The Canadian Rockies are filled with azure colored and awe-inspiring lakes, but after spending a few hours at the exquisitely beautiful Moraine Lake we knew we hit the jackpot as far as lakes were concerned.
Booking the Hop-on Bus
My daughter, who is an excellent planner, unlike her mom, made a reservation for us to take the Hop on Banff Bus so we could spend the day at Moraine Lake and Johnstone Canyon. That way we wouldn’t have to deal with the high-season traffic.
We would be shuttled to Moraine Lake to explore for a while and then taken to Johnston Canyon. Afterward, we would return to where we started. The hop on bus service starts in Banff, but since our hotel was in the town of Field, we picked up the bus near Lake Louise.
Our pick-up point was at the Samson Mall, so while we were waiting, we walked into the Trailhead Café to order organic coffee and wrapped sandwiches to take with us in our backpacks. I loved this sign that sits in the café.
You’ve got to love Canadian humor, eh?
Our bus was a converted yellow school bus and there were several passengers on board from Banff. It stopped at the Fairmont Chateau at Lake Louise where most of them got off.
Moraine Lake – Can it get any bluer?
We had already spent the day before hiking around Lake Louise so we continued up the mountain until we reached Moraine Lake. Our guide suggested we climb up the Rockpile to shoot the iconic shot of the lake before taking a stroll around it.
She was right. The view was mindblowing! Moraine Lake is a jewel and as far as being picturesque, it doesn’t get any better than this. Climbing the Rockpile was a little challenging for this old girl, but steps lead up to the top, so it wasn’t that bad. The view was worth everything, and we spent plenty of time taking photos.
Definition: Moraine – A moraine is any glacially formed accumulation of unconsolidated glacial debris that occurs in both currently and formerly glaciated regions on Earth, through geomorphological processes. That’s what gives Moraine Lake it’s vivid color.
There’s a lovely lodge next to the lake with a restaurant and gift shop. We thought about going canoeing but didn’t think we’d have enough time before the bus came to pick us up. Instead, we walked along the lakeshore and meditated on a bench along the trail.
The road to Johnston Canyon and some creatures!
When the bus picked us up it had a new guide. He told us the Bow Valley Parkway had just reopened after being closed for a while and there was a chance we could see some wildlife. He wanted us to keep an eye out for cars stopped by the road because that usually means they were looking at something worth seeing.
During our drive, we stopped at a viewpoint that’s been used for decades in ads selling “Come to the Canadian Rockies!”
As we drove on we saw some cars parked on the side of the road and sure enough, there were several large Elk with huge antlers meandering by the railroad tracks. Cargo trains sometimes drop grain on the tracks and animals congregate to eat it. We opened our bus windows and I managed to snag a shot of this gorgeous hunk.
Our guide gave us some advice on what to do if we ran into a bear. If you run into a Grizzly, you need to back away slowly. Chances are they just want to gorge themselves with berries, which happened to be in season when we were there.
If they look like they may threaten you, play dead. Black Bears are more territorial. They can also be brown. If you are attacked DO NOT play dead. Try to escape and if that’s not possible, fight back. (Easier said than done) Carrying Bear spray is always a good idea.
Hiking in Johnston Canyon
My daughter and I were the only ones who got off at Johnston Canyon. Everyone else was headed back to Banff. The canyon is popular for families and easy for most fitness levels.
You can walk to the lower falls (30 minutes) or take a longer and more challenging hike to the upper falls. (60 min) Since we had already hiked our butts off at Lake Louise the day before, we thought it would be a better idea to take the lower route. (Or, at least my feet did.)
The trail is a series of catwalks that have been built into the limestone cliffs. Water from the falls rushes down through the canyons. It was a little tricky taking a photo while dodging tourists with smartphones, little kids, and a variety of big and small dogs, but it was beautiful and we loved it.
There is a small café with a gift shop at the entrance. Since we already packed sandwiches, we bought some tea at the cafe and ate our lunch outdoors. There are nicely maintained restrooms nearby which is always a plus if you are female!
As we sat and waited for the bus, we noticed a crowd of people looking at something in the parking lot. It turned out that a black bear had made its way up a tree next to the lodge and bungalows near the café.
We managed to get a few photos of it before the ranger showed up. I was glad I took my Canon Powershot camera along because it has a Zoom lens.
We were the only two on the bus going back to Lake Louise besides our guide and driver, but they graciously entertained us with information about the area and told stories. It was a nice way to see the sights without having to worry about driving.
Read my other posts about the Canadian Rockies here:
It was amazing to visit Moraine Lake and Johnston Canyon.
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