Did I ever mention that I’m one of the laziest people you’re likely to meet? I mean yeah I like to go to the gym and stay relatively fit but that’s mainly so I can outlive my enemies. Given the chance, I would sit on the sofa in my pyjamas binge watching TV shows all day every day and I would die a happy woman. But! Icefields parkway and Lake Louise are the pinnacle of this kind of trip so, I rallied!
The prospect of a long car journey doesn’t really phase me. Heated seats, endless haribo and Alanis Morissette on the ipod? Sounds like my idea of heaven. I probably should have gotten out of that mindset when we ventured over to Lake Louise (before we made it to Canmore) and the Icefields Parkway. My initial attitude was that of distain of having to get out of the warm car every 20 minutes. But thankfully my bratty attitude was no match for the simply breath taking Canadian scenery and they turned out to be two of the best days I’ve ever had in my travelling lifetime.
Lake Louise/Moraine Lake
They’re both probably the most famous glacial lakes in Canada and are the subject of all those beautiful aqua coloured images you see in travel guides. Of course, as is the theme of this holiday, the weather took a bit of a dramatic turn for the worse and it started snowing quite heavily just as we arrived.
Thankfully, It was the really fine, fluffy, Christmassy snow and actually made the whole thing look even more atmospheric in my eyes. I mean, the pictures speak for themselves, and I actually think they don’t do the place justice. There’s only so much beauty my old Samsung Galaxy S8 can capture.
I personally preferred Lake Louise, visually, as it looked exactly how you it would and was the type of view that you travel all that way to see. They were extremely touristy and busy which means getting a picture without some randoms in the background is tricky. I dread to think what it’s like in the height of summer when it’s even busier. But more people around means more people to take lovely pictures of you. There were also some bonkers people canoeing on the lake, which again I imagine is more appealing in the summer.
The Icefields Parkway is the long scenic road which runs parallel to the Continental Divide. And it’s quite simply the most stunning thing I’ve ever viewed with my own eyeballs. We learnt very quickly that in terms of what we like to see, we’re very different people. Dave likes to get up high and see a nice panoramic view. I’m a water girl, so it was the waterfalls and canyons that did it for me.
One of the best things about driving up (or down) Icefields parkway is that once you’ve paid your national park pass entry, everything else is just right there for you to stop and see at your leisure. We were vaguely following a guide book but to be honest, were just pulling in anytime there was a tourist sign (or some wildlife at the side of the road).
It would be hard to pin point my favourite place but I think Mistaya Canyon probably clinched it for me. It was a short walk from the road side and once we got there was the most beautiful, calm, tranquil set of rapids I’ve ever known. Whilst there are tourist trails to follow, the landscape is pretty much untouched which means you’re free to roam about as much as you wish. The braver I got and with the realisation I would probably never be somewhere so lovely again, meant I scrambled all the way into the canyon until I was virtually in the river. And there I could have sat for hours (were my bum cheeks not numb within 5 minutes).
Farther up the drive and we you come across Columbia Icefield, which the Icefields Parkway is named after. It’s the largest Icefield in the Rockies, feeding into the Athabasca, Castleguard, Columbia, Dome, Stutfield and Saskatchewan Glaciers. It’s about 325 square kilometres (125 sq mi) in area. That’s big. You can book on a tour to walk over the Athabasca Glacier (as seen in the pictures below) or there are snow coaches to take you across it in the summer. But we just enjoyed the view from the comfort of our car.
Another stop worth a mention (and I’m not going to go through everything, suffice to say, it’s worth a drive up and you won’t be disappointed if you do!) are the Athabasca falls. Again, me being more of a fan of the water than the walking, this was somewhere else I could had sat for hours. I mean, if you’ve ever been to Niagara, any other waterfalls tend to pale in comparison but what the Athabasca Falls lack in height they make up for in colour and force. There are several viewing platforms to see the falls from different angles, some of which you can get up pretty close
A few other places we stopped off at were:
Big Hill & Big Bend
It really was one of the best days of the whole trip, and the dominoes and more Canadian wine we ploughed through that evening were very well earned!