My amazement with Pukaskwa and Grasslands National Parks was due in part to my complete lack of expectations. I didn’t know what to anticipate so that allowed me to be pleasantly surprised. On the other hand, since I’ve visited a few other mountain ranges, and had seen many pictures of Banff on Instagram…I had expectations. Expectations that initially led to disappointment.
I was already not keen on Calgary and after a weekend in the gym and living in the cookie cutter neighborhood, I was ready to get into the mountains. But as I drove along Trans Canada Highway and the Rockies came into view—the first thing that came to mind was: I need to get back to Germany. I immediately missed the Alps and the many quaint and charming villages that complete the appeal of the snow covered peaks and clear blue lakes. I’d wanted to be blown away by the Rockies, to experience love at first sight, and an immediate desire to relocate. That failed to happen.
To add insult to injury, the town of Banff is a total tourist trap. I’d like comment on its appeal, but it was lost amongst the sea of tourists who seem to move around like they were on a movie set.
I fought the urge to run back to my car to escape and instead made it to the information center, where multiple lines awaited those seeking information. After a short wait, one of the well informed rangers gave me some recommendations on which hikes to tackle and which hikes I actually couldn’t do because I was alone. Due to the bear activities, some hikes required a minimum of four people and bear spray to undertake.
My First Hike in the Rockies: Bourgeau Lake
I exhaled deeply once I was the town of Banff was in my rear view mirror and I was on my way to the start of my first hike. The trail head for Bourgeau Lake is off of Trans Canada Highway. You have to watch for signs so you don’t miss the turn. The parking lot isn’t large, but it wasn’t an issue to find a spot to park.
I traded my sandals for hiking boots and after entering the fenced in area, which made me feel like I was entering Jurassic Park, but is designed to keep the bears off the road, I was off on my hike. It was a slow start on a wide trail in the woods that eventually narrowed and got a little steeper. I passed a waterfall and began to have some views of the surrounding mountains. I felt the calm and joy of being in the mountains trickle through all my other thoughts and concerns.
I reached a small meadow area that led to the Bourgeau Lake where I climbed some of the boulders to enjoy the view and a cliff bar.
I was content and at peace once more surrounded by the beauty of the mountains.
Bourgeau Lake / Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada
Length: 7.2 km one way
Elevation gain: 725 m
Trailhead: Trans-Canada Highway, 13 km west of Town of Banff
Hiking time: 6 hour round trip (Took me 4 hours)