Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Visiting Jasper & Banff National Parks

One of the perks of living out West is that you have so many national parks at your doorstep! Banff, Jasper, Yoho, Glacier, Revelstoke, Kootenay, and the list goes on. Luckily for us, they are literally next door.

Before we headed out to Jasper, I purchased a Canada Parks pass (a great investment of $137 if you plan on spending more than 5 days during the next 12 months in a National Park). It gives you access to the National Parks and Monuments that charge an entrance/daily fee (it does not include camping fees).

(click on pictures for full-size slideshow!)

Jasper NP

We only had 2 nights to spend in Jasper, and with a 4-hour (minimum) drive to get there, we had to get an early start to our day. Our drive went without a hitch and we were able to arrive just in time for the recommended check-in time at the campground, which was 2 pm. The road was surprisingly not too busy and we even had time to make a stop on the way for a lunch with a waterfall view.

We had a reserved campsite at Whistlers campground. We had site 30AA (back-in, unserviced site). Because we were there for only 2 nights, and we'd be out most of the time, we didn't care about having no power or water, as our home is able to be unplugged for a couple of nights. We had full  batteries, water in our tank and our waste tanks were empty. Nevertheless, we took out our solar panel since we had a small patch of unobstructed sky next to us.  If you know me (Chantal) by now, you know how much I love my solar power!!!

Site 30AA at Whistlers in Jasper National Park

With only one full day to explore Jasper and we had to make it count. We could have spent one month there! We ended up going to the Athabasca Glacier and Skywalk, as well as visiting Maligne Canyon and Athabasca Falls. We also paid a visit to the local brewery!

The Athabasca Glacier. It was cool and fresh up there!

Lunch at the waterfall

Maligne Canyon

On the Glacier
The Columbia Ice Fields of the Athabasca Glacier stretch some 5 kilometres wide and almost half a mile deep, one of the few remnants standing from the last Ice Age. It recedes every year; someday, many years from now, it may no longer exist. But you wouldn't know it from climbing onto it in these immense CAT vehicles that can handle up to 45 degree grades with their five foot radius tires. Unfortunately, the top speed on these massive trucks is only 23 km per hour. Oh, well, still fun!

Our ride!

Tangle Creek


View from the road

Nothing like a little refreshment after a long day on the road!

Banff NP

A couple of weeks later, we had the chance to snag a site at Banff for a 4-night stay! Our site was located in Village 2 and we had site C30 (electrical only). Unlike Jasper, where our campsite was pretty nice and felt secluded, you don't go to Village 2 at Banff for the scenery and privacy. Village 2 is basically a bunch of streets where you parallel-park your RV to the road. But, it was efficient and we can't complain. It was nice to have a late night cappuccino after a day of exploring.

Site C30 (electrical only). Parallel parking a fifth wheel is fun!!!

We were told that the Bow Valley Parkway was almost a sure sign of wildlife viewing. So we set off to drive the Parkway on our first full day in Banff, on the way to Lake Louise. It is a beautiful parkway, but wildlife was shy for us!  We did see wildlife during our stay though. Here are a few pics:

He posed for us!

Bighorn Sheep in Banff

On the parkway, there are many sights and areas to pull over and hike around. We visited Johnston Canyon. Obviously, we love canyons and waterfalls! After a good hike up the creek, we ended up to a waterfall that really wowed us. And the best of all, there were no tourists on the trail and at the fall!

Sign at the parkway entrance

Tourist-free waterfall... except for us!

Lake Louise photog

Of course, we made a visit to Lake Louise, and even went up the gondola to enjoy the sight! It was a bit chilly. On our last day, we enjoyed a tour on Lake Louise in an old-fashioned canoe. Our guide was very knowledgeable and we had fun learning about the geography of the six glaciers that feed one of the world's most famous bodies of water.

Up the mountain at Lake Louise ski resort

Lake Louise

During our visit, the smoke from the wildfires made it hard to see some of the far mountains, but it added a bit of mystery to it all.

Banff Springs Hotel on a smoky day

One thing for sure, we have to come back here for more exploration! The wildfires are mostly under control and the skies are smoke-free. We are hoping to visit a few more of the lakes and trails in the area that we missed out on (Moraine Lake, for example) before we head towards Eastern Canada.

Thank you for reading,

Chantal & Rob

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