Canadian Rockies (Part 1) – Kamloops, Lake Louise, Lake Minnewanka, Banff

Posted on: July 12, 2014


This early July, I had 2 weeks break from my full time job. Me and my hubby had an idea to do a road trip since we hadn’t really done a road trip before. So, we decided to have a trip to Banff. Total time driving from Vancouver straight to Banff is 10 hours! However, me and my hubby are not fans of long drive. Hence, we stopped approximately half-way from Vancouver to Banff on the way there and on the way home. Our itinerary is Vancouver – Kamloops – Banff – Kelowna – Vancouver. We spent 4 nights 5 days for our trips and we were exhausted by the end of the trip.


DAY 1 – Kamloops

We woke up pretty early on our way to Kamloops – 5.00 AM!!! Luckily, it was my hubby turn to drive – so I could have a little nap hahaha… We stopped at Tim Hortons to get a black coffee for my hubby and the strawberry glazed Timbits for me (OMG they are super goooooddd!). From Vancouver, we took Highway 1 East (Trans-Canada Highway) passing Langley, Abbotsford, Chiliwack, and Hope. It was just a straight boring highway so as you know, I fell asleep after eating my Timbits hahaha… Continuing the journey, we took BC Highway 5 North (Coquihalla Highway) passing Merritt and through some beautiful mountainous scenery! We arrived at Kamloops by noon – just in time for lunch. We planned to have Japanese for lunch at Eden Bento Cafe but unfortunately, it was closed. So, we went to Taka Japanese Restaurant. The food and the portion was good for the lunch bento.

Before going to our hotel, my hubby suggested that we visited Peterson Creek Park. We thought this park would be a green lush park with lots of trees where we could relax and enjoy the scenery but we were totally WRONG! The park actually has several hiking trails and apparently, a popular hiking place for Kamloops’ residences. The sturdy bridge built above the park area is actually the Trans-Canada Highway. We accessed the park via Columbia St at Glenfair Drive (see the park map here) where we parked our car. Our goal was to see the Bridal Veil waterfall so we followed Tom Moore trail. On our way, we met a couple who hiked down from the trail and they said that the trail to see the fall was easy. With good confidence, we continued our hike up along the small river. When we were at a trail junction, we were confused as to turn right toward a small wooden bridge or to walk straight toward the area marked “Danger: Unmarked Hazard”. My gut feeling was to follow the river, so we walked to the unmarked area. Little did we know, this was where the very difficult trail began and I only wore my flat shoes, NOT my runners! Since we were already halfway, I braved myself hiking through the slippery stones, crossing the small creek, and climbing the rocky cliffs. As you can see on the pictures below (bottom 3rd from right), hikers only have small rocky area on the right hand side to pass through in order to go to the fall. I felt like as if I was doing those obstacle challenge – like in the Spartan race hahaha… Finally, after 40 minutes, we arrived at the foot of the fall. In order to see the top of the fall, we had to climb a little bit more on the rocky terrain. Yay! The hike down was as difficult as the hike up. Since we already knew what to expect, we were pretty quick to go down and back to the parking lot. Lesson for us: hiking a very difficult terrain is NOT a good way to start our holiday! 😛

1 Peterson Creek Park

Peterson Creek Park

Oh did I tell you that summer at Kamloops was really really really hot! We were sweating non-stop! After a very tiring hike, we checked in to our hotel, Four Points by Sheraton and cooled our selves inside the air conditioned room… ahhh…. The cool thing about the hotel is that it has a small swimming pool with a waterslide and a jacuzzi!!! We immediately marched to the swimming pool and had fun sliding down the waterslide as if it was our private pool hahaha…. In the evening, we went to Pizza Hut – since my hubby craved for it – and ordered 2 medium pizza nyummmm….


