Ascend to the Top of the World in Banff National Park

Dizzying views in the Canadian Rocky Mountains

It’s easy to see why Banff National Park was once advertised as 50 Switzerlands in one. The mountain range—comprising bizarrely jagged peaks many exceeding 12,000 feet—goes on for thousands of miles. And so many valleys between are filled with pools of water—each a different shade of glowing, ethereal teal.

Banff is renowned for skiing in winter though some heights have enough snow to backcountry ski all year long, even in July while the valleys offer perfectly crisp hikes in spring and fall. Come summer, the balmy 70-degree weather keeps you from sweating too much as you ascend peaks or enjoy sparkling pools in the valleys.

Banff National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Visiting here is a real two-for-one deal since immediately next to Banff is Jasper National Park located in such proximity that it’s difficult to tell where one park ends and the other begins. Plus, if you somehow tire of gondolas soaring above a sea of trees, incredibly scenic drives, glacier hikes, tasteful lodge towns, or tea houses serving steaming treats and drinks directly on the trail, the nearby cities of Edmonton and Calgary offer innovative restaurants, bars, and art. No matter how much time you have, here’s what to cram into your trip to Banff.

Start and end in a buzzing city

To get to Banff, drive your car or RV from Calgary to the national park. But, instead of doubling back to the Stampede City an ideal option would be to continue onward through the park and onto Jasper and onto Edmonton to hit up both cities. Both are newer cities with sky-scraper-filled downtowns; Calgary is on the more polished side while Edmonton feels artsy and green.

Edmonton City Hall © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In Edmonton, you’ll notice a chain of parks running through the center of the city thanks to protected land on both sides of the North Saskatchewan River. Locals bike, walk, or scooter around the 40 miles of pathways weaving through pine trees and descending down to glacier-blue water. You’ll find art scattered through the park and the city some of which is created by indigenous artists and celebrates Métis First Nations or the Cree language. Whether you hike, kayak, or sign on for a dinner or party on a river boat on the North Saskatchewan, no worries about trekking all the way back uphill at the end of the day—you can ride the funicular instead.

Whyte Avenue is the street to check out while you’re in town with its restaurants, indie theater, beer gardens, farmer’s markets, and street art. Here you’ll find a bar in an old train station, board game cafes, arcade bars, and restaurants dishing ramen, ice cream, vegan eats, curries, Cajun food, and more.

Rogers Place in the Ice District © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Across town there’s some newer development in the ICE District, a 25-acre mixed-use development project located in the heart of downtown Edmonton. ICE District is a modern, urban destination and gathering space and ranks as the largest mixed-use sports and entertainment district in Canada and the 2nd largest in North America after Hudson Yards in New York. ICE District is home to a mix of premium office space, high-end residences, a luxury hotel, boutique shops and restaurants, all anchored by Rogers Place, a state-of-the-art sports and entertainment facility that is home to the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers.

The other option is Calgary. Also known as Cowtown to the rest of Canada, this cosmopolitan city is rooted in its wild Western heritage. It’s also Canada’s energy centre—both economically and culturally. You’ll never find yourself bored in Calgary.

Calgary’s downtown has everything you’d expect from a big city: shopping, fine dining, museums and endless entertainment options. The surrounding neighbourhoods each have a unique identity, with boutiques, breweries and a bevy of public art. Two large rivers wind throughout it all, forever nourishing its parks and people.

You’ll also find gentle rafting and kayaking on the Bow River, a haunted ghost tour around the city, and chuck wagon races at the Calgary Stampede (July 7-16, 2023) where old wooden food carts go neck and neck. Check out the cool neighborhood of Kensington for nightlife.

Located in the heart of the city, the Calgary Tower offers a spectacular 360-degree view. Enjoy a one-of-a-kind view of Calgary on the incredible glass floor and see the bustling streets below. An informative and inspiring multi-media tour is available for free and accessible from your mobile device.

Icefields Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Take in the drive

Getting anywhere in or around Banff and Jasper means you’re doing a scenic drive so I won’t even bother recommending specific routes—though you’ll probably take the Icefields Parkway (Highway 93) and the Trans Canada Highway.

In any case, just follow your maps app and be ready to look up a lot. Even the driver will be wowed—while still focusing intently on the road and keeping hands on the wheel at exactly the 10 and 2 o’clock positions, of course. Don’t be surprised if a massive elk stands majestically by the road allowing puny humans to snap their little photos. And yes, there are bears here, but whether you see them from a car or on the trail they’re not particularly interested in humans but you’ll still need to use caution.

Banff National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hit up tea houses and gondolas while hiking in Banff

Whenever you decide to stop the car, it’s time for open-air adventure. The most popular destination for hikers and non-hikers alike is Lake Louise, or Ho-Run-Num-Nay, meaning the lake of little fish. This is where you’ll find the most Instagram posts as well as kayak trips on the turquoise water. One excellent hike in this area is the Plain of Six Glaciers Trail which is a moderate 6-mile roundtrip walk from Lake Louise up about 1,000 feet to a lovely tea house serving cakes, warm entrees, hot cocoa, and—of course—tea. The hike to Lake Agnes Tea House also starts from Lake Louise and is easier to reach at only 4.7 miles roundtrip though the less crowded Plain of Six Glaciers Tea House is more rustic and rewarding.

Banff National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Just across from Ho-Run-Num-Nay is the Lake Louise Summer Gondola that runs through early October. From the top dropoff point you can hike one of the many trails on the summit or dine at the ski lodge that’s open year round.

For an easy but stunning hike in Banff, try Johnston Canyon Lower Falls which is a flat 1-mile walk on boardwalks suspended over a river in a narrow canyon. You’ll feel like you’re levitating above the river until you get to a small cave and waterfall at the end where teal blue water gushes into shimmering pools. You can continue onwards from there to Upper Falls for higher vistas. And close to town, Stoney Squaw is another short 2-mile hike that’s steeper and more secluded with few people and many tree roots along the trail. You’ll mostly be surrounded by pines the entire time except for some quick views at the top so this is one for the forest bathers out there.

Columbia Icefield © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Climb up glaciers and into hot springs in Jasper

Walking on top of a glacier is a rare experience—and one that’s getting even rarer since many of them are melting away. Going on a trek with a responsible tourism group allows visitors the chance of a lifetime. The glaciers from the Columbia Icefield in Jasper National Park are shrinking but they’re still hypnotic to gaze upon as they sit like eerie, silent giants. 

On this incredible experience you’ll travel on a massive Ice Explorer all-terrain vehicle to the Athabasca Glacier, a 10,000-year-old sheet of ice where you can walk on, feel, and drink from the glacier.

Whether or not you opt to walk on the icefield—for which a guide is required, lest you fall into one of the deep cracks—you can also hike a short trail that takes you to the edge of the glacier. The hikes start at the Glacier View Lodge which is an elegant place to stay and see the bluish ice from the hotel’s huge floor-to-ceiling windows. From here, you can also purchase tickets for the Skywalk where visitors walk out onto a glass platform suspended 900 feet above the rugged glacial landscape.

Glacial Skywal© Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If even the thought of a glacier hike is chilling, there’s also plenty of heat to be had in Jasper. The Sulphur Skyline Trail is a jaw-dropping hike that ends in hot springs. About 5 miles roundtrip and with around a 2,000-foot elevation gain this hike climbs gradually up inclines and switchbacks until you’re suddenly beholding the world from its crown. You’ll want to be extra careful with your footing at the very top since it’s somewhat gravely. Or just skip the whole thing and sit in the natural Miette Hot Springs at the foot of the trail surrounded by all the peaks you can admire regardless of whether you decide to climb them.

The Bald Hills trail is another iconic hike in Jasper with huge views at the top. The majority of the 8-mile route goes through forests, either steeply to the left or on an easier fire road to the right until emerging for the ridgeline view. The trail starts and stops by Maligne Lake where you can opt to go on a boat cruise.

