September 6. 2016 | Lake Louise & Banff, Canada
It has always been my goal and vision to feature an array of content on Erie Nick. While my focus has been significantly style heavy, I’m really looking forward to shifting and incorporating several more travel posts into the mix. As mentioned before, I feel most alive discovering the ins and outs of the world, whether thats local, abroad, or anywhere in between, so I’m really looking forward to sharing the places I adventure to that inspire me most and hope to inspire the world traveller in all of us!
To kick off my newest Tuesday Travel segment I’m diving right into my trip to Canada.
Traveling to Alberta, Canada was one of those experiences that forever changed and inspired me. I instantly fell in love with Banff National Park and the stunning 2,500+ square miles of pure scenic beauty.
When I look at a world map, I’ll be honest, Canada was never at the very top of my list. But after booking an extended weekend getaway to celebrate three years with Brian, our experiences quickly toped my list of most fond and favorable memories! I have been to many many countries and traveled to countless beautiful destinations, but Banff National Park is by far the most naturally stunning place I have had the opportunity to travel to.
The beauty of the waterfalls is breath taking. The color of the glacial lakes is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. If you’re like me, I’m sure you’ve seen an instagram or two showcasing Banff’s beauty or Lake Louise, but having been there myself I can honestly say photos don’t even begin to do this region of Canada justice.
If you love an outdoorsy adventure and seek to discover the natural beauty of the world I highly recommend adding a trip to Lake Louise and Banff National Park to the very very tip top of your list!
To make travel planning easier, I’ve included our travel itinerary and my very favorites which made an extended weekend trip to Lake Louise one of the very best weekends of my life!
Plane: We flew from LAX directly into Calgary Airport on Air Canada. The overall flight time was only a surprising 2.5 hours, making it a fairly easy extended weekend trip from Los Angeles.
Drive: While going full force for a road trip is always a fun idea, I highly recommend at least renting a car once you arrive in Calgary to continue onward towards Banff, Lake Louise, and the surrounding national parks. Driving and simply taking in all of the awe-inspiring views was even a treat in itself. While Budget was more cost efficient, we went with National for the convenience and customer service— definitely worth the extra $$ per day.
Lake Louise Camp Ground: I’m sure my instagram may not depict “happy camper” but fun fact… I actually love camping and anything that has to do with being outside! Open from May 30-Sept 27 this campground is perfectly located just up the road from Lake Louise. Situated right on the river, Lake Louise campground is surrounded by an electric fence to keep out the many bears in the area, has several on site bathrooms and bath houses, and offers firewood and fire pits for an additional $8(ish) a day. If you truly want an outdoorsy experience this is the way to go— Banff is one of those places you want to explore from sunrise to sunset, so our campsite was the perfect place to set up tent, sleep at, and not feel guilty leaving to maximize our day! If you’re up for it I recommend this REI tent and these extremely comfortable sleeping mats– pictured right
Fairmont Lake Louise: For those of you glamorous individuals, the Fairmont is right up your alley. Situated right on Lake Louise, the stunning castle like hotel attracts tourists and guest from all over the globe with it’s polished appearance and upscale service. With an average room priced at about $845 a night, this is definitely a go-to option for the luxury traveler. If you want to enjoy the lavishness of the lake without the peaking price tag, follow suit as we did and enjoy a dinner or two right on the lake and rent a canoe from the Fairmont Boat house for a truly one-of-a-kind experience. If you are looking for a place to stay in Banff, definitely consider the Fairmont Banff Springs for an equally luxurious getaway– pictured left
Paradise Lodge and Bungalows: For the in-between traveler, these adorable red lodge cabins are the perfect place to set up a home away from home. With country style decor, gas fireplaces, and kitchens, the Lodge is very traveller friendly, family run, and only 1.5km from Lake Louise’s shore. An average room runs about $370 per night, but book in advance as space is limited and the lodge sells out quickly!
The Fairmont Lake Louise: There are several restaurants located within the Fairmont from high end to casual. If you aren’t a hotel guest, I highly recommend making a reservation in advance as hotel guests are accommodated first. If you’re craving pasta I suggest Italian inspired, Lago. The Glacier Saloon is a casual western pub great for hearty meals and late night bites. Above all, I recommend adding a meal at the Lakeview Lounge to your list— Request a seat outdoors and order your favorite drink for a rare dining experience overlooking Lake Louise.– Pictured right
The Station Restaurant: Tucked down Sentinel road just on the river in Lake Louise, this contemporary restaurant resides in an original railway station. Enjoy lunch or dinner in the great room, outdoor patio, or east room, or celebrate a special occasion in the Delamer dining car. — Pictured middle
Elk & Oarsman: Located in downtown Banff, this timber & river themed kitchen and bar offers classic favorites from grilled cheese and tomato soup to salads, ribs, and everything in between. Visit during the summer to take advantage of the rooftop patio with 360 degree mountain views or stop by in the winter and warm up next to the wood burning fireplace.
