Even though this is a waterfalls website, we recognize that there are many highlights from our neighbors to the north in Canada (both involving and not involving waterfalls).
So we’ve come up with this page to pay homage to some of the highlights that we think are worth mentioning as you try to figure out what to see and do in your own trip plans.
While I recognize that this list is by no means exhaustive and that it is highly subjective, at least you have an idea of what we loved about this country.
So without further adieu, here are the highlights in no particular order…
Peyto Lake (Alberta)
This was the first lake that Julie and I saw that was as advertised as the bad weather during our trip happened to clear up in time for us to get a load of its overlook.
What really makes this lake stand out is its aqua blue-green color, which is full of glacial sediment scoured by the rapidly receding Peyto Glacier at its headwaters.
And in the two times that we took in the views, we happened to notice some reflections in the lake of the snowy mountains towering over it.
We had to go on a paved but uphill 700m walk from the public car park to the very crowded overlook of the lake and its surrounding landscape. It has a well-signed turnoff deviating from the well-travelled Icefields Parkway.
Tour buses actually go to a higher car park where there’s a much shorter and flatter walk to that crowded overlook.
Moraine Lake (Alberta)
This lake features some pretty odd-shaped peaks dropping sharply off into this deeply green-blue lake. We had to visit this lake twice as the first time was blocked by low fog and lots of snow.
But when the fog lifted later in the day, I couldn’t stop myself taking as many photos as I could.
It’s roughly a 15-minute drive from Lake Louise to get here, and the best views are from a rock pile, which itself is only a 15-minute or so walk from the car park.
Lake Louise (Alberta)
Given the shameless commercialism and development right off the shores of this lake, it’s not hard to get close and experience it.
After all, almost half of its shores are bordered by boardwalks or walking paths. There’s even a hotel here if you like waking up to a view of the lake or you could use some hot chocolate to warm up from a frigidly cold morning.
We saw a few kayakers serving as nice subjects on this very tranquil lake. Plus, we even saw the sourcing Victoria Glacier way towards its headwaters.
And although we didn’t see any during our trip, it’s said that grizzly bears are frequently seen here as evidenced by the group-of-four hiking policy in effect here.
Like many of the other lakes we tried to see during our Canadian Rockies trip, the weather made it play hide-and-seek with us. I believe out of the three attempts we’ve made to see the lake, only once were the clouds not obscuring the panoramas to be had from its lakeshore.
Athabasca Glacier (Alberta)
We’ve been to quite a few glaciers around the world, but this one probably is most memorable mostly because of how easy it is to appreciate how endangered the glacier is.
In terms of access, it’s probably the most accessible glacier in the Canadian Rockies as the Icefields Parkway passes right between the Glacier View Inn and this glacier in the Columbia Icefields.
A fairly gentle 15- to 20-minute uphill walk took us to the rapidly receding terminus of the glacier. We could see from signs indicating where the glacier was in the past versus how much is left of the glacier now that this one doesn’t have much longer before it’s gone completely.
It’s hard to believe that in 1844, this glacier was where the hotel is today. The Icefields Parkway would’ve still been under ice! But now after seeing where the 1984 and 2000 signs were, we could definitely appreciate the acceleration of the glacial retreat.
I think based on these impressions, it’s hard to understand how people still don’t think Global Warming exists. And to those people, all I can say is that you have to get out there and see the world for yourself and stop being manipulated by “news” sources with an agenda or stubbornly hanging onto some tribe that doesn’t seem to serve any of your own long term interests.
Lake Maligne (Alberta)
It took a bit of trouble to get to this lake as it’s well over four hours of driving just to get from Banff to Jasper, but then it’s another 1.5 to 2 hours of driving to get all the way to the shores of Lake Maligne.
And on top of that, if you want the classic postcard shot of Spirit Island with the end of the box canyon at the head of the lake, you have to take a CAD$55 per person (at least as of when we did it in 2010) boat ride with very limited time to sight see that area.
Whether you think all that is worth the effort or not really depends. For some, it’s totally not worth it, but for us, we thought the boat price was a bit steep, but we did see mountain goats on the drive in as well as on the boat ride.
