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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52 Comments on “The Epic Beauty of the Canadian Rockies

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  1. 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.

    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.

    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!

    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!

    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!

    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.

    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!

    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’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!

    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! 😉

    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!

    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!

    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!

    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.

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