Icefields Parkway – True Blue Lakes, Avalanches & Grouse!

May 2016 – The Icefields Parkway weaves between towering mountain peaks through the Canadian Rockies in Banff and Jasper National Parks, offering up a new and utterly astonishing vista at every turn.

RV travel Icefields Parkway Banff National Park Canadian Rocky Mountains

The Icefields Parkway takes you from one jaw-dropping view to another..for 150 miles!

We wanted to catch the magic of Canada’s Rocky Mountains at dawn, and on a few mornings we hopped on the Icefields Parkway at the break of day to chase down down that magical moment.

Bow Lake Icefields Parkway Banff National Park Canadian Rockies

Dawn at Bow Lake on the Icefields Parkway

But it is hard to capture the soft pinks that fill the sky a half hour before sunrise when the sun crests the horizon at 5:30 a.m., as it does in this part of the world in late May, especially since it wasn’t getting totally dark until nearly 11 p.m. So much for sleeping!

Bow Lake Icefields Parkway Banff Canada

Morning on the Icefields Parkway.

So, we didn’t quite make it before sunrise, but we still got the beautiful golden glow that spreads across the mountains as they wake up.

Rocky Mountains Banff National Park Icefields Parkway

Soft light radiates across the peaks of the Rocky Mountains

Banff National Park Rocky Mountains Icefields Parkway_

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The snow was thick in certain spots up on the mountain peaks, and we loved the patterns the rock and snow made high above us.

Canadian Rocky Mountains Icefields Parkway Banff

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Patterns on the Rocky Mountains Banff National Park Canada

Beautiful patterns on the crests of the Rockies

The tourist literature for the Icefields Parkway doesn’t wax poetic about any particular location. Their implied suggestion is simply that you should explore on your own and discover the most exquisite spots for yourself.

Bow Lake Icefields Parkway Banff National Park Alberta Canada

Looking across Bow Lake.

Luckily, a friend had told us to make sure we didn’t miss Peyto Lake. He hadn’t elaborated about why Peyto Lake was a “must see,” but as soon as we emerged from the short hiking trail to the viewing area that overlooks the lake, we knew exactly why he wanted us to go there.

Peyto Lake Banff National Park Icefields Parkway Alberta Canada

Peyto Lake comes into view.

“Oh, Wow!” I blurted, my eyes like saucers. “Who spilled the can of blue paint?”

Peyto Lake Icefields Parkway Canadian Rocky Mountains Banff National Park

Is Peyto Lake really that blue? Yes!

The small crowd on the viewing platform laughed. Every hiker that arrived had the same shocked look on their face as I did when they came upon the stunningly gorgeous view in front of them. The color of Peyto Lake was extraordinary.

A group lined up for a selfie, and who wouldn’t?

Selfie at Peyto Lake Icefields Parkway Banff National Park Canada

Selfie time!

A dad took his son below the deck and sat with him for little while enjoying the view. What an unforgettable moment and priceless memory.

Peyto Lake Icefields Parkway Banff National Park Alberta Canada

A father and son take a moment to enjoy the view together.

His wife was standing next to me at the overlook, and we chatted for a few moments. I discovered they were from Germany and they had visited Peyto Lake a week earlier when the mountains had been blanketed in snow. “It was all white — except for that blue,” she said, her hand sweeping across the painted landscape as she described what she had seen.

All of the rivers and lakes in the Canadian Rockies turn vivid green and blue in the sunlight, as long as the water isn’t too stirred up. The water is full of “glacial flour” which is crushed rock that the glaciers have ground down to a fine powder as they move. This crushed rock becomes suspended in the water and creates vivid blues and greens in the sunlight.

Another beautiful pair of lakes on the Icefields Parkway is the Waterfowl Lakes (Upper and Lower). Rather than royal blue, these lakes are turquoise colored like Lake Louise.

Waterfowl Lake Banff National Park Icefields Parkway

Unlike the true blue of Peyto Lake, the Waterfowl Lakes are turquoise!

We didn’t see any waterfowl there, but as we were wandering around the shore, we came across a grouse.

Grouse on the Icefileds Parkway Banff National Park

Down at our feet, Mark spotted a grouse!

This bird noticed us, but she wasn’t too concerned. She was preoccupied with brushing off the amorous attentions of a her suitor who was walking around her in circles.

Male grouse on the Icefileds Parkway Banff National Park

“Hey, baby, are you free tonight?”

