During our first visit to the Rockies we stumbled upon a secret gem in the form of Golden, BC. From here you get to see all the lakes and mountains with none of the crowds and a much better price. When researching this trip we kept looking at Banff and Canmore to base ourselves or maybe even over in Dead Mans Flatts and Calgary. All came with a high price tag to match to be in the prime area. Pictures of Banff and Canmore looked quaint and beautiful but the more I spoke with other travellers on forums, or friends who had visited each of them mentioned the crowds during summer. We visited at the end of June, which was classed as the start of peak season for most booking sites
When researching this trip we kept looking at Banff and Canmore to base ourselves or maybe even over in Dead Mans Flatts and Calgary. All came with a high price tag to match to be in the prime area. Pictures of Banff and Canmore looked quaint and beautiful but the more I spoke with other travellers on forums, or friends who had visited each of them mentioned the crowds during summer. We visited at the end of June, which was classed as the start of peak season for most booking sites.
So we based ourselves at Golden Acres Lodge, which was a self catering apartment within a large custom built log cabin just south of the town of Golden. It had a hot tub, sauna, amazing views and During our first visit to the Rockies we stumbled upon a secret gem in the form of Golden, BC. From here you get to see all the lakes and mountains with none of the crowds and a much better price. the most welcoming hosts. It was in the most ideal location for most places to see.
During our time in golden we had booked a via feratta climb just outside of banff and a hike to summer meadows with a guide. The rest of our time we just left to chance, but knew we wanted to see some of the famous lakes in this area.
When visiting these I'd still recommend trail shoes or walking boots due to the terrain of rocks, mud and uneven ground (even for the lakes and view points with easy access).
Here is Lake Louise and yes it is beautiful. This is one of those sites you see all over social media and on everyone's bucket list. It is close to Moraine Lake which is a little bit further down a turn off road from Lake Louise. When you arrive in the area you realise just how busy it can get. We were told to arrive early to avoid the crowds and allow for parking (which is limited). So me being eager, got up at 6am and we headed straight to Lake Louise hoping to either have our pre packed lunch somewhere further round the lake or possibly treat ourselves to lunch on our return from the walk in the famous Fairmont Chateau with an aim to head to Moraine lake following this.
Driving time 45 minutes to 1 hour from our accommodation, however we immediately got stuck in a queue even though we arrived before 7am. After 30 minutes of waiting in a long line of cars that had no sign of moving, we decided to pull out of the line and turn around. As much as I wanted to see this lake, this was a holiday and I wanted to be outside and moving or at least relaxing in comfort with a book. Our second attempt was an evening after we did our Via Feratta climb at Mt Norquay; yet still no luck. We finally managed to see Lake Louise and Moraine Lake on our 3rd attempt after giving in to the fact we would not be able to get there by car ourselves without a long wait.
When you are driving towards the Trans-Canada Highway 1 near the lakes you will see signs for the lakes park and ride. There is a small cost but during the summer months they use a fleet of school buses to pick up visitors from the car park. It's about 15 minutes away but minimises congestion.
We still had to wait in a bit of a queue on the bus, but my fella didn't need to worry about concentrating on the road (as he was the driver for this trip). These buses run all day from 8am till 7:45pm (last journey back) so you can jump back on a return when you are ready or go to Moriane lake and pick up the return from there.
I loved Moraine Lake, it was that little bit more dramatic in scenery than Lake Louise and a little bit quieter. The walk round the lake was nice and peaceful with the shape of the lake lending itself to have little natural bays or areas jutting out to view and sit by the lake. The walk is gentle and flat and suitable for all abilities. I'd definitely want to head back here if its possible on my next trip.
Emerald lake was a welcome surprise. After the experience on our first attempt to see the other lakes, we fully expected this place to be packed. It was busy but it wasn't crowded. We knew we wanted to do canoeing at some point on our trip as both myself and my fella used to work in outdoor education and love paddle sports. The weather changed almost immediately when we arrived at Emerald lake, the clouds darkened and it started to rain. But we headed out on the water and enjoyed kayaking. It turned out that the canoe hire here was cheaper than the other lakes too so I think we made the right decision (approx. $37 CAD an hour).
Radium Hot Springs - This lovely town is charming and home to quite a few hiking trails and the hot springs which have been built to make the most of the natural geothermal area. In 1840 the first visitor to these springs was recorded and before this indigenous people viewed this as a sacred area. We went for a day to relax when we cancelled our original guided hiking plans (about $10). You can also do a lot of rafting or paddling in the area.
The Worlds Largest Paddle - look out carefully for this one, its easy to miss.
The Town of Golden - Golden is a beautiful town with a lot of charm, friendly atmosphere and laid back bars and restaurants. (It reminded me of Blenheim, Marlborough in New Zealand). We didn't realise but we were staying there over Canada Day weekend so headed to the town to watch the celebrations. There was a vintage car show and competition, food trucks, market and live bands playing a concert on the main street as they closed it all off.
Sunshine Meadows Hike - This didn't go ahead. I am slightly gutted we didn't do this but we were both a little exhausted from everything else and went to the hot springs instead. We hope to do this on another trip and some of the other trails, or at least go up on the gondola to the village as its apparently very calm and quiet here.
Banff - The town is lovely but was just so busy constantly when we were visiting so we continued to avoid until the streets weren't busy with traffic and crowds.
To check out more options for day tours in the area Click Here.