The mountains near the town of Lake Louise were gigantic snowcapped behemoths. They blocked out the sun and cast endless shadows. Soon we were off the highway and approaching the Chateau Lake Louise. Ashley and I decided to live it up for half of our time in the Canadian Rockies. The historic Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise is a man-made treasure set amidst a breathtaking landscape. It is also luxury wilderness lodging at its absolute finest. And it better be considering the price. It is a very expensive four-star resort, and in my opinion, worth every penny. I’d challenge you to find anyone who was not pleased with their stay there.
We parked the car in the parking garage below the hotel and entered the resort. Our arrival at Lake Louise came with a lot of anticipation. So, as soon as we got there we had to get right outside for our first glimpse of the famous lake. We left our bags in the car and headed through the hotel lobby and straight out the door.
Lake Louise and the surrounding landscape were flawlessly spectacular. The lake was a stunning turquoise color, brought on by glacial melt-water. It sat at the bottom of a natural bowl. The Beehive, Devil’s Thumb, and Mount Whyte were north of the lake. Fairview Mountain and Saddle Mountain sat to the south. And just west of Lake Louise, on the British Columbia border, was the hulking Mount Victoria. The enormous peak is over 11,000 feet high and draped with glaciers. Rising up the bottom portion of the surrounding mountains was a thick dark forest of pines. This was pristine mountain wilderness. We instantly agreed that we were in one of the most beautiful places we had ever seen.
We gazed out over the lake and up at the rugged peaks surrounding it for a short time before returning to the Chateau’s elegant lobby to check-in. It was too early and our room was not yet ready. The nice woman at the desk said they would rush the room and notify us once it was ready so we could drop our bags off. In the meantime we headed to the Chateau Deli for a quick lunch.
After we devoured some overpriced pre-made sandwiches we went back outside. Since we couldn’t get into our room yet we figured we might as well go for a short hike. Several trails begin near the Chateau Lake Louise, and a few of them especially interested me. However, this was our first hike in the Canadian Rockies, and I promised Ashley we would start with an easy trail. There happened to be a trail that started just beyond the hotel that fit our requirements perfectly.
The Lake Louise Shoreline Trail is less than two and a half miles round-trip with virtually no elevation gain. Despite it being short and simple it is incredibly scenic the entire way, because the pathway is adjacent to the brilliant lake.
We quickly reached the trailhead beside Lake Louise and started down the path. The trail was wide and flat. It was paved in the beginning, and had a soft dirt base for most of the distance. The right side of the trail was lined with tall bushy pines, while the gorgeous aquamarine lake was just to our left.
A number of people shared the Lakeshore Trail with us, but it never seemed overly crowded. That was somewhat surprising considering its proximity to the hotel and its lack of difficulty, but it was certainly welcomed. Some of the people we saw on our hike were not on the trail at all, but rather in the water. They were paddling across the lake’s calm waters in long red canoes. They were rentals from the chalet. It looked like fun, but we were happy watching from the trail.
The air was cool beside the lake, despite it being an afternoon in mid-August. Being surrounded by alpine lakes and enormous mountains had the trail at a high altitude, even though there was no incline. In fact, the village of Lake Louise at 5,680 feet above sea level is the highest village in Canada. Our entire time in the Canadian Rockies was colder than expected.
We paused frequently on the trail to photograph our surroundings. Outstanding views of the milky water and rugged peaks subtly transformed as we proceeded along the path. An overcast sky made the mountains appear especially ominous and turned the lake dark green after walking about a mile down the trail. The cloudy sky certainly didn’t help the temperature beside the lake. That was alright though, we didn’t need it to be hot out to enjoy our leisurely hike.
I felt great being on the trail. We were out of our cramped car and out in the expansive wilderness. The scenery was overwhelmingly beautiful. Between the crisp mountain air and the abundant pine trees nearby, even the smells of the trail were appealing. And to top it all off, I got to share the experience with my future wife.
Along our hike we witnessed a couple that was not getting along nearly as well as us. Almost to the western end of Lake Louise, we noticed some rock climbers a short distance up on the nearby mountain wall. These people were in full-on climbing gear, equipped with ropes, harnesses, helmets, and more. A few looked to be at least 100 feet up the steep dark wall. We stood and watched the climbers inch their way up the rocky wall. Then we heard a scream. A girl fell from the side of the mountain, only about twenty or thirty feet up, but her boyfriend had given her rope a lot of slack and she almost fell all the way to the ground. Her screams quickly shifted from the fear of her fall to anger at her significant other. We were both glad to be safely on the trail and not dangling off the side of a cliff.
We continued on to the western shore of the lake. There was a small beach full of wet wavy sand. Directly across from us, on the eastern shore of the lake, was the Chateau Lake Louise. Above and behind the resort hotel was Whitehorn Mountain, home to the famous Lake Louise Ski Area. Many of the ski runs could be seen cutting their way down the mountain. Lake Louise is renowned for its skiing. With over 4,200 acres of prime powder, it is one of the largest ski resorts in North America. We would get a closer look at the ski area in a couple of days.
We felt a few raindrops while on the beach, so we decided to turn back in case a storm was on the way. We had made it to the opposite side of the lake anyway, so we got as far as we wanted, we just hurried back a little faster than planned. Thankfully the rain held off during our swift walk back to the hotel.
Once back at the chateau we checked-in and found our room. We spent the rest of our day exploring and enjoying our wonderful hotel. First we relaxed in the hot tub and indoor swimming pool for a while then enjoyed a delightful steak dinner in one of the hotel’s elegant restaurants. After dinner we checked out some of the shops near the lobby before retreating to our room for the night.
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