Wildlife Seen in Banff National Park

It's time to get up close and personal with some of the wild animals I came across on my trip in Banff National Park.

Clark's Nutcracker

Harlequin Ducks
Hoary Marmot
Ground Squirrel
Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep
Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep
Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep

And we can't forget about the black bears and grizzlies!

Relaxing at the Banff Upper Hot Springs

What better way to cap off a vacation in the Rockies than to take a dip in the +39 degrees Celsius water at Banff Upper Hot Springs. 

Ahh, so relaxing!  All those aches and pains seemed to disappear almost instantaneously!

While the view of the mountains was splendid, I was a bit disappointed that there was only the one pool.  I guess I was basing my expectations on my experiences at the thermal baths in Budapest, where there was a plethora of pools of varying temperatures to choose from.  Oh well... Despite the underwhelming size of the bathhouse, it was nice to just lay back and relax.

The Grizzly Bears of Banff National Park

Where there's...

there must be a grizzly bear and her two cubs nearby....

I watched these guys for 45 minutes before they stumbled their way into the forest. 

I came back the next day to the same area in hopes of seeing them again, and surprise, surprise, I did, or at least some of their friends, including this bear...

who was just going about its business, munching away on grass and dandelions, until another grizzly came out of the forest into the meadow.  They stared each other down for a moment and then the chase began.  Here's a quick video of the very end of it....

Larch Valley

After checking out the Valley of the Ten Peaks, I headed towards Larch Valley, where the forest of larch trees turns golden yellow in colour in the fall. 

Despite the lack of yellow, the scenery was still breathtaking!

Definitely a place worthy of a day long picnic.

Valley of the Ten Peaks

I don't know about you but I'm not a big fan of switchbacks. Yes, they make major ascents and descents a lot easier to deal with but the thought of going back and forth, just drives me crazy at times.

The reason I mention this now is that once you start your hike from Lake Moraine towards the Valley of the Ten Peaks and Larch Valley, you'll quickly encounter switchbacks that take you up 360 metres in 2.4 km. After you go back and forth a few times, you'll probably have the same love/hate relationship with them.

But I must admit, the trek is worth it and without them, the hike up to those two incredible trails would be horrendous not only on your body but also on the vegetation and soil.

You'll eventually hit a fork in the trail in which one path leads you to the Valley of the Ten Peaks while the other takes you to Larch Valley. 

I planned on tackling both trails today as the trail report reported limited access on path trails due to the snowy conditions so off I went towards the Valley of the Ten Peaks. My words would not do the scenery justice so I will just include a few photos below for your viewing pleasure.

Eiffel Lake was still a bit frozen

and the trail beyond the lake looked like it was still under a thick blanket of snow so I turned back to check out Larch Valley.

 This is definitely yet another amazing trail that you just have to hike.

Canada Day in Banff

After a morning hike in Paradise Valley, I decided to head down to Banff to catch a glimpse of its Canada Day activities. Being used to Canada Day party central in Ottawa, I was curious to see how a small tourist-centric town in Alberta celebrates the nation's birthday. The celebrations appeared to be centered in their main city park, with a concert stage at one end and a bunch of little kiddie activities at the other end.

It wasn't exactly my type of party scene so I headed back to the main street, where I joined the hoards of tourists checking out the shops. 

The main strip caters to all crowds: from those in the market for luxurious fur coats, shiny jewelry, quality sportswear, and fine cuisine, all the way down to tacky souvenirs and those looking for a quick fast food meal at McDonald's. 

Now I must admit that I was a bit overwhelmed by the crowds. I've definitely been in much larger crowds but after spending about a week in almost complete solitude on the park's trails with the exception of a few tourist hot spots and my hostel, there weren't many people I had to compete with for space for quite a while so instead of sticking around town for the 5pm parade and 11pm fireworks, I headed back to Lake Louise to enjoy the park's tranquility.

That being said, there were a lot of people and cars everywhere in the Park that day so peace and quiet was hard to come by but I somehow manged to be lucky enough to see three grizzlies later that evening.

Paradise Valley

Paradise Valley Trail begins in a parking lot alongside the road leading up to Moraine Lake. This is the start of your journey today. It's Canada Day and what better way to celebrate this great nation than to hike one of the premiere trails in the Canadian Rockies.

Just like the Consolation Lake Trail, this is another group access recommended trail. There's no one around, so you'll just have to hike solo again, and take your chances with the bears.

After walking through the forest for a bit, you encounter your first crossing of Paradise Creek. Simply amazing! It truly is difficult to capture the magnificence of this place without experiencing it first hand.

As you follow the Creek up the valley, you reach Lake Annette. 

There's more to be seen so you continue forward alongside the lake before going into the forest again but not for long as you come across a windy, rocky meadow with alpine flowers trying to make a go at life despite the unfavourable conditions.

Not surprisingly, it starts to snow. There were flurries overnight, and they've started again. The flurries aren't much of a nuisance for now, except for the fact that it's July 1st, and it should be summer now!

You make your way through the mud and over the snow until you see a long stretch of muddy trail ahead of you. Is it really worth going further? Of course, it is.... but is it really worth the potential damage to the vegetation and the trail... hmm, tough call... but you've seen and experienced so much already and plan on coming back again one day, so after much thought and deliberation, you decide to turn back and slowly make your way back to your car so you can experience Canada Day in Banff later that day.

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