The Inkpots, Johnston Canyon, Banff

By far, the hardest hike of our Canadian adventure was from Upper Johnston Canyon to the Inkpots. It was a punishingly steep hike, but the beauty of the inkpots and the alpine meadow they're in more than made up for it.

Johnston Canyon is one of the busiest places in Banff, and it's evident by how quickly the carpark fills up in the morning. The first time we visited Banff, we thought we'd rock up to Johnston Canyon about 1 pm - ha, no. While we did find parking spaces at an overflow carpark, the place was so busy there'd have been no point trying. 

This time, we turned up nice and early and enjoyed the lower and upper falls while it was relatively quiet. If you want to avoid the crowds, arrive for 9 am - especially during the summer. Very few people actually go further to the Inkpots, so that trail being busy isn't really an issue.

Johnston Canyon, Banff

Rainbow at Johnston Canyon

Johnston Canyon, Banff

It quickly becomes apparent why Johnston Canyon is so popular. The falls and the canyon are stunning, and walkways allow the whole family to get up close to them, and a little soggy. It's impressive walking through a canyon and trying to comprehend how water created something so incredible. I mean, we all get how erosion works but standing in somewhere like that and trying to comprehend it frazzles my brain.

 

Most visitors don't bother hiking the extra 3km/1.9 miles to the Inkpots, which is simultaneously ridiculous (it's so beautiful) and understandable (it's steeeeep). While Johnston Canyon is definitely something special, the Inkpots are even better.

 

That said, I can understand why so many people don't go; it's not a particularly family friendly trail (though we did see a couple of kids on the trail). We both found it the hardest hike of our trip; it was bloody steep, it was definitely leg day, and there isn't a huge amount to look at because the forest is so thick you only get the occasional glimpse of the mountains around you.

Alpine meadow, Johnston canyon and the inkpots

The inkpots, Banff

The inkpots, Johnston Canyon

It took us just over an hour to reach the inkpots , and my complaining and leg burn went away as soon as I saw the alpine meadow coming into view. (Don't let my complaining put you off, plenty of people seemed to storm past us so perhaps I'm just unfit?)

 

When you reach the meadow, you're rewarded with a stunning view of a few vibrant-coloured ponds you associate with Canada nestled inside an awe-inspiring alpine meadow. A couple of trails take you around the inkpots and there are a few benches too, making it the perfect place for a picnic.

Alpine meadow - Johnston Canyon and the Inkpots

The inkpots, Banff

Alpine meadow at the inkpots

The inkpots

Alpine meadow, johnston canyon and the inkpots

I don't think I'd ever been in an alpine meadow before this hike, and it was everything I wanted it to be - it reminded me of Heidi. It was so serene and neither of us wanted to leave and head back down the trail.

If you do fancy further hiking in this area, there are a couple of overnight trails into the backcountry along Mystic Pass, and Johnston Creek. If you're thinking about doing any backcountry trails, make sure you know your safety stuff; we read plenty of information saying bears use both of those trails regularly to get to drinking spots.

Tips for hiking Johnston Canyon & the Inkpots

• Give yourself at least four hours to enjoy the trip there and back
• Return distance: 10.8km/6.7miles
• Be there at 9 am if you want to see Johnston Canyon in relative silence
• Wear good, supportive footwear
• Take layers - you might be hot hiking but it'll be cool when you stop 
• Take plenty of water and snacks
• There are no toilets after the car park
• Enjoy a picnic when you reach the Inkpots
• Know how to behave responsibly in an area that's home to wild animals; make noise, keep dogs on a leash, never leave any food or food packaging, and keep your distance.

The inkpots, Banff, Johnston Canyon.

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rosie_baillie Instagram top 9

I don’t know about you but I love finding out about the stories behind people’s Instagram Top 9; I kinda feel like they’re nice, heartwarming, fuzzy, reads. So, I bring you the stories behind my Instagram top 9. 

It’s also interesting to note that not one of these photos was posted to my account (@rosie_baillie if you’re not already following) in the past three months, showing how damn stupid the latest algorithm updates are. 

