After leaving Jasper via the Icefields Parkway, our first stop in Banff National Park was the small settlement of Lake Louise, most famous for its ski area and storied Fairmont hotel. The hotel sits directly on the glacial lake, but the shore area and trails behind the hotel are open to the public. We headed to the lake the evening we arrived in an attempt to avoid tour bus crowds, and we were rewarded with a parking space close to the water. The lake was pretty, but the light wasn’t quite right, and the scene didn’t measure up to either of our expectations nor to other lakes we encountered. Moraine Lake in Jasper and Maligne Lake, just a few miles away from Lake Louise at the end of a windy mountain road, were arguably more picturesque…at least on the days we visited them.
We spent the night at the HI hostel in Lake Louise, conveniently located near the center of town. Actually, town is an overstatement. It’s more like a small tourist village within the national park, with one main intersection, a gas station, a few inns, several overpriced restaurants, and a gazillion tour buses. In short, nowhere we wanted to be. We went to bed early, much to the chagrin of the 20-something German guys with whom we shared our 4-person bunkroom. (more…)