Beautiful Views and Larch Trees on the Plain of Six Glaciers Hike

Plains of Six Glaciers-1

If there is one place tourists are likely to stop in Banff National Park, it is Lake Louise. I had to keep reminding myself that even though I was 30 minutes’ drive away from Banff town, I was still in the Banff National Park. I based myself out of Lake Louise for several days, because there is just so much to see and do in the area, and it’s just easier to cut down on driving. It also allows me to get ahead of the hordes of tourists. And it’s funny that I say hordes of tourists, because yes there were so many tourists when I visited in mid September, but I also know there are so many MORE in the summer time, which is one of the reasons I would never want to visit Banff in the heights of summer. 

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The traffic is managed fairly well (though for some odd reason, they don’t have a light at a couple main intersections, and instead have actual people conducting traffic during daylight hours), and there are signs when you enter the area informing you of the parking situation (i.e. if the parking lots at the lake are full and you need to park and take the shuttle up there). The parking situation isn’t quite as dire as Lake Moraine, because the parking lot at Lake Louise is huge. But it is so popular, that while you might not need to be up at the lake by 0630 to get a good parking spot, you should be there by 0800, or it is liable to be full. There are plenty of paths that go from Lake Louise toward the village, so some people choose to park and walk, and you see groups of people walking back to their cars in the afternoon. 

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When I was putting my itinerary together for the Lake Louise area, I originally had two different days scheduled for two different popular hikes in the area. But the weather was iffy for one of the days, and I again had to rethink my fitness level, since both hikes would involve over 1000 feet of elevation over a few miles. And both of them have similar, though not identical views. Then I thought maybe I could combine both hikes, since there is a connecting trail, and decided I’d play it by ear and see how my body felt during the hike. 

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So having to choose which hike to start with (and thus being the only hike completed if my body rebelled), I decided to start with the Plain of the Six Glaciers Hike. The hike on its own is a little bit longer than the other one, with a bit less elevation gain. But if I had to choose just one hike, this one sounded like it was the one for me, because it starts by skirting Lake Louise and then climbing through the valley toward the glacier ice field, stopping at a tea house among gorgeous larch trees. I figured this hike would give me the most bang for my buck view wise. 

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As always, I started relatively early, though there were plenty of people ahead of me that morning. The morning was clear and bright and the reflections of the mountains on the lake were just awe inspiring, since the lack of wind meant the lake surface looked like glass. The first couple miles of the hike are flat and easy, because it is along the lake shore.

Once you get to the end of the lake, the real hiking begins as the path ascends fairly steeply, so you gain a lot of elevation pretty quickly. Every so often, I’d stop, take a breath (or many breaths), have some water, and just take in the countryside around me. The valley narrows with mountains surrounding it, and the lake view got farther and farther away as I hiked up and away. 

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I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel it, and even needed to break out my walking sticks, because the path was a bit rocky at times and could be steep. I kept a decent pace for me, though I was often passed by fitter and faster hiking groups. But since I had blocked the entire day for this, and wasn’t on anyone’s timetable, I didn’t mind taking my time. 

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There was a point in the hike when the path just kept climbing up and up and every switchback would lead to another switchback, that I was starting to wonder just when this hike was going to end. I passed a descending hiker who said the tea house (the typical end point for this hike) was just a few minutes away, but I always hear that when hiking, so I didn’t know if that was actually true. But lo and behold, it really was only a couple minutes later when I emerged into the tree field and realized I had reached the tea house and could really relax.

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The view of the surrounding countryside was marvelous. The glacier that I could see at the start of the hike was so much closer. The larch trees surrounded me in all their golden gloriousness. The day was absolutely gorgeous with a clear, blue sky (somewhat rare for this vacation), and it all felt good and peaceful. I made decent time for me, and then I could make a decision about what to do next.

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I knew that even though the hike officially ends at the tea house, I could hike even closer to the glacier along a narrow path, and even ascend a slippery, rocky moraine to enter a small cave up on a cliff. I figured that I had come this far, why not hike a bit farther to see what the views offered?

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There is a sign that the official trail has ended and what lies beyond is not maintained. That means that the path narrows and there are some washouts and large rocks in places, but I kept going. I made it all the way to the rocky outcropping that gave me a commanding view of the valley and a more intimate view of the main glacier. I saw a steady line of people walking past it and along a narrow ridge line to the moraine, but I decided against it. My body was pretty tired by that point, and I just didn’t have the energy to climb up a shifting moraine of rocks, and figured the views I captured were good enough. So after getting my fill of the valley views, I made my way back to the tea house (the return hike felt so much shorter, like what always happens on hikes).

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Once I was descending I decided not to take the connecting trail to the other hike and Lake Agnes destination. I knew the lake and tea house were supposed to be beautiful, but I also knew the connecting trail meant some serious steep uphill, and I was just tapped out. I was good and had my daily fill of larch trees, glaciers, and sunny lake views.

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Going on a multi-day hiking vacation (not like one multi-day hike, but many days of day hikes) definitely taxed my physical fitness. I knew I was in decent (though not great) shape, and the hiking would help me. But it definitely tired me as well, and I had to make some adjustments to do shorter hikes, rather than the long slogs. 

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If you have time and energy, I would probably recommend doing both hikes, even if they are on different days. But if you only can do one, you could do worse than the Plain of Six Glaciers. This hike will afford more Lake Louise shoreline, more glaciers, and some fabulous larch trees (a bright golden yellow in the fall). I definitely felt like I earned my dinner that night, and a very long sleep as well. 

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The Misty Mystery of Lake Moraine

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If you visit the Lake Louise area, I highly recommend basing out of Lake Louise, and not doing it as a day trip from Banff. Sure, the drive is only about 30 minutes along good highway from Banff town proper, but that is extra driving you don’t really NEED to do. Plus, due to the popularity of some sights and the limited parking, you are going to have to get up even earlier if you want to get a parking spot and not have to use the shuttle. 

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Lake Moraine is one such tourist spot. Lake Moraine is another beautiful mountain lake set in the Lake Louise area, though at a higher elevation and in a much more remote area than Lake Louise. It’s so remote, that the road is closed from the end of October to March due to snow. It’s also an area that is popular with bears during bear season, which could affect your hiking plans if you go during that time (basically the summer time to early September). And yes, Lake Moraine has very limited parking considering its popularity. The basic guidance given in my research is to be there by 0630 if you hope to get a parking space at all. Because unlike other areas, they don’t let you park alongside the road, and the road is blocked for ingress at the Lake Moraine turnoff from the main road once the parking lot is full (and yes, there are signs and people out there guarding that road and letting you know if you can go). As it is, I got there a little after 0630, and there were only a few spots left open for normal cars (there were still some spots for RVs and tour buses). It’s one of those things you just have to laugh at and take in stride. I normally hate getting up early in the morning, but I will get up before sunrise (because at that time of year, the sun didn’t rise until after 0730) just so I could get a parking spot and have the freedom of maneuver a car brings. 

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So after arriving, I could sit back, relax and take a breath, and enjoy a breakfast in peace while waiting for the sun to rise. The morning I was there, the weather wasn’t that great, and there were a lot of clouds early on. Some cloud cover adds to the mysterious and remote beauty of the lake, sort of giving it a Gothic romanticism to the vista. But too much cloud cover just blocks the steep mountains that surround the lake. 

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Since I planned to spend most of the day at Lake Moraine, I wasn’t in any hurry. I started my day by walking along the Lake Moraine shoreline, which goes down the lake a couple kilometers before ending at a boardwalk viewpoint in front of the rushing creek that feeds into the lake. It was still somewhat grey and the clouds were lurking overhead, though the wind was quick enough that the clouds never lingered for too long.

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Even though it was cloudy, it was still bright enough to see the gorgeous blue water, which is formed by light reflecting off the glacial rock powder that sits at the bottom of the lake. It’s the astounding lake color, along with the surrounding mountains that makes Lake Moraine such as must do in the Lake Louise area. 

Lake Moiraine-4

After walking back, the clouds were lifting a bit, even if the sun hadn’t emerged from the clouds. Right next to the lake shore is a steep pile of rocks that you can walk up to and give you the iconic views over the lake that you have likely seen in professional photographs. The walk isn’t long, though it is on the steep side. But said steepness is still fairly short, and the view is absolutely worth it. By this point in the morning, the tour buses were disgorging hordes of tourists armed with cameras and jockeying for a good camera spot. You kind of just have to ignore them and do your own thing. And remind yourself that they will move along shortly (they are probably on a timetable if they are on a tour bus), and you will be able to take your pictures and enjoy your view. 

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After that, I debated whether or not to go on a hike as I intended. There are two popular hikes that originate from Lake Moraine- Larch Valley and Consolation Lakes hikes. Larch Valley is considered more moderate (which again, depending on your fitness level, could easily veer more towards the strenuous). It’s much longer, and steeper, and ends higher in the mountains among the gorgeous, golden yellow larch trees that are so prevalent this time of year in the higher mountain elevations. You can see fields and fields of these trees from good vantage points, but seeing them up close and personal requires much more hiking, since they only exist at higher elevations. 