Plus, I understand that there’s a fairly good chance of seeing grizzly bears here given how remote it is as well. And from the featured photo on this page (which came from this lake), that pretty much tells you how much we liked the scenery here.
Waterton Lakes (Alberta)
Julie and I were glad we spent some time in Waterton, which is flanked by a series of pretty lakes towered over by tall snow-capped mountains so typical of the Canadian Rockies.
When the winds are calm, we were fortunate to see beautiful reflections that underscored the tranquility of the place.
Speaking of tranquility, we thought our experience here was much more laid back and peaceful than the much busier parks further north (though we can certainly understand the commotion).
So given that, our chances of encountering wildlife was much greater. And even though we didn’t see any moose or grizzlies here, we definitely saw their tracks on the trails as well as possibly hearing some grizzly bear calls.
Icefields Parkway (Alberta)
This is probably one of the more dramatic drives we’ve ever experienced. When the weather cooperated, we easily became tranced by the snowy mountains surrounding the road as it wound its way through U-shaped valleys with vistas to be had for almost the entire stretch of Hwy 93.
And while the drive itself was captivating, the stops along the way were also rewarding.
Case in point, we managed to stop for the Waterfowl Lake, which had a nearly perfect mirror-like reflection, and this was one of the roadside stops!
Indeed, if the clouds aren’t obscuring the mountains, the views are most dramatic heading south on Hwy 93.
And as for trying to hastily make it through this road, you’ll probably have to get used to passing because you can bet there will be lots of rubberneckers who can’t help but gawk at the lovely landscapes before them (and you can count us amongst the rubberneckers).
Emerald Lake (British Columbia)
As the bad weather started to clear, this was the lake we happened to be at as our cold and soggy Canadian Rockies trip was finally starting to turn for the better.
This lake is actually situated in Yoho National Park in British Columbia though it was hard to distinguish between provincial boundaries given how it’s practically next door to Banff and Lake Louise.
Like many of the other lakes we managed to see, this one was also pretty easy to see as it was only a few paces from the car park.
There were also a couple of other attractions in the area like the Natural Bridge and Hamilton Falls so in addition to its already pretty lakeside scenery, there are other things to see and do here that’ll keep you from leaving…
Victoria and Vancouver Island (British Columbia)
This attractive city at the far southeastern end of Vancouver Island had that Victorian charm (which you might have guessed from the name of the city). Indeed, the waterfront, the happening vibe, the Fairmont and the Parliament Building all seemed to converge on this one magical spot.
But then as we did more exploration, we saw an attractive Fisherman’s Wharf as well as some healthy eating spots in addition to some Bon Macarons that for the moment made us forget that we weren’t in France!
Vancouver (British Columbia)
This cosmopolitan city was also said to be one of the most livable (and expensive) cities in the world.
With an extensive green space at Stanley Park yielding gorgeous vistas across the water towards the city’s downtown area, there was a lot going on here as well as quite a few things to see and do (including a music-playing steam clock as well as the waterfront).
This city is the capital of Canada, but it didn’t have that much of a big city feel.
In addition to strolling about amidst the historical-looking government buildings, we also enjoyed the Byward Market as well as checking out waterfalls within the city like Rideau Falls.
This was Canada’s largest city, and we just so happened to have made our visit on the country’s Thanksgiving Day (which is celebrated a month before ours).
In addition to the relaxing Toronto Island, we got to experience some of the city’s charm in its Chinatown as well as getting top down views from the CN Tower.
Quebec City (Quebec)
This city seemed to possess a certain European charm that was definitely uncommon throughout North America.
Indeed, it had a charming walking area in the lower city at the foot of the Chateau Frontenac, it had a city wall, and it had some pretty awesome French-Canadian cuisines as well as some old parts of town featuring historical buildings and churches.
As if that weren’t enough, we even checked out the attractive Notre Dame-like Cathedral of Sainte-Anne de Beaupre just a few minutes drive east of the city.
This city was backed by the namesake Mont Royal, which featured mindblowing vistas over the city.
But it also featured that French-Canadian feel as we strolled about the city and amongst its historical-looking buildings and cafes.
We even witnessed a pretty neat Chinese garden that was all lit up at night, and it was quite extensive.