From first glance, we can definitely see my top 9 are all about blues, greens, water, and mountains. Oh, and Canada, duh. Because do I talk about anything else? No. At least it’s nice that I know I’m a broken record.

 

The first photo was taken when I saw the northern lights (obviously) in Iceland with my Mum. It was a dream come true, ticking it off the bucketlist, moment, and I seriously recommend it. If you want to know more, I did write a blog post about seeing the northern lights and the company I went with. 

 

This next photo is actually at least two years old, maybe three now. It was taken the first time I visited Edinburgh, and had a trip out to Loch Awe. Early last year, my sister planned a trip to Scotland and started asking me questions about it, so I started fangirling to her and just had to repost this. 

The third photo is one of my favourite photos of all time; Daz and I at Moraine Lake, our happy place. I love it because it shows off how darn stunning Moraine Lake is, how grand the peaks are, the shade of blue of the lake, the reflection, and it makes me feel something. We’ve got a print of it in our living room, which I can see right now, and every time I look at it I feel fuzzy inside and have to fight off the urge to head over to SkyScanner and book a flight for tomorrow. 

 

As I said in the caption, it just isn’t possible to have too many photos of Moraine Lake in an Instagram feed. Moraine Lake is a funny ol’ place because the weather is very changeable. On the same day this photo was taken, we also had blazing sunshine and snow (at the same time). 

 

Every time I see a photo of Peyto Lake looking beautifully clear and sunny I wonder if those people visited a Peyto Lake in a parallel universe, because this is what I saw. And it’s what happened each of the four times Daz and I tried to visit the lake. Nevertheless, it’s still beautiful, and moodier than me circa 2007. 

 

This is a quaint looking hostel just off the main road through Glen Coe in Scotland. It was one of the first outings Daz and I had since moving up here. I’ve loved Glen Coe since the moment I first set my eyes on it and it was SO nice to be able to show Daz it. 

This is another solid fave of mine from 2017, and it also features Moraine Lake in the background, so it has all the qualities of the best photo ever. I don’t even know what to say about this photo other than it was a perfect day, one of my favourite moments of my life, and there better be a photo appearing in a future ‘Instagram top 9’ of our wedding at the edge of that lake. 

 

I’m actually surprised this photo appeared in my top 9 because I really feel like I’ve taken photos that are a lot better. But, it was posted at the start of 2017, again, the algorithm. This was taken back in September 2016 when we attempted to kayak on a very windy Maligne Lake. I do not recommend it to kayaking noobs, and you can read more about that horror story here

 

I’m so happy that Vancouver made an appearance in my top 9, because that beautiful city worked hard to make us fall in love with it. And we really did. This was taken at the edge of Stanley Park and is a shot looking across the Lionsgate Bridge towards North Vancouver with the mountains in the background. I think it’s a pretty great summary of why we fell in love with Vancouver; all of those things in one view, perfect. 

And, to make it even better we saw our first raccoon a few minutes before we took this photo. Now, that might seem like a bizarre thing to get excited over but we don’t have racoons in the UK! They look so adorable and remind us of the kids cartoon, The Raccoons. 

If you shared the stories behind your Instagram top 9, link me because I wanna see them! 

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Camping at Williamson Lake campground in Revelstoke, British Columbia

Ok, I know everyone is doing these posts right now and I'm jumping right on that bandwagon because I love reading about where people have been and their plans for the year ahead.

 

I seriously love organising trips; it is taking everything I have in me to stop opening SkyScanner right now. I literally cannot afford to book a flight anywhere but I just love seeing what I could do. It's sad I know. If a career in research doesn't work out, I'm going to be an adventure planner. Is that a thing? Can I get paid to do that?

 

2017 in travel

I think this year was the first year in a long time that I've only done a couple of trips. There were a couple of reasons; our trip to Canada was a big one that used up most of our holiday and moving to Edinburgh was expensive. Plus, between finishing my undergrad in May and starting a masters in September, there hasn't been much spare time.

 

Iceland

The northern lights over Reykjanes, Iceland

My Mum and I rang in the New Year in Reykjavik and arrived back in the UK on the 2nd January. We spent a few days exploring Iceland's capital, saw the northern lights twice, and took a wonderful day trip around the Snaefellsnes Peninsula.

