Lake Louise is much more remote feeling than Banff and so consequently it feels so much more like the wilderness. You don’t have to walk far before you leave the roads and find peace in the forest. Hopefully you don’t also find a bear, unless of course you’re on the other side of the electric fence that protects the inhabited areas. Even then, better make it two fences!
Getting in and where I stayed
For a reasonable $20, Greyhound will take you from Banff to Lake Louise which is about an hour down the Trans-Canada Highway 1. There didn’t seem to be any other options on Bus Bud at this time of year.
I stayed at the HI Lake Louise Alpine Hostel which seemed to be the only one in town. Dorms were cheaper there at $30/night and the hostel and it’s activities are much more chill. There’s a decent restaurant, but no real bar. Weekly activities include free pool and a movie night. It’s good value for money and close to the shops, but unless you’re staying at the Fairmont Hotel you’ll be about 4km from Lake Louise itself.
Enjoying the winter wonderland
At the end of October, the village already had big drifts of snow around the roads as there’d been a recent snow storm. Unfortunately, advice from the Visitor’s Centre and the bike shop was that the road to Moraine Lake was un-rideable even with a fat bike. I later found out from a German guy who worked there that the the lake was frozen anyway, so I opted not to try the 28km hike.
Instead I walked the path to Lake Louise which might have been more like 5km. The path was heavily snowed the whole way, but the foot prints of other walkers made it easier. It was quiet. Nothing but that delightful crunching sound of the snow beneath my boots.
Eventually the trail hits the Lake Louise carpark and there you’ll find the bus loads of Asian tourists. We really are everywhere aren’t we.
To escape the crowds, and find a better vantage point to see the lake’s colourful blue minerals, I walked up the trail towards the Lake Agnes Tea House. The snow was hard packed and icy from the hoards and I really struggled compared to others. I realised later that my boots have worn very flat, but I guess that’s to be expected after thousands of kilometres of use and abuse.
The first point of interest was the tiny Mirror Lake. I’m sure it normally reflects the sky and the Big Bee Hive, but in October it was frozen. I ventured out into the deep snow, but didn’t dare test how frozen it was.
The map showed some sort of stairs leading up to the tea house. I was a bit tentative about steps with big snow drifts everywhere, but in actual fact it’s a wooden deck staircase so most of the snow falls through the gaps.
The Lake Agnes Tea House was of course closed and boarded up at this time of year, so I followed the trail around the edge and up the Big Bee Hive. A few areas looked like they could be avalanche areas, but as you got closer it wasn’t so steep. Only the climb up the Big Bee Hive through the trees was, but the view was certainly worth it.
Unfortunately the view wasn’t all that clear. I’d hoped the lake would be visible somewhere on the way down, but alas no.
It would have been nice to take the Plain of Six Glaciers trail, but time was against me. Despite the sun only hitting Lake Louise fully at around 3pm, it was ducking below the mountains again before 5pm and so the temperature started dropping.
It snowed quite a lot after that. Soft gentle flakes fell for hours and hours and then overnight too.
So when it snows like that all day I guess there’s nothing to do, but grab a coffee and some sustenance. In this case, one of many wraps I had at this awesome coffee shop in Samson Mall called the Trailhead Cafe. The secret seems to be croutons for that satisfying crunch, but honestly no wrap there wasn’t satisfying and the coffee was brilliant (perhaps a hint of Australian about it 😉 ).
With about 10-15cm of snow blanketing the landscape it seemed like a good idea to go out and see what had changed. I walked to the old train carriage restaurant and around the Bow River Loop.
It was so quiet. I didn’t even see a squirrel. Just the gentle flowing waters of the Bow River and the occasional clump of snow falling from the trees.
The walk cut past familiar areas of the walk up to Lake Louise. I’m not sure if it’s assuring or concerning that they have electric bear fences everywhere.
The cloudy weather stuck around, but there were a few glimpses of Canadian brilliance. Like the dominating Mount Temple that creates its own special brand of weather at Moraine Lake.
I really wanted to continue up the Icefields Parkway, but without a car it wasn’t easily doable without a 60km uphill mountain bike ride.
So the only option really was to head to Vancouver, but getting there from Lake Louise wasn’t as cheap as I thought. It cost CAD$160 with Greyhound for a 10 hour overnight bus ride. One of the worst I have ever been on.
They insisted on waking us up repeatedly to announce the new driver!? One driver patrolled the bus and made people put their shoes back on complaining of foot odour and then at 3am we were all forced to get off the bus while they did a routine clean. I had never seen so many zombies and I have no idea why they couldn’t just wait until Vancouver to service the bus when that was surely the final destination.