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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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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Sunset from the Bow River Loop, Canmore

When we were in Canada, one of our goals was to see an amazing sunset, and Canmore finally provided us with one from the Bow River Loop trail.

We tried hard to chase sunsets but the sky was just not in our favour, over and over again. The sky would either go a darker shade of blue, completely cloud over, or it would rain torrentially.

On our first day in Canmore, we discovered the Bow River Loop, a 20-minute flat walk around the Bow River on the edge of town. As we were sat in our hotel room one evening, we spotted colour creeping into the sky and dashed out to the car and down to the trail.

Red and orange clouds over Mount Rundle, Canmore

Pink clouds at sunset over Mount Rundle

Canmore Engine Bridge

Golden light bathed the mountains and forests surrounding the town and we almost ran down to Canmore Engine Bridge to set up the camera. It wasn’t long until we were treated to a pink, red, and orange display lighting up Mount Rundle and Cascade Mountain. I loved the way streams of light seemed to shoot out of the top of the mountain and paint patterns in the sky.

We stood there for a while, taking photos and trying to take in the awe-inspiring sunset, and were pleasantly surprised by the amount of people who started conversations with us. Considering both of us hate small talk, we loved the way people talk to each other on the street.

Everyone has heard the stereotype that Canadians are friendly, and it was true of the majority of Canadians we spoke to. Canadian hospitality has got to rival Southern hospitality because we felt welcomed and at home everywhere we went.

Sunset over Cascade Mountain from the Bow River Loop, Canmore

Canmore is one of our favourite places in Canada. The locals say that Banff is where you go to visit and Canmore is where you live. It’s a fairly quiet little town, about 20 minutes from Banff, on the Bow River with plenty activities to choose from, such as; hiking, kayaking, stand up kayaking, climbing, snowsports, and more.

If you’re ever in the Canmore or Banff area, it is well worth taking a stroll around the Bow River Loop at sunset. The trail in general is well worth a visit in general, whether you’ve got half an hour spare to take in some spectacular views, a few hours, or the whole day; the Bow River Loop connects to other walking and cycling trails, so you aren’t going to be short of things to do.

Sunset over the Three Sisters, Canmore

Where’s the best place you’ve watched the sun set?

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7 days in Banff and Jasper, an intinerary
7 days is no where near enough time to discover all that Banff and Jasper have to offer but we found that we got a surprising amount done in a week.

When we arrived at Canadian border control, the chap behind the desk did seem a bit befuzzled about us visiting Canada for just seven days but hey, you do what you can with your holidays.

In reflection, the way we planned our time in Banff and Jasper could have been a little better as we spent a couple of nights in Canmore, before driving up the Icefields Parkway to Jasper for a few days and then coming back down to spend some time in Banff. I'm not suggesting this is the perfect itinerary but I think it gives you a good idea of what things to try and see on the same days.

Emerald Lake, Yoho National Park

Day one: Emerald Lake & Takakkaw Falls

Emerald Lake is about an hour and a half drive from Canmore (and a bit less if you're staying in Banff) and boy is it worth the drive. You will no doubt have seen photos like this (to the right) on Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest because it is just so beautiful and shareworthy.

Take a couple of hours to stroll around the lake, gawking in absolutely awe of the crazy blue colour of the water which makes it look like photoshop in real life. You can also hire kayaks to go out on the lake as well; we didn't do this but it would certainly be worth it. The price for kayak hire is pretty much the same at all the lakes we went to. We didn't really consider it to be cheap but it is worth it for the memories and experience of getting to kayak on a lake that looks like someone dropped some huge blue bath bombs into.

Pick up a snack from the little hut next to Emerald Lake Lodge and then head down the road to visit Takkakkaw Falls. The road up to the falls is well paved but can be quite windy and tight at times but do not let that deter you because it is stunning. The falls are about a 10-15 minute walk from the car.

If you want to find out more about Emerald Lake, I did a whole blog post about it.

We stayed at: Windtower Lodge & Suites in Canmore

Emerald Lake Lodge, Yoho National Park

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The Icefields Parkway

Day two: explore the Icefields Parkway

We were camping for the rest of our trip so we picked up our camping equipment from Rent-a-Tent in Canmore. If you are thinking about camping go for it because these guys were amazing and we're hiring from them again this summer.

The Icefields Parkway is a 232 mile (144 km) road connecting Banff and Jasper that features in a lot of "best roads to drive" lists, and for good reasons too. The views from the road are absolutely stunning and there are no shortages of places to stop off; whether it's a lake that is just at the edge of the road or the start of a hiking trail.

We made a few stop offs on the way up, including Peyto Lake and the Athabasca Glacier. It is possible to drive the entire length of the Icefields Parkway but as we stopped off a few times it took us about six hours.