 

Roundup of Iceland posts:

Winter sun over a barn, Snaefellsnes Peninsula, Iceland

Snow on the Reykjavik sea wall in December

Canada

Canoes at Moraine Lake, Alberta

Ah, the big one. The one you're sick of me talking about 😉 I'm not even sorry.

 

After our first trip to Canada in September 2016, Daz and I booked a trip back for as soon as I'd finished my undergrad degree. We did a wonderful road trip covering Golden, Victoria, Tofino, Vancouver, Revelstoke, Banff and Canmore. The trip truly cemented our love for the country, and it's also where we got engaged!

 

Since returning we've felt a bit out of sorts, and like we left part of ourselves somewhere between Vancouver Island and the Rocky Mountains.

 

Unfortunately for you guys, there are more Canada posts coming in 2018. But we haven't got a trip back planned for 2018, so it's got to end at some point, right? 😉

 

Roundup of Canada posts:

The view over Canmore from the Grassi Lakes trail

Sunset at the harbour in Victoria, BC

View from Cox Bay lookout, Tofino, BC

2018 travel plans

The only concrete plan I have at the moment is a trip to Morocco in April. I'm going on a study trip for my course and some of us are gonna hang around for a few extra days to explore. It's definitely not a place I would have chosen to visit myself. Mainly because I'm all about forests, lakes, snow-capped mountains, and cold places. 

 

I went to Tunisia twice when I was younger so I have been somewhere a little like Morocco but it feels a bit different now I'm all grown up and have no plans of spending my days bored around a swimming pool. If you have any recommendations about what to do in Morocco, let me know!

 

It would be nice to do a couple of short breaks exploring Scotland but I've no idea how heavy my workload will be. I think my classes finish at the start of April and then I have until the middle of August to do my dissertation. But, I need to get a big chunk of it done before April because of what my project is. So, who knows if I'll even have the luxury of a spare couple of days before August. Maybe we'll manage something next September to celebrate me finishing my MSc.

 

I want to hear where you visited in 2017 and any travel plans for 2018 🙂

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Consolation Lakes in June

Consolation Lakes

Sure, you've heard of Moraine Lake; have you heard of Consolation Lakes which is just 3km away? 

Ok, Moraine Lake is pretty damn hard to beat but the 6km return hike to and from Consolation Lakes is beautiful, pretty easy (we saw little kiddies doing it) and is well worth your time. You can go from the hustle and bustle of Moraine Lake, to a peaceful valley after walking through immaculate forest in an hour. Why would you want to skip out on that? 

Sign for Consolation Lakes trail

Snow covered trail from Moraine Lake to Consolation lakes

Snow at Moraine Lake

Snow covered trail to Consolation Lakes

Snow on the trail to Consolation Lakes

The trail starts near the rock pile at Moraine Lake and leads you through stunning forest to lakes surrounded by mountains and glaciers. We hiked to Consolation Lakes on June 21st and to our surprise, there was still a lot of snow and avalanche build up in places, especially near the lakes which make things pretty treacherous. 

As you can see in the photos above, the trail near Moraine Lake to the forest area was covered in snow and had there not been a worn path we would have had no idea where the trail went. Especially where it heads into the forest. Luckily we saw someone come out up the slippy slope from the forest. Otherwise I think we would have given up and thought it was impassable. 

I've seen photos from August time where it seems to have all thawed out; if you're going in June, and maybe even July, take waterproof boots with good grip and ankle support. You definitely need to exercise caution when trying to navigate the snow on the rocks because it's so easy to slip and drop your foot into a crevice; both Daz and I did this. 

It took us just over an hour to reach Consolation Lakes, and the trail was fairly quiet. If that's the case, remember to make noise on the trail so you don't scare any bears that may be nearby. When we arrived, we could barely believe what we were seeing; a stunning meadow, steep slopes, the Quadra glacier, and crystal clear lakes.

Snow at Consolation Lakes in June

Alpine valley Consolation Lakes

Ground squirrel near consolation lakes

We probably spent about half an hour at Consolation Lakes. I imagine you could spent a lot longer there when the snow has all melted, but we dared venture too far over the snow covered rocks for fear of busting an ankle. 

