Our second day in the Canadian Rockies was a sunnier day. We got up earlier in an attempt to make it Morraine Lake before their parking lot filled up but it was not meant to be as access had already been blocked off. Although we were earlier than the day before, the weather was nicer and even more people were already out and about. I did, after some research though, discover a webpage on the park website that will actually tell you the status of the parking lots so you will know before you go which can be very helpful. You can find this information here.
Instead we decided to just skip Morraine Lake again and head up the Icefields Parkway for now and perhaps try again later. The Icefields Parkway is the 232 km stretch of Highway 93 that goes through and connects Banff National Park with Jasper National Park further north. Jasper is also supposed to be quite beautiful and being further north, you can get a closer look at the glaciers. The park even has the Columbia Icefield Skywalk where you walk on a glass floor walkway. However, it takes quite a bit of time to drive all the way up into Jasper and then return to Banff in the same day (especially since you will want to stop quite often) so we stuck to the Banff portion of the Parkway.
We used a combination of two resources and the signs on the road to plot out our stops on the Icefields Parkway. First, I found a great website, not only for the Icefield Parkway but the Canadian Rockies in general called Banff and Beyond. Actually we used the information from this site as reference for a large portion of our trip, not just for the Parkway. The specific portion on the Parkway is here. The second reference is the Lonely Planet guidebook for Banff, Jasper and Glacier National Parks I bought on Amazon here. You could also download it to your Kindle or Kindle application for free if you have KindleUnlimited. In the guidebook they had a section name Driving Tour: Into the Icefields that also summarizes some of the possible stops along the Parkway.
Our first stop, not too far north from the Lake Louise area was Herbert Lake on the left side. At Herbert Lake, you can actually walk down to the lake and walk along the shore. I liked this lake in that you could see the reflections of the clouds above as well as the trees along the shoreline. It is definitely worth a quick stop.
Our second stop was Helen Lake until we realized the parking lot is actually a trailhead for a longer trail to get to Helen Lake which was not of interest to us as it would take too much time. So instead we continued north and stopped by a viewpoint for Bow Lake.
After Bow Lake, we stopped at the parking lot that leads to a 0.2 mile trail to Bow Summit, a viewpoint for Peyto Lake. Peyto Lake is a gorgeous, vibrant blue and that was truly astounding. I only wish we could have gotten closer to the lake. This one is a must see since it had the best color of all the lakes we saw. There is a deck at the lookout but if you walk down to the side of the deck near the edge you actually get a better view of both ends of Peyto Lake.
Our next stop was Mistaya Canyon where we walked on a 0.3 mi trail that led us to a limestone canyon.
After Mistaya Canyon, we decided to turn around. However, if you decided to continue there are still a few stops in Banff and then more in Jasper including the Columbia Icefields. I really want to come back to the area some time and visit Jasper as well.
On the way back south, we decided to stop by some of the places we skipped and “saved” for the return trip. Our first stop was at Waterfowl Lakes. The nice things about this stop was you could also see reflections in the lake.
Afterwards, we stopped at Num-Ti-Jah Lodge which is located on the shoreline of Bow Lake. They do offer sandwiches and snacks here for sale. We were hoping for hot food options but they did not seem to really have any so we passed on food and instead took photos of Bow Lake on the shoreline.
On our way back to our car we also happened to see what my brother later told me were the Snowbirds overhead. They are the flight demonstration team from the Royal Canadian Air Force. I’m not sure if they were practicing or performing but it was great to see an impromptu air show.
Our last two stops on the Icefield Parkway were the Clawfoot Glacier Lookout and a viewpoint for Hector Lake.
Unfortunately, we could not really see much of Hector Lake from the distance but the view of the glaciers was pretty good. These last two spots concluded our driving tour of the Icefield Parkway. I checked the Banff website to see if Morraine Lake’s parking lot was open but it still was not. Instead, since the weather was pleasant, we decided to try driving to Takakkaw Falls in Yoho National Park.
Most of the drive up to the parking lot was not too bad but there are two very tight switchbacks (turns). If you are in a large car, you probably will not be able to make the turns in one shot. The GMC Yukon in front of us was not able to at once though our Nissan Rouge just barely made it in one go.
After we parked, it was a short, flat and easy paved trail to the falls. I even saw a mother with a child in a stroller. You can actually see the falls from a distance standing in the parking lot but the trail brings you much closer.
It was a very grandiose waterfall and since the trail is so easy, I highly recommend this stop for all visitors. While walking back from the base of the falls to the parking lot we also saw a determined duck family (a mother and her babies) cross the stream. The water current was really strong so it was a scary process to watch but they made it!
After Takakkaw Falls, we headed back to the town of Banff to get some food. We figured we had seen a lot of beautiful lakes so it would not be a huge loss if we did not see Morraine Lake on this trip. Plus, it leaves something to look forward to if I go back in the future which I would really like to do.
This time when we arrived in Banff, it was much easier to find a street parking spot and seemed to be less people milling around. I guess the weather really made a difference and people were still out exploring. We chose to get some Cajun food from Tooloulou’s which definitely had the Cajun Creole spirit in both their food and the decorations.
I think we arrived a little before or after 4 pm, I cannot quite remember but their lunch service lasts until 5 pm so we got to eat at lunch prices. We started with the hushpuppies and cornbread and also an order of deep fried oysters. The oysters were crispy on the outside but not dried out on the inside which is perfect and the hushpuppies and cornbread were huge and almost too filling.
For a main entree, I had the Big Easy pasta while my parents ordered the Shrimp & Lobster Étouffée and the Seafood & Sausage Gumbo. The waitress mentioned that the Étouffée was very spicy and while it did have a kick of heat, we did not think it was too hot.
After our early dinner, we got back in the car and headed to nearby Lake Minnewanka and drove the loop that is Lake Minnewanka Scenic Drive. The drive takes you by both Lake Minnewanka as well as Two Jack Lake. From what we could see, it looks like there are a lot of recreational activities by Lake Minnewanka and near Two Jack Lake there is a campground.
The scenic drive pretty much completed our second day in the Canadian Rockies and also completed our journey through Banff & Yoho National Parks (minus driving through to get to Kootenay National Park).
I highly recommend if you have time and are looking for some fresh air to come visit these two parks. The views are extraordinary and not just at these specific locations. In general, driving through the park you are surrounded by nature’s splendor. In fact, I will finish this post with various pictures I took from the car just while we were driving through.
This post is part of a series:
- Glacier National Park, Montana & Waterton Lakes National Park, Canada: Day One
- Glacier National Park, Montana & Waterton Lakes National Park, Canada: Day Two
- Glacier National Park, Montana & Waterton Lakes National Park, Canada: Day Three
- Calgary, Alberta
- Banff National Park, Alberta and Yoho National Park, British Columbia: Day One
- Banff National Park, Alberta and Yoho National Park, British Columbia: Day Two
- Kootenay National Park, British Columbia
- Last Day in Montana