Road trip in Canada through the Rocky Mountains
A road trip in Canada is a dream trip to do at least once in a lifetime. With its immense expanses and magnificent landscapes, it is a country that lends itself particularly well to this mode of discovery. I had the opportunity to do a week-long road trip in the Rocky Mountains through the many lakes and glaciers of Alberta and it's a great memory ...
The route: with my best friend Emily we started our road trip to Jasper, where we arrived by train from Vancouver. With a rental car, we crisscrossed Jasper National Park and Banff National Park. We traveled most of the route via Highway 93, also known as the Icefield Parkway, one of the most beautiful scenic drives in the world. We then returned to Jasper to take the train back to Winnipeg. If you want to go on a similar trip, you can look at the offers for a car tour in Western Canada. The ideal formula is to rent a car with hotel reservation in advance because everything is quickly complete during the summer.
Jasper is a city without much interest in itself, but it's a good starting point (or stop) for a road trip through the Rockies. There are many hotels, restaurants, and all the tourist services that one may need. Jasper National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is Canada's largest national park. There is more than 1,200 km of hiking trails. In the near vicinity of Jasper, there are pretty lakes to discover such as lakes Anette, Edith or Beauvert, one of my favorites for its green water almost translucent ...
Maligne Lake is certainly the most beautiful lake in Jasper National Park. With a length of 22km, there are several hiking trails to either go around or discover the surroundings. Nearby, you can also visit the Maligne Canyon, with a beautiful waterfall between the rocks.
The Athabasca Glacier
Located one hundred miles south of Jasper, the Athabasca Glacier is a must-see in the Rockies. It is part of the huge Columbia Icefield, which is seen all along the Glacier Walk. Rather than make a simple photo stop, I advise for this glacier to take the time to go on an excursion to walk on it. From the parking lot, we do not see much, and the only way to really discover a glacier is accompanied by a guide and with crampons, for obvious reasons of safety. With Emily, we took a three-hour ice trekking tour. Unfortunately, we had very bad weather, with a lot of wind and icy rain, all at 2.000m altitude ... Nevertheless, it remains a unique experience that I recommend. I tell everything in my story: Ice trekking in the Rockies.
With Peyto Lake, we are no longer in Jasper National Park, but in Banff National Park. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, slightly smaller than Jasper, but it is Canada's most visited National Park. Lake Peyto is recognizable among thousands for its particular shape and its milky blue color. It is directly fed by the melting waters of the Peyto glacier that can be seen at the end. This is one of the highlights of the Glacier Walk.
Lake Louise is the true postcard of the Rocky Mountains, a vast expanse of turquoise water with snow-capped peaks in the background. Clearly, it is one of the most beautiful lakes, but also one of the most touristy. There are people on the hiking path that goes around the lake and it is sometimes difficult to enjoy this natural jewel. Right in front of the lake is one of the most prestigious hotels in the area: the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. There are also other hotels near Lake Louise, it's a good place to do a stopover between Jasper and Banff.
Moraine Lake is one of my favorite lakes in the Rockies. More difficult to access, it is less crowded than Lake Louise and therefore much wilder. Its turquoise color is due to the presence in the water of mineral particles produced by glacial erosion. At an altitude of about 1.800m, it is a small lake, but superbly surrounded by ten majestic peaks called "the valley of the ten peaks".
At 28km long, Lake Minnewanka is the largest lake in Banff National Park. Very well laid out, one can also discover it aboard a boat ride of one hour.
Banff, museums and hot springs
There are a lot of things to do in Banff and it is a city that deserves a real stop. First, two interesting museums: the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies, which provides more information on the history of the Rockies, and the Banff Park Museum, which features an impressive collection of stuffed animals, ideal for familiarize with the different kinds of bears, caribou or other rodents that can be seen in the Rockies. Chance, or not, we did not see any bears during our road trip, but on the other hand, we saw several times caribou or other cervids, and full of gophers, small rodents not very fierce.
In Banff, you can easily climb the gondola, the cable car that climbs to the summit of Sulfur Mountain, which rises to 2,256m. The view on arrival is absolutely great, on the other hand, it is true that it is a bit expensive (around 60 Canadian dollars) ... The most athletic can walk up the 6km climb (700m vertical drop) but maybe a little disappointed to be at the top with the crowd that has taken the cable car and therefore has deservedly less deserved the beauty of the view
To recover from the effort (or not ...), you can enjoy the hot springs of Banff. Rich in minerals, you can swim outside with a superb view of the Rockies, all in a water between 37 and 40 ° C. Ideal after a day of hiking!
Some practical tips for this road trip
Identify in advance where gas stations are located and anticipate refueling. We almost ran out of gas in the middle of the Rockies. Their cars are automatic and they consume more.
Do not forget to take into account in the budget the entrance fees of the parks (about 10 dollars per day and per person, free for 17 and under).
To lighten the budget, it is better to focus on the many hikes to do: it's free! All activities such as cable car rides, boat tours or canoe rentals are quite expensive.
The best season for such a trip is July-August or June-September. The tourist season is quite short, so it is better to book in advance.