The Ultimate 5-Day Canadian Rockies Road Trip: Banff and Jasper (Day #4)

The Ultimate 5-Day Canadian Rockies Road Trip: Banff and Jasper (Day #4)

After the adventure of the first 3 days, day 4 was always going to be a slower one. Unlike the other days, we didn’t pack our itinerary with tons of things.

Instead, we decided to take it slow, and only visit the locations that are definitely worth our time. The list looked something like this:

  1. Athabasca Falls
  2. Medicine Lake
  3. Maligne Lake Cruise
  4. Spirit Island

The weather was looking ominous with dark clouds and drizzles every now and then. However, if there’s one thing I learned about mountain weather in the past few days, it is that weather seems to change with every turn on the mountain roads.

So, we just hoped for the best and started off day 4 with some coffee.

Slow Start to the Day

At 8:30 AM I stumped out of bed and reluctantly put on some joggers and hoodie.

My legs were killing me, but somehow I powered through. Previous days 8+ hours of driving mixed with short hikes revealed my poor cardio fitness.

I was the only one awake, so I just grabbed my book and walked to the nearest coffee shop.

Outside the hotel (taken by the author)
Outside a cafe next to the hotel (taken by the author)

Sipping on an iced matcha latte, I started reading the only book I brought with me for the trip — Letters from a Stoic by Seneca.

After reading for 20–25 minutes, my friends called to say they already checked out of the hotel, and we were ready to start our adventure for the day.

Athabasca Falls

At first, we made our way back to Icefields Parkway to visit one of the best stops we skipped on our way to Jasper. It’s the magnificent Athabasca Falls — easily the best waterfall along the drive.

Athabasca Falls (taken by the author)
Long exposure shot of the Athabasca Falls (taken by the author)

The power of the water here is immense. As we walked around the waterfall snapping photos, we could barely hear one another.

I have seen many waterfalls, but this was the first where the extreme force and volume of water do not match the relatively short height of the waterfall.

While walking around the Falls, we also saw some gorgeous rock formations created by the gradual chipping away of the rocks by the powerful water.

We spent some 45 minutes near the Falls and then started for our next destination.

Medicine Lake

The road to Medicine Lake was one of the most remote mountain roads that we took so far on our trip.

It took us around 35 minutes from downtown Jasper. Wherever we looked, we saw burnt trees. This is the only time I could truly understand the horror and sheer size of forest wildfires. It looks unreal.

There’s a fascinating fun fact about Medicine Lake: It’s nicknamed the “Disappearing Lake” because it drains in the Fall and Winter months. From a lake full of water it transforms to just a few ponds.

How does it happen, I hear you ask? There’s a complex underground cave system, which means water is always “leaking”. When there is no more water to replace the draining water, the lake turns into a few ponds. It’s fascinating!

Medicine Lake (taken by the author)

There are also rumors that you can often see Black Bear with cubs around the lake, but we couldn’t see any.

However, we did see the nest of a bald eagle, and I learned some super interesting facts about Eagles, but I digress.

One note about parking near Medicine Lake, it’s very limited. We waited 10–15 minutes before one of the spots opened up.

Maligne Lake & Spirit Island

From one lake to another, our next stop was Maligne Lake, which was another 20 minutes drive up the mountain roads.

The further up the mountains, we went, the more burnt trees and fewer cars that we saw.

Apparently, the road to Maligne Lake gives you tons of opportunities to see bears by the side of the road, but we didn’t see any. Can’t complain though given we already saw 4 on the trip so far.

We decided to do the Maligne Lake Cruise, that’s why we were there.

Maligne Lake Boat Cruise Starting Point (taken by the author)

On the cruise, you go to Spirit Island, nestled in the heart of the mountains. It’s a 35-minute boat ride to the island, and then back. On the island, they let you walk around and take photos for 20 minutes before they sound the horn for you to return.

From the island, we got some of the best views of the stunning lake and intimidating mountains.

Spirit Island (taken by the author)
Docking area at the Spirit Island (taken by the author)

Our tour guide was fantastic. He gave us a really good summary of the history of the island, as well as stories behind all the different mountain peaks.

The island is a spiritual place for the Stoney Nakoda First Nation who believed that mountains were physical representations of their ancestors. I learned a ton of fascinating things about them and gained some massive respect. I plan on writing more about their philosophy in the coming weeks.

After spending a total of 3 hours on the boat cruise, we got back in our car, had some vegan Lindt chocolates that I bought for the trip, and started our drive back to downtown Jasper.

Dinner: Kimchi House

We got back to downtown Jasper at around 7 PM. We still had 3 hours of sunlight left, but our bodies were starting to give up. The action-packed adventure of the last few days was starting to catch up.

That’s why, we decided to spend the remaining night walking around downtown Jasper and getting dinner.

If I am being honest, the dinner was quite underwhelming. We wanted to try something different, so we decided to have Korean cuisine at Kimchi House. It was refreshing to have some hot broth in the cold, but the taste was just…meh.

Dinner at Kimchi House (taken by the author)

After a very filling dinner, we walked around downtown Jasper and checked out some cute local stores.

If you want some souvenirs to bring back home, I would highly recommend checking some of the local stores. It’s super fun!

I ended up getting some clothes for my niece and nephew.

Gifts for niece and nephew (taken by the author)

After a couple of hours of walking the downtown streets, we went back to the hotel and called it a day at around 10:45 PM.

Wrap-up & Day 5 Teasers

Even though we started the day thinking day 4 was going to be uneventful and relaxing, it ended up being very long and tiring. It was worth it!

The next day, day 5, was again one of the most eventful days. We ended the trip on a high seeing icefields, walking on glaciers, having some of the best pizzas of our trip, and finally checking out another beautiful mountain town in Canmore.

If that whets your appetite, stay tuned for my final blog post that I will write and upload in the next few days.

Want more insights like this?

Join my (FREE) email list of 500+ people for more stories on technology, productivity, self-improvement, and personal growth.

You will get early access to all my Medium work and exclusive access to tons of things I don’t post on Medium!

If you enjoy my writing on this platform, join Medium so you can get unlimited access to valuable and beautiful writings from great writers.