Recap: Canmore Travels

Felicia and Jeff’s wedding in the mountains a couple of weeks ago was the perfect excuse for Mack and I to spend a few additional days in Canmore. While we stopped in the town two years ago en route to Lake Louise, it was winter, so we were keen to explore some of what it had to offer in the peak of summer.

Travelling with a baby can be tricky, but as we’re learning, giving yourself a lot of time, and going with the flow are the lessons we’ve taken to heart so far. It has meant not doing as much as we were used to on vacations past – one or two activities per day are more than enough. So we’ve had to choose even more wisely!

It was still pretty smoky while we were in Canmore, so we limited ourselves to one hike. The Grassi Lakes hike seemed to be one of the more reasonable ones, recognizing that Mack would be carrying a 16 pound weight up the slope. It was a nicely shady path for the most part, which we appreciated for Emily (and for us!).


Hiking with baby

We’ve also found that it’s often more convenient to have meals at home, so we’re definitely eating out a lot less when travelling. However, we did plan to visit the Canmore Mountain Market, which was within walking distance of our AirBnB.


Canmore Mountain Market

While they didn’t have the breadth of vendors I was expecting, I always enjoy browsing the stalls and seeing what local products are on offer. It was also clear there are many regulars who frequent the market, not just tourists like us.


Crepe with curried beef and mustard greens

We bought lunch from a couple of the food trucks, and my savoury crepe with curried beef and mustard greens turned out to be the best thing I had to eat in Canmore. Mack couldn’t pass up the opportunity to sample a coffee from The Rocky Bean Co., which brews its coffee in a converted VW van.


The Rocky Bean Co.

We did venture out to Blake for dinner one night (also within walking distance of our flat). Their kitchen was really quick, but overall, we found the portions to be small and quality inconsistent (the fried chicken, for instance, was disappointingly dry). The most interesting dish was their ramen cacio e pepe – the noodles were a touch overdone, but the flavours were there.


Ramen cacio e pepe from Blake

On our way out of town, we had lunch at Rocky Mountain Flatbread. The prices were reasonable at lunch (not something that can be said of all establishments in Canmore), and while we did appreciate that they sourced many of their ingredients locally, the pizzas weren’t particularly memorable.


Pizzas from Rocky Mountain Flatbread

The highlight of our stay surprisingly had nothing to do with food. I’d had my eye on doing a workshop tour at the Rocky Mountain Soap Company factory for some time, but the timing hadn’t worked out prior to this trip. Although the tour tickets are priced at $25, the value is more than covered – $20 is returned in the form of a voucher that can be used at any of their stores, while the product samples we received exceeded the remaining $5 cost.


We learned that edible, cornstarch-based packing peanuts exist

It was a neat experience to tour the factory and see where all of the products are made. Some aspects definitely reminded me of food – the racks of soap bars drying, for instance, recalled the cheese aging rooms I’ve visited in the past.


Soap drying room

I was astonished to see just how much of their products are made and packaged by hand (their bath bombs, for instance, are all individually hand-pressed). It is undoubtedly a part of their brand, but it’s something hard to fathom as most companies are moving towards automation, not away from it.

We also had the opportunity to make our own bath salts, customizing with our choice of essential oil scents and herbal add-ins.


Making lavender and orange-scented bath salts

I’d definitely recommend the tour! As a bonus, a couple of other noteworthy businesses are located in the same vicinity as the factory, so it makes it a worthwhile trek just outside of town. After the tour, we walked over to Valbella (known for their meat products), and Mountain Blends Coffee Roasters to pick up some food souvenirs for home.

It was a quick trip to be sure, but won’t be our last to the mountains with Emily!

5 Reasons to Visit Lake Louise

After a visit to Jasper early last year, Mack and I were reminded of how invigorating a trip to the mountains can be. It’s an amenity of living in Alberta that we don’t take advantage of often enough, so we vowed to return next year.

In February, we planned a long weekend for a mini-break, but instead of returning to Jasper, we thought we’d tread newer ground to Lake Louise. Though we’d both been to Lake Louise on family vacations as children, it had been years since we ventured past Banff. And it’s probably our aged state, but it’s safe to say we appreciated the surroundings much more as adults.

If you’re thinking of heading down to Lake Louise, here are five reasons why I think you should.

Reason 1: Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise

When Mack and I got married a few years ago, his coworkers gave us a Fairmont gift card. We had been fortunate enough to stay at the Jasper Park Lodge in the past, so looked into the other two mountainside Fairmont properties we had yet to experience. We ultimately chose the more economical option, the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise.

Lake Louise

Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise

Don’t get me wrong though – "economical" doesn’t mean cheap. I’m certain this was the most either of us have ever spent on a hotel room, but the Fairmont brand, as we have come to know it, is equated with an unparalleled level of service and quality.

Lake Louise

Winter wonderland

We’ve never been to an all-inclusive, but I have been on a cruise ship, and this property reminded me of that. It was billed as a resort, with daily posted activities for the guests of all ages, shops and restaurants all under one roof, and excursions that could be booked for additional cost.

Lake Louise

Picture perfect

On the weekends, the property organizes a free evening campfire, complete with marshmallows for roasting.

Lake Louise

Evening campfire

We also marvelled at the ice sculptures that were created at the Ice Magic Festival that takes place towards the end of January.

Lake Louise

Wooly (snowy) mammoth

With a distance from Edmonton of about 4.5 hours, we had decided to park the car after our arrival and take advantage of all the amenities the Chateau had to offer. This included dining at several of their restaurants. Our favourite was their signature Walliser Stube, named and inspired by cozy haunts in the Swiss Alps. We shared an indulgent cheese fondue with all the fixings, my favourite part of the meal.

Lake Louise

Cheese fondue!

Reason 2: Snow!

We learned on this trip that Lake Louise, on average, receives about 45cm of snow per month between November and March – more than double the amount Jasper typically receives over the same period. This is one of the reasons why it’s such a prime destination for skiers.

Mack and I aren’t skiers, but we were interested in snowshoeing, prompted somewhat by our introduction to snowshoeing in Jasper last year. One of the guided excursions offered by Chateau Lake Louise is a snowshoeing trek into fresh mountainside powder.

We were lucky enough to end up with a private tour, as we were the only two who joined up that afternoon. It had also just snowed the day previous, so all signs pointed to a perfect afternoon. When we showed up though, our guide Mike jokingly referred to our non-water resistant jeans as "death cloth", and had to properly outfit us city folk with snow pants and convince Mack to leave his camera behind.

Snowshoeing at Lake Louise


I enjoyed snowshoeing up the mountain on a semi-worn path (what Mike referred to as the "trans Canada trail") as we chatted about his experiences living in the area for more than twenty years. I’m not sure I was adequately prepared, however, to snowshoe back down by making our own pathway in waist-deep snow.


So much snow!

In some ways, with the incline, it almost felt like skiing. It was also more difficult than I expected, what with fallen branches and timber to watch out for (or, in my case, to get my snowshoes caught under – Mack had to dig me out twice). Mike also taught us some useful techniques on how to flip ourselves over with the help of a walking pole, a skill I never knew I needed until surrounded by three feet of snow on all sides.



It was a really memorable experience – one I’d definitely seek out again.

Reason 3: Johnson Canyon

A trail along one side of Lake Louise is maintained for those looking to walk or cross-country ski on the snow-covered lake. The path takes you to a frozen waterfall on the other side, with breathtaking views of intrepid ice climbers attempting to scale the cascades.

Lake Louise

Ice climbers

Just outside of Lake Louise, however, there’s an opportunity to get even closer to a similar natural wonder in Johnson Canyon. Located about 30 minutes outside of Lake Louise, it’s a year-round hiking opportunity. In the winter though, ice cleats are strongly recommended – we were very thankful to have brought them with us, especially when we encountered a young woman who had slipped and twisted her ankle halfway down the trail.

Johnston Canyon

Lower Falls

Even with the crowds, it was a lovely hike, with sections of the guardrail built right into the side of the rock face, and a tunnel through the rock that leads to a closer view of the Lower Falls.

Johnson Canyon


The hike to the Upper Falls rewarded us with beautiful views of the frozen waterfalls, in addition to seeing the death-defying climbers up close.

Johnston Canyon

Upper Falls

Reason 4: Canmore

This is a bit of a cheat, as Canmore is obviously a town separate from Lake Louise. However, given how tiny the hamlet of Lake Louise is, and how comparatively touristy Banff can be, we really enjoyed the hospitality and retail we discovered in Canmore on the way in and out.



