The Canadian Rockies have been on our shortlist for a few years now, and making it to Banff was the main priority of this trip. If you’ve spent any time browsing travel ‘grams on Instagram, you’ve probably seen those incredible photos of neon blue lakes nestled in snow capped peaks. Every time I saw one prior to the trip (and there were a lot – it seemed as if everyone was at Banff!) I would assure myself that there was no way a scene on this earth could be that picturesque. But it’s true, people! It does exist, just a few thousand miles away in Banff and Jasper National Parks in the Canadian province of Alberta.
We crossed into Canada just north of Glacier National Park. We were nervous about crossing into the country with Scout in tow, but everything was a breeze. If you happen to travel to Canada with a pet, be ready to show his or her rabies vaccination papers at the border. I have heard that there are limits on the amount of pet food that you can take in, but we were not questioned about this. The border patrol folks were super friendly and welcoming – much more so than their American counterparts!
We called a few days ahead to reserve a campsite at the expansive Tunnel Mountain Campground in Banff. The campground has over 600 sites (!) but it set up in a way that most of the sites have decent privacy. Banff is interesting as the town is located within the park boundaries. You purchase a parks pass (daily fee per person or two year pass) on the main road like you would pay a toll at a toll booth. The town operates as a separate entity, much unlike American National Parks, which only allow concessionaires to operate the hotels, shops, and restaurants.
There are lots of tiny lakes and hidden spots within a few minutes’ drive of the Banff town center. We took a walk around Johnson Lake one afternoon after lunch in town. The town itself was as picturesque as they come. Crowded, but to be expected!
Lake Louise is probably one of the most photographed spots around Banff and Jasper. Some people opt to stay at the ever-so-fancy Fairmont Chateau, which looked incredible! The hotel is right on the lakeshore and boasts amazing views. Alas, we were booked at eh Chateau Caravan for the night, so we missed out on the Fairmont 😉 Even though it was drizzly and overcast, the lake was still beautiful!
After our stop at Lake Louise, we started to make our way up the famed Icefields Parkway for an epic road trip! The road winds in and out of the mountains with lots of stops for those show-stopping turquoise lakes along the way.
Peyto Lake was the highlight of the drive. I couldn’t believe that the water was actually that vibrant!
Our last major stop was at the Columbia Icefield Centre. The views of the glacier were wonderful, but the crowds make this spot a bit of a disappointment for us.
We ended up spending the night in the Jasper National Park overflow campground (read: field) with lots of other campers. For only $10, this ended up being a pretty sweet place to stay!