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lafalott Banff National Park - A travel report by Katrina
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Banff National Park,  Canada - flag Canada -  Alberta
4150 readers

lafalott's travel reports

Banff National Park

  15 votes
I was excited to make my way to Alberta to see Banff National Park. As expected, the town of Banff is ridiculously expensive, but once you get out into the park there are amazing views around every corner (or mountain).


View from Healy's Pass
View from Healy's Pass
Being a beginner at hiking I was apprehensive about my planned hiking trip to Banff National Park with friends. However, as I soon found out, Banff National Park offers hiking for all levels of experience.

We planned two trips. The first, 4 days in duration, was from Sunshine Village Gondola to Pharaoh Creek with a day trip to Egypt Lake. The second was 8 days long and was from Johnston Canyon to Lake Louise.

The first day of hiking was excrutiating - it was my first time in almost 6 years to be carrying my life with me for more than a few hours with no bus or train or plane holding my luggage! Also, since we could not figure out how to book campsites ahead of time we were forced to hike in 16km to the first available campsite (Pharaoh Creek, where we stayed all 3 nights). Now, for not hiking in a loooong time, 16km was ALOT and I would not recommend doing that the first time out. However, I was very thankful that I am still young and agile because after that day I was bounding around with my pack on (well..that might be a bit of an exageration but compared to the first day it was a much better pace).

Hike #1: If you have a choice between Pharaoh Creek and Egypt Lake campsites, choose Egypt Lake. It is much more scenic and it is also closer to various lakes and passes for day hikes. Since we stayed at Pharaoh Creek we had to hike an extra 4km when we went on our day hike to Egypt Lake. Part of our group also went up to Whistling Pass which made the day into about 20km hiking total (without a pack). Needless to say, the hike out on our fourth day was much better. I realized that most of the way in was actually uphill which I was totally oblivious to before because I was just concentrating on putting one foot in front of the other!

Favourite spots:
From the highest point we went to on Badger's Pass
From the highest point we went to on Badger's Pass
During both hikes we went up a few passes, which you may know, provide the most amazing views. On the first hike we had to go up and over Healy's Pass to get to Egypt Lake and beyond. It was my first amazing view of the Rockies since the first part of the hike was almost all uphill in the trees. We went up this pass twice, on the way to Pharaoh Lake and on the way back. The way back is 3km uphill on quite a steep incline. However, at a slow, steady pace it took less than 3hrs! Just make sure to pace yourself...

On hike #2 we did a few passes. The first was Badger's Pass which we did for a day hike. I will always remember this one the most because it was very different from all the other passes. Instead of a nice plateau (right word?) with an amazing view of mountains on both sides, this pass led between two mountain peaks (which dont seem high but really are...we tried to hike/scramble up one) and up to a smaller ridge which was super windy and rocky so we had to watch our steps.

What's really great:
Luellen Lake and our messy dinner table.
Luellen Lake and our messy dinner table.
On hike #1 on the last day I was hiking along and all of a sudden had the sudden urge to walk off the path, through some trees and over to a river we had been following. Here I found a really nice place with some really deep green pools and small waterfalls in between some really smooth layered rocks. We just sat a chilled here for a while and enjoyed a nice break in the sun by the water!

On hike #2 towards Lake Louise we stayed at a campsite called Luellen Lake. As you may guess, it was on a lake. It was a really beautiful, calm lake surrounded by mountains which provided some nice weather protection. Speaking of weather, we were really quite lucky. There were two times during the trip that it rained and along with rain came hail, thunder and lightning. On the last day we woke to our tents almost collapsing on us and realizing that there was a few inches of snow on the ground! Snow on the last day of August! I could not believe it...

Sights:
One of the Inkpots...with the storm approaching the mountains behind.
One of the Inkpots...with the storm approaching the mountains behind.
The Banff Springs Hotel is pretty amazing to just wander around in...very castle-like! (was it a castle?)

