Banff and Jasper National Parks are, without a doubt, one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. You know those places that you see on Instagram and then when you actually get to stand in front of it in real life it leaves you speechless and needing a good pinch for a reality check? That’s Alberta, Canada!
Some of my best memories (and content) came from our trip to Banff and Jasper so I want to take you through everywhere I have posted on Instagram from those two national parks since my visit so you know how to get there and where to go to get your best photos for Instagram.
This is a guide for getting your best snaps for Instagram, but of course I implore you to hike, explore and really enjoy your time here! We packed up picnics everyday and spent every waking hour roaming these parks. Get your shot by all means, but come prepared with appropriate footwear and snacks for hikes out in the wilderness!
If you aren’t feeling a crazy early morning, aim to be at the road leading up to the car park for about 6.45am – I’m not making any promises that the road will be open, but even at the busiest time we were in by then – the road should be open but chances are the car park will be full. The first time we went we were in the car park at 7am with no spaces and a lot of car circling, defeated we headed back down to find the road had been closed to cars trying to enter. Quick thinking led us to turning around to head back to the car park. If no one could get in but people were leaving we would eventually get a space! That’s exactly what happened, we got to the top, waited no more than five minutes and got a space. This worked for us at least six times at various lakes including Lake Louise.
Alternatively they offer a shuttle service.
Taking a canoe out on either Moraine Lake or Lake Louise has to be the most Instagrammable thing to do in Banff. It was seeing other people’s photos out on the lakes that made Banff go to the top of my destination wish list.
Unfortunately we didn’t have a whole lot of luck with the weather whilst we were there. We were there at the end of August and beginning of September which, on the plus side, meant everyone went back to school and the lakes became so quiet, but on the down side it meant the season changed pretty much over night and the temperature dropped drastically, bringing wind. The smallest gust over the lake means that the canoes won’t be going out and we had a lot of windy days so we only had one chance on each lake to get out on them, which of course was enough, but Moraine Lake was the last day so it was cutting it pretty fine.
If you are concerned about the canoes going out, they are ran by Moraine Lake Lodge, so check with them at reception, not the gift shop, they won’t know. The canoes can be rented for $110.25 CAD per hour, one hour is plenty of time to get out, take your shots, enjoy the view and row back.
View from above
When I was first trying to figure out where these kinds of shots were taken, from such a height looking down on the lake, I figured you had to take one of the hiking trails. I soon realised that there is a viewing platform set high up on the rocks right at the lake entrance. As you reach the lake, there is a pathway on the left, opposite the Moraine Lake souvenir shop. Take this path up as it curves around the back of the rocks and it will take you up to the top. Trust me there is a path, we saw so many people trying to clamber up the rocks, it’s not necessary, there is a very clear pathway up.
This is a beautiful spot to watch both sunrise and sunset so I suggest making more than one trip.
The lake isn’t the only direction worth taking photos of whilst you’re up there, just turn around and take in the sweeping mountains and thick forest. You won’t see many photos looking the other way, but it’s so worth it, the scenery is breathtaking, even if I’m standing in front of it…
Don’t fancy climbing, hiking or rowing? That’s ok, you can still get great photos from the water’s edge between the rocks on the left and the canoes to the right.
If you do fancy a little stroll along the water, the easiest hiking trail will take you along a flat trail that hugs the edge of the lake along the right hand side. It will take you to the end of the lake where there’s a small waterfall. Along this trail you will be gifted with some beautiful spots to take photos.
As I mentioned above, the canoes are entirely weather dependent, and the slightest gust of wind means they will be closed with very little notice.
The canoes are located round to the left of the lake, there is a large hut and a bunch of canoes out front, you can’t miss it. They are operated by the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise so hotel guests get priority and a discounted rate at $85 CAD per hour. Non hotel guests are charged at $125 CAD per hour.
For the best photos looking out across Lake Louise from land, you’ll want to stand right at the front of the lake as you enter from the car park.
You can walk around a little to your right where it will be a bit quieter too.
