Canadian Rockies - soaring sights
It truly is the most beautiful place on Earth. Not surprising the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks were declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1984. The landscape formed by mountain peaks, waterfalls, lakes, glaciers, and canyons is unique to the world. If you haven't been here, it must be on your bucket list.
BANFF NATIONAL PARK
Banff National Park was the first national park we visited. Most visitors flying in would arrive into Calgary airport (YYC). From there we rented a car and off we were to the greatest place on earth.
This being a bucket list trip, you really can’t top the experiences of staying at iconic Fairmont resorts and on this trip I had the pleasure to stay at three. Starting with the Fairmont Banff Springs, it's the Instagram lover paradise with every nook and corner of this iconic castle Instagram worthy. The hotel was built in 1888 for the Canadian Pacific Railway as a luxury resort to draw tourists to the wilderness. Here's where you’ll find ample outdoor adventures, delicious dinning options, and luxurious time to recharge!
Tip: When you are enjoying cocktails at the Rundle Lounge, the bookcase to the right of the bar opens to a hidden speakeasy. Have one of the lovely host show you this hidden gem.
No matter where you walk around Fairmont Banff Springs, every nook and corner is Instagram worthy! Now is actually a perfect time to travel because the Canadian boarders are closed, there are less crowds.
Banff National Park's world leading 38 wildlife underpass and 6 overpass wildlife crossings. These are designed to connect crucial habitats and allow safe passageway of animals across busy roads. These crossing are the world’s longest, year-round monitoring program and largest data set on wildlife mitigation. Over eleven species of large mammals have been recorded using wildlife crossings more than 150,000 times since 1996. These includes grizzly and black bears, wolves, coyotes, cougars, moose, elk, deer, bighorn sheep, and more recently wolverine and lynx. Banff National Park sees over 4 million visitors annually and these wildlife crossing has reduced wildlife-vehicle collisions by more than 80% and, for elk and deer alone by more than 96%.
Many people have seen the desktop photo and go "Where is that!" and "I want to go there!". It's a famous photo where millions have seen and have no idea if the water is really "that" blue and if this place is even real or computer generated. Well, Morraine Lake, is real and it's really that turquoise blue!
It's a breathtaking turquoise colour with ten mountain peaks in the background and make you ask yourself, "how is this real?". It's an easy drive but with the insane amount of visitors and traffic, it's imperative to come early or later in the day as parking is very limited. Morraine Lake is located in the Valley of the Ten Peaks, this glacier fed lake rises to 1885m in elevation.
Tips: Morraine Lake typically open mid May as it's closed during the winter season because the road passes an avalanche path.
As glaciers thaw in Spring, the melting water flows from the rocks into the lake which creates the rock flour (also known as glacial milk). Sunlight reflecting off the rock flour in Moraine Lake creates the whimsical blue hue. With this in mind, expect to see the gorgeous turquoise starting from mid to late June. July and August are when the most are at its most intense and vibrant.
Each Glacier Lake Has Its Own Unique Colour
Glacier lakes does have its own distinct colour. Petyo Lake is known for its magical blue colour, Lake Louise for it’s turquoise water and Emerald Lake named for its green hue. The melt water that creates Cavell Pond at the bottom of Mount Edith Cavell in Jasper is so heavy with silt that at times it’s a completely opaque green. Their colours are so vivid that many see these lake photos and assume it must be photoshopped but I can assure they are authentic.
Seeing the world famous Lake Louise in person after all those many years through photos was exhilarating. We stayed at the iconic Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise which was truly a magical experience. What I appreciate was being able to leave your hotel room and walk directly to the Big Beehive trail, Lake Agnes teahouse and Devil's Thumb. The Big Beehive elevating at 647 meters and the trail length at 10.3 km is definitely a good workout with some incredible sights along the way.
The devilish hike of Devil's Thumb. Devils Thumb Via Lake Agnes Trail and rated as difficult. After a pit stop at Lake Agnes teahouse, I remember meeting with a Fairmont guide and he asked us where we were heading and I responded with a coffee cup in hand, "Devil's Thumb". He gave us an unusual look and wished us luck and head off. We giggled thinking to ourselves, how hard can this be hike be? Well, after several times getting lost and taking paths that weren't actually paths at all and thinking we might die on several occasions I'm thrilled to say we survived!