There are some local hikes around Banff...the first one that comes to mind is Sulfur Mountain (which also has a gondola up and down). But if you hike up then the ride down is free. There is also a trail up Tunnel Mountain.

On the first day of Hike #2 (just after Johnston Canyon) we came to the Inkpots. Really beautiful spot to sit and relax by these natural pools. We would have stayed longer but a storm was coming and we had to pick up and leave suddenly so we could get to our campsite in time.

Accommodations:
Our last morning..
Our last morning..
In Banff: Hostelling International, Banff Alpine Lodge. It is about 3km away from the bus station and is easy to walk. It is a really nice place with shared and private rooms with or without bathrooms. Also it has a restaurant (yummy breakfast) and a bar with a pool table (where I got ID-ed for asking for some water...fyi I am definitely old enough for alcohol!). Also, if you are a super budget traveller, you have a chance to stay for free here. All you have to do is volunteer with them for 4hrs per day. The only condition they have is that you stay in the volunteer room which is an absolut disaster. I volunteered...then stayed on the floor in our friends room!

In Banff National Park: Tents, obviously. Just make sure your tent is weather durable as you may have read previously, it did snow and rain on us. Also, you have to book your campsites in advance with the tourist bureau

Nightlife:
Mentioned earlier...deep green pools off the beaten track
Mentioned earlier...deep green pools off the beaten track
I have no idea about the nightlife in Banff...but in Banff National Park just lie outside under the stars and enjoy! It is amazing...

Hangouts:
On Depeption Pass with a storm coming
On Depeption Pass with a storm coming
We went to the Banff Sulfur Hot Springs after our first hike. It was sooo nice and relaxing!

Restaurants:
A portion of Egypt Lake (Hike #1)
A portion of Egypt Lake (Hike #1)
We only went to one restaurant while we were in Banff. It is called Bumpers and apparently (according to them) If you haven't been to Bumpers then you haven't been to Banff!. Lots of meat is on the menu (Alberta Beef) and they have an all you can eat salad bar which is included will all the meals mmmmmm!

Obviously, there were no restaurants on the hike. We lived off Speghetti, rice, powered potatoes, oatmeal, couscous and trail mix. By the end of the hike I did not want to see any of those for a while, but guess what I had for dinner on my first night back in Vancouver? Spaghetti!

Other recommendations:
View from Pulsatilla Pass
View from Pulsatilla Pass
Hike #2: We were warned to be careful going over Pulsatilla Pass because the trail is not clearly marked. We did not have trouble with it but we met people who did and I could see how there could be some confusion. When we got to the top of the pass (which was a clear path) I took a picture of the view and a closer picture of the main path so if there was any trouble we could find it easier. It was a good idea because I did have to reference it a few times.

Also, there is obviously alot of wildlife out there. We didnt see anything bigger than a badger. We were in a group of 7-9 people so we had no trouble though we did go through a few areas with bear warnings. Just make sure you make lots of noise even if its just talking...we sang alot of songs!

Published on Saturday September 23th, 2006


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Thu, Nov 02 2006 - 12:05 PM rating by magsalex

What fantastic scenery...surely an incentive to visit!

Tue, Sep 26 2006 - 09:10 AM rating by bear495

This was a very interesting read and was very informative. Nice job!

Russ

Mon, Sep 25 2006 - 01:11 AM rating by ravinderkumarsi

nice report and well written ,good pictures too.

Sun, Sep 24 2006 - 03:26 PM rating by jorgesanchez

5 stars report!!!

Sun, Sep 24 2006 - 08:42 AM rating by rangutan

Adventurous 'get-out-of-the-city'stuff! Excellent!

Sun, Sep 24 2006 - 05:24 AM rating by marianne

Katrina,
Well written report and good information about hiking.

Sat, Sep 23 2006 - 07:41 PM rating by mrscanada

Katrina this was a sporty review. I enjoyed reading it.

Sat, Sep 23 2006 - 04:48 PM rating by terje

Hi Katrina! I really loved reading about your hikes.

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