Posts

Lake Louise at Banff National Park

A trip through Banff National Park wouldn’t be complete without a stop at the beautiful Lake Louise. Lake Louise, named after Princess Louise Caroline Alberta, the fourth daughter of Queen Victoria, is surrounded by mountains, and centred by the iconic Chateau Lake Louise. One of the most popular tourist destinations of Banff National Park, be sure to take your time and enjoy the beauty of the area.

Chateau Lake Louise

Chateau Lake Louise from the Fairview lookout.

While we didn’t stay at the Chateau Lake Louise, we were fortunate enough to stay at the lodge by Moraine Lake. Being so close to Lake Louise, I was able to come here for a sunrise shoot, which really brought out the beauty of the surroundings.

Lake Louise Sunrise

A long exposure of Lake Louise during sunrise.

If walking the grounds around Chateau Lake Louise isn’t enough, the area is a gateway to a number of hiking trails, some more challenging than others. We opted to go to the Lake Agnes Tea House, which is one of the more popular hikes in the area. The tea house, home to over 100 teas, is a perfect way to cap off a hike up the mountainside. In addition to teas, they serve soups, sandwiches, and desserts to satiate a hungry appetite, to ready yourself to continue on to other hikes that extend from there, or to simply go back down the mountainside.

Lake Agnes

Lake Agnes with the teahouse behind me.

The first part of the trail has you hiking through trees, offering not much in terms of views. As you hike higher, you’ll be awarded with glimpses of Lake Louise like you’ve never seen before. The total elevation gain for this hike is about 400m and will take you about 30min-45min. each way depending on your speed.

Lake Louise from the Trails

Lake Louise seen from the trails.

For an even more spectacular view of Lake Louise, you’ll want to start a hike on the other side of the lake, which will bring you to the Fairview Lookout. With an elevation gain of about 100m, and a short but steep hike up, you’ll be gifted with great views of Lake Louise and the mountain ranges behind it.

Nikon D800, 1/160 sec., f/8.0, ISO 100, 32mm

Nikon D800, 1/160 sec., f/8.0, ISO 100, 32mm

Although Lake Louise can be beautiful by itself, I believe the real beauty of the area are the hikes that surround it, offering spectacular vistas of Banff National Park.

Be sure to research the hikes surrounding the area and make some time to do them when you come to Lake Louise. While there may be a plethora of sites to do research from, listed below are a few of the sites that I used when doing my own research.

Happy trails!

Old Fort Point Summit in Jasper

The hike up to Old Fort Point summit may not be the easiest hike around, but its relative distance to the town of Jasper and the resulting view from the top make this hike a must for anybody visiting Jasper National Park.

Nikon D800, 1/1000 sec., f/8.0, ISO 200, 14mm

Nikon D800, 1/1000 sec., f/8.0, ISO 200, 14mm

I don’t recall who it was that suggested I go there, but I’m glad I listened because it wasn’t on my list of places to visit, but offered some of the more spectacular views of the Canadian Rocky Mountains. The total length of this hike if you follow the looped trail markers, is about 4km and will take you about one to two hours. Going to the summit, however, is a much shorter hike, albeit not necessarily any easier. The elevation gain is about 130m. but don’t let that fool you; if you start from the base of the cliff near the Athabasca River monument (where the photo above was taken), taking  the wooden stairs, it’s a fairly steep climb all the way up in a short amount of time. Be sure to take breaks if you get tired.

Nikon D800, 1/100 sec., f/9.0, ISO 200, 14mm

Nikon D800, 1/100 sec., f/9.0, ISO 200, 14mm

Climbing up the pathway, you’ll first reach an initial plateau area where you can walk around and enjoy the panoramic view. In the photo below, these hikers decided to take a break at this plateau before continuing on to the summit.