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Having taken a pretty good measure of my physical fitness by this point, I decided Larch Valley was just a bit out of my fitness range, so I decided to do the Consolation Lakes hike. It is considered an easier hike, much more level, with much less elevation gain, and plenty of gorgeous views. 

Lake Moiraine-13

One of the interesting things about Lake Moraine like I mentioned earlier, is that it is popular with bears during bear feeding season when they are fattening themselves up for the winter’s hibernation. During high bear season, people MUST hike in close groups of four or more in certain areas, the Lake Moraine hikes (away from the lake shore) included. This is one of those things that is emphasized over and over again in guide books. Trails are monitored during that time of year for compliance, and hefty fines can happen for those who don’t comply. This of course can be a challenge when you are a solo hiker like myself and don’t fancy hiking in groups (who probably all hike faster than me) or just cozying up to strangers to tag along (again, people who likely walk much faster than me, since most hikers do). Thankfully, high bear season was over with by the time I got there (something I had taken into consideration when planning this vacation), and it was only recommended you hike in groups, and not mandated. 

Lake Moiraine-12

The start to the Consolation Lakes hike is a relatively narrow, very rocky path along the backside of the rock pile. It doesn’t look an obvious start to a popular hike, and if there wasn’t a sign clearly marking it, I would have assumed it was some goat trail. I personally hate very rocky paths, because I spend so much time looking at my feet, and I seem to still trip a fair amount. But the rocky path doesn’t last too long, and soon I was in the forest, where now I had roots and some mud to contend with and not just rocks. 

Lake Moiraine-11

The path is fairly level, though there are some uphills in places. The path is pretty wide and wends its way through the forest and then starts paralleling a babbling creek named Babel Creek (you hear the rushing water minutes before you can see it through the trees), that offers a few side paths to go down to the water. I kept climbing gently through the forest and left the sound of the water behind me. 

Lake Moiraine-8

I knew I was pretty much done when I entered a wide valley, surrounded on three sides by mountains that are filled with trees (including wide swaths of bright yellow larch trees up on the mountainside). The path sort of just…ends after nearly 2 miles of hiking. I mean the ostensible goal of this hike is the lakes at the end of it, but the path ends once I hit the large field of large rocks. From there, I could choose to navigate my way carefully down closer to the water’s edge, or just relax on a rock and take in the view. If I was sure footed and agile, I probably would have chosen to hop from rock to rock and get closer to the lake’s edge,  like some other fleet footed hikers. But I am not, and a field of rocks with no clear walking path is basically just asking for me to fall or sprain my ankles. Besides, the view I had by the river was pretty enough, even if it wasn’t at the actual edge of the lake. 

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After enjoying the view for a while, it was an easy walk back to the trail head. All those uphills that caused me to huff and puff a bit (certainly more than I would like) were just easy downhills. Even the rocky path that started (and now ended) my hike wasn’t as annoying, because the view was really pretty on the return hike, and I knew it was almost over.

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Since the sun had come out at this point, I decided to hike back up the short, steep path overlooking the lake again, and I did not regret it. Even in cloudy weather, the lake is a beautiful blue. But in sunlight, the blue just glistens and sparkles, and adds some real magic to the gorgeous vista. It really did look like so many of the photographs that beckon you to come and visit Lake Moraine. 

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If you do want to visit Lake Moraine, you could drive up yourself or take the shuttle buses that run until late afternoon. If you want to sleep in, and don’t want to get out of bed when it is still dark out, a shuttle is pretty much your only option. Unless you are willing to wait until very late afternoon/early evening when the parking lot clears enough for the road to be reopened. Just know that the sun will likely set earlier later in the season, and you don’t leave a lot of time for viewing, photographing, and hiking. Or you could do like I did, and get up super early and then congratulate yourself on getting a parking space that gives you the freedom to do what you want, when you want. Just know that you will not be doing it alone, since this is a VERY popular stop in the Lake Louise area. 

Johnston Canyon and the Ink Pots Hike

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Part of planning my Banff itinerary was planning it in a way that flowed well, AND minimized crowds. One of the things I hate about traveling are crowds, and I do my level best to avoid them. That might mean visiting a place in the off season, which I was heading toward with visiting Banff in mid to late September. Granted, if I wanted even fewer crowds, I could go later in the year, but I run the risk of snow closing trails and roads, and fewer services. So the other way to avoid crowds is to go early in the day, and that was definitely the advice given to visit Johnston Canyon.

