First time for me in Western Canada, and it probably won’t be my last! Six days may seem short, but that’s all the time I had. I will give you details of my itinerary and my budget. This trip is mainly focused on nature and the outdoors.
The Rocky Mountains are quite simply awesome! I always wanted to be on top of those beautiful glaciers. When you travel the paths of the west, your gaze will always be on the mountains. We are far from Montreal, Quebec!
The weather was not always on our side. Most of the things I wanted to do, I didn’t do them! We’d decide on the day and go where the sun was.
Day 1 - Montreal - Calgary
Since we landed at 11:00 a.m., that left us all day to do at least one activity, including driving time.
We headed to Banff National Park, where our overnight accommodation was located. When we arrived at the park, we passed in front of Lake Minnewanka. I was already hooked!
Heading towards Two Jack Lake campground, Two Jack lake expands before us. I am already in love with Western Canada!
Accommodation in Banff National Park
In a nutshell:
- $120 a night
- Lighting, electricity
- No stove, fridge
- Outdoor BBQ
- Fire hole
- Shared toilets and showers
- You can sleep up to 6 people
- Not allowed to eat indoors or cook food indoors because of bears.
- Keep the place clean
- 15 minutes from Banff
- Pets are not allowed in the tents.
At the time of booking, there were no more sites available with a tent that gives a direct view of the lake. There is still a small path that allows you to walk close by and see the beauty of the lake.
At sunset, the light is sublime. It sets around 10-10:30 p.m. in mid-June.
Hiking at Tunnel Mountain - Banff
Located in the Bow River Valley, Tunnel Mountain was an astonishing surprise during my visit to Banff!
I arrived in the afternoon, just as the sun then showed itself. A friend of mine recommended this little mountain with great views! It’s perfect after a plane ride and two hours in the car. Easy access for the whole family!
Despite its name, there is no tunnel here. At the time, a tunnel was supposed to be built for a train to pass through. In the end, another place was chosen for the tunnel, but the name stuck.
In a nutshell:
- Height: 1,692 metres
- Gain in altitude: 260 meters
- 4.8 km round trip
- Time: 1h30 to 2h
- Price: free of charge
- Google Maps coordinates: 5CGQ+RX
Day 2 - Lake Louise
Rain was forecast for the second day. I was very much hoping the weather was wrong. In the end, it rained all night. The thunder hit so hard that the OtentiK tent was shaking! In the morning, the rain slowly stopped. So we decided that we were going to see the famous Lake Louise.
- Driving time from Two Jack lake: 1 hour
- Return to Banff village from Lake Louise: 45 min.
By leaving early and not being in peak tourist season yet, we were able to find parking on site. Otherwise, you’d have to use the shuttle service. Read more details at this link.
A lot of tourists were already there around 8:00 a.m. On arriving on the scene, the hotel Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise is what we see first. Staying there costs about $500 a night.
We take a few pictures in front of this blue-grey lake through this crowd. Everyone is trying to take the best picture. A few clicks and it’s done for us.
To avoid the crowd, I invite you to take a walk around the lake or simply go for a nice hike to see the lake from the up high! Without needing to go on a full hike, take a walk on the side of the lake. The view is superb and there are fewer people.
Hiking in Little Beehive
During this day, we had sun, snow, sun, a little bit of clouds, snow…! I thought it was fantastic! Luckily, we were well prepared with our hats and mittens.
Here is the summary of our hike.
Initially, I had planned to go and climb Plain of Six Glaciers. The temperature was difficult to manage during this trip and we had to adapt ourselves to go where the sun could show up.
When we arrived at Lake Louise, some of the glaciers in the area were surrounded by clouds. It’s hard to decide which path to take! The temperature seems to change so often! So we went to the side of the mountain where the weather seemed clearer. Little Beehive was a fabulous trail that blew our minds !
Our first stop on the way to the top was at Mirror Lake. At that moment, a little snow began to fall. I loved it! Much nicer than rain and I already thought to bring a hat and mittens.
Moreover, at this time of the year, always make sure you dress in a multi-layer system and carry a pair of gloves with you. The temperature can change very quickly in the mountains.
We continued our ascent and the sky becomes a little bit clearer. In the distance we saw a few dark clouds. It was not super sunny, but we had a clear view!
The view of Lake Louise is magnificent: we were happy with our choice of trail!
