We spent the second half of our trip to the Rockies in Banff, which is also surrounded by enough snow-topped mountains, dense forest and stunning lakes to justify staying for a month or two.
Lake Louise is a short drive out of Banff and our visit turned into a full day of hiking, mostly to escape from the tourists clustered at one side of the lake just minutes from the car park.
Walking for 10km through snow that was knee deep at times is no easy feat, but we managed to make it up to Mirror Lake, Lake Agnes and then the Little Beehive, which is at a 510m elevation above Lake Louise. The mist that crept in through the trees only enhanced the spectacular view from the top.
There are numerous trails leading straight out of the town centre, perfect for a bunch of broke students that wanted to return the hire cars early!
The trail to the Sundance Canyon winds along a partially frozen river for 4km and this rugged landscape wouldn’t be complete without staggering mountains in the background. As we were watching the fresh snow skate over the ice a majestic stag appeared in a gap in the trees on the other side of the river. And just look at these colours!
While Jasper centres around one main street, along which the elk stroll beside you, Banff is far more developed and commercialised. You are guaranteed to find a few tacky tourist shops within a 10m radius of wherever you are in the town centre, but there are also plenty of great places to eat. We had fantastic Mexican food at the restaurant Magpie & Stump, where you’re encouraged to throw monkey nut shells on the floor and there are over thirty types of tequila on the menu.
The Upper Hot Springs feel a lot more like a very hot outdoor pool than natural mountain springs, but being in water that fluctuates between 38 and 40 degrees while the snow is falling down is still pretty great. Running to sit in the snow-covered deck chairs is practically compulsory too.
I can’t believe how quickly this term has gone but I have completely fallen in love with Canada over the last few months and I’m very grateful to have the chance to explore this beautiful country with such great friends!