This guy was pulling out all the stops for her.

Male grouse strutting Banff National Park Canada

Do you think I’m sexy?

She wasn’t all that impressed, even though he was strutting his stuff for all he was worth, but I sure was!

Male grouse struts Banff National Park Canada

She was having none of it, but I thought his display was great!

Back out on the Icefields Parkway, we continued to be blown away by the towering mountains and their snowy peaks.

Icefields Parkway scenic drive Banff National Park Canada

The scenery on the Icefields Parkway never gets boring!

Occasionally, when we pulled over to admire the views, we could hear the thunderous sound of an avalanche high up in the mountains.

Rocky Mountains Peyto Lake Icefields Parkway Banff National Park

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Then we’d see the snow pouring down the crevices in the side of the mountain.

Avalanches Icefields Parkway Banff National Park Alberta Canada

Avalanches are common as the snow melts in the spring.

It was incredible just how loud these avalanches were, and equally incredible just how hard it was to spot where the avalanche was happening. They were way far up in the peaks, and they didn’t seem all that big from our vantage point on the ground.

Canadian Rocky Mountains Icefields Parkway Banff NP

Triangles in the sky.

The loftiness of the mountains was awe-inspiring.

Canadian Rockies Icefield Parkway Banff National Park

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And the clarity of lakes was too.

Herbert Lake Icefields Parkway Banff National Park Canada

Herbert Lake

The Icefields Parkway is a fast moving thoroughfare between Lake Louise and Jasper, but we never got tired of driving it!

RV at Bow Lake Banff National Park Icefields Parkway

Now THAT’s a scenic drive!

The village at the southern end of the Icefields Parkway, Lake Louise, makes a great “home base” for exploring the southern half of the Icefields Parkway. For more info, see this post: Lake Lousise – Heart of Banff National Park. At the end of that post (and in the following link) there is info about RV camping at Lake Louise.

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Icefields Parkway – Canadian Rockies Scenic Drive – WOW!

May 2016 – The Icefields Parkway is a 150 mile long scenic drive in Alberta, Canada, that goes between Lake Louise in Banff National Park at the south end and the town of Jasper in Jasper National Park at the north end.

It is touted to be one of the world’s top scenic drives. And they aren’t kidding!

Icefields Parkway Banff National Park Alberta Canada

The Icefields Parkway is one of the world’s most spectacular scenic drives.

We drove the southern half of this eye-poppoing scenic drive several times during our stay in Lake Louise. We were blown away by the thrilling views every single time.

Icefields Parkway Banff National Park Alberta Canada

The dramatic views never quit!

The Canadian Rockies were right there all around us, nearly close enough to reach out and touch.

RV on Icefields Parkway Banff National Park Canada Rocky Mountains

RVs are the most common vehicles on the Icefields Parkway.

The mountains towered in front of us and behind us, and we kept jumping around in our seats looking in every direction out the windows, our jaws hanging open in amazement.

Icefields Parkway Canadian Rocky Mountains Banff National Park

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The mountains changed shape and color constantly as we drove in the varying light of early morning, midday and late afternoon.

RV in Rocky Mountains on Icefields Parkway

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The magnificent Icefields Parkway provides a feast for the eyes while driving but, for its length, it has suprisingly few scenic overlooks and pullouts where drivers can stop to admire the breathtaking vistas.

One of the best scenic viewpoints is at Herbert Lake. It is the very first pullout at the south end of the Icefields Parkway, and loads of drivers who start their drive at Lake Louise zoom right by.

Herbert Lake Icefields Parkway Canada Rocky Mountains Banff National Park

Herbert Lake – A gorgeous spot on the Icefields Parkway that many northbound tourists skip past!

The temptation when you round the bend and pass Herbert Lake and first catch a glimpse of the mountains reflecting in the water is to think, “Oh, we’ll have lots of scenic viewpoints on this drive, and the Icefields Parkway is 150 miles long, so let’s keep going for a while and stop a little further down the road.” After all, you’ve been on the Icefields Parkway for all of about three minutes at this point! We zipped by the first time but made a point to stop there on several return visits.

As I stared at the mirrored reflections in the lake one morning, I noticed the clouds were flying across the sky. So I set up a timelapse on my camera to capture the swift movement and variable light. What a cool result!!

One day as we drove along the Icefields Parkway, we were craning our necks looking up at the mountains when we noticed a cluster of cars pulled over on the shoulder of the road. Everyone was pointing their cameras towards the woods. It turned out there was a black bear just in front of the trees.