Nikon D800, 1/160 sec.f, f/7.1, ISO 100, 200mm

Nikon D800, 1/160 sec.f, f/7.1, ISO 100, 200mm

If you look around though, you’ll see that there’s a lookout just above where you’re standing. To get to the highest point, you’ll have to continue on the trail going around the lookout point. Keep to the left and you’ll eventually make your way up to the summit. Take care hiking around the lookout point though, as the path does get a little narrow.

Bears are also known to frequent the area now and again so be on the lookout for them as well.

Nikon D800, 1/8 sec., f/11, ISO 100 70mm

Nikon D800, 1/8 sec., f/11, ISO 100 70mm

The view up at the very top is very rewarding, especially after hiking up a steep grade such as this. Be sure to stay awhile and take in the scenery. Those low-laying clouds that hug the mountain’s peak can only be seen in the mornings.

Nikon D800, 1/40 sec., f/11, ISO 100, 150mm

Nikon D800, 1/40 sec., f/11, ISO 100, 150mm

On the way down, be sure to take in the scenery on the other side of the lookout, where you’ll be able to see the mountain ranges in the far distance. The morning clouds right above the valley made for some great photos.

Nikon D800, 1/80 sec., f/9.0, ISO 100, 70mm

Nikon D800, 1/80 sec., f/9.0, ISO 100, 70mm

I loved this view so much that I came back multiple times making sure I was here during a sunset and a sunrise.

Nikon D800, 1/60 sec., f/9.0, ISO 200, 14mm

Nikon D800, 1/60 sec., f/9.0, ISO 200, 14mm

At the top of the summit, you can continue on the loop hike by following the trail behind the lookout. I opted to go back down the way I came up as I was merely interested in the view and not the loop hike itself.

Whatever the case may be, this is a hike that should not be missed. Take it easy and take your time if needed. Don’t feel like you have to run up the trail, which looks like what this girl may have done!

Nikon D800, 1/320 sec., f/7.1, ISO 100, 200mm

Nikon D800, 1/320 sec., f/7.1, ISO 100, 200mm

The Icefields Parkway and Bow Valley Parkway

Icefields Parkway

The Icefields Parkway is one of the most scenic roads in Canada. Also known as Highway 93 north, it stretches 230km from the Trans-Canada Highway (Highway 1) on the south end to Jasper on the North end, running through the town of Banff and Lake Louise along the way.

Nikon D800, 1/400 sec., f/6.3, ISO 100, 70mm

Nikon D800, 1/400 sec., f/6.3, ISO 100, 70mm

The drive is an absolute beauty as you are surrounded by majestic mountainsides all around you. The sheer size of the Canadian Rockies really puts you in your place when you realize its magnitude. The parkway is literally a gateway to beautiful viewpoints, hiking trails, glacier lookouts, epic waterfalls, and wildlife, it will be a drive you will remember for a long time. Just imagine seeing the view below on your way through the highway! Mirror Lake, as seen below, is accessible via these stairways. There’s a parking lot just off the highway for visitors to park and get closer to the lake. There was a mother bear with her two cubs perusing through the trees not too far from here when I came.

Nikon D800, 1/640 sec., f/10, ISO 100

Nikon D800, 1/640 sec., f/10, ISO 100

And speaking of wildlife, you will see no shortages of these, even just off to the shoulder of the highway. When you’re driving and you see cars parked along the shoulder up ahead, that’s a sure sign that there is wildlife nearby and the cars are parked to take a closer look.

Nikon D800, 1/100 sec., f/5.0, ISO 200, 70mm

Nikon D800, 1/100 sec., f/5.0, ISO 200, 70mm

The parkway winds through mountains and forests, like below, making it easy to get swept away by mother nature.

Nikon D800, 1/800 sec., f/7.1, ISO 100, 200mm

Nikon D800, 1/800 sec., f/7.1, ISO 100, 200mm

And when you happen to catch a terrific scenery, be sure to stop and soak in that sight. You never know when you’ll see it again. I did just that with the scene below. I loved the pop of turquoise from the river amongst the green trees, surrounded by the mountainside. It just stood out to me.

Nikon D800, 1/500 sec., f/9.0, ISO 400, 24mm

Nikon D800, 1/500 sec., f/9.0, ISO 400, 24mm

One of my favourite viewpoints off of Icefields Parkway is that of Peyto Lake. With just a 10-minute hike along the paved, slightly steep trail from the parking lot, you’ll get to this view of an amazing glacial-fed jade-coloured lake.

Nikon D800, 1/160 sec., f/14, ISO 100, 15mm

Nikon D800, 1/160 sec., f/14, ISO 100, 15mm

The colour literally changes every minute depending on the way the sun shines on it. If you go to this viewpoint though, be sure to follow my instructions on this post, where I tell you about another viewpoint just minutes away and offers a non-obstructive, barrier and crowd-free view of Peyto Lake.

Bow Valley Parkway

Although the Icefields Parkway can easily captivate your senses, there’s another parkway that should not be missed. If you’re headed up and down on the Trans-Canada Highway from Lake Louise to Banff multiple times, make sure at least one of those trips is along the Bow Valley Parkway. This parkway—running parallel along Highway 1—is another gem of a ride, offering different views of nature and other scenic spots along the way.

Nikon D800, 1/250 sec., f/8.0, ISO 100, 38mm

Nikon D800, 1/250 sec., f/8.0, ISO 100, 38mm

I drove down this parkway from Lake Louise, heading south, and saw this view of the valley and railroad tracks that literally stopped me in my tracks. I parked the car on the side to get out and take this picture, which I absolutely love. I had to stand here and admire the view for a while before getting back to my car. After a few short minutes in my car, driving back down south on the parkway, a freight train came by on the tracks. If only it were there a few minutes beforehand it would have made for an even greater photo!

Nikon D800, 1/100 sec., f/9.0, ISO 100, 38mm

Nikon D800, 1/100 sec., f/9.0, ISO 100, 38mm

Make no doubt, these two parkways are a fantastic trip in their own right. When you’re on them, be amazed at your surroundings and don’t be afraid to stop every so often for that picture-perfect opportunity. Given that, it’s probably best you leave extra time for stopping at the various viewpoints along the way.

Do you have a favourite memory of the Icefields Parkway or the Bow Valley Parkway? Let me know your favourite stops below in the comments.

Bow Lake and Simpson’s Num-Ti-Jah Lodge

Nikon D800, 1/6 sec.f, f/9.0, ISO 100, 14mm

Nikon D800, 1/6 sec.f, f/9.0, ISO 100, 14mm

It’s a small lake—and perhaps one that can be easily overlooked if you’re just driving on the Icefields Parkway—but that’s no reason to not make any effort to come here. Situated along the Icefields Parkway on the Bow River in the Canadian Rockies, it surrounds itself with beautiful mountain vistas including the Wapta Icefield, Bow Glacier, Bow Peak, Crowfoot Glacier, Crowfoot Mountain, and Mount Thompson.

The beauty of Bow Lake is seen when the lake itself is still. The reflection of the mountainside on the lake, the sense of serenity from the tranquility, and simply being in the middle of nature is what invigorates and refreshes you at the same time.

Nikon D800, 15 sec., f/13, ISO 100, 24mm

Nikon D800, 15 sec., f/13, ISO 100, 24mm

To enjoy Bow Lake, there’s a parking lot right off the Icefields Parkway. You can park and hike around the lake, or if you have more time, to the Bow Glacier Falls. If you really want to take in the scenery, nestled right at the bend of Bow Lake is Simpson’s Num-Ti-Jah Lodge. It is literally the only lodge within the area, and offers guests a quiet retreat from the city life.