DAY 2 – Lake Louise, Lake Minnewanka, Banff Downtown

The trip from Kamloops to Banff was about 6 hours drive so we woke up around 6 am in the morning. We drove through Trans-Canada Highway passing Salmon Arm, Revelstoke, and Golden. We stopped at Golden to have a quick breakfast at McDonalds. Along the highway, the beautiful snow capped Rocky mountain was around us. We also passed some small lakes and creeks with sparkling turquoise water. I felt like I could just jump into the lake and swim on the cool water during the scorching hot day. Along this highway, you can stop at some attractions, such as Mt. Revelstoke, Illecillewaet Camp Ground near Rogers Pass, Glacier National Park, Bear Creek Falls, Beaver Valley, Yoho National Park, and Lake O’Hara. The most scenic drive was through Rogers Pass. It’s a straight highway with mountains view in front of us (see picture below: top left). Simply gorgeous! We just had to stop on the side of the road to take picture of the beautiful view.

2 Highway to Banff

The majestic Rocky mountain on the way from Kamloops to Banff with sparkling turquoise lake 

After driving for 5.5 hours, we finally arrived at Lake Louise. Before approaching the lake itself, we passed the village where the information centre and some shops are. A short drive up, the cars started to slow down to find a parking spot and it was tough since there were so many cars and tour buses! With a little bit of luck, we found a spot and walked toward the lake. I saw the picture of Lake Louise so many times on website or on TV but it was just a different feeling when I saw it with my own eyes. As one of the famous Canada’s natural wonders, it is truly BEAUTIFUL! The water is calm and so refreshing. No wonder that some of the tourists couldn’t resist to jump into the lake for a swim. There is a canoe rental on the west side of the lake in case you want to explore further down the lake. We walked toward the east side of the lake and took pictures after pictures after pictures hahahaha… In the winter time, the lake is actually frozen and the area turns as a ski resort.

3 Welcome Banff

4 Lake Louise

Lake Louise with turquoise water and beautiful snow capped mountain as the background

Fairmont’s Chateau Lake Louise is right next to the gorgeous lake. There are some gift shops inside the hotel and restaurants that serve the tourists. We went in to the hotel just to see the interior of the hotel. As any Fairmont hotels, the decorations were stunning. I love love love the chandeliers that remind me of a classic Victorian castle. We drove back to the village area to have some snacks at Laggan’s Mountain Bakery. Me and my husband shared a beef pie and a sandwich. Nearby, there was a small supermarket, a candy store, an ice cream shop, gift shops, information centre, and ticket booth for Lake Louise Gondola. If you have some spare time, don’t forget to visit Moraine Lake with a short 20 minutes drive south from Lake Louise. From the pictures on the internet, this lake is as beautiful as Lake Louise.

5 Fairmont Lake Louise

Fairmont Lake Louise 

Before departing for our trip, we purchased Ultimate Explorer package from Brewster website (adult Cad$109.95 and children Cad$54.95). The Ultimate Explorer package covers 4 attraction tickets around Banff: Banff Gondola, Banff Lake Cruise, Glacier Adventure, and Glacier Skywalk. If we were purchased each attraction ticket separately, we would spent Cad$156.80 for 1 adult ticket! So, I really really recommend you to check out the website and pick whatever attraction combo (they have different combination of attraction) you’d like and save some $$$! A little reminder, don’t forget to PRINT your confirmation email in order to exchange it to the real ticket. The ticket booth at each attraction does NOT accept mobile phone confirmation!

We continued our trip 30 minutes north from Lake Louise to Lake Minnewanka for our lake cruise. The ticket booth is located at a little hut beside the small cafe. We arrived there at about 3.45 pm and our designated cruise time was not until 5 pm since there was a tour group that filled up most of the seats for 4 pm cruise. So, we walked along the dock, took pictures of the beautiful lake, and bought an ice cream – yeah it was a screaming hot day!

6 Lake Minnewanka

Lake Minnewanka ticket booth

While sitting on the shore and enjoying our ice cream, suddenly there was a heard of mountain goat on the street. They looked puzzled as there were so many people around. At a moment, I was a bit scared too so I moved from my seat and the goats immediately went down near the water to eat.

