Canadian Rockies

October 16, 2018

The Canadian Rockies 

What's to be said about the Canadian Rockies that hasn't already? I will try to do justice to this majestic place, one that has been on my bucket list for a long time. Thinking back, I am truly inspired and humbled by the grandeur of this land. To start, there are many national parks that make up the Canadian Rockies, the three we visited were" Jasper National Park, Banff National Park and Yoho National Park. All of them hold their own unique value and are worth a visit. Join me as I share my journey through the Northern Rockies.

Spirit Island, Maligne Lake | Jasper National Park

Day 1: Arrival

Traveling is a balancing act, that takes great patience. I try to keep the end goal of where I will be on my mind while delays arise, and they did arise this trip. We decided to fly from NYC to Edmonton, but because of initial delays we missed our connecting flight and were put on a later one. This pushed back our arrival time by a few hours. We enjoyed the 4 hour drive to Jasper from Edmonton, and just before sunset we descended upon the park as golden hour peaked. It was quite a magical moment. We stopped and took it all in as we made our way into the town of Jasper. Once we arrived we grabbed some beers and food from Jasper Brewing Company before checking into Marmot Lodge. We decided to head to bed early and awake for sunrise the next day.

Day 2: Maligne Lake/Spirit Island, Valley of Five Lakes

One of the most famous places in all of Jasper National Park is Spirit Island. It is a small, mysterious island at the end of Maligne Lake. There are only two ways of getting there: renting a canoe and self paddling 26 km or taking a tour with Maligne Lake Cruise. Although the former sounds adventurous, it was below freezing temps so we opted for the cruise (book ahead of time as they sell out quickly). We departed at 945 and headed on our 30 minute journey to Spirit Island. The tour operator informed us of the geographic history of the lake and surrounding mountains en route, and before we knew it the waters turned a more intense color of turquoise. We were getting closer to the glaciers and Spirit Island. Upon arriving at the island, we were in awe of the sheer beauty. There were mountains all around us, and this stunning little island engulfed in this stunning blue water. We took our 15 minutes of free time roam and take pictures. Midway through, it started profusely snowing, making our moment that much more magical.

Along the journey back to the town of Jasper from Maligne Lake, we passed by Maligne Canyon, another noteworthy stop. This is an incredible slot canyon of glacial water consisting of a nature walk and many bridges overlooking the canyon I would suggest seeing the first 3-4 bridges as it gets a bit repetitive after a while.

We made our way back to town for some caffeine pick-me-up. There is one place worth going to in Jasper for baked  goods and coffee, and that is the Bear Paw's Bakery. No joke we went there five times in 3 days!

After refueling, we made our way for our afternoon hike at The Valley of Five Lakes. This is a great walk/hike suitable for all people that circumferences five lakes, all varying in their own emerald/turquoise color. I definitely recommend the hike for its diversity and views of the lakes/mountains. It took us about four hours with a ton of time for pictures. 

Spirit Island at Maligne Lake | Jasper National Park

Spirit Island | Jasper National Park

Maligne Canyon | Jasper National Park

Valley of Five Lakes | Jasper National Park
Valley of Five Lakes | Jasper National Park


Day 3: Edith/Anette Lakes and Miette Hot Springs

An unusually cold winter-front had hit Alberta the week before we arrived, bringing with it a lot of snow and cold temps. This day was a particular example of these cold temperatures. It was simply too cold to do any long hikes, so instead we checked out the beautiful local lakes, Edith and Anette. They are just 10 minutes outside of town and offered beautiful views of the mountains.

We decided to check out the Miette Hot Springs since it was so cold. They're the hottest naturally fed mineral springs in all of Alberta. The ride to the Hot Springs was quite enjoyable as we ascended the mountains and entered a snowy winter wonderland. Before heading into the springs, we decided to hike the trail out of the parking lot along a creek. It was truly magical hiking through the dense, snow covered forest along a creek. It made us just chilly enough that we were yearning for the Hot Springs.

After about an hour of relaxing and defrosting in the springs, we grabbed some hot chocolates at the hot spring cafe and made our way out and back to Jasper.
Edith Lake | Jasper National Park

Miette Hot Springs | Jasper National Park

Jasper National Park

Trail near Miette Hot Springs | Jasper National Park

Jasper National Park

Day 4: Icefields Parkway (Jasper -> Banff)

Another thing with traveling is you can never predict the weather. Our fourth day was intended to travel along the famous Icefields Parkway, which is a single road cutting through the Rockies from Jasper to Banff. There was dense cloud coverage this day, so unfortunately most of the journey the mountains were not visible. This is certainly one of the many reasons I will return. 

Despite the hardship, there were plenty of stop along the way we were excited for. The first of which was Athabasca Falls. A powerful surging waterfall that we were able to stand right next to.  

Next up was another, more impressive, waterfall: Sunwapta Falls. This was one of the most mysterious places we saw in our whole trip. There is an island that splits the water just before it falls. It's truly a site to see! For photographers looking for the right angle, you have to walk off the path a bit once crossing the bridge to the other side. 

We continued our journey down the parkway, taking in views whenever there were breaks in the clouds. There is a beautiful overlook just before the road makes a huge bend that's worth stopping to peer down the valley. Our next stop worth mentioning wasn't until we reached Peyto Lake, our first destination in Banff National Park!