Getting a photo of a bear Banff National Park Canada

People stopped there cars to snap pics of a bear.

What a beauty he was!! We were tickled to see a bear so effortlessly for a second time here in the Canadian Rockies.

Black bear Icefields Parkway Banff National Park Canada

Another wonderful black bear sighting!

He stood still for a long time, chowing down on the grass, and our cameras clicked furiously.

Black Bear Banff National Park Icefields Parkway

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Black Bear Icefields Parkway Banff National Park_

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He stayed so long that his audience cycled in and out. Some folks got back in their cars and drove off and newcomers pulled over to park and stare in awe. Finally, the bear lumbered off into the woods.

Black bear Banff National Park Icefields Parkway Canada

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There are a number of dry camping campgrounds on the Icefields Parkway but most were closed, even in late May. We wandered through a few — what great spots to camp during the summertime! — and we discovered a lovely view of the Rockies reflecting quietly in a large puddle on the ground near Mosquito Creek Campground.

Reflections Canadian Rocky Mountains Icefields Parkway Banff

Canadian Rockies reflections…

Lots of RVs travel this highway, and we saw more rental RVs than any other kind of vehicle on the road. The Icefields Parkway was under construction in spots, so there were loads of big construction trucks driving very fast on a mission to get where they were going. In the early mornings, though, we had the road to ourselves.

Rental RV Icefields Parkway Banff National Park Canada Rocky Mountains

The Icefields Parkway is a popular spot to take an RV!

One of the biggest and most popular scenic pullouts is at Bow Lake. This is a stunning lake, and we caught it in a mild mood one morning when it was as still as glass.

Bow Lake Icefields Parkway Banff National Park Canadian Rockies

Serenity on Bow Lake.

The patterns of the snow on the mountains reflected beautifully in the green depths of the water.

Bow Lake Icefields Parkway Banff National Park Canadian Rocky Mountains

We loved the images the mountains created in the green water of Bow Lake.

The pullout at Bow Lake is very large, and we hung out for an hour or so watching the tourists come and go. First there was one RV.

RV driving on Icefields Parkway to Jasper Banff National Park Canada Rockies

An RV slows down to pull over at Bow Lake

Then two.

RV parking on Icefields Parkway to Jasper Banff National Park Canada Rockies

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Then the tour buses began to show up and park alongside the cars and RVs. There was a constant shuffle of vehicles coming and going and people running around the overlook admiring the exquisite view.

RV and tour bus sightseeing Icefields Parkway Banff National Park Canada Rocky Mountains

Bow Lake is the most popular pullout in the southern half of the Icefields Parkway. It was busy in the off season!

Everyone wanted a selfie. Well, if you can’t lick ’em, join ’em! So, we got one too!

Happy hikers Banff National Park Icefields Parkway

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Our original plan had been to drive the Icefields Parkway with our rig, going slowly from south to north, and possibly camping midway at the Columbia Icefields.

Canadian Rocky Mountains Icefields Parkway Banff National Park Canada

We never got tired of views like these!

But we soon found out that being 55′ long from end to end, we would have struggled to fit in most of the pullouts and in almost all the trailhead parking areas.

Rocky Mountains Icefields Parkway Canada

Icefields Parkway scenery – beautiful!

So, we drove the Icefields Parkway at leisure in our truck, stopping in different places each time we drove it, and never having to fight to squeeze a big rig into a tiny parking area.

Eventually, when we were finally ready to go all the way to Jasper, we took our rig straight through without stopping. But there was a lot to see around Lake Louise and Banff first, so that story will have to wait!

Fifth wheel RV on the Icefields Parkway Banff National Park Canada

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The Icefields Parkway is a glorious road, and it is an easy drive that doesn’t involve any hairpin turns or steep climbs. So it is very manageable for a big RV and tow vehicle/toad as long as you don’t plan to pull over too often. And the views… oh my, the views!!

Canadian Rockies Banff National Park Icefields Parkway Canada

We saw sensational Canadian Rockies scenery at every turn on the Icefields Parkway

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Lake Louise – RV Travels to the Heart of the Rockies in Banff

May 2016 – Banff National Park is the heart of the Canadian Rockies, and Lake Louise is at the very center of that heart. After we took our RV through the wonderful mountain scenery of Kootenay National Park, our appetites had been whetted by all the gorgeous snowcapped peaks rising up in the distance, and we were ready to slow down and see them up close. Lake Louise was the ideal spot.

