Jasper done, it was time to head back south via the Icefields Parkway. Widely regarded as one of the top 10 scenic drives in the world. We did it the other way in 2019 on a coach, this time though we had a car and could take as long as we wanted. Our destination was Lake Louise for a night.
As you leave Jasper you cross the main highway (or bypass as we’d call it in the UK) and that’s it. You’re on Highway 93 and on it. I decided to take us up to a spot I saw on the map called Edith Cavell which is a right off the main highway shortly after you join it. It looked high and we’d never done it before, so I chanced a look. The narrow road climbed and climbed through the trees around numerous hairpins before the road ran out. Just down a track was Lake Cavell and mountain vistas well worth the excursion. The air and water as pure and clean as you can get. You just never get sick of it.
We dropped back down to the Parkway and picked it up at Athabasca Falls. This is another stop we did in 2019 but we didn’t get to see all of it including the lower canyon because of time. We missed so much. It’s so much nicer to be able to amble around at your own pace and soak it up.
Back on the Icefields Parkway proper now we just took our time so we could take it all in. We stopped where we wanted for the views and picture oppos. Loved it.
As you gradually climb and approach the glacier fields the scenery really begins to change. Our planned stop was at the Athabasca Glacier where we were lucky enough to take a trip onto last time and actually walk on it. This time we just parked up and soaked up the view again. The temperature had dipped quite significantly as well.
Just for a moment you can comprehend climate change. The glacier extended right down to below the road a 100 years ago and now its all gone for good and receding all the time. Shocking really.
The next planned stops were a couple of lakes Sally had on her list including her favourite Peyto, the one that looks like a fox. She had to work for it though lol.
Bow Lake done we got to Peyto lake and Sally was excited. Access had been closed for some time since we were there as the car parks and the footpaths had all been upgraded however we didn’t realise we were taken much higher in the coach and although only 400m from the car park the walk to the viewing platform saw Sally gasping for breath on the steep ramps lol. Part fitness, part altitude I think. Like a good Eastern European coach I demanded she kept going. It was worth it though. Well done Sally.
We got to Lake Louise late PM, some 6 hrs after we started out. Didn’t feel like it though. Checked in we chilled then went for a meal in the old railway station building next to the Rocky Mountaineer train track and as we ate it rocked up, literally a couple of yards from the window. Amazing. Here we ate bison ribs, some of the best meat I’ve ever tasted.
We only stayed in Lake Louise for one night, so the next day was a day of two halves. Try and get to see Lake Louise then up the mountain on the Gondola before a PM drive to Banff, our next stop for a few nights.
Sadly, the volume of tourist traffic didn’t allow us to get to Lake Louise or Moraine Lake. Seems you have to get up super early, like dawn, to be in with a chance. We tried twice but unlike the UK where entitled drivers would park anywhere, dangerously, the Canadian rangers had it spot on and just sent you back down on your way. The alternative was an $80 shuttle bus which we passed on.
We decided to crack on and get on the Gondola up the mountain which was absolutely superb. You had a choice of an open-seat type or an enclosed one. We were wrapped up so took the open seat and enjoyed the view. Up there we walked down to the restaurant and indulged ourselves with a $5 hot chocolate and a walk around the stuffed animal museum underneath. Seems to be a theme!
Back down the mountain we began our short trip to Banff via the Bow Valley Parkway and stopped for a couple of pics. Some of the road is shut to motor vehicles so for the last few km we jumped back onto the Trans-Canada interstate to Banff
In Banff we took a quick scoot around Vermillon Lakes on the outskirts before we headed into town, checked in and then went for a wander, destination pub! Since last time the high street is now traffic-free except buses and it’s so much busier and nicer. A lesson for a lot of UK towns, banning cars from town centres is better for business. Fact.
Part 3 done. In the next one, we do a couple more days in Banff then head back to our friends in Okotoks for the last couple of days and we see snow!