Banff & Yoho National Parks

For our summer vacation/puppymoon, we decided to spend 2 weeks in Canada, mostly in the Canadian Rockies, exploring national parks Banff and Yoho. One of the best parts of the trip was definitely our 4-day backcountry trek, but that was an adventure big enough for it’s own post.

Overall, we had be flexible with our plans, which we learned while traveling around the world for a year, but is still tough to do on vacation.

Exploring canyons instead of summits.

I had boiled down about 20 mountains I wanted to climb to the 5 or so we’d have time to do as day hikes, in addition to the 4-day trek we had planned. But when we arrived, a thick, sinister fog turned the sun red and blotted out the beautiful full moon; The wildfires that had been plaguing the west coast of the US and Canada all summer had come to Banff, too. I didn’t get to reach any of the summits I wanted, but we still made the most of it.

Plain of Six Glaciers / Lake Louise

Our first day, we decided to do the Plain of Six Glaciers hike at picturesque Lake Louise. The trail was a bit crowded, and we wished we had started earlier, but not many hikers go all the way to the end, so we found a bit of solitude there.

This end of Lake Louise usually has a stellar view of the glacier, but due to the smoke it was barely visible.

Lake Louise behind us as we made our way up and in.

After a few hours of hiking, going deeper and deeper into the glacial valley, we reached a final rocky push to the furthest view point. Something about seeing the narrow trail ahead made me just want to RUN, so run I did.

View of Lake Louise from the top of the trail.

After spending some time simply sitting and marveling at our surroundings, we made our way back to the adorable, tiny town of Canmore and called Day 1 done!

Later that week, we went back to Lake Louise when the smoke had cleared, but the snow had set in. We still didn’t get a clear view, but it was beautiful and serene.

Lake Louise

Grotto Canyon

On our second day, instead of climbing all day up to a summit with no views, we opted to check out Grotto Canyon in the early morning instead. We were the only ones on the trail and didn’t see anyone else until we were heading out.

Grotto Canyon was unreal. Each twist and turn morphed the trail into something new entirely. There are even well-preserved cave drawings from thousands of years ago if you walk slow enough to find them. At one point, we thought we had come to the end and were ready to turn back. I took a bathroom break, and peered around the corner to see what lurked beyond. The narrow, deep trail we had been on for a hew hours opened up into a bright, wide, vast valley that stretched for miles more! So we kept exploring.

Cairns dotted the dry riverbed as far as we could see. In the winter, this area is typically flooded and frozen, so we knew that what we were seeing was the work of hundreds of hikers before us just this spring and summer.

We met a furry friend…

…and contributed to the cairns where we saw opportunities to leave our mark.

And then headed out to enjoy the rest of the day in the Canmore and Banff.

Park Distillery ended up being a favorite place of ours to relax after a day of hiking…

…and to procure provisions for the trail. (What’s a backcountry hike without brown liquor?).

Peyto Lake

Those who know us likely know by now that we have a new addition to our family: An Australian Shepherd puppy we named Peyto Bullseye Oaks. We got him two days after we returned from vacation.

We visited Peyto Lake twice, in two very different sets of conditions, and loved every minute of it. We’ve seen a lot of cool things over the past few years, but sitting on the rockpile overlooking Peyto Lake was definitely among the coolest.

Our first time to the lake was around sunset.

And the next day we went back as it started snowing!

Both times, it felt amazing to simply sit, watch the shadows or the snow clouds change, and not have anywhere to go. That’s what Peyto Lake means to us: stillness and awe.

Moraine Lake

Our trip to Moraine Lake was a quick one because it was freezing! This was our last day in Banff before leaving for Vancouver and the temperature had already dropped much more than we’re used to in Boston by mid-September. Like a lot of the lakes in this region, the color of the water (even on a cloudy day!) and the surrounding summits were gasp-worthy.

Two Jack Lake

A quick drive from Banff town, Two Jack Lake was still a bit smoky when we visited. We found a quiet piece of the shoreline, got into the water up to our knees, and chatted about life until our stomachs grumbled, calling for lunch.

Bow Lake

Emerald Lake

Though snow or smoke got the best of our vistas sometimes, our time in Banff and Yoho was amazing. We did a lot of driving, and stayed in different towns along the way when we weren’t camping: Canmore, Golden, and Lake Louise.


After about 10 days, we flew from Calgary to Vancouver where we spent our days walking around the city, eating and drinking, and catching up with good friends that live in Seattle. We were having so much fun relaxing that we didn’t document our days there much, but here is one of our favorite spots in Vancouver: Siwash Rock in Stanley Park. We walked the entire shoreline of the park one day – 6 miles!

Stanley Park, Vancouver

Canada definitely has captured our hearts. People were freakishly kind and we saw such a small portion of the country that we know there’s a lot more left to explore. We live on an incredible continent when it comes to geographical beauty, that’s for sure!

2 thoughts on “Banff & Yoho National Parks

  1. Once again, you’ve given me a wonderful image to ponder- we didn’t get to the summits we had planned and explored the canyons instead. How true of our journeys through life. So glad you had this experience and shared it with us.

    • Rosey! I hadn’t even thought about it as that deep a metaphor. But oh how true. I still ache a little knowing all that research I did resulted in zero mountains climbed but I guess we left plenty there to do in future years. 😉 And expectation aside… we had an incredible time!

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