Lake Louise dawn Banff National Park Alberta Canada-2

Dawn at Lake Louise in Banff National Park

Lake Louise is a turquoise lake tucked into a circle of snowcapped mountains, and at dawn we found the water was glassy smooth and utterly clear.

Lake Louise Banff National Park Canada

Lake Louise

This is a top tourist destination, and from just after sunrise until well after dark it is loaded to the gills with people from all over the world. But during the pre-dawn hours of quiet mornings in mid-May, we found ourselves sharing the lake with just a few other people, all with cameras aimed across the lake.

Dawn Lake Louise Banff National Park Alberta Canada

Crystal clear water and mirrored reflections at Lake Louise

The early morning rays of sun cast a pink and orange glow on the snow covered peaks in the distance. The air was calm, and the few people down at the lake were silent as they gazed across the water. When we spoke, we whispered. There was a special, intimate aura among us all, an acknowledgement that this was a unique moment we would all remember.

Lake Louise Dawn Banff National Park Alberta Canada

Sunrise at Lake Louise

Just a few steps behind us, the enormous Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise Hotel rose up to towering heights, and slowly came to life.

Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise Hotel Alberta Canada

The Farirmont Chateau Lake Louise Hotel

Hotel guests made their way down to the water’s edge to join us admiring the lake. Soon, tourists began to descend on the shore by the dozens. Our magical few minutes of privacy with the sunrise by the lake had passed.

Not long after, the tourist buses began to arrive, disgorging fifty selfie-stick wielding tourists at a whack. We left the shore and wandered inside the hotel to explore its luxurious and posh interior.

Lake Louise Fairmont Chateau Hotel interior

The elegant lobby of the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise

This is an elegant hotel with a beautiful dining room that overlooks the lake. What a spot for a meal!

Lake Louise Fairmont Chateau fine dining

Fine dining right on the lake at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise

Lake Louise is best enjoyed outdoors, though, and there are lots of bright red kayaks for rent at the boat dock. One by one, kayakers paddled out onto the lake.

Kayak on Lake Louise Banff National Park Alberta Canada

Kayaking on the lake

We followed the shoreline trail for a ways, with one eye on the path in front of us and the other peering between the trees at the shockingly bright turquoise water.

Lake Louise Pine Trees Banff National Park Canada

Vivid turquoise water on Lake Louise

Turquoise Lake Louise Banff National Park

Is it real?!

Lake Louise Banff National Park Alberta Canada

Have a seat and soak in the beauty of this place!

Dandelions were in full bloom and filled a hillside. Whoever thought dandelions could add so much to a scene?!

Lake Louise Dandelions and jade water Banff National Park

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Lake Louise was first explored by Swiss mountaineers, and it soon became a tourist destination. Two tea houses were built up in the hills as destinations for hikers where they could get a yummy bite to eat and have a place to hike to besides just “the top.”

We took the trail that heads to the Lake Agnes Tea House, and it climbed steadily for quite a ways.

Lake Agnes Tea House Trail Banff National Park Canada

The mountain views intensified on the hiking trail to the Lake Agnes Tea House

The mountain peaks were breathtaking — and the trail got us huffing and puffing and out of breath too!

Canadian Rockies Lake Agnes Tea House Hike Banff National Park

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Eventually, we came to a small lake. Mark climbed up on a pair of stumps for a better view.

Stump man Lake Louise Banff National Park Canada

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Some other hikers came along behind us and got our pic leaning against these stumps. Even though it was the off-season and it was a cold, gray day, there were a lot of hikers on the trail. I can only imagine how busy this trail must be on a gorgeous, sunny day in July!

Selfie Lake Agnes Banff National Park Canada

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Just a little further on we came to Lake Agnes. There was still a lot of ice on the water, but the edges near the trail on the shore were crystal clear.

Lake Agnes Banff National Park Canada

Lake Agnes was still partially covered in ice.

Apparently, the Lake Agnes Tea House is extremely popular when it opens in the summertime. The workers who staff it stay there during the work week and hike down to the Lake Louise village on their days off (or do more adventurous hikes into the mountains starting from the Lake Agnes Tea House).

Ice on Lake Agnes Banff National Park Canada

Thin veils of ice cover the rich aqua hues of Lake Agnes

Many of the goods for the restaurant are brought up by horses and wagons on a different trail, but a lot of the provisioning is done by workers who hike up and down this steep trail carrying heavy loads alongside the tourists.

