Between Lake Louise and Banff, you can either follow Trans Canada 1, the speedy 4-lane freeway, or the Bow Valley Parkway, Alberta 1A, the slower 2-lane route on the opposite side of the Bow River. 1A is often referred to as the scenic route, but I’m conflicted as to whether I’d apply that term. For most of the drive, you’re treated to a wall of trees on both sides of the road, and its slow, 60 km/h (37 mph) speed limit can become torturous — especially when it seems like you’re the only one obeying it. On the other hand, 1A does offer some opportunities to pull off the side of the road for sightseeing, while on Highway 1, such opportunities are highly limited.
The drive on 1A instantly becomes worth it, when you come upon Morant’s Curve. This postcard-quality scene is about 4 kilometers south of Lake Louise. It’s not well-marked — there is a parking area on the left side of the road (assuming you’re headed south). To see this view, you’ll need to park, then walk across the highway and look north. If you’re very lucky, a train will be chugging by.
Continue heading south. You’ll have one chance to jump over to Highway 1, about halfway between Banff and Lake Louise, at the area where Highway 93 turns off to the west, towards Kootenay National Park.
I kept driving, past the escape route to Highway 1, and stopped at Moose Meadow. Sadly, there were no moose in the meadow, but this spot did provide a nice break in the wall of trees, allowing me to view the mountains to the southeast (perhaps Mt. Cory and Mt. Edith?)…
… and some closer peaks (probably Mt. Ishbel)…
… and one which I’m sure I can identify, Pilot Mountain.
Also in this area, there’s also a turnout that allows you to get a good view of Castle Mountain. The parking area was blocked by snow, so I couldn’t stop. But, here’s a picture from 2009:
Ah, yes. That’s what it looks like without snow. Why did I come up here in March?
The Bow Valley Parkway comes to an end, just a few kilometers west of Banff, and you have no choice but to hop on the freeway to finish the drive into town. 1A resumes near Canmore, as the Bow Valley Trail, and runs all the way to Calgary, where its name changes to Crowchild Trail.
Here’s the time-lapse, dash-cam video of the drive southbound on 1A: