A Twenty Dollar View – we visit Moraine Lake

Ken and I do a lot of driving in the mountains here, just like we used to in Colorado.  There seemed to be more little towns to explore in the mountains of Colorado, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t anything to see here.  In fact, the parks here are chock full of stunning views.  I bought a book last year about day trips from Calgary, and read about Moraine Lake, so last weekend, we drove up to check it out.

According to the book and to Wikipedia: “The view of Moraine Lake in Banff National Park from the top of the moraine rockpile is one of the most photographed locations in all of Canada.That view of the mountains behind the lake in Valley of the Ten Peaks is known as the Twenty Dollar View, as Moraine Lake was featured on the reverse side of the 1969 and 1979 issues of the Canadian twenty dollar bill.”


Now, I must confess, we did not actually see THE Twenty Dollar View, owing to the throngs of tourists atop that rock pile. Even on a rainy day like the first day we visited, that hill was packed to bursting with so many people and we just didn’t feel up to fighting our way through so many people to trek up to the top.  Maybe next time when it’s not quite so crowded.  I did get an okay picture from that end of the lake, at the bottom of that rock pile though.

We were hoping to do a hike to the Larch Valley which my little book said is supposed to be just beautiful in the fall.  But, there were restrictions on the trail because of grizzly bear activity which meant they didn’t allow groups with fewer than 4 hikers.  They do allow you to join other small groups to make groups of 4 or more, but since it was raining last weekend, it just wasn’t the best day for hiking anyway, so there weren’t many people around the trailhead.  We did wind up hiking to the end of the lake and it was just stunning, even in the rain.


Over the week, Ken sent an email out to ask people at work if anyone wanted to join us this weekend and we were able to get a group together to go.  One thing about going with other people is that generally speaking, Ken and I have to get up much earlier than we are really used to.  Colin picked us up at 7:30 on Saturday, so we had to get up at 6:45!!  I never get up before 8am, but I will say that when you have a trip planned, getting up in the wee hours sort of adds to the special feel of the day.  At least it does for me. But maybe I’m just odd that way?

We met up with Sarah and her friend at the Moraine Lake Lodge and set out for the trailhead.  I have no pictures from the first half of the hike up because I thought I might die.  And what good are photos if you’re dead anyway?

I didn’t think it was ever going to stop going up!  And up.  And UP.  I mean, I knew I was out of shape, but good gravy!!  I felt bad for the people we were with because they almost didn’t even seem to be breathing hard, but they were nice and stopped for me when I needed to and never mentioned how red and sweaty my face was.  Bless their hearts.  (And no, I don’t mean that in that polite, but back-handed southern way.)

I wish there was a way for me to show you the switchbacks on this trail.  The Hike Alberta website and the little book I have called it a “moderate hike”, and I will just have to agree to disagree.  By the time we got to the Larch Valley, my legs felt like lead and I had to keep stopping for breath.  I hope by next year, I can do this hike and think of it as moderate…at least now I have a baseline to see if the exercise and running that I’ve started doing in the last couple of months will make any difference. Just for reference sake, the little GPS program I was using on my phone claimed that we climbed a total of 1,911 feet and hiked a total of 5.71 miles. I don’t know how accurate it is though, because it felt like about 20 miles to me. I could be wrong.

We kept climbing past the valley on up the mountain to the lake at the bottom of Sentinel Pass.  We did NOT climb the trail to the top, though.  I think we were all worn out by that time.  Me more than the others it seems.  Anyway, once I had collapsed and then lain on the ground for about an hour and eaten something to get my strength back, I was able to look around and feel like all that climbing and panting and sweating was worth it! Or, at least somewhat worth it….

Oh, what the heck…it was totally worth it!

Our group split up on the way down because Sarah and her friend had to get going and Ken wanted to take his time on the way down so he could do some photography, so it was down to Colin, Ken, and myself.  I was never so thankful for downhill trails!


All in all, a great day!  And we were even treated to a beautiful sunset on the drive back home to Calgary!
(After treating Colin to dinner in Banff first!)


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