Back in November, I took a trip to Lake Louise in Banff, Alberta, with Ghost, so he could see snow for the first time. Growing up, my family took an RV trip up the West Coast and into Canada, and while I only remember bits and pieces, I do remember that Lake Louise was the most gorgeous place I’d ever seen in North America, then and since.
If you’re curious about traveling with a dog from the United States into Canada, check out my other blog post for some of the requirements and what to expect.
Time of Year
Lake Louise is famed for its turquoise, glacier-fed waters, and I’m not going to lie, we had hoped to see them on our stay. The lake freezes over between November and December and will stay frozen until about June. Check out their live cam if you’re planning on visiting on the cusp of either season. We’d been obsessively refreshing it before our arrival, and unfortunately it froze two days before we left, but the winter views are just as gorgeous and it’s giving us a reason to head back come summer 2018!
Getting to the Lake
The closest way to get to Lake Louise is by flying into the Calgary International Airport (YYC), which is about a 2-hour drive away if you take the direct route up the Trans-Canada Highway. If you’re staying at Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, the only place worth staying here, they also offer a private charter if that’s more up your alley.
Being a native Texan who has little to no experience driving in winter conditions, I was a little nervous hitting the roads, but Enterprise was pretty great about informing me on road conditions and setting me up with a car that was more fit for my needs—although they did say any car would be fine on the route I was taking.
The Trans-Canada Highway is a straight shot to Lake Louise. No major mountain passes and since it’s a heavily-used highway, the roads are plowed of any snow. When we arrived, it was sunny and an easy drive. On the way back, we left early morning while it was snowing, but one of the lanes was already plowed and despite my lack of knowledge, we had no troubles getting back to the airport safely.
Checking In To Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise
As always, call ahead to let the hotel know you’ll be bringing a dog. Do note that in Canada, the laws around Emotional Support Animals (ESAs) are practically nonexistent. You won’t find docked pet deposits or the same accommodations you do in the United States. If you’re traveling with a Service Dog (SD), it’s a different story, as you’re protected under the Landlord Tenant Act. Certain notable differences in Canada are that, SD or not, you cannot enter establishments that serve and prepare food, period.
But it really doesn’t matter, here! Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise is actually well known as one of the most dog-friendly hotels in North America! Chances are, your dog will be greeted with lots of pets and smiles. The staff, at least on our visit, hailed from as far as Australia, many of whom had to leave their pets behind while they worked, so they were starved for dog attention.
I definitely recommend booking the more expensive Lakeview Room, as the view is half the point of staying here!
When you head up to your room, you’ll find a set of bowls, water bottles for your pup, poop bags, and some dog treats waiting for you. Super adorable and definitely appreciated because Ghost tends to eat less when traveling due to excitement and nerves, but a new treat is always devoured.
Can’t Leave Your Pup Alone in the Room
If you are traveling alone, expect to be getting a lot of room service or pickup from the few restaurants in the area, unless you want to drive to Banff (which in this blogger’s opinion is way too crowded to deal with). You cannot leave your dog unattended in the room, and since you cannot bring your pup into food establishments, it leaves you with little options. But hey, you’re here for the views and the hiking, not the food, right?
Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise does offer a Pet Sitter service with 24-hour advance notice, if you want to head out to the slopes or take a day off to yourself. Did I mention this place is crazy dog friendly?
Things To Prepare Before Hitting the Trails
This list is going to apply to visiting in the winter, but much of the same applies for the other seasons. Practice common sense when hiking with your dog.
You absolutely must keep your dog on a leash at all times. Grizzly bears are active from spring until late autumn, and you don’t want your dog mixed up with something like that. You can also get into some hot water if your dog attacks any of the local wildlife. Needless to say, there are some hefty fines if you’re caught with your dog off-leash in Banff National Park. That said, some things to bring along when hiking around the lake or in the surrounding areas include:
- A collapsible water bowl
- Plenty of water
- Musher’s Secret is our favorite for paw protection in the winter
- Lanolin oil is a nice moisturizer for their paws after a day of hiking
- Leash (by law cannot be more than 9 feet if you’re going retractable)
- Some treats
- Doggie jacket if your dog is prone to the cold in the winter
And if you are traveling in the winter you definitely want to stop by the bell desk at the hotel to get some crampons for yourself for walking on icy terrain.
Our Favorite Trails
First, a huge shout out to the concierge desk for giving me an amazing list of recommendations. I think we visited just about every spot in our short time there. If you are unsure about where you want to start, we definitely recommend talking to the more than knowledgeable staff there. There are a few trails around the lake itself, dependent on weather conditions.
We ended up taking the Fairview Lookout, which offers a nice overview over the lake and the hotel. It took us probably a solid hour and was definitely far easier heading back down. Unfortunately it was pretty cloudy that day, but it was still a great hike! The Lakeshore Stroll was also nice. Some of the others were closed for the season, unfortunately.
Other places we visited included:
- Johnston Canyon, upper and lower falls
- City of Banff
- Mt. Norquay Lookout
- Emerald Lake
If you’re hitting up Johnston Canyon, we recommend leaving the hotel around 7-7:30 in the morning to beat the traffic. When we visited, there was no one else on the trails and we had the place entirely to ourselves. Only on the way back to our car did other visitors start showing up, and we’d already been out for around 2 or so hours. If you’re there in the winter, we definitely recommend crampons.
The City of Banff is hustling with activity and shops, if that’s your thing.
Mt. Norquay has an amazing panoramic view of Banff with some adorable, red adirondack chairs that make for a nice picture.
And Emerald Lake is quiet, removed, but absolutely gorgeous.
When we head back in the summer, we’ll definitely be visiting Lake Moraine, but access to the roads are closed in the winter, and I couldn’t put Ghost through a 12 mile hike one-way in the snow. If you’re up for it, I’m sure the views are lovely in the winter, though. It’s smaller but has been featured on Canadian dollars as it’s one of the country’s most scenic destinations!
Don’t Forget to Relax
The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise is above all else, a relaxing, beautiful hotel with amazing scenery, so take it all in. Sit outside by the campfire during the winter. Ice skate if it’s available, take in the views at the amazing dining options. You might just even get a chance to hang out with the local celeb dog and hotel ambassador, Marcus.
We had a blast in our short stay, and without a doubt, will be visiting again soon. P.S. We’re OBSESSED with their pillows. You can buy all of their bedding material online!