It already seems like forever ago that we were frolicking around Canada on a post-triathlon vacation. I probably say this after every trip, but I think this was one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen.
After leaving lovely Whistler, we drove and drove and drove to spend the night in Revelstoke. (I’ll let you guess how many “stoked” jokes we made in the 16 hours we were there.) We only got to eat dinner and watch the sunset by the Columbia River (the same river that runs between Oregon and Washington), but it was lovely (and a good way to break up a forest fire-filled million hour drive).
From Revelstoke, we drove to Canmore, Alberta, a cute little mountain town just southeast of Banff, where we would spend the rest of our vacation. I’m a sucker for mountain architecture, so I spent a lot of time drooling over all the cutie cute cabins in the area.
- Canada’s tourism industry is run by Australians. I’m probably underestimating by saying that 90% of the people we encountered were Australian. We asked one of the Aussies about it, and he said that Australians love the mountains and come to work at the ski resorts. So there you go.
- The Rocky Mountains are enormous. I probably didn’t need to tell you that, but it’s definitely true.
- Canada is where former American icons go to live a second life. IGA, A&W, and Dunkaroos are living the good life in the great white north.
- No matter where you are, you are never far from a Tim Hortons.
- Everything is beautiful. The mountains are tall. The water is blue. The trees are plentiful. It’s super dreamy.
We had a long list of things to do in the Banff area, thanks to meeting a friend who used to live there a few weeks before our trip. Shout out to Zoe, the MVP of our trip, who gave us so many wonderful suggestions and kept us in good food the whole time.
So, I love the mountains here in Oregon, but my goodness, the Canadian Rockies are MOUNTAINS. And they are everywhere. I mean, we could see mountains in every single direction. Why are we not living there? Seriously. Someone tell me.
Without further ado, here’s pretty much everything we did:
We visited Takakkaw Falls in Yoho National Park on the final leg of the drive to Canmore to stretch our very weary travel legs.
We stayed in Canmore, which I would highly recommend over staying in the town of Banff. It’s way less crowded, and it didn’t scream “tourism” quite as loudly as the Gap-lined streets of Banff. Plus, there’s a lovely trail along the river that looks like this:
After our triathlon, I thought I might never want to ride my bike again, but I was really itching to ride the Banff Legacy Trail from Canmore to Banff. It was AMAZING. And mostly flat, which our tired legs appreciated. Give me a car-free, nicely paved bike path any day. I kept watch for any wildlife to jump out onto the path, but we only encountered other humans.
The big to-do on our list was Lake Louise and the Plain of Six Glaciers Teahouse hike. We woke up super early to get to the lake at sunrise (where we were surprised to see hundreds of other people), but ended up being the only folks on the hiking trail for a few hours. The sunrise was a bit of a bust thanks to some pretty intense fog, but we managed to hike above it for these magical moments.
It felt like we experienced 4 different seasons on this trail. The intense fog and chill of winter (I started the hike in my winter jacket), the wildflowers of spring, the warm sunshine of summer, and the deep browns that I always associated with fall. Way to pack it all in, Canada.
We hiked up to the Plain of Six Glaciers Teahouse, where we enjoyed coffee, biscuits, and jam while the fog burned away, finally revealing those mountains!
From there, we hiked to the top of Mt. Saint Piran, and stared at the seemingly endless mountains all around us. We only encountered a few other folks on this hike, which was really nice after seeing the crowds on all of the trails below. The unreal blue water that you see in the photo below is Lake Louise, only a thousand switchbacks away.
We hiked Johnston Canyon, along with possibly every other person in Canada. It was only a few miles, but it took forever with all of the tourists.
This was the line to see one of the waterfalls. We gave up.
My favorite day of the whole trip came with an hour-long drive up a gravel road to Mt. Engadine Lodge, where we enjoyed a Sunday brunch of blueberry cardamom pancakes with views of incredible mountains.
After one of the best brunches of my life, we hiked Tent Ridge, which was amazing. Out of this world. It was a 7-something mile scramble up and down a rocky ridge with views of beautiful blue lakes, and tons of mountains. The scrambling part was a little terrifying (and gave us some serious Munra Point flashbacks), but I managed to save my complete wipeout for walking along flat ground (and by “complete wipeout”, I mean I tripped, completely rolled across the ground, and somehow ended up standing again).
We look so happy in this photo because we just ate pop-tarts on top of a mountain. That’s vacation, my friends.
Now, I’d heard and read so much about all the wildlife in Canada that I expected to see bears at every turn. I definitely did not want to encounter a bear on the trail (which is why I sing songs and clap my hands like any good bear-fearer), but I really wanted to see one from a very safe distance. Each time we reached a view of a body of water, I hoped we would look down and see a bear backstroking across the water (like they do). But it never happened.
After the hike, we returned to Mt. Engadine Lodge for afternoon tea on the porch, which included a charcuterie board, mountain views, and homemade apple strudel. Honestly, this is my dream life.
On one of the really smoky days, we went whitewater rafting on the Kicking Horse River in Golden, British Columbia. I don’t have any photos of the event, but I’m pleased to report it was not nearly as terrifying as I was expecting. Apparently rafting the White Salmon is trickier! Our guide told us that the water we were rafting had been snow just 16 hours before (and it was cold enough that I believe him).
We happened to be on vacation during our 7th wedding anniversary (!!!), so we celebrated with a morning at Moraine Lake. I’ve seen about a million photos of this place on Instagram, where it always looks serene and secluded. What you don’t see are the hundreds of other folks standing around you, taking the same photo. So don’t be fooled. Despite arriving before sunrise, we were definitely not alone.
This was probably the first time we’ve ever had to dress in winter wear for our August anniversary.
Later that day, we went for a little canoe paddle on the Bow River at the Banff Canoe Club. We saw a whole herd of elk after we got out of the water, which was pretty much the only wildlife we saw the entire week.
As far as food goes, we ate some pretty spectacular meals in Canmore. We had our anniversary dinner at Blake’s. The Oil Spill (grilled bread with olive oil and balsamic, whipped butter, and coal salt) was a dream come true. I’ve attempted to replicate it several times since we got home. Other favorite meals occurred at Rocky Mountain Flatbread Co. and Crazy Weed.
All in all, the trip was really spectacular. Here’s to you, Canada, you Great White North.