We are so very fortunate to have a good friend who owns a mountain retreat in Canmore, Alberta. This popular Rocky mountain town is an easy 60-minute drive from Calgary and a fabulous place to relax and rejuvenate. We escaped the city for a couple of mid-week breaks in July, visiting a few of our favorite places in and around Canmore and Banff. Having grown up in Calgary we both have many fond memories of time spent in the Rockies.
Our first trip to Canmore started out with a bang with a couple of bear sightings. Along the roadside not far from where we were staying we spotted a mama black bear and her 2 cubs. It’s always exciting to see bears, especially from the safety of the car. We pulled over and enjoyed watching the cubs romp around the hillside as mama foraged for berries. As they headed further away from us we continued driving and spotted another black bear just off the road. This one had a large tracking collar around his/her neck so again we stopped and enjoyed another bear sighting.
From Canmore, it’s a short drive into Banff National Park for a day of exploring. Leaving the main highway at the Lake Minnewanka exit takes you on a scenic loop past Cascade Ponds, Two Jack Lake, Lake Minnewanka, and Bankhead, an old coal mining town. Almost immediately after making the turn to Two Jack Lake, we spotted a young elk on the roadside. Continuing towards Lake Minnewanka we stopped to enjoy the views at Two Jack Lake for a few minutes before carrying on towards Lake Minnewanka where we spotted a group of mountain goats standing in the middle of the road. After a brief stop to soak up the views of Lake Minnewanka we continued on the loop road until we reached the main highway. Turning west we next exited on the Mount Norquay road. I love driving this narrow, winding road all the way up the mountain to the viewpoint overlooking the town of Banff, with the Norquay ski hill rising high above us.
By this time we were in need of lunch so made our way through Banff up to the Rimrock Resort Hotel, perched on the mountainside above the town. I love enjoying a meal in their bar and admiring the surrounding mountains, much nicer than a restaurant in the center of town. After lunch we made one more stop at the Bow Falls viewpoint, the water was in full force cascading down the rocks. Just below Bow Falls is a popular starting point for rafting excursions that finish up in the town of Canmore. We have never done this but have heard the scenery is stunning.
During our second mid-week visit to Canmore, we headed to Lake Louise, just under an hour further west. Instead of taking the main Trans Canada highway, we detoured onto the more scenic Bow Valley Parkway just past Banff. This route is much more relaxed and pleasant to drive with some great views along the way, and we had another bear sighting when a black bear crossed the road in the distance ahead. By the time we got there, he/she was meandering into the forest.
When we arrived at Lake Louise, all the parking by the lake was full, and the Moraine Lake road was also closed with their parking full up. No problem, we have been many times before and will no doubt be there again once the summer tourists have headed home. Instead, we headed into the town of Lake Louise for a bite of lunch. After lunch, we decided to drive back to Canmore again on the Bow Valley Parkway, with a brief stop at Morant’s Curve. This curve is a popular train spotting location and we only had to wait for about 15 minutes before a train rumbled by and the conductor waved at all of us taking pictures.
Visits to Canmore and Banff National Park are good for the soul 😊