Our 7th Anniversary trip to Banff & Jasper, Canada

Every year I look forward to our Anniversary trips, not only because they make some of the best memories of my life but also because I get to share my passion for Nature and love for outdoors with my dear husband. Together, we climb glaciers, hike mountains, explore under-waters, navigate rain-forests, watch wildlife and  marvel at the lava flows. I treasure all those moments dearly and couldn't wish for a better travel partner. While I carefully craft our travel plans every year, my husband beautifully executes them, rarely complaining when I ask him to get up at 7 am on most of our holidays. The challenge for me, however, is to plan a trip that's even better than the one before. While we definitely loved all our Anniversary trips, our 6th Anniversary trip to Big Island was my most favorite and I knew it was going to be really hard to top that. However, I tried.

Marvelous Lake Louise
The Icefields Parkway, a highway running through Banff and Jasper National Parks in Canada, is often considered among the top 10 scenic drives in the world. It is a highway through the rocky mountains covered with glaciers, dotted with picturesque turquoise lakes, glacial streams, waterfalls and green trees. It is hard not to fall in love with such scenery. I had my eyes set on this for a while and this year, Canada is celebrating its 150th anniversary with free admission to its National Parks. It felt like the right time to go, so we packed our bags and headed to Calgary to spend a week amidst the Canadian Rockies.

Our anniversary trips usually start with celebrating my husband's birthday and end with celebrating our anniversary, which are a week apart. For his birthday, I bought white water rafting tour through horseshoe canyon with cliff jumping (from 10 ft and 30 ft cliffs). My husband thoroughly enjoyed the heart pumping jump from a 30ft cliff into the refreshingly cold glacial water. It was a pleasant day and we spent a couple of hours rafting in the river and followed it up with a scrumptious lunch at Crazy weed kitchen in Canmore (totally loved their Bahmi Goreng!). But the best part of the day for my husband came in the evening when he spotted a grizzly busily eating with its 2 cubs by the roadside, literally less than 10 feet away from us. He was excited beyond words and declared it one of his best birthdays ever :)

The grizzlies that made the day!
Our Day 1 was great but we haven't yet seen anything that is unique to Banff. The landscape reminded us very much of Colorado in the US and the smoke from the wildfires did not help much. However, things were about to change on Day 2 as we canoed in Lake Moraine and marveled at Lake Louise from the 'Plain of Six Glaciers' hike.

Canoeing in Lake Moraine was expensive at $99 per hour and they wouldn't even rent it to inexperienced people citing strong winds on the day we went. I was determined to canoe that day, so managed to convince the guy of our kayaking skills and got the rental for an hour. There was only one other couple on the far end of the lake, so we were warned thoroughly as he handed us our canoe. Off we went, canoeing for the first time, leaving the crowds behind, on the clear blue Lake Moraine amidst the picturesque setting of glacier covered mountains and tall green pine trees. As we turned around, I saw the sunlight sparkling on the clear water, creating a thousand twinkling stars shining brightly in front of my eyes, melting my heart. Amidst that magic, I fell in love with Banff, its turquoise lakes, its fresh air and its abundance of beauty. It is for moments like this that I love to travel, the moments that melt my heart and fill me up with pure joy.

Lovely Lake Moraine

After lunch, we headed to Lake Louise. Lake Louise was everything they said it would be. It was huge, beautiful, had the turquoise green colored waters, and was in an enviable mountainous setting. But, to thoroughly enjoy the lake and the surroundings, you need to leave the crowds behind and do the 'Plain of Six Glaciers' hike. It was a 9.4 mile round-trip and we loved every minute of it! There is a teahouse at the top that serves delicious chocolate cake, but we couldn't tell you if its really good as we left our wallets in our car :)

On Day 3, we went to the cute town of Banff for lunch and then went to the Johnston Canyon in Banff National Park and Marble Canyon in Kootenay National Park. What a contrast! While the former was touristy and crowded, the latter was nature at its best. We then took a pleasant walk amidst the trees to see the nearby paint pots in Kootenay National Park.

Marble Canyon

This was our last day in the Radium Hot Springs area, so we decided to check out the hot springs. Though it is a Natural Hot Spring, a pool is constructed around it along with other amenities. It does feel commercialized but is pretty inexpensive at $9 for a day pass for all the minerals it supposedly has.

Day 4 was the first time we would drive along the world-famous Icefield Parkway and we would drive along it everyday for the next couple of days. The natural beauty of the surroundings would constantly remind me of Kashmir and Himalayas in India. Its odd how mind works coz I have never been to Kashmir. 

Icefields Parkway
My favorite stop on the Icefields Parkway was Lake Peyto. Not sure if its the odd shape or the bright color or the serene surroundings, but there is something striking about this lake.

Picturesque Lake Peyto
We reached our Airbnb cabin in Nordegg in the evening and saw a couple of deer in the forest behind. The cabin is close to Hwy 11 and is almost 60 miles from Hwy 93 which leads to both Banff and Jasper National Parks. But the Cline River on Hwy 11 made up for all of it. It was so lovely and scenic that I looked forward to it everyday, twice.

Our Airbnb cabin in Nordegg

Scenic Cline River on Hwy 11
On Day 5, we drove all the way from our cabin in Nordegg to Jasper and then to Lake Maligne. We stopped at Athabasca Falls on the way and enjoyed the views from all sides. We had lunch at Jasper and went to grab some goodies from the world-famous 'Bear's Paw' bakery to savor them while at Lake Maligne. It definitely felt more remote and less crowded, but I would vote for the lakes in Banff any day. 

To celebrate our anniversary on Day 6, I booked a 3-hour ice walking tour on Athabasca glacier with the knowledgeable and passionate guides @ Icewalks. Glacier climbing in Alaska was the coolest thing we ever did and we were happy to do a leisure walk this time. We preceded it with a Wilcox pass hike in the morning though. It had the best views of the Icefield Parkway, though it can't top being on the glacier itself :)

The lakes, glaciers, mountains, trees, streams & waterfalls - Banff & Jasper had it all together!


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