Banff & Jasper National Parks Canada - August 11-23, 2015
This is our second trip to Canada, but our first to Alberta and British Columbia. Most of our time was spent in Alberta, but we spent one night in Kamloops, BC. Our last trip to Canada was in 2000 to Ontario using our travel trailer and we loved it! This time, we didn't have the time to take our trailer so we flew from Houston to Calgary on United Airlines. Our return flight was on Air Canada Express to Houston.
Canada in the summer is a wonderful place to visit - especially in the Rocky Mountains area. We left Houston in August with mid-90 degree temperatures and arrived in Canada with 70 & 80 degree temperatures. We saw more snow and glaciers than we have seen anywhere else we have been to date. Even though it was mid-August, we nearly froze on some mountaintops, even though we brought some warmer clothing. The Canadian Rockies are awesome to say the least. The views were spectacular and my camera was inadequate to capture them, but I hope you enjoy my efforts.
[Tuesday, August 11] Today we left Houston at about 9:30 AM and we arrived in Calgary at about 12:30 their MST time. We rented a car at the airport and drove to our hotel and checked in at the Clique Hotel. This is a very nice hotel adjacent to the airport. We then drove to downtown Calgary and walked along the Stephen Avenue Walk. It is a pedestrian walk from 6 AM to 6 PM each day. There are many scenic buildings and shops along the way. Downtown Calgary is a beautiful city. We ate dinner at one of the establishments along the street and enjoyed a pizza. Afterwards we walked to the Calgary Tower and went up to the top and viewed the city from above. A portion of the top has a glass floor that lets you look down on the city and see the base of the tower. We then went back to the hotel for the night.
Calgary has what looks like a relatively decent commuter train system named the Calgary CTrain. If we had the time, I wanted to ride it, but we decided to skip it this time.
Click on the small photos to enlarge them.
[Wednesday] After breakfast at our hotel in Calgary we drove to the nearest Walmart and bought supplies for our hikes in the national parks. Then we drove west on Highway 1 to Banff. We checked into the Banff Inn, then we drove to the Banff Visitor Center and bought a National Park pass. We then drove around the Tunnel Mountain Loop and stopped at some of the stops and hiked along a trail that overlooked the Bow River and the city of Banff in the distance.
We then drove up the winding road to Mount Norquay to near the top. Along the way, a Bighorn Sheep was standing on the side of the road almost like a statue. We ate a late lunch at the top where the ski lift starts. We watched folks riding the ski lift to the top. The sun was too hot and the fog or smog was too bad to see the mountains real good so we opted out of the ride.
We went back to the hotel and relaxed for a while. We then drove to the Banff Train Station and looked around. Afterwards we drove the scenic Vermillion Lakes Drive and walked one of the trails for 1/2 mile. One of the stops overlooking the lake and with Mt. Rundle in the background is said to be the most photographed in the Canadian Rockies.
We drove to downtown Banff and walked around and purchased some souvenirs and rewarded ourselves with a gelato. About 8:30 PM, we left the mob of tourists downtown and went back to our hotel.
[Thursday] After breakfast in our hotel this morning we drove up to the Lake Minnewanka area and along the Lake Minnewanka Road making stops along the way. We hiked the Stewart Canyon Trail over the bridge and alongside the Cascade River for a total of 4.2 miles.
After driving across the lake dam, we stopped at Johnson Lake and walked the 2.3 mile loop trail. This is a popular lake for people that swim, sunbathe and float on all types of rubber rafts and such.
We returned to the hotel and rested for a half hour, then ate an early dinner at Chaya, a Japanese restaurant in Banff. After a little shopping, we called it a day.
[Friday] Today we drove up to the Lake Louise area and stopped at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise Lodge. We walked about 2.5 miles along the Lakeside Trail to where the river runs into the lake. As we reached the end of the trail, it began to thunder in the surrounding mountains and began to rain. We neglected to bring our rain gear so we got pretty soaked by the time we got back to the lodge. We ate lunch in one of the lodge restaurants as we dried off some.
After we got dried off and our appetites satisfied, we decided to drive to Lake Moraine and see if the weather was any better there. It was nice when we arrived at the lake and we walked the short trail to the top of a big rock pile that overlooks the lake. The lake was a gorgeous blue and the view was very nice. But the thunder began there so we went back to the lodge just as it began to rain. We ate some ice cream and as the rain slacked, we went to the car and drove back to Banff.
[Saturday] This morning the weather was rainy and cold, so we decided to stay in the Banff area and concentrate on some indoors activities. We drove to the Banff National Park Museum and saw their outstanding wildlife displays.
We then went to the majestic Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel and explored the massive structure inside and outside. We ate lunch in a cafe there.
Afterwards, we went to the Cave & Basin National Historic Site and saw the warm sulfurous springs that were the basis for the founding of the city of Banff.
[Sunday] Today after breakfast we drove up Hwy 1 to Lake Louise, then we took the Icefields Parkway towards Jasper. The clouds were low and it was raining as we traveled north. We couldn't see the mountains until we got north of Saskatchewan River Crossing. Once the sun appeared, the mountains were impressive. We turned around at Parker Ridge and most of the clouds had lifted some, so we were able to see some of the mountains we couldn't before. As we approached Lake Louise, the clouds and rain appeared again. We continued to Banff where we ate dinner at The Bison Restaurant.
[Monday] Today we left Banff and drove up the Icefields Parkway again all the way to Jasper. The weather was nice and sunny today and the mountains looked spectacular. Along the way we stopped at several of the overlooks and took photographs of the mountains.
