We picked the most beautiful time to travel to Rocky Mountains of Canada. Colourful autumn.
Our 6 day road trip started in famous Whistler and headed North through Pemberton which was beautifully scenic from the start. Even though we’ve had some great experiences with hitch hiking and meeting other travel minded people we decided that the best way to explore every corner of the massive landscape was to rent a campervan. Our choice came down to Roamfree Campers based in Whistler.
We picked up our little Dodge van, packed it with some goodies and hit the road. Just outside of Whistler we stopped at Joffre Lakes, there are a few longer hikes here but as we were aiming to get a lot further that day we picked a quick 15 minute trail to Lower Joffre Lake. The water was super blue, with beautiful mountains in the background and the site of our first glacier, the trip’s starting pretty well! Before we parked our selves for the night sleep, we made a stop at Horsting’s Farm Market near Cache Creak. Our first overnight stop was by Paul Lake, a Provincial park just outside of Kamloops. To travel in the low season means that not all campgrounds are open or they are open with no fee and no facilities, and that was our case, and fine by us.
We woke by the beautiful secluded lake with no one around. After breakfast was cooked in the parking lot, much to the entertainment of a busload of Chinese tourists, it was time to hit the road with the next stop Mt. Robson. You can view this amazing peak from the rest area or if you’re more adventurous hike some of the longer trails that require some over night camping.
For the second night we picked to stay at Whistlers campground just outside of Jasper town, mostly because they allow campfires. That day was pretty cold and we pictured ourselves drinking hot Sailor Jerry by the fire 😉 The staff warned us there is high activity of Elks, which made us super happy, as we wanted to tick another wild animal off list. Well, the lady wasn’t really pleased by my silly excited face and warned us again how dangerous they are and that an Elk would even destroy our car as they are in mating period.
Morning after, we woke up with a flat battery in the Van, -6 degrees and no elk in sight. Not a good start to the day, but after our friendly camp neighbours helped with the car we had a lot planned for our third day.
First stop…. MOOSE! How lucky we are! Just at the edge of the forest. All Canadians had told us that it’s impossible to see Moose and if you see it you don’t want to be in that situation. First planned stop – Medicine Lake. Glassy, gorgeous, and crystal clear water, with mountains rising in the background. It couldn’t be more perfect, though after this stop, the lakes got bluer and the mountains bigger. Funny thing about this lake is that it disappears by the end of Autumn and reappears again in spring as the Glaciers start to melt. They call it the Mystery of Medicine Lake as there is no visible sign of where the water goes. It’s actually a series of sinkholes in the bottom of the lake and the water reappears 16km’s away in Maligne Canyon. Second stop was Maligne Lake with Maligne Canyon. Beauty after beauty.
Next was a kind of unplanned stop but so lucky we found it, Lake Annette and Lake Edith. The water was crystal clear with turquoise colour. Seriously the clearest water we’ve seen. Also these lakes don’t attract the crazy tour buses and it was completely quiet with no one around, it was the perfect place to stretch and do a bit of yoga and cook lunch. Late arvo we headed up to the Miette Hot Springs. And we saw a bear!!!! Just on the other side of the road while driving up to the hot springs. So cute, a big black teddy bear. Surprisingly the hot springs are quite cheap, $6 each, but the pools look more like a public swimming pool than natural springs. Still amazing after super cold day and we got to shower 🙂
The night belonged to Jasper town. We were recommended to The Dead Dog pub, it had a good rowdy vibe with a few craft beers on tap. That night we parked our van in a quiet residential street, which is not exactly allowed, but the cost of beer took priority over camp fees and we are travelling on a tight budget. It was so freaking cold, even colder than the night before. We woke up super early to find ice built up on the inside and outside of the windows and after defrosting the car, and ourselves, we drove to Pyramid Lake to cook brekkie and refreeze our fingers and toes, but seeing sunrise and the sun coming out of the fog was definitely worth it.
Day 4 – Driving the spectacular Icefields parkway and stopping at the Athabasca Glacier, than the famous lakes Peyto, Louise and Moraine. The mountains keep going and going, there are 100 Glaciers between Jasper and Banff and many more soaring mountain peaks. Wherever you look are mountains, bigger and more impressing than the last. Stopping at the Athabasca glacier was beautiful and sad at the same time. The road and pathway has signs to indicate the reach of the Glacier in years past. It was amazing to see how far in has receded in such a short time. We walked all the way up to the edge of the glacier and saw first hand how quickly it is melting away and just wondered how much of this beauty will be left in few years time. After driving passed many more beautifully blue lakes it was hard to imagine why Lake Peyto, Lake Louise and Lake Moraine are so famous and would they be actually that much more impressive. We were not disappointed! They are impossibly blue; it doesn’t seem natural to find that colour in nature. All three lakes have their own perfect setting as well and all three are worth visiting.
The next morning I was super excited to get up early and see the sunrise from lake Moraine, it was my number 1 thing to see from Canada. We sat there on the rocks watching it’s beautiful blue colours for over 3 hours and I could have easily spent all day there. The cloudy day didn’t give us that promised turquoise colour of Lake Louise but still provided an amazing experience. We did a 20minute hike up to Fairview point where you can see the lake in all its beauty with the iconic Fairmont Hotel at the lakes edge. The prices at the Fairmont definitely reflect that Lake Louise is one of the most visited lake in the world, we had hoped to go canoeing on the lake but the rental was $80 per hour and was just way too much for our budget travelling.
That afternoon we travelled to Banff town and we finally saw Elk, just randomly hanging out on the golf course and destroying the perfect green grass. All animals for our Canadian experience ticked off!! Yaay. Banff is a really pretty town. The alpine style is felt everywhere, beautiful wooden houses, and Moose, Bear and Elk statues; we only missed snow to complete the winter atmosphere. We explored the town a bit and visited a few places with our local travel minded friend Joe, who took us to High Rollers – a cool new bar/ bowling alley with over 50 different beers and really good pizza (check out the $10 specials). The next round was at the laid back pub Rose& Crown with live band playing 90’s hits, quite fun.
Sleeping again on the street in a van we woke up to heavy rain, not nice seeing we had such a long drive ahead that day. To get us started, the first stop was White Bark Café, that makes great coffee and plays Chet Faker. What a pleasure. We are super coffee snobs and it’s really hard to find a good coffee in North America. Having almost a thousand kilometers in front of us to return to Whistler we started heading back West. The morning stop was at the
Takakkaw waterfalls, impressive long waterfalls where you can actually climb up to the top and hang out at some of the red chairs they are place all around the National parks.
Travelling to The Rockies has exceeded all our expectations and ticked all the boxes. We are already thinking about our next trip here for winter. Canada, you are so addictive.