Icefields Parkway – Where we stopped
After spending our first night in Calgary, we got on the road the next morning and headed west. We really wanted to explore the Icefields Parkway but new we may be pushing it since Icefield Centre is about three and a half hours from Calgary. We made a quick stop in Lake Louise and stopped into the Experience Lake Louise shop where we got a Driving Guide of the Icefields Parkway. It was just what we needed for our exploration.
We drove straight to Columbia Icefields Discovery Centre in Jasper National Park. Here is where you pick up the busses to go drive out on Athabasca Glacier, visit the Glacier Skywalk, and view beautiful mountain peaks of the Canadian Rockies and the glaciers that have formed over time. The girl at the shop in Lake Louise recommended us pass right by the skywalk and visit Tangle Waterfall. It was a quick turn off on the left but it was a beautiful little stop and I am so thankful she let us know about it.
We decided to just do the Glacier Skywalk and at first, I was a little nervous about it. I’m not a big heights person, as you know if you’ve been around here for a little bit. But I have been trying to push myself out of my comfort zone and went full force into checking the skywalk out. It was beautiful. Hanging 918 feet above the canyon, you get some insane views that you just can’t see from the side of the road. We didn’t have to pre-purchase anything but get there early in the afternoon because they do stop tours pretty early. The closing time also is affected by the season.
On our drive back, we made stops along the way. Most of the viewing points were on the south side of the parkway, so it was much easier to make the stops on our way back down to Lake Louise. Here is where we stopped:
- Rampart Creek
- Saskatchewan River Crossing
- Waterfowl Lakes
- Peyto Lake
Once we got to Peyto it started snowing and we started losing sun, so we decided to do the remaining stops later in our trip but here is where else we stopped.
- Crowfoot Glacier
- Hector Lake
- Herbert Lake
Lake Louise – What we did
After our day exploring the Icefields Parkway, we spent the next day exploring Lake Louise itself. We started the morning with a hike…. A lonnnng hike. We took the Lake Agnes Trail up to the Lake Agnes Teahouse which was a 4.4 mile round trip hike. This teahouse has been around since the late 1800s and the building has no electricity or running water. We watched a staff member take water right from the lake and bring it inside.
The hike itself took us a total of 4 hours to hike up to the teahouse, hang out for a little bit, fuel up with some snacks and hot cocoa, and then head back down. The trail is considered a moderate hike and while we were on it, some parts were really icey and slick since it had snowed a little that week. For me, someone who hasn’t hiked in a LONG time, it was pretty rough. It probably took us closer to two and a half hours to get to the tea house and just one hour to get back down. It was absolutely worth it. The day of, I would definitely not have said that, but looking back, it was worth it.
Pro Tip: The teahouse is seasonal, and we actually were a little nervous that it had already closed because of the snow while we were there. Bring layers especially if you are hiking in the beginning or end of the season. (June or September) Also, its cash only once you get to the teahouse.
Once we got down we headed straight over to the Lake Louise Canoes. Being in the travel industry, I have been wanting to visit Lake Louise for years, and canoeing was high up on my to-do list for this bucket list location. You can choose to take a canoe out for 30 minutes and only go to the center of the lake or go out for a full hour and go all the way across the lake. We chose the latter.
The next day we headed over to Moraine Lake which is an absolute must see if you’re visiting this area. Rockpile trail, which is more like a leisurely walk, brings you to high up, panoramic views of the lake which are just stunning. Just like Lake Louise, Moraine Lake is made of glacier water, so the water is the most amazing pure blue you will ever see, and the higher you are, the more the blue stands out.
We took the park ranger’s recommendation and did the hike to Consolation Lakes. This hike took us only about an hour and a half and was about 3 and a half miles round trip. Much easier than the Lake Agnes hike, there is really only one section that was a steady incline. The rest is pretty flat and easy, but once you get to the Lakes, make sure you have on the right shoes. I didn’t and I couldn’t climb over all of the boulders that separate the trail from the views of the lake.
