Canadian Rockies, Day Three: Banff to Lake Louise, via Johnston Canyon

On day three, we left Banff headed for Lake Louise for two nights. Originally we were supposed to spend two nights at a B&B in Field, BC – but when we contacted them the day before they wrote back after a long delay – stating that they had written down the wrong dates and we had no accommodations there for the nights we had planned. So we got online and found Post Hotel had some openings, and it was located in Lake Louise – which was not far from the things we had planned to see.

Before we left we grabbed some things and headed up to our first destination, which was recommended by the B&B hostess from where we had just departed in Banff:  Johnston Falls, located in Johnston Canyon. She recommended taking the Hwy 1A, which paralleled the Trans-Canadian Highway, as it was a more scenic drive, so we pulled off the main highway and set off winding towards the canyon.

Once we got there we found that the lots were full, and we just parked along the gravel on the side of the road and walked in. It quickly became obvious that this was a very popular destination: lots of cars and naturally an unfortunate number of charter buses. We weaved our way along Johnston Creek towards the upper falls. It was an okay hike, maybe 2.5 km but it took forever because you were behind lollygaggers and people that didn’t pay attention to anyone around them and blocked the often very narrow walkway. Eventually, we arrived.

Johnston Falls
Johnston’s Middle Falls
Upper Johnston Falls
Johnston’s Upper Falls

As you can see, it was one of the sunniest, and probably most clear days we had during our trip.

Johnston Falls
Johnston Falls

Once we reached the upper falls and waited in line on the observation bridge a short while, we journeyed back to the path along the canyon wall, and decided to take a hike up and over the pass towards the ‘ink pots.’

It was a pretty long hike – several hours of undulating (mostly upward) terrain for 3km- but we had nothing but time so we trudged onward. There were some amazing views. We crossed what seemed to be the saddle between two mountains overlooking the canyon and the valley. It was steady upward climb, then down a bit until we got to the valley floor. We were rewarded with a spectacular view.

Johnston Canyon’s Ink Pots
Johnston Canyon
A Quintessential Mountain View: Johnston Creek, craggy peaks, avalanche chutes and evergreens.

We walked out onto the valley floor and towards the ink pots. Only a few more athletic/outdoorsy tourists made it this far, so it was quite a change from the bustling falls site earlier on. It was relaxing and cool in the valley, with hot sun. I wish we could have had the sunshine and clear skies the rest of the trip, but alas. We relaxed along Johnston Creek for a little while before trekking back towards the trailhead and the crowds.

Relaxing at Johnston Creek

After the hike back to the parking lots we ate at the lodge near the parking lot and headed back to the car. I was beat. It was a long hike and we hadn’t prepared terribly well: only a little water between the two of us and maybe a snack or two. We should have brought along more, but we hadn’t planned on that long of a hike. We hit the highway towards Lake Louise and the Post Hotel.

Regretfully, we have no photos of the outside of the hotel – but it really is a gorgeous property. It’s nestled along an alpine stream that feeds into the Bow River. There are cottages/cabins you can stay in, or you can stay in the main building as we did. We got a discounted rate because we faced the parking lot and the railroad tracks. Beats the alternative: nowhere to stay. Our B&B snafu turned out to be fortuitous – after a night in the stuffy B&B in Banff and the long hike earlier that day, a nice hotel is exactly what we needed.

After we checked in and scoped out the hotel for a few minutes, we set off to see Lake Louise. It turned out to be the best time to see it, for the bulk of the other tourists had already departed – taking with them their selfie sticks, strollers, and meandering children.

Lake Louise
Mountaintop Glacier

We stuck around for a little while before heading back to find somewhere to eat. We ended up at The Station Restaurant which is a former Canadian Pacific Railway station for Lake Louise, and is also the oldest building in Lake Louise, having been completed in 1910. When the Canadian Pacific was extending its railways across Canada, they marketed the railways as way to explore Canada’s beauty and to destinations westward. Naturally, they needed somewhere for all these potential travelers to stay, so they built luxurious hotels at key points along their routes; Chateau Lake Louise was one of these properties.  Fairmont Hotels now runs it, as well as a number of nice properties throughout Canada.

Back to the station: it was a very cool building, and it was a good find as it was getting late and not a whole lot stays open late in Lake Louise. After dinner we went back to the hotel and crashed. On day four we were planning to do some more exploring around the area.

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