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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The view over the Bow Valley and Rundle Forebay from Grassi Lakes trail

Grassi Lakes is everything you’re looking for in a hike; two beautiful turquoise coloured lakes and panoramic views across Canmore and the mini Mount Rundle range.

The two lakes, called Upper and Lower Grassi Lakes, were named after Lawrence Grassi; an Italian-born climbing guide and trail blazer. He sounds like a fascinating person and was responsible for building many trails in the Canadian Rockies. Could you imagine having that job? I bet he had some amazing stories. 

Grassi Lakes trail more difficult or easy trails

There are two trails up to Grassi Lakes; the “more difficult” route and the “easy” route. Of course, we took the “more difficult” route, because why wouldn’t we? Turns out we ended up making it “even more difficult” because we channeled our inner Lawrence Grassi and blazed our own trail.

View over Canmore and Bow Valley from Grassi Lakes

View over Bow Valley from Grassi Lakes trail

The Bow Valley and Rundle Forebay from Grassi Lakes Trail

It all started well. We followed the trail and were floored by the beautiful views over Canmore and the Bow Valley. And then we came across the waterfall. We took in the views and then tried to figure out where the trail went. It wasn’t immediately obvious but we eventually spotted what we thought was the trail; it was a kind of worn path, in our defence.

After a couple of minutes of pulling ourselves up a bank we realised there was a solid chance we were not on the trail at all. Thankfully, Daz had looked at the trail map at the trail head and knew that if we kept going up we would reach the easier route.

He was right. We did reach the service road, but not after some serious climbing up a very muddy bank, and grabbing onto trees. At some point on the way up, I managed to lose my sunglasses as well.

The view from the top was absolutely worth it, and the colour of the lakes in these photos do not do them justice at all.

Grassi Lakes

Upper Grassi Lakes

Thankfully we found the trail to head back down on and discovered where we’d gone wrong. From the waterfall, the trail went up some steps which blended in to the trees and foliage. While they were a little camouflaged, I have no idea how we missed the steps.

At 3.8km there and back, the trip up to Grassi Lakes can easily be done in a couple of hours. And the harder route really isn’t that hard at all – unless you decide to blaze your own trail.

Have you ever got lost on a trail?

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View over the Bow Valley from Grassi Lakes

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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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Do not walk off the path at Moraine Lake

One of the joys of photography is getting to share a place, or a feeling, that you love with everyone else; that comes at a cost though when you contribute to destroying that place.

I am not tarring everyone with the same brush at all, but I am fed up of watching photographers, or anyone for that matter, hop over “please stay on the marked trails” signs to get “the best Instagram shot” or one without trees, or plants blocking the view. 

Whether you’re in your home country, or abroad, it’s not uncommon to see signs asking you to stay on the marked trail to protect wildlife and vegetation. Some signs might even explain that it’s humans trampling everywhere which has damaged the area and it needs time to recover. Perhaps the signs need to be bigger because I watched countless people ignore them.

These signs are all over the place in Canada, and by far, the worst place for offenders was Moraine Lake. A few kilometers outside of Lake Louise, the beauty of Moraine Lake is beyond words. It is our favourite place, which makes it even harder to watch people contribute to damaging it.

If you’ve never been to Moraine Lake, let me explain the best view point to you. There is a huge pile of rocks which a path, steps and view points have been built into, which give you a beautiful elevated view of the lake. The problem some photographers seem to have is that there are trees growing in and along this rock pile, which “get in the way” of your view sometimes. So, what do they do? They step off the trail and clamber all down the banks. I saw so many people do it without even hesitating and it made my blood boil. 

It is absolutely possible to get a view of the lake without trees “blocking” the view by staying on the path, and the trees really are part of the environment and part of the view so why are we so into getting rid of them? 

As well as damaging the fragile environment, Daz brought up an excellent point; taking photos from viewpoints off the trail encourages others to do the same to replicate the shot.

Honestly, how many times have you seen a photo and thought, “wow, I’d love to see that view with my own eyes?” I’ve done it loads, and I am always so disappointed when I get somewhere and realise the photographer strayed off the trail to get that shot. That kind of disregard sends a message that it’s ok for others to do the same, whether the photographer realises it or not. We witnessed more than enough people show complete disregard for the protection of the places we visited so people honestly do not need the encouragement.

Our environment is fragile and one of the privileges of photography, for me and others, is that we get to share the beauty of our planet with others and highlight the importance of protecting it. But we’re nothing short of hypocrites if we are doing things as simple as straying the marked trail to get a “better” shot.

Please, stay on the fudging trail because protecting fragile places is more important than Instagram likes. 

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Mwnt Beach, Cardigan

Mwnt beach has featured very close to the top of my ‘favourite places’ in the world list for years.

Last week, I was talking to an American couple who had been traveling around the UK for a few weeks and were headed to Wales next. They hadn’t got any solid plans yet and made the mistake of asking me for recommendations. I barely need an invitation to wax lyrical about Mwnt at the best of times, so I think they were a bit taken aback and soon regretted asking. I hope they went and saw it for themselves because it is such a wonderful place. I hope they went and tell all their friends about this beautiful little beach some crazy lady in their hotel told them about.

