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Trip Report A Sunny Week in Banff National Park (July 2011)

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Just got back from spending a week in Banff National Park and the surrounding area (July 2-July 9). We lucked out with fantastic weather all week. We thought this might be a little early in the season, but the park was very crowded. All of the trails we wanted to do were in good condition (except bear activity - see below), but several at higher elevations (i.e. Sentinel Pass) were still covered in snow.

We stayed at a house in Canmore which worked out great. There were supposed to be 6 of us so we wanted a place where we could all stay together and cook most of our meals. It ended up just being 4 of us, but we found Canmore to be a great base for our trip and the house was fantastic (http://www.greatrentals.com - Property #155448). If it has just been the two of us, we probably would have opted to stay closer to Lake Louise, but we really enjoyed the Canmore area. It is what I would call an upscale mountain town that is much less touristy than Banff. There were some really nice little stores and a wide variety of restaurants.

The drive from Calgary to Canmore was about 1 hour and 15 minutes. From Canmore to Banff National Park entrance about 5 minutes. From Canmore to Banff townsite about 15-20 minutes. From Canmore to Lake Louise was about an hour. And, finally, from Canmore to Yoho (Emerald Lake area) was more like 1.5 hours.

Hiking

Lake Agnes - Unfortunately it started drizzling when we got to the teahouse so we quickly went over to Little Beehive (I think it was about 5 or 6 miles in total). By the time we got back to the teahouse it was raining pretty hard to we took refuge and had a little snack and some tea. The teahouse was soon overrun with large hiking groups so we were really glad we started the trail early. We had planned to go to Big Beehive and then over to Plain of Six Glaciers, but the weather looked miserable so we skipped those and headed back down. Apparently, Big Beehive was also partially covered with snow so we were glad we opted out.

Grassi Lakes - The weather had cleared when we got back to Canmore in the early afternoon so we decided to do Grassi Lakes which was a nice, short little hike (about 2.5 miles) up to two colorful lakes.

Yoho National Park: Takkakaw Falls & Emerald Lake - Takkakaw Falls was a quick stop on the way to Emerald Lake. Unfortunately, the trail around Emerald Lake was closed due to bear activity (I should have checked the reports that morning) so we were going to do another nearby trail but were informed they were also about to close than one due to bear activity. We actually saw said black bear and a bunch of rangers in the parking lot – the rangers said it was acting aggressively toward humans.

Moraine Lake - Since we couldn’t do Emerald Lake we decided to head up to Moraine Lake where we did the hike to Consolation Lakes as well as the Rock Pile trail (this isn’t much of a trail but the view from up there in fantastic. Consolation Lakes was a nice little hike (about 3.5 miles) and it was so peaceful out by the lake.

Lake Eiffel - This was one of my favorite hikes (about 7 miles). It is fairly steep and strenuous for the first 1.5 miles and near the lake we had to navigate over some snow patches but the view of the valley of the 10 peaks along the way is well worth it. We had the lake pretty much all to ourselves, but as we were hiking out there were tons of people hiking so go early.

Johnston Canyon & Ink Pots - Johnston Canyon was okay, and we continued to hike out to the Ink Pots. This was much longer than we thought (about 6.5 miles round trip) – you start going uphill thinking you are almost there and then you start going downhill again and can’t help but think that means more uphill on the way back. It was beautiful when we got out to the Ink Pots, though. The pools are not as pretty as the surrounding scenery but worth checking out especially on a nice sunny day. Once again, we were glad we went early as we passed a ton of people on the way out. By the time we got back to Johnston Canyon, it was totally overrun with people so, again, go early.

Ha Ling - We had heard there was great hiking right in Canmore, and the manager of the house where we stayed recommended Ha Ling Peak (aka Chinaman’s Peak) as one of her favorites. This was the most difficult hike we did during the week. It was only about 3 miles round trip, but it is straight vertical about 2,500 feet up on the ascent. The views of Canmore and the surrounding area at the top make this hike totally worth it. It was a bit of a scramble getting up to the peak and there was a lot of slippery gravel along the way which was a little unnerving so take your time. We were very glad to have trekking poles on the way down.

Eating

Rocky Mountain Flatbread Company (Canmore) - delicious pasta and flatbread pizza (try the Mexican one!)

Crazy Weed (Canmore) - inventive menu, everything we had was delicious (moussaka, lamb burger, halibut, fried chicken)

Summit Café (Canmore) - we ate here for breakfast one day, their huevos rancheros were yummy and could easily be split between 2 people

The Maple Leaf (Banff) - really good, everyone enjoyed their meal (the duck was fantastic) and the hot chocolate soufflé was amazing

Hope this info is helpful to those planning trips.

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