Our Trip to Canada!
Last month, we traveled to the Canadian Rockies for our 9th wedding anniversary. The trip was nothing short of incredible and we've gotten some questions about our itinerary, so similar to our Alaska trip blog post, we're sharing one for this one as well!
First and foremost, why did we choose Canada for this trip? Good question! About 10 years ago, I was watching the Bachelor (like I do) and everyone travelled to Banff National Park for an episode. They visited several places but the place that stood out to me the most was Lake Louise. Ever since then, I knew that I wanted to travel there one day. And here we are. :)
Peter is typically our trip-planner when we travel. He likes to do research, sneak in some surprises and handle all of the details from the rental car to lodging and everything in between. He started planning this trip late last year and really did a great job investigating everything that we should do. My only stipulation was that I wanted to see Lake Louise but I really had no idea what to expect for the rest of the trip.
Here's a map of where we went and what we did. All in all, we love to move around when we take trips, so we usually split up our time between several different destinations in the area. Over the span of 2 weeks, we spent 10 hours in the car, which it really didn't feel like it! It was such a fun and scenic drive that was split up over many many days. On paper, it was a total of 900 km or 600 miles traveled, but we stopped many times and did various excursions, so I'm sure it ended up being much more than that.
Map courtesy of Google Maps
This was my first time traveling to and staying in Canada. We took a train ride into Canada during our Alaska trip, but other than that, I was excited to experience a new country for the first time. Peter visited the Halifax area when he was younger, but this was his first time to Alberta. We flew into Calgary which was only a 4 hour flight from Atlanta. From there, we rented a car and drove about an hour towards Canmore.
We stayed in Canmore for two days at Basecamp Resorts. Surprisingly, Canmore was a definite favorite stop on our trip. I say "surprisingly" because I just assumed that all of our national park visits would be the favorite, but Canmore was so charming with incredible views all around!
We took it easy during our time here. We mainly just walked around to the different shops and enjoyed the views around town. There is a boardwalk along the creek in town that is beautiful and a great place for birdwatching. Our room was about a 15 minute walk into downtown, which was so convenient. The entire town is very walkable! We also enjoyed some down time at a nearby Nordic spa, (a 45 min drive) Kananaski. Booking a spa day at the start of the trip was such a good move and really set the tone for the rest of the vacation. We loved the Nordic spa in Alaska, so we were excited to find another similar spa experience. I definitely recommend if spas are your thing! Plus the drive there was beautiful!
Where we ate:
- Where the Buffalo Roam - This was our best meal the entire trip!
- Rocky Mountain Bagels
- Rocky Mountain Flatbread
- Lunch at the Nordic Spa (so yummy!)
- Blake - Good food and an even better view (seen below)
We actually stopped for a few hours in Canmore on our way back through at the end of the trip because we loved it so much. It has small town vibes but still lots to do an see.
The next stop on our trip was Banff, which is actually only 20? minutes or so from Canmore. Let me start out by saying, Banff is quite the popular destination! We also visited during (likely) their peak travel time in June. It was pretty crowded with lots and lots of traffic and tour buses. That being said if you wake up early, you can certainly beat the crowds! And it was still a great experience staying in Banff for a few days.
Banff was definitely larger and more busy than Canmore. It felt a *bit* more "touristy" but we still felt like we were really able to enjoy our time there.
We stopped at Lake Minnewanka on our way into Banff. We didn't have time to explore here as we wanted, but there seemed to be lots of great hiking trials and picnic areas.
Some favorite places to eat in Banff:
- Three Bears Brewery - Yummy and we ate on their rooftop bar, which had a great view of the mountains and street below.
- Tooloubus - "Cajun" style breakfast - It was good, but I will say, being from the south, their "buttermilk biscuit" wasn't quite what we had in mind, haha. Apparently we have high biscuit standards!
- Beaver Tails is a Canadian restaurant chain that specializes in dessert pastries that are quite delicious. We had it a few times. :)
- Waldhaus for beer and a pretzel - stunning scenery!
What we did:
- Johnson Canyon Lower and Upper Falls to the Inkpots this was such a great hike but a hard one! It took us a few days to recover from the 9+ miles and 2,100+ feet of elevation gain...but it was so unique and definitely worth it.
- Gondola to Sulphur Mountain; this was a bit touristy as well (nothing wrong with that, I just hate crowds, haha) but there were some really great views along with some mountain sheep!
- Marsh Loop - I absolutely LOVED this trail. It was easy, not crowded at all and it was along the river, which was stunning. We did this hike on our way out of town to the next destination and it made me sad to leave Banff!
- Cave & Basin Tour - This was interesting but I wouldn't say it was worth it.
Where we stayed: Moose Hotel and Suites
I didn't realize this, but Lake Louise is in Banff National Park. This was probably the highlight of the trip for me and the main inspiration behind taking this trip. We splurged and stayed at the Fairmont right on Lake Lousie and we even had a lake view room. There was a nice little nook in front of a huge window and I hardly moved from that seat any time we were in the room. It was such an incredible sight that I honestly had a hard time believing my eyes. And especially to stay somewhere so majestic...was incredible. We got up with the sun so that we could see the changing shadows in the mountains and we stayed up past sunset to see the colors of the sky.
