A red house/barn in Iceland's Snaefellsnes Peninsula in December

Midday sunrise at the Snaefellsnes Peninsula during December
 

It's been almost a year since my Mum and I went to Iceland and by far one of the highlights was our trip to the Snaefellsnes Peninsula with Gateway to Iceland.

 

Since we were visiting in December, neither of us really fancied braving driving in the snow in a foreign country. I mean, it takes about 4mm to bring the UK to a halt - what do we know about winter driving? Aside from "argh, a snowflake, let's drive at 2 miles an hour."

 

We knew we wanted to see more than just Reykjavik and we were absolutely spoilt for choice, because it's Iceland and the whole country is so darn stunning, moody, and photogenic. In the end, we settled on a day trip to the Snaefellsnes Peninsula with Gateway to Iceland. I promise, this is not a sponsored post; there is just going to be a lot of fangirling about Gateway to Iceland because they are probably the best trip provider I've ever been with.

A house in front of Snaefellsjokull, Snaefellsnes Peninsula

Snaefellsjokull in Iceland's Snaefellsnes Peninsula during December

Snaefellsjokull viewed across a frozen lake in December

Our driver and tour guide for the day, Stefan, picked us up nice and early and we escaped from the nippy December morning onto a cosy, heated bus and headed out of the city. If you end up on a day trip with Stefan you are in for a treat. The guy has a voice that could melt butter and is so knowledgeable. Seriously, his voice is on par with Morgan Freeman or David Attenborough's.

 

He spent the day telling us about the history of Iceland and Snaefellsnes. I could have listened to him speak for days - he's a fantastic storyteller and seemed to know pretty much anything there is to know about Iceland.

 

I can't remember exactly how many people were on the trip with us - Gateway To Iceland's website says no more than 19 people on this trip, and I think there might have been just shy of that.

Iceland's golden glow morning sunrise in Snaefellsnes Peninsula
Snowy Icelandic mountains

The place we stopped for lunch on Gateway to Iceland's Snaefellsnes Peninsula tour

Rock formations on a beach in Snaefellsnes Peninsula

 

As well as visiting the Gerðuberg basalt columns (the winter morning light was so dreamy and Instagram-worthy there), Arnarstapi, Snaefellsjokull, and the famous Kirkjufell mountain, Stefan squished in a couple of extra stops too. He even went the extra mile to drop us off somewhere different on the way back into Reykjavik so we could make our evening northern lights trip, which was rescheduled last minute. (It was a tight squeeze, which we definitely did not plan on - but that's a risk you take with Icelandic weather.)

Golden sunlight in Iceland during December

A black sand beach in Iceland's Snaefellsnes Peninsula in December

A few tips if you're headed to the Snaefellsnes Peninsula

  • Don't be an idiot like me and forget your camera battery charger - you're gonna take loads of photos
  • Don't forget a spare memory card, either 
  • Take a tripod - because of the short daylight hours we arrived at Kirkjufell in darkness, and know you're gonna want to capture somewhere White Walkers and Jon Snow have been, right?
  • Take a spare snuggly jumper/jacket to wear on the bus in case it’s raining/snowing and you don't want to be sitting in a wet coat (the bus was nice and toasty, don't worry about that, but you still don't want to be sitting in a soggy coat)
  • Wear waterproof shoes/boots
  • Get plenty of sleep the night before because you are not going to want to fall asleep at any point during the day

Kirkjufell, Snaefellsnes Peninsula

If you're heading to Iceland, I cannot recommend Gateway to Iceland and the Snaefellsnes Peninsula tour enough. We did use another trip provider while we were in Iceland and they were shocking in comparison to Gateway To Iceland. (If you're going to Iceland and want to know who to avoid, I will tell you via email or social media. I refuse to give them any kind of SEO benefit.)

The 'problem' with Iceland is that the winter and summer produce such contrasting landscapes - so if you visit in one season, you have to go back and see what it looks like in the other. December provides some truly beautiful insta-worthy golden light whenever it is actually light. When I do find my way back to Iceland, I'll use Gateway To Iceland in an instant. If you're visiting before May 2018, Gateway to Iceland do have a discount on this trip - it's not sponsored (pinky promise), I just really want you to use them and have a fab time. 

