Long-Weekend Trip to the Canadian Rockies
Updated: Nov 8, 2022
A five day road trip to Banff National Park in Canada during August of 2018.
I’ve dreamed of going and see Lake Moraine since I was 13. I came across a picture of the opaque blue water and towering mountains surrounding the lake. I instantly fell in love and wanted to see it for myself. Six years later I finally made it happen.
Day 1: Drive halfway to Banff National Park (Merritt, B.C.)
We started our adventure after Luke, my cousin, got off work. We drove half way to Banff and spent the night in Merritt, B.C. The smoke was really bad, especially after we crossed the border into Canada. Everything looks so eerie and almost sci-fi/apocalyptic. It was my first time in Canada. Luke had been before, but it was a first time for both of us driving with km/h. It was a little unnerving at first, since the gauge on the truck for km sucks. We had to covert km into mph so that we weren’t accidentally going 15 mph above or below the speed limit due to the gauge. It was really interesting how French is the language on everything along with English. At least with Spanish in the U.S. I have an idea of how to pronounce different things. I couldn’t even try.
Day 2: Drive the rest of the way to Banff National Park
We woke up kind of late and missed the hotel’s free breakfast, so thankfully there was a Starbucks near by where we were able to grab something not greasy to eat. I filled the truck up for the first time which was even weirder then figuring out km. It’s by liters instead of gallons, plus its in the CAD so it was really hard to figure out how much gas was per gallon. We both took turns driving and everything seemed to be going well until we hit Sicamous, B.C.
We discovered that 8 miles of Hwy 1 was closed due to an accident. We tried to find a quick way around, but we weren’t able to find a way (traitorous iPhone maps). I had to pee so bad and we couldn’t find a place to pull off that was secluded. We ended up pulling up across from a house and I quickly peed by the side of the truck… all of my pride and inhibition went out the window. The only way to get around the closed part of Hwy 1 was to take a detour that added 2 hrs to our trip. We had already spent nearly 2 hours figuring out what to do and how to get around. So we took the detour which took us south and then lead us to a Forest Service Rd which would connect us back to Hwy 1 near Revelstoke, B.C.
There was a lot of vehicle traffic on the road, sort of surprising, especially compared to the forest service roads in the U.S. The road was very narrow at some parts. We were driving behind an RV at one point and the road dropped off on the right side a bit. We were stopped at a corner while some cars went by from the opposite direction and when the RV went to move forward the front & back right side tire dropped off the road and the RV axled out.
Now we’re practically in the middle of nowhere, with no cell service & about an hour and a half away from any town. So we drove around them and pulled off the road. I got out to see what I could do to help. Another guy in a pickup stopped and tried to help as well. Some other guys got out and determined they couldn’t tow the RV without the high possibility of flipping it, so we offered the couple in the RV a ride to Revelstoke. They didn’t want to leave the RV and asked that we (and another guy) call a tow truck for them. We continued on our way and reached a lake where the road practically turned into a one-lane road. There was traffic backed up in both directions. It was quite the experience. I’m thankful my parents raised me driving trucks on narrow back roads. It didn’t faze me too much, but it was one of the craziest roads I’ve driven on with so many other cars around.
We stopped in Revelstoke and called a tow truck for the people, then we made sandwiches for supper. We drove the rest of the way to Banff and didn’t get there until 11pm. We did change time zones from PST to MST. A trip that should have taken only 6 hrs of driving ended up taking about 12 hrs instead. We set up camp which consisted of a tarp over the bars in the back of the pickup bed. We then laid down our mats and sleeping bags in the bed of the pickup. Thankfully we came prepared, it was in the low 40s (F) during the night.
My sleeping bag wasn’t function properly so I was freezing cold. In the middle of the night I moved myself into the cab of the pickup and slept across the front seats (which with my long legs seriously sucked and was uncomfortable).
Day 3: Icefield Parkway, Lake Louise, & Lake Moraine
After a not-so-great-night-of-sleep for both of us, we got up and made breakfast. It was the warmest thing we came in contact with since the day before. We made oatmeal, scrambled eggs and hot chocolate. We decided we wanted to drive the Icefield Parkway during the day and hit Lake Louise in the evening in the hopes that there would be less people. We drove into Banff proper and went to the National Park Information Centre. We bought our day passes and got some pamphlets with maps of the park and the Icefield Parkway.