Sulphur mountain can be accessed by the Banff Gondola and the view is entirely worth the trip up there. From the top you’ll be able to see Bow Valley and a whopping total of six incredible mountain ranges, it is breathtaking. For the best view that doesn’t require too much effort in terms of walking, take the boardwalk up to Sanson’s Peak where along the way you can learn all about Canada’s first national park and the man who walked up to the top once a week for 30 years to check the weather, only stopping at the unbelievable age of 84!
Tickets for the gondola return journey cost $58 CAD per adult, $29 per child aged 6-15 and is free for children aged 5 and under.
The gondola ride itself will take just under 10 minutes. It’s enclosed but the windows do open if you are brave enough to stick your camera out.
The viewing platform is only about 10mins uphill from the carpark and it offers a big open area which is great for taking photos. It can get busy and there’s one rock that everyone is after so I suggest walking a little further by 15mins to get to more secluded spots up the mountain. There’s a hiking trail, so just follow it until you see a space open up where you can get a clear shot.
Parking is free but a lot more limited than Moraine or Louise, so I suggest getting there as early as possible. We arrived here just after sunrise so we stood a good chance of getting a spot. It was empty when we arrived but it was full within a couple of hours of us being there.
Canmore tree swing
The swing that will give you the wedgie to end all wedgies, but amazing shots of you gliding over the tree tops!
The footpath that takes you up to the swing is located on Ridge Road*. If you come from Canyon Rd off Elk Run Blvd you will want to drive about 100m past the children’s playground which will be on your left. See the screen shot from Google Maps below of what the path up looks like. Head up here and when you reach the top there will be an option to go left or right. You want to go right and keep walking through until you reach the swing amongst the trees. It will take you less than 10mins.
*This is a residential area so 1. Street parking is limited and 2. Respect the area. Go for a walk whilst you’re up there, enjoy the scenery, don’t just go to get the shot. Whilst you’re parking, be respectful of people’s driveways, and go slow because there may be children around.
We went a couple of hours before sunset and had to wait for a family to take their photos, but after that we had the swing to ourselves for about 40mins.
Take care on the swing, especially when pushing. I nearly lost Michael over the edge when an over-the-top push turned into a swan dive. Just watch your footing.
Lac Beauvert is a very quiet lake, tucked away within the trees. It isn’t as bright as Moraine, isn’t shaped like a wolf like Peyto, it doesn’t have a mountainous backdrop like Medicine Lake and it isn’t as popular as Lake Louise, but the water is so calm and clear that it looks like you could step out onto it and expect to be standing on glass.
We stopped here to have a picnic because it was so peaceful. You can trust that it is an area that isn’t overrun by people because within 10mins of being there were joined by a wild female Elk who strolled past us only a few metres away. Of course they’re huge and you don’t want to mess with them so we kept our distance, but it was amazing!
Honestly at first glance, we weren’t too impressed by Medicine Lake, once you’ve experienced first hand the bright turquoise waters of Moraine and Peyto, it’s a little tough to appreciate anything else. I encouraged Michael to stick around and we got some of my favourite photos here. The big grey mountains that are almost camouflaged against the sky create such a dramatic backdrop combined by the scattering of boulders in varying sizes. It was so quiet and peaceful compared to most of the other lakes we had been to.
Parking is along the road and free.
On a one day road trip from Lake Louise we headed out to Peyto Lake in Banff and on to Jasper to visit Lac Beauvert, Medicine Lake, Maligne Lake and Mount Robson. In that trip we crossed national parks, provinces and time zones! As it was such a long day we didn’t get a chance to go out and explore around Mount Robson, the day was getting on and we had to make the journey back, so we took a few photos and had dinner in Café Mt Robson.
There is a free carpark near the information centre.
Banff and Jasper are so beautiful it’s possible to pull up at any lake and get great photos. I have absolutely no idea which lake is in the photos below. We were on our way back from Peyto Lake and we pulled up to have a picnic, google maps didn’t know where we were so I can’t tell you, but there are beautiful lakes all over Banff and Jasper, so even if you don’t plan to go to every place in this blog post, you are sure to find a great shot somewhere.
Interested in reading more about Canada? Take a look at the following posts:
Do more on & for the planet, Gabriella