People come from all over to see the beauty of Banff and Lake Louise, but even if you've come to this part of the world purely to see the magnificent azure waters of Lake Louise and Moraine Lake, or the snow-capped mountain peaks around Banff, you might be looking for a day-trip away from Banff. Or, if you live nearby, you'll know just how busy the Banff and Lake Louise area gets in the summer, especially over long weekends. Yoho National Park, while still popular, doesn't get nearly as crowded so it's a great alternative if you're looking to spend time in the mountains.
Stop One: Spiral Tunnels
Between Lake Louise and Field, along the side of the Highway 1 is the Lower Spiral Tunnel Scenic Viewpoint. Here, you can learn a bit about the history of the Spiral Tunnels. In a nutshell, the train tracks were tunnelled underground and built in a giant spiral loop so that trains could make their way up the steep Kicking Horse Pass. If you wait for a train to pass through the Spiral Tunnel, it'll almost appear like there are two different trains as the two ends of it look like they are heading in different directions thanks to the spiral. You might need binoculars or a camera with good zoom to see this!
There is another viewpoint of the Spiral Tunnels (the Upper Spiral Tunnels) on the way to the Takakkaw Falls (more about this at stop five of this day trip!), but parking there is very limited, and there aren't as many signs explaining the history and engineering behind the Spriral Tunnels as there are at the Lower Spiral Tunnel Scenic Viewpoint.
Stop Two: Lunch at Truffle Pigs
If your'e hungry by now, you can stop at Truffle Pigs, a restaurant located in the small village of Field just 30 minutes by car from Lake Louise. They serve lunch from 11AM-3PM. The lunch menu is small, but you choose from a soup of the day, burgers (a beef burger or a vegetarian beet burger, picture below), and other meat dishes. They are also a popular dinner option for those in the area, so if you want to try Truffle Pigs for dinner, give them a visit between 5PM-9PM.
Truffle Pigs is located at 100 Center Street, Field, BC.
Stop Three: Natural Bridge
Just 8 minutes away from Truffle Pigs is Natural Bridge, where you'll witness the powerful Kicking Horse River eroding and cutting through the rock, creating what appears to be a bridge with the river water rushing through it underneath.
Your stop at Natural Bridge can be a quick stop of about 10 minutes, or longer if you want to wander and see this natural phenomenon from various angles.
Stop Four: Emerald Lake
About 10 minutes away from Natural Bridge by car is Emerald Lake. Emerald Lake can be described as the less well known sister of Moraine Lake and Lake Louise. It's got the same beautiful turquoise waters with towering mountains in the background, but with less visitors. Again, this is by no means an 'off the beaten track' destination and Emerald Lake gets its fair share of visitors, but it is definitely less busy than it gets in Moraine Lake and Lake Louise.
There are a number of different things you can do at Emerald Lake, and depending on what you do, you can easily spend a few hours here.
Canoeing/Kayaking/Paddleboarding at Emerald Lake
You can rent a canoe/kayak at Emerald Lake for the the price of about $70 CAD for an hour. I wouldn't say it's a bargain, but you're paying for the experience of canoeing on beautiful, glistening, azure waters! I didn't see any paddleboards for rent, but if you have your own, or rent it from elsewhere, you can bring it to the lake. You will have to declare that you have cleaned your equipment properly before using it in the water, but there are Parks Canada employees onsite that you can chat with about that.
Picnic or Dine at Emerald Lake Lodge
If you decided not to eat at Truffle Pigs, there are a couple of picnic tables by the lake, and the view in front of you as you eat is not too shabby! If you didn't pack a picnic, Emerald Lake is home to Emerald Lake Lodge, which has a couple of restaurant options. Click here for hours and menus.
Walk or Hike Around Emerald Lake
For those who like flat and short walks, you can walk the Emerald Lake Circuit, a loop that takes you around Emerald Lake that is flat, and measures in at under 5km. From the loop you can admire the lake and the surrounding mountains from different angles, as well as the wild flowers along the path. If you want a longer hike, there are trails that branch off from the Emerald Lake Circuit. For instance, from the north end of the lake, you can head off towards the Emerald Basin.
Stop Five: Takakkaw Falls
Takakkaw means magnificent in Cree, and that sure is a fitting name for this waterfall. Takakkaw Falls is fed by the Daly Glacier and the water tumbles down from 254 meters high making it one of the highest waterfalls in Canada. The waterfall is accessible from mid-June to mid-October to small vehicles because there are some really tight switchbacks on the way to the falls. I saw a camper van attempt the roads but had to turn around because it couldn't make it.
The falls are very easily accessible. Once you park your car in the parking lot, you can walk a flat path and get to the base of the falls in about 10 to 15 minutes. You'll pass by some picnic tables on the path so if you stop at Takakkaw Falls earlier in the day, this would be a great spot for a picnic! Closer to the base, you'll be able to feel the spray of mist from the falls which is very cooling on a hot day. Couple that with the roar of the force of the water and you'll easily be mesmerized by Takakkaw Falls. While we stood admiring the falls, a stranger turned to us and said, "Amazing, isn't it? Life's not so bad." Dear stranger, I totally agree. With beautiful sights like Takakkaw Falls to see in this world, life is not so bad after all.
This post is linked up on...