Canadian Rockies: From rugged hikes to upscale resorts

  • Aug. 15, 2017 7:30 a.m.

Canada’s stretch of the Rocky Mountains is an outdoor paradise with something for everyone: upscale resorts surrounded by jagged mountains, isolated hikes offering an escape from urban life and crystal-blue water that dares you to feel the chill.

The mountains straddle the border of British Columbia and Alberta, with two of its best-known destinations, Banff National Park and Lake Louise, in Alberta.

My family and I flew into Calgary, rented cars and spent a week exploring the wonders around Banff, setting up base camp in Canmore, about 60 miles (97 km) west of Calgary. Our accommodations were at the midway point between luxury and roughing it. Cabins at Banff Gate Mountain Resort have a full kitchen and electricity, but no air conditioning. That worked fine on summer nights when temperatures dipped into the 50s F (10-15 C). Late afternoon sun beating in got the cabins toasty. That’s not a problem, though, in a place where there’s plenty to do besides sit indoors.

Here are some highlights:

JOIN THE THRONGS AT LAKE LOUISE

Banff is the most popular of the area’s cluster of national parks — which also includes Jasper, Yoho and Kootenay — and Banff’s crown jewel is the glacial-fed Lake Louise. The lake is exquisite, as evidenced by selfies snapped along its shoreline walking paths, capturing smiling families with snow-covered mountains in the background. If being on the water is your preferred way to experience the lake, canoe rentals are available through Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, a decidedly more chic hotel than where we stayed.

If crowds aren’t your thing, plan to get to Lake Louise as early as possible. We didn’t venture that way until noon, and parking lots were packed.

Crowds are likely to be bigger than usual this year, because admission to Canada’s national parks is free in observance of the nation’s 150th birthday.

HEAR THE ROAR OF TAKAKKAW FALLS

For a more rugged experience, we left the masses of Banff behind, bound for Takakkaw Falls in Yoho. Heading west into British Columbia (and the Pacific time zone) you pick up an hour, so that may have helped us beat the crowd a bit, too.

Even before we got out of the parking lot — about a half-mile (0.8 km) from the falls — we could hear their mighty roar. Tumbling from 1,246 feet (380 metres), the 60-degree F (15.5 C) air took on a chill as mist filled the air.

A refreshing start to the day preceded what eventually became a 12-mile (19 km) round-trip hike. From Takakkaw we took the Iceline Trail, which included views of the Yoho and Little Yoho rivers and Laughing Falls.

TAKE IN THE SIGHTS FROM THE BOW RIVER

Not everyone in our crew enjoys a hike, but we do all like the water.

Sections of the Canadian Rockies include whitewater, but we decided to go for a smoother ride with Canmore River Adventures. The six of us joined another family of three on a wide raft paddled by a guide.

At one point we stopped and were told to touch a finger or toe to the water if we dared. I did, but I didn’t stay keep my hand in for long — the guide said the river’s temperature was about 40 degrees F (4.4 C) and wouldn’t get any warmer.

Our one-hour float down the beautiful Bow River included sightings of an elk that had swum to an island to munch on grass and — just before we exited the boat— a bald eagle that dove into the water and came up clasping a fish. It was a fitting end to a spectacular trip.

SEASONS

If you can’t get there this summer, the weather remains relatively mild into September, when larch and aspen trees turn gold as fall arrives. And there’s always winter skiing: The slopes typically open in November.

___

If You Go…

CANADIAN ROCKIES: http://www.canadianrockies.net/

CANADA’S NATIONAL PARKS: https://www.pc.gc.ca/en/pn-np . Areas of British Columbia and Alberta are experiencing hot and dry weather conditions with wildfire risks in some national parks. Check for warnings and conditions before planning your trip.

Just Posted

WATCH: A Russian new year party in Red Deer

Hundreds fill the G.H. Dawe Community Centre for the 10th Russian Children’s New Year Party

Car hits moose north of Red Deer, driver in hospital with life threatening injuries

One person was airlifted to hospital, and another taken by ambulance after… Continue reading

Red Deer’s Ten Thousand Villages to close in 2018

This will be the last Christmas for Red Deer’s Ten Thousand Villages.… Continue reading

Celestial light show can be seen over Red Deer this week

Local students stay up to watch the meteor shower

Businesses to gather to talk about crime

Red Deer Downtown Business Association understands challenges

Watch: Man plays flaming bagpipes while riding a unicycle in a ‘Star Wars’ costume

The sight of Darth Vader, riding a unicycle and playing flaming bagpipes,… Continue reading

Dying man’s wish to see new ‘Star Wars’ movie coming true

A dying man’s wish to see the new “Star Wars” movie is… Continue reading

Bountiful polygamist believed he couldn’t be prosecuted: lawyer

Winston Blackmore’s lawyer says Blackmore did not believe he could be prosecuted

Trudeaus, Mulroneys, Erdem? Canadians who could snag a royal wedding invite

Save the date. Kensington Palace announced Friday that Prince Harry and Meghan… Continue reading

More to be done to ensure timely justice, retiring Beverley McLachlin says

Canada’s retiring top judge says more must be done to ensure the… Continue reading

Labrador mayor who was shot in face in hunting accident has died

John Hickey accidently shot himself while checking rabbit snares

Shelter dogs could go vegan in Los Angeles

Los Angeles may soon be home to a lot more vegan dogs.… Continue reading

The coolest way to serve coffee at dinner’s end

I can put together a decent dinner party. But when it comes… Continue reading

Firefighter dies, thousands more take on California blaze

One of the thousands of firefighters battling a series of wildfires across… Continue reading

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month