We went to one store called The Indian Trading Post. Turns out almost everything inside is made by local Indian tribes, which is super cool! After that we started our drive towards the main stretch of the Icefield Parkway. We filled up with gas in Lake Louise and got some “Canadian” candy to try. There was this one coconut chocolate bar that was really good. They were like Almond Joys without the almonds. I was so excited!
Our first stop was at Bow Lake, there was a pull-off right next to the lake, so we got out and took pictures. Then we continued on to Peyto Lake. We parked on the road outside the parking lot and hiked up to Bow Summit where the look-out for the lake was. Even though it was pretty smokey we were still able to see the lake. It was in the 30s (F) and there was patches of snow on the ground along the trail. It took about 30 minutes round trip with most of the trail being up hill the whole way.
We decided to drive to the Icefield Centre, and not clear to Lake Maligne in Jasper since we wanted to make it back to Lake Louise before sunset. We stopped at some view points along the way and once we got to the Icefield Centre we stopped and took in the view of the icefield and glacier. It was incredible! Neither of us had ever seen an icefield like that before. We turned around and started our way back to Lake Louise. We stopped at some different pulloffs to explore. We made it to Lake Louise around 6:30pm which was earlier than we originally planned, but it ended up working out really well.
We got super lucky and found parking spot at the front of the parking lot. We got out of the truck and walked to the lake. It was amazing! The water was so opaque and yet clear at the same time.
We went back to the truck and decided to see if the road to Lake Moraine was open. Lucky for us it was. We were both excited because that meant we wouldn’t have to wake up at 4am to get there before sunrise the next morning. We went to the gift shop in the lodge which was rather cute, then went down to the lake and took pictures. I was so excited, this lake was the one I was most excited to get to see!
We drove back to the campground near Banff (the city) and set up camp. Neither of us were super excited about camping out in the cold again. We decided I would sleep in the cab and Luke would sleep in the back. While we were making supper we got a text from my aunt saying she wanted to get us a hotel room since it was supposed to be in the 30s (f) that night. We decided it would probably be a good idea because neither of us wanted to get sick and it would be nice to actually get a good night sleep. So once we finished making supper, we packed up camp and drove to Buffalo Mountain Lodge. I checked us in and we went to our room. It was such a cool lodge! There was a fireplace in the room where you could actually have a real fire and they had an outdoor hot tub. After we settled into the room I changed into my swimsuit and went to the hot tub by myself. It was so relaxing. It was in the low 40s (F). It felt so cool walking back in the cold air after having been in the hot tub. It was exhilarating.
Day 4: Buffalo Mountain Cafe, City of Banff, Drive Halfway home (Merritt. B.C.)
We slept in, then packed quickly and checked out. We went to the Buffalo Mountain Cafe and got a really delicious breakfast. I got a cinnamon roll and Luke got a maple danish. It was really yummy!
We decided to go and explore a bit of Banff proper before we started on our way to Merritt, B.C. We parked and then walked a ways down the main street. We went into some stores and looked around. I wanted to go to the Hudson Bay Company… it wasn’t what I expected it to be. It’s basically like Macy’s in the U.S.
We also went into a store that was all Christmas decorations. It was crazy how much stuff they had. My favorite store was a gem and rock store. They had fossils displayed as well. I think it would be so cool to see Banff during the winter.
We started the 6 hour drive to Merritt and thankfully it was rather uneventful. We didn’t have to take any detours and made it to the hotel in a reasonable amount of time. It rained almost the entire way. Once we got within a half an hour of Merritt there were clumps of really dense fog. It was really cool to drive through.
I took a shower at the hotel then watched some movies on the Netflix phone app. Canada has a way better selection of movies than the U.S. does… they have good quality movies.
Day 5: Drive home
We got up and ate the hotel breakfast, then started on our way home. I woke up with a really dry throat and I thought maybe it was from all the smoke and having the AC on. But it kept getting worse the further into the day I went. Then my head started to get that “sick” feeling. So now I’m fighting getting sick. The drive went well. We had to wait 45 minutes at the border since things were backed up, but everything went smoothly. I dropped Luke off at his house in Olympia, WA then continued the rest of the way home to where I live in Oregon. It was so nice to get home and not be driving.
Day 1: Quality Inn (Merritt, BC)
Day 2: Tunnel Mountain Village I Campground (Banff)
Day 3: Buffalo Mountain Lodge (Banff)
Day 4: Quality Inn (Merritt, BC)