Travel Diary » Photos from a road trip to Banff
A few weeks ago we had exciting visitors from Australia - my mum and her partner. The kids were very excited to have Nanna visit. We took them snowshoeing and on gondola rides. We explored the mountain, went on a sleigh ride and took Nanna to school. Hayley even managed to convince everyone to have a hot tub and then roll in the snow in their swimmers.
(Sadly I didn't have the camera handy right then - we'll just have to remember the look on Nanna's face when she sat in the snow in wet swimmers!)
Banff is 7 hours drive from Big White. Our plan was simple. Drive to Revelstoke the first day, stay overnight and then onto Banff on the second day. We would stop at what ever took our fancy and come back after a day or two, depending on the weather. With six of us squeezing in the car we packed light.
Well as light as you can ever pack for a family road trip where you might encounter anything from sunshine, rain or snow.
The kids alternated between telling jokes and playing on iPads while our guests snapped photos out of the window of the moving car. The fields were just starting to turn green and a few of the lakes were still frozen over. Being so snowy and cold there wasn't a lot of wildlife to spot but we did see a coyote, a few deer and some elk.
Revelstoke township wasn't as pretty as we were expecting. It felt more like a 'workers' town than a ski resort. But the scenery near Revelstoke was lovely. I can just imagine Revelstoke in summer would be gorgeous. In spring with grey clouds shrouding the mountains, rain pouring down and half melted snow banks covering the sidewalks ... not so much!
It was after Revelstoke that the drive started to become spectacular. The road takes you across Rogers Pass and Glacier National Park to Golden and the start of the Rocky Mountains.
Rogers Pass has a reputation for being one of the more dangerous roads in North America. It's a narrow valley between steep mountains that receives, on average, 10m of snow each year. All of that makes it very prone to avalanches taking out the road. Thankfully the weather was clear, leaving us with easy roads and spectacular views of the ludicrously steep mountains. We played "Spot the avalanche path" and "Which extreme mountain would we ski?".
My answer was none! The mountains through this pass are steep!
Halfway through the pass we stopped at the Rogers Pass Discovery Centre. The centre provides information on the local wildlife, Glacier National Park and the history of the pass. There were taxidermy animals, scale models of the pass, a couple of hands on activities and videos. It was small but interesting. With the national park walks shut until the snow melts, the discovery centre is one of the only places to stop between Revelstoke and Golden during winter - well unless you have cross country skis or a snow mobile. So it was a good way to break up the trip.
After driving through mountains for two hours we came out of the pass ... only to realise the mountains in the pass were nothing compared to the mountains up ahead.
By now even I was shooting pictures out of the window of the moving car!
We pulled into Lake Louise. It was probably very Australian of us but we were anticipating Lake Louise to be ice-free. Logically we knew it would be frozen over like all the other nearby lakes but every photo we've ever seen of the lake showed it in it's bright blue glacial glory. Of course iit was frozen over. And topped with 2m of snow.
There were paths to make walking on the lake easier, people out cross country skiing, an ice sculpture of a castle and an ice skating rink (now shut, I guess the ice is starting to melt!).
We spent the night in Banff, wandering the town and making plans for the next day. A few of the places we had hoped to visit were still shut - one thing we realised on the trip is a lot of the natural attractions shut for winter (which makes perfect sense) but their website's don't say this. It isn't until you get there or talk to a local (or have a better knowledge of Canadian winter's than we do!) that you find out places are shut. I can't count the number of times we had this happen on the trip.
Even with things shut for winter there was still a lot to do in Banff beside ski. We decided we were going to take the gondola ride to the top of the mountain and drive up to the Icefields - which were shut but we were hoping the view from the carpark was worth the detour - via some older roads that would offer a different view to the highway.
We woke to heavy snow falling, low clouds and more snow predicted. There was no point taking a gondola ride to see the inside of clouds or any of our other sight seeing plans. With a full day of snow forecasted there wasn't a lot to do so we decided to drive home. On the way we stopped to see wolves at the Northern Lights Wolf Centre. It's a small centre and not quite what I was expecting but the talk that they provided was fascinating. Even the kids were transfixed.
Oh we also stopped at a roadside diner with a 50s theme and Elvis memorabilia ... what's a North American road trip without an Elvis diner!
This post is part of Friday Postcards at Walkingontravels.com