10 Must-See Spots in Jasper National Park

What to do in Jasper National Park in summer

When it comes to the Canadian Rockies, Jasper National Park has it all. From the soaring limestone walls of Maligne Canyon to the breathtaking views of Athabasca Falls and crystal clear Pyramid Lake, Jasper National Park is filled with sensational activities for the hiker, kayaker, and all-around outdoors enjoyer could ever want. But with over 745 miles of natural hiking trails to explore, it can be hard to know where to start.

That’s why I put together this list of must-experience spots, the kinds of places you have to visit to say you’ve truly seen Jasper. So tour the world’s most accessible glacier, get front-row seats to a diverse range of wildlife including elk, bears, bighorn sheep, and rocky mountain goats, and dive into massive mountain peaks, vast valleys, and forests filled with extraordinary evergreens.

Columbia Icefields © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. Maligne Canyon

Just a 10-minute drive from the town of Jasper, Maligne Canyon has one of the most impressive ravines in the Canadian Rockies. Sheer limestone walls drop to depths of over 150 feet making it the deepest canyon in Jasper National Park and one that’s magnificent to visit any time of year.

Maligne Canyon is a beautiful place to hike in the summer months. This popular Jasper attraction has six bridges built throughout different points of the canyon. If you’re looking for a simple walk, venture over to the First and Second bridges. If you want an extended hike, continue to the Sixth Bridge for more great views of the waterfalls and rapids. You’ll also be able to grab a bite at the Maligne Canyon Wilderness Kitchen before or after your hike.

Tip: Get there early to grab a parking spot as it fills quickly in the summer. In the winter, Maligne Canyon is nothing short of magical. Wander through the canyon to marvel at the frozen waterfalls, ice caves, and surreal ice formations. You can explore the area on your own or take a guided tour to learn more about the canyon. Want even more thrill? Try ice climbing with a certified mountain guide!

Rocky mountain goat © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2. Athabasca Falls

While the falls are only around 75 feet high, it’s their power that makes Athabasca Falls rather astonishing. Located about 20 miles south of Jasper, Athabasca Falls offers exquisite views and water that changes color every season.

Parking is close to the falls and the hike itself is quite easy. Once there, walk along the interpretive trail to admire the falls from various vantage points. Make sure to cross the bridge and head down the stairs to the bottom of the falls for close-ups of the canyon. Caused by earlier erosion, it continues to be whittled away a bit each year from the flowing water.

Do yourself a favor and stay on the right side of the viewing fence. The mist makes the stones slippery and people have drowned trying to get the perfect photo.

Tip: If you’d like to see Athabasca Falls from a different perspective, consider a rafting tour along the Athabasca River. Beginner tours offer just enough rapids to give you a bit of a thrill, all while your guides share information about the surrounding area.

Jasper townsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. Maligne Lake

Spanning over 13 miles in length, Maligne Lake is the largest natural lake in the Rockies and the second-largest glacially-fed lake in the world. Walk along the Mary Schaffer loop to enjoy views of vivid turquoise waters and gorgeous horizons.

This area is also great for getting on the water and offers canoe, kayak, and rowboat rentals as well as guided fishing tours. For a truly incredible experience, take a Maligne Lake boat cruise to Spirit Island, an amazing spot from which to see the stars, as Jasper is the world’s second-largest dark sky reserve. On the cruise, you’ll learn about the history of the lake and get some stunning views of the peaks, glaciers, and wildlife around the lake. I enjoyed the boat tour one summer and left convinced it might be the most beautiful spot on the planet.

Tip: Maligne Lake is about 30 miles from downtown Jasper, so make sure to schedule in driving time when planning your day.

Elk © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. Jasper Skytram

As Canada’s longest and highest guided aerial tramway, the Jasper SkyTram is a ride unlike any other. This seven-minute ride takes you nearly 7,500 feet up Whistler Mountain giving you 360-degree views of Jasper, its mountain ranges, and the many waterways that make up the park.

Once you’ve arrived at the top, you can hike up to the summit for more stellar sights of Jasper or enjoy the vistas while grabbing a bite at the full-service Summit Restaurant. Either way, you’re in for a real treat.

Pyramid Lake © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

5. Pyramid Lake

Located at the foot of Pyramid Mountain, Pyramid Lake is one of the most picturesque places to see in Jasper. This kidney-shaped lake is the perfect spot to relax on the beach or picnic at the log frame pavilion.

Walk along the lakeshore trail to a wooden bridge to get to a tiny island in the middle of the lake. Once there, the peaceful mountains set behind the beauty of the lake will likely take your breath away and make for some lovely photos.

Rocky mountain sheep © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

7. Mount Edith Cavell

Mount Edith Cavell is one of Jasper’s most famous mountains. And with its signature diagonal rock patterns, renowned alpine wildflower trails, and fascinating history, it’s no wonder why.

A long, winding drive off Highway 93A leads visitors to a newly expanded parking area where a short, paved path leads to jaw-dropping views of the Angel Glacier, the mint-green lake below, and the iconic, sparkling peak above. For extra adventure, hikers can opt for a longer, non-paved walk up into an alpine meadow with even more panoramic views (note that dogs aren’t permitted on the upper trail).

Edith Cavell saved the lives of hundreds of soldiers during World War I before she was executed by a German firing squad. Before the mountain got its current name, it was called White Ghost by Native Americans, la Montagne de la Grande Traverse by French mountaineers, and Mount Fitzhugh until the war.

Jasper Park Lodge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

8. Sunwapta Falls

Meaning turbulent river in Nakoda, Sunwapta Falls is located on the Icefields Parkway. This pair of waterfalls were created by hanging valleys that divide them into the Upper and Lower Falls.

The upper falls are close to the road making them readily accessible. Hike along the trail until you reach the lower falls and make sure to take the footbridge so you can observe the river in an uproar before calming down as it streams into the wider part of the gorge.

The Sunwapta white water rafting river tour is sure to get your blood pumping. Unlike the Athabasca tours, this expedition includes Class 3 rapids and is the most challenging white water in Jasper National Park. During the ride, you’ll hit large waves while taking in the spectacular scenery.

Elk © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

9. Miette Hot Springs

Miette Hot Springs features the hottest hot springs in the Canadian Rockies. The natural hot springs water flows from the mountain at 129 degrees Fahrenheit, the water is then cooled to a comfortable temperature of 104 degrees as it enters the hot springs pool.

After taking a soak, head on over to one of the two colder pools to cool down as you watch the sunset over the mountains. If you feel like walking a bit more, there are a few easy hiking trails near the springs including the site of the old Aqua court. Just make sure to keep your eyes open for bighorn sheep near the parking lot—it’s a favorite hangout spot for them and a great photo op for you.

Note: At time of writing Miette Hot Springs was closed due to a road washout resulting in the closure of Miette Road. Check with Parks Canada for an update on the reopening of Miette Road.

Glacial Skywalk © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

10. Icefields Parkway

Stretching from Jasper to Banff, this 140-mile highway packs the best of the Rockies into one epic road trip. Seriously, driving the parkway might be the most sublime experience you can have. Lake Louise (you know, that photo) is on the itinerary. So are more than 100 ancient glaciers, surreal hikes with unobscured mountain views, and wildlife like deer, moose, elk, bighorn sheep, and mountain goats. Be sure to give yourself at least a full day to travel the parkway one way.

Those afraid of heights should probably skip this one. For the rest of us, the Glacier Skywalk is a horizontal ark that juts out over the edge of the Sunwapta Valley, 918 feet in the air. Built in 2014, the thing has glass floors so if you can handle looking down you’ll get unreal views of the valley below. Get here by stopping along the Icefields Parkway 60 miles south of Jasper. As a heads up, this one closes for winter and most of the spring due to weather.

Worth Pondering…

The mountains are calling and I must go.

—John Muir

All about Canada, Eh?

Planning an RV trip to the Great White North

The second largest country in the world, Canada has plenty to be proud of: beautiful natural parks, a rich and diverse culture and heritage, a coastline spanning three oceans, Old World charm, and New World ideas, hockey.

Yes, that’s right! In today’s post I shine the spotlight on Canada. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to help you plan your next trip to the second-largest country in the world. With its sprawling wilderness and endless beauty, you would be hard-pressed to not enjoy your stay.

So, as the clicks add up while you’re heading to The Peg (Winnipeg) or wherever your plans take you, be sure to treat yourself to a Timmies Double Double and some Timbits from Tim Hortons.

Banff National Park, Alberta © Rex Vogel, all rights

Crossing the Border

What awaits you at the Canada-United States border? If you’re thinking of taking an RV trip from one country to the other, make sure you hone up on current border crossing requirements. Know the rules for each country including similarities and differences to experience a smooth, hassle-free crossing. 

Having correct documentation is the key. To drive across the border, you’ll have to present identification to border-crossing officials. Acceptable forms of ID include a passport, a trusted traveler card such as NEXUS, or an enhanced driver’s license. American citizens entering Canada also may use paperwork that shows proof of U.S. citizenship such as a birth certificate. For Canadian citizens crossing the border into the United States, a birth certificate is acceptable identification only for children under 16. Each passenger in your vehicle needs appropriate identification.

Have copies of the registration and insurance information for each of your vehicles as well. Bring proof of up-to-date rabies vaccinations for your dogs and cats on board. As for COVID-19 requirements, Canada has removed their rules for those arriving from the United States has done the same. 

Jasper National Park, Alberta © Rex Vogel, all rights

What can I bring? When entering the United States, you’re required to disclose the following items to border-crossing officials: firearms, fruits and vegetables, plants and cut flowers, meat and animal products, and live animals. Numerous foods are restricted or prohibited such as most fruits and vegetables (unless commercially canned) and many milk/dairy and poultry/egg products. Canada also maintains a list of restricted/prohibited food items. Both countries prohibit bringing in firewood as well as soil (make sure any camping equipment is free of soil and pests). Most Canadian provinces and territories prohibit radar detectors also. According to Ezbordercrossing.com, both countries have strict firearms protocols.