The 6km return hike is easily doable in a couple of hours, so you could easily spent half a day in the Moraine Lake area. As I mentioned earlier, we visited in June (which isn't quite peak season) and it was quite busy. While most visitors don't head to Consolation Lakes, if you want to explore the area when it's quieter get there as early as you can. 

Please remember to pay attention to any trail restrictions. When we first visited last September, we couldn't do this hike because it was closed to groups smaller than four people because it's prime bear habitat. When you're on the trail, make noise to avoid surprising a furry beast, carry bear spray, and know what to do in the event you see a bear

If you're visiting Consolation Lakes early in the season, or even in June, Parks Canada keep their trail report page updated

Ironically, Moraine Lake Road is fully snow covered, closed, and won't be open until June 2018 now - but I really wanted to share these photos with you because I keep forgetting about how beautiful Consolation Lakes were. 

 

Have you ever hiked to Consolation Lakes?

 

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Sunset over BC parliament building - how spend one day exploring Victoria, BC

I'm trying to avoid the cliche that it's hard to just spend one day in Victoria, but it's true. The beautiful, British-inspired capital of British Columbia could easily steal a few days of your time as you stroll the streets, marvel at ornate buildings, go wildlife watching, and explore all the museums. 

We had one full day in Victoria before driving onto to Tofino, and it was enough for a short introduction to the city that left us wanting more. 


Walk the city

On our day in Victoria we ended up walking something stupid like 20km, and boy did our feet know about it. We parked out at Beacon Hill Park by the ocean and walked along the coast into Victoria. It took us about an hour, and it was a great way to get a feel for the city. The coastline is stunning and combined with 20C+ temperatures, you could have easily pretended you were somewhere in the Mediterranean.

The city itself is seriously beautiful. A lot of the buildings are very Victorian-era Britain inspired and to be honest, Victoria's architecture puts a lot of British cities to shame. 

Walking around Victoria, BC

Fisherman's Wharf

Fisherman's Wharf is a few minutes walk from Victoria's inner harbour and is a must-see when you're visiting the city. We went on World Ocean Day and the wharf was teeming with people, and stalls set up by charities educating people about the state of our oceans, and getting kids involved with conservation. It was a boiling hot day and I'm sure that had it not been World Ocean Day, the place would still have been packed.

The funky wharf is made up of a few piers with colourful floating homes (yes, people actually live there), restaurants, shops, and tourist information. Grey seals like to pop up in the harbour sometimes too, alas we didn't see any when we went; though it's still fun to try and spot them.

One day in Victoria; marvel at the cute, colourful houses in Fisherman's Wharf

Wildlife watching

On the walk from the Inner Harbour to Fisherman's Wharf you don't have to look to far to spot some local wildlife. As we walked into Victoria, we followed an otter and a heron, who were competing for fish. It was pretty amusing to watch the otter steal the herons food; you could almost see the look of absolute disgust on that birds face.

I know you're already short on time, because you only have one day in Victoria, but if you really want to; there are plenty of whale-watching tours leaving Victoria. Both Daz and I really want to see an Orca. We took a whale-watching tour in Tofino, and didn't see one; from the research I've done since, it seems like you have a better chance of seeing killer whales on tours leaving from Victoria or Vancouver. Maybe I'm wrong, I'm certainly no expert, but it just seems that way from what I've seen since. 

And because you're short on time, if you want to speed things up you can catch a water taxi to explore the city faster. 

Watching an otter in Victoria BC, harbour

Heron in Victoria, BC

Walk the sea wall

Ok, so Victoria doesn't technically have a seawall but you can easily make a really nice trail from the Inner Harbour to Beacon Hill Park. From the Inner Harbour, keep walking along the water towards Ogden Point (and stop of there, too), keep going up Dallas Road, and then join the Dallas Road Waterfront Trail.

Exploring the coast in Victoria, BC

BC Parliament building, Victoria, Vancouver Island

Museums & fancy buildings

Victoria is not short on beautiful looking buildings and museums. The most famous of which is the BC Parliament Building, and it's easy to see why when you finally see it with your own eyes. In Victoria, you'll also find the Royal BC Museum, the Robert Batemen Centre art museum, the Maritime Museum of British Columbia, the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, and so much more. To top it all off, they even have a castle in the city too! Craigdarroch Castle is a Scottish-inspired castle about a 35-minute walk from Downtown Victoria.

