The best place to see grizzly bears in Banff National Park could be from the safety of the chairlift at Lake Louise.
For a couple bucks extra for what it would cost to just ride the gondola, you get a buffet meal. They do it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The two of us to ride and dine the Lake Louise gondola was $50, it would have been about $43 without the meal – good deal in my books.
We arrived at 9a, immediately after dozens of tour groups had just left. The team was scrambling to clean up, and the buffet had been picked over pretty well, and what was left was cold. There were pastries, cereals, yogurt, fruit, eggs, bacon, sausage, toast, and waffles. The typical breakfast buffet fare, nothing extra special, nothing terrible. I won’t complain too loudly based on what we paid, if you bought just the meal a la carte it would have been $13 for adults, $10 for kids – that’s very steep.
You can ride up on either a enclosed gondola or open chairlift. This is when you do your grizzly bear hunting as you soar dozens of feet above the mountainside. Grizzlies are very often spotted on the ski slopes, unfortunately on our trip the closest we saw to a grizzly was some bear scat.
At the top of the lift you’ll be at nearly 2100m with a spectacular view of Lake Louise, Paradise Valley, and beyond.
There are three trails you can take from the lift to get you up higher for better views of the valley. It is recommended you travel in groups of 4 or more and make lots of noise so as not to spook any bears you may come across.
If that makes you nervous, you can join guided hikes for $5, or you can descend a few metres to the Interpretive Centre to learn more about the animals that live in Banff National Park. Here they have skins, skulls, and taxidermy animals so even if you don’t see a grizzly on the ski slopes, you can pose with one in the Interpretive Centre.
The experience was an okay one for us. We didn’t do any of the hikes as we were wiped out from our Plain of Six Glaciers hike the day before. The meal was cold, the weather was damp, but the view was spectacular. Was it value for money? Not necessarily, but it was worth doing once.