Kootenay follows the Great Divide, west of Banff, bought up for a railway scheme but eventually sold to the government. It's a long winding valley with fine mountains and lots of local as well as backcountry trails.
It's largely ignored compared to Banff and Louise probably because it doesn't have big hotels and tourist infrastructure. But what it does have is fantastic mountain scenery and some quirky sights like the old paint pots, iron laden clays used for dyes, and marble canyon where the river rushes through tight gorges.
The hike up to Stanley glacier is magical, and you'll have plenty of pikas (rock rabbits) whistling you on the way. Kootenay Park Lodge has 10 historic but simple log cabins and good home cooking at affordable rates. Waking up to the sun rising on the mountains here is worth any journey.
Kootenay national park, 2 hours west from Banff, follow the quieter scenic Highway 1a before turning west towards Radium Hot Springs and you're soon in the Park. Lodge details at www.kootenayparklodge.com/
Lake Louise is stunningly beautiful, if only you can ignore the enormous and ugly Fairmont Chateau hotel and its $65m refurbishment, the car lot the size of several hypermarkets and the crowds. If you walk for an hour or two up one of the well-laid trails you might get some tranquility.
But my tip, if you're still reading, is to stay on Highway 1, just a few more miles over the Great Divide, and visit Yoho Park across the provincial border. If you can get on the parks bus (book in advance) up to Lake O'Hara, or walk the car-free 11km trail in, you will have delightful lakes and mountains to share with a handful of campers and the lucky few at the lodge built by the Canadian Pacific Railway in Swiss chalet style.
There are miles of beautiful trails and more challenging alpine routes, glaciers and waterfalls, and the odd bear. Bliss! And if you've time to spare, Emerald Lake is great too.
Highway 1 from Banff heading west to Lake Louise, good tourist office for advice on everything. But right next door is Yoho and its well worth the few miles extra
Lake Agnes Teahouse is accessible by one of the most hiked trails in the Rockies. A four-hour, 7 km round trip from the parking lot at the spectacular Lake Louise, the hike is moderate and affords you amazing views and a feel of the Rockies. The trail is busy in tourist season around the lake but the crowds thin out the higher and farther you hike.
And the reward is a splendid cuppa at the Teahouse.
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