The city also has plenty of parks and gardens, the most famous of which being Butchart Gardens. I get the feeling you could spend your one day just exploring the gardens if you wanted. 

Stick around for sunset

Let's make sure we finish those feet and legs off! I'm pretty sure our feet were overjoyed when we sat down for dinner; it wasn't over for them just yet.

 

The city quietens down in the evening, and you can watch the sun paint the sky above the BC Parliament building orange and pink, to the tune of a local busker playing to a small crowd in the harbour. Take a walk towards Fisherman's Wharf and you can experience an orange sunset with no one else around.

One day in Victoria; watch the sun paint the sky orange over Victoria, VC

Golden hour over the BC Parliament Building, Victoria

And when you've walked your little legs off, you can finally chill out. We were camping and stayed at McDonald Campground out near Sidney, which was about a half an hour drive. It's a small unmanned campsite in a little wooded area. It was so nice to wake up and cook breakfast surrounded by trees. It is pretty close to a main road, though we didn't find it disturbed us. 

Have you ever been to Victoria? 

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Tofino, Cox Bay lookout point

Long Beach, Tofino

Two days in Tofino is absolutely nowhere near enough to do everything the cosy, windswept little town has to offer. However, I can promise that being in Tofino is like slipping into the comfiest PJs ever and you will emerge three days later feeling so refreshed and relaxed - even if you pack your days full of adventures.

The windswept town is almost half way up the west coast of Vancouver Island, just off the coast of Vancouver. Tofino is almost surrounded by the Pacific ocean, and interestingly is the end of the Trans-Canada Highway. There's plenty to do in this surfers paradise, from watersports, wildlife watching, hiking, eating, and relaxing. 

 

Tofino harbour

Tofino

Tofino is a small town on the west side of Vancouver Island at the end of highway 4. With only one road connecting it to the outside world, it feels so peaceful and cosy. If you're looking for a destination that makes you feel a million miles away from chaos and allows you to reconnect with that wild feeling, you need to go to Tofino. In the summer, Tofino attracts hikers, nature lovers, and surfers. In the winter, it attracts storm watchers.

It's no coincidence that the local magazine is called "Tofino Time". Life slows down to half pace as soon as you enter the town. The vibe is more chill than Shaggy & Scooby Doo. The only place people seem to be in a rush to get to the is the beach, with good reason because the surf is good and the views are even better. I'm not kidding, we saw so many people running to the beach with their surfboards under their arms, like they had an insatiable need to surf. We even saw a guy managing to ride a bike and hold his surfboard at the same time - I have no idea how he did it. I suspect that if I tried, it would involve a lot of face-planting the floor.

 

What to do - how to spend two days in Tofino

Two days isn't much time at all. Don't pack your schedule too tight because you're going to want time to relax and once you start exploring beaches and covers, you'll soon run out of time.

 

Take a wildlife tour

There is no shortage of wildlife to be seen around Tofino, whether it's whales, birds, bears, seals, or something else. I think you would have to have a whole load of bad luck and bad timing on your side if you didn't see anything.

Several companies in Tofino and Ucluelet offer boat or air wildlife tours. We went whale watching with Jamie's Whaling Station and had a great time spotting whales, sea otters, and taking in Clayoquot Sound, and learning about the area. We really enjoyed their tour and would definitely recommend them - next time we want to do their bear watching tour.

Spotting a whale on a whale watching tour with Jamie's Whaling Station, Tofino

Seeing a sea otter on a boat tour with Jamie's Whaling Station, Tofino

Wildlife spotting on your own 

As I said, I think you'd have to be pretty unlucky to not see something. Spent some time on beaches and you might end up seeing something wonderful. We followed the Tonquin Trail from the community centre down to Tonquin beach and spotted whales out in the bay, and saw a bald eagle chilling on a rock.

