We planned our anniversary trip to Banff very last minute. Like so last minute that I was a little shocked that everything worked out so well! But the timing of our decision did not take away any excitement for this gorgeous place!!
This day fell on a national holiday, and we had heard from several local people that there would be more traffic and people visiting the National Park that day. We had also heard from a man on the plane ride to Banff, our hotel manager, and our server at the restaurant from the night before that their favorite thing to do was visit Jasper. We had originally not planned on doing this as it would be a long day trip and we would miss a day in the Banff area. But since we had so many recommendations and we wanted to avoid a heavy traffic day, we made the trip! Best decision ever.
We slept in that morning, ate some breakfast, and started our beautiful scenic drive north towards Jasper. This drive was just unreal. I spotted a bald eagle and some elk near the road, winding streams, fluffy clouds, mountains in the distance, and not many other drivers on the road. So peaceful! Also the perfect setting for listening to our audiobook, White Fang! On our drives if we weren't talking or planning our next adventure, we were listening to this book. (I am now obsessed with Jack London and finished Call of the Wild, too!)
The scenic drive towards Jasper offered many incredible parking spots to take in the views. Every single lake or path or view point looked crazy beautiful! We could have stopped at every single one, but had planned to visit Peyto Lake, so enjoyed our viewpoints from the car as we drove. We arrived at Peyto Lake around 10 am with parking still available in the parking lot. Our hike to the lookout of the lake was paved and short, but straight uphill. There were hundreds of other tourists at the lookout point to see the bright blue water. Once I finally caught my breath from the climb and weaved through the crowd to get a look at the lake, I was speechless. The lake sits in a valley at the bottom of a mountain with glacier runoff forming the lake of crystal blue water. I was standing right there looking at it, but it still didn't feel real! I loved it and immediately decided it was my favorite lake, but it was a little chaotic, so we started hiking to get to a better view with hopefully less people.
A perfect recommendation for tips during travel was The Lonely Planet book. The author had told us that there was a "secret" trail up the mountain for a more intimate view of Peyto. We followed his instructions and indeed had the most beautiful and special view! It's hard to really describe the water and mountains, and pictures don't do it justice, but it is truly breathtaking. We met another family on the top of the mountain who actually lived nearby in Missouri, so had a good time visiting and swapping pictures for each other. As PERFECT as the view was, the mosquitos and biting flies were a little overwhelming, so should have packed some bug spray for this day.
I was reluctant to leave our special place, but we hiked the steep path back down the mountain and to our car. As we left the area, we saw hundreds of cars parked on the side of the road for a crowded hike to the lookout point. We were so happy that we had picked the *perfect* time to arrive and then head on to our next adventure!
We drove not far down the road to a tiny town called Field to eat our favorite meal of the week at Truffle Pigs! This town was the cutest! It sat right under a beautiful mountain and had small cottage homes that were all different colors with flower gardens filling the front yards. The population of the town is 100 and definitely had the most cozy and homey feel. Our server at the restaurant was the son of the owners and told us a little about the town. He said that it was his favorite place, and after traveling the world he decided that he never wanted to live anywhere else! On our next visit, we definitely want to stay in Field in one of the cottage houses for at least one night!!
After lunch, we went downstairs to the ice cream shop and each got a cup of ice cream to snack on as we walked around the city under the mountain. It was definitely the dreamiest moment of the trip! Reluctantly, we left our peaceful paradise town, and drove down the road in search of more adventures.
We arrived to Emerald Lake, another beautiful spot, but as it was already afternoon, the parking was insane, so we made a note to return on another morning! Not far away from here though, we got out to take some pictures at "Natural Bridge" with other tourists. It was beautiful to see the white rapids underneath a stone bridge, buuut I am a little too afraid of heights to truly enjoy walking across the bridge with a hundred other people and instead enjoyed the sites from the bank!
After this short stop we continued on back to Banff and sat by a stream in town for a moment enjoying a little rest, then ate in town at Banff Avenue and had the most amazing poutine!! This is something I had never had before, but fulfilled all my dreams for a perfect dish....crispy fries with fresh cheese smothered in gravy. I need more of it in my life.
We could have packed a little more into this day, but we wanted to go back to our hotel to get cleaned up and prepare for our next day which would be a very early morning at Moraine Lake. I really loved all the hiking and exploring we did each day! It was the reason we wanted to come to Banff and definitely loved all the views. BUT spending time with Nathan driving in the car and sitting on the couch together in the hotel are some of my favorite memories from our trip!