The Epic Beauty of the Canadian Rockies

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Throughout my world travels, I've been lucky enough to see some pretty damn epic landscapes.

The Southern Alps in New Zealand. Ha Long Bay in Vietnam. The island of Santorini in Greece. The Grand Canyon. Pretty much ALL of Iceland. The Isle of Skye in Scotland. Yosemite National Park.

And now I have one more place to add to my list: the Canadian Rockies.

Banff, Alberta, Canada

Mountains in general lend a landscape a touch epic-ness, if you ask me. Snow-capped peaks and craggy cliffs. Crystal-clear lakes and spiny pine trees. And the Canadian Rockies are not lacking in any of those things.

Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park, BC, Canada

I was lucky enough to be able to spend a whole day driving through some of Canada's most stunning national parks as part of the Great Coast Road Trip — from Calgary (Alberta) to Revelstoke (British Columbia), we drove through not one, not two, but THREE national parks in the Rockies, and skirted around the edge of a fourth.

That's a LOT of mountains and epic vistas in one day, people.

Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

According to Google Maps, this drive along the Trans-Canada Highway should only take about 5 hours, but it took us much longer than that since we stopped frequently.

Here were some of the highlights:

Banff National Park

Banff is one of Canada'a most famous national parks, and one that I've been itching to visit for years. Approaching the park from Calgary had both Stephanie and I giddy — our driving definitely suffered as we craned our necks to see as many sun-drenched mountains as possible on a beautiful late spring morning.

Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

Banff Village

Our first stop in Banff was in its striking resort village. In late May, the town was pretty quiet. But it was still oozing spectacular views and lots of mountain charm. We stopped into an old-fashioned candy shop, and then headed further into the park.

Banff, Alberta, Canada

Banff, Alberta, Canada

Banff, Alberta, Canada

Banff, Alberta, Canada

Lake Louise

The plan had been to drive out to Moraine Lake and then have lunch near Lake Louise, but the road to Moraine Lake was unfortunately still closed (it doesn't open back up from the winter avalanches until early June, I'm told). So we headed straight for Lake Louise instead — and found it still mostly covered in ice! We were not expecting this at all, but it was still stupidly pretty.

Lake Louise in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

Lake Louise in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

Lake Louise in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

Yoho National Park

Okay let me be honest here: I hadn't even heard of Yoho National Park before this trip. I knew Banff, and that was pretty much it. But what a beautiful surprise Yoho turned out to be! It's connected to Banff, and if you keep following the Trans-Canada Highway from Lake Louise (instead of taking the Icefields Parkway up towards Jasper), you'll drive through it, too.

Natural Bridge

We turned off from Highway 1 just past the town of Field for a little detour into the mountains to hopefully see another glacial lake. On the way, we came upon Natural Bridge, which is exactly what it sounds like — a natural rock formation that spans the Kicking Horse River like a bridge. This ended up being a fantastic stop!

Natural Bridge in Yoho National Park, BC, Canada

Natural Bridge in Yoho National Park, BC, Canada

Natural Bridge in Yoho National Park, BC, Canada

Emerald Lake

After Natural Bridge, we continued on to Emerald Lake, the largest lake within Yoho. This lake, too, was still partially ice-covered, but we were nevertheless able to make out the color of the water — you can see how it got its name! I would love to come back here in the summer and rent a canoe.

Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park, BC, Canada

Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park, BC, Canada

Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park, BC, Canada

Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park, BC, Canada

Glacier National Park

As we continued on towards Revelstoke, the skies became cloudier and we happened upon a lot of mountain roads that were still closed from the harsh winter Canada is still recovering from. We did make one stop, though.

Trail of the Cedars

This short hiking trail takes you through a grove of trees on a raised boardwalk. It was wonderfully quiet and green — and Steph even spotted a bear that we startled (lucky for us, she only spotted its backside).

Trail of the Cedars in Glacier National Park, BC, Canada

Trail of the Cedars in Glacier National Park, BC, Canada

 

I can only imagine how much time you could spend in these parks in the summer, when everything is open!