Pay respect to signs informing you that beaches are closed to humans after dark to allow wildlife to feed. And never forget that you are the stranger in another animal's territory. Make sure you don't leave any litter or food around that may attract wildlife, carry bear spray, and know what to do if you encounter a bear, wolf, or mountain lion.

I recently read a PhD thesis which commented that a big chunk of people surveyed were entering into areas that had bears and they didn't know what to do if they encountered one. (There are no stats as that was an observation she made, not actually part of her research.)

A Bald Eagle at Tonquin Beach, Tofino

 

Explore beaches

The beaches around Tofino are some of the most beautiful beaches either of us had ever seen. They're vast, windswept, and you can walk between some of them at low tide.

We spent hours exploring beaches, climbing up rocks for views, looking for rock pools and taking in where we were. We even discovered a beach called Rosie Beach, which had a beautiful house perched on the edge of it. It was pretty fun to imagine what it would be like to live there and look out your window to the sea every day.

Daz at Long Beach

Cox Bay, Tofino

Enjoying the view on Cox Bay, Tofino

 

 

Rainforest A trail in Tofino

Hiking

There's no shortage of hiking trails around Tofino. Here are some of the ones we did:

  • Tonquin Trail - a short trail from Tofino's community centre down to Tonquin Beach. 
  • Rainforest A & B - two short loop trails, each one starting at difference sides of the highway. It's interesting to note the comparison between the rainforest you walk through in both of these trails. Rainforest A is older, and Rainforest B has a younger bit at the start. This trail is perfect if it's raining because the trees keep you pretty well sheltered from the rain. It's a really ground experience to be surrounded by so many ancient trees. 
  • The Lighthouse Loop - a 2.6km trail that forms part of the Wild Pacific Trail, and starts in Ucluelet. It's a wonderful trail for seeing the power of the waves against the rocks, and the lighthouse is well worth seeing. 

There are many more trails around and we found Tofino Trails to be really helpful when planning what we were going to do. If you fancy going further afield, the Lone Cone trail looks like it provides rewarding views over Clayoquot Sound. As it involves getting a water taxi to Meares Island, doing that hike will probably take up the majority of your day. This hike is definitely on our list of things to do when we return. 

 

Surfing or paddleboarding

Tofino is a surfers paradise. Unfortunately we didn’t have chance to go surfing but we saw loads of people trying it out for the first time, and total pros. You won't struggle to find a company who can teach you to surf or paddleboard, and it's something we want to try out next time.

amphitrite lighthouse in Ucluelet, down the road from Tofino

View from the Lighthouse Loop, in Ucluelet

Where to stay in Tofino

Daz and I stayed at Green Point Campground, just outside Tofino, on the edge of Long Beach. It's a Parks Canada owned campsite which can be booked through their website. It cost us $107.90 CAD (around £65) for three nights with a fire permit, and fire wood can be brought on site. All of the Parks Canada campsites we've stayed at were really nice, clean, had good facilities but this one was even more special. Green Point Campground has a private trail down to Long Beach, and it's possible to pick a pitch with ocean views. 

We stayed in pitch 67, which had views through the trees over the ocean. I'm not sure if any of the pitches actually have views of the beach itself. When you book through the Parks Canada website, you can click on all of the pitches and see photos of the pitch, some of them clearly show ocean views. I'm not sure where else you're going to get ocean views for $22 per night.

There are other campsites around Tofino, which vary in price. For example, at Bella Pacifica you can camp on the beach but it is more expensive than the Parks Canada site. 

In Tofino, you can find B&B's, apartments, inns, and lodges. I always recommend AirBnB because  we love it so much. You can always find something that fits your budget and needs. If we aren't camping, AirBnB is our go-to.

There is also an eco-lodge at Tofino's Botanical Garden if you're looking for accommodation that takes care of the environment. That said, we felt a lot of places we visited were eco-friendly and I think that's to do with the close connection the town has with nature and wildlife. 

Campfire at Greenpoint Campground, Tofino

Tofino harbour in the rain

Where to eat in Tofino

Tofino has a brilliant food scene, and you'll have no trouble finding somewhere to eat. We loved the Common Loaf Bakery; it had amazing sandwiches, and we keep thinking about their peasant bread. Sobo is a wonderful little restaurant, with a great story about how it started out as a food truck and grew into a popular restaurant. Wolf In The Fog is a popular restaurant; we didn't eat there but have heard plenty of good reviews and it looks really nice.

