Banff & Yoho: a life changing trip to the Canadian Rockies

“Life changing trip” sounds pretty over the top, right? What if I told you that this trip was so great and so inspiring that after I got back, I had the courage to quit a job I disliked for a long time, leave Toronto (which I really liked and I still miss) and go back to Prague just for a job interview for a job that I was completely unqualified for? Sounds life changing to me.

This trip was 5 months ago and I still have clear memories of the always changing landscape and skies of Banff and Yoho national park, of our full day hikes, falling asleep in damp mountain cabins and waking up in the morning with so much excitement to see what was ahead of us. This trip was pure magic and looking back I am finding it hard to believe how much we managed to in just a week!

2a
On our way to the Sentinel pass, near Morraine Lake

This was our itinerary:

Day 1: flight to Calgary, got a rental car (we got upgraded to a Jeep!), drank lots coffee at Phil & Sebastian and lunched at Sidewalk Citizen, did our final shopping at MEC CalgaryMEC CalgaryMEC Calgary and we stayed at HI Calgary

Day 2: breakfast at Sidewalk Citizen, drove to Elk Lakes provincial park (2hrs), stopped at the information center to ask about bear activity (we went in the end of may, all the bears were just waking up) and we have been told that Elk Lakes has a healthy Grizzly population, to my relief and to Jerry’s disappointment we didn’t see any, we hiked to the AC Elk Lakes cabin (around 3hrs) and explored the surrounding areas

Day 3: explored Elk Lakes park, highlights: viewpoint about the Upper Elk Lakes, Petain Creek waterfalls, swam in the lake

Day 4: hiked back to the car (3hrs), drove to Banff (around 2hrs) and enjoyed the views, drove to the Bow Lake and walked on the trail to the Bow Glacier falls – highly recommended, we saw one black bear on the side of the road, checked into HI Lake Louise hostel and slept like babies

Day 5: woke up very early and drove up to Morraine Lake and hiked to Sentinel Pass – highly recommended, drove to Yoho and walked to the ACC Elizabeth Parker hut – about three hours, all uphill, all on a road

 

5
Lake Oesa when the sun came out

Day 6: walked around Lake O’Hara and hiked up to Lake Oesa, we wanted to go all the way to the Abbot Pass but there was too much snow, in the afternoon we went up to Lake McArthur but again there was too much snow so we took an unnamed mountaineering route and were rewarded with incredible views

8
view up from Lake O’Hara
cover
just enjoying the view of Lake McArthur
13
view of lake McArthur – in the upper right corner, covered in snow
14a
Elizabeth Parker Hut – before sunset
14b
near Elizabeth Parker hut
15
dramatic sunset – before the rain and snow came

Day 7: it rained a lot, despite the weather we went to Lake Opabin which was nice but when we got there it was so cold and foggy and it rained so heavily that we just turned back, ran to the cabin and spent the rest of the day drinking tea in the cabin

17
snow in June

Day 8: we woke up very early to a nice early June surprise – everything was covered by snow! We quickly hiked back to the car and drove to Lake Louise and went up to the Point of Six Glaciers, everything was covered by snow and it was very foggy but just as we got to the viewpoint the sun came out and the view of the glaciers blew my mind. It was ridiculously cold and by 11am we had already walked around 25km but this moment was worth it. Afterwards we had the best blueberry cake at the Plain of Six Glaciers Tea House and we went up to Lake Agnes. We stayed at HI Lake Louise again, had some beers with friends we met at Elizabeth Parker hut and I went to sleep at 8am.

19
Plain of Six Glaciers  when the sun came out

 

Day 9: we drove back to Calgary (around 3hrs), we had an incredible breakfast and coffee at the Simmons building Sidewalk Citizen and Phil & Seb. We flew back to Toronto.

Day 10: I decided to quit my job.

final
Lake O’Hara 

Final recommendations: If at any point of your life you get a chance to go to the Canadian Rockies, do it! I recommend going before the tourist season starts or after it ends, june and september seem like good options to me. Stay in the ACC Cabins – they are really great, you get to meet interesting people and stay in beautiful spots in the middle of the park, just make sure to make a reservation in advance.

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