Explore Alberta: Jasper to Banff

The Icefields Parkway is definitely one of Canada’s most well known drives. I’m sure you have seen photos of it, if you haven’t done the drive yourself yet. I have done this drive quite a few times and prefer to drive it from Jasper to Banff, but whatever way you do it, you will be blessed with the most incredible mountain views and hopefully some amazing wildlife too.

The first place to stop along the way is Athabasca Falls. This is a super busy pitstop though so either go really early in the day or be prepared for a ton of people to be there with you! I personally hate crowds which means I force anyone who is travelling with me to be up at (or before) the crack of dawn! That being said, I find being up early gives you a better chance of seeing wildlife and definitely gives you a chance to see a beautiful mountain sunrise. We didn’t get the sunrise because our entire trip was overcast and rainy, but we did see a pretty huge grizzly bear just as we were pulling out onto the open road! I didn’t get photos because I didn’t want to chase him, but the sight of him will always be in my mind! This was a particularly exciting thing for my Czech friends as they had never seen a bear outside of a zoo before.

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Roadside coffee break.

The next big place to stop along the drive (aside from every single 10 feet where you want to stop and take yet another photo…or is it just me?) is Athabasca Glacier. This is another place that is filled with people. If you want to go onto the actual glacier, you have to pay for a tour. If you happen to visit during the winter months, then there are a lot less people and you can pretty much explore as much as you like.

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Moody mountains.

After stopping at Athabasca Glacier we got out and explored Sunwapta Falls, Peyto Lake and Bow Lake. These are all beautiful places to stop, get out for a walk and take in the incredible views.

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Peyto Lake views are best enjoyed with friends from faraway lands.

 

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Beautiful Bow Lake.

As always, I wish we had more time to do some hiking and explore hidden trails that aren’t so popular in the park. But it was a beautiful day filled with excellent memories, mountains and road trip tunes!

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Take the road less travelled.

This year all the National Parks in Canada are free to visit (Yay for 150 years, Canada!) so I definitely plan to spend more time in the parks if I can swing it!

Have you done the drive through the Icefields Parkway before? What if your favourite place to explore along the way?

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Explore BC/Alberta: Vancouver to Jasper

I just booked a flight to head to Alberta in May to see my family and hang out in my favourite mountains, so I figure it is fitting to share about my summer adventure through the Rockies with you!

In July, a friend from the Czech Republic came to visit. It was his first time to Canada, so we really had to give him some good nature adventures! Aside from local tourist stuff and a snowy summer hike at Mt. Baker, we spent five days in the Rockies hiking (while having shots of slivovice, a Czech liquor), camping, drinking lots of roadside coffee, and enjoying some of the best views Canada has to offer!

When driving from Vancouver to the Icefields Parkway, I always prefer to drive up from Vancouver to Jasper and then drive south through the Rockies. Making a pitstop in Wells Gray Provincial Park which is just outside of Clearwater, BC is always on my must stop list for this drive! There are so many waterfalls to see here and it makes for a lovely place to stretch your legs! Keep in mind, that some of the waterfalls add a fair bit of time to your drive because they are in the middle of nowhere, but that’s what makes them all the more magical!

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Helmcken Falls in Wells Gray Provincial Park.

Between Clearwater and Valemount, there isn’t much to see. The drive is still pretty but the views aren’t as spectacular as the views that Wells Gray or the Rockies offer. Valemount is the next place that is always on the must stop list! This tiny town has the most charming microbrewery called Three Ranges Brewing that makes some of the best damn beer out there! The staff at the brewery are always incredible and they make a mean beer chili! This is a great place to fill up your growler (or two) so you can have excellent beer to accompany you on your adventure through the Icefields Parkway!

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Mandatory pit stop in Valemount, BC for Three Ranges Beer!

We booked a campsite at the Wabasso Campgrounds in Jasper for the night. I would definitely stay at this campsite again! You get unlimited access to wood when you buy a fire permit which means you can make all of the s’mores, roasted marshmallows and smokies that your little heart desires! They also have pretty decent bathrooms here too!

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A Czech’s first s’more!

Writing about this trip has made me want to plan another trip to drive and hike in the Rockies as soon as possible!

Have you done the driven from Vancouver to Jasper before? What are some of your favourite places to stop along the way?

Explore BC: Overnight snowshoe trip to Elfin Lakes.

Some friends of mine from Ontario came to visit at the beginning of February and we decided to do a 28km roundtrip overnight snowshoeing adventure! We picked an amazing day to head up to Elfin Lakes. We had sunshine and clear skies the whole way!

The Elfin Lakes trail is normally a 22km hike roundtrip, but because I don’t own tire chains, we had to park 3 km’s away from the trailhead, which added the extra kilometres! This is a very well marked trail, so this is especially helpful in the wintertime when snow falls on the regular and covers any trace of other humans who have used the trail before you.