Pro Tip: Parking is very hard to get at Moraine Lake, which you probably have heard. We didn’t even try to park there, instead we parked at the free overflow lot right off of the Trans-Canada Highway and took a shuttle bus to the top. The shuttle comes every 15 minutes and was well worth the wait to not try to search for parking at the Lake.
The last place we explored in Lake Louise was the Lake Louise Gondola. You take the Gondola from the Lake Louise Ski Resort. This is also seasonal since they use this lift for the resort during the winter. We took an open-air lift to the top of the mountain where we had lunch at the amazing Whitehorn Bistro. More on that later but the Lake Louise Gondola is a must do if you’re visiting this area. This was our final view of the amazing Lake Louise.
Lake Louise – Where we stayed
Like I said earlier, Lake Louise has been a bucket list location for me for a while now, and not just visiting the National Park but staying at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. Thanks to their partnership with travel agents, we scored a Fairmont Gold Lakeview Room on their club level. We got a private check in, a lounge for just club members that offered breakfast, and happy hour, and free canoe rides. Check, check, and check.
This property was a dream. We checked in after it was dark, so we weren’t able to see our view, but in the morning, we woke up bright and early to make sure we had first dibs on the view of the lake. It was insane. But be warned, the fog comes in and out SO quickly. We got up, saw that the fog was starting to burn off so we ran down to take some pictures of the lake. Within 20 minutes the entire lake was covered again and you couldn’t see a thing. Patience is a virtue.
Because of the hefty price tag at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, we only spent one night there and night two we stayed right next door at Deer Lodge. Deer Lodge is owned and operated by Canadian Rocky Mountain Resorts, which is similar to the National Parks Service Lodges here in the U.S. Quite the difference from our AAA Four Diamond hotel the night before.
At Deer Lodge we didn’t have a ton of restaurant options, or even a TV in our room so we went down to the liquor store in Lake Louise Village, grabbed some wine and watched Eat, Pray, Love on Netflix. In all honesty, the hotel was not bad at all, but there definitely were not thrills here.
Lake Louise – Where we ate
Alpine Social – Because we checked into the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise so late there were only a few restaurants still open. We chose to sit at the bar at Alpine Social and it was pretty amazing. We started with sharing a bottle of wine and charcuterie board that they made specially for us since we were craving it. After we moved onto Stout and onion soup and seafood chowder, both absolutely amazing! We ordered another bottle of wine and each got another small app but really it was completely unnecessary (the food, not the wine). We had so much food it was just what we needed.
Poppy Brasserie – In the morning, since we ran down to check out the lake, we opted out of our complimentary breakfast and instead stopped at the popular Poppy Brasserie. We fueled up with their breakfast buffet that had a fresh omelet station, oatmeal bar, waffles, fruits, cheeses, eggs, and cereals. We each had their freshly made smoothie and it was the perfect burst of energy for a long day of hiking. I highly recommend this restaurant if you are a breakfast person.
Mount Fairview Dining Room – For our night at Deer Lodge we decided to try their restaurant and honestly, I am beyond glad we did. While the hotel may have underwhelmed, their restaurant more than made up for. We all started with (another) bottle of wine but this time decided to try a Canadian red. WOW! So good. Then we started our meals with bowls of mushroom soup to warm up and I had the Alberta beef ribeye with potatoes gratin. We all definitely needed a full meal after our picking dinner the night before and a long day of hiking.
Trailhead Café – The next morning we were hoping back on the Icefields Parkway for some more sightseeing so we grabbed a quick, but hearty breakfast to go at Trailhead Café in Lake Louise Village. I took the server’s recommendation and added tzatziki sauce to my egg wrap and it was amazing. Defiantly different than the breakfast burritos I am used to but it was so good! This place is super small but a great place for a grab and go breakfast or lunch.
Whitehorn Bistro – Whitehorn was high up on our list because we heard about the view, but once we got up there, wow the food was insane! Whitehorn Bistro is at the top of the mountain of Lake Louise Ski Resort. We took the gondola up and had an amazing lunch at the top. I had the shrimp and prawn ravioli and it was out of this world.
Reliving this trip and the food we ate is making me want to go back! Later this week I’m going to be telling you guys about the last part of our trip in Banff. More food, more wine, less hiking. My type of trip.