On the way back, we passed by a path leading to a Tea House. We sat on the terrace because there was no more room inside. It’s understandable: it was so freezing outside because of the wind!
From the terrace, we had a view of Lake Agnes and it stared to snow.. but horizontally!
- 1 litre of tea to warm up and to take on the road in our reusable bottle,
- 1 tuna sandwich,
- 1 soup,
- 1 apple crisp
Of course, it’s not cheap, but the employees work hard to serve all these people. The food was very good, by the way. The whole thing, with tip, cost us about $50. Please bring cash with you.
After this beautiful hike, we left for Banff and mad a stop at Moraine Lake, since it was on the way. It’s very difficult to get a parking space here in peak season. The parking lot isn’t very big. People arrive as early as 5:00 a.m. to see the sunrise.
According to several blogs I read, Moraine Lake is more impressive than Lake Louise. It was also my impression. It’s hard to describe why. The colour, the proximity of the glaciers, the zenitude…
Lodging - Banff
Our most expensive night was in Banff. We spent a nice night at the Bumpers Inn. It offered a clean and big room.
It’s not a picturesque place with mountain views. It was a nice alternative anyway for the price, because everything is more expensive here.
- Cost for one night: $180, taxes and fees included, booked via Booking.com
Day 3 - Kootenay National Park
The third day was the least exciting of our short stay in Western Canada. The rain was coming down. But it was just a little rain. The cloud ceiling was low.
We then left at about 10:00 a.m. for a hike in Kootenay National Park. We didn’t see much on the road. We stopped at the Stanley Glacier Trail and hoped for a change in weather.
The clouds being too low, we decided to change location. Using the AllTrails app, I found a trail called Boom Lake that doesn’t go up in altitude. It wasn’t raining much on this side of the park. It ended up being a beautiful flat path to observe nature. The only viewpoint is at the end of the trail.
Boom Lake Trail
In a nutshell:
- Located on Highway 93 not too far from the Highway 1 intersection near Banff.
- 8 km round trip
- Height difference: 175 meters
- Duration: I didn’t write anything down. Maybe 3 hours there and back.
- Not much of a view until you get to the lake.
- Description from AllTrails
Takakkaw Falls - Yoho National Park
About a 55-minute drive from Boom Lake.
Also located in the Yoho National Park, you will need only 30 minutes to go to Takakkaw Falls.
At 384 metres, it is one of the tallest in Canada. Its freefall is 254 meters! There’s a short forest trail to return, and it will only take a 10-minute walk. Not difficult at all.
Accommodation - Golden - British Columbia
For the last 3 nights, I chose the city of Golden, British Columbia.
I found its strategic location in relation to national parks and accommodation to be cheaper. I found a private room in an apartment on Airbnb.
So we stayed with Ray and his girlfriend. We had access to their kitchen and bathroom and we very much enjoyed it. It was my second experience of sharing a guest house and everything went really well. Ray is a helicopter pilot who rescues people in the mountains. He works a lot, so he’s not home very often.
- La Casa de Ray
- 250 for 3 nights – month of June
There is a grocery store only 2 minutes drive away and my recommendation for a restaurant would be The Wolf Den.
There’s a tavern atmosphere, and the food is very good. It’s an excellent place to eat a hamburger and try a good local beer. The fried onions are the best I’ve ever had!
After our lunch, we were off to Marion Lake. A little less grandiose than the morning hike, but it was totally different. The view up there was definitely worth it.
Departure is from the same parking lot as the Great Glacier Trail. To save steps, don’t go back to the parking lot. Have lunch at the intersection, where there’s a park warden. This is where the trails begin. You will take the Abbott Ridge Trail to the lake.
- Round trip distance: 6.4 km from the parking lot. The trail itself is 5.2 km round trip.
- Duration: 2 hours 40 minutes
- Height difference: 530 meters
- Elevation: 1,700 metres
- Access fee 1 day/adult National Glacier Park: $7.80
Day 4 - Glacier National Park
The day before, I looked at the weather forecast and it looked like it was going to rain everywhere!
I had in mind to go for a nice hike in Yoho National Park. When we woke up, the weather looked good! On the other hand, when I looked at the weather in Yoho and Kootenay Park, it was raining. So I looked at the Glacier National Park weather… and there was sunshine! We obviously chose this park! It was completely off the schedule for our stay.