After the Big Beehive, there's a side trail col leading to an unmarked path with a fallen tree on it. This is the start of the hike to Devil's Thumb. We took several wrong turns that made our hike much longer than anticipated. We encountered a rock band and saw two ladies attempt to scramble up over the rocks. We thought to ourselves, this can't be correct and decided to walk along the rockband. If this was a chose your adventure story book, we mostly would have died with our poor choices that day.
After realizing our mistake and thinking to ourselves, perhaps they were right climbing over the rock band, we proceed to do the same. The trail was significantly narrower, required some scrambling over severely slippery spots on the day of our hike. I imagined myself slipping and falling to my death.
When we reached a steep gully leading to the Whyte col, we struggled to crossed to the other side because it was steep, slippery and muddy. We eventually crossed to where a firm trail runs alongside trees before swinging right and climbing to the col. From there we followed the braided trails running through the rocks eventually to the summit. We did eventually give up before the braided trails but a few people who walked by us encouraged us to continue saying we already did 90% of the hike only 10% more. With those encouraging words, we continued to the summit and the view was breathtaking and well worth the struggles that we endured that day.
Explore lands tamed only by the glaciers that swept across them and witness the final battle between ice and rock on the Icefields Parkway.
The Icefields Parkway is one of the world’s most beautiful drives. There are incredible sights but also the fun is in stumbling upon something beautiful you weren’t expecting!
Bow Lake is one of the first stop heading north from Lake Louise and is incredibly stunning. It’s iconic sunrise is worth the early wake up call. After sunrise, you can begin some amazing hikes in the area including Bow Glacier Falls, Iceberg Lake and Jimmy Simpson Junior.
Tip: Num-Ti-Jah Lodge is only open during the summer months, but the outhouses in the parking lot remain open year round
Here's my list of great hikes along the Icefields Parkway:
1. Hector Lake
2. Bow Glacier Falls
3. Iceberg Lake
4. Jimmy Simpson Junior
5. Valley of The Five Lakes
6. Cirque Peak and Helen Lake
7. The Parker Ridge Hike
8. Wilcox Pass
9. Panther Falls
At Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge, mid-century cabins dot around the stunning turquoise Beauvert Lake and the Rocky mountains in the background.
Luxury, history, and leisure oozes from this iconic resort that is made fit for a Queen. In fact, Her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth II have stayed here along with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. The resort feels cozy yet it's 700 acres - thats a feat on its own. Nothing feels too far away and every corner of the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge is designed beautifully. The seemingly endless assortment of activities from a year-round outdoor heated pool to world-class golf course, full-service spa and many kilometers of trails makes you never want to leave.
Once you step outside your cabin room, you are surrounded by natural beauty in all its glory. Stroll the winding brick pathways, catching glimpses of wildlife, including elk, deer, bald eagles, beavers and loons. You might even spot a wolf or bear in the distance. Lac Beauvert loop is a lovely stroll with incredible photo opportunities with Mount Edith Cavell in the background.
The reward after the Jasper SkyTram - the view of Jasper was stunning. It's worth hiking when you reach the upper level.
Located on Whistlers Mountain, and a short 7 km from Jasper. It takes roughly 7 minutes minutes from the lower station (1,258m above sea level) to the upper station (2,263m above sea level). If you decide to hike the 1.4 km Summit Trail to the top of Whistlers Mountain at 2,463 metres to view Patricia Lake, Pyramid Lake, Lac Beauvert, Lake Annette, and Lake Edith. The Athabasca River winds through the valley, and you’ll also get incredible views of Pyramid Mountain, Old Man Mountain, the Colin Ridge, and the Victoria Cross Range. It's essential to bring hiking boots, wind or waterproof jacket, sunscreen and water. We had a clear day and the gorgeous vista you can see includes:
Ticket Prices Adults (16+) $49.30, Youth (6-15) $26.30, Child (Under 6) Free
While on top, each step revealed more of the panoramic views of the surrounding mountains. We could see everything! Jasper looked small from above, while the impressive mountains of British Columbia, including Mt Robinson, the tallest peak in the Rockies, were all visible below the high rolling clouds. The view from the mountain top was endless not to mention breathtaking.
