To say Lake Louise is one of the most beautiful and iconic spots in Canada’s Banff National Park would be an understatement. The lake itself is one of the most photographed lakes in the world, and Lake Louise Gondola sweeps you up 6893ft (2102m) for insanely pretty views of its turquoise waters. Most folks head to Lake Louise in winter for its amazing ski runs. But it’s also open in summer and is one of the best spots in the world for grizzly bear viewing.
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Lake Louise Gondola
Once the ski season ends, Lake Louise opens up its gondola for summer sightseeing. Because it’s not just skiers who love these alpine peaks and meadows. The Canadian Rockies are most definitely where the wild things are.
Bears (black and grizzly), lynx, wolves, mountain goats, elk deer, moose, big horn sheep, wolverines and cougars all call Lake Louise home and each of these creatures can be spotted from the gondola.
Fret not, they’re all roaming below you, while you’re going up the mountain on the chairlift or from the comfort of an enclosed car. Let me tell you, it’s such a rush to watch wildlife forage for food, while you safely spy on them from above. For the best pictures, you want to ride on the open air chairlift, though.
Lake Louise Summer Gondola
It takes approximately fourteen minutes to be whisked up to the top of Lake Louise Ski Resort with their summer gondola operation. Along the way you’re likely to spot Rocky Mountain wildlife and a kaleidoscope of wildflowers. At the top, 6 mountain ranges are visible, which makes it an envy-inducing spot to snag family photos.
After arriving at the summit, you ought to grab a bite and a brew at Whitehorn Bistro (more on that below) and wander through the Wildlife Interpretive Centre. There’s also complimentary programs led by Interpretive Guides so you can learn more about the wildlife and natural wonders that flourish in this area.
Stroll around the summit on a variety of hiking trails or opt for a guided walk if you’re unsure what to do in a bear encounter.
Lake Louise Bears
One surprising benefit that ski hill development brings is their wide open spaces attract grizzly bears and other animals during the summer months. As a result, one of the best spots to view grizzlies in their natural environment is at Lake Louise Ski Resort.
When we went in July, we spotted a lone male grizzly bear foraging through the grass. Score! But then 3 minutes and several hundred feet later, we spotted a mama bear with her two cubs! We were fully content. But wait! It gets better, yet.
While strolling back to the gondola to head down, we spotted yet another female grizz with her two cubs about 500 feet above us. They were moving so fast, scrambling uphill. We just assumed it was the same mama bear we saw on the way up, but it wasn’t.
We knew this because we saw the original mama bear on our way down. Then we saw the lone male again! So that’s 5 sightings and 7 bears within our two hour visit.
Bears and other potentially scary wildlife populate this entire national park. It’s their home, after all. You don’t want to assume one area is any less populated with bears than any other.
Always carry bear spray on hikes in bear country, and check with Parks staff, plus online reports for wildlife sightings before embarking on any outdoor activity in the mountains.
There’s definitely fewer restaurants in Lake Louise than in the town of Banff. (Banff is like small city in summer, while Lake Louise remains a village.) One of the best restaurants is Whitehorn Bistro, up at the top of Lake Louise Ski Resort. There’s several dining options on mountain, but the bistro is tops.
From the patio at Whitehorn Bistro, you’re privy to sweeping views of Victoria Glacier, Cathedral Mountain and the iconic turquoise lake. And the food is divine. If you’re sharing, go for the cheese fondue or the charcuterie board. Both are excellent, as are the mussels.
7 Fun Banff National Park Facts
- Established in 1885, Banff National Park is Canada’s first National Park and the third oldest protected park in the world.
- Lake Louise was named after Queen Victoria’s fourth daughter, Princess Louise Caroline Alberta. She became the wife of the Marquis of Lorne who was Governor General to Canada in the late 1800s.
- Banff is named after Banff, Scotland, the birthplace of two of the original Canadian Pacific Railway directors.
- Banff National Park has the largest cave system in Canada with 18 km of known passage ways – mostly found near the Columbia Icefield.
- There are more than 1000 glaciers in Banff National Park.
- The mountains in Banff National Park date back 120 million years ago.
- The most endangered species in Banff National Park isn’t the elusive wolverine nor the grizzly bear. It’s the Banff Springs snail! This fresh water snail that lives along Sulphur Mountain and at Cave and Basin National Historic Site is found nowhere else on earth.
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