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Kootenay National Park + Banff National Park

TravelWhitney CarlsonComment
Hiking in Kootenay National Park & Banff National Park, Canada

I know this is almost a year late but it's my goal to get all of our hiking trip recaps up on the website. I'm about three years behind but I was smart enough, if I do say so myself, to type up the highlights of our last trip as we were there. If you follow us on social media (mainly Instagram or Facebook) you might remember that we went to Canada and Montana on a hiking trip in September 2016.

This trip was a little different than our others, we went out of the United States for the first time since we went to Jamaica back in 2011. However, (sadly) they never stamped our passports at the Canadian border so did we really go or not?!

We visited three national parks on this trip. Kootenay National Park and Banff National Park in Canada and Glacier National Park in Montana. This was our second time in Glacier National Park. You can read about our first trip here. We hiked over 105 miles, gaining over 27,300 feet in elevation.

The trip didn’t start off on a great foot. As soon as we got to the Atlanta airport to fly out Scott received an email from Airbnb that our condo for that night (plus the next two nights) was canceled by the host. Yes, our place to stay THAT night was canceled. We were about to be on a plane for six hours so we had to quickly figure out where we were going to stay and figure it out very quickly. The alternate places Airbnb sent us were not even close to what we needed as they would have been an additional two-hour drive and nowhere near where we needed to be for our hikes, not to mention way out of our price range! With it being Labor Day weekend and the DAY OF, our options were limited. Scott was finally able to find another condo and the nice homeowner accommodated us last minute. It was a lot more expensive (which Airbnb did cover) and also about 30 minutes longer each day to the park. Although this wasn’t ideal, we didn’t really have any other choice. Once this was settled we had about two minutes before boarding our plane, talk about cutting it close!

We flew into Kalispell, MT and drove four hours up to Panorama Mountain Resort in British Columbia, Canada. We arrived at the condo around 2 AM and had plans to hike with two others at 7 AM (which meant we had to wake up at 6 AM). So only had a few hours of sleep before we had to wake up to hike. The next morning we woke up and grabbed something to eat from Tim Horton’s (seems to be pretty big in CA!) and headed to the trailhead. We passed the trailhead and ended up being 30 minutes late but thankfully the other hikers waited on us!


Kootenay National Park in British Columbia, Canada

Day 1 (Sunday 9/4)

Hiking the Kindersley-Sinclair Loop in Kootenay National Park, Canada

Hiking the Kindersley-Sinclair Loop in Kootenay National Park, Canada

Hiking in Kootenay National Park, Canada

Hiking in Kootenay National Park, Canada

Our first hike was Kindersley/Sinclair Loop in Kootenay National Park. There were grizzly bear restrictions in place which meant that you had to hike in groups of 4. We knew this ahead of time so I naturally went to Facebook to see if there was a group for hiking in Alberta and/or the national parks there. I belong to quite a few hiking groups on Facebook so I knew that had to be one and there was! We posted that we were looking to do this loop and needed two others to join us. A local girl was able to get a friend to come with her so we were able to have a “legal” group of four, plus an awesome adventure dog named Maddie!

Hiking the Kindersley-Sinclair Loop in Kootenay National Park, Canada

Hiking the Kindersley-Sinclair Loop in Kootenay National Park, Canada

Hiking the Kindersley-Sinclair Loop in Kootenay National Park, Canada

Hiking the Kindersley-Sinclair Loop in Kootenay National Park, Canada

This was a beautiful 12.6-mile loop in which you hike through the forest (with beautiful views along the way), up to the pass and back down to loop around. This was really hard for me. I think it was a combination of no sleep, no food, and no water. It definitely wasn’t the hardest hike we have done (stat wise) but I just had no energy. I didn’t drink much water the day before because we were at the airport/on a plane all day and we didn’t really eat much for the same reasons. We did get food during our layover but it was gross so I didn’t eat much of it. Anyway, about a ¼ of the way up the trail I stopped so that I could eat some granola and other food I had. Once that was in my system I was feeling a little better. However, a few miles further I knew something was wrong with my right heel. I stopped to take off my boot and realized I had a blister the size of a quarter that had already opened (!!) on my heel. I had to tend to that and then we started hiking again. This blister hurt like hell but we continued on!

