The Lake Louise region of Banff National Park is famous for two lakes, Louise and Moraine, both of which are shimmering torquoise bodies of water surrounding by craggy peaks and glaciers. This sceneset features many of the moods of these two lakes, along with spectacular scenery captured during a trip to the Plain of Six Glaciers, a high alpine region accessed by a phenomenal hike along and then behind Lake Louise.
1Castle Mountain and the Bow River Castle Mountain is an icon of Banff National Park, and it's rather easy to see how it got its name. This was a pretty day with puffy clouds drifting across deep blue skies, as I caught this iconic image of the mountain looming behind the turquoise waters of the Bow River.
2CPR In this case the letters "CPR" have nothing to do with cardiac resuscitation, but rather the tracks of the Canadian Pacific Railway. The drive to lay rail to permit transport of goods across Canada was a major impetus for the initial Western exploration of the Canadian Rockies. This is a rather famous view of the railroad, though I wasn't lucky enough to catch it with a train en route.
3Lake Louise Reflections Mount Victoria and the Victoria Glacier appear in stereo in this early morning scene at Lake Louise, a very popular destination in the Rockies. This was actually taken from the bridge over the small, narrow bay at the far northwest of the lake.
4Twenty Dollar View Moraine Lake is the second-most-popular destination in the Lake Louise area, after Lake Louise herself. It is a truly breathtaking sight, especially on a nice, clear morning such as this one. In the 1970s, this view was chosen to adorn the back of the Canadian twenty-dollar bill, leading to it being called the "Twenty Dollar View". For my money, "Million Dollar View" is more like it!
5Sugar Cube The most common shots of Moraine Lake, including this image and the one previous, are taken from the top of the "Rock Pile", a small mound of rubble at the northwest corner of the lake. It is the destination of choice for photographers because it provides some elevation above the lake for a better view, but is easily accessible. The Rock Pile was at one time thought to be the terminal moraine of a glacier, which is where the lake's name comes from, but is now believed to simply be the result of a large rockslide. There are some very interesting oddly-shaped rocks atop the "Pile", such as this nearly-cubical hunk of stone that reminded me of a much smaller object of similar shape.
6Steps to the Temple The popularity of the Rock Pile at Moraine Lake led to the creation of these obviously-man-made steps up to its summit. This atypical "not-including-the-actual-lake" image shows these steps with Mount Temple rising in the background. No, they don't lead up to the summit. :)
7Buttercups Some pretty buttercups form a different foreground for the pale green-blue of Lake Louise's waters.
8Moraine and Lefroy This angular image was taken on the Plain of Six Glaciers hike, where the trail begins to rise into the mountains after passing the end of Lake Louise. From the center-left to the center of the image you can see a ridge that is a true lateral moraine formed by the retreat of Victoria Glacier. On the left, Mount Aberdeen; in the center, Mount Lefroy; to the right, Mount Victoria and Victoria Glacier.
9Lakeshore Trail For those not able or willing to undertake the more strenuous mountain hikes in the Rockies, a pleasant, flat trail winds along the entire northern shore of Lake Louise. And while the views aren't as impressive as they are up high, they're certainly nothing to complain about!
10End of the Lake This panorama shows a view of Lake Louise that most tourists never see: from the southwest end of the lake looking back towards the famous Chateau Lake Louise hotel. The lake gets very shallow here, as it is fed by meltwater from the mountains. The giant bulk of Fairview Mountain forms the backdrop.
11Looking Back This is how Lake Louise appears about half-way through the The Plain of Six Glaciers hike to the teahouse. It was quite neat seeing snow on the ground in late June (and walking through it!)
I rarely include people in my landscape photos, but it turns out that my family is actually in this picture. They're heading down the serpentine path, bottom left, that leads back to the lake. They are pretty tiny except in the full-sized image, and I never even noticed them myself when I first published this image.
12Plain of Six Glaciers The Plain of Six Glaciers is one of the most popular hikes in Banff National Park. It starts out along the shore of Lake Louise and then climbs slowly along the slope of Mount Whyte into a basin where six glaciers can indeed be seen: Aberdeen, Lefroy, Victoria and Popes Peak glaciers, along with valley glaciers near Mounts Lefroy and Victoria. Young conifers seem almost like a picket fence in this image looking out over the plain, with one of the glaciers visible (not sure which it is) and in the distance, the peak called The Mitre, named for its superficial resemblance to clerical headgear.
