If there’s one word that could sum up our Canadian Rockies road trip, it would be: “WOW!”
“Wow, wow, wow,” was uttered multiple times a day. It escaped our mouths when the plains turned to mountains, when we were engulfed by majestic peaks along the Trans-Canada Highway, and each time we rounded a bend on a hiking trail. The natural beauty of the Canadian Rockies was astounding and I’m so glad I finally got to travel more of Canada!
Like most trips, this one started with a spontaneous thought: “Why don’t we take a road trip out to the Canadian Rockies?” I asked my parents. They had always wanted to visit, I had the time, it was the perfect season, and just like that, we found ourselves planning an end-of-summer road trip which included the dog!
There is a lot to write about our trip, but today we’ll start with some of the highlights.
Canadian Rockies Road Trip
Kananaskis Country sits at the foothills of the Canadian Rockies, but don’t be fooled into thinking that the scenery will be any less spectacular here. This was actually one of our favourite drives and it was far less crowded than some of the more popular destinations we covered on our Canadian Rockies road trip.
We ended up driving to Lower & Upper Kananaskis Lakes so our dog, Togo, could splash in the water and he was in his element! He’s grown up in the suburbs and we kept commenting on how the wilderness had awakened some instincts we’d never seen in him before.
Also, I am not exaggerating when I say that our family had this entire place to ourselves. The nice thing about this park system is that if you’re willing to veer off the well-trodden path, you can find places to enjoy all on your own.
Another highlight of our Canadian Rockies road trip was spotting Bighorn Sheep! We were driving on a small side road when these guys started crossing right in front of us. We had seen some wildlife from afar, but this was our first sighting up close.
Lake Minnewanka may get all the attention, and yes, she’s a beauty, but before reaching this well-known lake, there’s a small detour for Cascade Ponds. We discovered this place thanks to my sister and it was a pretty magical spot.
The whole area felt like a well-kept secret with no crowds at all, not to mention the beautiful views! We had these glass-like ponds, lush forest, and then the mountain tops peeking just behind.
And can we just take a moment to admire our dog who was absolutely loving it?
From Cascade Ponds we continued on to Lake Minnewanka, which means “the Water of the Spirits”. This is a glacial lake and it’s the second longest of all the lakes found in the Canadian Rockies.
This is a popular spot for boat cruises, but we were pretty happy to do some light hiking. There were also plenty of benches and red Adirondack chairs for everyone to use – not a bad place to sit down and just soak in the natural beauty!
The Paint Pots
Now for an unusual find, here are the Paint Pots, which are located in Kootenay National Park. They are these colourful ponds and small lagoons that range in colour from rust and ochre to lime green – colours you don’t exactly see in nature every day!
That’s right, it wasn’t all mountains on this Rocky Mountains road trip.
The ponds are part of a natural spring system with iron oxide which produces the orange-reddish colour on the ground. The ochre you see here was especially important to the Aboriginal peoples who gathered it for centuries to be used in ceremonies as well as for trade.
Reaching the Paint Pots involved a short and pleasant hike through the forest, over the bridge across the Vermillion River, and along a wooden boardwalk when things got a little muddy.
This detour turned out to be a very pleasant surprise! We didn’t know what to expect when we first noticed the sign for the Paint Pots off the side of the highway, but it was well worth the visit.
Policeman’s Creek Boardwalk
Another spot that I really enjoyed was Policeman’s Creek Boardwalk in Canmore. We came across it completely by chance when we were looking for a quieter street to park the car, and it was perfect for a light stroll. This is a very easy trail that runs 3.9 kilometres along natural wetlands and forest and it’s accessible right from the downtown.
We may not have done a whole lot of sightseeing around Canmore, but I’m glad we didn’t miss out on this.
Moraine Lake was yet another beauty you can’t miss on your Canadian Rockies road trip.
Maybe it was the time of day and the right lighting conditions, but the colour of the water looked out of this world! It was somewhere between turquoise and electric blue, and it was slightly hypnotizing.
Some tourists were climbing the Rockpile for postcard-perfect views, others were out canoeing on the lake, and we just sat down on a tree log to enjoy the towering peaks covered in snow.
The Continental Divide
This next stop was a 3-for-1 deal and an interesting border of sorts.
Firstly, this is the line that divides Kootenay National Park and Banff National Park; secondly, it divides the provinces of British Columbia and Alberta; and thirdly, it separates the watersheds where rivers begin to flow either towards the Pacific or the Atlantic.
Of course, we had to stop and pose for a photo! Pretty cool that at that very moment, Sam and I were each standing in a different province.
Last but not least, it wouldn’t feel right not to mention Lake Louise! Yes, she may be the most well-known lake around and you are guaranteed to find crowds there almost any time of day, but it’s a natural marvel.
For me, this place was all about Victoria Glacier taking centre stage, the mountains that frame it on either side, and the turquoise waters of Lake Louise twinkling in the foreground.
There were lots of red canoes out on the water that day and they were popping!
And those are just a few of the places that we visited on our road trip through the Canadian Rockies! I know that barely scratches the surface, but you can bet we’ll be coming back for more. This road trip was but an introduction to the beauty of the Rocky Mountains and we’re hooked!