Crouching atop the crown of the Big Beehive, I gaze down 500 m (1,640 ft) to the turquoise waters of Lake Louise shining in the sunlight below me. The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise stands sentinel at the water's edge. The vertical contrast is absolute, the view magnificent.
Luxury in the Wilderness
Lake Louise in Banff National Park is a study in contrasts: turquoise waters against gleaming glaciers; tea and scones on a mountain top at the Lake Agnes Teahouse; a muscle-burning hike up rugged Fairview Mountain with a white linen experience in the hotel's Fairview Dining Room awaiting our return. And the hotel itself: old world elegance yet relaxed and inviting.
As dusk settles, it's hard to tear my focus from the view through the opulent dining room windows. My partner, however, is totally focused on the menu, torn between the Alberta elk striploin with baby turnips or the Alberta rack of lamb with potato goat cheese pavé. All will be fuel for tomorrow's hike.
We plan to hike the Plain of Six Glaciers to take in the ice-age moraines, see if we can spot some wildlife and be back for a late tea at the Lakeview Lounge. Or a craft beer - the Chateau specializes in local brew.
The Lake Louise Gondola
While it gets most of its praise for taking skiers high and fast to one of the world's most recognized ski hills, the Lake Louise Gondola is a treat in the summer. Whitehorn transforms from a snowy wonderland to alpine meadows laced with hiking routes. On the way up, keep your eyes peeled. Last time I did this I spotted a mother grizzly bear and her cubs shambling along a wildlife corridor far below the lift. At the top is an interpretive centre and several short, leisurely strolls.
Step into your time-travel machine (aka hiking boots). The only way to get to Skoki Lodge is on foot. We head out from the Lake Louise trailhead, looking forward to the 11 km journey through the high alpine - an experience that has filled the journals of explorers and adventurers for almost 100 years. If you yearn for an authentic pioneer-pilgrim experience, this is it. The lodge defines rustic: no electricity and no running water, but you'll be surprised at the creature comforts. And it proved to be the perfect honeymoon hideaway for Prince William and Duchess Kate.
Must-Do Hikes from Skoki Lodge
- Merlin Castle - in Merlin Valley southwest of Skoki Valley
- Skoki Mountain - at the head of the Red Deer River, east of Skoki Valley
- Oyster Peak - east of Skoki Mountain, north east of Fossil Mountain