Lake Louise Hiking
Banff Hiking Tour – Lake Louise
On our first full day, we drove a few short miles to the start of the controlled access gravel road to Lake O’Hara. No personal vehicles are permitted. You need advance bus tickets and the National Park Service sells these for an entire year online in a few minutes each spring. We asked about standby. There was nothing available and they indicated a 1% chance of empty seats on any given day. We took a 10 minute drive to Lake Louise instead.
In Lake Louise, our first stop was at Wilson Mountain Sports to rent bear spray in case we ever got in to Lake O’Hara. Bear spray is recommended for Lake O’Hara and less popular areas, but unnecessary for hiking around Lake Louise, due to the high volume of tourists there. The daily rental rate was about 20% of the cost of owning a new can, but bear spray can’t be carried on an airplane, so there’s no advantage to purchasing it outright during a short stay. We took the bear spray on our Lake Louise Hiking Tour even though we didn’t really need it.
Banff Hiking Tour – Lake Agnes
From Lake Louise we began our Banff Hiking Tour by heading up 1300 feet in 2.5 miles to the Lake Agnes teahouse. The temperature was perfect, but the views were infrequent and hazy, even in the cloudless skies. The most commonly spoken language on the route seemed to be German. Lake Agnes was a beautiful spot. My salty potato chips and water tasted like a gourmet meal after the climb.
From Lake Agnes, we hiked around the Large Beehive, named for the shape of the mountain. Then we continued along the Highline Connector. It was a fairly flat trail, but very high up, with some gorgeous glimpses down to the canoes far below on the emerald colors of Lake Louise. When we reached the first intersection with the Plain of Six Glaciers teahouse trail, we decided that more than 4 hours on our hiking tour that day was enough and we skipped another 3 miles of strenuous climbing.
Natural Bridge, Kicking Horse River
Banff Hiking Tour – Natural Bridge
For lunch we headed to the Truffle Pigs Bistro in Field, BC. Then we drove less than 10 minutes to the Natural Bridge, which spans the Kicking Horse River. When we were at the Natural Bridge 5 years early, 20% of the trees were red, as they were dying from a mountain pine beetle infestation. This time, those trees were black and completely dead, but the other 80% were still healthy. The pine beetles had clearly been frozen to death during the cold winter. Their attempt to cross the great divide here between the Pacific and the Atlantic at Field, BC had failed. That night we enjoyed sirloin carpaccio and trout at the Great Divide Lodge.