We had a plan. And we thought it was a great one (probably our first mistake!).
Knowing how crazy Moraine Lake parking can be, we thought we’d drive up, park & lock up a bike, then head 10km back down the road to the Paradise Valley trailhead, park, and hike in. We’d do the detour to have lunch at the giant steps waterfall, hike out the other side of that loop, head up and over the lofty 2600m Sentinel Pass for a fantastic snack, and wind up back where we’d planted our bike on the shores of beautiful Moraine Lake. Bill would then ride down to the car & bring it back up the road while I waited with Seamus and our packs. In theory, it was a sound plan… in reality, well… let’s just say we should have been prepared with a Plan B. And we should have never expected to pull this off on a weekend!
Let me back up a bit.
Paradise Valley is a spectacularly beautiful valley, running parallel to the majestic Valley of the Ten Peaks, sharing the slopes of imposing Mount Temple, Pinnacle Mountain and Eiffel Peak. It has a beautiful creek, waterfalls, picturesque Lake Annette (a great day hike destination in and of itself), lots of little wildflower meadows, an impressive rock fall area to explore, lofty heights from which to see the mountains and the valley through which you’re passing, and a gorgeous glacier-filled cirque. Its beauty gets right in to your very core and infects you with a sense of euphoria… so great that you don’t notice the lengthy distance you’re putting in with those dusty hiking boots.
Lake Annette is the day hike destination for many entering this valley. There were already quite a few people gathering up there when we arrived at about 9:30am. One group was setting up an inflatable dingy to take out on the lake. So we decided to cut our visit here short, and head back out and up along the trail and find a more peaceful rest spot.
I can never get enough of the beauty of lichen!
There were many streams that came down across our path, feeding the wildflowers and contributing to their lush carpet effect.
Love the way so many types of flowers can grow together in an alpine meadow.
The paint brush was a vibrant magenta there.
Some of the streams that crossed our trail hosted moss gardens!
Horseshoe Meadow was a drop-dead-gorgeous place. Hemmed in by Pinnacle Mountain, Eiffel Peak, Wenkchemna Peak, Ringrose Peak, Mount Lefroy and The Mitre, it is a dramatic landscape. Horseshoe Glacier is tucked away up there. As the crow flies, a little to the right through the photo above, lies Abbot Hut. It is simply a beautiful spot. You can hear the creek gurgling past and a massive waterfall off in the distance. The flowers bring in the bees and insects and birds. It is incredible.
So… best laid plans and all. We got to the lakeshore and the bike was there, where we’d left it, unharmed. So THAT isn’t where the Plan B comes in. Bill shed his pack, gulped some water, ate a snack and rode off into the distance… just one hill up, and then it would be all down hill to where we’d parked the car. Easy peasy. Done in 20 minutes (even wearing hiking boots).
Seamus was unnerved because the lakeshore there, perched as it is at the side of the parking lot, is packed with people. Seamus hates vehicles and the cars and loud busses and RVs kept circling past, looking in vain for places to park. It was Seamus’ worst nightmare AND Seamus was heartbroken that our “pack” had split up, that Bill had left… he wined and wined for 96 minutes of the 100 minutes Bill was gone! Offers of treats went ignored; no pats would settle him.
Yup, I said 100 minutes!!!Over an hour and a half! It took Bill an eternity, at 5:30pm to get back up the last kilometre of that road. The traffic was insane! And he had no way to reach me to say, “just walk down the road and find me in the line-up” because there’s no cell service up there!
Twice, men on mountain bikes rode by us, and Seamus lunged after them, leash stretched taut, extended to its fullest range, shouting a long tirade of hurt feelings barks! I’m not sure what he was thinking… maybe those men were Bill, maybe they’d lead him to Bill on those strange 2-wheel machines. Who knows! Poor guy.
So… should you do this yourself…. and if it happens to be on a weekend… have a Plan B in place…. and learn from our mistake! There’s just no underestimating how popular our National Parks are this year, with the Canada 150 free passes! The jump in attendance is insane! And this particular hike (and it’s access points in either direction) will get even busier once the larches start to turn their spectacular fall colours.
Distance: 19.8km (so a long day)
Elevation Gain: a little over 1040m
Click here for more terrific hikes in Banff National Park. And check out more hikes from Canada and our adventures around the world here.
Trekking up a mountain’s shoulder, hiking through a flowering alpine meadow, snowshoeing through a dense pine forest, or taking in the 360 degree views from a ridge top vantage point make me feel alive. The experiences in these places give me a profound sense of space and place.
Travel does a similar thing, pushing me out of my comfort zone, exposing me to new experiences, new people and new ways of thinking; it also gives me that sense of space and place in this world.
I believe that life is lived in the contrasts: when you experience simplicity and complexity and life's ups and downs, whether they be physically in this world or mentally in your own personal inner landscape, you know that you are truly living.
The bigger they are, the more there is to explore!