This was one of the most anticipated stops of the trip and it didn't disappoint! After parking there is a short half mile hike up to the overlook. It was completely snow covered, making our hike a bit more challenging (more on this later). Once we arrived, our breaths were completely taken. This was the most stunning turquoise lake we'd seen yet! We hoped off the path (as per usual) and made our way to the treeline below for some unique views and space. This was a place not to miss for sure.

Since our drive down went quicker than planned due to the cloudiness, we decided to squeeze in one more stop to Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park. Three National Parks in a day, what a dream! This was another great stop, as there was a quaint mountain lodge along the lake. We wandered the surrounding grounds and lake before heading in some warm beverages by the fire side. The lodge with the mountains in the back drop sitting on a truly emerald colored lake was amazing. After a disappointing start, this day turned out to be memorable!

Sunwapta Falls | Jasper National Park

Peyto Lake | Banff National Park

Emerald Lake | Yoho National Park

Emerald Lake | Yoho National Park

Emerald Lake | Yoho National Park

Yoho National Park

Day 5: Sunrise at Lake Louise

Remember that early winter cold-front I mentioned? Banff felt it's wrath much more than Jasper. Due to this a lot of the roads leading to some of the lakes were closed, to our disappointment. Our initial goal was to catch sunrise at Moraine Lake, but when we arrived it was closed and quickly diverted to Lake Louise ten minutes away. It was an incredibly magical morning, we arrived just in time as light revealed the misty lake, with an incredible glacial mountain as the backdrop. We bared the cold and enjoyed the stunning views as the sun illuminated the mountains peaks in an orange glow. This was a memorable morning that I will never forget.

We stopped in the Fairmont Chateau on the lake for some coffee to warm up before heading back to Banff for brunch at Coyotes Southwestern Grill. We gathered ourselves before heading to Johnston Canyon for an afternoon hike. The ice and snow was heavy throughout the park, so we decided to stop in Banff Adventures to rent some snow cleats for the hike, and we sure were glad we did.

Johnston Canyon was a beautiful hike/walk along a river slot canyon. Due to the cold temps, a lot of the trail was iced over and people struggled to walk. But the cleats made it a breeze and were a MUST. We hiked the entirety of the canyon to the upper falls, about 3 hours round-trip. Towards the end of the trail before the upper falls, there is a supposed secret trail that leads down to an incredible bend in the river and an odd shaped rock formation. Unfortunately it was bird nesting season in the area so the path was "closed". We investigated and found the spot, but decided not to go all the way down in fear of the $25,000 fine! Another one added to the list for our next trip to Banff!

We kicked it at our Air Bnb for the night and enjoyed sunset in the hot tubs
Sunrise at Lake Louise | Banff National Park

Lake Louise | Banff National Park

Hot Tubs at our Air Bnb

Lake Louise | Banff National Park

Johnston Canyon | Banff National Park

Day 6: Our Final Full Day

Can't believe how fast this trip went! A near cloudless sky awaited us, the first since arriving in Canada. You know what that means right? Sunrise!!! Isabella and I woke up at 6AM to drive to a famous photographers spot in Banff along the Canadian Pacific Railway called Morant's Curve. There is no official train schedule so we arrived early and took in the beautiful sunrise, completely alone! We waited for about 40 minutes until a train arrived - it was such a surreal moment to hear the chugging of the train fill the valley.
We took the local Bow Valley Parkway back to Banff and made a bunch of random stops along the way (local routes always preferred). 

Next up was our big hike for the day, up to Lake Agnes from Lake Louise. It's about a 5 kilometer round trip hike with pretty steep elevation gains. Again, snow cleats are highly recommended as it was quite icy in parts. The trail ascended the mountain along Lake Louise through the forest. Every so often we would get a glimpse of the lake, turning more and more turquoise as we elevated our view. After an hour and a half we arrived at the top to Lake Agnes. The famous Tea House was unfortunately closed, but no worries as we packed our own snacks and beverages! We cracked open beer and cider and celebrated our hike and amazing times in Canada! We even made some local friends (birds and chipmunks were interested in our small feast). 

We descended the mountain and made our way back to Banff, checking off almost all our goals for the trip! Only one more remained for myself. A clear night meant the opportunity to see stars at night. Isabella and I headed to Vermilion Lakes right outside of the town of Banff. I brought my tripod and camera and snapped away to my amaze!

Morant's Curve | Banff National Park

Bow Valley Parkway | Banff National Park

Lake Louise along the hike to Lake Agnes| Banff National Park

Stary Night at Vermilion Lakes | Banff National Park

Day 7: One more sunrise and departing

With the relatively clear skies in tact, we headed back to Vermilion Lakes for one more sunrise. Again, we were glad we did as the morning glow reflected off the mountain in a humbling way. A perfect ending to our trip. We had the car packed already and made our way back to Edmonton.

This was truly a trip to remember and one I've dreamt of for some time! Below I have some restaurant recommendations from places we hit. Drop a comment and let me know if you've ever been to any of these places!

Coffee & Restaurant Recommendations:

Jasper National Park:
Downstream Lounge
Bear Claw's Bakery

Banff National Park:
Wild Flour Artisan
Park Distillery Restaurant and Bar
Nourish Bistro
Balkan Restaurant

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