Now that I've finally been to these places, I'm already ready to go back. Just maybe with less ice next time…

——

Have you been to any of these parks? Which of these sites would YOU most like to see?

 

"It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might get swept off to." - JRR Tolkien

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51 Comments on “The Epic Beauty of the Canadian Rockies

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  1. stunning photos! I’ll have to check out Yoho next time I’m up there. I went Banff, Lake Louise and Jasper. Jasper was my favorite – it had a fun small town feel, great food and to die for scenery!

      Didn’t make it to Jasper this time, but I’ve heard great things! I thought Banff (the village) was adorable.

    I absolutely love Banff and Jasper is incredible. The Canadian Rockies are easily more beautiful than the American side and have quickly become one of my favorite places. I’ve never been to Yoho though, so I’ll definitely have to add that to my list for next time I’m in the area.

      They certainly are stunning! I would highly recommend Yoho next time – Emerald Lake alone is worth it!

    I love this part of the world. We’ll be following a similar path in July. Can’t wait to breathe that fresh mountain air!

      It’s such a gorgeous part of North America! I’m envious that you’ll be there when the glacial lakes are thawed!

    It’s definitely one of the things I’m most looking forward to on my bucket list. I would like to spend a whole spring or summer driving around the Rockies in a van!

    There’s something about Canada that just always looks amazing. I felt it too, the first time I went there. I was just plain happy there. Of course, that could have been the jet lag after flying from Australia, but I doubt it 🙂

      Haha, yes, I doubt it was just the jetlag! 😉

    I’ve never been to Canada, but I’d love to visit one day.
    The landscape looks a lot like the one in Switzerland! 😀

      This part, at least! There are other parts of the country that are completely flat, believe it or not!

    I went to Banff and Jasper last summer and you’re right, it is, hands down, one of the most beautiful places on earth! Your photographs are beautiful, too! It’s nice to see the winter side of that area, we were there in the summer and everything was melted!

      Thanks, Jeanette! I would love to see it again in the summer.

    I briefly spent time in the US outside Yellowstone NP in Montana, and just that small glimpse made me really want to go to Glacier NP. I didn’t realize it extended into Canada! I’ve always heard that the nature in Canada is gorgeous, now you’ve given me proof! I have got to explore more up there soon 🙂

      I think it’s a different Glacier NP than the on in Montana in the US. But still beautiful!

    Incredible!! Banff Village, in particular, looks picture perfect. I’d love to go next spring. Thanks for sharing!

    Happy travels 🙂

      Banff village was soooooo cute! Definitely could have spent more time there.

    My dad did about the same trip last year. His photos from those parks are amazing. Definitely on my list!

      They are certainly list-worthy!

    Amanda these photos are beautiful. I love living close to the Rockies, but I don’t go there often enough – this is some nice motivation to change that.

      Thank you, Alouise. And yes – you should definitely go more often! You are very lucky to have this sort of epicness nearby!

    I can attest to the amazingness of the Canadian Rockies in summer, definitely some of the most spectacular scenery I have seen from my travels. I will be heading back there for my third time next year. You guys definitely got a great section of the road trip!

      We feel like we got one of the best road trip legs! The Rockies are incredible!

    Wow, these national parks look beautiful! Have never been to Canada, but your great photos make me want to go there some day! Looks a bit like my home country Norway, with all the mountains and lakes.

    The Banff village looks super cute, like something out of a fairytale! 🙂 Would love to visit that beautiful candy shop!

      Ah, yes, I imagine parts of Norway look very similar! That’s a place I’d love to visit someday, too.

    Brilliant pictures … isn’t it crazy that such an iconic lake is still frozen in freakin’ May? They don’t call out country the Great White North for nothing. Also, what did you think of the descent into Golden from the Kicking Horse Canyon? Such a jaw-dropping section!

      Haha, yup, Canada certainly lives up to that nickname! Such a stunning part of the country, though.

    oh my god I’m in love with these landscapes. Really REALLLLY hoping I make it to Whistler later this summer…

      I haven’t been to Whistler, but I’ve heard fantastic things. I hope you get to go!

