Lake Louise, Canada

Lovely Lake Louise: A Night at the Fairmont Chateau

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Over the weekend, my good pal and fellow travel writer extraordinaire, Holly, experienced nearly the EXACT same itinerary around Alberta as I followed last summer when I, too, hopped up from San Francisco to Canada and subsequently fell in love with its awesomeness. Only, um not really at all, seeing as I was there in the height of summer and she in the dead of winter. So while our schedules were pretty comparable in terms of hotels we visited (most of the Fairmont variety), food we ate (bring on the bison!) and sites we visited (gondola, hot springs, etc.), we actually had completely opposite experiences.

A Summer Vacation in Banff and Lake Louise

While I’ve gone into extensive detail about Banff, it occurred to me that my trip coincided with the death of my grandmother, and due to a particular amount of chaos that ensued trying to get myself to Calgary and, from there, back to Tennessee, I never quite did Lake Louise justice.

Last July—prime Alberta travel conditions, let me tell ya—I was in Canada for 10 days working on a series of assignments. Whereas, I’m often stuck going at it alone (not the most ideal circumstances when seeing the world, as you have NO ONE to share the experience with, and likewise eventually end up going insane after singing so many rounds of the world’s most annoying camp song “I Don’t Care if I Go Crazy,” to yourself); however, the glorious people of the Canadian board of tourism allowed me to take a guest. And since ideally I would take SVV everywhere, all the time, he has a normal job and can’t just pack up and go every time I land a cool gig.

A Summer Vacation in Banff and Lake Louise

 

Instead, I took my pal Evan, a med student who was my partner-in-nightly-Strongbow-consumption six years ago while we were both studying abroad in Edinburgh, which turned out to be a wise choice, as there was still a fair amount of schmoozing (read: work dinners) that had to go on, and Evan can get a flock of pigeons to talk back to her, she’s so chatty (in fact, she makes me, Queen of the Loquacious, seemingly channel Helen Keller). Better yet, unbeknown to me, the Powers that Be (those planning my itinerary) tacked on a couple of leisurely days in Banff and Lake Louise after we spent 48 hours on the Geriatric Express, thus cementing a life-long love affair with our northern neighbor.

A Summer Vacation in Banff and Lake Louise

While Banff is the center of commercial activity in the area, there’s not a whole lot to do per se in Lake Louise, that’s kind of precisely why you go there. In my professional writing, I try to use trite vocabulary like picturesque, magical, atmospheric, awe-inspiring, majestic (which I refer to as “Lonely Planet words”); well, let’s just say Lake Louise was all of the above and more. I could have been perfectly content for the duration of my stay staring at this:

A Summer Vacation in Banff and Lake Louise

You see that in the background, way up high? A GLACIER. It’s a bit bizarre to be sweating cobs, as the Brits might say, while donning a paper-thin sundress, when a massive 10-ton block of ice hovers above you not far in the distance. We spent our sole day in Lake Louise doing what many travelers who came before us did, as well, by soaking up an array of outdoor activities. We kayaked the length of the lake (um, note to sole kayak rental place: $50+ for an hour’s rental is a BIT excessive):

A Summer Vacation in Banff and Lake Louise

 

Then, we went on a bit of a wildlife safari/hike around the perimeter hoping to spot a moose, or a long-horned sheep at the very least. Instead, we saw this:

A Summer Vacation in Banff and Lake Louise

 

It looked like a beaver, only bigger and meaner. I screamed and looked for a place to run. Alas, there was nowhere to go. So I jumped on a rock instead, until it glared me down, shrugged and waddled off into the brush. Initially, I feared it might be a ROUS (Rodent of Unusual Size, and if you don’t know the source of that movie, shame on you!); instead, it turned out to be merely a particularly rotund marmot.

A Summer Vacation in Banff and Lake Louise

 

Many people who travel to the area come to check the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise off their life list. Evan and I stayed there a night. While I won’t say it was the best hotel I’ve ever stayed in—yes, it is a tad overpriced and I’ve visited plenty of California properties that are much nicer in terms of actual accommodation—simply put, you’re paying for the view (it’s the only hotel with its butt literally TOUCHING THE LAKE) and the experience of it all (the place should be its own municipality). Don’t believe me? Here’s the sunrise from our suite window:

A Summer Vacation in Banff and Lake Louise

 

I can’t even tell you how many restaurants the Chateau has or people it houses (bad, bad travel writer!), but I will say this, I had to revisit the front desk often for a map or directions to somewhere or the other, directions which were doled out like so: “Take the third left after the harpist, travel down the corridor, you’ll find yourself in the west wing alongside a grand piano, then take the elevator up five floors.” Needless to elaborate, the place is MASSIVE.