I first went there over ten years ago when my Nan took me, my sister, and my cousin on holiday. We stayed in a little cottage just up the road from the beach, and we would spend the day in the sea, building sand fortresses with moats and my cousin had an odd habit of collecting jellyfish in a bucket…There’s a hill on one side of the beach, which we used to climb up every night to call our parents. (If they thought they were escaping us by sending us on holiday, they were wrong. Not even rubbish O2 signal on a Welsh beach is going to stop me annoying my Mum.)

The second year my Nan took us away, I think she was expecting to go somewhere else but we loved the place so much we badgered her to go back. I’ve been back a handful of times since then, the last time being with Daz last summer. I would love to pop back before we head up to Edinburgh but it’s looking very unlikely at the moment.

For me, visiting Mwnt beach is almost like a pilgrimage. A lot has happened since my first trip there over a decade ago; I’ve passed exams, I’ve made friends, I’ve lost friends, I’ve had arguments, I’ve mustered the courage to stand up to people, I’ve quit uni, I’ve finished uni, I’ve worried a lot, but I’m still here.

Do you have anywhere like that in your life?

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Lake Minnewanka and Mount Inglismaldie at night

There are some things you can't imagine ever needing to say and "we're not going to be eaten by wolves" is a phrase I certainly never imagined myself saying. That said, I did have to tell my sister and various people we work with that we weren't going to be eaten by bears while camping.

Daz and I are both flappers. We don't seem to get stressed about the same things at the same time, which is great because while I'm convinced we're gonna die in a kayaking accident 10 feet from the shore, he's says "no we're not, I got this." Which is great because I believe him over the voices in my head that try to tell me everything is dangerous.

Last August, we were booking campsites for our trip and we really wanted to stay at Two Jack Lakeside. We'd looked at all the other Parks Canada sites in the Banff area and Two Jack was easily the most beautiful and quietest looking. We tried to book and were halted by a message saying that due to a "wolf problem" the site wasn't accepting bookings at that time.

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Cloud over Lake Minnewanka

We soon discovered that some idiots had left food out at the site, which had attracted wolves. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that if you provide a wild animal with a really easy source of food, they'll come back to find it again. Not only does that cause them problems by making them dependent on humans, but I think you'll agree a tent is probably next to useless in protecting you against a hungry wolf. You may as well wear Lady Gaga's meat dress and offer yourself to them. On a more serious note, a wolf had to be destroyed because of someone's thoughtless actions. The campsite re-opened and that was where we ended up staying for the last couple of nights of our trip. It totally surpassed our expectations and we're going back there again this summer, so it is definitely worth a visit if you're planning to stay in the Banff area.

It had been cloudy our entire trip and on the last night we finally had some clear sky, so I wanted to try a bit of nighttime photography. We drove to a little jetty (if that's what you call it) at Lake Minnewanka and I started faffing about with my camera.

This time, it was Daz's turn to stress. It was pretty much pitch black and we were the only people about. We'd been told to be vigilant for wolves (we didn't see any), had seen signs up about wolf sightings on trails in the area, and for some reason I'd seen fit to park at almost the furthest point away on the car park, which was surrounded by forest. This is how horror movies start.

It's one of those situations you look back on and wonder what on earth you were thinking. Especially given childhood nightmares about being eaten by a black demon dog / wolf. If I ever see a horror film again, I won't ask "what were they thinking?!" because I now understand that they were probably just trying to take some awesome nighttime shots.

Clearly, we did not get eaten by wolves, which I guess is pretty anti-climatic if you were expecting my title to be famous last words. I can't look at these photos of Lake Minnewanka without laughing to myself about the wolf incident.

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Snow clouds at Peyto Lake

Peyto Lake is easily one of the most photographed lakes in Canada and it's easy to see why; it's shaped a little like a wolf, is a beautiful milky blue colour, and is right off the Icefields Parkway.

Because of all the reasons above, it was high on our list of places to visit and was one of the first (if not the first) stop we made on the Icefields Parkway from Banff to Jasper.

It probably takes about 10 to 15 minutes to walk from the car to the first lookout over Peyto Lake, depending on how fit you are because boy it is a steep hill. I was incredibly unfit and Daz would not give me a piggyback. The panting, groaning and pain is worth it to see Peyto Lake with your own eyes and try to fathom that colour, and get a few photos that will probably be an instant Instagram hit (unless you got hit by the sucky new algorithm, yes, I'm bitter) because who doesn't love a lake the colour of the Night King's eyes?

While we were stood here it started to snow and a blanket of cloud descended on us. We had planned to keep walking up the trail to Bow Summit Lookout but wussed out because of the snow. If you decide to do that trail it's a 6km return hike, so it's easily doable in a morning or afternoon.

Peyto Lake and Bow Summit are high up our list for our return trip this summer and we're hoping not to experience snow in June, but who knows?

Peyto Lake

Peyto Lake

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