Have you ever been to Iceland or the Snaefellsnes Peninsula?

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12 photos to inspire you to visit Iceland's Snaefellsnes Peninsula

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Tyninghame Beach, East Lothian

Daz at Tyninghame Beach looking towards Bass Rock

Since we've moved to Scotland people seem to be obsessed with asking how awful the weather is "all the way up there"; let this blog post where I fangirl about Tyninghame Beach serve as proof that the weather is glorious in November. And no, we have not had snow, and I haven't seen any White Walkers yet. 

East Lothian is an absolute gem. I think there's so much going on in Edinburgh and with the draw of the Highlands that East Lothian gets overlooked so often. To be honest, I'm guilty of that myself. I remember being like, "what's in East Lothian?" Beautiful beaches that's what, past me, beautiful beaches. If you're visiting Edinburgh and can get around, I definitely recommend paying a visit to some of the wonderful beaches (and golf courses right next to them if that's your jam) dotted around East Lothian's coast. 

We discovered Tyninghame a few weeks ago when I spotted the St. Baldred's Cradle & Ravensheugh Sands hike on Walk Highlands (awesome website, btw). If my photos are not enough to convince you that this place is stunning, click that little link there. Go on, I'll wait...

...Doesn't it just look divine and a little exotic? As soon as I saw it, it reminded me of Tofino, so I showed Daz and we headed off. 

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Tyninghame woodland

The trail starts off in woodland and all of a sudden you find yourself on the beach. It's a strange feeling to pop out of a wood onto a windswept beach - and I think that's why it reminded me of Tofino so much. From there, you follow the trail through trees and some bizarre-looking anti-tank concrete blocks that have just been left there.

You keep going over headlands, watching the waves swell and crash into the shoreline (and inevitably watch the occasional fool risk serious injury to get a 'good photo'), and then you end up on this huge, stretch of golden sand, rocks, and pebbles overlooking Bass Rock.

It's the kind of beach you could probably spend all day playing on as a kid and never get bored. Keep an eye out for the tide times though; at high tide, you can't walk the entire beach and the fun rockpools are covered up. But even if you do end up there at high tide, it's stunning. 

We haven't actually managed to follow the trail from Walk Highlands exactly as it is yet because we keep getting distracted, and wondering "what's over there". I think that's wonderful though. We've been three times in the past few weeks and each trip has been different, whether it's the tide being low or high, or us taking a different route through the woodland, or climbing up hills.

Both of our parents have been up recently and we had to take them to show them how amazing it was. You see, being so close to the beach is something a little mind-blowing to us. Where we used to live, it was a good two and a half - three hours to the nearest beach. And it wasn't a beach like Tyninghame beach. It was Barmouth; a pretty standard beach running along a town. 

Before we moved up to Scotland, we kept talking about all the places we'd be able to visit and we're so excited to be this close to the beach. The only thing is, we love it so much we keep going back to Tyninghame Beach and haven't done much exploring elsewhere. I feel like we might have shot ourselves in the foot there because now the nights are pulling in, it limits how far we can go exploring.

Tyninghame Beach

Shadows on Tyninghame beach

Sure, we could get up earlier but I am the definition of being bad at getting in up early.

I am 100% a night owl; can't sleep early on (unless we're talking a cheeky mid-afternoon nap); will sleep through seven alarms that have woken the entire town up; and when I do wake up, I will happily stare at the ceiling for a while pondering the fact I need to get out of bed, and just not get out of bed. Just me?

The last time we visited Tyninghame beach we came across a big log cabin (it's called Ravensburgh log cabin, and you can hire it out for weddings, parties, or asking your friends to bring all their dogs so you can lie on the floor and be trampled on by puppies - that, by the way, is the best reason to hire a place out.) It really took us back to Canada. Can you imagine coming across somewhere like that after a long day hiking, going inside and lighting a nice fire, putting your feet up, and chilling with a nice hot chocolate? Doesn't that just sound like the dream? 

Ravensburgh log cabin

View over Tyninghame Beach

If you ever visit Edinburgh and you have a car (I don't think this would be the easiest place to reach from the city using public transport) make sure you pay Tyninghame beach a visit, you won't regret or forget it. 

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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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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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