In the evening, take a stroll around Jasper and find somewhere to eat. We found that some of the restaurants stopped serving food about 20:00 - 20:30, I'm not sure if that's normal in Canada but do keep it in mind.

We stayed at: Wapiti Campground, a few minutes drive outside Jasper. You can find out more about it and reserve a pitch through Parks Canada.

Maligne Lake boat house and kayak rental

Medicine Lake, just outside Jasper

Day three: Medicine Lake & Maligne Lake

Maligne Lake can be very busy during the high season, so it's worth getting up early if you want to avoid the crowds. Also, if you get up early you are more likely to see wildlife; we saw a huge elk stood on the bank at the side of the road, looking out across his kingdom. We also saw a bear just outside Jasper early in the morning too.

On the way to Maligne Lake, it's worth stopping off at Medicine Lake and to see some of the eerie looking prescribed burn sites. Interestingly, Medicine Lake isn't really a lake and is actually a part of the Maligne River and it fills up to become a lake when the melt water can't drain away fast enough.

Once you're at Maligne Lake, there are a few trails you can follow, or you can take a boat tour around the lake, or go kayaking. We followed the shortest trail around the edge of the lake and into the forest before deciding to hire a kayak. Let me tell you that I do not recommend you do that if it's a windy day because it was pretty tough and was not entirely relaxing. You can read more about our windy kayaking experience on Maligne Lake here.

On the way back to Jasper, we stopped off at Maligne Canyon and had a walk around for about 45 minutes. Heights don't usually bother me, but looking down into the canyon was a little mind-bending.

We stayed at: Wapiti Campground again.

Athabasca Falls, just outside Jasper on the Icefields Parkway

A canyon at Athabasca Falls, Jasper

Day four: Around Jasper & Icefields Parkway

In the morning, we explored some of the stops on the Icefields Parkway closest to Jasper. The first one we went to was Athabasca Falls, which is about half an hour out of Jasper, as we decided we'd drive to the furthest point and then start coming back on ourselves. It was basically like a grander and fancier version of the canyon we visited the day before. It had longer trails, a roaring waterfall and the drops seemed even deeper.

The next stop was just a few minutes up the road; Horseshoe Lake and it was a real hidden gem. To get to the other side of the lake you have to follow this trail, which feels quite overgrown in comparison to pretty much all the other trails we saw. It was the only time in Canada where I felt like I might get snook up on by bears. The water looked so inviting and I had to stop myself from jumping in.

After that, we headed back through Jasper and stopped off a Pyramid Lake. When you see Pyramid Mountain from Jasper and the sun hits it at the right angle, it seems to glow a little and reminded us of a dragon's egg, so we took to calling it Dragon Mountain.

We spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around Edith and Annette Lake. The two lakes are really close together and you can easily walk between the two in a couple of minutes. In between the lakes are loads of picnic areas and you can just imagine how packed it must be come a nice summer day.

 

Snow on the icefields parkway

Lake Minnewanka, Banff

Vermillion Lakes, Banff

Day five: around Banff

We left Jasper just before 11am and only stopped off a couple of times on the way back down the Icefields Parkway to make the most of our time in Banff. It took us about three hours to drive from Jasper to Banff and we headed straight to Two Jack Lakeside campsite to set up our tent.

After being in the car for so long we took a walk around Banff, explored Vermillion Lakes, and Lake Minnewanka. Vermillion Lakes is on the edge of Banff and is a nice little route that takes you past the lakes, that have a distinctive sulphur smell.

There is a loop road around Lake Minnewanka called Lake Minnewanka Scenic Drive, and there are a couple of trails which start off the loop as well.

Where we stayed: Two Jack Lakeside campsite. Again, this can be reserved through the Parks Canada website.

 

Kayaking on Lake Louise

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Day six: Lake Louise & Moraine Lake

Our sixth day was a seriously jam-packed one. We drove up to Lake Louise to see what all the hype was about; yes, it's very touristy but it is for a good reason because it is beautiful. We followed the Lake Agnes teahouse trail up the mountain to the teahouse, where we enjoyed a spot of well-deserved lunch. It probably took us about 40 - 50 minutes to reach the teahouse and it is possible to go onto do another tea house, called the Big Beehive, but we were not feeling fit enough at all.

When we returned to Lake Louise we decided to hire a kayak for an hour (read more about that here), which was more than enough time because it doesn't take that long to explore the lake.

Afterwards, we drove to Moraine Lake as we'd seen it on the cover of our Lonely Planet guidebook and wanted to see it for ourselves. It was early afternoon by the time we got there and there were buses, camper vans, and cars parked everywhere. Despite that, it wasn't that crowded and it certainly wasn't anywhere near as crowded as Lake Louise.