Just outside Tofino there's a small group of eateries, including TacoFino, Chocolate Tofino, and Tofitan Cafe. Further down the Pacific Rim Highway is Jamie's Rainforest Inn which does a really nice breakfast. We went there on a rainy morning to relax and plan the rest of our day. 

The Pacific Ocean from Long Beach, Tofino

Reaching Tofino

Despite there only being one road in and out of Tofino, it's really easy to get to. The beautiful little town is on the west side of Vancouver Island, which you can get to by ferry, plane, or helicopter.If you're flying, you can fly from Vancouver Intl, Seattle-Tacoma Intl, Victoria Intl, Nanaimo airport, or Comox Valley airport.

From Victoria, Tofino is 317km away via the 1 to Nanaimo, the 19, and then follow the 4 to the end of the road. You'll go through a few towns on the way, so there's places to stop off for fuel, food, and Timmy's! The scenery is wonderful round there, and it's well worth stopping off by the side of a lake for your lunch and to stretch your legs. 

The 4 is the only route in and out of Tofino, so I recommend keeping an eye on the road and road conditions on the Driving BC website. A few hours after we left Tofino, we heard that an accident had shut the 4 for a few hours. If there's going to be heavy rain, I recommend leaving extra time to get in or out of Tofino because the roads can feel very daunting in heavy rain and you won't be doing the speed limit. 

The walk down to Chesterman Beach, Tofino

We enjoyed our two days in Tofino even more than we imagined we would. It's hard to explain exactly how relaxed and refreshed we felt after two packed days. After our time in Tofino, we drove across to spend a few days in Vancouver. I've gotta tell you, Vancouver was a stark contrast between Tofino and it definitely took us a minute to adjust to a big city. 

Have you ever been to Tofino? If you have any questions, drop me a comment or get in touch 🙂 

How to spend 2 days in Tofino

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Avalanche at Plain of Six Glaciers

Lake Louise from Plain of Six Glaciers

The plain of the six glaciers trail has everything you want in a hike; adorable wildlife, mountains, snow, an azure lake, glaciers, avalanches, and vegetarian chilli. 

The 14km trail (return) begins at the edge of Lake Louise, outside the Fairmont hotel. While the lake looks absolutely packed in that spot, the crowds thin out quickly. A good chunk of visitors are there just to see the lake and have a little wander. We have been to Lake Louise in September and June, so neither are full-on peak times but we didn't find the trails to be jam-packed or unbearable. As soon as you begin walking down the side of the lake, you notice a huge difference. The further you get from the hotel, the quieter it is.  

If you do want to avoid the crowds and feel like you truly have the place to yourself then aim to arrive well before 9am. Save

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Lake Louise to the Victoria Glacier

View towards the Victoria Glacier

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I first heard about the plain of the six glaciers trail on Brittany's Adventures. We saw it last autumn when we were beginning to plan our summer trip to Canada and it was high up our list of things to do in the Banff / Lake Louise area. We did the Lake Agnes teahouse trail the first time and enjoyed it (though we felt super unfit) and wanted to see the tea house at the top of the plain of the six glaciers trail. Plus, the views from the top of the trail looked incredible.

Overall, the hike took us about five hours, though maybe a little bit longer because we had a delicious chilli at the teahouse - which I will fangirl about more later.

Beach at the end of Lake Louise

Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise from the end of Lake Louise

The trail follows Lake Louise right to the other end, where you will find a pretty sandy looking beach. I was quite surprised to see it to be honest, a beach was perhaps the last thing I was expecting to see. You're also going to see a lot of adorable ground squirrels who are pretty good at posing / begging for food.

Once you've passed the end of the lake, the real work begins. It is not the steepest hike I've ever done, but it is going to leave you a little out of breath. Especially if there's patches of snow and remnants of avalanches about which you need to navigate without falling over. We didn't take any hiking poles, but if you have any and you're visiting when there might be snow about, they're probably going to be useful.

