Monday, September 9, 2019

Exploring Banff - Part I

Back in July, I took a trip to Banff, Alberta, with three girlfriends. We spent four days immersed in nature and some truly incredible sites. I'm currently planning a trip to Acadia National Park, which has me reminiscing about Banff's National Park. It's a trip that will stick with me forever. Between the gorgeous views and quality time with my friends, it couldn't have been a better experience.

Before we left, I put together a full itinerary so that we didn't miss a thing! It might be a month late, but I can't wait to share all we did with you. Up first - days one and two.


WHERE WE STAYED
The Inns of Banff. This turned out to be the perfect location. It was right by the entrance to the highway (how we accessed the hiking trails) and a quick five minute drive downtown. Plus, there was a pool and hot tub, which is always an added bonus.

DAY 1 ITINERARY

We decided to hit Lake Louise first for two reasons: 1) it's one of the most photographed places in Banff, and 2) we were hoping it wouldn't be too crowded since it was a Thursday. The weather was all over the place that day. We started with overcast skies, experienced rain and hail, and had little glimpses of sunshine in between. One thing I highly recommend: pack layers. I was so thankful I had options throughout the day.

BREAKFAST
We ate at Juniper Bistro at the Juniper Hotel. It was so tasty! I had a simple eggs and bacon dish and ate the entire thing (if you know me, you this is rare). The best part about the restaurant, however, were the views. We could see the mountain range, which was a perfect backdrop to our morning.


LAKE LOUISE
The first view we had of Lake Louise was incredible. I've never seen lake water that color. It was pure aqua. We took as many photos as we could on our way to the Lake Agnes Trail, soaking in all the beauty that was before us.

LAKE AGNES TRAIL
The guide at the base of the trail told us it was an easy hike. I beg to differ! It was steep, rocky, and surprisingly long. Thankfully, the views throughout the hike were worth it. The fog had started to lift, so we had great views of both the lake and the mountains.

LAKE AGNES TEA HOUSE
The end point to our intense hike was the tea house. It's situated at the top of the mountain, with no electricity or running water, so all of their teas are made with boiled lake water. We sat outside, sipping blueberry and chai teas and eating PB&J sandwiches.

MIRROR LAKE
On our way back down the mountain, we stopped at Mirror Lake. You can see from the photos why it's called that - the lake completely mirrors the mountains surrounding it. This was actually my favorite spot along the trail. I loved that it wasn't too crowded and that we were able to be up close to the beautiful water.

FAIRMONT CHATEAU
It started absolutely down-pouring at the end of our hike. To reward ourselves for finishing (and wait out the storm), we stopped into Alpine Social at the Fairmont Chateau for drinks. Turns out the bartender used to work for my company, so he made us some special drinks. It was our last stop before heading to dinner and the perfect way to end our time at Lake Louise.

OUR DAY 2 ITINERARY

We used this day as our relaxation time. After hiking all day, we wanted to balance the busier day with a more relaxing one.

UPPER HOT SPRINGS
Banff has a few different hot springs to choose from. We decided on the Upper Springs since it was so close to our hotel. I had never been in a hot spring before and let me tell you, it was so strange. The water was so hot and salty, you could only be fully emerged for a short period of time. I highly recommend going to one Banff's springs - it's really unique to be sitting in crazy-hot water with snow-capped mountains behind you.

DOWNTOWN BANFF
Our first stop was Tim Hortons. I could resist going to my favorite spot for an iced cap, bagel, and timbits. From there, we explored Downtown Banff. The area is so cute, with lots of different shops to pop into. Most of them are typical tourist stores, but they also have a lot of outdoors-y places and restaurants to enjoy. I was so happy when I found an ornament and charm to add to my collections.

THE STATION RESTAURANT
The Canadian Railroad runs right through Banff, so when I found the Station Restaurant, I knew we had to go. The be honest, I was under the impression that the restaurant was in an old train car, so was a little disappointed to learn otherwise. That being said, the train did go right by us while we were eating, which was pretty cool.

We packed a ton into two days - but just you wait! We did even more during our final days spent in the National Park. Check back later this week to learn about our unintentional 10-mile hike and rock climbing adventure.

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