Off the Beaten Banff Path

As you all probably know, my dad, boyfriend, and me took a hiking trip to Banff National Park in the Canadian Rockies! We spent four nights in a hotel there and spent the entire trip hiking and taking in the beautiful scenery.

Quick side story: the trip started off a little rough. We boarded a plane in Fargo and were supposed to fly to Denver, CO and board a plane to take us to our destination of Calgary, Alberta. Howeverrrrr- our plane took FOREVER to take off! It kept getting delayed until, all of a sudden, the door of the aircraft opened and we were all told to get off. Our flight was canceled. After reviewing our rebooking options, we realized that it would be much, much quicker to just drive to Canada. We asked for a refund, hopped in the car, and drove 16 hours all night to the park. Ha! It wasn’t perfect (thanks a lot United Airlines) but hey- we did it! (& I’d say it makes a pretty good story)

Okay so anyway- I’m going to give you a day-by-day summary of what we did in the Canadian Rockies! We avoided almost all heavy-tourist attractions, so hopefully you’ll be able to learn and find a new adventure within this blog post. 

Day 1
We drove into the park around noon after driving all night on day 1. Our legs were stiff and we were tired, so we decided to take a short hike to get the trip started. We decided on the trail to Boom Lake. This was about a 6 mile out-and-back trail with very little elevation gain, making it a very quick and fun hike. Although there was nothing particularly interesting or beautiful along the trail (as seen below), the destination of Boom Lake was worth the wait!

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Boom Lake

Boom Lake

The path to Boom Lake

The path to Boom Lake

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Day 2
On day 2, we went for a longer hike. We hiked up to Rockbound Lake on the Rockbound Lake Trail. I’m not going to lie, the first part of this hike was brutal. It was about three miles of pretty steep switchbacks through the woods with nothing great to look at. However, once you got out of the woods *Cue Taylor Swift’s Out of the Woods*, this hike was AMAZING.

It was gorgeous in every direction I looked. This trail had wildflowers, creeks, a river, mountains, and it ended with two beautiful mountain lakes. This trail first takes you by a smaller lake called Tower Lake, that is absolutely beautiful and the most perfect shade of blue. Once you get past this lake, there are some really, really steep switchbacks that you’ll need to climb. Once you get to the top of those, TAKE A LEFT!!!! Before you go to Rockbound Lake, there’s a phenomenal lookout over Tower Lake that is a must see (pictured below)! You can get to this by taking a left at the top of the switchbacks onto a little side trail. After that, continue on to Rockbound Lake and enjoy the view. It’s a gorgeous one! I captioned the photos below so that you can differentiate the lakes and see what I’m talking about:

The trail on the way to the two lakes

The trail on the way to the two lakes

Wild flowers & forest on the trail to the lake

Wild flowers & forest on the trail to the lake

The lookout over Tower Lake

The lookout over Tower Lake

The lookout over Tower Lake

The lookout over Tower Lake

The lookout over Tower Lake

The lookout over Tower Lake

Rockbound Lake

Rockbound Lake

Tower Lake

Tower Lake

The bridge past Tower Lake

The bridge past Tower Lake

A panoramic view of Rockbound Lake

A panoramic view of Rockbound Lake

We ended the evening at Rocky Mountain Flatbread Co. and it was fabulous. It’s very busy there, so make sure to get there ahead of time. They have great specialty flatbread pizzas!

Day 3
Day 3 was our leisure day. My dad HATES touristy things and crowds, but I convinced him that Moraine Lake was a must-see in Banff. We got up really early and were able to make it to the lake around 7:30 am, well before the crowds started piling in. I wore a regular outfit to Moraine Lake (as opposed to my hiking gear) because I wanted some photos. There was really no hiking involved in order to see this lake, so that worked out just fine! This lake was so, so insanely blue. It was simply amazing! We were able to see a couple of different angles of the lake, but then headed out before the buses of tourists started driving in. Peep my Moraine Lake photos here:

After Moraine Lake, we drove up the Columbia Icefields in Jasper National Park, right on the edge of British Columbia. The Glacier was really interesting, but I wouldn’t consider it to be very “scenic”. We took a few photos here that can be seen below:

After visiting the glacier, we headed to Peyto Lake. Peyto Lake is a fairly touristy destination, but it’s not quite as populated as Lake Louise or Moraine Lake. It’s a really short walk up the lake and the view is phenominal! If you’re looking for something quick and worthwhile when you’re in Banff, this is a great place to go! There were so many people piled on the viewing deck, so we hiked off the deck onto the cliffs. I’m not sure if this is “against the rules”, but we did it anyway and nobody said anything. This gave us a much quieter and more enjoyable view of the lake and we were able to see some super cute critters. See our Peyto Lake adventures below:

After visiting Peyto Lake, we headed to the city of Banff. As we expected, it was SO BUSY! But, that was okay. We ate dinner at Banff Ave. Brewing Co. and it was seriously the best. I saw that they won “Best Fish and Chips” in town so I tried them, and yes- they were delicious. This brewery is where I tried my first Somersby Cider and it is now my absolute favorite. Unfortunately, you can only buy it in Canada so if you’re there, you’ll have to try it!

Day 4
On day 4, we did my favorite hike of the trip. It’s called the Emerald Lake Triangle. This hike was rather challenging, as we ended up hiking nearly 14 miles. It wouldn’t normally be quite this long, but we went a little off trail to see Yoho Lake, which I’m so glad we did. It was a stunning lake and we had it pretty much to ourselves! The hike was totally worth the miles put in. Every time we turned a corner, we were awed by yet another different view of something more amazing than the last. Believe it or not, all of these photos were from the same hike:

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The beginning of the hike at Emerald Lake

The beginning of the hike at Emerald Lake

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Yoho Lake

Yoho Lake

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Kristian swimming in Yoho Lake

Kristian swimming in Yoho Lake

Yoho Lake

Yoho Lake

The only bummer about the Emerald Lake Triangle is that it ends with FOUR MILES (!!!!!) of steep switchbacks through the woods with seriously no redeeming qualities. The hike in general was definitely worth it, but just be warned- the end of the hike for real sucks.

…& that’s it! We ended day four with some steak and cocktails and went to bed. We got up early the next day and started our treacherous drive back to the good ‘ole ND! Obviously, there are many other photos, memories, and destinations on this trip that I didn’t include in the blog post, but I hope this gives a good idea of some main stops and hikes to hit up.

If you have ANY questions at all about my trip to Banff, feel free to reach out! I love talking travel. Thanks for reading, folks!

Happy trails to you,
Maria Helen

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