Writing about Banff is a very silly thing to do. It’s one of those things you have to see to believe it’s not something you dreamed up. Words just can not capture the beauty of the milky turquoise Lake Louise or the flanking mountainsides of the Canadian Rockies. So I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves and keep it short and sweet.
We spent 4 nights camping at Tunnel Mountain Village 1 in Banff National Park. This campsite was perfect for our time in the Canadian Rockies: central to all the main attractions, free firewood, and hot showers (which we would later learn is a luxury).
Not into the idea of camping? Explore other affordable options here.
Johnston Canyon Upper Falls
Our first stop in Banff after setting up camp at Tunnel Mountain was Johnston Canyon. This is an out and back hike with several options for distance. The shortest distance is Lower Falls, but we oped for the 3.1 mile hike to Upper Falls. There was an even further hike to the Ink Pots, but we were still warming up (this was our first national park after all). This trail was stunning - the hike curved through the canyon along the runoff from the falls.
One of our favorite spots in all of Banff was Lake Minnewanka. We found a private area on the rocky shore to unroll our blanket and take a minute to soak up the view.
Banff Upper Hot Springs
We were surprised to learn that Banff Upper Hot Springs is open late until 11PM, so we decided to catch the sunset to avoid the daytime crowds. Though the Springs was a bit more like a giant hot tub than a natural experience, it was nice to soak and unwind after a long day of hiking.
What can I say about Lake Louise? She truly took my breath away. We created our own route among the trails and cut from the Plain of the Six Glaciers path to Mirror Lake, which also took my breath away - literally. Even with numb legs and a struggle to catch my breath, hiking up the side of the mountain with snowcapped peaks on one side and Louise on the other was well worth the trek.
Explore more in Banff National Park
We are just over a month into our journey across the United States and Canada, and we have been reflecting on our favorite stops, the funniest moments and the toughest times we’ve had along the way. We’ve gone from feeling like we were just on a quick vacation in the first few weeks to settling into life on the road. The first month was filled with discovering new cities, reconnecting with old friends and family, a few really hard hikes and uncovering the diverse beauty of the US of A. Most importantly, we’ve had to fine tune our expectations of what it takes to travel full time. Bottom line: life as a career wanderer isn’t so bad.
Wondering how we're holding up on the road? Want to know how we keep each other entertained on long drives or our least favorite stops? Ask away in the comments below.
We’re three weeks into our cross-country adventure and have traversed 3,000 miles up the Pacific Coast, across Canada to Banff National Park and down to Glacier National Park. Of all the cities that we have explored, Seattle has been one of my very favorites. This conclusion might be influenced by all of the goodies that we splurged on in Pike Place market (I admit that I’m easily swayed by food), but I am convinced that Seattle is one of the best destinations for a summertime vacation.
Beyond the perfect summer weather and the abundance of water surrounding the city, there are so many areas and neighborhoods to explore in the Emerald City to suit a variety of tastes. Some days we splurged ($15 coffee at the original Starbucks Reserve and satisfying an insatiable desire for fried seafood at Pike’s Place), but we were also able to find plenty of free and cheap things to do in Seattle.
1. Fremont Troll and walk to the waterfront
,After settling into our home sweet home for the weekend (aka the KOA in Seattle - a story for another time), we headed straight to the Fremont neighborhood to check out the infamous bridge troll. Fun fact: the troll was designed as part of a program to rehab the area beneath the bridge, which had become a place where you wouldn’t want to find yourself after dark. Today, both locals and visitors can be found under the bridge climbing the troll, taking selfies and catching views of the Bay in the distance.
After visiting the Fremont Troll, we walked straight down under the Aurora bridge all the way to the waterfront for spectacular views (also nearby is Fremont Brewing Company if you're feeling thirsty).
2. Gas Works Park
After taking in the views of the bay under the Aurora Bridge, we headed to Gas Works Park (we had a car, but this would have been an easy walk along the water). Gas Works was easily one of my favorite experiences on our trip so far - what used to be Seattle Gas Light Company is now a playground of old gas works equipment. Though you’re not supposed to climb, the big kid in me couldn’t help myself.
Beyond the adult playground of machinery, Gas Works Park offers one of the best views of Seattle’s skyline. This is the perfect place to get your shot of the iconic Space Needle, have a picnic, and watch the sun sink over the best coast.
Fun fact: Heath Ledger fans, you’re in for a treat! Gas Works was the setting of the paintball scene in 10 Things I Hate About You. (My high school years consisted of regularly eating Heath Bar cake while watching Heath Ledger movies. Alex, Rachel and Kate - you know who you are.)
3. Happy Hour at Duke's on Lake Union
Anything involving happy hour, two for one, specials or discounts - you’re speaking my language. Duke’s Seafood and Chowder is a chain in the Seattle area and offers a late night happy hour (the best kind)! At the Lake Union location (just south of Gas Works Park), you can sit outside on the boardwalk and catch views of the boats on the marina and the Space Needle lighting up the night sky. And did I mention they have happy hour?
4. Olympic Sculpture Park
Part of the Seattle Art Museum, the Olympic Sculpture Park is an outdoor stretch of some of the most unique sculptures you’ve ever seen. And like everything else, the park is located on the waterfront at the northern end of the Seattle seawall. The park is FREE and open to the public every day of the year.