The Vermillion Lakes, are three lakes within 100 metres of each other, on the outskirts of the town of Banff in the Rocky Mountains. These lakes are enclosed on three sides by the mountains, Rundle, Sulphur and Norquay and have the Trans-Canada Highway 1 running parallel to them on the west side.
Access to the lakes is simple either on foot or by car, however parking is limited at the site. On the drive in, you are treated to spectacular views across the waters to the mountains lying due south. A number of viewpoints and benches along the road are placed for you to stop at and to take in this area of outstanding natural beauty. At one stop, don’t be confused if you can smell rotting eggs. It is the sulphur from the hot springs, flowing from underground into the lakes.
During the winter the entire area is under a few feet of snow, entirely untouched by man-made tracks. That is, until you don your snowshoes, or cross-country skis if you prefer, and create some tracks of your own. In wintertime, you can step onto the frozen river in the town and walk towards the lakes themselves, a truly new concept if you’re not used to walking down the center of a river.
Once you are ready to step off, you can head in any direction that takes your fancy. With snowshoes, you can traverse over the snow with minimal effort. You can go where it will be inaccessible (or arduous) to others; this takes you to see some very impressive views. Moving through the frozen and wintry undergrowth, an abundant marshland in the summer months, is at times quite entertaining. One moment you can be in an inch of snow, step too far from the undergrowth and you could be in a few feet of snow – and perhaps stumbling to your knees! It may help to look at the tree lines while trekking through the marshes, should you decide to leave the frozen river that connects the lakes, to help guide you to a clearing.
When you decide to walk over the frozen lake, an initially cautious prospect where you may wonder whether the ice will take your weight, the snow is much thinner and easier to move over. At the edge of the woodland, before the frozen lakeside, take care to move slowly. If you do, you will be far more likely to spot some of the wildlife native to the area, most notably elk.
With no one else around, the Trans-Canada Highway quiet, and no buildings to be seen anywhere, you are able to capture some incredible photographs of the mountains; frozen lake-sides; cold and desolate locations; anything you can imagine and interpret. Take along a picnic and a thermos of hot chocolate, you will be hard pressed to find a better location for a quick break or long walk.
If you go to Banff in the Rocky Mountains, be sure to go snowshoeing at Vermillion Lakes. You won’t be disappointed.