During my two month contract here in Alberta, I had a few days off and I jumped at the chance to go to my favourite place on earth…Banff! I know I already did a post about my solo trip to Bonnyville through Banff and Jasper but this one is more hiking oriented. Plus the pictures are absolutely gorgeous so I figured I would share!
The drive is about 6 hours from Bonnyville so the Monday morning I left around 9am and started the drive to the Rockies. The roads weren’t amazing as there was a snow storm the night before so I took my time and by the time I got to Edmonton the roads were clear. Four hours later after a quick stop to buy some pretty hiking boots, I was in my favourite place on earth!
I settled into my hotel which I got for a cheap last minute deal on Expedia and headed out to Banff Avenue to sample some restaurants. My first stop was the Grizzly House fondue restaurant where I had a beer and the best French onion soup there ever was. (Besides Paris of course). I forgot how peaceful it was to eat in a restaurant alone and the waitress gave me a nice window seat to watch the snow fall. Next I went to a second story restaurant, The Old Spaghetti Factory. I had a glass of wine and some delicious mussels.
I walked around the shops on Banff Avenue and did a bit of shopping and talked to some of the employees about where they were from which most often was Australia and New Zealand. I stopped at the Toque bar and had a beer and chatted with the bartender for a bit.
Finally I went to one of my faves, Banff Ave Brewing Co. I had a 5 dollar pint and watched some hockey and football. I ended up buying my new favourite sweater. By now I was half in the bag and loving life so I went back to my room and had a lovely sleep!
I woke up early and walked to (in my opinion) the best breakfast spot in Banff…Tooloulous. I had pork belly eggs benedict and I highly recommend you come here if you are in Banff. Once again I got the best window seat!
So good!! Now it was time to be active! I drove to Canmore to the Grassi Lakes trail head. I had done a lot of research online and on TripAdvisor to figure out what hike I was going to do today. I chose this one because it was one of the easier ones, it wasn’t covered in ice from the snowfall last night, and the picture of the lakes looked amazing.
I started out around 8:30-9:00am and I could only see 2 or 3 sets of footprints in the snow before me. I’m glad someone else started hiking before me or I might have gotten lost on the trail. I chose the more difficult trail as it apparently had a much better view than the easier trail. It was so peaceful walking alone and listening to nature. It was pretty cold so every so often I would stop and remove some layers and then put them on again when I got cold. My new hiking boots were so nice!
I was loving life, enjoying the sound of running water all around me then I came up to a lookout and was faced with this amazing view below. A great time for a photo shoot with my tripod while I cooled down!
It was an unreal view! And there was only me to enjoy it! No one else was around!! I was so glad I had taken the more difficult trail. I kept climbing the trail and the sound of water rushing was getting closer and closer. Is there a waterfall here!? No way! What an amazing surprise!
It was so cool! Sorry if you’re sick of my tripod selfies already but I just love all of these pictures!! The lighting is on point! Once I had cooled down then bundled back up and chugged a bunch of water, I started the steepest climb of the trail and climbed to the highest point while passing some more pretty things. Once I was at the top, the view was even better.
I still hadn’t seen anyone! Shortly after this, I reached the Grassi Lakes…two lakes right next to each other that are an intense shade of green/teal/blue crystal clear water. The colours were insane. I spent about half an hour hanging out by them and taking pictures and then finally some ladies came up the trail and I could hear their “oohs and ahhs” over the water colour from the other side of the one lake! I would love to see what this place looks like during the summer time.
I added that last photo which was my Instagram post so that you can see the differences in the colours with and without a filter. Basically it is just structured up a bit and the colours are still so intense. I was so impressed with the shots I got! I was afraid that the colours wouldn’t show properly but I’m so proud of my Samsung Galaxy s9!
I continued on the other trail back to my car which was actually the “easy” trail. I passed by a few couples and families so I guess I was just really early to start on this trail! I highly recommend doing this hike if you are in Banff/Canmore. It was pretty easy; the hardest thing was watching out for ice along the path.
I next drove from Canmore all the way to Johnston Canyon which is on the Bow Valley Parkway. I have hiked this canyon before but it was about -35°C and everything was frozen. Right now the sun was shining and even though there was snow, the water from the waterfalls was still very powerful. The path was quite icy. If I didn’t have good grip on my boots, I would have slipped so many times. Plus there are railings on most of the trail. If you can get those cramper things to put on your boots which you can rent out here, you’ll be golden. There were a few more people on this path compared to the Grassi Lakes one but it was still quite peaceful.
I love all of the waterfalls! I drove back to Banff now and stopped to take a few pictures of the mountains along the way.
My next stop was the Sulphur Mountain Gondola. I purchased online the day before a gondola pass which included lunch at the top of the mountain. The last time I went up the gondola was with Andrew and it was so cold we couldn’t see out of the gondola while we were going up/down! This time going up was much better. It was so freaky riding alone though. It feels like it takes forever to reach the top (I think it’s 7 minutes).
When I reached the top, it was past the time I had booked for my lunch. So instead of going to the lookout first, I ate instead. When I sat down to eat I had a great view of the mountains surrounding me. When I was finished eating and I looked up, all I could see was grey. The clouds had come down so low that I couldn’t see a thing! I went outside to the lookout anyways but was so disappointed with the cloudy view.
The ride down was about the same until I broke through the clouds again.
My body was so sore from hiking at this point plus I was freezing so I headed right beside the gondola to the Banff Upper Hot Springs. It only costs $7 to go and it is so worth it. Going alone was a little weird because I wish I had someone to talk to! I brought my phone with me and caught up on social media. Some people were looking at me weird but maybe it’s because they didn’t know my phone is waterproof? It got dark very quickly so it was hard to see the mountains surrounding it. It was cold and snowing and the water was about 104°F so my hair turned to icicles when I got out!
I felt so much better after a nice soak! I was exhausted so I headed back to my hotel room. I chilled for a bit then headed out for the best ramen EVER. If you are in Banff, go to Chaya!
I honestly was so tired that I went back to my room and passed out! The next morning I went to Melissa’s Missteak and got eggs benedict again which was not near as good as Tooloulous the day before.
I wandered around Banff Avenue a bit more and then drove to Bow Falls and the Banff Springs Hotel which are right next to each other. I want to stay there one day! I then sadly got back in my car and drove back to Bonnyville. I took a few more pictures before leaving the national park. I found the Three Sisters in Canmore too!
That’s that!!! It was such a nice break from work and I cannot wait to go back already! I’m done posting about the mountains now! My next trip is the Dominican Republic next week and I cannot wait to enjoy the beach for once! I always go somewhere cold it seems! (Besides Asia last year). I am so excited to trade my hiking boots for flip flops!
Thanks for reading!