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Alberta: the first destination on our Canadian road trip

by | Canada, Destinations | 8 comments

Our road trip got properly under way on a sunny Tuesday early in September. We left Kelowna in Fat Vanny and travelled east across British Columbia to Alberta, to Lake Louise to be specific. The road up to Lake Louise is absolutely beautiful.  It wends its way up through enormous, jaggedy, snow-topped mountains.

Taken out of the RV window on the way over to Alberta

Stunning views along the road to Alberta from British Columbia

Lake Louise

I associate Lake Louise with skiing, but in fact it is more than just a ski resort as this visit in September revealed.

Lake Louise

We were fortunate to get a campsite as it was so busy, despite the fact that the school holidays had finished. We had booked in for two nights, but had to move spaces for the second night and whenever we went anywhere, we went on the motorbike for easy parking

Lake Louise certainly has the wow factor and when it first comes into view, it is truly breathtaking. The colour of the water is a vibrant green/blue that the camera simply cannot capture. Surrounded by trees and mountains, it presents a wonderful picture of natural beauty. This is, of course, why it is so popular!

Lake Louise

I think it is great that people want to come and see such fabulous works of nature so I will never get cross about crowds of people. However, I do wonder why the enormous, concrete carbuncle, which dominates the end of the lake, was ever given planning permission.

Beautiful building – or monstrous carbuncle?

We walked along by the lake, which is a very easy path with lovely views of the lake and the mountains. Then we took the trail up to the “tea room” at the end of the lake.

Lake Louise from the trail above

On the trail to the “tea room”

We were not quite sure what to expect, but there is indeed a tea room in a sort of tree house. Make no mistake though: the trail up there is not a walk in the park! From the end of the lake it is about 3.5 kilometres at a steady incline and on a rocky surface. Strong shoes or boots are a must. It is nevertheless a wonderful trail and well worth the climb. The tea room has a limited menu as everything has to be carried in, but the tea and cake were very welcome!

The tea room above Lake Louise

There are many areas of outstanding beauty around Lake Louise. Moraine Lake is possibly even more beautiful than Lake Louise, especially as there is no concrete blot on the landscape.

Moraine Lake

We hiked up to Lake Annette, a much smaller lake and very quiet by comparison, probably because the only way to get there is via a 12 km round-trip hike. Again, this is a great trail, especially if you want to get away from the crowds around Lake Louise.

Lake Annette

We did not visit Emerald Lake this time, but went there a couple of years ago and it is outstandingly beautiful. (When I return home and have access to stored photos, I shall post a picture for completeness!)

We also visited Johnston Falls whilst staying in Lake Louise. The falls are very pretty and the walk up there, both to the lower and the upper falls, is very easy on a concrete walkway.

Johnston Falls

Johnston Falls

Ice Fields Parkway

The next leg of our journey took us up the Ice Fields Parkway, 245 km of huge mountains, ice fields and glaciers. This is a spectacular road by any standard, even though we did not see it at its best: smoke from wildfires had blown in, creating a haze over the landscape.

There are lots of places to stop and admire the view along the way:

The Crowfoot Glacier

The Athabasca Glacier

We decided to walk up to the Athabasca Glacier from the Icefields Centre. Be warned though: if you decide to hike up there, you cannot get on to the glacier itself. To do this, you have to take a guided tour or one of the bus tours. The buses actually go on to the ice. Not sure how I feel about this….

At the “toe” of Athabasca

Athabasca Falls

What is noticeable is how many RVs trek the length of this road! It really is RV heaven.

The car park (not a camp site!) set aside for RVs at the Icefields Centre

Jasper

At the far end of the Icefields Parkway is Jasper. The campsite at Jasper, Whistlers, is huge (732 pitches!), but the sites are well spaced out between the trees and it has a real wilderness feel to it. We were warned again about the bears and the elks in the area when we arrived. We did not really pay much attention, but imagine our delight when this magnificent beast strolled past our window one evening!

It is the Elk rutting season, apparently.

Not sure if it was the same group, but they were there again right outside our camper the next morning!