    It’s so incredibly beautiful! I’ve been dreaming of This part of the world for years now and will finally make it there next year. Was thinking of going in May to avoid the crowds but rethinking this now after reading your post. I don’t want to miss out on anything because of ice and road closures so maybe June would be a better time. Did you spend much time in Calgary? Is it worth much time do you think?

      We only spent a night in Calgary, but there are a lot of great restaurants there – plus the Olympic park is nearby! I wish we would have had time for that. Early June would probably be great. I just saw photos from Lake Louise today and it looked completely thawed!

        Excellent, thanks Amanda!

    Lake Louise looks amazing!

      It is!! I would love to see it un-frozen someday. And Moraine Lake is also supposed to be spectacular!

        Went canoeing there two weeks ago. Awesome!! Also walked Colombia icefields 30 degrees 30 mile per winds and snowing July 25. What an amazing part of the world.

          I would love to get out on some of those lakes someday!

    Wow, this is very helpful! I have a trip planned to Canada in a months time and I really need things to fill up the itinerary. I will be visiting these places and also Vancouver! This has helped me loads thank you! 🙂 xoxo

      Sounds like an awesome trip! Enjoy!

    Wow!! those are stunning pictures. It makes me wanna visit Canada.. 🙂

      Thanks, Tina! Canada is pretty awesome!

    Those are amazing photos, young girl ! I do understand you had a fantastic trip through Parks,Valleys – watching all these mountains ! Thanks for sharing.
    Arvid

      Thank you! And yes, it was a fantastic trip!

    Banff is an old dream of us. We haven’t heard much about Yoho though, but your pictures of it are beautiful, looks like a park definitely worth a visit! I guess we can never get enough of these scenes and colors… 🙂

    We’ve been to Glacier National Park this July and our timing was perfect to see it in the peak of wildflower bloom (it was both planning and luck :)). Stunning!

      Ooo wildflowers blooming in Glacier National Park? Sounds amazing!

      And yes, if you’re going to Banff, a visit to Yoho is a must as well! Both beautiful parks.

    I am so sure your stunning pictures will make anyone wanting to go there to enjoy the beauty.We did a five week road trip from Toronto to Vancouver Island 2 years ago in Summer.We did all camping in provincial parks & almost all the popular National parks along the way.The best way to embrace the beauty while being closer to nature.Still dont feel enough.Last year Fall we did another 1 month road trip.Did the loop from Quebec city via Baie-Comeau,Labradoor city,Happy valley-Goose Bay,Blanc Sablon,Newfoundland,Cape Breton Highland,PEI,New Brunswick & back to Toronto through Quebec City. Enjoying Fall colors through out in variety of landscapes in different provinces,just amazing.The world famous Cabot trail was a different beauty.

      Both sound like fantastic road trips! I would love to do a road trip through the maritimes (similar to your second one), and I know autumn would certainly be an amazing time to do it!

    I have every intention of continuing the family tradition, and take my daughter to Banff when she is old enough to appreciate it.
    The backwoods hikes are amazing in June and July. Everything blooms at once, because summer is short. Critters colonize every nook and cranny.
    The Canadian Rockies cradle and nurture the landscape. The mountain faces transitions fairly quickly from thick tall stands of conifers, to blooming meadows and stunted trees in the alpine regions. Small glacial lakes are cupped in the bowls that form between mountain peaks. Waterfalls spill over cliff faces into lush old growth forested valleys. If magic exists, it would be in those mountains.
    There are bear and cougars in the mountains to be aware of and prepared for, but I imagine smelly intruding humans are more confusing then mouth watering. With that said, hanging your supplies up at night is a must. The Canadians take great efforts to keep the place pristine, and they encourage mindful behavior at every opportunity.

    I’ve made the long road journey from the Midwest 3 times in my lifetime. There will be more trips to come.

    I hope you have had the opportunity to go back in the summer.

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