I think we both wished we had kayaked on Moraine Lake instead, hindsight is a wonderful thing. For both of us, Moraine Lake was an absolute highlight of the trip so if there is one thing I recommend you do, out of everything listed here or anything you see in guidebooks, it's Moraine Lake. Photos do not do it justice at all.

Kayaks at Moraine Lake, Alberta

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Morning reflection in Two Jack Lake

Day seven: Banff

If you are staying at Two Jack Lakeside, or even in the Banff area, I recommend getting up early and visiting Two Jack Lake as the sun rises. I am not a morning person at all but Daz managed to drag me out of the tent at 7am and I was rewarded with this stunning view. If you're hunting for all the red chairs, there are two on the banks of the lake.

After packing up our tent we went into Banff to get a couple of souvenirs, headed back to Canmore to return the camping equipment, and then went to the airport.

If your flight is later on in the day there are loads more things you could do around Banff, like visit the Cave & Basin museum, take the Banff Gondola to the top of Sulphur Mountain, visit Banff Hot Springs, go to the Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary on the way to the airport, and so much more.

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Kayaking on Lake Louise

The tale of the time we went kayaking on Lake Louise is much happier than last week’s post about kayaking on a windy Maligne Lake.

After a couple of days in Jasper, we headed back down the Icefields Parkway to Banff and spent a few days camping at Two Jack Lakeside. (If you’re ever going to Banff, skip the hotel and camp here because no hotel will beat the views from that campsite. Plus you will save a lot of money camping.)

To be honest, I wasn’t fussed about going to Lake Louise. I was expecting it to be a crowded tourist trap and hadn’t got high expectations. My thought process was a little like this; “How can somewhere so touristy beat the likes of Emerald Lake?”.

Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise

Don’t get me wrong, it was busy in front of the Fairmont hotel but the crowds dispersed quite a bit once you followed a trail, and it wasn’t like the lake itself was packed with people kayaking. It seemed like a big chunk of the tourists just wanted to see the lake and the hotel and weren’t bothered about following trails; don’t let the amount of people put you off.

On the way up to the Lake Agnes teahouse Daz and I both commented on how beautiful and calm Lake Louise looked in comparison to Maligne Lake, and we both felt like we had some serious unfinished business with kayaking.

Kayaking on Lake Louise

When we returned from Lake Agnes it was mid-afternoon on our last full day in Canada. The sun was shining brightly, the sky was almost as blue as the lake, we had some spare pennies left over and decided Lake Louise was going to right our kayaking wrongs.

kayaking on Lake Louise

Kayaking on Lake Louise

With no wind, it was like sailing in a huge bath filled with the prettiest and bluest LUSH bath bombs. We could barely believe the colour of the water we were sticking our paddles into. It was completely opaque, which didn’t feel quite right for a lake, and seemed more like paint water.

Kayaking on Lake Louise

I think we had an hour on the lake, which was more than enough time because the lake isn’t really that big and it doesn’t take you very long at all to feel serene. You could hire kayaks for longer but I doubt you would need any more than two hours because you’re not allowed to get out of the kayak anywhere apart from at the boat house. 

If you’re going to Banff, I would definitely recommend a trip to Lake Louise because there is so much to do there:

  • Walk around the lake
  • Spend an hour kayaking on Lake Louise
  • Have afternoon tea in the Fairmont
  • Explore some trails; Parks Canada has a list of trails around / near the lake. I would definitely recommend the Lake Agnes teahouse trail.

Tip: While you’re in the Lake Louise area, pay a visit to Moraine Lake. In fact, get up early, visit Moraine Lake first before all the crowds and then head to Lake Louise. You will thank me for the early morning wake up call.

Have you ever been somewhere you weren’t expecting much from and ended up loving it?

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Moraine Lake

Moraine Lake

Where do you wander off to in your head when you feel stressed? When everyone wants something from you? When you just need a minute? When you’re trying to bite your tongue? When you’re bored?

For me, that place is the shores of Moraine Lake. Sat on fallen over tree next to Daz, feeling the warmth of the sun ever so slightly. Sheer bliss.

Moraine Lake

It’s strange how you can find somewhere that feels so peaceful in quite a touristy place.

About a month before we went to Canada, I ordered the Lonely Planet guide to Banff and Jasper (well worth it, by the way) and we both desperately wanted to know what lake was on the cover, and we eventually found out that it was Moraine Lake. Because we both love a good kip, and it was very cloudy while we were there, we didn’t have chance to see a sunrise or a sunset over Moraine Lake, but I’m not entirely sure we could have handled it given how stunning it was in the middle of the afternoon.

Moraine Lake is on our list of places we’re going to go back to when we revisit next summer, so hopefully you’ll get to read a blog post about how we lost our shit watching the sun set over Moraine Lake.

Where is your mind palace?

Moraine Lake

Moraine Lake canoe rental

 

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