A Summer Vacation in Banff and Lake Louise

It happened to be Evan’s birthday the night we stayed there, so we got all gussied up and found ourselves indulging in $100 worth of fondue (and probably around the same in overpriced fancy cocktails) at the hotel’s Walliser Stube restaurant with new pal, Killian, who plays babysitter tour guide for large groups of 80-year-old Kiwis and Aussies who come over for three-week tours throughout BC and Alberta. Not a bad way to ring in your quarter-century celebration, eh?

A Summer Vacation in Banff and Lake Louise

Alas, in there mere 24 hours we spent at the lake, our dream of seeing a “bear jam” (in which a grizzly serves as a roadblock) or spotting elk just outside our window was never realized, but I’d say I left Canada fulfilled and with even more of an incentive to return, very soon.

A Summer Vacation in Banff and Lake Louise

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COMMENTS
  • February 2, 2009

    Wow, absolutely gorgeous and definetly looks like a place I would love to go to now, well maybe not now, but in a few months. However, it also sounds like I might not be able to take fully advantage of it cause I would be worried about my finances the whole time.

  • February 2, 2009

    The Rockies take my breath away every time I go there. These photos are AMAZING.

  • February 2, 2009
    ali

    except next time, it will be more east coast…like, say, toronto-ish. heh.

    ps. have lived in canada for almost 12 years and have yet to make it to banff. am jealous. i’ve heard (and seen) that it’s amazing!

  • February 2, 2009

    I worked at Lake Powell’s resort in Arizona over the summer. Same deal – you’re paying for the view when you stay there. And the amenities. The resort itself was like Motel 6.

    I guess I forgot about our giant northern neighbor. I had no idea water could be that aqua in Canada. Then again it is just a reflection of the sky..

    • February 11, 2011
      Jean-Bruno

      Actually, for having worked in lake louise for quite some time (best place in the universe if you enjoy the outdoors), the coloration of the water is actually due to a mineral washed down from the glaciers into the water. when you stand beside the lake, you notice that the water is actually not as clear as you would expect it to be. It looks kind of like if blue-ish sand had been lifted from the bottom.

      Regards

      Jean-Bruno

  • February 2, 2009

    I loved Banff! The little town is SO cute, and the Grand something resort in Banff is AMAZING. I always wanted to take a romantic trip there.

  • February 2, 2009

    I’m so glad you had a lovely time in our little (big) country! Next time come to Vancouver, and you’ll fall in love for so many other reasons, I promise!

  • February 2, 2009
    k

    love it! i that is so going to be my next long roadtrip!

  • February 2, 2009

    Gorgeous pictures! Banff is definitely on my list of must-visit locales. (And as nice as it looks in winter, I would totally want to go in the summer like you did – that water is RIDICULOUSLY blue!)

  • February 2, 2009

    I swear, some of those photos are so amazing I almost can’t believe they weren’t Photoshopped.

  • February 2, 2009

    Everywhere I look, people are blogging about their mountain adventures and mine was canceled at the last minute. It is a cruel, cruel world.

    BUT Lake Louise is breath-taking. Thanks for sharing.

  • February 2, 2009

    Only you can pull of a tube dress whilst in a canoe. Seriously. I need to rethink my wardrobe. It looks gorgeous there! I need to get to Canada.

  • February 3, 2009

    Your pictures are gorgeous and if the color of the water was hard to capture in that video than I can’t even believe how beautiful it must have been in person.

  • February 3, 2009

    Gorgeous pictures, but where are the shots of your feet? 😉 I keeed, I keeeed!

  • February 4, 2009

    Is it bad that I have absolutely no desire to visit Canada? Well, I didn’t until I saw your photos. I tend to think of Canada in terms of snow and ice and well, more snow, and as I’m more of a summer girl, those thoughts have kept me away. It looks absolutely beautiful, though! And I also have to add that I love your dress in the last shot. Gorgeous color on you!

