This is the second part of my Canadian Rockies post. You can read the first part here. My family and I toured the Rockies in June of 2010. It still ranks up there as one of our favorite vacations – even for the kids! Note, all the photos included in this post are ours. Obviously, you can find more spectacular photos at other sites online, but this is how the Rockies looked to us.
Bow Lake – This was the glassiest lake I had ever seen. And it was already well into the day. Bow Lake is the headwaters for the Bow River and is located right off of Icefields Parkway, north of Lake Louise. Bring your camera and expect to take some beautiful photos here.
Icefields Parkway – Also known as Highway 93, Icefields Parkway is the major road between Banff and Jasper. We ended up driving Icefields Parkway two different times because of its sheer beauty. Driving through the mountains, seeing all the wildlife, and pure nature was awe-inspiring. Best mountainous highway I’ve ever driven on. This is me at a pull off near Bridal Veil Falls and just after the big bend of Icefields Parkway.
Peyto Lake – Peyto Lake is located just north of Bow Lake and was probably my favorite. The turquoise water is the result of rock flour being carried into the lake from the surrounding glaciers. A short yet steep climb takes you to the overlook. Snow-capped mountains scan the horizon for miles. Arrive early to avoid tour buses and crowds.
Columbia Icefield – I have to admit, as an environmentalist I was not at all excited about taking a Snocoach, these giant exhaust emitting vehicles onto a glacier. However, it was the only way to get on it. So, I reluctantly purchased tickets for the family to be able to step onto the Athabasca glacier. It was amazing. Small streams swirled along the surface of the snow and many of us dipped our water bottles into the crystal clear water to drink in the pure, virgin water. Here, you’re able to see the power of nature and are reminded again, just how small we are. This was definitely a highlight for me.
Athabasca Falls – This waterfall is located within Jasper National Park, approximately 19 miles south of the town of Jasper. Athabasca Falls is not a tall waterfall but a powerful and beautiful one. It’s known for the extreme force through which it pushes the large quantity of water through the falls. The photo at left is the falls, and the photo on the right is after the falls.
Lake O’Hara – Getting to Lake O’Hara required advanced reservations. That’s why this is such a special place – it limits the number of tourists each day since you need a shuttle to get to the lake. There are even lodging and camping options here if you want to spend the night. We did not, but we sure did like the lodges next to the lake (see photo). There are hikes around the lake but there are areas of exposure, so plan accordingly. This was one of the most spectacular places I’ve ever been.
Wildlife – Never before on any national park vacation have I seen so many wild animals. We visited Banff and Jasper in June and saw so many black bears we lost count. We were told that we were touring early enough in the summer that the bears were at the lower elevations. Any later and the bears would have been higher up in the mountains. Mountain goats, grizzly bears, black bears, porcupines, hoary marmots, elk, bighorn sheep, mule deer, and red squirrels were all seen on our trip. All of the photos below were taken on this vacation. Not all of the tourists were keeping the safest of distances from the bears. My husband had a high-powered zoom lens to be able to take these photos. Needless to say, there was a lot of scurrying once these bears started moving!
Overall, if you like Rocky Mountain National Park, I strongly recommend you travel to the Canadian Rockies. The number of tourists seems smaller since all of the people are spread out over a larger expanse between Banff, Jasper, Yoho, and Kootenay National Parks. Also, the land is more untouched and natural, you can see glaciers (before they melt!), and the parks are cleaner and more well-kept than the parks I’ve been to in the states.
Have any questions about the Canadian Rockies? I’m happy to help!
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