Short Trip into the Canadian Rockies

June 2023: For our last “Baby Moon” trip, my wife and I along with her mom, took advantage of the easy and direct flights to Alberta, Canada from San Diego to visit what is in my opinion the wildest and most rugged and beautiful section of the Rocky Mountains, the far northern Canadian part in Jasper and Alberta National Parks. These two national parks protect a combined 6,672 square miles of mountain wilderness where animals driven to extinction elsewhere in the Rocky’s can still be found like the wolf, grizzly bear and mountain lion. Additionally, moose, elk and black bears are common in the parks. As part of a long weekend, we visited both national parks along with Yoho National Park in British Columbia. because of Paula’s pregnancy we kept the hikes to a minimum and avoided camping. This is the story of our quick 4 day trip to Alberta and British Columbia, Canada.

 

 

Route of our trip

To avoid backtracking, we flew into the Edmonton, a largely un-impressive city that thrives off of tar sand oil production-Canadian tar sand oil reserves are the 2nd largest reserves of oil in the world after Saudi Arabia. But to be fair to Edmonton, we didn’t stay long to give it an accurate assessment. We only stayed long enough to taxi from the airport to downtown and pick up our rental car. Once we had our rental car we hit the road immediately towards Jasper, a small town at the gateway of jasper National Park. The 3-hour drive from Edmonton covered mostly flat monotonous plains but as we approached Jasper, we entered forestland and dramatic mountain landscapes.  It was hard to avoid stopping at every scenic viewpoint because the mountains and lakes just simply left us awestruck. We saw a huge elk feeding on vegetation alongside the road, too many deer to count and a coyote cross in front of us. near the town of jasper, a park ranger was trying to scare a pesky black bear off into the forest from the road.

 

 

Massive elk feeding on vegetation on the side of the road

Black bear-one of three we saw on the road

The long hours of daylight in these far northern latitudes in summer gave us lots of time to explore. But it also made it harder to go to sleep at night when the sun was still out. Another factor to consider when traveling to this part of the world is the expense. Accommodations are few and far in between and they are expensive along with food costs. To save money, I booked one room hotels, and I brought my sleeping bag and inflatable mattress in case I needed to sleep on the floor. We stayed in Jasper our first night of the trip in a tourist resort.

 

 

Paula posing in front of the mountains on the first glimpse we had of the Canadian Rocky’s 

Jasper National Park

Jasper National Park seemed the wildest of both with fewer tourists but there were still plenty of other vehicles stopped at some of the more popular locations in the park, so I tried to stop at the unmarked locations where we typically had a scenic overlook of a lake or mountain to ourselves. Everywhere we turned the scenery of Jasper was just beyond mind boggling.

 

A crystal clear lake we hiked to and had to ourselves

Paula overlooking an emerald green lake

Waterfall with mountain backdrop

Mountain overlook

Heavenly Views

Paula and mom on short hike

We crossed the Icefields Highway which climbs to near 7,000′ as it crosses a mountain pass covered in glaciers. The elevation isn’t terribly high but at these high latitudes where the sun is weak the temperatures can plummet at 7,000′ allowing glaciers to form.

After crossing the pass, we stayed the night in a cluster of cabins at the Saskatchewan Crossing, nestled in the middle of an incredible mountain valley with wild forests that are known to have lots of grizzly and black bear.

 

Paula overlooking a glacier

The lakes of Jasper and Banff are famous for their blue and green colors. The color comes from the type of rick in the area, granite, that was ground up by the glaciers and when the rock dust is washed into the lakes from glaciers the reflective quality of the rock dust is what causes the incredible colors in the lake water. Of the two parks we visited, Banff had the most incredible lakes. A favorite of ours which had almost no other tourists was Waterfowl Lake.

One of the emerald green lakes-Waterfowl lake

Jagged Mountains

Peyto Lake

Bow Lake

Paula at Bow Lake

Lake Louise

Banff as well as Jasper was far less crowded than I expected. I came thinking Yellowstone crowds and traffic jams, but the parks are so huge and so far away from large population centers that we just didn’t encounter that many tourists. That is until we visited lake Louise. lake Louise was like visiting a separate park. The lake is world famous and believed to be one of the most beautiful in the world and there is no doubt that it is mesmerizing. The only problem is that by the time you reach it, you are too exhausted to enjoy it. The exhaustion is not the good kind that you get from hiking. No, it is the kind you have when stuck in a traffic jam and then trying to find a parking spot in parking lots full of hundreds of vehicles. The circus like atmosphere of the place with wall-to-wall crowds of selfie stick wielding tourists from all over the world, tic toc dancing and you tube influencers was just too much for me and left me wanting to flee for sanctuary.

Lake Louise

Yoho National Park, British Colombia

Yoho is another great national park easily reachable from Banff and also with great hiking. Yoho has fewer tourists than Banff and the road is a smaller giving you a more intimate mountain driving experience.

Takakkaw Falls-833′ High

Yoho National Park

We spent our last night in Canmore, just outside of Banff and a much cheaper option to stay the night that still has just as many mountains and expensive cafes and eateries but with fewer tourists. Canmore is also only an hour away from Calgary and was an easy drive for us to the airport the next morning to catch our flight home.

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