Johnston Canyon and Inkpots hike-1

Johnston Canyon is about 20 minute drive from Banff off the Bow Valley Parkway (or the Trans Canada Highway 1, since both roads parallel each other from Banff to Lake Louise). Because it is so close to Banff, so accessible to many people, and so pretty, as you can imagine, hordes of crowds flock here, and everything I read said if I wanted a good parking spot (and not one a mile down the road), I needed to be there before 0900. Which of course I did, and even earlier, not that long after the sun fully rose. As it was, I still wasn’t the first one there, but still an amazing parking spot. 

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After reviewing the information at the trail head, I headed out, just getting ahead of most of the tour buses that were on the way. There are two main viewpoints along the Johnston Canyon- the Lower Falls and the Upper Falls. Both of them are along a mostly paved trail, though there is a bit more elevation gain on the trail to the Upper Falls (120 meters). The walk to the Lower Falls takes around 30 minutes, while the walk to the Upper Falls, takes about 30-40 minutes more. That is, not counting  how much time you take to enjoy the view along the way and at the viewpoints. 

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The path is paved and parallels the river, which makes for a better viewing as you walk toward the falls, rather than on your return walk, since you will be on the canyon wall side. Plus there are a fair amount of people who visit these falls, and the path is narrow, so jockeying for space to take pictures can be annoying (another reason to go early). 

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The Lower Falls are pretty and offer some nice views, though the Upper Falls are worth it is as well. Both viewpoints offer a decent amount of space for enjoying the view and taking photos, though of course later in the day, the crowds can prove cumbersome. Once past the Lower Falls en route to the Upper Falls, the trail ascends more, but not too steeply, and the paved trail ends with a nice view of the 40 meters long falls from both the bottom and the top of the falls (both worth your time).

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It is at the end of the paved path where you have a choice. Depending on your available time, fitness level, and interest, you could turn back here, go back to your car, and have plenty of nice memories and photos. OR you could continue on for another few miles to the Ink Pots, for some different, but equally beautiful views. Plus one hell of a workout.

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The trail to the Ink Pots isn’t paved, and is much steeper than the Johnston Canyon hike. It is considered “moderate”, but you need to consider your own fitness level to interpret if that means moderate for you. By this point, I had been in Banff for a few days and was acclimated to typical hiking in the area. But the Ink Pots are more strenuous (the most strenuous hike I had done in Banff up to that point), so it is something to consider. If uphills are a problem for you, this might not be the hike for you. 

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Of course I decided to press on. I wasn’t on an external time table, I had planned this hike to be my main activity for the day, and I started early enough in the day to allow me to hike the trail at my own pace. Which is definitely what I needed. You are likely to feel the Ink Pots hike in your body, unless you have a high level of fitness. Just how much you will feel the hike will vary, but you are likely to feel it. The hike to the Ink Pots is nearly uphill the entire way, though there are some flat spots, and once you start descending steeply, you know that you are almost there. It was one of those hikes I didn’t consider turning back from, because I was hiking at my own pace, and taking plenty of water and view breaks. But it was a hike that prompted me to ask a returning couple for a time estimate to the ink pots, just so I could re-calibrate my expectations accordingly. 

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Once I got to the Ink Pots, the strenuous nature of the hike was nearly forgotten and definitely worth it, just because the views were so gorgeous. Everywhere I looked, there was something that captured my eyes. The ink pots themselves are a series of small, clear, colorful ponds, surrounded by foliage.

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The foliage was in the full bloom of fall colors, so that added some nice contrast to the blue of the ponds. There were mountains and rivers to behold, and it was pretty easy to walk around and see whatever you wanted. 

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I certainly wasn’t alone up there, but since I started early enough, the ink pots weren’t overwhelmed with crowds, and it was pretty easy to find a space to myself to contemplate the nature around me (plus ample benches around the ponds themselves).  Since I had completed my main goal for the day, I wasn’t in a hurry to leave. I just wanted to take it all in, while mentally gearing myself up for the hike back.

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For the most part, the hike back is easier, since most of it is downhill, though that nice downhill I had welcomed when I was nearing the Ink Pots had now turned into a daunting uphill on the return. But thankfully that was only about 15 minutes of the hike, and rest was all downhill.

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Once I connected back up with the Johnston Canyon trail, I was inundated with crowds, as by this point, it was late morning, and the hordes of tourists had arrived to see the canyon. The hike down was easy, because I wasn’t fighting the crowds for picture spots. Once I saw the line of cars that seemed to stretch down the road a half mile or more for a parking spot, I was even more grateful I chose to go early. 

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This is definitely a hike to recommend, and suitable for a variety of fitness levels. Sure, the hike to the Ink Pots feels strenuous at times, but it can be done at your own pace, taking plenty of breaks to catch your breath and drink some water. And the view is definitely worth it. Though again, I STRONGLY recommend you go early in the day, shortly after sunrise, if you want to get a decent parking space. Why add more miles to your hike if you don’t have to? Plus fighting hordes of crowds for a decent spot to take pictures gets old after a while. 

