The highlight of our Canadian Rockies adventure was not just driving along the Icefields Parkway and absorbing the beautiful scenery, but also visiting the stunning treasures of Banff and Jasper National Parks such as Lake Louise and the Athabasca Glacier.
Known for its ski resorts and hiking trails, Banff is the oldest national park in Canada welcoming tourists all year round. To accommodate tourists, especially Asians, apparentely, shops and restaurants in Banff Town have long opening hours.
Taking full advantage of the long opening hours, on our first night in downtown Banff we went for late dinner and opted for something truly Canadian, namely poutine, which is basically French fries and cheese curds topped with brown gravy. Our poutine, however, was topped with Japanese sauce to give it an Asian twist.
Staying true to the Canadian theme, we had our second serving of poutine when we visited the Athabasca Glacier and the Glacier Skywalk at the Columbia Icefield Discovery Centre. This time it was the basic, or original, version. And though certainly not a dietician’s favourite, after a long walk at the glacier and skywalk, somehow poutine was a perfect fit.
Even during summer, walking on a glacier for 30 minutes can be freezing, especially with the wind-chill factor. Thanks to my colleague who had visited the glacier just a month earlier, however, we were well prepared with long pants and thick hoodies. Still, a fleece jacket would have come in handy.
On the way back to Banff from the Columbia Icefield Discovery Centre, which is technically in Jasper, just a few kilometers across the border, we stopped at Bow Summit. The summit is known as the best point from which to overlook Peyto Lake.
Glaciers, lakes and rivers in the Canadian Rockies usually look spectacularly turquoise blue. Unfortunately, though, due to wildfires, the glacier, although still an impressive sight, was contaminated with ashes and the visibility in and around the lakes was severely reduced.
On day two in Banff, following our glacier adventure, the visibility got worse. Sticking to our itinerary, however, we drove to Lake Louise to buy parking tickets valid for Banff as well and Jasper National Parks. Ironically, considering we passed the Overflow Parking on the way, it took us two hours to find a parking spot at Lake Louise. At the Overflow, some 7 kilometers out, we could have parked and taken a free shuttle bus to Lake Louise. Instead, we decided to park at the Lake Louise Tourist Information Centre to warm up with some hot drinks.
We finally got a parking spot around noon and spent a couple of hours walking and trekking along Lake Louise. And while it was definitely amazing, we couldn’t shake the though of what could have been if the skies had been clear(er). A bit of a shame, but dazzling nonetheless.
To be continued…