Banff National Park: Bow Valley Parkway: Route 1A

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My plan for Day 4 was to drive out of the Town of Banff, headed north, to Lake Louise and Moraine Lake.  Those pesky clouds were back again, making the entire day a little bit gloomier than I would have liked.

There are two ways to get from Banff to Lake Louise.  You can either take the faster, 4-lane Trans Canada Highway 1, or the slower, 2-lane Alberta Route 1A, the Bow Valley Parkway.  Highway 1 stays on the west side of the Bow River; 1A runs along the east side.  You might expect the smaller road to be the more scenic one, but after traveling both, I decided I preferred Highway 1.  The parkway has more places to stop (picnic areas, roadside turnouts and viewpoints), but the road is often shrouded in trees.  Because Highway 1 is wider, more land had to be cleared, which allows for greater views of the surrounding mountains.  For now, let’s talk about the Bow Valley Parkway.

Between Banff and Lake Louise, there are plenty of breathtaking mountain peaks to take your attention away from the road, but one in particular stands out.  Castle Mountain seems to appear in front of you, every time you drive around a curve on Highway 1A.

Castle Mountain includes several peaks that top out above 2,750 meters (or 9,000 feet).  One peak in particular is known as Eisenhower Peak.  For a while in the mid-20th century, the entire mountain was named after U.S. President Eisenhower, but pressure from the public helped restore the original name, and Dwight’s claim on the mountain was limited to just one peak.

Continuing up the parkway…

… there’s a clearing that provides a great view of the Bow River, and the mountains that surround Lake Louise and Moraine Lake.  Also notice the railroad track: it separates the Bow River from Highway 1A the entire way — so don’t expect to find any access to the river along the parkway.

You’ll also pass by the site of the old Castle Mountain Internment Camp.  During World War I, this site was home to thousands of “enemy aliens” — most of which were Ukrainian immigrants.  Conditions were poor, abuse was common, and the prisoners were used for labor in public works projects.  The camp was open from 1915 to 1917; there isn’t much to see here today, except for a monument to those who suffered here.

There are several good hikes along the Bow Valley Parkway, including at least one that you shouldn’t miss (even though I did!).  Johnston Canyon offers an easy 1.1 kilometer (.7 mile) hike to the lower waterfall.  Keep going, and the trail gets a bit rougher, eventually leading to the upper falls and the “ink pots” — brightly colored pools of water from mineral springs. The entire hike is about 5.8 kilometers (or 3.6 miles) one way.  For an even longer hike, journey out to Rockbound Lake, on the opposite side of Castle Mountain.  That hike is 8 kilometers (5 miles) one way.

Drivelapse Video

Here’s the time-lapse dash-cam video of the Bow Valley Parkway (Alberta Route 1A) headedsouthbound from Lake Louise/Route 93 to Banff:

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