Arriving in Banff National Park

What an amazing few days it has been. We have been moving at a fast pace since we left Salt Lake on Friday afternoon. The drive up was fairly uneventful. Jordan and I split the drive into two days, staying the night in Missoula, Montana Friday night, and then arriving in Banff Saturday evening. As we drove, we were amazed by the beautiful, varying scenery.
We ran into a bug storm Friday night
Crossing the Canadian border was a breeze. Seriously, this was the easiest border crossing we have ever had. A few hours after entering Alberta, Canada, we arrived at our hotel in Kananaskis. So here’s the deal, hotels in Banff are crazy expensive, so in order to save a little money we decided to stay a little outside of Banff. The best deal we could find was at the Stoney Nakota Resort and Casino. We got the distinct impression that most of their guests came to the hotel solely for the casino, and stay only for a night or two. The concierge desk was completely shocked that we were staying for a full week. When we arrived our room wasn’t prepared yet, so the guy at the desk gave us complimentary chocolate covered strawberries and a bottle of champagne. We surprised the hotel staff once more when we told them that we don’t drink alcohol. I don’t think they knew what to do with us.

While we waited for our room, we decided to drive twenty minutes to Canmore. It is a charming old mining town nestled at the base of the Canadian Rockies. Downtown bustles with tourists, taking in the beauty, and exploring the unique stores. 

Something that I noticed right away was all of the dogs. There are dogs in the hotel and all through town. Being the hopeless dog lover that I am, I was giddy to see so many pups. Dogs and their owners fill the sidewalks. What’s more, most of the businesses allow the dogs to come inside. How great is that? Additionally, the shop owners leave bowls of water in front of their stores so dogs can get a drink. I am in doggy heaven here. I wish more places in America were dog friendly.

A dog in the hotel gift shop

We ate dinner at a little restaurant called the Hogshead. Jordan and I split a pepperoni and elk meat pizza. I’d never had elk meat before, but it was pretty decent. Overall, the pizza was great. Our waitress was phenomenal. We told her that we had just arrived in Banff and asked her what her favorite hikes and locations were. She was more than happy to tell us all of the best spots. Her and her coworkers compiled a list of their favorite places in Banff for us. We were really touched by how thoughtful our waitress was.

The next morning we set out for Banff. Here’s a tip for any of you visiting Banff in the future: get the Discovery Pass. Each day that you enter Banff, costs about 10 Canadian Dollars per person. The family/group (two or more people) Discovery Pass is $136, lasts for two years, and gets you into any national park in Canada. So if you are going to be in Banff for over a week, the Discovery Pass will save you money. Plus, since it’s good for two years, you could return or go to another Canadian national park and enter for free. Okay, that’s the end of my sales pitch.

Our first destination was Lake Minnewanka. This lake is in one of the three core areas for grizzly bears, which is a little nerve wracking, but also kind of awesome. We were secretly hoping to see a bear, from a safe distance of course. We had high hopes for Lake Minnewanka, and it did not disappoint. The brisk water is an amazing blue-green color. Honestly, the water’s color reminds me of something out of the Caribbean, but placed at the foot of a mountain. The whole scene was somewhat surreal. We walked around the lake for a while, taking in the stunning features.
Look at that water

I made friends with a squirrel and I am obsessed with this picture

After some time, we were hungry and decided to go into Banff for food. Here’s the problem with this place- food is pretty expensive. We haven’t had any luck in finding cheaper meals. Most everything in this region costs about $20 per plate. That adds up fast, my friends. So in an attempt at being frugal, we went to a grocery store, bought some peanut butter, jam, bread, and utensils. We ate our sandwiches at our hotel, and then went back into Banff.

Literal goats on the goat trail
Together in our little Ford Escape, we drove on a precarious dirt road up a mountain. It was essentially a goat trail, complete with actual goats. Halfway up the mountain, we found Grassi Lake, a smaller lake, found just off the side of the road. After a few minutes at the lovely lake, we returned to the car and drove further up the mountain to Spray Lake, which is a large lake with a great view. The area was empty, save for a couple of other visitors. Jordan and I had a great time walking on the shoreline, appreciating the amazing day we had.
Loving Grassi Lake

Spray Lakes


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