Banff Sundance and Stewart Canyon Hikes

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One of the best things to do in Banff, and the cheapest and healthiest thing, is hiking. There are so many hikes in the area that range from short and fairly easy to long and strenuous. When planning my trip, I decided to maximize the easy hikes and make judicious choices when it came to the moderate hikes, since I knew I only had so much energy in my body.

I chose to start my hiking vacation extravaganza with the Sundance Canyon hike, which was deemed easy in my guide book (though moderate at the trail head, but often times those recommendations are a bit more cautious and geared toward the very casual hiker). The description of the Sundance Canyon hike sounded very pleasant, since about half of it is on a flat or gently uphill paved path, some of it along a nice river with mountains in the background. I thought it would be a good way to get my body ready for more difficult hikes down the road, and get my first taste of Banff scenery.

Sundance Canyon hike-1

I started the hike in the mid afternoon, figuring I would take a couple hours to do the hike, which is a loop hike up to and past a waterfall, through a forest, and down through the forest, back to the paved path. I had some concerns for my own fitness and stamina when I started off on the flat, paved path and was struggling a bit. I had been exercising in advance of this vacation to prepare, and wasn’t expecting to struggle at the outset on an easy hike. Though I didn’t realize it then (though I should have), I think this was just my body’s way of adjusting to the change in altitude. Even though I knew Banff National Park was in the Canadian Rockies, it never really occurred to me to look at the starting elevations for these hikes, even though I took careful note of elevation gain on the hike.

Banff National Park sits around 5,000 feet elevation, which is not enough to feel just walking around, but is enough to feel when doing some vigorous exercise, like fast walking. So part of me was thinking my poor performance was JUST a fitness thing, and not partially an altitude acclimation thing, but I continued the hike.

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The initial walk along the river was really nice, and there were often benches along the river to allow you to take a rest and take in the wonderful view of mountains reflected in the river directly in front of you. Once past the river, the path remains paved, but starts a gentle incline uphill. You know you are about the start the more hiking portion of the hike once the paved path ends and the dirt path takes over.

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You cross a small river almost immediately and the path starts to ascend up the river until you come to a wooden bridge going over the waterfall. This is the highlight of the hike in terms of beautiful nature. If you were pressed for time, it would make plenty of sense to stop here, get your fill of the waterfall itself and the view of the canyon from the bridge, and then turn around and go back from where you came. I was honestly surprised at how quick it was to get from the start of the dirt path to the top of the waterfall. I was expecting something more strenuous, but the short, steep hike up to the bridge is the most steep uphill of the hike.

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I decided to do the rest of the hike, even though I had heard it wasn’t as scenic as the waterfall. The path initially parallels the river as you go deeper into the canyon, but eventually the path takes you upward and through a forest. It’s at this point the path starts wending its way back, but through forest. I knew at some point, the midpoint (such as it is) was going to be a viewpoint of the surrounding valley through the trees. This view isn’t marked with any sort of sign, but you know it when you see it. It’s at the point where the trees open up, and there is a wooden fence that lines the hilltop, so you don’t go too far and slide down the hill.

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Once you reach the viewpoint, the path continues and winds its way steeply downhill through a series of switchbacks, until you find yourself back at the trail head for the dirt trail and then just take the pavement path back to your car. This is a fairly easy hike, and I think it is a good one to start with. The views are nice, but not astounding, so I think I would have been a bit disappointed if I had done one of the hikes with amazing views, and then did this one, which has comparatively fewer awe-inspiring vistas. I thought it was a good choice to start small and then work my way out to the longer hikes and better views.

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The Sundance Canyon hike started my hiking vacation, and the Stewart Canyon hike effectively ended it, at least from a hiking perspective. So these two, relatively easy hikes served as bookends for my vacation. I did the Stewart Canyon later in the afternoon, though due to a variety of reasons (mainly because I wanted to visit someplace else for sunset), I only did a part of this hike. But it was enough to see this is as a pleasant hike, though not overwhelmingly beautiful. Like Sundance Canyon, this is a good introductory hike to the area, because it is pretty easy, and doesn’t have the jaw dropping views that you will see later. So doing this hike at the end was not going to fill me with the same wonder as if I had done it at the start of my vacation. However, I chose to put this
hike at the end of my vacation, because at the start of my vacation, the area was still under bear restrictions. Meaning, that the trail was open, but if you went beyond the bridge over the river and followed the path up the canyon, you had to be in groups of four or more, because hungry bears were more likely to be prevalent in the area. The bear restriction was going to lift before the end of my vacation, so that is why I did it on my return to Banff.

