If you’re looking for one of the most scenic routes to drive on and you’re near Banff, Canmore, or Calgary area, this is the drive not to be missed.
David and I arrived in the Calgary, Alberta area over a week ago. We are spending two weeks on the east side of the Rockies before checking into our first national park campground in Jasper. For the places that we will be staying during our visit to the Rockies, check out our previous post here.
We spent the first few days familiarizing ourselves with the area. I’ve heard about Kananaskis Country being a popular playground of locals and just as beautiful as Banff. So the first order of business was to explore what it’s all about. We did this by taking a road trip on one of the most scenic routes I’ve been to.
Kananaskis Country, or K-Country by the locals, is a park system located in the southeast of Banff National Park and west and southwest of Calgary, Alberta. It includes five provincial parks, four wildland provincial parks, one ecological reserve plus some provincial recreation areas.
Our scenic drive in K-Country started by heading south on Hwy 40 from the junction of Hwy 1. Hwy 40 is a paved road that goes through a spectacular mountain landscape. It was simply breathtaking. Our first stop was at Kananaskis Village, a resort community.
After walking through hotel facilities in the village, we emerged to Village Rim Trail, a short paved path overlooking Kananaskis River and the surrounding mountains. The view from the Village Rim Trail alone was a good enough reason to stop at Kananaskis Village on our drive.
We came across what looked like a gathering for a wedding ceremony on one end of the Village Rim Trail. So we turned around and returned to the parking lot. Continued south on Hwy 40, we soon arrived at a junction of Hwy 40 and Hwy 742. There was a winter gate on Hwy 40 at the junction. The winter gate was closed and would be opened on June 15.
As we approached the junction, there was a traffic jam caused by a herd of bighorn sheep on the side of the road. We immediately joined the crowd. I stepped out of the truck to get a better look of the herd for pictures (not recommended from a safe practice perspective). The picture below was from the aforementioned scene. It’s hard to get a picture of wildlife with a better background than this one.
We turned right at the junction and drove to Kananaskis Lakes in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park. We stopped at North Interlakes Day Use Area, which was situated in a beautiful setting between Upper and Lower Kananaskis Lakes. The clear sky we had earlier in the day was gone. Wind started picking up and rain clouds were rolling into the area. After lunch we wanted to have a short walk on the Upper Lake shore, but the plan was terminated by a rain shower. So we continued our drive north on Smith-Dorrien/Spray Trail (Hwy 742) toward Canmore.
Smith-Dorrien/Spray Trail is a gravel road that is well-maintained, but there are some rough spots here and there. As soon as we were on this road, the rain that was threatening us at Kananaskis Lake disappeared. The scenery on Smith-Dorrien/Spray Trail was as stunning as that on Hwy 40. Unfortunately, the road surface was dry and dusty. Despite relatively few vehicles on the road, there was still quite a bit of dust clouds left by every passing cars.
We stopped at Spray Lakes for a coffee break. No, there wasn’t Tim Hortons or a coffee shop nearby. We brought a coffee thermos with us. The water level in the reservoir was low. Hard shadows from late afternoon on the mountains made it difficult to capture the view in front of us.
Continued on the gravel road, we passed Goat Pond and came to Whitemans Pond Reservoir when we ran into another wildlife jam. This beautiful ram was spotted on the side of the road.
Our final stop was at Whitemans Pond for a picture of Ha Ling Peak with a dusty Ren. From here, the road went down to the town of Canmore. We concluded a gorgeous road trip day through K-Country by returning to our campground via Hwy 1.