Trans Canada, Eh: Banff

In 1883, three railway workers stumbled upon some bubbling hot springs. Little did they know that discovery would lead to the creation of Canada’s first national park. Today, Banff, in the midst of the Canadian Rockies, is a top travel destination. The area draws four million visitors each year! The park encompasses the town of Banff. At an elevation of 4,537 feet, it is the highest town in Canada.  Banff has been on my bucket list forever.

Arriving on a weekend, the town was packed with tourists. Our interests were nature and beauty over shopping so we didn’t spend a lot of time exploring the crowded streets of designer and outdoor shops.

The guy at the Banff Information Centre told us about a hike near Lake Louise that was stunning but warned us that the parking lots filled up early. (We had zero interest in overcrowded shuttles.) Frank and I arrived before sunrise and the crowds to Moraine Lake, where we took an early hike to Larch Valley and the Ten Peaks. The hike was strenuous with a very steep, 2000-ft. elevation gain. I felt like I was wearing cement shoes as I struggled upwards. The top of the trail was treacherously icy in spots. Had we known it was going to be so long and hard, we might not have done it. Once we got there, however, it was so worth it!! It was just the two of us. The sun was up. The sky was clear and blue — the perfect backdrop against the ten snow-capped peaks and the golden trees, which encircled us.

All too soon, the valley began filling up with groups of hikers. We started back. I’ll have to say, it was pretty empowering to face many hikers who enviously commented on our descent as they struggled to climb. “Is it much farther?” they’d ask. When we got to the trail head, we were further rewarded with views of beautiful  Moraine Lake, which was now visible (it had been dark when we left).

While we saw many gorgeous sights during our stay here, this hike was a highlight and will be what we remember when we think of Banff.