Friday, June 14, 2024

June 14 – Lake Louise Gondola and Peyto Lake

It looks like we are in for a wild ride weather-wise if today is any indication. Today was supposed to a mix of sun and cloud with a chance of rain around 1 pm. Well we had at times bright sun, dark clouds, light rain, and a heavy downpour. And it was back and forth between these all day. We even had some ice pellet snow at Peyto Lake. But our weather luck mostly held out as we were either in the car or back at the RV for the worst of it.

Yesterday the forecast for today had seemed the best of the next few days so we bought early morning tickets to go up the Lake Louise Gondola. When we got up it actually was mostly sunny.

So up we go.


At the booth at the bottom we had asked about hiking trails at the top. The one called Kicking Horse Viewpoint sounded interesting but the person said the trail was open but that last section to the viewpoint was still snowed in.

When we got to the top we asked a park ranger who said that we were in luck. Today was the first day that the viewpoint was accessible. She warned us that they had not done a bear check yet this morning and to make lots of noise in places where we couldn’t see far ahead. We also had our bear spray.

The area right around the gondola is protected an an electric fence. To get to the start of the trail you have to go through a large gate in the fence. I am kicking myself for not taking a picture but there was a big sign saying “Only use the blue bar to open the gate” or else.

On the note of electric fences I had said that the campground in Banff had a section that was protected by one, That was not true. It is here that the campgrounds are really divided between hard and soft sided RVs. The soft sided section is protected by a high electric fence with only a few access points. Even the grates on the road that normally stop the animals is electrified so people shouldn’t walk out the road. They must use special gates in the fence.

Back at the top of Lake Louise, the trail to the viewpoint is a 2.4 km round trip and gains just over 200 m in elevation. It was relentlessly steep. My GPS trail tracking app said that a lot of the trail was a 22% grade We made lots of stops on the way up.

We were also the only people on the entire trail the whole time. Actually there was hardly anyone using the gondola in general.


Great views down into the valley.


I had brought a puffy jacket assuming that it would be cold up here. But working up the trail soon had that coming off.

A photosphere.


It’s too bad that they don’t open the chairlift to the very top, in the background of the picture above.


The trail was mostly up this steep service road then the last few hundred meters were through the forest which I assume was the part that was closed.


We made it.


We are 2285 m or 7495 feet above sea level. Neither of us have problems breathing at this height. Jennie has only sometimes had problems on some of our trips once we got above 11,000 feet.

What an amazing view.


Looking down on the Chateau and the lake.


Looking farther north up the Icefields Parkway.


Looking down on Kicking Horse Pass, which is the way west, from Kicking Horse Viewpoint.


The required photosphere.

The clouds in the distance were getting darker.


After a long sit and stare we peeled ourselves away and started back down.


These tiny somethings were growing by the trail.


We could see the rain coming.


The lift has a combination of open chairs and gondolas. I was going to take a chair down but with the rain threatening we wimped out.

On the way down we saw a small black bear rummaging around one of the ski runs.


The gondola only showed a few sprinkles of rain on the way down and then we were back to full sun. At the ski base lodge we sat on the deck and had lunch.

I haven’t skied in a long time but those prices seem crazy. It certainly helps to be a senior.


Since it was still early and the weather was nice again we decided to head up the Icefields Parkway to the Peyto Lake Viewpoint.

The weather got darker and darker as we drove north. We when arrived it had started a light rain.

The place was packed. There were easily over 100 cars and RV in the parking lot.

To get to the viewpoint it is an almost 2 km round trip climbing up 100 m. The path is paved but very steep and there was a constant flow of people going up and down. It was quite the change from this morning.

A huge viewing deck.


Peyto Lake is famous for its deep blue green colour caused by “glacial flour” which is the ground up rocks from under the glaciers as they move.


You can’t see the source glacier but you can see the moraine to the left and we could see a small plume of the water going into the lake.



Lots of people wanted their selfies without the deck in them so walked around out onto the rather dangerous looking cliff.


We could see rain on either side of us and eventually it started. Then to everyone’s surprise it turned into snowy ice pellets.



Heading back to the car I was glad we brought an umbrella because it now turned into a soaking rain.

Going back south in the car.


When we stopped at Bow Lake Viewpoint the sun occasionally peeked out.



The photosphere from the lakeshore.

Crowfoot Glacier is at the head of the lake.


With the requisite crow (but probably a raven) in the parking lot.


The rest of the way home it just poured rain. And back at the RV we have been going through the sunny, darker,  then rain and repeat cycle.

Tomorrow it is supposed to rain all day and get quite cold for the next two night with lows of –2C and –3C. Snow is expected overnight. So much for our gorgeous Banff weather. 

1 comment:

  1. Good for you to do the hike to the Kicking Horse viewpoint. Stunning views from there! I remember how changeable the weather can be in the Rockies! We've done the drive to Jasper and back to Banff many times in past summers and each one was so different! As you said, the weather can be very changeable within one day but you might get some great sunny breaks as well!!