Nikon D800, 1/40 sec., f/5.6, ISO 100, 14mm

Nikon D800, 1/40 sec., f/5.6, ISO 100, 14mm

I stayed here for one night on my way down from Jasper to Banff, and had a nice, peaceful time. The lodge itself has a wonderful rustic feel to it, with lots of family friendly activities including a billiards table, board games, books, and more. The room itself is basic but has all that you need for a night’s rest. There are no TVs or wifi in the rooms. My favourite part of the room was this window area with mirrors on either side to make it look more spacious than it really is.

iPhone 6 Plus processed with VSCOcam with lv01 preset

iPhone 6 Plus processed with VSCOcam with lv01 preset

It was unfortunate that we couldn’t fully enjoy our dining experience here because we were already full when it came time to eat dinner. Although service was a little slow during dinnertime—with two other tables having complaints about their meals—we really didn’t have anything to complain about besides the waiting.

Because we stayed here, I was able to see the sunset and sunrise from Bow Lake. Although it was overcast the day we were here, the stillness made for some great images. The footbridge made for a nice foreground subject matter, guiding our eye to Bow Lake. Zooming in further to the mountain and reflection, I loved the “arrow” looking pattern the snow and the greenery made here.

Nikon D800, 8.0 sec., f/18, ISO 100, 140mm

Nikon D800, 8.0 sec., f/18, ISO 100, 140mm

The sun actually sets on the other side of the lodge. But we were fortunate that this lodge is just a quick 5min. drive on the Icefields Parkway to Peyto Lake. I drove to Peyto Lake to catch the beautiful sunset there, and came back to the lodge for a great night’s sleep.

Nikon D800, 1/60 sec., f/6.3, ISO 100, 14mm

Nikon D800, 1/60 sec., f/6.3, ISO 100, 14mm

If you have the time, definitely stop by Bow Lake. I would have loved to do the hike to the waterfall had I more time here. The stay at Simpson’s Num-Ti-Jah Lodge is optional, but is also a welcome place to rest after a full day of hiking in the outdoors.

Moraine Lake Lodge in Banff National Park

Moraine Lake Lodge, situated in a valley of the Canadian Rocky Mountains in Banff National Park is a perfect getaway for that special occasion. It is the only lodge located within the immediate vicinity of Moraine Lake, offering great amenities for everyone. In the photo below, you can see Moraine Lake Lodge to the right, nestled within the trees.

Nikon D800, 2.0 sec., f/16, ISO 100, 14mm

Nikon D800, 2.0 sec., f/16, ISO 100, 14mm

My two-night stay at Moraine Lake Lodge almost never happened, but thanks to the exceptionally warm weather Alberta was having this Spring season, the snow had melted quicker, allowing the lodge to open its doors to its guests earlier than usual. We stayed here in early June where the weather was almost summer-like and similarly, when some hiking trails opened early as well.

The lodge wants to offer its guests “an oasis of calm,” allowing them to relax and destress from the busy everyday lives they lead. In doing so, the lodge has no television or telephones within their rooms. That was fine with me; when you come to Moraine Lake, you’re not here to watch TV—you’d best be out hiking and enjoying nature at her finest. Their one “concession” was to install wifi access. However this connection was hard to connect to, even from our room, which was closer to the main lobby area.

Our room in the Wenkchemna Wing (Room 22), had everything we needed, and even included a welcome champagne with a personal note written beside it. The queen-sized bed was comfortable and there was plenty of room in the sitting area by the fireplace.

Nikon D800, 1/40 sec., f/9.0, ISO 400, 14mm

Nikon D800, 1/40 sec., f/9.0, ISO 400, 14mm

The bathroom was clean, spacious, included plenty of plush towels, and included great bath products from Aveda.

Nikon D800, 1/4 sec., f/9.0, ISO 400, 14mm

Nikon D800, 1/4 sec., f/9.0, ISO 400, 14mm

Wait, did someone say fireplace? Yes. As a matter of fact, each room in the lodge comes with its own fireplace to warm you up. It makes things that much more romantic and inviting, especially after you come back from that delicious dinner in the dining room.

Nikon D800, 1/5 sec., f/9.0, ISO 400, 20mm

Nikon D800, 1/5 sec., f/9.0, ISO 400, 20mm

And on the other side is a neat little shelving unit complete with coffee maker, wine glasses, an umbrella, and more.

