This past May, two of my best friends and I had the opportunity to travel to Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada. I had been backpacking in Banff in August 2009, and the beauty of the park brought me to tears. I was excited to be going back!
Canada celebrates it’s 150th birthday this year, and they granted free admission to all Canadian National Parks. Combine that with the fantastic exchange rate ($.75 CAD = $1 USD), and we were ready to go!
Top 5 Moments:
- Seeing TWO bears: yup that’s right – we were lucky enough to see TWO grizzly bears during our drive on Columbia Icefields Parkway. We’d been talking about seeing bears for most of the trip, but we were pretty happy to not have encountered it on our long hike the day before. As we were driving along, we see some cars pull over to the side of the road, and we follow their pattern. Crazy enough, a baby grizzly bear was about 20 feet from our car! After we snapped as many photos as possible, about 45 minutes later we saw another (much larger) bear behind the highway fence. Such a cool experience to be able to see these bears safely in the wild.
- Lake Minnewaka / Alymer Pass: with many of the hiking trails closed due to avalanche risk, Alymer Pass was the only truly “difficult” hike open for business. We set out along the beautiful Lake Minnewaka not really sure what to expect. We were rewarded after a long uphill trek through snow (so thankful for ice cleats!) with one of the most incredible views. The ice was just melting off the lake to reveal a beautiful blue color, and the mountains were snow covered in all directions. Unbelievably gorgeous! #realstrongwomen
- Glaciers – Columbia Icefield: as I mentioned in my New Zealand post, I’ve been striving to see as many glaciers as possible before they melt due to global warming. Columbia Icefields have multiple glaciers that are moving towards a central platform. We had the opportunity to go onto the ice for a close up view of the glaciers in a giant ice bus.
- Spring Skiing – Lake Louise & Sunshine Village: I’ve become a huge skiing fiend the past 2 years, so the opportunity for some late season May skiing was totally up my alley. I had the opportunity to ski at Lake Louise on the final day of the season, and then skiied at Sunshine Village on our final day of the trip. I was extremely impressed with the conditions considering it was May – we even had a few inches of fresh power at Sunshine! We also participated in a bikini ski challenge 🙂
- Late nights with my two best friends: after graduating from college in May 2014, all three of us went to different parts of the country. I moved to San Francisco, Nicole started law school at the University of Michigan, and Rachel finished up her masters at Cornell before starting her PhD at University of Delaware. We really hadn’t had the chance to see each other and spend time before this trip, and quality time with these two was definitely made this trip so special!
- Day 1: fly into Calgary, drive to Lake Louise
- Day 2: skiing at Lake Louise, drive back to Banff
- Day 3: hike Tunnel Mountain & HooDoos
- Day 4: Lake Minnewaka & Alymer Pass hike
- Day 5: Columbia Icefields Parkway
- Athabasca Glacier
- Crowfoot Glacier
- Peyto Lake
- Bow Lake
- Lake Louise
- Day 6: Johnston Canyon & Sulphur Mountain Hike, Hot Springs
- Day 7: Cave Basin Hot Springs National Monument, Park Distillery tour & tasting
- Day 8: skiing at Sunshine Village
- Day 9: drive back to Calgary, fly home