Sunday, May 29, 2011

Review: Banff National Park - Castle Mountain Campground

Location: Along Highway 1A, 30 km NE of Banff
Website: Parks Canada
Camping Facilities: Car Camping
Grade: B
Stargazing: Mountains and canopy made it pretty difficult. You can't have it all.
Summary: Car camping offers limited privacy, but the quality of scenery (mountains, streams) in the campground makes up for it.  Great location halfway between Banff and Lake Louise.  Plentiful wildlife viewing opportunities. 
Comfort station at Castle Mountain Campground
Thoughts: Albertans have it pretty good; energy resources, plentiful agricultural land, a strong economy, winning hockey teams (well, at least within the past few decades).  And on top of that, Alberta just happens to have some of the most beautiful and accessible scenery in the country!   Come on, guys!  At least Albertans are generally friendly as well, else us Ontarians would have to grumble and pout about it even more than we do.  (**Please note, if you're used to seeing mountains and they don't strike you with awe, then you'll probably hate this place)

Even the car camping is disproportionately nice here.  Sure, the sites are close together, there's no privacy, but the raw beauty of it all is too overwhelming.  Just look at site 21 below.  Yes, that's a stream flowing through the site.  And look at the view up to the comfort station (which has both hot water and flush toilets).  Its just ridiculous.

The other beauty thing about this campground is that its pretty central.  Just a short drive over to the Trans Canada highway, then 30 km to Lake Louise, and 30 km to Banff.   You can even jet up the Icefields Parkway and see rest stop after rest stop with indescribable look-outs (see below).  Pictures do not do this place justice 

Campsite 21 at Castle Mountain Campground
Hiking: While the time I spent in the wonderland was far too brief, I was able to do a few quick hikes.  Plain of the Six Glaciers is incredible (and can probably be labeled a novice hike).  If you do the entire length (hike 30 mins past the second tea house), you will be rewarded with an outstanding view in all directions.  The second was Johnston Canyon, which was nice and all, but I didn't make it past the upper falls (which is where most other tourists make it, so its a very crowded trail).  Perhaps treking up to the Inkpots would have been more rewarding.  The final hike was a very short but extremely rewarding hike just off of the Peyto Lake viewing platform.  If you head further along the trail, past all the tourists, you'll reach a loop that takes you around for some further viewing.  There are some side trails here that have equally outstanding views of Peyto Lake, while providing complete seclusion (people tend not to stray far from the viewing platform).

Peyto Lake Banff National Park
Peyto Lake, along the Icefields Parkway
Chateau Lake Louise Plain of the Six Glaciers
View of Chateau Lake Louise
from Plain of the Six Glaciers

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