The Spectacular Canadian Rockies – Part 5 - Banff and Beyond

Andrew Turner on 08 June 2018

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Well today I had the most WOW moments and it has truly exceeded all my expectations.

Today I decided to hire a car and drive up the Icefields Parkway, and I am so glad I did. The Icefields parkway is the main highway between Lake Louise and Jasper. I didn’t get all the way to Jasper, but I was definitely treated to some truly spectacular scenery.

First stop was the world famous Lake Louise, home of the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, which sits majestically next to the lake. The lake is still frozen over from winter but there are small parts of the lake that are starting to thaw. You can tell it is spring as all the animals are venturing out into the beautiful sunny day. I was surprised when a small squirrel was playing around in the pure white snow and as soon as I moved, he scuttled away up the closest tree. I was also lucky enough to see some birds coming out of their nest. The snow was at least 1.5 metres deep along some parts of the track, and pretty slippery for those who didn’t have the right footwear (yes that was me). Meanwhile out on in the middle of the lake, there were loads of kids building snowmen, and having a great time.

I wandered into the Lake Louise Visitors centre and asked them where I should go in my quest to see the best scenery, glaciers and mountains in the area. The overly helpful lady handed me the map of the Icefields Parkway and pointed out all the best places to stop and enjoy the views As I exited the visitors centre and started up the parkway, I turned a corner and it instantly took my breath away. It was like a winter wonderland, with the snow-capped mountains in the distance and the snow topped trees lining the road. I can’t remember the last time I had seen such spectacular scenery. It’s definitely not something we see every day in Australia.

I continued to drive up the parkway, stopping at all the view points along the way. Most of the view-points are just off the road, so you didn’t even have to leave the highway to take advantage of the spectacular views. To drive the length of the highway all the way to Jasper would take around 4 hours including a few stops, but I unfortunately didn’t have time to make the whole trip, but I was extremely happy with what I managed to fit in Not too far from Lake Louise, I stumbled across Herbert Lake’ which is one of the smaller lakes in the area. If you blink, you’d miss it, but I got a couple of awesome panoramas of the lake and the mountains and glacier in the background.

Then it was on to Bow Lake and Bow Glacier. Plenty more spectacular scenery and I got some proof that the ice was beginning to melt. As I wandered out onto the edge of the ice, I ended up with one leg through the ice and into the freezing cold water. As I pulled my leg out of the hole, my shoe decided to go for a swim, so I had to stick my arm in the hole to grab the shoe and stop it from sinking. You really had to be there. The glacier behind the lake offered some spectacular, somewhat closer views of the glacier than what I had seen. You could definitely tell where the land ended and the glacier started, even though the whole scene was white.

My second last stop on my road trip day was Peyto Lake, which is known as one of the most beautiful lakes in the Rockies and possibly the world. The brilliant blue/green colour of the water would have been amazing if it wasn’t covered in snow, but I managed to use my imagination to create this special moment in my mind.

My last stop for the day was at the aptly named Vermillion Lakes. The snow and ice were definitely melting away quicker here than any of the other spots I visited today. The brilliant green water was right there for me to see, with only small patch of ice dotted around the lake. These lakes were definitely popular with couples and families. The sun was shining and people were out in force enjoying the warming rays. This was a real highlight of the day, and so glad I dropped in for a look.

I have to say that today was my favourite day of the trip. As a generally reserved person, it takes a lot to WOW me, but I have to say today I experienced some multiple WOWing and definitely ticked a couple of things off my bucket list.

Ok so Day 4 in Banff was organised by Tourism Alberta to show us some of the local attractions in an around town. Number one attraction is the Banff Gondola, which takes you up to the top of Sulphur Mountain for some glorious views of the town and mountains. There is a walk that you can do, but I wasn’t dressed appropriately to attempt to head out and conquer the track.

Stop 2 was a viewpoint of the Banff Springs Hotel, which is the Iconic Fairmont property that everyone aspires to stay in. Then we headed off to Bow falls and then on to the Hoodoos rock formations which were all pretty spectacular. After a quick lunch in town we started to head to Calgary and the end of our fantastic journey.

But one last surprise before we left the Rockies… We were treated to one last WOW moment with a 12 minute helicopter ride, courtesy of Alpine Helicopters. What a rush it was being so close to the mountains. It actually felt like I could touch the mountain peaks, so, so cool! I did get some footage in the chopper and there is a whole album full of awesome photos, so please have a look on my Facebook page

I think the exhilaration of the helicopter ride zapped me of my energy as I had a lovely little snooze on the way into Calgary. Luckily we had left the Rockies behind us and the views of the pending cityscape of Calgary started to appear, so I wasn’t missing a whole lot. A pretty uneventful morning wandering around Calgary and a quick trip up the Calgary Tower for one last view of the Rockies in the distance, and then it was time to head out to the airport for my trip back to Brisbane.

All I can say is thank goodness that the flight wasn’t full and I managed to wrangle a whole row to myself on the flight back. I didn’t even turn on the entertainment, I caught up on all the sleep I missed whilst I was away. A great ending to a great trip

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