7 Mountain Goat

The mountain goats looking for food

At 5 pm, we went back to the dock and started lining up for the lake cruise. Our guide, Kenji, is a funny yet informative guy. Originally from Japan, he has been living in Alberta for over 17 years. In summer time, he works as a guide for the lake cruise and in winter time, he is a ski instructor. What a life! His English is very good and he told so many informative stories about Lake Minnewanka. Lake Minnewanka (meaning Water Spirits) is a glacial lake with 28 km long and 150 feet deep that makes it the biggest lake in Alberta. Naturally, the lake was smaller and had a village nearby. In 1941, Canadian government decided to build a dam on the lake as a power source for Canada during the World War II. It took 6 years to fill the lake to its desired depth in order the dam to work but by that time (1947), the WW II was already over. Nowadays, the dam provides power to Banff and its surrounding towns. The lake is actually nestled between 2 mountainous areas. The north part of the mountain is actually more fertile than the southern part. Kenji pointed out that there were more vegetation of pines on the northern part. There is an one-way hiking trail along the lake that connects the northern part to the southern part. The reason of the one-way trail is due to the population of wolves on the southern part of the mountain. Environment Canada decided to close the southern trail since the wolves population declines years ago due to the hikers. Apparently, the wolves refused to mate whenever they felt disturbed. Kenji also said that aboriginal people use Aspen trees around the area as anti inflammatory as it has similar ingredient as aspirin. The powder on the bark of Aspen tree can also be used as sunscreen.

At the very end of the lake, the boat stopped for a while and Kenji pointed out a gap between the mountains that is the end of the Canadian Rocky mountains and the beginning of Canadian Prairies. On the other side, you can actually see the reflection of Calgary skylight during night time. Before the invasion of European people, the aboriginals used the gap as a reference if there is a thunderstorm coming their way. Later, European people called it as Devil’s Gap. Kenji said that the lake trout from Lake Minnewanka has the best taste with its orange flesh. Trout fish prefers ice-cold environment to live and Lake Minnewanka provides perfect environment for them. In order to fish on the lake, you have to buy a license. Since the lake is sitting on National Park, no commercial fishing is allowed. If you really want a taste of the delicious lake trout, the only way is to fish it yourself 🙂

This lake is also a filming area for some famous movie and TV series. In 1950’s, Marilyn Monroe filmed River of No Return on a small bridge near the lake. Also, a very famous four-legged movie star, Lassie, was seen filming on the same spot. After an hour tour, we continued our trip to Banff downtown. We drove pass Two Jack Lake and Johnson Lake. Spend some time there to take picture if you have spare time.

8 Lake Minnewanka the lake

The boat for lake cruise on the beautiful Lake Minnewanka

9 Lake Cruise

A very informative lake cruise with our funny guide, Kenji. Very right: Devil’s Gap

After a short drive (about 15-20 minutes), we arrived at Banff Downtown. We checked in first to our hotel, Banff Caribou Lodge and Spa. The hotel is actually very nice. My only complaint is that they only provide us with a small table fan during the hot summer days! I kept waking up at night since it was very hot. Other than that, the hot pool and sauna were a nice place to relax after a long drive. We decided to have an early dinner at Tony Roma’s since my hubby craved for a good feast! And the dinner was delicious!!! All plates were licked clean hahaha…

10 Tony Roma's

Tony Roma’s: onion ring, St. Louis ribs and medallion, and a super clean plate 😛

It was about 8pm when we finished our dinner. So, we walked and window shopped around the downtown. On our way back to the parking lot, we suddenly saw a group of people taking picture on the sidewalk. It turned out that there was a deer chomping down the tree near the Whyte Museum. The deer was probably panicking too since it became a unique attraction to the tourists around the area. It looked puzzled when a car suddenly approached it but finally, he walked safely back toward the forest. It sure was an exciting sight to end our day.

11 Banff downtown1

Downtown Banff

12 Banff downtown

Whyte Museum and a deer crossed the busy street!


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