Still in my PJs!

Jasper is a lovely mountain town with quite a buzz about it and we enjoyed wandering around. The surrounding landscape is magnificent with huge mountains towering above the town and many beautiful lakes within easy reach. There are lots of hikes and biking trails around.  We rode the motorbike up to Maligne Lake and hiked one of the trails there and then went to check out Maligne Canyon. This was a highlight of our visit to Jasper. The canyon is quite narrow in places and the water comes gushing down. There are six bridges crossing the canyon so it makes for an interesting hike to try to take them all in.

Maligne Canyon

We also took the mountain bikes up into this area and had a great trek along by the Athabasca River, Lake Edith and Lake Annette (yes, another one!). It was a well mapped trail, about a 30 km loop and quite easy for the most part (although I must confess to getting off at a couple of really tricky bits….it was that or risk falling into the river!).

Cycling along by Lake Edith

Banff

We drove back down the Icefields Parkway, past Lake Louise and on to Banff. The town of Banff is a ski resort and that is exactly what it feels like. Surrounded by spectacular mountains and a myriad of small lakes, the surrounding countryside is well worth exploring.

We hiked up Stoney Squaw Mountain one morning, a short but relatively strenuous hike with good views from the top.

Stoney Squaw Mountain

Whilst staying in Banff we also took a trip down to Canmore – and loved it. Canmore has a really relaxed feel to it and wherever you go in this town, there are amazing views of the mountains which surround it. The town itself is very picturesque and coffee bars abound. We sampled  Beamers – great coffee and the largest muffin ever!

Great views wherever you look in Canmore

We left Canmore via a back route which took us over a dirt road and through Spray Valley Provincial Park. Although a dirt road and having a feeling of being right out in the wilderness, it was really wide and easy riding on the motor bike with great views of the mountains all the way.

Spray Valley, above Canmore

 

Drumheller

When we left Banff, we headed down through Calgary (where we had a few chores to do) and then on to Drumheller, dinosaur country!

There are dinosaurs (the plastic species) wherever you look in Drumheller!

The world’s largest dinosaur?

This is not surprising because the area is famed for the large number of fossilised remains,  which have been discovered and excavated here. The Royal Tyrell Museum is a must, one of the best museums I have visited. (Thank you for the recommendation, Carly Beaton!)

There are so many original and amazing exhibits here, as well as some casts (exact replicas), all well displayed and explained. The highlight for me was “Black Beauty”, one of the best preserved fossils of a Tyrannosaurus Rex in the world, but there are many other fossils that you will not see anywhere else.

“Black Beauty”

This fossil of an ichthyosaur measures 21 metres in length and is the world’s largest marine reptile

Dinosaurs, dinosaurs….

…everywhere

It would be easy to spend several hours here as there is just so much to see and learn. The museum represents excellent value at under $20 per adult and I cannot recommend this highly enough.

And so our journey continues. Saskatchewan: you’re up next!

8 Comments

  1. What an excellent travel piece to have enjoyed reading whilst snuggled under the duvet at eight o’clock on a very wet, Wednesday morning! Thank you Jane …we’d love to visit Calgary and Banff some day 🙂

    Reply
    • Would highly recommend it, Anne.

      Reply
  2. Most welcome for the recommendations. Glad you are having an ab fab Trans-Canada trip!

    Reply
    • Thank you. Being blown to bits near Lake Huron just now!

      Reply
  3. This brought back great memories, Jane. Thank you!

    Reply
    • Time for another visit, I think!

      Reply
  4. She will love it – as will you, I am sure. It is a wonderful country.

    Reply
  5. Canada has so much to offer, I would definitely recommend visiting. When we lived in British Columbia and friends came to stay, they were always wowed by it.

    Reply

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Hello

Hello!  I’m Jane. I live in the Lake District in the north of England with my husband, Peter. We love to travel, but this is a great place to call home.

We gave up work in order to travel and do all the things we were not able to do in our careers. We know we are incredibly lucky to be able to do this.

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Jane

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