Lake Agnes Banff National Park Alberta Canada

Lake Agnes

Happy Hikers Lake Agnes Tea House Trail Banff National Park Canada

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The wildlife stays on the mountain year round, of course, and a chipmunk came over to see if we’d carried up a snack for him.

Chipmunk at Lake Louise Alberta Canada

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The Lake Agnes Tea House wasn’t going to open for another two weeks when we were there, but the hike was still really enjoyable.

Lake Agnes Tea House at Lake Louise Alberta Canada

The Lake Agnes Tea House – Not open quite yet. Darn!

A cup of hot tea at the Tea House would have been very welcome. After we’d been up there tip-toeing around the ice and snow and taking photos for a while, I was chilled to the bone. And then it began to drizzle!

Freezing cold at Lake Agnes Banff National Park

A hot tea would be nice right about now!

We’ve heard the baked goodies that come out of the Lake Agnes Tea House kitchen are very tasty. But we made do with our water bottles and protein bars in our packs. Sigh.

The amazing thing about Lake Louise is that after you look at it for a while, you get used to the stunningly vivid turquoise color. But each time you look away and then look back again, your jaw drops. And so it happened as we hiked back down to the lake.

Lake Louise Glimpse Banff National Park Canada

Lake Louise jumps out at us through the trees.

Lake Louise Rain Banff National Park Canada

The jade hues glowed as rain flattened the water.

The trees opened up as we neared the lake and the incredible color was right there in front of us once again.

Lake Louise Banff National Park Alberta Canada

The vivid colors of Lake Louise are stunning.

We returned to the shoreline of Lake Louise at dawn and at dusk several times and saw the lake in both sunshine and rain. Each time the beauty of the whole area caught us off guard.

Lake Louise Reflections Banff National Park Alberta Canada

Dawn at Lake Louise is a special time, and we enjoyed taking photos down at the shore
(see Mark down there with his tripod?!).

It didn’t matter if we were sharing the lake with two hundred other awe-struck tourists or with just two or three other photographers who were as determined as we were to capture its beauty on camera, this place was incredible.

Lake Louise Dusk Banff National Park Alberta Canada

What a place!

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Lake Louise RV & Camping Info

For RVers heading to Lake Louise, there is a National Park campground next to the village that is fairly big rig friendly and has electric and water hookups as well as slightly lower pricing for dry camping in those same sites if you choose not to plug in.

Most of the campsites are surrounded by trees, so RVs with solar power may not get much sunshine. The campsites are all double-wide with two rigs sharing a single pull-through, coming from opposite directions, with power pedestals on the outsides (it can be a tight squeeze between neighbors).

During the off-season, payment is made at a self-pay kiosk at the entrance (American credit cards accepted, just write the number on the envelope), however during high season the entrance booth is manned.

For the few weeks in mid to late May that we were there, the campground was less than half full every weeknight, and almost every RV had a double-wide site to itself. On the weekends it was busier. May Long Weekend (Victoria Day), the weekend before America’s Memorial Day, it promised to be packed with visitors from nearby Calgary, but cold rain kept them away this year.

Virtually all of the RVs we saw were rental units. Later in the season, reservations are a must, and the campground is full every night. Once the kids are out of school in late June, the RV fleet becomes a mix of personally owned family RVs and rental units.

There is a dump station that is the biggest RV dump station we have ever seen anywhere, with six stations lined up side by side!

RV dump station Lake Louise Campground Alberta Canada

Six RVs were using the dump station at once when we were there, and one was in line waiting…in the off-season!!

Lake Louise Village is essentially a strip mall with a handful of boutique tourist shops. There is a grocery store that caters to the young, hip, hiking crowd, offering all the fancy gourmet goodies you might long for at prices that are significantly north of their normally high costs. So, for the budget conscious, get provisioned up before you arrive.

May weather is very unpredictable. During our stay we saw highs ranging from the high 40’s (Fahrenheit) to the low 80’s and lows as low as the low 20’s. We saw sleet, snow, rain, and beautiful bright warm sunshine too.

Lake Louise Village Alberta Canada

Lake Louise Village

Many, if not most, of the hiking trails were closed in the pre-season due to avalanche activity, and some of the roads were closed too. However, the trade-off was that the crowds were manageable and we could always find a place to park and a place to put our tripod for a photo, something we’ve heard can be challenging during the warmer and more popular midsummer months of July and August.

