Our trip to Canada had been kept a secret for several months as we were trying to coordinate a surprise reunion with Ally Ranger (our travel buddy who we spent a few months in Africa with back in 2010). She was only expecting Lars who was flying in from Norway for a Canada getaway. Little did she realize that we had been coordinating in secret with Lars to make this trip a reality. Hence our mad dash around the States to get to Jasper in time to link up with Lars. The border crossing into Canada was smooth, and the route to Jasper was gorgeous so our long ride was enjoyable. Jasper is a cute town and after linking up with Lars, we planned to do a few easy hikes – Old Fort Point, Maligne Canyon, Valley of the five lakes, and Edith Cavell. Too bad the weather didn’t cooperate as it poured down with rain for 2 days straight and the clouds moved in. We did manage to salvage our plans with a day relaxing at the Miette hot springs during the worst weather (it was actually snowing at the hot springs, making for a winter experience during summer). When the weather cleared up, we made a break for it, squeezing in several waterfalls (Athabasca, Sunwapta), and a short hike to Athabasca Glacier while admiring the scenery on the spectacular Icefields Parkway. Truly a stunning drive when the weather cooperates, and we got to spot several black bears soaking up the sunshine after several days of inclement weather. By mid afternoon, we arrived to Lake Louise in time to surprise Ally. Which was awesome…her reaction, shock, and happiness were priceless! Highlights of Lake Louise included the lake itself, Fairmont Chateau, and the drop dead gorgeous Moraine Lake. We saw a total of 5 grizzly bears (2 at our campsite and 3 by the roadside after leaving Moraine Lake), so heed those bear warnings! From Lake Lousie, we made our way to Banff where canoeing on the Vermillion Lakes, hiking up Tunnel Mountain, getting lost at the posh Fairmont Banff Springs hotel, and wandering up Johnson Creek valley were the highlights. From Banff, we made our way to Canmore (in Gaelic, Ceannmore means “big head”) where we tried poutine (french fries and cheese curds smothered in gravy….yum), drank at a few breweries, hiked the pretty Higashikawa/Friendship Trail with nice views of the Bow River, and of course piled on top of the big head statue. From here, we made our way on the rugged Spray Lakes Trail towards Kananaskis, chock full of stunning scenery and wildlife…bears, moose, and deer, oh my! From Kananaskis, we drove towards Calgary and based ourselves out of Ally’s apartment for a few days. Calgary was gearing up for the annual “stampede” but we were one week too early for the festivities! Instead, we consoled ourselves with some amazing wings, breweries, food and fun. All too soon, we had to split from the group to continue our road trip, and we made our way down to Waterton, the Canadian side of Glacier Park. Unfortunately, the park had suffered extensive fire damage in 2017, and quite a few hikes and trails were off limits. Nevertheless, we were glad we visited because the highlight here was undoubtedly the phenomenal wild flower vista at Bison Paddock…colorful flowers as far as the eye could see! And that was it, we crossed the border back into the US after 11 fun days in Canada. What a special country and we look forward to coming back here again one day.
18 June: Crossed Canadian border, drove to Jasper. O/n at Wapiti Campground ($20 per night, up to 6 pax, for an unserviced site with fire pit, free hot showers, bathrooms, water, dump station)
19 June: Walk around Jasper, hike Old Fort Point trail. Pick Lars up from train station. Hike Maligne Canyon. O/n at Pocahontas Campground ($20 per night, up to 6 pax, for an unserviced site with fire pit, bathrooms, water, dump station)
20 June: Rainy cold weather today. Slept in and drove up to Miette Hot Springs for a soak. O/n at Pocahontas Campground.
21 June: Drove to the Valley of the Five Lakes for a hike, then to Mount Edith Cavell. Drove to Jasper for lunch, saw an Aboriginal Pow Wow. Hung out at a brewery. O/n at Wapiti Campground.
22 June: Drove towards Lake Louise. Enroute, stopped to visit Athabasca Falls, Sunwapta Falls, and Athabasca Glacier. Surprised Ally at Lake Louise. Visited Lake Louise, Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, and Moraine Lake. O/n at Lake Louise Campground.
23 June: Drove towards Banff. Canoed in Vermillion Lakes, visited Cave & Basin museum (birthplace of Canada’s national parks). O/n at Village 2 Campground ($24 per night, up to 6 pax, for a site with electricity and no on site fire pit)
24 June: Early morning hike up Tunnel Mountain. After breakfast, drove to Johnson Canyon for a hike to the waterfalls. Drove to Canmore for sightseeing/drinkinng. Drove to Banff Springs Chateau (Canada’s “Castle in the Rockies”) for a tour. O/n at Two Jack Main Campground ($24 per night up to 6 pax, for an unserviced site with onsite fire pit)
25 June: Drove to Lake Minnewanka (underwater ghost town). Drove to Canmore for a poutine lunch. Walked the Higashikawa/Friendship Trail, drank at a brewery. Drove on Spray Lakes Trail towards Kananaskis and saw lots of wildlife on this road. O/n at Sundance Lodges ($35 per night for an RV up to 2 pax, for an unserviced site with onsite fire pit, hot showers, bathrooms, water, dump station)
26 June: Drove to Calgary with a brief hike to Barrier Lake enroute. Afternoon of eating and drinking around Calgary (wings and beers). O/n at Ally’s apartment in Calgary.
27 June: Drove to Calgary Farmers Market. Afternoon of eating and drinking around Calgary. Dropped Luke and Alli at the airport for their flight home. Drove to Okotoks. O/n at Walmart in Okotoks.
28 June: Drove to Waterton Glacier Peace Park. Visited Cameron Falls, Prince of Wales Hotel, and Bison Paddock (full of wildflowers). Drove to the Chief Mountain border crossing for an easy return to the States.