We stopped at the Athabasca Glacier and walked the 0.6 mile Forefield Trail to near the glacier. It was very cold and windy off the ice field. The glacier is receding very rapidly because of global warming. As you walk from the parking lot up the road to the observation area, you see markers along the way that show where the glacier used to extend in years past. Sadly, many of these glaciers may not be around for many more years.
We stopped at Sunwapta Falls and ate lunch in the Sunwapta Falls Resort. We drove to the falls parking lot and walked the trail to the falls. The water has cut a narrow canyon through the rocks.
We drove further north and stopped at the Athabasca Falls. This is the most impressive and powerful falls I have seen since Niagara. Along the way on the highway we saw a mother Mountain Goat and her baby.
From the falls and into Jasper we drove along Hwy 93A. We saw a Black Bear that crossed the road in front of our car and disappeared into the woods.
[Tuesday] Today we drove down to Maligne Lake. We made reservations for the lake cruise at 1 PM. We walked along the shoreline trail to the Mary Shaffer Viewpoint. As we went along we saw a moose out in the water eating some type of underwater vegetation.
Then we took the lake cruise to Spirit Island. This small tree covered "island" is one of the most photographed scenes in the Canadian Rockies and can only be gotten to by boat. It's not really an island because it has a thin connection to shore.
After a light lunch in the lodge restaurant, we hiked about 2 miles along the Skyline Trail to what we thought was Lorraine Lake, but instead we were at a small unnamed pond. Apparently we should have gone a little further to reach it. Along the trail we saw many varieties of beautiful mushrooms and other interesting vegetation. After our walk, we drove back to Jasper, stopping several places along the way.
Back in Jasper, we ate dinner at a Chinese restaurant. We walked across the street to the Jasper Canadian National Railway Station and watched the Rocky Mountaineer tourist train arrive.
[Wednesday] After breakfast at the hotel, we drove to Maligne Canyon and walked the trail between bridges #1 and #4. At its deepest at bridge #2, the canyon is 167 feet deep with the river raging below. We covered 2 miles on the trails.
We drove back to Jasper and up to the Skytram. The tram was being affected by high winds and was on hold when we arrived. We ate lunch at the Lower Station where you catch it and after talking to some of the restaurant folks we decided to come back in the morning.
There was time in the afternoon, so we drove to Patricia Lake and Pyramid Lake. At Pyramid Lake, we walked the trail #15a for a mile along the lakeside to Pyramid Island and back. These are two beautiful lakes that are just north of Jasper. We returned to the hotel and ate dinner in the hotel restaurant.
[Thursday] After breakfast, we drove to the Jasper Skytram and rode the #3 flight to near the the top of Whistler Mountain. The wind was blowing and the temperature was in the upper 30's. It was COLD! We walked almost to the top of the mountain on a deceptively steep trail, but because of the altitude, cold and wind, we had to settle for about 190 degrees of view of the surrounding mountains. We would have needed to walk another quarter mile for the 360 degree view.
We drove back to town and ate lunch, then we drove to Mount Edith Cavell. It was an interesting steep road with countless switchbacks up to the parking lot. The trail gave us an incredible view of the mountain and all its glaciers up close. It was one of our favorites. As we walked the trail, we heard something that sounded like canon fire or thunder in the distance. It was actually the glacier calving off great chunks of ice that were tumbling down the mountainside.
We returned to Jasper and ate at an Italian restaurant.
[Friday] It started raining in the night. This was our day to leave Jasper, so after breakfast we headed west on Hwy 16 & 5 to Kamloops, BC. It rained on us most of the way to Kamloops. We weren't able to see most of the mountain scenery, however we got to see a Bald Eagle in a tree next to a pullout, while looking at a burned forest.
We arrived in Kamloops in the early afternoon and checked into the Holiday Inn Express. Afterwards we drove to downtown and saw the St. Andrew's Square church from outside and then toured the Old Courthouse next door. We then ate dinner and returned to our hotel.
[Saturday] We left Kamloops after breakfast and drove on Canadian Highway 1 east. We traveled along the edge of Shuswap Lake and into Canada's Glacier National Park. We continued on through Yoho National Park and Banff National Park toward Calgary. We discovered that all the rain we had experienced on our drive the day before dumped a large amount of fresh white snow in the mountains along our drive to Calgary. The weather was clear and sunny, so the mountains poped out. It was a beautiful drive. Just east of Banff we ran into a massive traffic jam that forced us off Hwy 1 and onto the old highway - 1A - into Calgary. Apparently some type of construction was under way and it really messed up 1 traffic. Hwy 1A is actually a very nice scenic drive and a good way under normal conditions to get from Calgary to Banff, if you are not in a big hurry. We arrived at Hotel Clique near the airport at about 7:30 PM. and had dinner in the restaurant.
[Sunday, August 23] We got up at about 6:30 AM and left for the airport about 7:30. Our flight was on Air Canada Express and scheduled for 10:40 AM, so we thought we had plenty of time to eat breakfast at the airport. As it turns out, our flight was delayed due to a hydraulic problem and we didn't leave until about 12:30. The flight home was uneventful.
Notes to self:
* Don't fly on an airline with the word 'Express' in their name.
* We might want to check all of our bags larger than a loaf of bread if the word 'Bombarder' is in the name of the airplane's manufacturer.
This draws to a close our vacation to Canada. We hope you enjoyed the photos and brief descriptions of our activities. God willing, join us again soon for another travel adventure.
Goodbye for now,
Lawson & Kay
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved. (Eph. 1:3-6 NKJV)