I often travel solo and am usually I’m well-prepared, but this road trip to Banff National Park and Yoho National Park was another story! I was mainly concerned with making sure I had winter tires on my car and how much snow would be on Rogers Pass, so I didn’t pay as much attention to the fine details of my trip like when access to some locations closed for the winter season.
I mapped out all of the Instagram-worthy points of interest that I wanted to visit such as Emerald Lake and the Natural Bridge near Field, BC and Lake Louise, Alberta. I even made a Google map to make sure it was all within driving distance for each day—pretty cool, hey? But just you wait… Here are my lessons learned…
Lesson 1: Camera Memory Cards
Make sure ALLLL your cameras have memory cards in them. Yes. I didn’t do this and had to buy an overpriced card in Banff that I barely used. Yes, that’s right. I discovered that my Sony a7 is my new favourite camera and used it the majority of the time. It will be “the” camera for me for a very long time—at least I have an extra memory card now! Just need to start collecting lenses. Let me know in the comments below what your favourite lenses are!
Lesson 2: Dress Warm
Banff Gondola…definitely a MUST but prepare ahead of time. If you think you’re dressed warm enough…you’re not. I was in my heaviest, longest winter coat for -60,000°C, fuzziest scarf, and winter boots with heavy-duty tread, but if I had nuts they would have frozen off. And I was there in the fall…winter is coming. Brrr… Remember you’re at the top of Sulphur Mountain and the Canadian Rockies and it’s very windy—it will go through any sweater or yoga pants you have on… dress warm!
Lesson 3: Hair Style or Hat?
Don’t spend all that time doing your hair all fancy for Instagram if you’re just going to cram it under a toque. Stepping out onto the deck after riding up the Banff Gondola…the wind will flatten ANY hairstyle and swirl it around to look like you were in a tornado. If that’s the style you’re going for, you’ll be all set.
Lesson 4: Go Early
Go early and beat the tour buses. ‘Nuf said.
Lesson 5: Discover New Places
When all else fails…follow a tour bus. Yes, this contradicts my previous lesson for a good reason. I decided to follow a tour bus on this trip when I was curious why they turned onto a random road and was rewarded with a view of gorgeous waterfalls!
Lesson 6: Plan Ahead to Make Sure Roads are Open
It’s great to plan ahead but also make sure that the places you want to visit are open in the off-season. Moraine Lake Road, many rest stops, and other remote Instagram-worthy locations closed for access after the Canadian Thanksgiving Weekend. I will need to plan another trip in the spring or summer.
Lesson 7: Double-check Accommodations Before Booking
A good deal on a hotel isn’t always a good deal. Note to self: strange noises in the night are NOT mice in my suite…go back to sleep. It turned out my mini-fridge had a mind of its own and made the same noises in the daylight. I won’t complain…much…I did enjoy the gas fireplace both nights.
All that said, I had a fun time exploring my own backyard—2 days is not enough—and will go back to these national parks, plus Jasper National Park, again in the spring or summertime for a completely different snow-free, boot-free, and winter coat-free experience! I highly recommend more than one visit. Have you been?