This morning, we were due to travel from Lake Louise in Banff National Park and cross briefly into Yoho National Park before we settle down for the night at Banff. The 2-night stay at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise proved to be rejuvenating and invigorating because we were now well rested enough to hit the roads again.
Lake Louise Village
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Our Brewster coach picked us up promptly at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, and we were soon on our way to Yoho National Park.
But before that, we were given a glimpse of the Lake Louise village downhill from the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. It looks like a pretty simple and small place, but if you want some food and lodgings, it is definitely available, although we would still very much prefer to fork out some money and pay for a once-in-a-lifetime experience at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise.
From Banff National Park to Yoho National Park
Yoho National Park is flanked by the Kootenay National Park on the southern side and by the Banff National Park on the eastern end. It was therefore relatively easy for us to cross over to Yoho National Park from Lake Louise.
Unlike Jasper National Park and Banff National Park, Yoho National Park was a lot smaller in size. Yoho is a Cree word for awe and is especially befitting of this National Park with many amazing sights.
Enjoying the nice views from the Brewster coach.
Spiral Tunnels at Kicking Horse Pass
The first attraction in Yoho National Park was the Spiral Tunnel.
Spot the tunnel in this photo!
Here’s a zoomed in view of the tunnel. You won’t get to appreciate the name of this tunnel unless you are so fortunate to have a train approach and go through this tunnel. As trains snake their way up the Kicking Horse Pass, they circle deep into the mountains on both sides of this valley. The two giant underground loops they follow are the Spiral Tunnels.
You’ll get a better idea with this. Because each tunnel makes a complete spiralling turn, trains actually cross over themselves, i.e. you may see a train emerge from the upper portal while 15m below it, the last cars are still entering the portal!
The 3-D model of the Spiral Tunnels can explain this so much better….
The most interesting feature on the way to the Emerald Lake is the Natural Bridge.
The Natural Bridge is one of the most beautiful places in the Yoho National Park and is not to be missed! At the Natural Bridge, a ridge of limestone extends across the Kicking Horse River, and due to the erosive powers of the river, created a channel that funnels the full force of the river. But a natural span of limestone remains above the channel and allows visitors to cross over to the opposite shore.
Can you imagine that the Natural Bridge used to be a waterfall? Today, except during high tide, the water flows beneath the top of the former waterfall, leaving it suspended as a bridge. Over time, the passage will deepen and eventually, even the bridge will collapse, leaving a gorge.
Downstream of the Kicking Horse River as seen from the bridge is equally beautiful.
The final point of interest for us at the Yoho National Park was Emerald Lake, which was north from the Natural Bridge, about 6.5km away.
When we visited, the Emerald Lake was still partially frozen over, although it was in a much more advanced state of de-freeze as compared to Lake Louise.
The Emerald Lake’s emerald colour is the result of silt-laden waters pouring into it from glaciers above. The fine glacial rock flour remains suspended in the waters and reflects green and blue when sunlight hits the water.
You can still see one of the retreating glaciers just next to the banks of Emerald Lake.
The Emerald Lake is much smaller than Lake Louise, but there are also hiking trails (about 5km) around the lake which offers a whole new perspective of the lake and the rugged mountains beyond. We of course, did not have time to embark on any of those trails because this was only a photo-stop for us, unlike Lake Louise where we got to stay for 2 nights at the exclusive Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise.
That was where we came from – our Brewster coach still waiting for us at the carpark.
If you are keen, and we highly recommend as well, book a place at one of the lodges overseeing the Emerald Lake. They are of course not as high-end and comfortable as the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, but most of them are just next to the river banks and would give you exclusive views.
This was my favourite viewpoint of Emerald Lake. I could put a chair and sit here all day to read a book. Very exclusive as well because hardly anyone passes by.
Just as at Lake Louise, canoeing is available at the Emerald Lake if you are game for it.
Quaint, isn’t it? I wouldn’t mind staying here for a few nights.
Just next to the carpark, on the banks of the Emerald Lake is a small little souvenir shop, probably the only one in the area.
They sell all sorts of things, but mostly things that you really cannot find anywhere else. Highly recommended to pick up one or two items here as a keepsake before you leave Emerald Lake.
Let’s Move on to Banff
Our last stop in the Canadian Rockies was the mountainous town of Banff – which was pretty sad because it meant we were nearing the end of the vacation.
Look out of the coach and you may just see some wildlife – in the case, it was a herd of elks on the mudflats. No chance of a bear sighting after our one and only encounter at Jasper National Park.
See these man-made bridges? They exist at a few points along the highway. To mitigate the impact of human development on the ecosystems of the natural parks within the Canadian Rockies, these eco-bridges were built to facilitate the crossing of animals between the two sides of the national park which would otherwise be divided by the highway and could spell trouble if there was insufficient genetic mixing of the wild animals as a result of an arbitrary divide. CCTV footages have in fact, shown that animals do use these crossings!
In fact, Singapore took this lesson and built our own version of eco-bridge near Bukit Timah Nature Reserve!
Spotted an Osprey nest on the top of a bridge as we were driving along! Do you see it?
So our driver stopped for us to take a few shots….See the bird in the nest?
The area that we stopped at happened to be immensely scenic as well…
Continuing on our way towards Banff…
At some points, I felt that heaven was just straight ahead…
As we traveled towards the town of Banff, the Brewster coach made some more photo stops for us to stretch those legs and take some scenic shots of the Yoho Valley.
Ever appreciative of these signposts which tells us exactly which mountains we were looking at.
If you are lucky, you can spot some wildlife in action as well….
Join us next as we check in our hotel @ Banff.