Whew. This day was a crazy whirlwind! So much to see in such a short amount of time. Lots of short little stops to see as many cool things as we could. Banff DEFINITELY deserves its own trip! (Prepare yourself- photo OVERLOAD ahead.)
We started off the day at Cave and Basin National Monument, which was the birthplace of Canada’s Park Service- pretty cool! The cave is home to snails adapted especially for the sulfuric high temperature waters, and they’re the size of a kernel of corn! There’s your fun fact for the day. We didn’t photograph any of them, though. 😦
After that, it was off to what Lonely Planet claimed as the #1 hike in Canada! (It was pretty awesome, I’ll give it that… but I don’t know that I’d call it the #1 in the entire country.) Sunshine Meadows, a ski area, runs a shuttle bus from the “real base” to the base of operations up high on the mountain. It was actually a pretty cool concept for a ski area- during the winter you take a gondola up and you can stay in one of the lodges. The shuttle buses were actually just old school buses (complete with lighter imprints and all… glad to know that’s not just an American thing, hahahaha) that only went about 10 miles an hour, which was PAINFUL, but it was still a fun experience. And the hike was GORGEOUS.
It was definitely a beautiful hike. After we caught the snails-pace shuttle down to the base, we headed off for Johnston Canyon! Unfortunately we got there at the exact same time as several huge tourbuses, so there was quite the crowd on our hike, but it was still beautiful.
After that we headed to “Instagram Lake” which I can pretty much guarantee you’ve seen on your Instagram feed at least once in your life. But anyway, it’s really called Moraine Lake, and it’s famous for good reason. It’s beautiful! I had heard that it was tough to find parking during the day, so I wanted to save Moraine Lake for a bit later to perhaps give us a better chance of finding a place to park. That strategy worked, go me! (This day in particular was one I AGONIZED over in the planning stages.) We explored around the lake a bit, and had dinner before heading on to our last stop of the day before camp time.
After Moraine Lake, we headed to our last stop of the day, Takkakaw Falls (knocking off another national park, Yoho, which is technically adjacent to Banff, but a separate park. Jasper NP, to the north, is also adjacent to Banff NP, but I couldn’t make it work, which was a real bummer. Next trip for sure!)! Our gas light came on as we were driving there, which got a wee bit stressful, haha. (It turned out fine btw.)
After a long and eventful day, we finally headed to camp at Lake Louise campground. The only negative thing about this campground (and Bow Valley the night before) was the proximity to the train tracks. At least in western Canada, semi trucks are almost nonexistent, and the vast majority of shipping is done by freight trains. That was awesome for the roads, but not so fun when a train horn wakes you up at 2:30 in the morning. We’ll definitely be prepared with ear plugs on our next trip!