There are many ways to enjoy the Canadian Rockies, perfect for outdoor adventure activities including, climbing, trekking, biking, or rafting. Patient, and fortunate visitors may see some of the incredible wildlife. However, when the weather is right, the mountains are simply breath-taking, and just standing back to admire them is enough.
The rugged peaks are easily accessible, often from the roads which bisect them, which makes them ideal for taking a roadtrip. I was recently fortunate enough to return, following the Kananaskis Trail, through Canmore, Banff, and along the Icefields Parkway to Jasper.
Stopping regularly to appreciate the scenery, taking dozens of photographs it dawned on me just how much the Rockies appeal to me; they are my favourite mountain range. They may not be as high as the mountainous spines on other continents, but they make up for this in rugged beauty, iconic wildlife, and accessibility.
Leaving Kananaskis early in the morning, and driving along the back road to Canmore, didn’t provide the hoped for wildlife. The clear skies, an absence of any wind provided mill-pond calm lakes, and wonderful reflections, I felt more than compensated.
Later, after a day exploring Banff I pulled into Moraine Lake, just in time for a heavy downpour. The rain was bouncing off the tarmac, and pounding the roof of the car, as dark, foreboding clouds rolled overhead. Even now the surrounding peaks appeared powerful, spectacular, and compelling.
It seemed sensible to sit it out, enjoy the moment, and see if the storm would pass. Thirty minutes later this patience was rewarded, as the clouds parted, and the early evening sun began to shine.
I wasn’t the only one that had decide to wait however, and crowds of visitors piled out of cars of all shapes, and sizes. Pausing long enough to pose for photographs along the shore, and enjoy the spectacular beauty of this popular lake.
A quick drive took me to Lake Louise, a favourite place, in a favourite place, especially when skiing. It was as popular here as Moraine Lake. Tourists from almost every continent strolled through the grounds of the impressive Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise hotel, walked dogs along the shoreline, and a few hired rowing boats.
At both lakes the striking green water, rugged hills, and marbled blue sky were particularly photogenic, and it was with some difficulty I tore myself away. It seemed a shame to leave, as the sun was cloaking the landscape in its golden glow as it dropped from the sky, missing a good photo opportunity seemed likely.
There wasn’t much reason to worry however, as arriving at Bow Lake just forty minutes away on the Icefield Parkway, had me grabbing the camera, and tripod before even checking in at the Num Ti Jah Lodge. It was just as appealing the following morning, the sun slowly creeping into the sky, bringing soft light to all but the deepest shadows. Despite finding sanctuary under a fluffy duvet, in a big, comfortable bed, and a warm lodge even I was up before sunrise.
Continuing along the final stretch of the Icefields Parkway, there was still plenty to enjoy, including the impressive Columbia Icefield. The scenery is changeable, with steep peaks standing like sentinels along the road, or dry stream beds meandering through vast, open wildernesses of rubble. Rock graveyards, ground down by glaciers, and icefields over countless millennia.
The driving is a pleasure, the roads are straight, and rarely busy, particularly off the main arteries which feed this part of Alberta. There isn’t any need to rush, just take it easy, put on a thumping soundtrack, and enjoy the ride.
It was with some regret that I eventually pulled into the car park in Jasper, aware that this part of the adventure was coming to an end, and the mountains would soon be behind me.
Any opportunity to return to the Canadian Rockies is welcome, whether watching wildlife, exploring on foot or mountain bike. However, anybody considering visiting should add roadtripping to that list now.