This is Part 2 of a two-part recap of our 2017 Canadian Rockies trip. If you missed Part 1, you can read it here.
Banff National Park
After 10 days in Jasper National Park, we moved to Tunnel Mountain Trailer Court, Parks Canada’s campground in the Banff area. This campground was just rows and rows of RV camp sites. It wasn’t as nice as Whistlers Campground in Jasper, but it did the job. Since it’s just outside of the Town of Banff and a short drive from Canmore, it’s a convenient base camp. We stayed here for 14 days (the maximum stay limit).
This Canada’s oldest national park is full of endless opportunities for finding things to do. We took a drive on the scenic Bow Valley Parkway. One of the popular spots on this road is Johnston Canyon. Most visitors only visited the Lower and Upper Johnston Canyon Falls. If you feel energetic, the hike could be extended by continuing to the Ink Pots, a set of aquamarine colored pools. That’s what we did. For details of the hike to the Johnston Canyon Falls and the Ink Pots, Alec of the CRAG: The Canadian Rockies Adventure Guide posted a very nice blog about it.
No visit to Banff National Park is complete without a trip to the iconic Lake Louise and Moraine Lake. The places are so popular that the crowds and the limited parking space are to be expected and endured. Although the park provided free shuttles to Lake Louise, there were no summer shuttles to Moraine Lake (except in the fall). The parking problem at Moraine Lake was quite unbearable when we were there. Let’s hope that the park will provide summer shuttles to Moraine Lake in the near future.
One hike that I recommend doing early in the season is C-level Cirque. We did this hike in mid June when there was still snow in the cirque, but no longer danger from an avalanche. The trail itself wasn’t anything spectacular, but the destination was well worth it. Walking up the snow field in the imposing Cascade Mountain’s cirque with stunning views of the Bow Valley was such an amazing experience.
Several great hikes start from the Lake Louise area, including Plain of Six Glaciers. Start very early or in the late afternoon, if there is enough daylight, to minimize the crowds. Plain of the Six Glaciers Trail was so worth it even if you have to hike during the busiest time.
We took three wonderful Banff National Park hikes from the Icefields Parkway — Parker Ridge, Helen Lake, and Bow Glacier Falls. The Parker Ridge hike was probably the hike with the best view for the least effort. The hike to Helen Lake was a moderately difficult hike that took us to gorgeous alpine lake with breathtaking views. The Bow Glacier Falls hike was a relatively easy hike along the shore of Bow Lake to the base of Bow Glacier Falls.
Despite not being able to get to the parking lot at Moraine Lake on our first attempt, we returned several days later to try our luck and finally got in to do our last hike in Banff National Park, the Eiffel Lake hike. The trail to Eiffel Lake ascended quickly through a series of switchbacks. Once we left the forest, the view of the Valley of the Ten Peaks was there for us to take in. What an amazing landscape!
Kootenay National Park
We stayed at Redstreak Campground in Kootenay National Park, just outside of Radium Hot Springs. However, the only two hikes we did within the boundary of Kootenay National Park happened when we were staying in Banff due to the proximity. The Stanley Glacier hike was a nice moderate hike that ascended through an old burned forest into a glacially-carved valley and ended at the Stanley Glacier overlook.
Another hike that we did in Kootenay National Park was Marble Canyon and the Paint Pots. Marble Canyon reminded me of Maligne Canyon in Jasper National Park, but In a smaller scale. From Marble Canyon, there was a trail along Vermilion River connecting to the Paint Pots, an interesting area where ochre was harvested for red pigments. Although Marble Canyon and the Paint Pots are nice easy hikes on a rest day, it wouldn’t be my first choice if we were looking for a great day of hike.
My impression of Kootenay National Park is that it doesn’t have many options for good mountain hikes despite its location and potential. Most hikes are shorter hikes to lakes, along the creeks, or in the forest. There are limited number of hikes that meet our preferences — moderately difficult hikes that take you into the alpine landscape.
Bugaboo Provincial Park, BC
We visited Bugaboo Provincial Park when we were staying at Redstreak Campground in the Radium Hot Springs area. Access to the park wasn’t convenient, but I’ve wanted to hike the Spires Trail to Conrad Kain Hut for a long time. Well, we made it to the trailhead too late in the day and weren’t able to reach the hut. You can read about this hike here.
Yoho National Park
Although we didn’t get a chance to explore Yoho National Park very much, we did hike the famed Iceline Trail in the Yoho Valley and I was glad we did. For me, the Iceline Trail was by far the most awe-inspiring trail we have done during this trip. The hike was on rocky terrains that was shaped by recently receded glaciers. The landscape was expansive. The impressive Takkakaw Falls across the valley floor could be seen from many portions of the trail.
Mount Revelstoke National Park
Mount Revelstoke National Park was my least favorite of all the national parks we visited during this trip, mainly because the lack of good alpine hikes. The Meadows in the Sky Highway is the main and only road inside the park. It takes you to sub-alpine environment near the summit. The wildflowers along the highway near the summit were abundant and beautiful. There are a few hikes that could be done from the summit. We hiked to Miller Lake. It was a nice hike but up to that point we had done so many spectacular hikes that it was pale in comparison.
Glacier National Park, BC
We closed our Canada trip with the Asulkan Valley hike in Glacier National Park, BC (not to be confused with the US Glacier National Park in Montana). The Asulkan Valley hike was a strenuous hike (despite what the park says) that took you up above the deep and narrow valley floor through a very steep trail. The view of the valley and glaciers from the Asulkan Cabin was a worthy reward.
Bring insect repellent, lots of it
One thing you don’t see in these pictures of beautiful places in the Canadian Rockies that we visited and hiked is mosquitoes and flies. It appeared they loved to be in these places as well. We usually have high-strength DEET-based insect repellent with us. One time we forgot to carry it with us and paid the price. Be sure to have it with you when going on short walks or long hikes. We probably used more insect repellents during this two-month trip than we ever used in our last 10 years. I’m not kidding.
That’s it for the recap of our Canadian Rockies trip. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did to recapture the experience. I still have posts of some highlight hikes that I plan to share, hopefully before we take off for Bangkok at the end of October.