A warm-weather weekend guide to the Canadian Rockies
The Constant Traveller: The Canadian Rockies
Words— Jennifer Braun
People from across the world travel to Canada to visit the Canadian Rockies where picturesque waters and breathtaking views of mountainous terrain can be found inside Banff National Park at world recognized heritage sites like Lake Louise. Us urban-dwellers in Toronto and Montreal are often looking outside our own country when it comes to travel, but there are truly inspired landscapes within our own borders we should embrace!
But when a city girl, such as myself, sets out on a trip to the Canadian Rockies, the views will also have to include excellent food with solid culture and entertainment. Fortunately, there’s a lavish side to Western Canada that does not disappoint. Fine cuisine, hot springs and impressive hotels are just some of the things that are to be enjoyed along with all the area’s natural glory.
Spend a couple of days in Banff National Park this spring and summer and you’ll find yourself inspired and rejuvenated. Here's how!
Wake up in the town of Banff and head straight to the hot springs for a relaxing morning that will quickly put you into vacation mode if you aren't quite there yet. It's a throwback experience includes soaking in the steamy hot mineral water, which has its own unique blend of minerals, gases and warm temperatures. From the Banff Upper Hot Springs, you can enjoy the view across the valley to Mount Rundle. Note that mornings are the perfect time to go the hot springs to avoid a crowd. Next, head into the town of Banff and soak up all its charm by visiting the local shops and Banff Central Park for more views of impressive mountains. If you’re lucky, the Banff Farmer's Market will be open where you can shop for food, accessories and more from local vendors.
Conveyor belt sushi restaurants in North America are few and far between, so you have to make a stop at the Banff Sushi House where sushi, dumplings and more come delivered on actual toy trains. Have an early and quick lunch at this unique Japanese spot before jumping in the car and heading to Johnston Canyon where you can follow a beautiful winding trail through the canyon to the Lower Falls. With the calming sound of rushing water from the creek, it's one of the most beautiful hikes in the Rockies.
Next, head to Emerald Lake and catch the sunset. You’ll actually leave Alberta and will make your way into British-Columbia where you can find this stunning lake in Yoho National Park. It is the largest of Yoho's 61 lakes and ponds. Again, the views will not disappoint!
After a long day you've earned a delicious meal. Luckily you're now right next to the town of Field and Truffle Pigs. The menu perfectly marries comfort food and fine dining in a way you wouldn’t expect. In fact, it’s a gastropub experience only the Rockies can deliver. My pro tip: don't skip dessert and trust the wine pairing menu.
A stop in Banff National Park that is not to be missed is definitely Lake Louise. Known for its turquoise, glacier-fed waters, this exquisite site is home to hiking trails and breathtaking views. Bask in all its beauty, while you enjoy breakfast at the chateau, which overlooks it. The view inside and outside the Chateau Lake Louise are both to be seen and enjoyed. Next, it’s time to experience it! Rent a canoe and take a ride on the open water. It's an absolute must and an experience I won’t soon forget, so put it high on your priority list.
You might feel the need to go get back on the road and find another spot to explore, but don't! There’s still so much of Lake Louise to experience including the Lake Agnes Hiking Trai. It's one of the shorter (but steeper!) trails in the area but leads to the oldest tea house in Canada—the Lake Agnes Tea House. The trail is well maintained no less and allows you to get crazy views of the Rockies. Once you arrive at the tea house, order the home-made bread and soup of the day. You won't regret it.
Now, you still have some time to check out Moraine Lake, which is another glacially fed lake of stunning colour. Venture a little further and you’ll find waterfalls and impressive rock piles. End your day by just sitting lakeside at Moraine and soak in the sights set in the rugged Valley of the Ten Peaks.
Today you worked up an appetite and you want to feast at the Relais & Chateau gourmet restaurant hiding inside The Post Hotel in Lake Louise. This was one of my best fine dining experiences. Do yourself a favour and hit up the tasting menu, which includes several courses of pure delight. The bill for two with a bottle of wine may set you back a few (ok several) dollars, but treat yourself.
Finally, do consider the timing of your trip. The Canadian Rockies are completely different in the winter! Stay tuned for a winter update.