Once we got up to the pass it was very cold and windy so we didn’t spend much time on top. We continued down the trail to head back to our car. It was on this part of the hike that I slipped on a rock and literally busted my butt. I have NEVER hit something so hard in my life. I’m sure I would have broken my arm if I would have reached out to brace myself, I’m not sure why I didn’t but I’m glad I didn’t! I had a bruise bigger than a grapefruit on my left butt cheek. ;-) It stayed there in some form for a good month or so! Anyway, it wasn’t that big of a deal because it hit higher than where I sit so the bruise actually made me have really good posture. It only hurt if I leaned back on a counter or something and it put pressure on it.

The hike was gorgeous and it was even more enjoyable with the company we had! The two girls we hiked with were awesome. I wish we lived closer to huge mountains where I could trail run and explore more. We are lucky to live a few hours away but I would prefer to be a few minutes away. I loved the fact that these girls talked about how they fuel their bodies by EATING. As in eating over 2,000 calories a day but also pay attention to labels instead of calorie counts. One had even previously struggled with anorexia. I’m going to see if I can get her to do a post or maybe even come on the podcast to talk about her story.

When I was changing my shoes after the hike I discovered that my blister had bled through my sock and into my boot! After our hike, we ate dinner and stopped by the grocery store to stock up so we wouldn’t be lacking any energy!

After hiking and lunch Scott played golf at Graywolf Golf Course in Panorama Mountain Resort, BC, Canada. I went along and walked (yes, even more walking!) some of the course. The course was absolutely gorgeous.

Greywolf Golf Course in Panorama Mountain Resort, BC, Canada

Greywolf Golf Course in Panorama Mountain Resort, BC, Canada

Greywolf Golf Course in Panorama Mountain Resort, BC, Canada

Greywolf Golf Course in Panorama Mountain Resort, BC, Canada


Day 2 (Monday 9/5)

Hiking Lake of the Hanging Glacier in Canada

Hiking Lake of the Hanging Glacier in Canada

After resting up we decided to do Lake of the Hanging Glacier the next day. We almost skipped it because it was much further away from the new condo instead of the one we originally booked. We decided to go ahead and make the extra drive since we really didn’t have anything else planned for the day. Scott loaded the address into his phone and we went on our way. We knew the road was a forest service road but we ended up going down the wrong one for about 20 minutes (thanks Apple Maps!) which really put us about 40 minutes behind since we had to turn around! We thought about skipping the hike again at this point but the biker that we asked for directions told us that the hike and the valley was beautiful and worth exploring so on we went!

Hiking Lake of the Hanging Glacier in Canada

Hiking Lake of the Hanging Glacier in Canada

Hiking Lake of the Hanging Glacier in Canada

Hiking Lake of the Hanging Glacier in Canada

Hiking Lake of the Hanging Glacier in Canada

Hiking Lake of the Hanging Glacier in Canada

Hiking in Kootenay National Park, Canada

Hiking in Kootenay National Park, Canada

Beautiful and worth exploring was an understatement! This 11-mile hike was unbelievable in many ways. We had sun, rain, sleet, and snow all on this one hike. I took one of my all-time favorite pictures on this hike also. It was just gorgeous. The scenery was always changing and just indescribable. The hike followed a waterfall, crossing it many times, winded through the forest and meadows up to the glacier. Once we got back from the hike Scott grilled steaks and we had a Brussel sprouts mixture we bought from the store to go along with it.

This hike was actually not in a national park but definitely worthy of one!


Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada

Day 3 (Tuesday 9/6)

Hiking Johnston Canyon to Ink Pots in Banff National Park, Canada

Hiking Johnston Canyon to Ink Pots in Banff National Park, Canada

We planned to do a hike on the way from Kootenay to Banff but it was raining so we skipped the hike we originally planned and drove straight to Banff. Thankfully the condo let us check in early so we were able to get that out of the way while the weather was less than ideal. Our condo was in Canmore (Dead Mans Flats), about 30 minutes outside of the main hiking areas we wanted to visit.

After settling in for a while, we decided to do a short hike, Johnston Canyon, just to keep our legs fresh. We didn’t think we would be doing a very long hike so we just wore jeans and our rain jackets since it was still rainy. We did take our packs though, thankfully! The hike we planned was around 3.4 miles. However, once we hiked to the upper falls, Scott wanted to keep going to Ink Pots. This made the entire hike 7.3 miles. So much for a rest day! ;-) It was pretty easy though with just a moderate grade the entire way but definitely not comfortable in jeans! After the hike we made spaghetti at the condo.