At the border, open the windows in your RV so the interior is visible. Remove your sunglasses. Turn off phones and the radio. Clearly and courteously communicate your reasons for travel, travel dates, and destinations to border officials.  

Declare all money or currency equal to or over CAN$10,000. It is not illegal to bring such amounts into Canada but you must declare it on arrival.

Banff National Park, Alberta © Rex Vogel, all rights

Exploring Canada

The Great White North offers so much to see and do. Canada is full of national parks, lakes, mountain ranges, coastal views, and great camping locations. Here’s a sampling of sites worth seeing.

Banff is Canada’s most famous national park and the oldest national park in the country. Banff was designated as a national park in 1885 after the discovery of its hot springs by employees of the Canadian Pacific Railway. Located in Alberta just 1 hour and 30 minutes west of Calgary, Banff national park is nestled in the heart of the Canadian Rockies.

RVs in Jasper National Park, Alberta © Rex Vogel, all rights

There is a reason everyone flocks to Banff. With snowcapped mountains, glacier lakes, and world-class four-season activities, it’s Canada’s outdoor playground. Banff National Park is so beautiful that one of its most famous lakes, Moraine Lake was depicted on Canada’s twenty-dollar bill.

Another location is Jasper National Park in Alberta, the largest national park in the Canadian Rockies and the second-largest dark-sky preserve in the world. An extensive network of trails provides views of its abundant wildlife.

Icefields Parkway, Alberta © Rex Vogel, all rights

Driving along the Icefields Parkway, you will be able to see parts of the Columbia Icefields—the biggest icefield in the Rocky Mountains. It feeds six large glaciers and covers 125 square miles. Athabasca Glacier is one of the six and it is the most visited glacier in North America due to ease of access. The Icefield Interpretive Centre and paid tours are nearby and definitely recommended as a stop on your road trip.

Vaseaux Lake, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia © Rex Vogel, all rights

Folks who love wineries, beaches, and bird-watching may gravitate to the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia. The Okanagan is characterized by a dry, sunny climate, beautiful landscapes, and a series of lakes. The region receives less than 12 inches of rain and two inches of snow annually and is the hottest and driest place in Canada. On the horizon are mountains of green foliage, aqua blue lakes, and, in the distance, rolling vineyards as far as the eye can see.

Wells Gray Provincial Park, British Columbia © Rex Vogel, all rights

In central British Columbia, Wells Gray has something to offer every outdoor interest: lush alpine meadows, excellent birding and wildlife viewing opportunities, hiking, boating, canoeing, and kayaking. Guiding businesses offer horseback riding, canoeing, whitewater rafting, fishing, and hiking. The history enthusiast can learn about the early homesteaders, trappers, and prospectors or about the natural forces that produced Wells Gray’s many volcanoes, waterfalls, mineral springs, and glaciers.

Many people head to Wells Gray for the lakes but there are also over 40 named waterfalls in the park. Many of them are in remote corners of the park but eight of them are easy to reach from Clearwater Valley Road.

Mount Robson Provincial Park, British Columbia © Rex Vogel, all rights

In Newfoundland, Gros Morne National Park features a unique mountain landscape that resembles a massive gorge. The park which was forged by colliding continents and grinding glaciers will surely take your breath away.

You can’t visit Newfoundland without a stop in St. John’s, Newfoundland’s charming capital city filled with windswept hikes, delicious eats, charming landmarks, whale watching, and iceberg hunting, yes, iceberg hunting! 

Long drives in Nova Scotia are definitely desired more than they are dreaded. One of the most scenic routes in Canada is Nova Scotia’s Cabot Trail; this 185 mile (298 km) highway runs along the Cape Breton coast line. Stop at the famous Ingonish Beach where you can jump from ocean saltwater to fresh lake water with just a few steps.

Do this drive in the fall and you will be stunned by the natural beauty of the fall trees and the coastal views along the way. If you’re looking for stop along the drive, there is no shortage of things to do and see in Cape Breton. Hike or camp at Cape Breton Highlands National Park, play a round of golf at Highlands Links, peruse artisan shops along the trail, or book your spot on a sea kayaking, cycling, or whale watching tour.

Penticton in the Okanagan Valley, British Columbia © Rex Vogel, all rights

With its breathtaking northern coastline, beautiful red sand, and incredible seafood cuisine, it’s no surprise that Prince Edward Island is a popular maritime destination. Dip your toes in the ocean at Cavendish beach, one of P.E.I’s major summertime destinations.

Here you can also visit the famous green-roofed farmhouse and find the Anne of Green Gables Historic site. Golf lovers can enjoy the coastal view while playing a round of Golf at the Green Gables Golf Course. For a scenic drive, Points East Coastal Drive explores the eastern end of the island where beautiful beaches, rare dune systems, and lighthouses mark the coastline.

Fort Assiniboine National Historic Park, Alberta © Rex Vogel, all rights

Quebec City has a special feature that makes it unique in Canada (and the U.S., for that matter): it has walls. Quebec City is the only city north of Mexico that still has fortified walls. First the French and later the English built up Quebec City’s fortifications between the 17th and the 19th centuries.

Quebec’s entire historic district including the ramparts has since been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. You can also tour the Citadelle de Quebec which is the largest active military fortress in Canada. Don’t miss visiting the iconic Chateau Frontenac, also a national historic site.

Niagara Falls is made up of three falls with Horseshoe Falls, the largest of the three on the Canadian side. Enjoy clear views of Horseshoe Falls and stay past sundown for a chance to see the falls illuminated any night of the year. During the summer and early winter staying past sundown will see you treated to a fireworks show.

Don’t leave the Niagara region without visiting Niagara-on-the-Lake. Begin exploring this famous wine region with the gorgeous scenic drive from Niagara Falls to Niagara-on-the-Lake. Summer is peak season but fall harvest season and January’s Icewine Festival can also be great times to visit.

Black Hills, an Okanagan Valley winery, British Columbia © Rex Vogel, all rights

Manitoba is known for its golden prairies, magic skies, and hundreds of thousands of lakes. Asessippi Provincial Park offers camping facilities, trails for hiking and snowmobiling, boating, swimming and water sports on the lake, and some of the best walleye fishing in the province, all accompanied by breathtaking views.

Elk in Jasper National Park, Alberta © Rex Vogel, all rights

Saskatchewan is home to two national parks that are very different from one another: Prince Albert National Park in the northern boreal forest and Grasslands National Park in the prairie grassland natural region. The two national parks are perfect examples of the provinces varied landscape. Just over six hours separating the two parks it is the perfect way to see a wide variety of what Saskatchewan has to offer while visiting this prairie province.

The year is still young. Consider a trip to the Great White North in 2023!

Worth Pondering…
My truck tore across Montana
Ian Tyson sang a lonesome lullaby
And so I cranked up the radio
Cause there’s just a little more to go
For I’d cross the border at that Sweet Grass sign
I’m Alberta Bound.

—Lyrics and recording by Alberta born Country Music singer, Paul Brandt, 2004

The Canadian Rockies Are a Wonderland of Glacial Lakes and Scenic Drives

As expected, Canada continues to be gorgeous

I grew up in the shadow of the most gorgeous mountains in the Northern Hemisphere: the Canadian Rockies.

Spanning some 3,000 miles between Alaska and New Mexico, the Rocky Mountain chain began forming 80 million years ago. Their youth (relative to mountains, of course) shows in their sharper edges and rough faces which contrast beautifully with the curves of the glacial lakes they hold. These can take on downright surreal colors thanks to rock flour, the microscopic bits of ground-up mountain that slide off a glacier when it melts.

Since more than 1.5 million people travel to the mountain park between June and September, Parks Canada says to “be prepared for crowds and line-ups, remember to pack your patience, and be respectful to the people and wildlife you encounter.”

Don’t come to Banff or Jasper without a hotel or camping reservation (and remember that camping in a non-designated campsite or in the towns of Banff and Jasper is illegal). During most long weekends and summer months, the park is at capacity. If there is no availability in Banff or Jasper, look into accommodations in a neighboring community.

The scenery is gob-smacking any time of year with summer the ideal time for swimming and fishing while winter calls for soaking in hot springs and zipping down the mountainside on a pair of skis. Enticed to plan a trip? Here are the most beautiful views to chase.

Icefields Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Icefields Parkway, Alberta

Stretching from Banff to Jasper, this 140-mile highway packs the best of the Rockies into one epic road trip. Seriously, driving the parkway might be the most sublime experience you can have. Lake Louise (you know, that photo), is on the itinerary. So are more than 100 ancient glaciers, surreal hikes with unobscured mountain views, and wildlife like deer, moose, elk, bighorn sheep, and mountain goats. Be sure to give yourself at least a full day to travel the parkway one way.

Icefields Skywalk © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Columbia Icefield Skywalk, Alberta

Those afraid of heights should probably skip this one. For the rest of us, the Glacier Skywalk is a horizontal ark that juts out over the edge of the Sunwapta Valley, 918 feet in the air. Built in 2014, the thing has glass floors so if you can handle looking down you’ll get unreal views of the valley below. Get here by stopping along the Icefields Parkway 60 miles south of Jasper or 125 miles north of Banff. As a heads up, this one closes for winter and most of spring due to weather.

Athabasca Glacier © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Athabasca Glacier, Alberta

We always hear about melting glaciers but have you ever actually seen one up close? See it while you still can as the four-mile Athabasca Glacier is steadily thawing; over the last 125 years it’s lost half its volume and retreated more than a mile. While it’s too dangerous to hike into the glacier on your own, some tours offer excursions through ice caves and crevasses.