Avalanche remains on the Plain of Six Glaciers trail

Mount Lefroy Plain of Six Glaciers

As you get closer to the teahouse, the Victoria Glacier comes into view and it is worth feeling out of breath and sweaty for. At the top of this part of the trail, there's an information board which names the peaks and glaciers you can see. One area is aptly called Death Trap due to avalanches.

From here you can head to the teahouse and toilets or carry on another 1.2km (I think, I can't fact check it anywhere now - it's definitely not more than 2km anyway) to the very end of the trail. However, there are signs up warning that that section of the trail isn't maintained and you'll see why if you decide to reach the end. For the most part, the last bit is absolutely fine. It's the last little bit where you're on very fine kinda gravel on a steep slope.

Victoria Glacier and Death Trap from Plain of Six Glaciers trail

The Victoria Glacier

I am not a person with excellent balance. Especially when it comes to getting down things. Daz calls me a "shit cat" because if I were a cat, I would forever be stuck in trees. My owners would have a loyalty card for the Fire Brigade (I'm not sure what that would mean, though.) I can get up anything. Getting down? It's horrendous. Again, walking poles would be useful here but if you have rubbish balance, like me, you aren't really missing out on much by not doing the last few metres. I promise. It is literally the last few metres, so you can get the same view by staying on the raised little path.

After taking in views of the Victoria Glacier, listening to the ice crack, and feeling proud of our efforts, we headed to the tea house. We had the most delicious chilli there; it was unbelievable. I'm still thinking about that chilli three months later. I would go back for that chilli. I mean, I'd go back because I'm obsessed with Canada and the place is beautiful, but that chilli!

The teahouse itself is really interesting because all the supplies have to be flown in or hiked in with the staff. The staff there do five days on, and two days off, and have to hike in and out on the same trail. If you want to visit the teahouse, note that they only take cash and it is only open between mid-June to mid-October, depending on weather.

Avalanche at Plain of Six Glacier

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As we headed back down from the teahouse, we heard a huge cracking noise and turned around to see an avalanche. Neither of us had ever seen one with our own eyes and what struck us the most was the sheer noise of it. We all know avalanches are powerful and not to be taken lightly, but the noise really conveys that. For a moment, everyone on the trail stopped in their tracks and fell silent as we watched in awe.

The sound on the video didn't do the sound of the avalanche justice at all. And I wasn't very on the ball with whipping my phone out because I was stood there staring, completely captivated, so what you're seeing is the end of the avalanche. That said, I still find it pretty cool to rewatch it.

The return was pretty smooth, just a few bits of ice and snow to navigate that had been compacted further by people walking on it all day. Before we knew it we were back at the shore of Lake Louise, where people were everywhere. It was quite a contrast from being up at the glacier, where the lake looked tiny. Being back down there, surrounded by crowds was a bit of a shock.

Before we went, we read reviews of treks to the plain of the six glaciers and most people said it was quite hard. I'm gonna be honest, Daz and I are not the fittest people at all but we didn't find it incredibly hard. Though, we had done Johnston Canyon & the Inkpots the day before and that was steep as, so I think anything was going to feel easier than that.

Don't be put off by seeing people say a hike is hard because it's worth it. You're climbing up a mountain - that ain't easy. That said, you know your own body; if you feel unsafe or out of your comfort zone then turn around.

If you're planning to do the plain of six glaciers trail it's probably going to be the main thing you do that day; what do you do with the rest of the day then? Luckily, there is loads you can do in Lake Louise and Banff:

  • Visit Moraine Lake, aka the best lake in the world. It's really close by and there are a couple of shorter hiking trails around the lake if you fancy some more walking. I recommend the walk to Consolation Lakes. Or you could go kayaking on the lake.
  • You could visit the Fairmont Lake Louise to be nosy at a fancy hotel and have afternoon tea.
  • If you're feeling very fit, you could veer off the plain of the six glaciers trail on the way back and visit the Lake Agnes teahouse.
  • Go paddle boarding or kayaking on Lake Louise.
  • Wander around the town of Lake Louise
  • Take the Lake Louise gondola for more stunning views

What's the best hike you've ever done?

Hiking plain of the six glaciers

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