Elk grazing in Jasper Townsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Relax each evening in a lodge town

A couple of towns located within the national parks exemplify the best version of lodge towns. While there are certainly many tourists, the villages don’t feel plasticky; there’s an authenticity to the wood and fireplaces that perhaps comes with weathering many long winters. The main towns are eponymously named Banff and Jasper. You’ll find numerous shops and restaurants all within wooden mountain houses. Tour operators pick guests up directly from the hotels in town and make it easy to get around the national park without having to drive or fight for parking at trailheads.

If you get back to town and still have the stamina to take in more mountain views, bike trails are the best way to explore the immediate area—which can be done via e-bike for those who want to see the sights but whose legs have called it quits. At Snowtips-Bactrax in Banff, workers will outfit you with either a mountain or electric bike and offer maps and suggestions of which routes to take from the center of town depending on how long you want to ride. One nearby option with a glorious vista is Lake Minnewanka Loop which goes up and down some hills in a 15-mile route along protected bike lanes and a low-traffic road.

Banff National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

While Jasper has plenty to offer as well, Banff is the perfect home base to return to after a long day of excursions. The Three Bears Brewery is a highlight where the food is as inventive as the beer. Order the lamb rib with pomegranate glaze and a hint of chili oil which is an outrageous dish you’ll keep dreaming about on the trails. And though the beer menu is extensive with hoppy trail brews and local pine pilsners, the restaurant’s signature drinks are infused beers. Using teas like rooibos and fruit such as blueberries or peaches, brewers experiment with flavors that come out fresh from the on-site infusion chamber. Look for fruity combos in warmer months and a peppermint stout as the seasons get colder.

For a final dose of relaxation, one highly suggested activity is to soak in a steam room full of eucalyptus. Steam rooms might seem like they’re the same all over the world but the humble mini-spa that’s free (I repeat, free) for guests of Peaks Hotel & Suites must have a rejuvenating secret beyond just a lovely smell.

RVs in the national parks © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The new hotel in Banff is beautifully designed with rustic-chic vibes, small private balconies, and free hot cocoa by the gas fireplace—but their indoor pool and plunge pools are transformative after mountain climbing. The potent eucalyptus in all that steam seems to penetrate both your muscles and lungs for a deep hiking recovery that’ll have you ready to get back at it in no time.

Worth Pondering…

The mountains are calling and I must go.

—John Muir

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

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

Exploring the Filming Locations of When Calls the Heart

Hallmark Channel has renewed the network’s original, primetime drama series When Calls the Heart for a tenth season

When Calls the Heart is a popular television series set in the early 20th century Canadian West. The show follows the story of Elizabeth Thatcher, a young teacher from a wealthy Eastern family who moves to Coal Valley (now known as Hope Valley) to start her new life.

Fort Langley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As viewers follow Elizabeth on her journey, they are also taken on a virtual tour of some of the most beautiful and historic locations found in Canada. From breathtaking mountain views to quaint town squares, the series’s filming locations provide an unforgettable backdrop for the show.

In this article, I will explore the various filming locations used in When Calls the Heart including both interior and exterior locations as well as uncover some of the hidden secrets behind these beautiful places.

Fort Langley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

When Calls the Heart returns for a season 10

Back in June 2022, fans of the Hallmark show When Calls the Heart were thrilled to hear the news that the long-running series inspired by Janette Oke’s book of the same name is officially returning for a season 10.

No specific date has been confirmed for the release of season 10 but according to Deadline fans can expect to see more of Hope Valley sometime in the middle of 2023. That said, filming kicked off this past July and recently wrapped up in November, so When Calls the Heart season 10 could arrive in February, similar to previous installments.

>> Read Next: Fort Langley: The Fort, Charming Village, and Movie Set

No other significant changes have been announced scheduling-wise so it is safe to assume that fans can still expect new episodes to be released every Sunday at 8 pm. ET on the Hallmark Channel and like in seasons past, it will probably be 12 episodes-long—one of which will be the 100th episode!