Day 4 (Tuesday 9/7)

  • Lake Louise to Lake Agnes Tea House, Upper Beehive, Highline Trail to Plain of Six Glaciers Tea House, back down to Lake Louise
  • Banff National Park
  • 11.5 miles
Hiking in Banff National Park, Canada - Lake Louise

Hiking in Banff National Park, Canada - Lake Louise

Hiking in Banff National Park, Canada - Lake Louise

Hiking in Banff National Park, Canada - Lake Louise

We got up super early to beat the crowd to Lake Louise (and start our 11.5-mile hike) but it was very foggy. We ended up waiting in our car for a few minutes before we got out to hike. The first part of the trek was to Lake Agnes Tea House. This was one of the most amazing things we experienced! On the trail up to the Tea House, we saw the helicopter land to bring supplies. Once we actually made it to the tea house we saw another helicopter land right in front of us! We literally forgot to grab our cash so we couldn't buy anything at the tea house but the experience was amazing.

Lake Agnes Tea House in Banff National Park, Canada

Lake Agnes Tea House in Banff National Park, Canada

After watching the copters land, we made our way to the Upper Beehive where the fog was coming and going. It was a very pretty way to see down below but we didn't stay very long since the view kept fogging over. We left the Upper Beehive and made our way down the Highline Trail to the Plain of Six Glaciers Tea House. Again, another amazing experience. This Tea House was much more crowded than the other but we were able to get a table and bought biscuits and tea (since they took cards!). We looped back down to the start of the hike, Lake Louise, and left quickly after finishing since it was so crowded!

Hiking Lake Louise to Lake Agnes Tea House, Upper Beehive, Highline Trail to Plain of Six Glaciers Tea House in Canada

Hiking Lake Louise to Lake Agnes Tea House, Upper Beehive, Highline Trail to Plain of Six Glaciers Tea House in Canada

Plain of Six Glaciers Tea House in Banff National Park, Canada

Plain of Six Glaciers Tea House in Banff National Park, Canada

Hiking Tunnel Mountain in Banff National Park, Canada

Hiking Tunnel Mountain in Banff National Park, Canada

Hiking Tunnel Mountain in Banff National Park, Canada

Hiking Tunnel Mountain in Banff National Park, Canada

Call us crazy, I don't know what comes over us sometimes! I guess we didn't think the 11.5-mile hike earlier in the day was enough so we climbed Tunnel Mountain (2.2 miles) in the city of Banff. It was really pretty and a short and cool hike so I'm glad we did it! It was definitely a different perspective but we've come to appreciate city hikes like this one.


Day 5 (Thursday 9/8)

  • No hiking/rest day

We woke up late and still really wanted to hike but it was raining (are you sensing a theme here?!). We literally ended u driving around for four hours. ;-) It's easy to do in a place as pretty as this one! During our driving, we tried to hike two different places but decided it just wasn't a good idea with the bad weather. After driving around we ended up going to Grizzly Paw Brewery for early dinner and headed back to the room to pack.


Hiking Moraine Lake/Larch Valley/Sentinel Pass in Banff National Park, Canada

Hiking Moraine Lake/Larch Valley/Sentinel Pass in Banff National Park, Canada

We woke up early again for a Moraine Lake hike. These popular lakes are very crowded so it's always best to arrive early (as you will read in our Top 5 Tips for Visting National Parks). Just like our first hike, the Kindersley/Sinclair Loop in Kootenay National Park, this hike also had restricted access because of bear activity. You had to hike in groups of four. Almost didn’t find anyone to hike with but as we were about to turn around we saw another couple that looked like they wanted to hike. Turns out, they were also looking for two more people to hike with! As with the first hike, we couldn't have met better people! They were great company on the trail and just a pleasure to hike with! This trail climbed through the forest and then opened up into this beautiful valley, called the Valley of Ten Peaks. After passing through the valley we hiked up to Sentinel Pass. The couple we met on this trail was from Seattle and we are actually going to see them this year when we go to Oregon/Washington!

Hiking Moraine Lake/Larch Valley/Sentinel Pass in Banff National Park, Canada

Hiking Moraine Lake/Larch Valley/Sentinel Pass in Banff National Park, Canada

Hiking Moraine Lake/Larch Valley/Sentinel Pass in Banff National Park, Canada

Hiking Moraine Lake/Larch Valley/Sentinel Pass in Banff National Park, Canada

Hiking Moraine Lake/Larch Valley/Sentinel Pass in Banff National Park, Canada

Hiking Moraine Lake/Larch Valley/Sentinel Pass in Banff National Park, Canada

After the hike, we ate at Rocky Mountain Flatbread again on the way to Montana! We drove through Canada to East Glacier, MT. Stay tuned for our recap of our second trip to Glacier! You can read our first one here.