First big road trip with the boys! Third time camping this summer! First time in Alberta and seeing the Canadian Rockies! Lots of firsts this trip.
We spent a week in the Canadian Rockies exploring Banff and Jasper national parks. We drove over 2000 km / 1200 miles, went on a zillion hikes, camped most of the time and cleaned up at a hotel in the end, and saw some great wildlife – including three black bears, two elk, and a mountain goat. Everywhere we went was gorgeous with stunning scenery, and we were blessed with sunny weather the entire time except for the final day.
Quick overview with lots of pictures:
Vancouver to Banff
Spent the night in Revelstoke, continued in the morning over Rogers Pass and gorgeous mountain scenary, stopped in Yoho National Park for a waterfall visit, and headed to our campsite outside the town of Banff.
We settled into our campsite for the next four nights. The boys settled into the routine of a daytime adventure, and then either a campsite meal (aka hot dogs & s'mores) or a restaurant in town. Lots of activity: A quick hike walking distance from the campground that turned out to be GORGEOUS. A trip to Lake Louise. Another hike through a beautiful dry riverbed canyon, with an exciting/terrifying rockfall event that livened things up. And then another hike from our campsite down to the Bow river and into Banff (ending with me running 5km back up the hill to our campground to get the car and drive everyone else home!)
Tunnel Mountain Village Campground & Hoodoos
Lake Louise is one of those iconic vistas we knew about before we visited – the glacial-fed green water, the mountains ringing the lake, the stately chateau-style hotel. We got there at the crack of dawn to beat the crowds and it was still mobbed, but...it lives up to the hype. The lake was beautiful, and we went on a great hike to a civilized tea house at Lake Agnes, a high alpine lake. Then we continued on to the Little Beehive mountain lookout. The kids (including 4 year old Asa) hiked 11 KILOMETERS up and down the mountain (6.84 miles). Way to go! After the hike, I sampled the lake water, and found it was cold!
After four nights in Banff, it was time to move on. We had done some cruising for wildlife sightings in Banff, but no luck. But within a half hour or so of leaving our campsite in Banff on the road to Jasper, we saw our first black bear! The road from Banff to Jasper is another iconic Canadian Rockies sight – a three hour drive that you could spend days exploring. High mountains, alpine lakes, glaciers! It's beautiful but desolate. You don't want to break down on this road! We stopped at the Athabasca glacier and got as close as possible – noting all the signs marking its retreat over the past decades. And finally our wildlife prayers were answered – in addition to the morning bear leaving Banff, we saw two more black bears, a pair of bull elk with giant antlers, and Beth and Obie even spotted a mountain goat!
We only stayed for two nights in Jasper, but we could have extended it much further – there was so much to explore. We did a hike through a deep river canyon with many pedestrian bridges and waterfalls. And we drove to Maligne Lake, a stunning glacier-fed lake with mountains everywhere. They run a retro-feeling boat tour, which we took across the lake for a stop at another one of Canada's most iconic viewpoints – Spirit Island. More jaw-dropping scenery. Even the kids, jaded by days of amazing mountain views, appreciated how beautiful it was. The weather was looking iffy, but fortune smiled upon us and the rain held off until we were back across the lake and in the car.
Maligne Canyon & Road
Maligne Lake & Spirit Island
One more night, then a long nine-hour drive and we were back in our beds. The kids were total troopers through the whole week. So many adventures and fun memories for them. Camping, hiking, animals, family time. They were patient on the drives and on the hikes, and while they definitely drove each other (and us) nuts at times, it was such a fun time for the whole family. So thankful we were able to make this trip happen during Covid summer!