Fort Langley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Comparing the exterior and interior filming locations of When Calls the Heart

The exterior filming locations for When Calls the Heart are all located in Canada. The series primarily shoots in Vancouver, British Columbia although other locations have been used including Langley and Victoria. The breathtaking mountain views and lush forests featured in the show are all real-life locations found throughout Western Canada.

Fort Langley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Interior filming locations, on the other hand, are chosen based on the specific needs of each episode. The production team looks for locations that are large enough to accommodate the cast and crew as well as having the necessary amenities such as dressing rooms and bathrooms. Most of the interior locations used in the show are sound stages located in Vancouver. However, other interior locations have been used including a schoolhouse in Langley and a homestead in Abbotsford.

>> Read Next: 11 Must Watch Films Shot on Route 66

Fort Langley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Exploring the picturesque Canadian towns that serve as the backdrop for When Calls the Heart

The small towns featured in When Calls the Heart are all based on real-life Canadian towns. The main setting of the show is Coal Valley which is based on the real-life town of Hope, British Columbia. Other towns featured in the show include Fort Langley and Langley City. All these towns offer stunning views of the surrounding mountains and forests as well as a glimpse into the past. Each town has its own unique charm, with cozy cafes, charming boutiques, and historic buildings.

Fraser River at Fort Langley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Touring the on-location sites of When Calls the Heart

In addition to the towns featured in the show, When Calls the Heart also visits a variety of on-location sites. These locations range from mountain trails to homesteads and even a farm. One of the most iconic sites visited in the show is the Fraser River Railway Bridge which was built in 1884 and is still standing today. This bridge is featured in many episodes of the show and provides a stunning backdrop for the scenes.

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

Uncovering the real-life history behind the When Calls the Heart filming locations

The filming locations used in When Calls the Heart not only provide a picturesque backdrop for the show but they also tell the story of the people who lived there before. The towns featured in the show were once bustling communities filled with miners, farmers, and merchants. The buildings and landmarks seen in the show are reminders of a bygone era and serve to bring the stories of these forgotten people to life.

>> Read Next: Visiting Hollywood South: Louisiana’s Film Trail

Fort Langley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The show has also had an impact on the real-life towns featured in it. Tourists from all over the world come to visit these locations hoping to get a glimpse into the world of When Calls the Heart. Many of the businesses in the towns have benefited from the influx of tourists and the towns themselves have become more popular destinations.

Fort Langley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Revealing the secrets of the When Calls the Heart filming locations

The production team behind When Calls the Heart takes great care to ensure that the sets look authentic. Every detail is meticulously planned out from the costumes to the props. For example, the show has recreated an old-fashioned saloon, complete with vintage furniture and décor. Even the food served in the saloon is made according to recipes from the era.

Fort Langley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The attention to detail can also be seen in the exterior locations used in the show. The Fraser River Railway Bridge, for example, is decorated with old-fashioned lanterns and signs to give it an authentic look. The production team also took great care to recreate the town of Coal Valley, building a replica of the original town hall and other buildings.

Fort Langley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Examining how the filming locations of When Calls the Heart enhance the story

The various filming locations used in When Calls the Heart help to bring the show to life. The stunning mountain views and quaint towns provide a beautiful backdrop for the characters’ stories while the meticulous attention to detail brings a sense of realism to the show. The show also transports viewers back to the early 20th century providing a glimpse into the lives of the people who lived there at the time.

Fraser River at Fort Langley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved


When Calls the Heart is a beloved television series that takes viewers on an unforgettable journey to some of the most beautiful and historic locations in Canada. From the breathtaking mountain views to the charming towns and sites, the show’s filming locations provide an immersive experience. The show also pays homage to the history of these locations bringing the stories of the people who lived there to life. All of these elements combine to create an unforgettable viewing experience that showcases the beauty of Western Canada.

>> Read Next: The Ultimate Road Trip for Clint Eastwood Fans

Worth Pondering…

For what is life but a bittersweet mixture of sadness, wonderment, hope, and joy!

—Janette Oke, When Calls the Heart

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