Canadian Rockies, 2016
One year ago today I departed home for London Heathrow airport with my mum, two suitcases, a laptop and a bag of camera gear. My destination was Calgary International Airport in Alberta Canada for a trip through the Canadian Rockies to Vancouver Island before heading back in to Vancouver before heading home. Over the course of the trip, we would driver 2000km, take over 2500 photos and see some amazing sites.
London Heathrow to Calgary International, Canada
For those of you who have never flown to Canada, it is around a 10 hour flight with not much to do and not a whole lot to see. Thankfully Air Canada have a good selection of in-flight entertainment on board, just as long as you remember to bring some headphones (noise-cancelling recommended!) Knowing we’d have to drive at the other end we tried to get some sleep, but that’s easier said than done with a whole trip ahead of you to look forward to and an entertainment system packed with a pretty good film selection.
Calgary to Banff
Once we arrived in Calgary it was time to collect the luggage and the car. Unfortunately damage to the first car meant we had to be swapped to an almost new Hyundai Sante Fe. Loads of room in the boot for all the cases and gear, and a pretty comfortable ride. If only the same could be said for the drive out of Calgary. Negotiating the road system in Calgary is next to impossible, as all the sign posts are AFTER the junctions, essentially saying “Ha ha, you could have gone down there…”. My advice would be to pre-download GPS maps for Calgary, get a taxi, or travel with Mystic Meg and her crystal ball so that you can navigate your way out of highway hell and onto the road out of there.
Once we found the road to Banff it was a straight drive for just over an hour. A quick stop for gas and a snack before continuing on into the mountains to our stop for the night at The Rocky Mountain Resort.
Banff is one of those beautiful idyllic towns on the edge of the mountain range. Beautiful views buried deep within the forest. You only have to drive 10 minutes in any direction to be out in the forest or at the base of a mountain.
Go to the top of Sulfur Mountain and you’ll find amazing views of the valley below, and the walk up to the Cosmic Ray Station is definitely worth doing. Atop the mountains you’re likely to find the Clark’s Nutcracker flying among the pines. These birds are in abundance at the top of the mountain, and are incredibly tame having learned long ago that we humans will feed them.
While in Banff be sure to take a Wildlife Tour around the local area. The local guides know a lot about the surrounding area, where the wildlife may be, and its a very pleasant way to spend an evening.
Bow Valley Parkway
Once you leave Banff and head North up the Bow Valley Parkway toward Lake Louise, you may consider stopping at Morant’s Curve in the shadow or Lipalian Mountain. From here you have a gorgeous view over the treetops to Mt. Temple. Here I’d recommend setting up the tripod and waiting for the Canadian Pacific railway to come past. It makes for a beautiful picture.
Continuing north to Lake Louise, you’ll find a small little town attached to a massive hotel, overlooking Lake Louise itself. While here it is worth heading a little south of Lake Louise to Moraine Lake. Get there before sunrise over the mountains and you’ll be treated to a spectacular reflection of the mountains which slowly fades away as the sun breaches the peaks.
It is worth taking your time to have a stroll around the lake. During the months leading to Winter you may find ice closer to the banks
Heading back to the town of Lake Louise and then across to the other side of Highway 1 you can take a trip up Lake Louise Ski resort. Unfortunately you can only go half way up, and while there is a good view over Lake Louise there isn’t much else to see.
Heading north out of Lake Louise towards Jasper and you’ll find yourself on the 93, or the Icefields Parkway. You’ll need an entire day to drive this route as there is just so much to see. An early start is really recommended.
The first stop is Bow Lake at the bottom of Crowfoot Mountain.
Second on the list is Bow Summit, overlooking Peyto Lake. This is a short walk from the carpark and does have a reasonable incline, but it is well worth the walk. At the top you’ll be treated to a beautiful view of Peyto Lake which looks like a howling wolf.
Next stop is Waterfowl Lakes which is remarkable because of its color.
Carrying on North through Mistaya Canyon and you’ll come to a bridge over Saskatchewan River. Just after the bridge you’ll find a diner in the shadow of Mt. Wilson, which is a perfect stop for breakfast.
The next point of interest is just after the switchback on the climb to Parker Ridge. Once you’ve gone through the switchback pull up on the right hand side just before the road swings left around the mountainside. This will give you a beautiful view of the 93 as it stretches out down the valley.
Continuing along the 93 and you’ll come to the Columbia Icefield Discovery Center. Aim to spend a large part of your day here as there is a lot to see.
Book on one of the tours that takes you onto the Icefield as it is well worth a visit!
Last is the the Athabasca Falls
Finally we are on the home-stretch to Jasper
Just outside of Jasper is Whistlers Peak, which offers some stunning views out over Jasper.
A hike / scramble to the top will reveal some stunning views south over the recently traveled Icefields Parkway out towards Amber Mountain.
When exploring the Rocky Mountains you often come across little stone arches which have been built from the surrounding rocks. These are Inukshuks.
The Lightning-Struck forest
A quick stop at Medicine Lake
Returning to Medicine Lake at night.
Back on the road