Scenic Drives of the Rockies – the Minnewanka Meander
Banff National Park, Alberta
The beautiful thing about driving an old Ford Escort whose passenger window refuses to close is that you can’t help but admire the clearest views of the Canadian Rockies albeit while wearing two hats, scarves, gloves and a super thermal suit. Often, there are a few options to take when you go for a drive. You can go straight down the motorway which isn’t so bad or you can take your time by following the scenic route through the natural beauty of the Rockies.
If short on time or fuel, this is one of the best options around. It takes only 90 minutes or less round trip, starts and ends in Banff and still loops past a collection of the parks finest lakes. In a way, it feels like you cheated a little bit because it is only just outside Banff but by the time you are finished, you will have seen so much rugged countryside that it will feel like you have conquered the Canadian Rockies in record time. If your car shares similar attributes to mine, you will also feel pretty cold and relieved at having made the journey unscathed.
Of course, it seems too good to be true. The downside is that because of dangerous conditions, the road (like most high roads) is closed from November to April depending on how Mr. Global Warming is feeling. Among the highlights of this trip are the gorgeous Cascade Pond and the eerie Bankhead. Bankhead was once a thriving coal town from 1904 to 1922 that was bigger than Banff and had shops, a pool hall and a church. Now it simply looks like a field with some disregarded old machinery left behind. Lake Minnewanka is a great place to stop and enjoy a picnic and if you are feeling a bit crazy / suicidal then Johnson Lake is only 10km further down the road where you can take a dip. Though Banff locals are common around here, jump into the lake only during summer. I learned this the hard way.
If you keep following the trail as you sit now cold and wet in your car, it rambles all the way around the hill and back down towards Banff where you can look forward to a warm mug of hot chocolate and a welcoming hotel with that beautifully undeserved feeling of accomplishment.