What better place to spend a weekend than in Banff, Alberta, Canada? It was literally heaven on earth and two days just wasn’t enough time! Since this was all I had, I was determined to experience as much as I could. I arranged a 12 hour tour with Brewster Sightseeing Tours, so that I didn’t waste any time determining where to go and what to see. The price was reasonable and I was guaranteed to experience the best that Banff and the Rocky Mountains had to offer.
My first morning in the Rockies, I was up bright and early and ready to hit the road by 7:00 a.m. Brewster picked me up at the front door of my hotel and took me to their headquarters where I met up with other travelers taking the tour.
First stop was Lake Louise, which was magical! It was late May and the lake was still partially frozen. The green water peeking through the snow was absolutely spectacular. Given that we arrived early in the morning, there weren’t an overabundance of tourists, which provided an opportunity to enjoy the peace and quiet.
We then made our way towards the Icefield Parkway. This was by far one of the most magnificent drives I have ever taken. There were mountains, lakes and glaciers as far as the eye could see. The beauty of this place is indescribable. Throughout our drive, the guides explained the various mountain elevations we were driving through, as well as the vegetation that grows (or doesn’t grow) at each elevation. We continually searched for wildlife, and we were lucky enough to spot 4 bears throughout our tour.
We made a pit stop at Bow Lake for a photo-op and to take in its beauty. I had never seen anything as beautiful as the reflection of the snow covered mountains reflecting on the green waters of the lake. While the guides were setting up coffee, we heard a loud rumbling noise. Yup, it was an avalanche that we spotted across the lake. Winter was late leaving and a large number of the trails had not been opened up to the public yet for fear of avalanches. So be aware, if you are an avid hiker like I am, make sure you visit in the summer months to ensure that you are able to get out on the trails. The trails are numerous and it would take a lifetime to climb them all.
It’s now time for lunch! The tour included a buffet lunch at the Visitor’s Center. The restaurant is open for all tourists, but it is busy and expensive. If the weather permits, I would highly recommend taking a picnic, as there are many spots to rest and take in the views. But be aware of the bears, they are out and about!
After a nice lunch, we did the Columbia Icefield Adventure. We boarded our “bus” for a quick and very bumpy, steep ride out onto the Athabasca Glacier. I would not recommend that you miss this adventure! They say that the glacier is receding approximately 5 meters per year, so get out on it and experience it while you can.
Last, but not least, was a visit to the Glacier Skywalk. This is the spot to go in order to take in the many mountains, lakes and glaciers, all from this awe-inspiring glass bottom observation platform which hangs 918 feet above the Sunwapta Valley. It took more than a little bit of courage to get me out on this platform, but I’m sure glad that I overcame my fear and went out on it.
As I always do, I kept one day open to explore and wander wherever my heart desires. It was also the day before a long 10 hour drive back to the airport, so I made sure to leave some rest time before my drive back.
After a leisurely breakfast at the hotel, I hopped the free shuttle which took me from my hotel right into the center of Banff. I spent a couple of hours browsing the shops and marveling at the mountains surrounding the town. There are numerous small
shops,restaurants, novelty stores and winter clothing stores, which would keep you busy for hours if you are a shopper, which I’m not. I eventually found a quaint little restaurant (I can’t remember the name), on one of the side streets and I spent the next hour eating and chatting with the extremely friendly staff. I know, those of you who know me might be a little surprised to hear that I was chatting with the staff. lol.
After an awesome lunch and some friendly chatter, I hopped back on the free bus and headed back to my hotel. At the last minute, I decided not to get off at my stop and instead continue on to the Banff Gondola which takes you up Sulphur Mountain. I am so glad that I didn’t miss this attraction!!!! There were no lineups and I hopped on as soon as I arrived. The ride up was more than a little frightening at first, given that I’m terrified of heights, but the beauty surrounding me made it well worth my while. The gondola ends part way up the mountain at the visitor’s center, which has restrooms, restaurants and coffee shops, as well as an interpretive center. Not a chance was I going to stop there. I continued to hike my way up to the summit of Sulphur Mountain, where I was able to see 6 mountain ranges and Bow Valley from 7,486 feet above sea level. The view was magnificent!
As the old saying goes….all good things must come to an end. Back to the hotel I went to rest up for my long drive back to Vancouver the next morning.
Related: Rocky Road Trippin Adventure
I will definitely be back to the Canadian Rocky Mountains! Next time it will be for much longer and I will hopefully be able to get a chance to hike some of the amazing trails and mountains. I would love to hear some suggestions for my next adventure to this Western Canada gem!
SAFE & HAPPY TRAVELS!