The first 5km of the trail (or 8 if you park in the lower lot) takes you up a forest service road and through a thick forest. Once you get up to the first hut, you will begin to see all of the views which will make the trip totally worth it! The first hut is a good place to use the outhouse (if you can stand the smell!) and have a snack and a warm drink! It can get real busy in there with other snowshoers and skiers, so be prepared to make some new pals while you are there!

Once you leave the hut, you have what I found to be the hardest climb of the trail, but thankfully it is not too long and the views are incredibly rewarding!

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Quiet moment as the sun started to set on our overnight backcountry camping trip.

We got up to the hut just as the sun set. I should mention, you should definitely book a bed in the hut (which sleeps 33 people) online before you go up there and don’t assume that there will be bunks available upon your arrival. We went up on a weeknight and the hut was completely full!

We had beautiful clear skies that night so I played around in the snow with a fellow snowshoer who I met in the hut and took some photos of the starry skies! I was super glad that we had a clear night because I lugged my crazy heavy tripod up the mountain specifically to take some night photos!

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Night shot at Elfin Lakes.

The next morning, a huge snowstorm hit so we left fairly early. I was up before everyone (which is not a surprise as I always wake up at the crack of dawn) and I enjoyed a coffee inside the hut while watching the snowfall.

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Morning view as a sipped my coffee in silence and watched the snow fall.

We powered down the mountain as we didn’t want to get stuck in the snow or in the parking lot. The parking lot was basically a skating rink when we got down there with cars and busses stuck all over the place. Thankfully there were a lot of people in the parking lot because it took about 7 or 8 people pushing to get my car moving on the ice!

I would definitely recommend the Elfin Lakes trail to anyone who hasn’t done much overnight camping. The trail is relatively easy, very well marked and the views are so stunning. This is a trip I would do again for sure.

Have you done any winter backcountry camping? I would love to hear about your favourite winter snowshoe or ski destinations!

Explore America: Snowshoeing at Artist Point, Mt. Baker.

I have snowshoed at Mt. Baker twice so far this year and both days did not disappoint! We were lucky enough to have clear skies so we could really see the magical mountain views.

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There is beauty everywhere you look at Mt. Baker.

Snowshoeing at Mt. Baker is absolutely one of my favourite winter activities. It’s safe to say that most of my favourite outdoor activities somehow include being at Mt. Baker! One of the best things about going there to snowshoe is that it’s free! There is also SOOOOO much space to roam around that even if there are a lot of people on the mountain, you can always find a space free of people to enjoy the lovely views on your own.

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Mighty mountain views.

We often bring hot toddy’s with us to celebrate reaching the peak of a mountain…or to warm us up on the way up! This particular day we really needed the hot toddy’s as it was so cold up there that our water bottles froze solid!

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Celebratory hot toddy’s at the top of the snowshoe climb.

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Kate taking in the beautiful snowy views.

As the weather at Mt. Baker can be pretty unpredictable, I think it’s super important to wear lots of layers and bring extra snacks and something warm to drink! Luckily for us this year, we have had nothing but clear(ish) skies, but in the past, we have been stuck in massive snowstorms, and crazy wind so be prepared for all kinds of weather!

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Friends in high places!

I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again…Mt. Baker is a magical place anytime of year. But there is something special about being there in the snow. If you live within a few hours of this State Park, I would totally encourage you to head up the mountain for a fun adventure with friends.

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When you’ve got a whole mountain to yourself.

Have you been on a snowshoe trip this year at all? What is your favourite mountain to adventure to?

Photo taken by Claire Lewis

Explore BC: Pitt Lake

I have taken an accidental hiatus from blogging about my adventures, but that doesn’t mean that I haven’t been up to a ton of things! These things may have included an overnight snowshoe trip, horseback riding through the Rockies and adventuring to many new mountain peaks!

The Vancouver area has been very snowy this year, which I have loved because it’s meant that some of the already gorgeous places have that little extra magic with a dusting of snow! One place that literally took my breath away was Pitt Lake. I stopped by here one morning because I had an appointment to fix my car in the area. I am SO glad I decided to drive a bit out of my way to get home to see the frosty scene.

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Pitt Lake, BC

Not only was I blessed with incredible views of frosty trees, stunning mountains and a frozen pond, but a Golden Eagle was perched on top of a tree as if they were also taking in the beauty of the morning.

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Golden Eagle taking in the Pitt Lake views.

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The eagle takes flight.

I will always remember how at peace I felt while I was there all alone in nature.

Do you have a favourite snowy memory from this winter? What adventures  have you been on in the past few months?