The hike starts at the shores of Minnewanka Lake, which is one of the largest lakes in the Banff area, and you can take a boat tour of the lake if you so desire. By the time I had returned to Banff at the end of my vacation, it was like fall foliage was in full bloom, and the tree leaves had turned a golden yellow.

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The hike initially takes you along the lake shore and past some picnic tables and fields into a rocky, rooty path. It’s not as rocky as I have experienced, but you do have to watch your step at times (and be on the lookout for mountain bikers, because they like this path as well). The trail takes you along the lake, and then around and up the Cascade River that feeds the lake from Stewart Canyon. It is impossible to get lost on the trail, and you know have hit the end of the free portion of the hike once you hit the bridge that crosses the river. There are plenty of signs that point out the bear restriction if you go further, even though that restriction had been lifted by this point.

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After walking a bit along the canyon trail, I got the sense that while the canyon trail is pretty, I wasn’t liable to see anything that I haven’t seen before, since I had done numerous canyon hikes by this point. So I made the decision to return even though I only did about half of the hike. The hike itself is pretty easy, but keep in mind the dates for bear season, and plan accordingly if you intend to be in the area during bear season.

Fiji Nacula Island- Hiking Trails

Nacula Island hiking-14

Even though it was tempting to just lay by the beach in a hammock or cool off by snorkeling, I did take advantage of my time on Nacula Island to do some hiking. This island (and I think most of the smaller islands) didn’t really have much in the way of roads, so there were no cars to worry about. People got around by boat or by walking. I decided to check out two different parts of the island by hiking to them.

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The first hike I did was a basically flat hike out to the south eastern part of the island. This hike only took me about a leisurely 30 minutes (maybe more) to get to my final destination of the beach by Nabua Lodge. This hike wasn’t marked with specific trail signs, but I did have a map from the Blue Lagoon Resort that showed me the basic way from the resort to the mud flats on the southern coast. Navigating was basically following the largest trail and hoping I was right (I was). Even though the trail was flat, it was definitely muddy in parts, but there were large branches to help me traverse the deeper muddier area.

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The trail emerges onto the mud flats, and with the tide out, the beach was huge with some local natives hunting for shellfish in the mud. After that the “trail” was basically just walking along the shoreline. There were some very beautiful reddish-purplish rocks on the beach, rocks that I had never seen before.

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Since it was rather hot and sunny on the day I went hiking, I didn’t start off until the later afternoon, hoping it would cool off a bit. So, I was mindful of both the incoming tide and the setting sun, because I did not want to get caught out on the island at night. Sure it wasn’t dangerous or anything, but I didn’t have a flashlight with me, nor are any of the trails lit up. Fumbling around in the dark is not my idea of a good time.

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Nacula Island hiking-2

Once I rounded the beach point, I came upon a relatively wide sandy beach. It certainly wasn’t as wide, or as nice as the beach fronting the Blue Lagoon Resort, but it is home to a couple other more budget lodges. It is also home to the Traveller’s Tea House. I had read about that place in my guidebook, and one of the other reasons I timed my hike when I did was to hit the tea house when it was open (only 3-5 pm in the afternoon) so I could indulge in some local cake. The cake that day was a very tasty chocolate coconut cake made right on site, and it was delicious. So thick, so rich. It just melted in my mouth as I enjoyed the beach view.

Nacula Island hiking-3

Nacula Island hiking-4

After the cake, I walked a bit farther down the beach to Tadrai Point, which was an open rock sea arch. There really wasn’t much more of note on the other beach around the point, and the sun was getting low on the horizon, so I headed back.

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Before heading inland back to resort, I made a quick stop at a mangrove forest right in the mud flats on the beach.

Nacula Island hiking-9

My second hike was to the one of the highest points on the island, where it afforded me a 360 degree view of the entire island. Since this hike would afford me no shade, and I needed enough time to get there, enjoy the view, and get back before I passed out from heat exhaustion, or at least exposed me to a sunburn, I decided to do this hike early in the morning. Not so early that I would miss breakfast (which would be stupid, because it was free and it was a plentiful breakfast buffet), but I started right after, around 0800.

Nacula Island hiking-1

This was another one of those hikes that didn’t have clearly marked signs, but I looked at the map at the resort beforehand, and basically knew where I needed to go. The most confusing part was right after leaving the lodge and guessing which trail I needed to take. Since I knew I needed to head up the hill, I followed the trail that ascended. The trail ascended very quickly, and even though it was early in the morning, and the sun wasn’t fully overhead, I had to stop multiple times to take a breather, drink some water, and look at the view.