Lake Agnes Tea House: This cash only tea house is a must-visit stop on the descent of the Big Beehive Hike. If you are looking for a more moderate hike with less incline, you can hike directly to Lake Agnes and the tea house from the base of Louise at the Fairmont. Don’t forget to bring cash (Canadian or American Dollars) and be sure to order the tea biscuits, a mountain bar, and tea of course. (* You will see a line of people at the door, this is for to-go orders only. Table seating is first come, first serve!)– Pictured left
Downtown Banff Shopping: Devote at least a day, if not a long morning or afternoon, to walking up and down the mountain area of downtown Banff. Lined with local shops and well known brands alike, the charming small town situated amongst the mountains captivates any traveller right off the bat.
Cascade Gardens: Walk across the native american inspired Bow River bridge to be welcomed by the Cascade Garden’s budding florals. The Administrative building’s grand architecture set against the back drop of Cascade Mountains is not to be missed
Bow Falls: Enjoy a leisure river walk in Banff while taking in the stunning views of the Bow falls and running rapids. Located right past the Cascade Gardens across the bow river bridge, the trail is fairly easy, at times touristy, yet offers serval great vantage view points. (** I recommend doing this activity at the front end of the trip)
Johnston Canyon Hike: This is one activity that you HAVE to do while in Banff. View after view, waterfall after waterfall, each view is even more stunning that the last. Situated 30 minutes from Banff with winding trails, gradual inclines, two plunging waterfalls, and continuous streaming rivers, Johnston Canyon is a long but moderate hike that unveils some of the most breathtaking views one will ever come across. (** Definitely bring a camera and allow extra time for photos, you’ll definitely get snap happy on the trail!)
Bow Valley: Known to be the most popular road for animal sightings, this well known road is the most scenic route to take from Banff to Lake Louise.
Castle Mountain: With peaks reaching 9,000+ ft. this majestic mountain range in the Canadian Rockies is a must see on the drive from Banff to Lake Louise. (* Castle Mountain Chalets is another family run, dog-friendly, lodging option located midway between Banff and Lake Louise.)
Lake Louise: Lake Louise in itself was our reason for deciding on a trip to Banff. Already stunning in photos, this scenic beauty exceeds all expectations in person. The spot definitely attracts tons of tourists so I recommend taking in the shoreline views first thing in the morning or around sunset once the crowds die down.
Canoeing on Lake Louise: The Fairmont Boat House is the one and only vendor of Lake Louise Canoe Rentals. While anytime of day works for a picturesque canoe ride, I recommend an $85 hour rental at the very end of the day during golden hour/sunset. Most tourists take advantage of mid day voyages, but having the lake to ourself at the end of the day made this already one-of-a-kind experience one of the most memorable activities that I’ve been a part of.— Pictured middle
Big Beehive Hike: Prepare yourself for a bit of an intense hike with steep inclines followed by the most spectacular view of Lake Louise. I’d recommend keeping bear spray on hand and hiking in a group of 2-4 or more, as this path is definitely the road left traveled and winds into grizzly bear territory. The trail is moderate at the start then gets quite steep half way through so set aside 5+ hours to hike the trail at a leisure pace and prepare yourself for some of the most stunning views at the top.— Pictured right
Lake Moraine: Located just next door to Lake Louise, this glacially fed lake is also worth a visit. Go for a brief morning walk along the shoreline trail and, snap several photos atop the nearby boulders, or spend the whole day hiking along the Valley of Ten Peaks. If you choose to stay at the Lake Moraine Lodge, take advantage of their complimentary canoeing!
Lake Peyto: Peyto Lake is another incredible glacier-fed lake in Banff National Park. Following a moderate short hike, the trail lets out with unbeatable views of blue waters within the Valley. Add to your list as a stop along the Icefields Parkway.— Pictured left
Columbia Icefield: I recommend making the trek the the largest ice field in the North American Rockies only if you have time. It is a bit of a drive, but if your schedule allows it’s a nice activity if you’re looking to give your legs a break and want to see more of Canada’s spectacular views.
Lake Louise Gondola: Of course we went on the one day there was not a gritty bear sighting, but this is suppose to be the best Grizzly Bear viewing spot in the Canadian Rockies. Adult Tickets cost $32.95, children’s cost $15.95, but look online or at the Lake Louise gas station for discount coupons.
Additional Activities: Depending on how long you intend to stay and what time of year you visit, consider booking a white water rafting tour, go horseback riding, or skiing or snowboarding in Lake Louise. Even if you aren’t staying at the property, the Fairmont Lake Louise has a great list of activity recommendations all year round, HERE.