More info and links below and more Canadian Rockies blog posts coming soon!

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Tips for RVers traveling to Canada
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Kootenay National Park Canada – Bears, Mountains & Rivers!

May 2016 – The Canadian Rockies are a huge mountain range, and at their heart there is a cluster of four adjacent National Parks (a few more National Parks are tucked into other regions in the range). After spending a little time in Fernie and Invermere on our way north from Glacier National Park in Montana, we entered Kootenay National Park and purchased an annual Parks Canada Discovery Pass for C$136.40 (about $100 US) on our way in.

Because Canada is celebrating its 150th year of confederation in 2017, all the National Parks entrance fees will be waived in 2017. So, the ranger happily informed us that our 2016 pass is effective for two years, which is another way of looking at it. Either way, it was a deal because we knew we’d be enjoying these parks for a while this year and, who knows, maybe next year too!

Entering Kootenay National Park British Columbia Canada

Knowing we’d be in Canada’s National Parks for a while, we bought a Discovery Pass as we drove into Kootenay National Park near Radium Hot Springs

The Rockies are in your face as you drive on the highway through Kootenay National Park, and what a fabulous thing to have in your face! Even though the weather turned cloudy and gray as we drove, the mountains were breathtaking.

Kootenay National Park British Columbia Canada

The weather wasn’t cooperating, but the mountains were astonishing.

Highway 93 travels in the valleys between the towering mountains in Kootenay national Park, first along the Kootenay River and then along the Vermillion River. We stopped at one point when the turquoise color of the water in the river jumped out at us from the side of the road.

Stream Kootenay National Park British Columbia Canada

We drove by this gorgeous turquoise water and just had to stop for a photo!

We were entering serious bear country, and every souvenir shop and hiking shop we’d visited so far in Canada had funny t-shirts or cards about the danger of these frightening beasts. I couldn’t help but get pics of a few.

Bear sign Send More Tourists

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Bear Sign Canadian Fast Food

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Bear Sign Finally some Lean Meat

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There was a definite theme here: don’t get chased by a bear or you’ll be toast. Or lunch!

Bear sign Canadian Take-out

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Bear sign hike with someone you can outrun

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Bear Sign Exercise Some Motivation Required

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One thing that is sold everywhere is bear spray. This is a mace-like spray that will keep you safe if a grizzly rears up on its hind legs and comes after you, claws pawing the air and roaring. Or so they say. I try to imagine being faced with an angry, hungry bear towering over me and having the presence of mind to remember where my bear spray is and to get it aimed and sprayed in the right direction.

“Hold it right there, Yogi, while I get my bear spray out of my back pack and aim it at you…hmmm… I know it’s in here somewhere!”

Bear spray sign

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But with so much excitement about bears, we knew we’d have to see some somewhere. Eventually.

As we had discovered just a few miles south of here, when a group of big horn sheep crossed the highway in front of our truck, it is a common occurrence for animals to cross the highways in this part of the world. It is so common, in fact, that there is an automated detection system that notices when the animals are crossing the highway and lets drivers know.

Wildlife Detection System road sign Kootenay National Park Canada

We need this for our cameras!!

There were lots of signs about bears on the highway as we drove through Kootenay National Park, and the ranger at the entrance station had actually given us a slip of paper that talked about them and talked about not getting out of the car in certain sections of the highway.

“The bears have just come out of hibernation,” she explained, “and they’re hungry.”

We figured there was little chance we’d see a bear on the highway and thought nothing of this when, all of a sudden, off in the distance, we saw a big black animal eating dandelions. We slowed down as we came up to him, and sure enough, it was a beautiful black bear!

Black Bear Kootenay National Park BC Canada

Hey, there he is – a black bear in the dandelions right next to the highway!

We hadn’t gone but a few miles further when we spotted a big brown bear munching away in the grass too.

Brown bear Kootenay National Park BC Canada

Another bear by the highway! Wow!!

We slowed to get his photo and he stared right at us.

Brown bear Kootenay National Park British Columbia Canada

Wow. We hadn’t been in the Canadian Rockies very long or gone on any epic hikes, and we’d already seen big horn sheep and bears!

Brown bear Kootenay NP British Columbia Canada

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The scenery continued to be beautiful as we drove north through Kootenay National Park.

Canadian Rocky Mountain scenery Kootenay National Park British Columbia Canada

The Vermillion River is actually turquoise!!