What we did:
-Lake Agnes hike - This was a hike that was right beside Lake Louise. It was nice to walk right out of the hotel and onto the trail. It was pretty strenuous, I'm not going to lie. But we took lots of breaks, didn't rush and did just fine. The cool thing about this trail is that there is a tea house at the end of it dating back to the early 1900s. It's so remote that there's no running water nor electricity, but they do serve tea and sandwiches, which was a MUCH welcomed activity! There are also really stunning views of Lake Louise along the way. Apparently there are a few hikes that fork off of this trail. Honestly, I wish we could've done more but we were still recovering from our big hike in Banff.
I loved seeing the wild Columbine everywhere! These were my favorite in Alaska, and I've seen so many color variations except this one! Bright yellow was a first for me...aren't they pretty?
Our view of Lake Louise on our way back down:
- Ski Lift - There's a ski resort in town that let's you ride the ski lift in the summer time. This was a lot of fun!
See Lake Louise?
- Canoeing on Lake Louise - This was my number one reason for visiting! hah. And it lived up to the hype! The moment that we got into the canoe and started paddling away from the dock, I instantly started crying! To be honest, I don't remember the last time I was moved to literal tears over something like this but it was one of those moments that I had looked forward to for so long... to actually be there in person felt so surreal. And so much more beautiful than what I could've imagined. I literally couldn't believe my eyes.
- Sunrise at Lake Moraine - Lake Moraine is another popular destination in the area that was on my bucket list. Something to note is that they closed down the parking area so now the only way to access the Lake is if you're staying there (apparently there is lodging- that looked quite nice!) or you have to take a shuttle to the lake. This is important to know prior to your trip because booking can fill up fast. We tried to book through our hotel and they had a few availabilities, but they were all during the afternoon and had chances of rain. We really wanted to do the Sunrise shuttle, but they were all booked up. Thankfully, we did a little bit of digging, and found an independent shuttle company that was able to take us for sunrise.
Like Lake Louise, it was hard to believe my eyes! Even when the sun was coming up and the lighting wasn't the best, the blue water seemed to glow. It was truly incredible!
The sun rises pretty early in Canada! We had to wake up at 3 to be at the bus a little before 4. Needless to say, we took a nap when we got back to the room.
Later that day, we went for a walk around Lake Louise. There's an easy pathway beside the lake that has such a lovely view the entire time. Peter also decided to go for a swim...water was in the 40s Fahrenheit but he loves a good cold plunge, hah!
We also braved the awkwardness and grabbed a quilt photo in public. haha. I kept telling Peter, we'll never see any of these people again! ;)
Pattern featured above is Vintage Lace; we have kits for this exact quilt (in 2 sizes) in our shop, found here.
Where we ate:
There really aren't too many restaurants in town but the hotel had a few different ones to choose from, so between that and room service, we didn't really eat beyond the Fairmont dining. Which was pretty good!
Our last day in Lake Louise was our 9th wedding anniversary and we got up early for the sunrise, lingered a bit past checkout and headed to our next destination.
From this point forward, the weather was pretty hit or miss. It rained the entire 2.5 hour drive from Lake Louise to Jasper National Park. We could tell that it was a really scenic drive, but we couldn't see much because of the rain and clouds. The road to Jasper is called the Icefield Parkway and you drive past a glacier, which is pretty cool. (We did that on the way back through.)
Jasper felt MUCH less crowded than Banff and overall had a smaller town vibe. We also saw the most wildlife in Jasper, which was so super exciting. The highlight was a mama grizzly and her two cubs that were on the side of the road near our hotel. We watched them for a solid 30 minutes in complete awe! We also saw an ENORMOUS elk while driving as well.
We stayed at the Fairmont in Jasper, which is a really neat lodge style resort. It's positioned in front of the most beautiful lake with tons of things to do on-site. The lake water was SO crystal clear and turquoise. We went canoeing on it and I literally felt like I was in the Caribbean. It was M.A.G.I.C.A.L. Truly magical.
We also rented bikes to ride around the lake and even had a picnic. The lodge also had a hair salon on site, so I got my annual hair cut there as well. :)
We also took a boat tour of Maligne Lake to see Spirit Island. It was kind of hazy from the wildfire smoke, but still beautiful!
We had one of the best meals of the trip in Jasper. It was actually for our anniversary dinner... a restaurant called Kumama.
Maligne Canyon Loop was a really fascinating hike that went along a river and several canyon areas that had been carved out by water.
Our next stop was Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park. This was another favorite of mine because we stayed in an adorable, lake view cabin. This lake was unlike any of the others as it was a bright, milky turquoise that looked more fake than it did real! There was no wifi in our cabin, and since it was raining for most of our time at Emerald Lake, I did a lot of reading by the fire!
The main lodge at Emerald Lake Lodge was super adorable. It had a sophisticated rustic charm that felt historical but also new. There were two restaurants on-site, so we ate there during our stay.
The quilt pattern featured above is Granny Patch, which can be found in our shop here.
We stopped at Athabasca Falls on the way back. So beautiful!
We then headed back to Calgary but stopped in Canmore for a few hours on the way. We ended up spending one night in Calgary and then taking a red-eye home the next day. We weren't originally planning to leave at midnight, but our flights got cancelled and we figured we might as well try it. We normally have a hard time sleeping the night before a flight, so since we'd be awake, we might as well be traveling, haha. Really though, I think I'll do red-eyes more often! Plus there are less crowds and seats are cheaper.
Overall, it was a once-in-a-lifetime trip, but I would truly love to go back some day. If we went back, I would stay longer at Jasper and Emerald Lake and I'd probably go back to Lake Louise too! It was nice to unplug and explore a new part of the world. I'm grateful to have had the opportunity to do so.
Thanks for following along. Let us know if you have any thoughts or questions about our trip!