Driving through the Icefields Parkway

From Banff, we were set to drive through the Icefields Parkway (and stop at all the lakes in between, of course) to get to Jasper. But in the end, due to the weather (rain/snow), we weren’t able to get to Maligne Lake. However, the drive through the Parkway was beautiful, and we got to walk on glacier. Our original plan was to camp out but that was not possible due to the wind and snow, so we ended up booking the Overlander Mountain Lodge at the very last minute — and it was an amazing stay (highly recommended)!!! In September, you need to be flexible with your plans here because of unpredictable weather.

Remember to fill up on gas before you begin the drive.

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Bow Lake

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Peyto Lake

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Mistaya Canyon

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Ice Explorer!

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Walking on glacier (We did the glacier ice walk as part of the “ultimate explorer” package from here)

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Skywalk (also part of the “ultimate explorer package”) – check the weather before you go! We couldn’t see a thing!

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Athabasca Falls

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The whole drive is supposed to take 3 hours to drive without stopping BUT of course, you will stop to take pictures… a LOT. So it really takes up the whole day.

Found this hidden gem in the town of Jasper called Downstream where you can get this ginormous burger: Alberta beef, chicken breast, smoked muscovy duck, double smoked bacon, cheddar and mozzarella.

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I kept finding these coffee+alcohol drinks on the menus in Alberta everywhere… so delicious.

We scrambled to find a hotel that night in the middle of a storm, and all the hotels in Jasper were quoting $350+ that night. Thanks to a staff member at the Jasper Visitor Center, she found us the Overlander — it was beyond amazing.

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View from our room.

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We continued our drive and found some big horn sheep crossing the road.

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Maligne Lake Road Drive was closed due to the snow storm, so we weren’t able to go there. I guess that means we have to come back!

 

 

 

Banff Lakes: Louise, Agnes, Vermilion

We started our hike from Lake Louise. It started snowing in the middle of the hike and at one point, hailing!

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The snow made for interesting pictures though.

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Mirror Lake

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Went into Lake Agnes Tea House to sit out the hail – apparently everyone else had the same idea. It was crowded, dark (no electricity), but we somehow got seats. Cash only! They take CAD and USD but will only give change back in CAD.

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Lake Agnes after the storm.

After the hike, we drove to Vermilion Lakes for sunset.

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Vermilion Lakes are a series of 3 lakes – we drove from one to another to check out the best spot for photographing the sunset. Honestly, all 3 were spectacular. We decided on the last lake since we didn’t want to risk not being able to park and miss the short window.

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The colors shifted right in front of our eyes. One of the most stunning sunsets I’ve ever seen.

Again, we camped out at Tunnel Mountain Village 1 Campground (highly recommended).

Banff in September: Moraine Lake, Larch Valley & Sentinel Pass

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For my birthday last year, I decided to check out the Canadian Rockies. We stayed in Calgary the first night. The drive from Calgary to Banff was only 1.5 hours. I liked Calgary a lot – there were a lot of hip restaurants and bars, and outdoor art installations (free interactive musical see-saws!) at the Riverwalk.

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First thing we did after arriving in Banff: went on a boat and cruised around Lake Minnewanka. Then we walked around the town of Banff. I was unprepared for the cold weather in September, which gave me an excuse to buy a new down jacket (love shopping in Canada, feels like a bargain with the Canadian dollar: 1USD=1.3CAD).

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Lunch at Park Distillery – pretty good meal and extremely friendly service. Highly recommended.

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Did the touristy gondola thing.

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This view though.

We camped out that night at Tunnel Mountain Village 1 Campground – it was perfect, clean, and I highly recommend it. Much better than Lake Louise Campground which we later on discovered.

Breakfast at The Bison – pretty good bison burger!

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We passed by the parking lot leading to Lake Louise and there were long lines of cars outside the entrance waiting to get in. For Moraine Lake, we got lucky. If you wait a bit inside the parking lot, you’ll eventually get a spot – seems like there were fast turnover rates for people visiting the lakes.

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Moraine Lake – where you go to start the hike to Larch Valley. September is the perfect time to see the golden larch trees!

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Sentinel Pass via Larch Valley

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Those larch trees.

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Loved the wide open landscape here.

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Hiking through Larch Valley was easy, but going up to Sentinel Pass was a little more strenuous. Worth it though.

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After this point, turn around and proceed to the top…

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Waiting for sunset at Moraine. There was a huge rock pile for people to scramble up. The higher you go, the bluer the lake looks. It was nice to relax here after the hike.