In addition to its waterfalls, Canada has other attractions to keep you busy taking photos or admiring the nature. I’ve singled out some of the features that you’re bound to see upon a visit in this big country. Read below to get a brief introduction to these features.
Peyto Lake: 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: 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: 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.
Emerald Lake: As the bad weather started to clear, this was the lake we happened to be at when it happened during our cold and soggy Canadian Rockies trip. 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...
Athabasca Glacier: 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.
Lake Maligne: 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) boat ride with very limited time to sightsee 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 way. Plus, I understand that there's a fairly good chance of seeing grizzly bears here given how remote it is as well. But we've put a couple of photos here as well as the postcard shot at the top of this page. The choice is up to you whether you want to do it or not.
Crowfoot Glacier: This glacier is known supposedly for having a 3-pronged shape much like a crow's foot is said to be. However, Global Warming has definitely receded the glacier enough to remove one of the prongs so now it resembles more of some amorphous kind of amoeba with 2 prongs or something like that (what can I say? It's hard to describe shapes like that). This glacier is also right off the road on the Icefields Parkway.
Waterfowl Lake: This lake would probably be like most of the other miscellanous lakes you'll see along the Icefields Parkway. However, the morning that we happened to see this lake, it had such pure reflections against clear skies that I just had to make a stop, take photos, and do a quick write-up on it. Yeah, I'm sure it was mostly just circumstance and someone might be wondering why I'm giving more love to this lake than others, but take a look at the photo here and see what you think.
Icefields Parkway: This is probably one of the more dramatic drives we've ever experienced. When the weather cooperates, it's easy to get lost in the snowy mountains surrounding the road as it winds through U-shaped valleys with vistas to be had for almost the entire stretch of Hwy 93. And I'm not even talking about the lakes, turnoffs, and other side attractions on offer here! In our experience, 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.
Pyramid Lake: I had read in a TripAdvisor review that this lake was every bit as good as Lake Maligne, but after Julie and I saw it for ourselves, we'd have to beg to differ on that. Sure it's nice as it's backed by Pyramid Mountain, but it just lacked the color and the grandeur of Lake Maligne. But with that said, this is one of the easier lakes to access as it's right behind Jasper Town.
Waterton Lakes: 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.
Mt Rundle: This oddly-shaped triangular mountain is a conspicuous presence around the town of Banff. Julie and I regret not stopping at its overlook for both the afternoons when the body of water between the Hwy 1 and Banff Town was calm and reflecting this pretty mountain in soft afternoon light. So we had to settle for the harshly lit photo you see here. The overlook is right off the Hwy 1 a few minutes north of the Norquay Rd exit.
Victoria: This charming city on Victoria Island was the lone international stop of our Alaskan cruise. But after the rushed experience of docking early in the evening then leaving that same evening, we knew this is one place we'll have to come back to and spend a few nights without the shackles of a cruise. For we were struck by the charm of the European style buildings all concentrated near the Parliament House as well as the energy of a bustling Saturday night scene where the night life was just beginning. And we didn't even have time to check out the impressive Butchart Gardens. So after having a teaser of this place, this is definitely on our list of places to go to on a future Vancouver trip.
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