Road trip to Banff and Jasper national parks at the skirts of Rocky Mountains goes definitely at the top among all places I have visited. Only New Zealand can rival with Alberta when it comes to sceneries.
Why we chose Banff and Jasper as our destination?
Our friend had their wedding in New York on September 2019. When we were going to North America anyway, we decided to explore the most interesting nature places of the continent. Banff and Jasper were chosen due to their breath taking sceneries. Also the remoteness was a plus.
Arriving to Calgary - Picking up the rental car
We took a bus from Calgary airport to our Air BnB apartment. On the morning The Rocky Mountains were spreading on the window at the background of 1.2 million inhabitant Calgary.
We ate toasts, bacon, panckes and maple syrup as breakfast at the city center of Calgary.
Then we took a bus to Wicked Campers car rental. The company was the same that we trusted in New Zealand and Australia. The van had some storage space, sleeping plane and a shelf for kitchen equipment. Rental price for 12 days around 1200 euros, which would not have differed from a regular camper.
We stocked the car by groceries at a local Canadian SuperStore market and headed towards Banff national park.
Banff and Canmore - Hiking and hot springs
Banff is a national park, but also a village name. We spent the first two nights at the village of Canmore, 20 kilometers away from the Banff center. The nearby grocery store and library helped a lot to maintain ourselves.
The first day at the close proximity of Rocky Mountains started at the info center of Banff. We interviewed a staff member about the nature attractions and hiking trails. We also purchased a bear spray for possible encounters.
It was already midday, so we went for a shot walk at Stewart canyon next to lake Minnewaka.
We saw the first warnings about bears.
Later on the afternoon we cooked in spectacular views.
At the evening we circled at the Banff village. We saw goats, saw the waterfall going through the village center and the castle on the hill.
The destination for the next day was the Harvey Pass hiking trail. The route to one direction was 10 kilometers (20 km total). Ascending was 1 km.
The 1km/10km profile is my standard for a physically demanding day hike. This time it took 7.5 hours to complete the hike.
After the heavy hike we relaxed in a hot pool at Banff. The water was naturally 40 degrees celcius when it comes from underground, even though the pool was manmade and water cleaned.
Lake Louise area and Yoho - Beautiful lakes
We spent the next three nights in a campground. Shuttle buses took as directly to nature attractions at Lake Louse area.
The first destination was Lake Louise itself. Hiking trails headed up to mountain hills from the lake shore.
The 7 km stint with 550 m ascending ended at a glacier pushing out from a mountain pass.
After coming back from the hike, we jumped to a bus and headed to Lake Moraine.
The next day at Lake Louise area we drove west Yoho national park. Watching canyons and waterfalls nice recovery after yeasterday’s hikes. Especially Wapta falls were memorable as there was nobody else at the down stream.
Icefields Parkway - Chilly hiking
Before the journey moved on to north we had one recommended hike from the tourist info center left. This became quite a day.
The trail name was Dolomite Pass. It passes Lake Helen. One way distance should be 9 km with 500 m ascending. Altitude from sea level should be 2500 m at the highest point.
Weather was changing unbelievably fast. Snow storms were taking turns with happy sun shine every 30 minutes. We needed to adjust clothing according to these cycles. Mountain shape was heavily affecting the winds even during the sunnier periods. Sometimes there was so much snow that we needed seriously consider turning back.
In the end all was good and we tuned back down.
The physical stress was intense and I started to feel sick when we were back at the car. Head ache and vomiting kind of feeling. After some rest my condition got better. I’m was not sure what exactly caused reaction this strong.
The campground surrounded by huge mountains was the most memorable during the trip. It really felt being in the middle of nature, far from everything.
Jasper - The mysterious campground beast
The direction was towards Jasper village city center in Jasper national park. While visiting more waterfalls and canyons we felt that the landscape starts to repeat itself. Even though, it would be dismissing to say anyone can get bored to such spectacular sceneries!
We heard loud and low sound from a distance during the first night at a campground in Jasper. The noise was like opening a heavy metal gate. Or maybe a dinosaur from Jurassic Park.
Soon a giant moose was almost like floating above the bush line. It was a spooky but striking moment.
You can’t imagine how scary it was to walk to the toilet building on the evening. The forest was full of moose and bears!
Edmonton - Indoor shopping
The leg from Edmonton to Jasper went well regardless of the snow blizzard. After 4 hours of driving we met our university friend where spent the next two nights.
The first words in Edmonton were Finnish from a random dude: “Damn, the Finnish even park the car!”
We visited in one the Edmontons markethalls and in the largest shopiing mall in the North America .
We tried to spot bisons on the last day in Edmonton on the nearby Elk Island natural park. We had no luck.
The road trip ends to Calgary
Snowing got heavy between Edmonton and Calgary. The ground was white until evening. The 1850 km trip ended to a Calgarian Wall Mart at the evening before car return. I bought new sneakers.
Our flight from Canada landed happily to Finland through New York, USA and Amsterdam, Netherlands.