Nikon D800, 1/3 sec., f/9.0, ISO 400, 24mm

Nikon D800, 1/3 sec., f/9.0, ISO 400, 24mm

Just beyond the fireplace, the balcony offers another great place to sit and relax in. The view can’t be beat as you are literally just metres away from Moraine Lake.

Nikon D800, 1/80 sec., f/9.0, ISO 400, 14mm

Nikon D800, 1/80 sec., f/9.0, ISO 400, 14mm

The view from our balcony was fantastic. You can see the canoes for rent to the right, and the jade-coloured Moraine Lake just meters away. The walkway you see here is part of the path that leads you all the way to the far end of Moraine Lake. It’s a great little trail that will take you about 25-30min. one way.

Nikon D800, 1/60sec., f/9.0, ISO 400, 24mm

Nikon D800, 1/60sec., f/9.0, ISO 400, 24mm

Amenities

Guests at Moraine Lake Lodge get complimentary access to the rental canoes. Moreover, you are allowed to take them out before and after the general public is allowed to rent them, giving you a chance to canoe out in the open water by yourself. Unfortunately for us, it was still a little too cold to canoe out in the open waters so we had to pass on this opportunity.

Everyday they offer their guests an afternoon tea with complimentary tea and pastries in their games and reading area. Some days it’s just nice to sit and relax on the sofa with that big fireplace roaring next to you.

If hiking is more to your liking, there are a couple trails nearby that give you spectacular views of the Rocky Mountains and Moraine Lake. The staff here at the lodge enjoy hiking just as much as we do. So depending on the schedule, they will offer complimentary hiking guides at one of the trails here at Moraine Lake, like the one below (Consolation Lake hike).

Nikon D800, 1/400 sec., f/10, ISO 100, 70mm

Nikon D800, 1/400 sec., f/10, ISO 100, 70mm

It was nice to see our waitress for one evening be our hiking guide the next day. She led our group through the Consolation Lakes hike, which brings you to some beautiful streams and mountain scenery. At the time, this trail was restricted to group hikes of four or more people due to bear activity within the vicinity. Fortunately our group was much larger, so we were able to enjoy this hike. Had we come here by ourselves, we wouldn’t have been able to hike through this trail. Our guide was very knowledgable, telling us stories of the wilderness and explaining to us facts about the area.

Fine Dining at Moraine Lake Lodge

Just like the hiking and scenery here, the dinner at Moraine Lake Lodge did not disappoint. We dined here for two nights, and each night the menu was different and executed just right.

The rack of lamb I had here was one of the best—if not the best—rack of lamb I have tasted. The meat was so tender, not gamey at all, and had the perfect taste to it. The portions were quite generous as well.

The only complaint I would have of the dining room experience would be the actual dining room itself. It was quite cold whenever we came in here. Even though the fire place was lit, the heat did not do much for people sitting on the other side of the room. Further, being by the windows also did not help getting warm either. Whatever the case may be, we found the temperature to be slightly on the cool side, which at times made the overall experience a little less fine dining.

The Dining Room at Moraine Lake Lodge

The Dining Room at Moraine Lake Lodge

Conclusion

Whatever the case may be, Moraine Lake Lodge is an exceptional place to stay, and one that I would recommend if you have the budget for it, as all of this does not come cheap. If you think about it though, don’t you deserve to pamper yourself a little now and then? We made sure to stay at more economical places during the first part of our trip so that we could end our trip with a bang by relaxing and enjoying the comforts of this luxurious lodge. The view and surrounding nature can’t be beat. And with dishes like the above being served on a changing daily menu, it really is a great place for a cozy getaway for two.

And for photographers, you can’t beat just walking down a few steps for a sunrise and/or sunset photoshoot at one of the most iconic places in the Canadian Rocky Mountains.

For more information on Moraine Lake Lodge, head over to their website: http://morainelake.com.