Lake Louise

You just can't drive the Trans-Canada and not make a stop at Lake Louise. It's the definitive, textbook example of an idyllic mountain lake. And it's at exactly the point where you have to stop for a rest anyway when heading west from Calgary. Not surprisingly, it's also the definitive, textbook example of a smoothly run tourist trap.

Here's why:

This is seriously rugged terrain, in the heart of the Canadian Rockies. The valley is comfortable, but the slopes are harsh; even the hardiest of trees call it quits about halfway up.

There used to be a glacier in this valley; it was receding when I was here in 2004 and is no longer visible (apparently a bit of it remains, higher up the mountain, but it may not last much longer). The mountains are still snow-capped, for the moment. But keep well clear- the snow pack looks less than stable, even for late summer.

The meltwater flow looks to be about normal.

Gardens require quite a lot of care up here. The luxury hotel that overlooks the lake starts at $250 a night, so they can afford a few good gardeners.

Lake Louise is too built-up and touristy for me to want to stay for long, but if you've bought the Banff park pass anyway, it's certainly worth a stop to go hiking for a few hours.

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