When I think of Canada’s National Parks, my mind automatically goes to the parks that are strung along the Trans Canada Highway. Banff. Glacier. Yoho. Revelstoke. I forget that there is a national park 40 minutes from my door (instead of 4 hours).
Within a couple of hours of being there, my card was full.
Usually when I’m in Banff I skip over the Minnewanka area of the park. It feels pretty touristy, too close to the townsite, and without a lot of reward.
One year I left Edmonton at about 3:00 AM on my way to the Okanagan. I pulled into Canmore for gas just before 7:00 AM. When I got out, the air smelled amazing. Absolutely unreal. I called Joanna to tell her about it. I drove on west, and decided to check out the lakes north of the Banff Townsite. Maybe it’s because it was early morning on a beautiful day, but everything was calm, and just starting to wake up. Easily the best stop I made on that trip.
I was in Lake Louise to hike and practise landscape photography. Unfortunately, an old injury had flared up and made it difficult to walk. So much for hiking, I thought.
My first attempt to visit Morraine Lake was thwarted when the road to the lake closed at 7:30 AM because the lot was full. I was better prepared the next morning, arriving at 6:30 AM, and made it onto the road just before it closed (and before the sunrise).
While I wanted to tackle a more challenging hike, I thought better of it and opted for the aptly named Consoltaion Lakes Trail. The reward/difficulty ratio was nearly as good as other trails at the lake, as this trail is nearly flat.
If you can make it to Morraine Lake, make sure you go early and pack enough to keep you well-nourished for most of the day. Undoubtedly, first-time visitors get caught up exploring the giant rock pile and stunning lake. But make sure to set aside time for the hikes that start out at Morraine Lake. The most popular of these hikes is probably Sentinel Pass via Larch Valley.
This is not a casual hike. There’s up to 792m of elevation gain, depending how high up you go.
I used to go walking through Wedgewood Ravine every morning before the kids got up. While I’ve since replaced my walks with more intense gym workouts, I miss how beautiful it was to be in nature at sunrise.
The Highwood Pass is the highest paved pass in Canada, at 7,238 ft above sea level. And right at the top of the pass is where the Ptarmigan Cirque starts.
Despite the intimidating start, this is actually a very accessible hike, and one of the first hikes my kids actually enjoyed. Most of the 355m of elevation gain is right at the start, so it levels out pretty quickly into the alpine meadows.
Whenever we drive through the national parks that Highway 1 meanders through, I always make a point to stop at some of the points of interest along the way. While our ultimate destination might be the Okanagan, I can’t help but marvel at the amazing things we pass on the way.
The Giant Cedars Boardwalk Trail in Revelstoke National Park is one of my favourite stops. Accessible enough that even small children can manage it easily, it’s a unique way to stretch your legs after a few hours in the car. Especially if you live in the prairies.
The trees are — naturally — amazing, but difficult to photograph. But the undisturbed meadows that surround them look exactly like a scene off of the moon of Endor.
On a sunny Sunday morning this October, I hopped in the Jeep and headed out to Abraham Lake. My maps showed a good selection of trails that were open to on-highway vehicles, and I was itching to get off-road before the snow starts falling.
I never did find any trails that allowed me and my Jeep, but the scenery I found on the side of the highway was worth the trip. Maybe next time I’ll leave enough time for a hike too.