Maligne Lake - Rocky mountain peaks, majestic forest, hanging glaciers, and azure coloured lakes. The views get better and better the further you enter deeper climaxing with a stop at the iconic Spirit Island.
Chances are you’ve seen Spirit Island if you looked at photos of Jasper Park. Spirit Island is one of those places you just have to visit for yourself. Located in Maligne Lake which is glacier fed and the second largest in the world. Maligne Lake is also famous for its beautiful clear, azure hues. Spirit Island is the tiny jewel of land in the middle of the lake. First Nations lore saids Spirit Island was the secret meeting place for young lovers from feuding tribes. When the girl's father forbade her from returning to the island, her young man waited for her there until his death, and his spirit still remains.
Since Maligne Lake is long and narrow, it’s difficult to visualize its beauty from the boathouse. But as I started to sail deeper into the glacier fed lake, you become transported to another time. On the boat, we hear stories of Mary Schäffer, who “discovered” the lake after following a map drawn by Stoney tribesman Samson Beaver. How the mountains alongside Maligne Lake were called the Queen Elizabeth Ranges, named in honour of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953. To this day, the Queen herself has not visited this gem.
We docked beside Spirit Island and eagerly made my way down the short trail. You become awestruck by the landscape and how privilege it was to be witnessing such beauty in our world. It was a visual masterpiece that accompanied with a sense of tranquility - I was fully absorbed by the moment. We only had 15 minutes on Spirit Island before we were called back to the boat, but I made sure to maximize every one of those precious minutes.
Enjoy Mount Edith Cavell area featuring Angel Glacier, alpine meadows, several hiking trails, and stunning Canadian Rockies scenery. You won't be disappointed and best of all it's accessible to all types of travellers!
Mount Edith Cavell is one of Jasper most beloved mountain. It was named in honour of Edith Louisa Cavell, a heroic English nurse who was executed by Germans in World War I for helping hundreds of Allied soldiers to escape from occupied Belgium. With its iconic diagonal rock patterns, renowned alpine wildflower trails and fascinating history, it's no wonder why its so beloved by many.
Note: before named Mount Edith Cavell, it was called “White Ghost” by Native Americans, “la Montagne de la Grande Traverse” by French mountaineers, and Mount Fitzhugh until the war.
Angel Glacier is a stunning sight caressing the side of the mountain and visible in all its glory from multiple lookouts. Its name stemmed from its once-upon-a-time shape, which used to resemble an angel spreading its wings. The wings remain, but the bottom half of the glacier has eroded away from climate. The glacier feeds into Cavell Pond, which may be unlike any other pond you’ve ever seen. Thanks to an abundance of glacial silt, the water has an otherworldly mint green colour. Miniature ice bergs may also be floating in the water.
The area around Mt. Edith Cavell offers excellent hiking trails for all types of hikers.
We decided on the Path of the Glacier Trail. The trail is not difficult and is great for families with small kids. From the lookout, enjoy the views of Mount Edith Cavell mountain, Cavell Pond, and Angel Glacier.
If you are looking for a more serious hike in Mt. Edith Cavell, then Cavell Meadows trail might be right for you. This 3-5 hours long loop (8km) trail takes you above the tree line to the tundra-like environment on a moderately steep (500 meteres) trail. Mount Edith Cavell Meadows Trail are covered with grass and shrubs, all kinds of subalpine firs and summer wildflowers typically visible mid July through to August. It's super cute if you can catch pikas scuttling around the rocky scree.
Sunwapta Falls: water flows from the Athabasca Glacier, this runoff flows down and diverge around a small island, converging again only to immediately crashes down the falls into the stunning gorge.
These broad U-shaped hanging valleys were formed when glacier ice receded 8000 years ago. At Sunwapta Falls, the smaller "hanging" Chaba Valley and larger Athabasca Valley join in a spectacular stepping waterfall that has carved a deep limestone gorge out of the rock some metres below the footbridge.
More information on the Canadian Rockies
Language: English. But with some French.
Currency: Canadian Dollar (CAD, $)
Modes of Payment: Cash and Credit Card (Visa, Mastercard and AMEX is still the most common)
Electricity Info: 120 volts
Time Zones: Mountain Standard Time MST (GMT-7)
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