Nacula Island hiking-11

Once the trail hit the ridgeline, it was simply a matter of walking along it to the highest point. There were times when I was sure I was at the highest point, only to see the trail keep heading higher. Eventually though, I did hit the highest point and could enjoy the tremendous views looking down on the island around me. The view of the eastern side of the island was highly lit with the rising sun.

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The western side allowed me to look down at the extensive coral reefs and the differing colors of the water, views you simply can’t see when you are at sea level.

Nacula Island hiking-15

After enjoying the views, I headed back down, and not surprisingly, the trip down was much quicker and easier than walking up. All told, this hike took me less than two hours, and that included the number of stops I made to look at the views. It is a moderately easy hike. The hardest part is at the beginning when the trail sharply ascends to the ridgeline. But basically anyone with moderate fitness and wearing some good shoes can do this hike. I would just recommend you do it in the morning before it gets too hot and sunny, and make sure to bring some water with you. You will need it.

Nacula Island hiking-12

Nacula Island hiking-13

New York Hudson Valley Autumn Hiking- Old Minnewaska Trail

Hudson Valley hiking Old Minnewaska Trail-24

My last day in Hudson Valley was spent hiking. I started the morning off early with the Walkway Over the Hudson trail and then continued on further west to Minnewaska State Park. This hike was longer than the others I did, because I afforded myself more time, since all I planned on doing that day was hiking and then heading straight to the airport for an evening flight out.

Hudson Valley hiking Old Minnewaska Trail-3

Hudson Valley hiking Old Minnewaska Trail-11

It was fairly easy to get to Minnewaska State Park, though it is a bit of a drive.  From New Paltz, head west on Route 299.  Follow 299 until it dead ends into Rt. 44/55, where you’ll make a right turn.  Follow 44/55 past the hairpin turn under the Shawangunk cliffs and past the Trapps parking area on your right.  Continue another 3 miles past the Trapps parking area to find the well-marked entrance to Minnewaska State Park Preserve on your left.  Stop at the guard shack, pay the fee, then make an immediate right turn to make the short drive over to the Lake Awosting parking area, where you’ll leave your car.

Hudson Valley hiking Old Minnewaska Trail-4

Hudson Valley hiking Old Minnewaska Trail-5

I had planned on doing the Minnewaska Park trail as listed in Hike the Hudson Valley website. This particular hike was not just one trail, but a series of different trails designed to maximize your viewing opportunities in Minnewaska State Park. This trail was a 6.4 mile, sort of loop trail, with not too many hills (especially with the modified version of this hike I did).

Hudson Valley hiking Old Minnewaska Trail-7

Hudson Valley hiking Old Minnewaska Trail-8

The directions for this particular trail instructs to park your car at the parking area near Lake Awosting and then hike partway out on the Awosting Trail to view the Awosting Falls and then return and hike up the Orange Trail to Minnewaska Lake. The intention was to hike up the road all the way the Minnewaska Lake upper parking lot and then complete the rest of the hike from there. However, it slipped my mind where I was actually supposed to park, so I ended up driving up to the upper parking lot, and since I was already there, I decided to park and walk from there. For the most part, I shouldn’t have missed many beautiful sights, so I didn’t feel that I missed out on too much.

Hudson Valley hiking Old Minnewaska Trail-10

Hudson Valley hiking Old Minnewaska Trail-12

Once at the parking lot, I followed the rest of the hiking directions, and it was fairly straightforward. Of course I first had to take in the beautiful lake views, though the view wasn’t QUITE as beautiful as it could be, because it was cloudy and overcast that day. At least it wasn’t too crowded, since I was there on a Monday morning. The trails in this park are actually fairly well marked, with different colored signs indicating what trail you are following, along with the occasional posted map to see where you are.

Hudson Valley hiking Old Minnewaska Trail-26

Hudson Valley hiking Old Minnewaska Trail-1

The first part of this hike was following the Red Trail down to the lake shore.

Hudson Valley hiking Old Minnewaska Trail-23

Hudson Valley hiking Old Minnewaska Trail-22

A few minutes on the Red Trail past the lake shore, I took a right on the blue sign-posted trail for the Castle Point Carriageway. This trail goes miles down the road, but this particular hike had me turn around at Kempton Ledge. Apparently back in the day, there was a very clearly marked sign. However, by now there is no sign, but you will pretty much know you are in the right place, because the view on the left side of the trail opens up into a panorama of the surrounding valley.

Hudson Valley hiking Old Minnewaska Trail-15

Hudson Valley hiking Old Minnewaska Trail-18

I was hiking in mid October, and it was pretty much peak autumn foliage. It was awe inspiring to see all the colors ablaze in front of me. It really looked like a pastel painting, and frankly this would be a perfect site for plein air painting.

