Everyone has heard about Banff and Jasper, and for good reasons, both parks are absolutely magnificent! But the Canadian Rockies also have other areas that are just as beautiful. And since there are still four months to explore Canada’s National Parks for free, I thought I should give you a little peek at the Rockies. I haven’t gotten the chance to explore all of them, but my last trip through North America allowed me to experience most parks both in British Colombia and Alberta.
Mount Robson Provincial Park
Mount Robson was the first park that we experienced when we arrived in the Rockies. Although it is not a National Park like the others, there are no entrance fees and it is just as well organized and maintained. Better than that, it is the highest peak in all of the Canadian Rockies! Even if I never got to see the whole mountain because of the rain and clouds, it was still an impressive sight.
We had a whole day to spend at the park and I really enjoyed the hike that we did to Kinney Lake, even with the heavy rain. It was our first time seeing an electric blue lake and the sight literally gave me chills (it could also have been the cold, but the lake definitely had something to do with it). Of course, this was not the only hike available. The most popular hike at Mount Robson is the one to Berg Lake, which is a 23-kilometer hike that has to be done over the course of several days.
Jasper National Park
Jasper National Park is right next to Mount Robson Park, but in Alberta instead of British Colombia. It was established in 1907 and is the largest National Park in the Canadian Rockies with almost 11,000 square kilometers. There are so many things to do and see in Jasper that we didn’t get to experience all that it has to offer, especially since the snow still covered most of the hiking trails when we were there in June. It even snowed while we were there!
My favorite parts were the Five Lakes trail (it is a short 1 hour trail where you can see five different colored lakes and sit on the iconic Parks Canada red chairs), the Miette Hot Springs (the view of the mountains from the Hot Springs is beautiful and the hot water was amazing after hiking in the cold and snow all day) and the Icefields Parkways (you can actually walk on a glacier and learn all about them at the Icefields Center). We also got to see some pretty cool neighbors while we were there, like bears, mountain goats, eagles and deer.
If you plan on staying in Jasper, check out stayinjasper.com for affordable home accommodation. This website saved our lives (alright, more our budget!) when we decided camping in the snow was not our idea of fun and that the hotels in Jasper are all on the (very) expensive side.
Yoho National Park
Yoho National Park is right next to Banff, but on the British Colombia side. It is home to beautiful Emerald Lake and if canoeing in the Rockies is on your Bucket List, I suggest to do it there as it will cost you at least 50$ less than in Banff and it won’t be as crowded. It’s also a 20-30 minute drive to Yoho from Lake Louise, in Banff, so if you are looking for affordable accommodation in Lake Louise, you might want to consider driving a little further to Yoho, which is a less popular park with beautiful campgrounds and cabins. We also enjoyed stopping at Natural Bridge on our way to Emerald Lake. It’s impressive what nature can do!
Banff National Park
Banff National Park, established in 1885, was Canada’s first National Park. It is also the most popular, and for a very good reason: it’s glacier water, bright blue lakes. Most of you probably know Lake Louise and Lake Moraine, but there are also Peyto Lake, Bow Lake, Waterfowl Lake and so many more! And they are all a different shade of turquoise that is so impressive and beautiful and awe-inspiring. I mean, the hiking was fun too… but the lakes!!
Be prepared for everything in Banff to cost you twice what it would normally cost anywhere else in Canada, so you might want to bring your own food and skip the restaurants and little grocery stores.
Waterton National Park
Waterton National Park was the last of the Canadian Rockies National Parks that we visited. It is also the one with the cheapest activities and, since we were getting tired of hiking, we decided to explore it on horseback. Waterton looks like a weird mix of mountains and prairies at first, but it has some of the most beautiful wildflowers that the horses loved to munch on.
We also had some visitors at our campground while we were in Waterton! It is written everywhere in the parks not to leave food unattended and we understood how much it was important that night when we found two deer on our campground just looking around in the fire pit and under the table for forgotten food.
The only park we didn't visit during our stay in the Canadian Rockies was Kootenay National Park. If it is like the others, it is probably a beautiful park that I am sorry I missed out on, but there are so many fun things to do in the Rockies you would need several lifetimes to experience it all! Who here as visited one or multiple of those parks before? Please comment your favorites. I really want to know! And for those of you preparing their first trip: be careful, stay far away from the animals so they stay wild and alive, but most of all, have fun and enjoy it as much as you can! Also don’t hesitate to send your questions my way if you have some. It will be my pleasure to answer them if I can.