We stopped at Numa Falls and explored the rocky shoreline of the Vermillion River.

Rocks and stream Kootenay National Park BC Canada

The rocks at Numa Falls have been carve by the water.

Waterfall Kootenay National Park British Columbia Canada

Rushing water at Numa Falls.

Kootenay National Park suffered three huge forest fires in recent years, and we did a short hike into the burned forest where young trees were just getting started between their scorched ancestors.

Regrowth after forest fire Kootenay National Park BC Canada

Huge forest fires in Kootenay National Park wiped out the old trees, but here come some new ones!

It was eerie to walk among the tall and skinny trunks of what was once a thick forest of huge trees. In between the charred trunks, young trees were starting to create a new forest.

Burnt trees from a wildfire in Kootenay National Forest British Columbia Canada

Ghosts of towering pines stand next to saplings that are starting a whole new forest.

A little further along on Highway 93 we saw a sign that said, Paint Pots. This sounded intriguing. We stopped and followed the hiking trail to a stream, but had no idea how far down the trail these paint pots were or even what they were. Other hikers coming towards us told us they were just a little further on, so we kept going over a bridge. But then the trail forked.

Luckily there was a sign, but apparently the sign makers forgot to include directions to the Paint Pots! So, someone had written it in. Another hiker had written, “Thanks.” Yes, indeed!

Hiking sign for Kootenay National Park BC Canada

Parks Canada left “Paint Pots” off the sign, but a helpful hiker wrote it in. Nice!!

The Paint Pots are vividly colored muddy puddles, and we walked between them — on a boardwalk sometimes — marveling at the bright orange hue.

Ocher Creek Paint Pots Kootenay National Park BC Canada

Brightly colored waters at the Paint Pots.

In earlier times, the Indians had used this colored water to paint themselves. In more modern times someone painted a heart on a tree!

Heart painted on a tree

“Paint” from the paint pots works great on tree trunks!

Just up the road we stopped to hike at Marble Canyon. Bright turquoise water filled the canyon at the base. Further up we found a rushing waterfall.

Marble Canyon Kootenay National Park British Columbia Canada

Marble Canyon’s turquoise water shows off the rocky cliffs, green trees and snowy mountains beautifully.

Parks Canada has placed pairs of red chairs throughout their National Parks in scenic spots, inviting visitors to have a seat and enjoy the view — and take a selfie. At the end of the trail into Marble Canyon we spotted a pair of red chairs and did just that.

Red chairs Marble Canyon Kootenay National Park BC Canada

We found a pair of the famous Red Chairs at the end of the Marble Canyon hike.

There are lots of other hikes and things to see in Kootenay National Park, not least of which is to take a dip in the magical Radium Hot Springs (more on that in a future post), but we were excited to get up to the true heart of this awe inspiring area, Banff National Park, which is just up the road from Kootenay National Park.

Fifth wheel RV in Kootenay National Park British Columbia Canada

The buggy posed for us as we took pics of the incredible mountain scenery.

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Canadian Rockies – Big Mountains & Bighorn Sheep!

May 2016 – We wanted the theme for our RV travels this spring to be “Snowcapped Mountains” and, if possible, “Cool Wild Animals.” So far we had seen a little of both in northern Utah, southeastern Idaho, the Bitterroot Valley and in Glacier National Park in Montana. But we knew some of the most impressive mountains and close-up wildlife sightings were probably to be found even further north, so we drove over the border into Canada.

RV travel in the Canadian Rockies Columbia Lake

Snowcapped mountains were on our agenda this spring… and cool wild animals too, if we were lucky!

Our first stop was in Fernie, British Columbia, a mountain town in the Canadian Rockies that is home to a popular ski resort.

Church in Fernie British Columbia Canada

Fernie, British Columbia, is a picturesque ski town in the Canadian Rockies

We asked for snowcapped mountains and we got ’em!!

Church steeple Fernie British Columbia Canada

The mountains soar above the edges of town.

Even though we had rather threatening skies, the mountains framed every view beautifully.

Fernie British Columbia Canada

What a backdrop for a cute little town!

The town of Fernie has a hip and youthful vibe. Lots of kids come here to take advantage of the outdoor sports, and they live on the cheap in shared apartments so they can spend their days on the ski slopes or on the mountain bike trails. We saw almost no gray hair around us as we walked the streets!

Up by the ski resort there were elegant Swiss style lodges.