13Near the Teahouse The trail flattens out near the Plain of Six Glaciers Teahouse, offering spectacular views of the surrounding mountains, many of which form part of the Continental Divide between Alberta and British Columbia. This north-looking view shows Collier Peak on the left, Popes Peak and its small glacier in the center, and Mount Whyte on the right.
14Avalanche Path From a distance, this avalanche chute almost looked like a man-made trail, ready to lead a hiker on an easy walk up into the mountains -- I only noticed just how rocky and uneven it was when I got up close. I believe it is still actually used as a path by scramblers (though hopefully not in the early spring when avalanche danger is high).
15Valley of the Ten Peaks Another view of Moraine Lake, this time showing a couple of kayakers setting out for an enjoyable paddle. A common name for the area is the Valley of the Ten Peaks, though you can actually see more than ten summits from the vicinity of the lake, and some of the decisions about what to consider a peak (as opposed to part of another mountain) are not always simple. Visible in the distance here, from left to right: Mount Bowlen, Tonsa, Mount Perren, Mount Allen, Mount Tuzo, Deltaform Mountain and Neptuak Mountain.
16Purple Paintbrush Most Indian paintbrush flowers are red, but you can also find them in shades of purple and even yellow. These contrast nicely with the complementary green behind them.
17Gathering Storm, Moraine Lake The high elevations and icefields of the Rocky Mountains make their own weather; it can and does rain (or even snow) at any time. I captured these storm clouds closing in on Moraine Lake late one afternoon.
18An Alternate View Yep, it's Moraine Lake again! This time, a slightly different view, showing part of the Rock Pile itself from which so many images are taken, along with the end of the lake and the traditional mountain views beyond.
19Wild Strawberry Aren't plants amazing? Sometimes it seems like there is nowhere they won't grow -- unless you plant them in your garden. ;) I captured this pretty strawberry plant blooming in a crevice near the top of the Moraine Lake Rock Pile.
20The Valley Often Passed This valley can be seen by scrambling a few yards down an embankment from the road that leads to Moraine Lake from the main highway. Thousands of tourists drive by this spot without ever noticing it -- a testament to the wealth of beauty in the Rockies.
21Nice View Once you sit down on this bench on top of the Rock Pile at Moraine Lake, it's pretty hard to get back up.
22Debris Field Trees naturally fall into Moraine Lake during stormy weather and accumulate near the northwest end of the lake. It must be a deliberate decision to leave them where they lay naturally, rather than removing them.
23Opportunistic A rainbow captured in the late evening after one of the many storms that pop up during the Rocky Mountain summer. We were driving from Lake Louise to Yoho National Park when I spotted it just before the provincial boundary and pulled over quickly -- you have to move fast when the opportunity arises, as rainbows never last very long.
24Rock Pile Babel Panorama Countless thousands of photos of Lake Moraine have been taken from the Rock Pile, but not nearly as many show the Rock Pile from the lake. This panorama, taken from a canoe, shows the Rock Pile on the left -- not too impressive compared to the mountains themselves, is it? The tall peak on the right is Mount Babel; the roughly cylindrical one just to the right of center is called the Tower of Babel, after the biblical story.
25Glacial Feed The beautiful color of Moraine Lake is due to light reflecting off "rock flour", fine particulate dust suspended in the runoff from glaciers. This stream, encountered while paddling the lake, is a major source of glacial meltwater input; I was surprised at just how strong the flow was.
26Worth the Cost Colorful canoes bob next to a dock on Moraine Lake. Renting one is not cheap, but if you are ever in the area, it is worth the fee for what could be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
27Bow River Flats The Bow River winds through Banff National Park. This is a view from a less-traveled area, where the river valley flattens out for a while. Even after many days in the area, the color of the water never ceased to amaze.
28Crystal Clear An absolutely sparkling morning on Lake Louise.
29Lupine Castle Another view of the imposing Castle Mountain, with colorful lupines in the foreground, taken from the Bow River Parkway. (You can even see a few small red Indian Paintbrushes on the left, if you look closely...)