Cycling across Canada, I had the privilege to see so many stunning places – Banff and Lake Louise, both iconic, were top of my bucketlist of places to spend some quality time!
Lake Louise, also known as the jewel of the Rockies, was my first bucket list stop. The Hosteling International Lake Louise was like a gift. The place was packed with a mix of people, including a few other cyclists and tonnes of hikers. They had live music on the patio when I arrived and the place was full of life. After living on packaged noodle dishes for the bulk of my adventure, fresh food and drinks with ice cubes (again with the simple pleasures – who knew ice cubes could bring so much joy!!!) was more than I could ask for. Met a tonne of people, some there to hike and see the Rockies, others just out to see Canada, and found myself by a campfire sharing tales from the road that night. The cooking facilities at the hostel were excellent and the dorm rooms were fantastic. It was great to sleep in a bed again! It was also nice to see that the quality of Hosteling International hostels was consistently good as I travelled across the country. Having experienced a few of them in Australia – I was glad to see I could rely on the same level of quality.
Hiking in Lake Louise for my rest day was marvellous. Ended up being the only one on the tour – don’t remember exactly where I went, but it was a great day out. Nice to get off the bike and stretch my legs as Amy, my guide for the day, told me about hiking in the region and explained the different kinds of bears, and what to do should I ever encounter one! She also reminded me of how important it is for me to have all my food out of my tent at night and tied in the trees. Turns out toothpaste is part of the equation, and should also be tied up with the food. Click these links for more information about hiking in the Lake Louise area and tips for camping in bear country. Check out Walk Trot Cycle‘s findings on avoiding being eaten by a bear and bear spray!
After a second decadent night at the hostel, it was time to move on to Banff. The road to town was pure bliss as I raced along at nearly 30km/hr. The slight downhill keeping me going with little effort. With less than 6 kilometers to go…..wham…..the heavens opened up, and we are not talking raining cats and dogs – more like elephants and rhinos! With the HI hostel on the other side of town and no end in sight for the rain, I quickly canceled my room and switched to the Global Village hostel in town (now known as SameSun). Big mistake! I was not looking for the never ending drinkfest! With all the riding I was doing, I would have found myself under the table in no time if I tried to keep up with these seasoned backpackers! Cheap drinks and late night parties were all the rage. It was a great location, but for the travel I was doing, not what I was looking for! Never-the-less, I was there for 2 nights.
Another rest day – another mountain to climb. Headed off to hike up Sulphur Mountain. The trailhead began at the Banff Upper Hot Springs parking lot at the end of Mountain Avenue, with a steady grade and well graded trail, 5.5 km to the top and the Sulphur Mountain Gondola. Only took a few hours to climb and I have to say, riding the gondola to the bottom was a welcome break for my weary legs. The views at the top were breathtaking – you have views of 6 mountain ranges from the top.
The switchbacks on the slopes of Sulphur Mountain provide a steady grade for the hike to a summit renowned for its breathtaking mountain views. Take a 1 km side trip on the boardwalk trail that departs from the Observation Deck and you will find more great views, remnants of the Cosmic Ray Station, and the Sanson Peak Weather Observatory.
No trip to Banff is complete without a visit to the majestic castle in the mountains – the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel. Needless to say, on my trans Canada budget – this iconic hotel was not in my budget – hot apple cider on the back deck, enjoying the amazing views, was! A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the hotel was built in 1888 and is regarded as the birthplace of tourism in the Canadian Rockies. The history of this exclusive destination is quite interesting – check out The Castle in the Rockies for more information.