There was some great shopping to be had: I picked up some great deals at the Canmore location of consignment company Trend Fashions (they also have stores in Edmonton, Calgary, and Chestermere). Canmore is also the home of the Rocky Mountain Soap Company, and they offer tours of their factory on Fridays and Saturdays (something we didn’t get the chance to see).

We had a lovely sit-down lunch at Crazyweed, an upscale casual restaurant with an interesting menu. We enjoyed both our entrees – Icelandic cod fish and chips and a Vietnamese pork ball sandwich (which, incidentally, had flavours reminiscent of Pucker’s banh mi burger). It was a nice place to get our bearings after the long drive in.


Icelandic cod fish and chips from Crazyweed

On our way out of the Rockies, we stopped for a quick lunch at The Range. I was expecting larger portion sizes (the half sandwich could have easily been served on a kid’s menu), but the quality of the food was apparent. The porchetta was tasty, and the thick, textured mushroom veloute hit the spot for me.

The Range

Porchetta and mushroom veloute from The Range

Beamer’s is also worth checking out. It’s a comfortable coffee shop that seems to have quite the local following. We were impressed with their coffee as well as their selection of beans (always our souvenir of choice).


Coffee from Beamer’s

I wouldn’t hesitate to stay in Canmore in the future – it would give us even more time to explore what they have to offer!

Reason 5: It’s Free!

You’ve probably heard by now that in commemoration of Canada’s 150th birthday, Parks Canada admission is free (by obtaining a Discovery Pass). It’s a really great opportunity (and excuse) to visit some of the green spaces in our own backyard.

And if you’re worried about the spike in traffic from other like-minded Canadians this year, our snowshoe guide reminded us that 95% of visitors are only interested in the "shore and smile" – snapping a photo from the lakeside then moving on. If you go off the beaten path – into the bush, onto the water – you’ll be able to escape the hoards. It was sage advice and will come in handy as we approach the spring and summer months.

Lake Louise

Shoring and smiling

I hope you’ll have the chance to create your own adventure – whether in the Rockies or beyond!

For the Love of Sandwiches: Wild Flour Bakery and Valbella Gourmet Foods

Our brief escape to the Rockies last October also involved less extravagant meals than The Bison. First up: Wild Flour Bakery, a casual café after my own heart – bright and cheery, and filled with the alluring aroma of fresh bread, it looked great at first glance. Mack had a not-so-positive experience there in the past, but was eager to see if they could make amends this time.

Their lunch menu consisted primarily of sandwiches, served on fresh house-made bread. Mack’s choice of the aged cheddar sandwich was unimpressive – he remarked that he loved the cheese and the bread, but he was expecting more from the combination. And though I enjoyed my sandwich, I thought the melted Swiss overwhelmed the delicate Valebella prosciutto.

Aged Cheddar Sandwich

 Swiss and Prosciutto Sandwich

We fared better with our choice of hot beverages. My London Fog (something I don’t have often, but the Earl Grey-milk mixture sounded good on a chilly afternoon) was good, and Mack’s Mexican hot chocolate was appropriately spiced.

Latte art!

Something we didn’t get a chance to order was dessert (though the chocolate torte looked mighty tempting) – so perhaps our next visit will concentrate only on sweets.

On the way back to Edmonton, we stopped in Canmore for a bite to eat at Valbella Gourmet Foods. I am familiar with them primarily through their bacon and sausages sold through Sunterra, but was curious to see their whole range of products.

The deli counter at Valbella

If we only had a cooler, I would have definitely stocked up

As for the small cafe that served only a handful of items, it was a revolving door of customers. They seemed to have their share of regulars from nearby construction or trades sites, very similar to the usual lunchtime crowd at The Italian Bakery or Handy Bakery. So – we ordered what everyone else ordered – the special that featured a few different types of meat.

Sandwich counter

While I typically prefer my sandwiches toasted or warmed in some way, the fresh bread, still crisp, made up for this somewhat. And the assortment of meat was a good opportunity to try a bit of everything.

Valbella special sandwich

If you’re passing through Canmore (with a cooler!) be sure to stop by for some top-quality meats. While the sandwich was good – the meat case is where it’s at.

Wild Flour Bakery
211 Bear Street, Banff, AB
(403) 760-5074
Open everyday from 8am-5pm

Valbella Gourmet Foods
104 Elk Run Boulevard, Canmore, AB
(403) 678-4109
Monday-Friday 8am-6pm, Saturday 9am-5pm, closed Sundays