And do you know what? This was my favorite part of the trip! It was a more than fantastic day!
Great Glacier Trail
Driving time Golden – Glacier National Park: 1 hr.
The Great Glacier Trail was THE surprise of our trip.
I wasn’t really planning on going to that park and it would have been a big mistake on our part! Much less crowded than his companions, the glaciers there are very impressive! I’m already picturing myself going back!
Without further ado, here are the details of this fabulous day in British Columbia:
- 6.4 km round trip
- Elevation: 1,566 metres
- Height difference: 330 meters
- Duration: 3h30 including breaks
- Glacier National Park
- Description from AllTrails
To get to the beginning of the trail from the parking lot, there is a flat part to cross. You will see beautiful flowers and the glaciers that quietly take shape behind the trees.
Honestly, the forest part of the Great Glacier Trail is just phenomenal! It’s an enchanted forest!
When you leave the forest, you get to this place where you can admire the glaciers.
The ascent continues and we are getting closer and closer to the valley.
This place is remarkable! The end of the trail is the steepest part for about 500 meters. After this small stream, this is where you settle down to see the waterfall and the glaciers around you.
Truly an incredible trail!
Since we completed this hike in half a day, why not do another one!
Day 5 - Emerald Lake
Located in British Columbia, Yoho National Park is well worth a visit for its beautiful Emerald Lake. The local star is, of course, a victim of his own popularity. Arrive early, because parking is limited. There was a lot of people close to the parking lot. Just walk on the trail around the lake to get away from the crowd.
Other very interesting hikes are also accessible. Please visit the official website of the Yoho National Park to discover them.
We didn’t go around the lake, but we continued on our way to Yoho Pass. The path being impassable because of a river, we turned back.
We were lucky enough to observe a couple of loons with their little baby! It was a truly exceptional moment!
My boyfriend had never heard the cry of the loon ‘live’ before. It reminded me of when I was little and my father took me fishing on a lake, veyr early in the morning. I remember that first loon I saw and heard!
We go back to Yoho Pass to get a magnificent view on the glaciers.
On the way back, stop for a moment at Natural Bridge. Just make a short stop to see this natural bridge. I love the colour of the water!
To end this beautiful day, we decided to hike part of the Stanley Glacier Trail in Kootenay National Park.
We didn’t go through it all, but it gave us a good idea of what we missed on the rainy day!
It’s about a 30 minute-drive from Yoho to Stanley Glacier.
This concludes our trip to Western Canada! The sixth day was only spent to get back to Quebec. Depending on your return time, it is probably possible to add something to your schedule.
Let’s move on to the budget part!
Budgeting for a trip to Western Canada
Here’s what our trip to Western Canada cost us (and find out below the different credit cards recommended by milesopedia to save money for this type of trip):
|Plane ticket Montreal – Calgary (2 people)||50,000 Aeroplan Miles and $350|
|One night at Two Jack Lake||$120|
|A night in Banff||$180|
|3 nights in Golden (Airbnb)||$250|
|Park Canada Access Fee for 2 people (5 days)||$78|
|Total for 2 people||$1690|
* Car rental with Route’s car: Yes you read that right, I can’t even believe it yet! I rented a few months before (November 2018), a two-door Rio. There was no Rio available, we got a Jeep. Originally, my online reservation was for $130. At the counter, it was cheaper!
**Food: We only ate at the restaurant for dinner. For breakfast and lunch, we made everything ourselves having done our grocery shopping at Wal-Mart in Calgary. We also bought alcohol.
Here are credit cards recommended by milesopedia for this type of trip:
Below you will find several credit cards that can be useful to save money when travelling in Western Canada.
Credit cards for groceries
Credit cards for gas
Here are the different credit cards that milesopedia recommends for gas:
- 3 points per dollar with the Scotiabank Gold American Express Card
- 2 points per dollar with the American Express® Gold Rewards Card
- 2% cash back with the Tangerine Money-Back Credit Card no annual fee
However, consider the gift card strategy to collect more points for this category!
Credit cards for restaurants and bars
Credit cards for travel insurance
Here are the different credit cards that milesopedia recommends for insurance for travel outside your province of residence:
Credit cards for stopover hotels
Here are the different credit cards that milesopedia recommends for hotels: