We’ve visited extremely popular national parks in the past and almost been a little disappointed. Yellowstone was a bit of a let down for me, it’s overrun with windscreen tourists in the summer and you have to really get off the beaten track to escape the masses. Don’t get me wrong, the scenery is beautiful but I was far more impressed with the quieter Glacier National Park in Montana.
Photo credit: maja_x1
Banff happens to be the most famous national park in Canada and I’ve fallen for it hard. Banff town is fairly fancy but it has strict building controls which has kept it at the small and quaint end of the scale. Yes, there are fancy restaurants but we managed to find a great local pub with the most amazing sirloin steak sandwiches for only $7.95. Yes, most of the hotels are pricey but we found a great last minute deal during the week and camped at the weekend to save money.
The great thing about Banff is you can hike a vast number of trails straight from town. As soon as you do, the people disappear as we found on the Sundance Canyon hike, this was also where we had our first grizzly encounter. She ran off into the bushes but it still gave us a bit of a shock!
We had a great time camping up at Two Jack Lake for the weekend. Camping in Canada is far more than what we’re used to at home. Instead of being crammed into pitches in a farmer’s field, every site is very private with its own picnic table and fire pit, it was really lovely to relax in the quiet for a couple of days.
We nearly killed ourselves hiking up to an old fire lookout above Lake Minnewanka (pronounced wonka!), by the time we were half way up the horrendous mountain we rounded a corner to find another grizzly sauntering down the trail. If she’d charged I would have had to lay down and give in I was so knackered! Luckily Paul being his noisy self sent her running off. The view from the top was beautiful but there was definitely a reason that we were only people on the trail the entire day, not for the faint hearted.
Lake Louise and Moraine lake are just as beautiful as in the photos and we did a couple of hikes around both areas. The trek up to Lake Agnes was great and hot chocolate at the famous tea room in the mountains delicious, also coincidentally being there on the only day of the year that a helicopter flies in 20-30 times with supplies for the tea room was pretty cool.
All in all it felt a lot more down to earth than expected and I’m so glad we got to spend a full week in Banff National Park.