Canadian Rockies wrap-up (Part 1)

This is the first of a two-part recap of our 2017 Canadian Rockies trip.

Stimpy and Ren’s first trip to Canada

We arrived in Cochrane, Alberta on June 1. It was earlier in the season than we would like. Since we weren’t able to book Whistlers Campground in Jasper National Park on the dates we wanted, we rolled with what we had, to start our Canadian Rockies visit in the late spring. Staying in the Cochrane area for two weeks before arriving in Jasper turned out fine. We didn’t have any good long hikes since we left the Desert Southwest in early April, so it was good to have time to get back to our hiking shape.

Kananaskis Country, a local gem

Kananaskis Country is a park system located in the southeast of Banff National Park and west and southwest of Calgary, Alberta. We took a scenic drive through the area and did a few hikes. If you have some time to spend in the Canadian Rockies, this is the area you should consider exploring. I’m glad we did even if it was just on the surface.

Kananaskis Village

A herd of bighorn sheep near the junction of Hwy 40 and Smith-Dorrien/Spray Lakes Trail

Spotted this mule deer on Nihahi Ridge Trail in Kananaskis

The Icefields Parkway

Running through the heart of the Canadian Rockies and connecting Banff National Park to Jasper National Park, this 232-km (144-mi) highway is one of the most scenic roads you could drive on. The mountains of the Canadian Rockies are very dramatic and impressive. Driving on the Icefields Parkway is probably the most efficient way to sample what Banff and Jasper have to offer.

There are so many things to do for everyone on the Icefields Parkway, ranging from seeing awe-inspiring glaciers from the window of your vehicle, a short walk to impressive waterfalls, picnicking on the beautiful lake shore, to hiking to the expansive alpine meadows. The only regret I had about the Icefields Parkway was that we didn’t have enough time to do more.

Hiking along the Bow Lake shore

View of Bow Lake from the Icefields Parkway

Descending from Bow Summit

Towering mountains and waterfalls along the Icefields Parkway

Road to the Toe of Athabasca Glacier

Scenery around the Icefields Centre

Ren near the Icefields Centre

Sunwapta Falls

A narrow gorge downstream from Sunwapta Falls

Athabasca Falls with Mount Kerkeslin in the background

Athabasca Falls

Meeting new friends

Sheri and Bill invited us for lovely dinners and let us stay overnight in their beautiful home in Canmore. They also took us on a couple of unforgettable hikes, one being our first winter hike. Sheri is a gifted storyteller and has a blog about their adventures on her website, Trail to Peak: The Adventurous Path. You should check it out.

Our wonderful friends, Bill and Sheri

Our first winter hike (in June!)

Our lunch spot on the Burstall Pass hike with Sheri and Bill

Mount Birdwood from Burstall Pass

Jasper National Park

Whistlers Campground was our base camp for 10 days while exploring Jasper National Park. It was a very nice campground. We were visited by herds of cow elk several times. There were quite a few dead or dying pine trees in the campground, but it looked like the park is in the process of planting new trees to replace them.

Whistlers Campground, Jasper National Park

Visited by a herd of cow elk

Although there were always many visitors at the park’s popular spots, we learned that most of the crowds were gone by late afternoon, particularly near dinner time. So we took advantage of a long daylight to start our hike later in the day and enjoyed relatively uncrowded places.

Ren in a rare occasion, alone in a parking lot

Maligne (MA-LEEN) Lake and surrounding glaciated peaks

Medicine Lake, water from Maligne Lake flows into Medicine Lake. From here it flows underground through the karst system heading toward Maligne Canyon.

Water from Maligne Lake eventually made it way, above ground and underground, to Maligne Canyon.

Me and the Maligne Canyon

Due to construction at the parking lot and access road to Mount Edith Cavell day-use area, a free-permit was required to drive on the Cavell Road. The permit could be picked up at Jasper National Park Information Centre in Jasper townsite between 8 and 10 am daily for up to 2 days before the date you want to drive the road. Not thrilled with the idea of getting up early, we did it anyway.

It was too early in the season to hike the Cavell Meadows, but we got to walk the Path of the Glacier Trail to Cavell Pond and marveled at Angel Glacier hanging from Mount Edith Cavell.

Angel Glacier at Mount Edith Cavell

We didn’t spend much time in and around Jasper townsite. We, however, did visit Pyramid Lake and hiked in the Pyramid Lake area. We also hiked the Valley of the Five Lakes to its colorful sub-alpine lakes.

Arnica were blooming near Pyramid Lake, Jasper National Park.

Pyramid Lake

Fourth Lake, Valley of the Five Lakes

Two most memorable hikes we did in Jasper National Park were the Sulphur Skyline hike where we enjoyed stunning view at the summit and the Wilcox Pass hike where the best view of Athabasca Glacier was our reward.

Summit view of Sulphur Skyline Trail

Stunning view at Wilcox Pass

Next post: Part 2. Highlights from other national parks — Banff, Kootenay, Yoho, Mount Revelstoke, Glacier — and Bugaboo Provincial Park

13 Comments

    1. Thank you for the kind words. There were so many memorable hikes we did during this trip. Highlights from each park are: Iceline Trail in Yoho, Wilcox Pass Trail in Jasper, Plain of Six Glaciers in Banff, Asulkan Valley Trail in Glacier, and the one that defeated us, Spires Trail to Conrad Kain Hut in Bugaboo Provincial Park.

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  1. Excellent recap! Your pictures are amazing. Even though it’s probably more crowded, Maligne Lake is one of the most spectacular pictures, that water…

    I guess one benefit to going up there earlier is more snow on the peaks = prettier? At least I think so from your pictures 🙂 Also, an unforgettable June winter hike, haha. What was your most favorite and least favorite park?

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    1. Thanks for the comment. I do love seeing snowy peaks, but that also means dealing with snow patches on the trails. A trade-off, I suppose.

      Banff, IMHO, has more trails that suit my preferences, but Jasper has a better feel and wilder. Mt Revelstoke was the least of my favorites. There weren’t wide open alpine hikes like what I enjoy.

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