Hudson Valley hiking Old Minnewaska Trail-25

After taking in the view for as long as I could, I turned back around the followed the Blue Trail back down to the Red Trail via the Yellow Trail, the Millbrook Mountain Carriageway.

Hudson Valley hiking Old Minnewaska Trail-13

The Red Trail hugged the Minnewaska Lake and then eventually headed up the hill. I took a brief detour to another beautiful viewpoint (seriously, there are just so many beautiful views during this hike- as witnessed by the abundance of gorgeous fall photos in this post).

Hudson Valley hiking Old Minnewaska Trail-20

The Red Trail took me back to the parking lot overlooking Minnewaska Lake where I drove back down to the entrance to park in the Awosting Trail parking area. This allowed me to complete the first part of the hike I missed, because I went all the way up to the upper parking lot.

Hudson Valley hiking Old Minnewaska Trail-27

This walk was just part of the Awosting Trail and took me out to the overlook over the waterfall. I followed the trail down to the bottom of the waterfall, took in the nice view and then hiked back up to the parking area. It is only about a five/ten minute walk out to the top of the waterfall and about five more minutes to the bottom of the waterfall.

Hudson Valley hiking Old Minnewaska Trail-34

Hudson Valley hiking Old Minnewaska Trail-33

While this particular hike involves different trails in Minnewaska State Park, it is still fairly easy to follow. The different trails are fairly obviously marked with different colors. The views of beautiful nature and autumn foliage definitely make this trail worth it. If you hike the trail, it is pretty flat in most areas, with the only major hill from the Awosting Trail park area to the Minnewaska Lake upper parking lot, which I missed, because I missed the turn to the Awosting Trail parking area. Honestly, if you are pressed for time, or just aren’t a big fan of hills, you can easily drive to the upper parking lot and start the hike from there.

Hudson Valley hiking Old Minnewaska Trail-29

Hudson Valley hiking Old Minnewaska Trail-19

New York Hudson Valley Autumn Hiking- Poet’s Walk

Hudson Valley hiking Poet's Walk-9

Once I read about the Poet’s Walk hike, I just knew I had to fit it into my hiking schedule. It was a bit off the beaten path for my planned itinerary, but not so far off that I could not swing by and do this walk in the later afternoon.

Hudson Valley hiking Poet's Walk-4

Hudson Valley hiking Poet's Walk-11

This is a great and easy walk to do on a late sunny autumn afternoon, because you have an expansive view of the Hudson Valley, and can see the sunset if you want to wait that long (I didn’t). The trail is only about 2.4 miles if you do the entire loop trail, and flat or gentle hills most of the trail.

Hudson Valley hiking Poet's Walk-6

Getting there is pretty easy. From the intersection of Market St (Rt 308) and Rt 9 in the village of Rhinebeck, head north on Route 9.  In about five blocks, bear left onto Montgomery Road. Keep going straight and Montgomery Road becomes Mount Rutsen Road which becomes River Road (County Rd 103).  Take River Road for a few hundred yards and you’ll come to a stoplight at the intersection with 199.  Go straight here and find the well-marked Poet’s Walk parking lot on your left in about half a mile.

Hudson Valley hiking Poet's Walk-7

This is another one of those trails you can’t get lost. Park in the parking lot and follow the signs out to the trail. After a very short walk in a wooded area, you emerge into a wide open field and can see for quite a distance.

Hudson Valley hiking Poet's Walk-1

Hudson Valley hiking Poet's Walk-8

The first thing that caught my eye was beautifully designed gazebo off a short distance away. The gazebo is right on a tiny loop trail in the field and offers a very beautiful view of the Hudson Valley foliage and its elaborately designed gazebo.

Hudson Valley hiking Poet's Walk-2

Hudson Valley hiking Poet's Walk-3

There really isn’t much to this walk, except to enjoy the views from the many well-placed benches. There is a loop trail that takes you closer to the Hudson River, but once the loop takes you from the river, there isn’t much else notable to the walk, though the wooded views are nice and peaceful. While there were many people in the open field enjoying the view, there were much fewer people on the loop trail, so I practically had it to myself that time of day in the later afternoon.

Hudson Valley hiking Poet's Walk-10

Hudson Valley hiking Poet's Walk-5

I was glad that the weather held out and the afternoon light on the foliage provided some great autumn leaf peeping. This walk is super easy to do since it is basically strolling for the most part on an easy path (a tiny bit of rockiness if you walk the loop trail). But if you are in the area, it is certainly worth your time.

Hudson Valley hiking Poet's Walk-12