A couple of weekends ago was Civic Weekend here in Canada. Now, I don't know much about the meaning behind it, but I do know it gets me a day off work, which means a day for exploring. Since coming back from New Zealand it has been a bit hard to settle back in to the swing of things so a weekend on the road was just what we needed. Banff National Park is known for the Canadian Rocky Mountains and it's crystal blue lakes. If you have seen a photo of a lake in Canada, chances are it's in Banff National Park. On a map Banff does not look that far from Vancouver, however since Canada is the second largest country in the world, getting anywhere is a bloody long way! The total drive time is between 9-10 hours.
We left on Friday night and got as far as Kamloops, which was about a five hour drive. If you're not already aware, British Columbia is experiencing severe wild fires currently and the smoke is reaching such a distance that the skies in Vancouver are just a grey haze. I heard the other day that the air quality at the moment is as bad as Beijing. This meant we could see no mountains on our drive to Kamloops and there were threats of the highway being closed. But we got there and made it safely to our campsite for the night - Walmart! We've camped in Walmart car parks before as they are free for anyone to park up in and stay the night. We weren't the only ones who had this idea as there were all kinds of vehicles parked up for the night - RVs, buses, people movers, and just ya regular sedans.
We slept quite comfortably in the back of the car with no disturbances. By 6am we were on the road again leaving the other Walmart campers peacefully sleeping. From Kamloops to Banff is about six hours, so another big day of driving. Luckily, as we got closer to Banff, the smoke started to clear so we could enjoy the mammoth mountains in all their glory. Our first stop in Banff National Park was Lake Louise. Lake Louise must be one of the most photographed lakes in all of Canada along with Lake Moraine (also in Banff National Park). It has stunning emerald water with snow topped mountains as the backdrop. Due to it being a long weekend, Lake Louise was PACKED. People everywhere and lining up to get the best photo spots. The people didn't take away from the beauty but they did take away my patience. We got our mandatory photo in front of the lake and then wandered around to the other side of the lake where we saw chipmunks, rock climbers, and the mountains up close.
Will and I kind of hate paying for accommodation because we are cheap like that, so when renting a car we always try and book one that we know we'll be able to sleep in the back of. It can be a bit hit and miss because rental companies can change the car on you at the last minute, but this time we lucked out. It was a bit too roomy if anything! Our second night's camping spot was probably one of the best we've ever had. We drove around the national park for a bit trying to think where we could inconspicuously camp up for the night when Will noticed a small turn off. Curiosity got the better of him so he flicked the indicator on and made a quick turn. What was down that path was pure bliss. We parked right on the waters edge, surrounded by mountains and forest, with absolutely no one else around. It was the ultimate freedom campers dream.
To top the trip off we got to see black bears in the wild! Apparently black bears are the more common bear to see in Canada, and grizzly bears are the rare ones. But we were still so excited to see a mumma bear and two cubs on the side of the road. I thought it was a cliche to see things like that over here!
A trip to Banff definitely re-sparked my love for adventure after being settled down for a few months now. I can't wait to get out and see more of what Canada has to offer. Next up, Vancouver Island!
A writer, explorer, and music enthusiast. This site is where I share my thoughts, aspirations, adventures, and mishaps.