Rainy Day Touring: The Banff Gondola, Lake Moraine, and Yoho National Park
Friday morning was a bit rainy so we got a slow start to our “lazy” day… which ended up not-so-lazy at all. We started off with a classic mountain tour on the popular Banff Gondola. This tiny 4 person gondola cabin takes you on an 8 minute ride up to the summit of Sulphur Mountain at an elevation of 2281m above sea level. It didn’t look that high from the parking lot but it sure felt high when we were dangling from a cable in a little cage! From the top, we enjoyed 360° views of Banff Town and the six mountain ranges surrounding the mountain town. As we were misted with rain and wind on our final climb up the highest point of the Summit Ridge boardwalk, we looked up to see a complete rainbow arched over the town – what a lucky surprise!
Feeling newly-energized from our rainbow sighting, we decided to head back to Lake Louise area to see the equally as captivating, Lake Moraine. We were pleasantly surprised when we got to the usually very busy Lake Moraine to see that we had the area all to ourselves! Typically, they have to shuttle tourists from overflow parking lots because the small village becomes saturated – another lucky bonus of rainy day touring! Lake Moraine is a glacial lake nestled in the Valley of Ten Peaks – named, of course, for the number of mountain peaks surrounding the lake. For ten years between 1969-1979, an image of Moraine Lake and its many mountain peaks was actually featured on the Canadian twenty-dollar bill. Our rainy pictures don’t do a very good job of capturing the beauty of this lake; it was truly spectacular. Unfortunately, the weather caused us to leave Lake Moraine earlier than we would have liked but it also allowed us the unexpected opportunity to discover another Canadian wonder: Yoho National Park.
We climbed and wound through the mountains in Beasty (our little car that could) until we crossed the Continental Divide into British Columbia and Yoho National Park. We stopped at the most popular pull-off on the TransCanada highway to see the famous (and practical) spiral tunnels. These tunnels were specially designed to allow trains safe passage through a steep climb in the mountains. At this particular pull-off on the highway, you can sometimes catch a glimpse of a train going through the spiral and you can actually see to front and the back of the train on two tracks at the same time as it spirals through! Unfortunately, we just missed a train going through and ended up just catching the caboose pulling through the tunnel as we ran up with our cameras drawn. So, for blog purposes, all you get now is a confusing explanation of this engineering genius – sorry!
We continued on to the rugged Yoho National Park, all the while receiving a detailed and interesting audio tour from our GyPSy Guide. The GyPSy Guide is an awesome audio tour guide that is popular in the Banff and Jasper areas. It can be downloaded as an offline app on your phone and it uses your GPS location to give you a detailed explanation and tour of the area you are driving in. We love GyPSy!! Anyway, our first stop in Yoho was another gorgeous glacial lake called Emerald Lake. Racing sunset at this point, we went for a brief stroll around the lake, snapped our photos, and headed over to the natural bridge. This rocky bridge formation has been carved out by the rushing glacial water of the Kicking Horse River that runs through Yoho.
Our final Yoho destination was the towering 302m Takakkaw Falls. We took a short hike to the base of the falls to get a sense of how powerful – and cold! – the glacier water is. Yoho National Park seems like a magical place that we hope to return to at some point in order to spend more time and truly discover its beauty.
That was pretty much it for Friday…maybe Saturday will bring us a lazier lazy day…
Adam & Amanda