Lake Louise, Alberta

Going to the Rockies and skipping Lake Louise is like going to Manhattan and not visiting Central Park. It’s crowded, but there’s a reason it’s crowded. An extensive network of hiking trails around the lake offers an easy escape from the tour groups. If you have a few hours, a hike to the Lake Agnes Tea House originally built in 1901 is a great way to savor everything the area has to offer. In the winter, the mountains around the lake become a skiing and snowboarding paradise with over 4,200 trails.

Lac Beauvert and Jasper Park Lodge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lac Beauvert (near Jasper, Alberta)

Located at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge—Jasper’s answer to the Banff Springs—Lac Beauvert produces dazzling emerald colors on a sunny summer day. A 2.4-mile loop encircles the lake and should take just an hour to complete. Otherwise, there’s kayaking, canoeing, and stand-up paddleboarding on the lake itself.

Pyramid Lake © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Pyramid Lake (near Jasper, Alberta)

Pyramid Lake in Jasper National Park is one of the best places to visit in Jasper. This lake is a wonderful kidney-shaped lake right at the foot of the iconic Pyramid Mountain. It’s one of the many small lakes left behind by retreating glaciers in the area. Unlike many of the Banff lakes which can seem like a trek to get to from town, Pyramid Lake is only 3 miles from town down Pyramid Lake Road. So even if you only have a half-hour to spare while visiting Jasper, you can easily make a trip to Pyramid Lake and see its beauty.

Mount Robson © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Mount Robson, British Columbia

You came to the Rockies for some big-ass mountains and Mount Robson is the biggest, climbing almost 13,000 feet into the sky. The British Columbia provincial park that surrounds the mountain stretches 868 square miles and has plenty of trails for some real alone time with nature—just you and the mountain goats, caribou, and 182 species of birds. An ultra-marathon in the area attracts the truly determined while a gift shop that sells ice cream caters to the rest of us throughout the summer.

Horseshoe Lake (near Jasper, Alberta)

This crisp, pristine lake 18 miles south of Jasper is no longer a secret, especially on hot days when it gets packed with brave swimmers (the water is always chilly!), scuba divers, and fishermen who reel in rainbow trout, largemouth bass, and channel catfish. But it’s still totally worth it, especially if you’ve got the cajones to jump off cliffs as high as 80 feet into the deep water. If that’s your kind of thing, for heaven’s sakes, be careful. Parks Canada has to rescue two or three people a year and a guy recently shattered his pelvis doing it.

Elk in Jasper National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Moraine Lake (near Lake Louise, Alberta)

Just 8.7 miles from the hamlet of Lake Louise along the Moraine Lake road, The Valley of the Ten Peaks provides the backdrop you came to the Rockies to see. Aside from jagged snow-dusted peaks, Moraine Lake itself has water so mind-bogglingly turquoise you’ll think you’re in The Little Mermaid, especially at its peak in late June. There are hikes aplenty around Moraine Lake and if you want to get out on the water you can rent a canoe to paddle on the lake. You don’t want to skip this one, trust me!

Athabasca Falls (near Jasper, Alberta)

The Athabasca River might not sit at a high elevation but it creates the most powerful waterfall in the Rockies. In the winter, the water turns into majestic ice crystals. Do yourself a favor and stay on the right side of the viewing fence. The mist makes the stones slippery and people have drowned trying to get the perfect photo. Get here along the Icefields Parkway, about 20 miles south from the town of Jasper.

Banff National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Banff National Park

Banff National Park is famous for its vibrant lakes, majestic mountains, and easy access to outdoor adventures of all kinds. The park spans 2,564 square miles of striking mountainous terrain in the vast wilderness of the Canadian Rockies. Canada’s first national park and the world’s third, it has a rich heritage as one of the world’s most awe-inspiring mountain destinations. The bustling Banff townsite and village of Lake Louise are uniquely located in the national park. In this one of a kind place, there’s something for everyone to discover.

Maligne Lake, Alberta

Maligne is the second-biggest glacial lake in the world. I enjoyed a tour boat here one summer, and left convinced it might be the most beautiful spot on the planet. Maligne has many moods, each and every one of them exquisite. If a tour doesn’t float your boat, you can hike around the lake on a large trail network, hang out in the chalet, or even get hitched. On a scorching summer day, you can also dive in, but be warned that glacial lakes don’t warm up much even in the heart of summer’s heat. Unless you’re hankering for hypothermia, don’t hang out in the water too long.

Rocky mountain goats in Jasper National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Canmore, Alberta

The so-called Three Sisters are the calling card of Canmore, a cozy town just outside the boundary of Banff National Park. The peaks, whose names—Big Sister, Middle Sister, and Little Sister—refer to an ancient Stoney story are also called Faith, Hope, and Charity by some though not by anyone who has tried to climb them without adequate preparation. The summit of Big Sister is nearly 10,000 feet and can be reached in a day if you’re experienced enough.

Sunwapta Falls (near Jasper, Alberta)

Sunwapta, named after the Stoney word for turbulent river, is Athabasca Falls’ main rival and is as dramatic as its name suggests. Actually a pair of waterfalls separated by a short hike, Sunwapta sits 34 miles from the stretch of the Icefields Parkway near Jasper. Its power peaks in the spring when glacial runoff is at its height. In winter, the road is closed but you can still snowshoe or hike in to see the ice formations in the falls.

Elk in Jasper National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Banff Springs Hotel, Banff, Alberta

Part of the string of Canadian hotels that includes Ottawa’s Château Laurier and Quebec City’s Château Frontenac, this is easily the most opulent building in the Rockies. Built in 1888 and modeled after a Scottish Baronial castle, Banff Springs Hotel has luxurious rooms, a spa, and its very own golf course. Even if you don’t have the moolah to stay here, it’s worth visiting just for amazing views.

Old Fort Point (near Jasper, Alberta)

Don’t let anyone tell you that awesome views of the Rockies require huge hiking expeditions. Old Fort Point is a five-minute drive from Jasper and this view of the Athabasca River greets you about a third of the way up.

Bighorn sheep in Jasper National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Larch Valley (near Lake Louise, Alberta)

Larch trees lurk on every mountainside in the Rockies. They blend in with the evergreens for most of the year but in the fall their needles turn a brilliant gold. In Larch Valley, they reach a captivating concentration. The seven-mile hike from Moraine Lake takes about 5-6 hours round trip.

Emerald Lake, Yoho National Park, British Columbia

While it doesn’t get as much publicity as Banff or Jasper, Yoho National Park is just as great. Emerald Lake (yes, it’s as vibrant as it sounds), Yoho’s largest of 61 lakes, has an easy 3-mile trail around the water. The Lake McArthur half-day hike is another good way to get oriented with serene views of the Rocky Mountains and the sapphire blue lake. It takes between three and five hours round trip to complete, every minute of which is totally worth it.

Icefields Center © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Roger’s Pass, Glacier National Park, British Columbia

Yes, Canada has its own Glacier National Park and it is epic. With over 400 glaciers, 86 miles of trails, and great skiing on Kicking Horse and Revelstoke come winter, you won’t be short on activities nor on vistas. The best views might be from the top of the park’s summit, Rogers Pass, which sits at 4,534 feet.

Prince of Wales Hotel, Waterton National Park, Alberta

Nestled near the US border, Waterton National Park is contiguous with Montana’s Glacier National Park. It offers all of the beauty of that park plus its famous cousins Banff and Jasper but with a fraction of the crowds. Its namesake lake is anchored by the Roaring ’20s-era Prince of Wales Hotel which sits not far from the Bear’s Hump, a short hike still steep enough to offer commanding views of the valley and Mount Cleveland.

Big horn sheep in Jasper National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Kootenay National Park, British Columbia

Are you a bath person? Yes? Now, imagine getting all relaxed and warm under breathtaking snowy mountains. Yeah, I know. Kootenay National Park in British Columbia has several hot springs from classy chalets to humble public sites. On the low-cost end, Parks Canada operates Radium Hot Springs, an odorless, sunken pool with soothing minerals like sulfate, calcium, bicarbonate, silica, and magnesium. Entry and a locker cost just a couple bucks. And if a pool warmed with natural springs sounds more like your thing, Ainsworth Hot Springs more than satisfies.

Worth Pondering…

The mountains are calling and I must go.

—John Muir

Canadian Border Crossing in an RV: What You Need to Know

Now that the border has been open for some time since COVID, restrictions for crossing the Canadian border in an RV have relaxed

Planning an RV road trip across the border from the United States into Canada (or vice versa) and wondering what to expect? Whether you’re a seasoned traveler or a first-time visitor, it’s important to know the rules and regulations for a Canadian border crossing ahead of time. From documents to inspections for pets, plants, people, food, and firearms there are many things you need to consider and plan for before you leave. 

Over the years, we’ve done numerous border crossings from Canada to the U.S. and back again with our motorhome and toad. 

Banff National Park, Alberta © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Like all countries, Canada and the U.S. both have specific rules and regulations around border protection. Rules about what you can and even more importantly what you CANNOT bring into the country. And when traveling in an RV you are much more likely to have those items on board compared to say boarding a plane with just a suitcase or two.

As you might expect, the information shared in this post may be subject to change by the Canadian and U.S. border agencies at any time without notice.

Land border crossing between Canada and the United States was closed for 19 months during the pandemic and highly restricted shortly after borders reopened.

Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park, Alberta © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Crossing the Canadian border by land has been reopened and Canada has since relaxed their restrictions. They’re now similar to what they were pre-pandemic.

However, there are still some things you need to be aware of that will make your trip to Canada much easier.

In this article, I’ll provide you with helpful tips and insights as well as the questions you’re likely to be asked and how to handle them. By planning ahead and following these guidelines, you can ensure your border crossing is as quick, smooth, and stress-free as possible. 

Mount Robson Provincial Park, British Columbia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Crossing the Canadian border after COVID

When Canada reopened its borders there was specific procedures and documentation (i.e., proof of vaccination) you were required to show. I’ll notate those changes but also explain the current restrictions as of the writing of this article.

Shortly after Canada reopened its borders it was required to use an app called ArriveCAN to cross the Canadian border. Using this app is no longer required; however, it can still be used. 

ArriveCAN is available for iOS, Android, and web. If you’ve already downloaded it, be sure to check for updates before you reach the border or leave for your road trip. The app is free to use. 

Wells Gray Provincial Park, British Columbia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

You no longer need to prove COVID-19 vaccination

When the border first reopened, Canada required proof of COVID-19 vaccination to enter the country. However, this is no longer the case. The same is true for pre-entry and arrival testing.

Proof of COVID-19 vaccination and pre-entry COVID-19 testing is no longer required at the Canadian border.

The government’s website, however, does state “If you have symptoms of COVID-19, you shouldn’t travel to Canada.”

Okanagan Valley, British Columbia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What Else You Need to Know About Crossing the Canadian Border

Aside from the above changes in travel requirements following COVID, there are numerous other things you need to be aware of before you go RVing to Canada.

No firearms or fireworks

For one, you cannot bring a firearm (handgun, hunting rifle, etc.) into Canada unless you’ve gone through the (usually lengthy) process to get approval. Canada does not honor your concealed carry permit and trying to take an unapproved firearm into the country can result in serious jail time. The same is true for fireworks or explosives.

Jasper National Park, Alberta © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Pet vaccination records

Second, you need to make sure to bring all vaccination records for your pets that are traveling with you. It also helps to bathe your pets before reaching the border if they’ve been playing outdoors a lot because they can deny sickly pets from crossing the border, too. Of course, if your pet is actually sick, you shouldn’t try to take them across the border.

No cannabis products

Third, you cannot take cannabis or any products containing cannabis (including CBD) across the border in either direction. It doesn’t matter whether it’s legal at your point of entry or exit on either side of the border.

Consent forms for children

Fourth, if you’re traveling with children who are not your own, even if they are your grandchildren, you need letters of consent from the parents allowing you to take them across the border. If you are a divorced or separated parent with your children, you must bring a letter of consent from the other parent. It’s also a good idea to have a letter authorizing you to seek and consent to medical treatment for each child from the parents.

Columbia Icefield, Jasper National Park, Alberta © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

How to plan ahead for a border crossing

  • There are 26 border crossing locations from the 4,000 miles spanning east to west U.S.-Canada. Plan your route in advance by finding your nearest border crossing point
  • Wait times, rules, and restrictions may vary from point to point. So be sure to check the rules relating to your preferred border crossing point in advance via the website or CanBorder app
  • Stay in the car/RV lanes (not truck lanes)
  • Avoid stocking up on groceries in the days leading up to a border crossing. Consume as much of your fresh food as you can especially fresh produce and animal products (meat, milk, eggs)
  • Drink up! Whittle down your stash of alcohol so you stay within the alcoholic beverage product limit to avoid paying duty and taxes. You’re allowed 2 x 750 ml bottles of wine, 1.14L of liquor, and 24 bottles/cans of beer/ale (355ml each) per adult
  • For smokers your tobacco limit is 200 cigarettes and 50 cigars
  • Offload all firewood in advance
  • Don’t bring any live plants or herbs with you
  • Ensure your RV is within its safe legal weight rating
  • Locate (or ask your vet for) copies of your pet vaccination certificates (in particular, rabies shots) for dogs and cats 3 months or older
  • Keep your stash of cash (and cash equivalents such as stocks, bonds, bank/traveler’s checks, gold, silver etc.) under $10,000 (CAN/USD) to avoid having to declare it. You can carry more, but prepare for more questions
  • If you travel with firearms, weapons, and ammunition, you generally cannot bring these into Canada. However there are exceptions and you’ll need to pay close attention to the rules around what you can and cannot bring. Be prepared to either store, ship, or declare firearms. DO NOT just show up at the border with firearms
  • Check and potentially avoid significant delays by checking border wait times via the CanBorder App or website
  • Visit the websites for Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) and USA Customs and Border Protection (CBP) for the latest updates and info
Glacial Skywalk, Icefields Parkway, Jasper National Park, Alberta © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Are Canadian border crossings stressful?

Even if you’ve done border crossings before, they can be unnerving. You never quite know what to expect and each time can be a different experience. It’s another country after all. You could face anything from long delays to difficult border agents to an interrogation. Others might experience confiscation of food, duties charged on goods, or even an inspection of your RV and/or car. To us, the latter feels like the worst scenario of all and we do everything to try and avoid it! 

Over the years, we have crossed the border and back many times in our RVs. Overall, we have found our border crossings to be fairly quick and incident-free in both directions. But it’s not always the case.

When you know what to expect and plan ahead, you can increase your chances of a quick and easy border crossing. Of course, I cannot personally guarantee this. But following my tips and suggestions will get you off to a good start.

Elk, Jasper National Park, Alberta © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

10 tips for a smooth border crossing in your RV

1. Have the Passport for all passengers ready in advance and hand them to the driver

2. Stop using cell phones. Turn off radios/music on approach to the border control area

3. Roll down windows so agents can clearly see all passengers

4. Keep your seatbelts buckled

5. Remove your sunglasses so the agents can see your eyes

6. Stay calm, relaxed, and look the border control agent in the eye

7. Answer ALL questions truthfully while maintaining eye contact

8. Be polite, cooperative, and courteous

9. Be prepared to report goods you are bringing including food, plants, and any animal products

10. Only answer questions you are asked

Rocky Mountain Sheep, Jasper National Park, Alberta © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What kind of questions will they ask?

U.S. and Canadian border control agents can ask you just about anything. Following is a list of the questions they have asked us plus a few other common questions we’ve heard from others. This will give you an idea of what to expect.

  • Where do you live? (Simply share the domicile on your driver’s license. Don’t over-complicate things by saying you live full-time in an RV!)
  • What is the purpose of your visit?
  • Where are you staying and for how long?
  • What is your citizenship/residency status?
  • Do you have any alcohol on board?
  • What do you do for a living?
  • Do you have any pets on board?
  • Who is traveling in the vehicle?
  • Do you have any firearms?
  • Any plants or restricted foods on board?

Other questions you may be asked include:

  • What is the length, height, and license plate of your RV and tow vehicle?
  • Do you have proof of vehicle insurance?
  • Are you bringing any goods or gifts?
  • Are you conducting any commercial business?

Again, remember to stay calm, maintain eye contact, and be honest. They are just doing their job and trying to determine that you are a trustworthy person that doesn’t pose a threat to the safety of their country. If they have any concerns, they can send you to a secondary inspection for further questioning or search your vehicle.

Fort Assiniboine National Historic Site, Alberta © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tips for Canadian speed limits and fuel fills

Once you’ve safely crossed the border into Canada, you can finally take a deep breath. Congratulations, you made it! Now, to avoid speeding fines, missed turns, or sticker shock at the pump, here are just a few more things to keep in mind.

Speed limits in Canada are measured in kilometers not miles. So once you cross the border, you will start to see signs that say 100. Keep in mind that 100 kilometres per hour = 62 miles per hour. Sticking to 60 mph is easier to remember and your safest bet.

If using a GPS that is set to give distance in miles you’ll need to get used to seeing/hearing it in the metric system ie. meters instead of feet (1 meter = 3 feet approximately)

Fuel prices in Canada are charged by the liter, not gallon. There are 3.78 liters in a gallon, so don’t be fooled at the pump. Gas is more expensive in Canada than the U.S. So those prices aren’t as exciting as they appear at first glance!

Elk Island National Park, Alberta © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Crossing the U.S.-Canada Border is totally worth it!

Finally, yes, we know, this may sound like a LOT of hassle to go through just to drive across the border into Canada. But I’m here to say that it really is worth it. Canada is such a beautiful country with friendly people. And it really does do us all good to get out and experience another country. Even if it is still part of the same continent, speaking (mostly) the same language!

One of the things we love most about our RV lifestyle is the freedom and ability to visit new places, cultures, and countries while taking our home with us. We also love not having to deal with airports and air travel. 

So grab your passports. Get out there and drive as far and wide as you can. Canada is waiting for you! We have barely scratched the surface of the Great White North and we definitely look forward to returning many more times. We hope you get there too. Happy travels!

Worth Pondering…
My truck tore across Montana
Ian Tyson sang a lonesome lullaby
And so I cranked up the radio
Cause there’s just a little more to go
For I’d cross the border at that Sweet Grass sign
I’m Alberta Bound.

—Lyrics and recording by Alberta born Country Music singer, Paul Brandt, 2004

Summer 2022: 11 Best Things to Do in Western Canada

Your Canada bucket list just got (a lot) longer…

We could all use a break this summer. The last two summer travel seasons have been especially challenging for everyone—travelers, destinations, and small businesses alike. But 2022’s summer could be the biggest one yet for travel within Canada and I’m here to help you experience the absolute best of it.

Rocky Mountain sheep in Jasper National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The best things to do this summer in Western Canada include many hidden gems and unique experiences. You’ll find plenty of tried-and-true staples too. But, I tend to embrace under-the-radar spots as well as famous attractions. You’ll likely find things to do that you didn’t even know existed!

Believing the most authentic recommendations derive from personal experiences, the list highlights the places I’ve discovered and explored on one or more occasions. But, no matter where you plan to travel you’re bound to find something unique and fun to do this summer!

Jasper National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. Hit all seven of the Rocky Mountain Parks

Renowned for their scenic splendor, the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks are comprised of Banff, Jasper, and Waterton Lakes national parks in Alberta, Kootenay and Yoho national parks in British Columbia, and Mount Robson, Mount Assiniboine, and Hamber provincial parks in British Columbia. The seven parks of the Canadian Rockies form a striking mountain landscape. With rugged mountain peaks, icefields and glaciers, alpine meadows, lakes, waterfalls, extensive karst cave systems, and deeply carved canyons, the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks possess an exceptional natural beauty that attracts millions of visitors annually.

Banff National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2. Snap postcard-worthy photos of Banff National Park

Explore pine forests, glacier-carved valleys, and snow-capped peaks in Alberta’s Banff National Park. 

Banff National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If you Google “Canada nature,” you’ll see pictures of Banff National Park in the Rockies—and for good reason. Canada’s oldest and most popular national park is Mother Nature’s best. Anywhere you look, there are jagged peaks sprinkled with fluffy powder, bluer than blue glacial lakes, and majestic wildlife including bears (black and grizzly), elk, wolves, big horn sheep, and foxes.

Related: Doctors Can Prescribe Year-Long Pass to Canada’s National Parks

Banff National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Despite being busy year-round, Banff is big enough that you can find something to do without being shoulder-to-shoulder with tourists (well, except perhaps if you’re waiting for that photo of Lake Louise).

Banff National Park is a hiker’s playground with more than 1,000 miles of trails. Following these trails up ridges leads to impressive viewpoints of craggy peaks, surprise waterfalls, and massive glaciers. The higher you go, the more you’ll see of the 1.6 million acres that make up the park.

Jasper National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. Immerse yourself in nature at Jasper National Park

Jasper has been named one of the 30 best national parks across the globe. Outside, an online publication has included the picturesque spot on its list of must-see destinations. Jasper is the only Canadian entry.

Elk in Jasper National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Jasper can sometimes be overshadowed by its cousin to the south, Banff, but the park is the definition of “wild and scenic.” It’s the largest park in the Canadian Rockies as it has one million-plus more acres than Banff.

Jasper is also host to a robust population of wildlife including black and grizzly bears, elk and moose, and big horn sheep and Rocky Mountain goats, making it a popular tourist destination for travellers to explore.

Icefields Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. A scenic drive of a lifetime

Linking Lake Louise with Jasper is one of the most beautiful journeys on the planet—the Icefields Parkway (Highway 93). Rated as one of the top drives in the world by Condé Nast Traveler, the Icefield Parkway is a 145 mile stretch of double-lane highway winding along the Continental Divide through soaring rocky mountain peaks, icefields, and vast sweeping valleys

Columbia Icefield © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Icefields Parkway is dotted with more than 100 ancient glaciers, cascading waterfalls, dramatic rock spires, and emerald lakes set in huge valleys of thick pine and larch forests.

Related: RV To Canada This Summer

Just as the name implies these glaciers or “fields of ice” is the largest south of the Arctic Circle. They are 90,000 acres in area and 100 to 360 feet in depth and receive up to 7 feet of snowfall per year.

Glacial Skywalk © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Glacier Sky Walk, opened in May 2014, is a unique experience that puts you on a glass-floored observation platform 280 feet over the Sunwapta Valley. The entire experience starts with a walk along the Discovery Trail. If you are not into heights, you can still view the Sunwapta Valley from a look-out point nearby.

Mount Robson Provincial Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

5. Reach new peaks at Mount Robson Provincial Park

“On every side the snowy heads of mighty hills crowded round, whilst, immediately behind us, a giant among giants, and immeasurably supreme, rose Robson’s Peak.”

—Milton and Cheadle, 1865

Mount Robson Provincial Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Mount Robson Provincial Park, the second oldest park in British Columbia’s park system, is truly one of the Canada’s crown jewels. The mountain for which the park is named guards the park’s western entrance. At 12,972 feet, Mount Robson, the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies, towers over the lesser surrounding peaks; this is one of the finest views in the Rocky Mountains. Just as the early trappers, hunters, and explorers felt in awe at the mountain’s magnificence, travelers today experience the same feelings.

Mount Robson © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With Alberta’s Jasper National Park as its easterly neighbor, Mount Robson Provincial Park comprises a portion of one of the world’s largest blocks of protected areas. Designated as a part of the Canadian Rocky Mountains World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1990, Mount Robson provides everything from developed, vehicle-accessible camping to remote valleys that seldom see a human footprint. Mount Robson Provincial Park also protects the headwaters of the Fraser River.

First attempted in 1907, it was not until 1913 that humans finally stood on the summit of Mount Robson. On that clear, cold day guide Conrad Kain, W.W. Foster and A.H. McCarthy beheld a view no person had ever seen before.

Fort Langley National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

6. Stand in the spot where BC began

Experience the excitement of the early West Coast fur trade at Fort Langley and stand in the spot where British Columbia was proclaimed a British colony in 1858. Explore the scenic fort—built by the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1827—where fur traders once exchanged furs, salmon, and cranberries with Indigenous communities.

Fort Langley Farmers Market © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fort Langley National Historic Site offers interactive displays and activities. Watch blacksmithing, barrel-making, or historic weapons demonstrations, take a guided tour and pan for gold. Additional experiences include overnight stays in a furnished oTENTik, audio tours available in seven languages, and Sxwimelə Boutique and Gifts. There is also free parking on-site for visitors.

Fort Camping © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Special events take place throughout the year such as Grave Tales walking tours, Brigade Days, Canada Day, the Cranberry Festival, Christmas events, and Vive les Voyageurs Winter Festival in January.

The Fort Langley National Historic Site is within walking distance of the Fort Langley Village where you can explore locally-owned shops, cafes, restaurants, museums, and beautiful walking trails along the Fraser River.

Okanagan Valley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

7. Drink in the wine and sunshine in the Okanagan

Imagine a valley floor filled with a 120-mile-long lake, wildlife including bighorn sheep, cougars, and rattlesnakes, rainfall of fewer than 12 inches a year but with the greatest concentration of wineries and orchards, you can imagine. The Okanagan Valley is the heart of British Columbia’s grape-growing region and boasts more than 130 licensed wineries. An ever-changing panorama, the valley stretches over 150 miles, across distinct sub-regions, each with different soil and climate conditions suited to a range of varietals. 

Related: What you should know about Wine and Canada

Okanagan Wine Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Add to this the Okanagan’s natural beauty (it’s a hallowed summer-vacation spot for Western Canadians), its wide range of non-wine-related things for the whole family to do—from riding the century-old Kettle Valley Steam Railway and swimming in those pristine lakes to biking and hiking, and its lush orchards selling juicy peaches and cherries on the roadside—and you’ve got a wine-country experience like no other.

Lesser Slave Lake © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

8. Travel off the beaten path in Lesser Slave Lake Provincial Park

As you dig your toes into warm, soft sand and watch the setting sun reflect off the glassy surface of the lake, you may feel like you are far away in some tropical locale. At nearly 450 sq mi, it isn’t hard to mistake Lesser Slave Lake for an ocean. Its white sand beaches are some of the finest in Alberta and when the west wind blows across the vast waters, you can get wave action big enough to surf on—though most people choose to ride the big breakers in kayaks.

Lesser Slave Lake Provincial Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The unique microclimate that encompasses the lake and rich habitat of the surrounding boreal forest has created a haven for nesting and migratory birds—particularly songbirds—which is why the area has been dubbed the continent’s bird nursery. Built to study them, the Lesser Slave Lake Bird Observatory and Boreal Centre for Bird Conservation are fascinating to visit. You’ll learn that nearly half of all North American bird species nest and raise their young here and billions of birds pass through during the spring and fall migrations. Tour the Boreal Centre and take a walk along the Songbird Trail pausing in the middle to stand quietly and listen to the natural symphony created by songbirds in the towering aspen-poplar forest.

Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

9. Travel back in time to Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park

The unusual landforms of Writing-on-Stone / Áísínai’pi resulted from the dynamic interaction of geology, climate, and time. In a dramatic landscape of steep-sided canyons and coulees, sandstone cliffs, and eroded sandstone formations called hoodoos, Indigenous peoples created rock art in what is today Southern Alberta. Thousands of petroglyphs and pictographs at more than 138 rock art sites graphically represent the powers of the spirit world that resonate in this sacred landscape and chronicle phases of human history in North America including when Indigenous peoples first came into contact with Europeans.

Wells Gray Provincial Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

10. Search for Well Gray’s breathtaking waterfalls

Wells Gray is not as highly acclaimed as Mount Robson or the national parks in the Canadian Rockies. And having been there, I have no idea why. I mean… this place is awesome!

Wells Gray Provincial Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Wells Gray has something to offer every outdoor interest: lush alpine meadows, excellent birding and wildlife viewing opportunities, hiking, boating, canoeing, and kayaking. Guiding businesses offer horseback riding, canoeing, whitewater rafting, fishing, and hiking. The history enthusiast can learn about the early homesteaders, trappers, and prospectors, or about the natural forces that produced Wells Gray’s many volcanoes, waterfalls, mineral springs, and glaciers.

Wells Gray Provincial Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Many people head to Wells Gray for the lakes, but there are also over 40 named waterfalls in the park. Many of them are in remote corners of the park, but eight of them are easy to reach from Clearwater Valley Road.

So you might be wondering: Why are there so many waterfalls in the same small area? And how did they form? It turns out the waterfalls in Wells Gray use the same secret formula as another favorite waterfall destination, Iceland: volcanoes + glaciers = waterfall magic.

Elk Island Provincial Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

11. Explore the natural wonders at Elk Island National Park

Elk Island National Park played an important part in the conservation of the plains bison. This “island of conservation” is 30 miles east of Edmonton along the Yellowhead Highway which goes through the park. Watch for wood bison to the south and plains bison to the north.

Elk Island Provincial Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Explore the park by foot, bike, or car, and be on the lookout for wildlife. Bison and other mammals are most active at dawn and dusk when females travel with their young. Beyond bison be ready to glimpse deer, elk, coyotes, and the countless birds that call Elk Island National Park home. Many animals shelter in the trees during the warmest parts of the day.

Elk Island Provincial Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Elk Island has several trails of varying lengths winding through the different habitats found within the park. Since the park is not mountainous, the trails have very few steep inclines. Each trail contains many wildlife viewing opportunities from two different subspecies of bison to a multitude of songbirds. Whether you’re out for a leisurely hike or a longer adventure, make your trip a safe one by checking the latest conditions.

Read Next: Plan Your Travels around a UNESCO World Heritage Site

Worth Pondering…

I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.

—John Burroughs

4 of the Best Wineries in the Okanagan Valley

Canada’s stunning Okanagan Valley is emerging as a varied and exciting wine destination

California, Oregon, and Washington State are well-known for their variety of wines and wineries. Now follow the vine north and you’ll find a new world of wine just across the border in British Columbia’s wine country.

Black Hills Winery © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It is believed that the very first vineyard planted in the southern Okanagan region of British Columbia was the Oblate Mission in Kelowna in 1859 but its only purpose was for preparing sacramental wine for the Catholic Church. Other vineyards began popping up but many were uprooted during prohibition.

It wasn’t until 1932 that Calona Wines became the first commercial winery in British Columbia. It took much longer for the idea of producing quality wine in the Okanagan to catch on.

Hester Creek Vineyards © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

After dabbling for decades in easy-to-grow hybrids and labrusca (native American varieties), the Okanagan wine industry got its real launch in 1988. In a move designed to counter the North American Free Trade Agreement’s negative effect on the Canadian wine industry, the government began paying growers to pull out labrusca and hybrid vines and replant them with the more desirable European (Vitis vinifera) grape varieties.

Today, over 180 wineries are operating in the Valley. From large estate wineries to small mom-and-pop shops, wine is available everywhere you turn. For wine lovers, the Okanagan should most definitely make your vino bucket list.

Black Hills Winery © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The best time to visit the Okanagan is up for debate. The summer is by far the most popular as everything is in full swing and the vineyards are green and lush. But it is also the busiest, so planning is important. Oh, and it’s hot! (The Okanagan is Canada’s only desert area, after all.) The crowds are much smaller during the spring and fall, but tasting room hours are more limited. However, you’ll have a better chance of meeting a winemaker during these times, as well.

Related Article: The Okanagan Valley: A Special Place

Everyone has their favorite winery for various reasons but I have detailed four that offer my favorite experiences. Visit each of the wineries’ websites for the most up-to-date information and reserve your tasting experience online. Some will waive the tasting fees with the purchase of wine.

Black Hills Winery © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Black Hills Estate Winery

Location: 4318 Black Sage Road, Oliver

Varietals: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Carmenere, Petit Verdot, Malbec

Black Hills Winery © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Currently available Wines: 2019 Tempranillo, 2020 Chardonnay, 2020 Roussanne, 2020 Alibi (blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon), 2021 Rosé, 2019 Ipso Facto (blend of Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon), 2020 Viognier, 2019 Per Se (base of Cabernet Franc,), 2018 Syrah, 2018 Addendum, 2020 Bona Fide, 2020 Nota Bene (signature wine; available at Release Party, June 18, 2022, 5-9 pm)

Master of Wine: Ross Wise

Black Hills Winery © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Description: Black Hills Estate Winery vineyards have some of the most favorable grape growing conditions in the country resulting in exceptional terroir. Located on Black Sage Bench, Black Hills’ Wine Experience Centre offers wine tastings year-round. The modern facility offers tastings on the dining balcony around their water feature and under a few covered gazebos.

Black Hills Winery © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Experiences: The Portfolio Wine Flight ($20) offers an array of the winery’s current releases. It is a combination of red and white wines. The Red Wine Flight ($30) showcases Black Hills’ most popular red wines including the rare Carmenere wine as well as new releases.

Related Article: Taste Your Way through the Okanagan

During the summer months the tastings get better as the Tapas Kitchen is open providing bites that pair nicely with the 2 oz. samples.

Nk’Mip Cellars © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Nk’Mip Cellars

Location: 1400 Rancher Creek Road, Osoyoos

Varietals: Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Pinot Noir

Nk’Mip Cellars © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Currently available Wines: Nk’Mip wines available in 3 tiers: Winemaker Tier: 2020 Chardonnay, 2021 Pinot Blanc, 2021 Dreamcatcher, 2020 Rosé, 2019 Merlot, 2019 Talon; Qwam Qwmt (Premium Tier): 2019 Chardonnay, 2020 Riesling, 2020 Riesling Ice Wine, 2019 Merlot, 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon, 2018 Syrah, 2019 Pinot Noir; Mer’r’iym (Premium Blends): 2020 White Mer’r’iym, 2019 Mer’r’iym

Estate Winemaker: Justin Hall

Nk’Mip Cellars © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Description: Overlooking the town of Osoyoos and its lake, Nk’Mip Cellars is the first Indigenous-owned and operated winery in North America. The culture and history is a part of everything they do and produce. Inside, the building is modern with a tasting bar and retail center. Outside, the patio offers spectacular views of the surrounding hills.

Spirit Ridge at Nk’Mip Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Experiences: Sample a flight of four Nk’Mip Cellars’ wines at the Main Tasting Bar. Choose from the two available wine flights: Winemaker’s Series Flight ($5) and Premium Series Flight ($15). For an enhanced wine tasting experience choose a pre-set flight of 5 wines paired with Chef’s inspired small food bites. Reservations highly recommended. The Four Food Chiefs food and wine experience is available during March and April ($50). The Patio Restaurant offers contemporary North American cuisine in a picturesque location with fresh Farm-to-Table innovations. Lunch and afternoon lounge service Fridays-Mondays, weather permitting.

Tinhorn Creek Vineyards © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tinhorn Creek Vineyards

Location: 537 Tinhorn Creek Road, Oliver

Varietals: Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Syrah

Tinhorn Creek Vineyards © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Currently available Wines: Tinhorn Creek wines are available under four groupings: White Wines: 2019 Chardonnay, 2021 Pinot Gris, 2021 Gewürztraminer; Red Wines: 2020 Pinot Noir, 2019 Merlot, 2019 Cabernet Franc; Reserve Wines: 2021 Reserve Rosé, 2019 Oldfield Reserve Cabernet Franc, 2018 Oldfield Reserve Merlot; Library Wines: 2008 Merlot, 2009 Merlot Merlot, 2010 Merlot, 2006 Oldfield Series Merlot, 2014 Oldfield Reserve Merlot

Related Article: The Okanagan has What it Takes to Rival Napa

Head Winemaker: Leandro Nosal

Tinhorn Creek Vineyards © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Description: Established in 1993, Tinhorn Creek Vineyards is located just south of Oliver in the famed Golden Mile Bench wine-growing district with 150 acres between two vineyards on the Black Sage and Golden Mile benches. Tinhorn Creek is a beautiful estate vineyard that offers a great visitor experience. It provides tastings and tours seven days a week. You might want to begin your day with a walk along the Golden Mile hiking trail before taking in one of the tours, tastings, or lunch at the Miradoro Restaurant.

Tinhorn Creek Vineyards © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Experiences: Bar Tasting ($8).

The Tinhorn Creek Tasting Flight ($20) is enjoyed on the outdoor patio overlooking the South Okanagan vistas. Four wines are sampled and selected by the wine ambassador.

Black Glass Tasting ($25) is led by a wine ambassador who will serve you four wine samples served in black glasses. With the help of your senses, you’ll guess what each wine varietal is. If you guess two of the four correctly, the tasting fee is waived.

Tinhorn Creek Vineyards © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Stemware Tasting ($30) is a private experience where you’ll learn about the importance of varietal-specific stemware while relaxing in the Crush Club Lounge.

The Guided Tour Experience ($35) will take you on a walk through the estate property, be welcomed into the barrel cellar and then return to the tasting room for a bar tasting.

The Private Lounge Experience ($40) offers a one-hour session with one of Tinhorn’s wine ambassadors who will explain the history, what it takes to make a great wine, and the importance of the right glass to enjoy one’s wine.

Tinhorn Creek Vineyards © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Library Lounge Experience ($50) allows you to sit and be surrounded by Tinhorn’s collection of vintage library bottles while enjoying a flight of wines focusing on a particular vintage or particular wine varietal.

The Miradoro Restaurant has been named Vancouver Magazine: Gold Best Winery Restaurant six years in a row. The setting is elegant with a casual feel to it with treehouse-like spectacular views. Led by executive chef, Jeff Van Geest, locally sourced and seasonal ingredients are used with an emphasis on culinary creativity. Open for lunch and dinner.

Hester Creek Vineyards © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hester Creek Vineyards

Location: 877 Road 8, Oliver

Varietals: Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon

Hester Creek Vineyards © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Currently available Wines: 2021 Pinot Gris, 2021 Pinot Blanc, 2021 Character White, 2020 Chardonnay, 2019 Old Vine Late Harvest Pinot Blanc, 2021 Ti Amo (sparkling wine), 2018 Old Vine Brut, 2020 Rosé Franc, 2021 Select Vineyards Merlot, 2020 Select Vineyards Cabernet Merlot, 2020 Character Red, 2019 Syrah, 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon, 2019 Old Vine Merlot, 2019 Old Vine Cabernet Franc, 2018 The Judge, 2018 Garland

Related Article: Why You Should Explore the Wines of the Okanagan Valley

Winemaker: Mark Hopley

Hester Creek Vineyards © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Description: Hester Creek Vineyards date back to 1968, making them among the oldest vineyards in the Okanagan Valley. Hester Creek is located just south of Oliver on the Golden Mile, a sun-drenched bench that slopes down toward the valley floor. Located on the west side of the valley, it gets morning rather than afternoon sun making it one of the cooler regions in the Okanagan Valley. The soils here are fast draining alluvial soils of stony, gravelly, sandy loams.

Hester Creek Vineyards © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Mediterranean influenced setting offers customized tastings, scenic patios, summer barbeques, live music, farm-to-table cooking classes, six Tuscany styled villa suites, and Italian inspired dining at Terrafina at Hester Creek.

Worth Pondering…

Anyone who tries to make you believe that he knows all about wines is obviously a fake.

―Leon D. Adams, The Commonsense Book of Wine

The Okanagan has What it Takes to Rival Napa

Wine lover? Consider visiting the Okanagan in Western Canada instead of California’s Napa Valley.

Napa Valley conjures up images of grand hillside chateaus, opulent tasting rooms, dining at Michelin-starred restaurants, and perhaps a little celebrity spotting, all factors that have contributed to its anointing as America’s most celebrated wine region.

The Okanagan © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Plucky Napa pinned its place on the global wine map by beating French wines in blind tastings at the 1976 Judgment of Paris. To say this was unexpected is an understatement and it proved to be a turning point in California’s wine industry.

Okanagan Wine Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The number of wineries in the Napa Valley increased from a few dozen in the 1970s to approximately 475 today—good news not just for the wine industry but also for the state’s tourism industry. Napa became a major attraction, creating a market that supports some of the country’s poshest restaurants and hotels—the French Laundry and Auberge du Soleil to name two—and, in turn, crowds, particularly evident in late summer and fall. There are still workarounds: You can avoid weekends or head for wineries off the jam-packed main road. Or you could go north to Canada instead.

Related Article: Forget Napa! It’s Always Wine O’clock in these 5 Underrated Wine Regions!

Okanagan Lake © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Okanagan Valley of British Columbia is a roughly 155-mile-long valley that stretches from Osoyoos on the Canadian border with Washington State to roughly Vernon, British Columbia.

It’s located approximately 240-miles east of Vancouver, BC, between the 49th and 50th parallel. That puts it on the same latitude as Champagne in France and the Rheingau in Germany.

Skaha Lake © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The region has a continental climate, but its extremes are moderated by the presence of a series of deep, interconnected lakes—Okanagan Lake, Skaha Lake, Vaseux Lake, and Osoyoos Lake.

This is a largely desert region that averages less than 12 inches of rainfall a year. The valley gets progressively drier from north to south with roughly 16 inches of rain at its northern end around Kelowna to less than 10 inches a year around Osoyoos.

Vaseaux Lake © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

One of Canada’s sunniest areas, the fertile basin has long been known as the country’s fruit basket. If you visit in summer, you can stop at roadside stands to fill up on just-picked apples, cherries, apricots, and peaches. Cycling or hiking the Kettle Valley Rail Trail which is part of the province’s longest trail network is a popular pursuit as is skiing the deep powder at Big White Ski Resort and boating on Okanagan Lake. But today, the Okanagan is better known for its wine.

Osoyoos Lake © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Its northern latitude also means that the region’s vineyards experience more daylight during the summer growing period—roughly 14 hours of direct sunlight. Compared to Napa Valley, for example, the Okanagan receives about two hours more sunlight a day and has markedly hotter temperatures.

Related Article: Planning a Wine Country Road Trip

The northern latitude, however, also means that the onset of cool autumn weather can often come quickly reducing the amount of hang time that grapes can receive.

Okanagan Wine Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The steeply-sided slopes and surface geography create a range of aspects and produce varied microclimates across the valley. The resulting wines vary from Mosel-style Rieslings to concentrated Bordeaux-inspired red blends.

Okanagan Wine Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The result is powerful, concentrated wines that have high alcohol levels but also offer remarkable fruit concentration and a smooth velvety texture while avoiding the jammy character typical of warm climate Pinot Noir. Many wines also have faint vegetal notes reminiscent of Burgundian Pinot Noir, a characteristic that is usually lacking in Pinot Noir wines from the Northwest.

Unlike Napa, few of the Okanagan’s 186 wineries export their wines: Around 90 percent of British Columbian wine is sold within the province. So if you want to drink Okanagan wine, you’ll probably have to go there and the experience the personal touch that makes it worth the trip.

Black Hills Winery © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As a younger wine destination, the Okanagan also still offers a wallet-friendly experience. Tasting fees are typically less than $10 (compared with $58 in Napa) and are often, though not always, waived with a purchase of a bottle. It’s easy to hit up multiple wineries in a day by following a wine trail or downloading the Wines of BC Explorer app.

Although it’s about 155 miles long, the Okanagan is surprisingly diverse, climate-wise. In the Lake Country subregion the province’s oldest continually operating winery, Calona Vineyards, was established in 1932. Wineries here are known for such varietals as Riesling, Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, and Pinot Noir. At one of the best, Quails’ Gate, you can visit the lakeside tasting room, have a wine-paired meal at Old Vines Restaurant, and sleep it all off at the adjoining guesthouse.

Nk’Mip Cellars © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

At the valley’s southernmost tip which is surrounded by a shrub-steppe semidesert and is one of Canada’s hottest spots, conditions are ideal for reds such as Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Syrah. Nk’Mip Cellars near Osoyoos Lake is North America’s first Indigenous-owned and operated winery. Next door, in the Spirit Ridge Resort, the Bear, the Fish, the Root & the Berry serves Indigenous-inspired cuisine, and the Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Centre describes the history of the Osoyoos people.

Nk’Mip RV Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Open year-round, Nk’Mip RV Park and Campground offer more lakefront, beach access, and view sites than any other park in the Okanagan. Big rigs welcome.

Related Article: Exploring Canada’s Breathtaking Wine Country

Below are tasting notes on a selection of Okanagan Valley wines from some of the region’s leading wine producers.

Quails’ Gate Winery © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Quails’ Gate, 2020, Okanagan Valley Dry Riesling, BC VQA Okanagan Valley, 12% ABV, 750 ml

Quails’ Gate sits below the extinct volcano of Mount Boucherie in West Kelowna on the west shore of Okanagan Lake. The area is characterized by deeply decomposed, ancient, mineral-rich volcanic soils that date back roughly 60 million years. This Riesling is produced from 30-year-old vines that reflect the region’s signature minerality as well as its characteristic intensity.

Quails’ Gate Winery © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The fruit is whole-cluster pressed and then subjected to long, cool temperature fermentation in a steel tank. The result is a very fruit-forward wine with pronounced aromatics.

On the nose, there are notes of green, stone, and tropical fruit including, in particular, apple and apricot, along with some lemon zest, a hint of grapefruit, and melon with just a touch of pineapple. On the palate, the wine is dry with notable acidity.

Quails’ Gate Winery © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The finish is long, with lingering green apple and crisp lemon-lime notes. Stylistically, this seems a little less dry than your typical Alsatian Riesling but lacks even the hint of sweetness that is typical of German-style Rieslings. It’s a great food wine that will pair well with a variety of foods, especially seafood, cured meats, and soft cheeses.

Black Hills Winery © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Black Hills, 2019 Nota Bene, VQA, Okanagan Valley, Black Sage Bench, 14.5% ABV, 750 ml

Black Hills’ vineyard sites have been recognized as having some of the best terroirs in Canada. Located on Black Sage Road, their microclimate provides one of the hottest, driest, and sunniest sites in Canada. The southwest-facing aspect and moderate slope combined with deep desert sand yield intensely flavorful and complex grapes.

Black Hills Winery © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Their twenty-first vintage of Nota Bene brought a rare opportunity to return to the wine’s origins. For just the third time since the very first vintage (1999), the blend is headlined by Merlot, rather than Cabernet Sauvignon. The moderately cool 2019 vintage produced outstanding Merlot from their Sharp Rock and Double Black vineyards and it was impossible to ignore these barrels in the final blend. The beauty of Nota Bene is that it always represents the best of its Estate vineyards in a given year and quality drives the final blend, rather than a recipe.

Black Hills Winery © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The 2019 Nota Bene opens with intense and ripe black cherry, strawberry, and plum on the nose. On the palate, the ripeness and richness of this fruit are beautifully balanced by crunchy red currant flavors while a subtle yet warming layer of cinnamon and clove spice weaves effortlessly into the wine. There is also a savory element to the wine showing through as dried herbs, sage, and cigar box. The tannins are elegant and velvety and the wine finishes strongly with refreshing acidity and a fine silky texture

Tinhorn Creek Vineyards © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tinhorn Creek, 2019 Cabernet Franc, BC VQA, Okanagan Valley, Golden Mile Bench, 14% ABV, 750 ml

Established in 1993, Tinhorn Creek Vineyards is located just south of Oliver in the famed Golden Mile Bench wine-growing district with 150 acres between two vineyards on the Black Sage and Golden Mile benches.

Tinhorn Creek Vineyards © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The 2019 vintage provided a vibrant, natural acidity with fresh, elegant, and ripe flavors from their South Okanagan vineyards. The grapes are harvested, destemmed, and gently crushed to release the juice and color from the skins. The grape juice or must is pumped over twice a day until fermentation using natural yeast begins to take place. A steady fermentation helps preserve the fruit flavors.

Tinhorn Creek Vineyards © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Once fermentation is complete, the juice is drained off the skins or called ‘free run’ juice. The wine is placed into a variety of French, Hungarian, and American Oak barrels where it will age for 12 months. The barrels are stored in our temperature and humidity-controlled barrel cellar until bottling. On the nose, there is lots of ripe red fruit mingled with a hint of black pepper. 

Hester Creek Vineyards © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hester Creek, 2019 Old Vine Merlot, BC VQA, Okanagan Valley, Golden Mile Bench, 14.4% ABV, 750 ml

Hester Creek Vineyards date back to 1968, making them among the oldest vineyards in the Okanagan Valley. Hester Creek is located just south of Oliver, on the Golden Mile, a sun-drenched bench that slopes down toward the valley floor. Located on the west side of the valley, it gets morning rather than afternoon sun making it one of the cooler regions in the Okanagan Valley. The soils here are fast draining alluvial soils of stony, gravelly, sandy loams.

Hester Creek Vineyards © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

On the nose, the wine offers up fruity aromas of ripe plum with hints of prune, black cherry, milk chocolate, vanilla, and some dry, brushy herbaceous notes.

Related Article: Why You Should Explore the Wines of the Okanagan Valley

On the palate, there is more plum and black cherry, along with notes of cinnamon, a hint of clove, and a bit of well-seasoned oak.

Hester Creek Vineyards © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This is a robust wine, with a notable palate weight and mouth coating character that offers up ripe, well-integrated tannins and good acidity.

The finish is very long with lingering notes of black cherry and plum.

Hester Creek Vineyards © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Okanagan produces the northernmost Pinot Noir in North America. Although located some 300 miles north of Oregon’s famed Willamette Valley, this region is much hotter and receives more sunlight over the summer.

If you are not familiar with the wines of the Okanagan, they are certainly worth exploring and often represent exceptional values.

Worth Pondering…

Anyone who tries to make you believe that he knows all about wines is obviously a fake.

―Leon D. Adams, The Commonsense Book of Wine

The Sixth Wonder of Alberta

A wide green valley, steep sandstone cliffs, strange rock formations called hoodoos, and rock art—all of these things make Writing-on-Stone a special place

You’re driving through the prairie and suddenly it drops away into a beautiful river valley. Alberta has many beautiful places to explore during the summer but there’s only one place that has rock paintings from the local indigenous population that can be dated back 2,000 years ago.

Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

That very special place is the Writing-on-Stone/Áísínai’pi Provincial Park and is located near the U.S. border in southeastern Alberta. It is a place of extreme cultural importance to the Blackfoot people and has the greatest concentration of Indigenous rock art anywhere on the plains. The rock art was likely created by the Blackfoot tribe whose territory traditionally includes the area. At least some of the art was likely being made by the Shoshone tribe which passed through the region.

Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In a dramatic landscape of steep-sided canyons and coulees, sandstone cliffs, and eroded sandstone formations called hoodoos, Indigenous peoples have created rock art for millennia. Thousands of petroglyphs and pictographs at more than 138 rock art sites graphically represent the powers of the spirit world that resonate in this sacred landscape and chronicle critical phases of human history in North America including when Indigenous peoples first came into contact with Europeans. In fact, the arrival of horses, trade items, and even the first automobile in the region are creatively recorded.

Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With a combination of culturally significant landforms, rock art, archaeological heritage, and dramatic views, Áísínai’pi (“it is pictured/written”) is a sacred place for the Blackfoot people. In Blackfoot traditions, Sacred Beings dwell among the cliffs and hoodoos, and the voices of the ancestors can be heard among the canyons and cliffs. To this day the Blackfoot feel the energy of the Sacred Beings at Writing-on-Stone/Áísínai’pi and their oral histories and ongoing ceremonial use attest to the living traditions of the Blackfoot people.

Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Following more than a decade of advocacy by Indigenous groups and the provincial government, Writing-on Stone was recently (July 6) declared a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The nomination was prepared by the provincial government in partnership with the Blackfoot Confederacy and with ongoing support from the Government of Canada.

Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park is home to more petroglyphs (rock carvings) and pictographs (rock paintings) than any other place on the Great Plains in North America.

“Writing-on-Stone/Áísínai’pi is the site of many natural wonders and a testament to the remarkable ingenuity and creativity of the Blackfoot people,” Jason Nixon, Minister of Environment and Parks, said in a news release. “It’s easy to see why the site is seen by many as an expression of the confluence of the spirit and human worlds. I hope all Albertans will take the time to explore this extraordinary part of the province and all it has to offer.”

Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“The designation of Writing-on-Stone/Áísínai’pi as a UNESCO World Heritage Site provides the Blackfoot Confederacy a basis for its future generations as to the strength and truth of our continuing relationship to this land and to our traditions, ceremonies, and cultural practices,” Martin Heavy Head, an elder with the Mookaakin Cultural and Heritage Society, said in a news release.

Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Writing-on-Stone is about 4,400 acres and offers unique hiking and birding opportunities, plus a modestly-sized campground. The province estimates about 60,000 people visit the site each year.

Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The 1.3-mile Hoodoo Trail winds through various landscapes—hoodoos, sandstone cliffs, and rock art, upland prairie grasslands, the Milk River valley, and coulees. Most rock art sites are only accessible by guided tour. Park interpreters lead tours into the Archeological Preserve daily from mid-May to early September. Tour schedules and ticket prices are available by contacting the park’s visitor center.

Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Writing-on-Stone is Alberta’s sixth world heritage site. The other five are Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump (1981), Dinosaur Provincial Park (1979), Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park (1995), The Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks (1984, 1990), and the Wood Buffalo National Park (1983).

Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

So if you’re a fan of exploration these are the six must see sites within Alberta.

Worth Pondering…

Traveling is almost like talking with men of other centuries.

—René Descartes

RV To Canada This Summer

Explore the great outdoors and breathtaking natural beauty of Canada during the day and relax in your RV at night

Your friendly neighbor speaks your language and knows your favorite sports team.

Dollar dollar bill y’all. Canada has its own dollar— nicknamed the loonie, slang for its $1 coin whose backside depicts a floating loon.

Icefields Parkway connecting Lake Louise and Jasper © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

How you’ll spend it: Canada surely seems to be having more fun these days—add the 25 percent currency discount and you’re off, eh? They’re like Americans, kinda. And Americans are kinda like Canadians, eh?

Okanagan Lake and SS Sicamous in Penticton, British Columbia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Canada-United States border is the longest international border in the world. Eight Canadian provinces and 13 U.S. states are neighbors along the 5,525 miles of border that run from the Pacific to the Atlantic oceans. Of the 119 border crossings, the Ambassador Bridge, between Detroit, Michigan, and Windsor, Ontario, handles around 8,000 trucks and 68,000 travelers daily, making it one of the busiest land border crossings in North America.

Wells Gray Provincial Park, British Columbia

In quiet contrast, the Hyder-Stewart border crossing, which connects the communities of Hyder, Alaska, and Stewart, British Columbia, has no U.S. customs station. The rough-and-tumble road is used predominantly as access to up-close bear watching in Hyder.

Jasper National Park, Alberta © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sometimes the border officers ask only a few typical questions, but other times they ask many questions or even reword a question and ask it again to see whether you give the same answer. It is important to always answer questions honestly, politely, and succinctly and to keep your dialogue with customs officers as simple as possible. Always remove sunglasses. Only answer questions you are asked. And never argue or attempt to be funny. Customs officials have all the power.

Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park in southern Alberta © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If you are a full-time RVer, don’t share that fact unless officers ask. If you are asked, be prepared to prove your ties to the United States. Telling a customs officer you have no fixed address could delay your journey.

Rocky Mountain Goats in Jasper National Park, Alberta © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Upon entering Canada you may be asked:

  • Where were you born?
  • What is the purpose of your trip?
  • Where are you going? What is the address of the place where you will be staying?
  • How long are you staying in Canada?
  • Do you have any alcohol or tobacco? If so, how much?
  • Do you have firearms, pepper spray, mace, or drugs?
  • Do you have gifts or goods that you will be leaving in Canada? What is their value?
  • Do you have any fruit, vegetables, or meat?
  • Do you have large sums of money with you? More than $10,000?
Okanagan Wine Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Travel with a passport, because you must present proof of citizenship. You will also require a passport when returning to the United States.

Valemount, British Columbia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If children or grandchildren travel with you, they need proper identification. A notarized affidavit is required if you travel with minors and the adult does not have full legal custody.

Mount Robson Provincial Park, British Columbia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Traveler’s medical insurance is highly recommended for U.S. citizens traveling to Canada, even for brief visits. No Canadian health-care provider accepts U.S. domestic health insurance, and Medicare coverage does not extend outside the United States.

Mount Rundle in Banff National Park, Alberta © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Highway distances and speeds are posted in kilometers per hour; gasoline is sold in liters; and temperature is measured in Celsius. The easiest way to convert mileage to the U.S. system is to multiply the number of kilometers by 6 and move the decimal point one number to the left. And so, if the posted speed limit is 100 kilometers per hour, it converts to 60 mph.

Columbia Icefields in the Canadian Rockies © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Because fuel is sold in liters, don’t be fooled by what appear to be bargain prices at the fuel pumps. There are 3.785 liters to the U.S. gallon. So, if gasoline costs $1 per liter, the price is $3.785 per gallon. As for temperature, 30 degrees Celsius is hot; the Fahrenheit equivalent is 86 degrees.

Lesser Slave Lake Provincial Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Though Canada and the United States share a North American lifestyle, subtle differences between the two countries have led to rules and regulations pertaining to those differences. By doing a little research ahead of time, you can get behind the wheel of your RV, turn the key, and enjoy a Canadian adventure.

Elk (Wapati) in Jasper National Park, Alberta © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Go see your long-lost cousins.

Worth Pondering…

Geography has made us neighbors. History has made us friends. Economics has made us partners. And necessity has made us allies. Those whom nature hath so joined together, let no man put asunder.

―John F. Kennedy