  • February 4, 2009

    Holly’s posts made it look like an awesome place! But these photos, in the summer with NO SNOW, make me want to book a trip right now!

  • February 5, 2009

    Umm…..you have THE. BEST. JOB. EVER!!!! I am so jealous. These pictures look surreal.

  • February 6, 2009

    I lived in Calgary for 15 years and spent summers meandering Lake Louise – and winters riding the mountain, and these pictures bring the memories flooding back – they’re really spectacular. Thanks for sharing.

  • February 6, 2009

    Oooo, I’m a Holly and I LIVE HERE (There)….weird hey?

    It’s gorgeos….but the 8 month winter gets a little tedious.

  • April 26, 2011
    CS

    I have planned a trip there for quite some time. Amazing photos. I’m not really into the whole party vacation crowd. I like to relax and take in the scenery on my trips. I’ve been planning a trip here since 2005, but haven’t had the chance to go yet. I hope to get there by 2012.

    Are there any places outside the hotel that let you sit down and take in the view? Like benches or whatever?

    • April 26, 2011
      Kristin

      You know, we were only in Lake Louise for two days so I actually didn’t venture off the property! But we did take a long stroll around the lake and were the only people there–there were a lot of rocks and places (on the ground) along the shoreline where you could sit and be peaceful!

      You should also try to make it to Banff if you have the time. It’s about an hour away, and buses travel between the two areas regularly. Such a gorgeous place for wildlife and scenery.

      • April 27, 2011
        CS

        What month did you go and what was the weather like? Do you remember? I want to go when it is cool, but not quite cold yet. Some time when the weather is in the mid 60’s.

        • April 27, 2011
          Kristin

          I was there in July. It was PERFECT. Probably 70s the whole time, sunny, blue skies. I imagine end of August/early September would be about when you’re looking for.

          • April 27, 2011
            CS

            Thanks for the responses. From your pictures, it looked like you were the only one out there in the lake. Is it usually more crowded out there? From your short time there, how crowded was the overall area? Every picture I ever see of Lake Louise looks nice and calm, but people have told me before it can get pretty crowded, so I have no idea what to expect.

  • July 7, 2011
    Rube

    I spent a week in Lake Louise, Jasper, and Banff and your pictures remind me that it was the best trip of my life, and literally, the most breathtaking scenery I’ve ever experienced. However, you say there isn’t much to do in Lake Louise and I have to disagree a bit. If you love the outdoors, look no further. My husband and I hiked to 9,000 feet to “the Beehive” and the trail starts right at the Chateau. We hiked the “Plain of 6 Glaciers” trail, and we were novice hikers- right up to the glacier. We white-water rafted the Kicking Horse river in wetsuits. We took a 10 min. drive to next-door Moraine Lake Lodge which is smaller but just as gorgeous as Lake Louise (the Moraine Lake Lodge sits right beside the lake and is much less expensive but same views), and canoed the lake and hiked the perimeter. Then we hit the Columbia Icefields Parkway and drove up to Jasper (maybe a 3 hour drive is all) and stopped all along the way at places like Peyto Lake and Bow Lake, which are just as gorgeous, and saw moose, and mountain goats, and yes, bears! Not to mention the best scenic drive pit stops you’ll ever come across. So you just have to venture out a bit away from the hotel and look around the area- there is SO much to do if you explore a bit.

  • March 6, 2013

    Wow, those are stunning photos! Although I’m Canadian, I have yet to visit Lake Louise…it’s high on my list though. I’m glad the marmot turned out to be friendly!

  • April 21, 2013
    Carine

    Hi, I am just discovering your blog and loved your comment about Alberta. Well you see, I am from Montreal but now live in Calgary. We are really priviledged to live only 1 hour away so really Banff and Lake Louise are basically in our backyard. If you are ever back in the neighborhood, please let me know. Looking forward discovering the new places you will be going to. And thanks for all the great tips about the photography gear you carry around when travelling…loved the pictures of the sea creatures….keep up the great work. Carine

  • March 27, 2017

    This looks absolutely stunning! I really thought BC had the market cornered on gorgeous Canadian scenery, but it looks like Banff needs to go on my list 😀

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