trip report: lake louise, alberta
For the majority our of vacations, both pre- and post-baby, we've stuck to urban destinations. There have been some notable exceptions (hello Atacama!), but we've done a lot of world capital-type exploring. The Banff and Lake Louise area is certainly not that. And, as you can see from the above photo of Moraine Lake, it's one of the most breathtakingly beautiful places in the world.
A lot of people asked how we decided on the Canadian Rockies for a vacation and my answer was pretty simple: Instagram. I had a handful of friends who had done a similar trip and it looked so magical, I started doing my own research (which mainly involved emailing said friends for their itineraries). And, I'll be honest, once I came across the website for The Post Hotel in Lake Louise, I was pretty determined to make this vacation happen. [Edit note: Some of you know my obsession with Relais & Chateaux. No surprise here that The Post is also a member.] Besides the beautiful views out onto the bubbling river (ask for a room on this side, not the other which get a bit of train traffic noise), you can also opt for two-room suite with a kitchenette, which was very handy for Avvie's naps and light food preparation.
We decided to visit over Fourth of July weekend, since my birthday is July 3rd. And while I should have remembered from our Montreal trip last year that Canada Day is July 1st ... I forgot. I also didn't realize when I booked our hotel that 2017 is the 150th birthday of our great neighbors to the north, so it was an especially auspicious time to be celebrating in one of Canada's most famous national parks. Luckily, since sometimes I book my vacations a year in advance (I get excited!), it wasn't too hard to find a room. We took a direct flight into Calgary, which was fairly easy on all three of us. From there, we picked up a rental car and drove the roughly two hours to The Post. The drive is stunning almost the whole way there, so it went by quickly.
Since we were traveling east to west, timezone-wise, we still had enough time for a hike before dinner. We opted for Yoho National Park, which was only a 30 minute drive from the hotel and didn't involve a ton of hiking to see the beautiful Takkakaw Falls.
Dinner was a quick stop at The Station in Lake Louise for some delicious mac and cheese and fresh salads. If you have kids (or big kids) who love trains, definitely grab a meal here. They come speeding by every now and then right next to the restaurant and Avvie was totally enraptured.
The next morning we woke up early, which wasn't so hard when you have a jet-lagged toddler. But it was actually part of our plan to get out of the room and onto the Plain of the Six Glaciers trail early as possible, since it gets very crowded during the summer months and even more so during a long weekend. The day before, we stopped at a grocery store in town to pick up breakfast foods so we could eat quickly in the room before heading out. Our planning certainly paid off: we hardly saw anyone on the trail the entire way up AND we were able to take a picture in front of Lake Louise without hundreds of other tourists.
This would have been a pretty serious hike for us even without the toddler backpack, but I was very impressed that Mike managed to not slide off any of the glaciers while carrying our baby. Also mad props to him for having to listen to Avvie's singing for the entire hike up and down the mountain. Except when she was asleep.
Your reward for getting to the top is not only beautiful views, but the coolest little tea house serving house-made scones, soups, and many varieties of tea. Also, portapotties!
We also rewarded ourselves with dinner at Truffle Pigs in Field, which had been recommended to us by a few friends. The fried chicken with togarashi spices was phenomenal.
We were early risers again, and this time headed for the Larch Valley trail. Lake Louise may be the most famous of the bodies of water in this region, but nothing really beats the cerulean blue of Moraine Lake. And once you ascend past the tree line, the views of the Valley of the 10 Peaks is magical.
Dinner that night was especially exciting: fondue! Walliser Stube at the Fairmont Lake Louise is known for their delicious Alpine cuisine, as well as their big picture windows that look out onto the lake. The fondue was delicious, but it will also remain one of the most scenic meals I've ever had.
Our final full day (my birthday!) started with a walk through Johnston Canyon and the Ink Pots. This is a very easy trail, we even saw people with strollers. It was, unfortunately, a little crowded in the canyon, but it petered out by the time we got to the multi-colored ponds known as the Ink Pots. Also, Avvie took a nap in the woods.
Afterwards, we headed to the town of Banff, which is a charming ski town with chic art galleries and an outpost of Hudson's Bay, where I could stock up on all things striped. We also found some killer milkshakes at The Eddie. The plan was to do the gondola up the mountain, but we were pretty exhausted and headed back to the hotel instead. Dinner was at the hotel's restaurant, The Post, which has won gobs of awards for its creative North American cuisine. It was a perfect birthday meal.
Sadly, the next day was pretty much an all-day travel day (although we did get a ram sighting on the way back to the airport!). But spending a few days in such lush, natural beauty has definitely spurred a new curiosity in me for other natural wonder trips. I'm eyeing the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone right now...