2017

Lacey and I “planned” a trip to Canada to check out Banff and Jasper National Parks. The word “planned” is used very loosely, as all we have done so far is book airfare and lodging. We’re looking forward to going with the flow as we explore this beautiful part of the world.

Our trip got off to a bit of a rocky start today. We arrived at the Minneapolis airport just after noon for our mid-afternoon flight. It took no more than 20 minutes to check in and get through security. We then boarded out short flight to Chicago. This is when things began to get interesting. Shortly into our flight, we received notice that the weather in Chicago was bad and they weren’t letting planes in or out of the city. Our captain thought we could wait the storm out while in the air to avoid too much of a delay. After re-routing us to avoid the storm, we began running low on fuel. It was decided that we’d need to make an unscheduled landing at a different airport (at this time the place was TBD). We ended up landing in Indianapolis in order to fuel up. We eventually left Indy on our way back to Chicago. At this point in time, our connecting flight from Chicago to Calgary was still on schedule, which was bad news for us. We were likely going to miss that connection. This was the last scheduled flight to Calgary today, meaning we’d be stuck in Chicago for the night. We kept saying that whatever happens, happens and that we’ll have a good time, regardless of where we ended up and when we get to Canada. Shortly before landing in Chicago, we learned that our connecting flight had been delayed. We were in luck! We got off the plane in Chicago and had a few hours to kill. We grabbed a bite to eat and waited patiently for our flight to Calgary. The flight experienced a few more minor delays and we were finally able to take off about 10:30 p.m. (about 3 hours after the original scheduled time). The four hour flight was expedited by a nice nap. We landed in Calgary a little after 1 a.m. This meant we had just under an hour to grab our bags, get through customs and pick up our rental car. We breezed through customs with no problems. Since we were in a time crunch, we decided to divide and conquer. Lacey waited for our bags, while I ran to grab the car. After a bit of waiting, we realized one of our checked bags was still in Chicago. It was actually our carry-on bag, that we gate checked in Chicago. Bummer, but they’ll bring it to us tomorrow. When all was said and done, we left the airport at about 3 a.m. en route to our hostel in Canmore, about an hour and a half away. If the shadows of the mountains we drove through are any indicator of things to come, I think we’re in for quite the adventure.