Ski lodge Fernie British Columbia Canada

Classic ski lodges at the Fernie Alpine Resort

Fernie is tucked into a bend in the Elk River, and a lovely path skirts the edge of town on the river banks.

River trail Fernie British Columbia Canada

There was a pretty walking path that went along the Elk River around the edge of town.

We wanted to walk the whole path, but just a little ways into our walk it began to rain. The mountains began to fade away in the mist!

Peaks of Rocky Mountains in British Columbia Canada

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Fernie is a great town, but we had Canada’s national parks on our minds, so we pressed on into the mountains. It was early May, and a heat wave had just passed through the area, but our arrival was heralded with cold. We stopped in one visitors center and as we were told about various wonderful things to go see, the gal joked, “Well, we’ve already had summer and now we’re back to winter again.”

Freezing cold in British Columbia Rock Mountains in May

A few months ago I was in shorts!

Fortunately, the sun came out and the snowcapped Rocky Mountains filled our view as we drove.

Rocky Mountains peek through in British Columbia Canada

The Rocky Mountains lured us onward up the road.

Cool view.

Cool view.

Rocky Mountains in British Columbia Canada

Good morning Rocky Mountains!!

As we drove north we saw road signs for big horn sheep. We were hopeful for a sighting or two, but didn’t get lucky. “Hah, there aren’t any big horn sheep around here!” We joked with each other.

Rocky Mountain Big horn sheep sign British Columbia Canada

The only big horn sheep we saw were on the road signs… argh!

We stopped at an overlook at Columbia Lake which is the headwaters for the Columbia River that flows down into the US, between Oregon and Washington and out into the Pacific ocean.

RV travel and camping in British Columbia Canada

The overlook at Columbia Lake

In the town of Invermere we got a glimpse of Windermere Lake. This is probably wonderful in the summertime, but it was a bit forbidding when the skies clouded over and more rain fell.

Columbia Lake British Columbia Canada

Windermere Lake

Just before we reached the first park in the cluster of national parks that make up the heart of the Canadian Rockies, we saw another sign for big horn sheep, but this one had flashing lights on it!

Flashing street sign Rocky Mountain Big Horn Sheep

Hey look, this big horn sheep sign has flashing lights!

There were cars pulled over ahead of us, so Mark pulled the rig over along wtih everyone else. Then I looked out my window and found myself staring right at a big horn sheep!

Rocky Mountain Big Horn Sheep head British Columbia Canada

Well, hello there!!

Wow!!

There were a few other sheep near him on our side of the road, but suddenly he marched out into the middle of the highway.

Big Horn sheep Invermere British Columbia Canada

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Then he stopped.

Rocky Mountain Big Horn Sheep in the road Invermere British Columbia Canada

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Crazy sheep. Why was he hanging around in the middle of the highway?!

Big Horn Sheep Canadian Rockies Invermere British Columbia

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Then we noticed that there were a few sheep on the far side of the road waiting to cross. He stood in the middle of the road while the other sheep began to cross the highway in front of him.

Big horn sheep crossing a road in British Columbia

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He was like a crossing guard for them! When they’d all passed him, he joined the last one and came across with it.

Big horn sheep cross the road Invermere British Columbia Canada

The crossing guard accompanies the last sheep across.

Big horn sheep cross the road Invermere British Columbia Canada

Safe and sound.

We looked back across the highway and there was one more sheep. This was a beautiful big ram with a huge pair of horns.

Rocky Mountain Big Horn Sheep crosses the road Invermere British Columbia Canada

Oh wait, there’s one more sheep to come, the big granddaddy of them all!

What a fantastic big horn sheep sighting.

Ram big horn sheep Invermere British Columbia Canada

And there it was — our Cool Wild Animal Sighting.
Welcome to the Canadian Rockies!!

Back in Arizona we’d been excited to see a pair of big horn sheep lying around sunning themselves at the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum. Seeing them here with their shaggy, shedding coats in the wild of the Rockies — or close to it on the highway — was a total thrill.

It turns out that wild animals are actually a lot more street smart and highway wise than you might think. When we got to Banff National Park, we discovered that a bunch of overpass bridges have been built for the animals so they can cross the Trans-Canada Highway that traverses the national park. And they use it!! (Who wouldn’t — it looks pretty nice up there with trees and bushes — and a view of the traffic from above!!).

Wild animal overpass Banff National Park Canada

How the wild animals cross the road in Banff National Park!!

More info about these area in the links below…

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