When I made the decision to move to Canada, I knew I wanted to travel and explore a little before settling down. I had heard nothing but amazing things about the Rockies, I made a rough plan and set off on my Canadian adventure. The Rockies are known for it’s gorgeous turquoise waters and beautiful landscapes, be prepared to be amazed and experience the views seen on popular travel bloggers instagrams first hand.
Summer is the best time to see all the spectacular scenery in all its glory before everything is covered with a blanket of snow. I spent most days hiking, visiting picturesque lakes and experiencing everything the Rockies had to offer. A lot of people think Canada doesn’t have a “real” summer but that is far from the truth. It got up to 35 degrees some days; I had to get out the factor 50!
You’ll have the advantage of great weather in the summer, however, this does also attract thousands of tourists so be prepared for crowds of people and early starts. The trick is to arrive before the big tour buses, you’ll get the opportunity to take photos and enjoy the view before the masses arrive.
I didn’t get a chance to see all the places on my list, this was partly because I didn’t have a car, which can be very restricting in Alberta and Canada in general. I had to rely on public transport or a fellow traveller who was heading in that direction. It was challenging at times but that’s half the fun of travelling solo right?!
Carry on scrolling and you’ll see the amazing places I visited and read about my experience, including getting around car-free.
Lake Louise is one of the most famous lakes in Canada; people come from all around the world to see it. The only problem with somewhere being so popular is the huge crowds it attracts. I arrived at 8am ish thinking I would be able to get the perfect insta shot, not knowing how busy it would be. I was even more surprised at 10am, swarms of tourist came piling in and it was nearly impossible to get a decent photo or enjoy the view.
There are so many hikes you can do around the area, unfortunately, I didn’t get around to them all but I did get to explore the Little and Big Beehive. For the Big Beehive, you hike about 45mins to get to a teahouse which is super cute but super crowded, I stayed to get a quick pic then carried on up to the top. The views are insane and definitely worth the 2-hour hike up steep and uneven terrain.
Lake Louise is very easy to get to from Banff town. If you are car-free; there is a bus that frequently goes to and from the lake during the summer that is only $10 roundtrip.
I was speechless when I saw Moraine Lake for the first time, wouldn’t you be? Since I was around the Banff area for a few weeks I was able to visit the lake more than once. On my first visit I went canoeing, it was $100 per hour per canoe. Even though I knew it was expensive, this was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. It was 100% worth the money! Being out on the lake was unreal, watching the sun reflect off the water intensifying the turquoise blue, what more could you ask for?
I visited this gorgeous place for a second time to experience the sunrise. It was an early start with alarms going off from 3:45am, if you arrive any later than 5:30am you run the risk of not getting a parking space. The sun rose at 6:15am ish and the sky filled with shades of pink and purple, it was worth the early morning wake up call.
If you’re car-free, it might be difficult to see the sunrise unless you can grab a ride with your hostel buddies. You won’t have any issues finding someone you can tag along with because so many people want to tick this off their bucket list. Getting to Moraine Lake day-to-day is very easy without a car, from Lake Louise hop on a bus for just $25 roundtrip.
CONSOLATION LAKE TRAIL AT MORAINE LAKE
While you’re exploring Moraine Lake, why not take a wander down one of the many trails. Consolation Lake is a short 1.8 miles (2.9km) hike through a woodland area leading to the rock piles.
Personally, I didn’t find this too strenuous, although I can imagine some people would feel a little out of their comfort zone with the rocky terrain. Watch your step and make sure the boulder is stable before taking the next step.
I had seen so many photos of a hidden spot in Johnson Canyon all over social media. When I arrived at this location I found that the entire section was off limits, the sign read “area closed to preserve wildlife”. The park rangers were well aware that people were sneaking down the dirt track to take the perfect Insta shot. It was a shame that I didn’t get to experience it first hand but it’s great that they’re trying to preserve the wildlife.
Taking the route to see the falls was very easy, simply follow the path and it will lead you to the lower falls first, there is a little cave you can go into to see the waterfall a little closer. To be honest, I wasn’t overly impressed because the view outside of the cave was no different, you also had to queue for this so I would suggest only doing it if you have time. Walk an additional ½ mile and you’ll reach the upper falls, it’s so pretty and you won’t be disappointed.
If you want to test your fitness level then carry on past the upper falls to the inkpots. This is a bit of a trek; give yourself about 3-4 hours to do the roundtrip. Once you pass the lower falls there won’t be a shop or anywhere you can fill your water bottle so come prepared.
Not only did I go to the inkpots, I decided to keep going and ended up at the bottom of Mystic Peak. I met a couple that said it would take 2 hours to get up and 1.5 hours down. Any other day I would’ve jumped at the chance to explore another trail but the last bus back to Banff was at 6:15pm, I couldn’t afford to miss it otherwise it would’ve been a very expensive taxi ride. The cute couple recommended going back again if I had time, perhaps I can put this on my to-do list next time I’m in Banff.
At the end of the day I managed to walk 13 miles (20km) in total!
Like Moraine Lake and Lake Louise, there is a bus that goes to Johnson Canyon from Banff. It’s only $5 roundtrip so it won’t break the bank! Throughout the summer, this bus runs every 1.5 hours in both directions so be sure to double check the times.
I went to Takakkaw Falls while on a day trip with Brewster Tours. The falls are about a 10 minute walk from the car park. When I first saw the waterfall I was in awe. It was beautiful, the sound of the water crashing against the rocks is surprisingly calming. I didn’t get a chance to explore much further than the waterfall because we had a schedule to keep and had to get back to Banff the same day. I’ve heard there are some great hikes around the area, if you have time why not check them out, possibly have a picnic and a glass of vino?
The drive from Banff to the Glacier is beautiful; you get to see spectacular views, turquoise lakes, and some of the prettiest waterfalls you’ll ever see. I only went to the Columbia Ice fields, unfortunately the Brewster tour I was on didn’t go to Athabasca Glacier but it’s on my travel wish list.
You hop on a snow mobile to get to the ice walk, and spend about 15 minutes on the ice before heading back. This may be obvious but, make sure you take a few layers as it is very chilly on the glacier. While you’re exploring, don’t forget to take the time to fill your bottle up with fresh water straight from the glacier, it’s life changing!
EMERALD LAKE LODGE
I could have stayed here for hours; it’s such a picturesque place with the log cabin. I felt surprisingly calm around the area, despite the fact there were a few tourists. Emerald Lake isn’t as crowded as Lake Louise but it still attracts tourist so be prepared, don’t expect to have the entire lake to yourself in summer. Although, I’ve heard it’s much quieter September time, which means you could get a more personalised experience without crowds of people.
You can easily travel to Peyto Lake from Banff in the same day by car; it’s only about an hour away. The lake lookout point is about a 10 minute walk from the carpark. If you want incredible photos, hop over the fence and get a little closer to the action, but remember to stay safe! The view is extraordinary, the lake is an amazing colour and I loved it here. Fun fact: Did you know the lake is actually shaped like a fox?
Being part of a tour group, I didn’t get a chance to stay here for as long as I would’ve hoped but perhaps on my road trip in June I’ll get to explore more.
I barely scratched the surface on my trip through the Rockies, there are so many amazing places to explore. Unfortunately, I either didn’t have the time or the transport to visit them all. I’ve learned that some places are easily accessible with public transport and others are a little more difficult without a car. Luckily, my sisters are coming in June this year and we’re doing a big road trip together through the Rockies. I’ll get the opportunity to experience all the magical views I didn’t see on my trip last year.
Where is your favourite place in the Rockies, and where would you suggest I visit in June?