We woke wanting to explore more of the beauty that Banff National Park held! We were excited to see some of Banff’s iconic lakes and hike to one of its alpine tea houses.
The Lake Louise area was such an amazing place and holds my number one slot for places at Banff. Lake Louise was a crystal clear very vivid blue green color that reminded me a lot of Crater Lake. From the base of the lake you could see two glaciers, upper and lower Victoria Glacier. We took the Lake Agnes trail. It was a wooded and we had little bits of rain and hail as we moved up the trail but the views and experience we were getting made it worth it.
We saw many signs warning hikers of bears, one area near the bottom fenced off due to a local Mama grizzly and her cub getting too close and even saw fresh scat on the trail. Not the greatest of feeling knowing that they were so close but we knew there would be a lot of people on the trail and the girls did a good job taking turns ringing the bear bell very loudly as we walked. It was like we were Christmas caroling!
Mirror Lake was a great icy cold lake on the way up to the top. It was very serene with Big Beehive as the backdrop. There was one hiker that was brave enough to go in up to his knees. Brr! We enjoyed the view while the girls enjoyed playing in some snow they found.
This next part was my favorite part because of the uniqueness of it all. At the very top of the hike, just above a breathtaking waterfall that flowed under snowmelt there was a teahouse! That’s right, a tea house serving hot drinks and delicious baked goods. They even had a gluten free banana bread option for Justin! Our oldest got hot cocoa, our youngest chose hot apple cider, I had a chai latte and Justin had a Japanese Sencha tea. It was beyond delightful.
Though we were all warm at our core from hiking, it was 35˚F at the top so the warmth felt good. The wildlife we saw up there were very plump. We didn’t feed them of course but I’m sure lots of people do. Crumbs alone would keep them going for quite some time. We spotted magpies, clark’s nutcrackers, ground squirrels, red squirrels and chipmunks.
Lake Agnes up top was beautifully set at the base of Big Beehive both of which were covered with snow and ice. The workers told us that the morning we hiked up it had snowed and looked like a winter wonderland. By the time we hiked up it had melted but still looked magical to us.
There were bathrooms on the side of a cliff by the tea house which was quite an experience!
Just past those bathrooms there was a trail that continued around the lake and up Big Beehive. Justin left his backpack with the girls and I and decided he wanted to hike up Big Beehive which added about 3 miles. The girls and I went partially on the trail until we got to a snowfield for the girls to play in. My heart was in my throat as I watched him hike around the snow and ice covered lake, which was melting, and up the extremely steep cliffside of Beehive Mountain which was covered in snow. He didn’t have crampons, boots or poles! I was so worried he was going to slip. If he did slip at the bottom was a rocky ledge and the ice lake! Good grief! Thankfully he had cell service so he periodically called us as we watched his little dot self move up the trail. It was too dangerous to go back down the same way so he ended up going down the other side where there was less snow and more gradual.
While the girls and I were awaiting Justin’s arrival we got some biscuits and jam to tide us over while we took in the beauty of the waterfall and snow covered lake and chatted with other hikers.
I was asking the waitress staff how it all worked running a teahouse on the top of a mountain. All the staff looked to be in their early 20’s. They said they live in small cabins on the cliffside, which we saw near the bathrooms. They live in the cabins for 1-2 months at a time while working at the teahouse. They get their drinking water straight from Lake Agnas and make all baked goods on site which they enjoy as well. I imagine the group of girls would become quite a tight-knit group by the end of their time there. All water used for dishwashing comes from the lake as well and is boiled before use. The waitress I spoke with said they can’t recommend guests drink the water from the lake but it has been tested many times and comes up without any contaminants. I bet they have to be pretty thrifty up there. What a unique experience!
The girls practically ran down the trail on the way down, and because we stayed so long at the top the trail was pretty sparse of people. All in all the girls hiked 5.5 miles including all the spur trails we took. Once we got to the bottom we checked out the very fancy Chateau Lake Louise which had a mall in the lower level. Well, there just so happened to be an ice cream parlor that we just had to stop at.
Bears, Oh My!
Meandering back to Azul we saw something large in the woods. Oh, a grizzly! I took the girls and pulled them behind a large truck where we would be a little more protected. The bear walked along the bank bordering the parking lot and then came right down to the edge of the parking lot to munch on some fresh grass. It was then that we saw it was a Mama grizzly and she had her sweet little cub with her which made me even more glad we had a truck to stay behind. After Mama grizzly had finished her grass snack she ambled back up the bank and away from the parking lot. We took this opportunity to walk back to Azul which was parked about 3 car lengths from where she was. Moments after we shut the van door Mama grizzly and her cub came within 10 feet of the front of Azul!! Yikes!
Justin started up the van just in case we had to make a get away. From the protection of the Azul, which I was very thankful to have, Justin got some great shots using his nice camera. Now that Mama grizzly was so close we could see that she had a tracking collar on. It was amazing to see and also a bit nerve wracking.
Since we were in the area we decided to stop at Moraine Lake before heading back to Wobbles at the campground. This is a very popular lake as it has amazing views and therefore, unless your timing is just right, the parking lot is often full and access to the road is denied. Luck was on our side and it was open when we passed by. The lake was yet another stunning crystal clear icy lake surrounded by beautiful snowy mountains.
We scrambled up a pile of rocks to reach the top of a lookout giving us a breathtaking view of the lake. We just couldn’t take enough! It felt like we were part of a calendar or something. The scene was picture perfect.