Originally posted to Jonesin’ For A Journey, reprinted here with permission.
Mountains and lakes and bears, oh my! Y’all, Canada is truly breath taking. It actually took my breath away so many times that I don’t know how I’m not dead right now. If it’s not already on your bucket list, add it pronto. During my trip to the Canadian Rockies I spent my time sight seeing between 3 national parks: Banff, Yoho, and Jasper. If you are planning a trip to this region of Canada, you do not want to miss anything on this list.
1. Drive the Icefields Parkway
You cannot miss this. I repeat, YOU CANNOT MISS THIS. If for some reason I was only allowed to do one thing while in the Canadian Rockies, this would be it. The Icefields Parkway, also known as Highway 93, is a 140 mile long scenic road that travels through Banff and Jasper National Parks. Traveling this road covers all the bases. You’ll see snow capped mountains, beautiful blue-green lakes, glaciers and more than likely spot some wildlife! What more could you ask for? It has been named one the most beautiful drives in the world and I second that notion. I’m pretty sure I said “WOW” about 542 times.
Be sure to give yourself plenty of time because you will want to pull over every 5 mins at the many lookout points dotted along the parkway. The road can be quite curvy and the weather can change at a moments notice, so be alert. Another reason to stay aware of your surroundings is that a herd of mountain goats might jump the guardrail and stand in the middle of the road. Scroll down for proof, it really happened!
2. Moraine Lake
One thing is for sure, there is no shortage of lakes between these 3 national parks. In my personal opinion, Moraine Lake is the most stunning. It is a glacially fed lake situated in the Valley of Ten Peaks. The bright turquoise blue color is the result of light reflecting off of the glacial rock flour deposited in the lake. There are several hikes you can access around the lake. Take advantage of the Rock Pile Trail directly to the left of the entrance to the lake (it literally looks like a giant pile of rocks, ya can’t miss it). This is where you can get the view that looks like a real life computer screen saver.
3. Takakkaw Falls
This waterfall is located in Yoho National Park and is Canada’s second tallest waterfall. Everything about the trip to Takakkaw Falls was magical. The drive, the hike, and the falls themselves were gorgeous. The drive, while scenic, was a bit scary at times. There was one hairpin turn switchback up the mountain that had us nervous, but we made it and it was so worth it!
4. The Natural Bridge Over The Kicking Horse River
To be honest we kind of stumbled upon this by accident. We were on the way to see Emerald Lake when nature called. She had been calling but I kept putting her on hold. I had drank a large coffee a couple of hours prior and well, you know where this is headed. On Emerald Lake Road we noticed a pull off point with bathrooms, so we stopped. We got out of the car and at the far end of the parking lot we saw the most beautiful milky, blue-green water. Of course, we had to get a closer look. The Natural Bridge is a rock formation that spans across the Kicking Horse River. Here’s to you, bladder! Thanks for leading us here.
5. Johnston Canyon
Johnston Canyon is a popular hiking trail located in Banff National Park. It is a product of thousands of years of water erosion. Left behind are jagged limestone canyon walls, tunnels, waterfalls, caves and pools. There is a lot of nature to appreciate along the trail but the main attractions on this hike are the Lower Falls, Upper Falls, and the Ink Pots. This trail is accessible to most everyone as it is a paved trail to the Upper Falls. The hike up to the falls is on a narrow catwalk built along the canyon wall. Although the path is high above ground and can be a little unnerving looking down, it really does give you great views of the rushing water in the canyon below. Be sure to pack your patience. It is a popular attraction so it gets quite crowded and the walkways are narrow.
6. Athabasca Glacier
Yep, I’ve walked on a glacier. Pretty much I feel like Super Woman. The Athabasca Glacier, part of the massive Columbia Icefields, is the most visited glacier in North America. It is easily visible and accessible from the Icefields Parkway. Another plus! You get to drive the Icefields Parkway on your way to the glacier! Walk to the toe of the glacier, partake in a guided ice “walk” (I use the term “walk’ very loosely, it was a doggone hike), or take a ride on a colossal Snocoach bus. Whatever you do, do NOT cross the roped off areas without an experienced guide. There are hidden crevices up to 900 feet deep! Let me add that you are walking on ICE. You catch my drift? You fall in and chances are someone will be chiseling your perfectly preserved body out of a block of ice in a hundred years. Just don’t do it, k?
The Athabasca Glacier recedes approximately 15 feet every year. It is predicted that the glacier will have disappeared before the next generation, so be sure to see it while you still can!
7. Lake Louise
You can’t go to Banff and skip the iconic Lake Louise. I mean, I guess you could, but it’s not recommended. Lake Louise is noted to be the most photographed glacier fed lake in Banff National Park. Rent a canoe and take a cruise on the pristine blue waters or, take a stroll around the lake on one of the many walking trails. Whatever you decide to do, you will enjoy your time at the beautiful Lake Louise. Once again, make sure you arrive early to avoid the crowds!
8. Peyto Lake
So, I have a confession. Even though I went to Peyto Lake (not once, but twice!!), I didn’t actually see Peyto Lake. You see, the weather can be a little dicey. One minute it’s sunny, and 1 mile further up the road it’s snowing so hard it’s practically a white out. The first time stopping at Peyto Lake the parking lot was full and we were crunched for time, so we decided we would come back another day. The second time, it was snowing heavily. We made it to the parking lot so we figured we would walk the trail to the lookout point to see if we could see anything. Nada. Nope. Couldn’t see a darn thing. I was surprised to find out that area keeps snow on the ground 9 months out of the year! I had to include Peyto Lake on the list because the pictures I have seen are out of this world and it is the one thing that I regret missing! The photo below is what I saw while visiting Peyto Lake, but you can see what it really looks like here.
Not being able to see Peyto Lake was definitely a major bummer. But hey, it just gives me a reason to visit Banff again! Have you ever been to Peyto Lake? Let me know how awesome it was in the comments below!
Thank you to Ashley at Jonesin’ For A Journey for permission to repost this. Please check out her blog for more of her travels.