Written by MagdaDH_AlexH on 17 Jan, 2011
Our first glimpse of the Rockies is from a quintessential Albertan vehicle, a large, four wheel drive pick-up truck, looking mostly new but with a long crack in the bottom of the windscreen and a few other chips dotted around it. In the UK,…Read More
Our first glimpse of the Rockies is from a quintessential Albertan vehicle, a large, four wheel drive pick-up truck, looking mostly new but with a long crack in the bottom of the windscreen and a few other chips dotted around it. In the UK, such a windscreen would fail a MOT test of road worthiness, but here everybody – and I mean everybody – drives with one. The grit that covers the roads in the winter makes chips, and cracks, inevitable. We are driven from Calgary to a rural plot near Cochrane, where the Family live. The 'plot' is a bit of an understatement, as we are talking 100+ acres of woodland and pasture. The Family (who, sadly, belong to the Other Adult, not your writer) live in an oversized log house whose walnut flooring, walk-in wardrobes, basement gym, all en-suite bedrooms, burnished-copper fridge doors, granite worktops, huge windows and high ceilings bear very little relation to the romantic and primitive idea of a homestead. Mountain living it might be, as certified by a magazine for owners of such houses I spot near a squishy, gigantic leather sofa, but a "log cabin" it certainly ain't and for the next few days we wallow in New World luxury. A freak snow fall (of which there is at least 40 inches over a couple of days – and that is in May!) results in some unexpected wintery play; the Older Child gets a chance to visit a Canadian school for a day (including a trip on a classic yellow bus); and we see some wildlife including herds of deer approaching the house and coyotes in the fields on the way to Calgary. After a few days' rest, though, we need to move on. The next couch-surf arranged, we set off for Canmore, a small town on the outskirts of the Banff National Park, a mecca for skiers, hikers and other mountain-lovers. We get a lift from the Family, and as we drive nearer, the mountains become apparent. The Rockies are staggeringly impressive. A person that has a tendency to overuse hyperbolic descriptions and exalted adjectives (like your reporter) will find themselves regretting earlier exclamations of wonder, because those mountains are really a Something Else: massive, heavy crags of gray rock, topped with snow, tearing through the sky above them. I always though that the "Rocky Mountains" designation was rather unimaginative, but it's actually perfectly descriptive. The Rockies are very rocky indeed and inspire open-mouthed awe even in the children who are generally unimpressed by the magnificence of the landscape. Our hosts live in a house located in a new development, a few miles out of Canmore, and almost directly under the imposing massif of Three Sisters (the Older Child gets her sketch book for the first time in weeks and does a quick drawing as we wait for our hosts to come back from skiing). The next day, we are lent a car (we are, actually, LENT A CAR!) as well as a National Park pass and as the day is beautifully sunny, we are off to Banff. Close
Written by callen60 on 03 Mar, 2009
I had the wrong idea about Canmore. Since Canada 1 brings you to this growing town after 90 minutes of driving, with Banff still 20-30 minutes away, I had it in my mind that Canmore was in the foothills. So while planning for our 2pm…Read More
I had the wrong idea about Canmore. Since Canada 1 brings you to this growing town after 90 minutes of driving, with Banff still 20-30 minutes away, I had it in my mind that Canmore was in the foothills. So while planning for our 2pm arrival (and especially our 5am CST departure), I arranged for our first night at Lady MacDonald Inn and then had us moving on to Banff, Jasper and other places. Canmore was convenient to our dogsledding rendevous, and would do for an overnight.But even under the thick clouds that Sunday afternoon, we could tell that we’d reached the mountains a lot sooner than expected. Canmore doesn’t lie within the large expanse of Banff National Park (the entrance is about 10 minutes away), but that doesn’t mean that your peak-viewing opportunities are limited. Banff may have Mount Rundle and Cascade Mountains, but Canmore can claim the Three Sisters and a host of other equally impressive mountains that in 360 degrees of Alpine Surround Sound. The town lies in the Bow Valley, along the river’s north shore, bounded on either side by beautiful chunks of the Rockies.Canmore’s location outside the national park means that the town’s growth is not controlled, while Banff’s growth (and residents) are directly monitored by the park service. Canmore has exploded in recent years (at least relatively), and is the principal site for condo and golf course development, featuring the world-class Silvertip course on the northside of town (no tee times were available in December).Nonetheless, we found it a very pleasant place to stay. When weather curtailed our plans to head to Jasper, we readily made reservations at the Lady MacDonald for our final three nights. Canmore has a growing number of restaurants, a modest downtown with stores and services, and access to all of the area’s highlights. It’s a short drive into Banff or beyond, and we preferred its slower pace, lower prices, and more down home atmosphere. From Canmore, it’s easier to head south into Kananaskis Country, the largely overlooked ‘playground’ used by locals for all of their outdoor options: skiing, hiking, fishing, etc. It’s the same mountain range as in Banff, just less populated. And when you’re back in town, there are plenty of good options for dining, from the simple and basic to some excellent restaurants. Our favorite was Crazyweed Grille, but we also enjoyed the fresh pasta at Luna Blue, tasty bagel sandwiches at Rocky Mountain Bagel Co., and good pub food (and beer!) at the Grizzly Paw Brewing Co.But the highlight of our time in Canmore was our stay at the Lady MacDonald Inn. Our hosts Peter and Tammy made us comfortable, kept us well fed with delicious breakfasts and evening snacks, and gave us countless tips on how to enjoy the beautiful country around us. We’re anxious to come back and see how Canmore looks in the summertime, and I know where we’ll stay. Close
Written by Lovestogo on 04 Jun, 2005
Kananaskis Country is not known for its famous lakes or glaciated peaks, but you will find real beauty in this sprawling 1640-square-mile area. There are two very distinct ecosystems within Kananaskis Country, the mountains to the west and the rolling foothills to the east,…Read More
Kananaskis Country is not known for its famous lakes or glaciated peaks, but you will find real beauty in this sprawling 1640-square-mile area. There are two very distinct ecosystems within Kananaskis Country, the mountains to the west and the rolling foothills to the east, while being separated by Kananaskis Valley. While still being in its almost "natural state," Kananaskis Country is home to an abundance of wildlife, such as moose, elk, black bears, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, mule deer, and white-tailed deer. Kananaskis Country encompasses seven provincial parks: Bow Valley, Spray Valley, Peter Lougheed, Kananaskis Valley, Sibbald, Elbow-Sheep Wildland, and Highwoods, with one of the gateways to Kananaskis Country beginning in Canmore.
We began our Kananaskis Country driving tour on Spray Lakes Drive (Highway 742). Known as the Smith-Dorrien/Spray Trail, it is the only road through the Spray Valley Provincial Park and is an extra-wide (and usually dusty) 37-mile gravel road.
We traveled alongside the reservoir waters of the Lower and Upper Ridge and stopped to revel in the beauty of the perfectly calm lake across the road from the Canmore Nordic Center. The ridge here serves as a dam and releases water through discharging devices to the Grassi Lakes power plant in the valley below.
We stopped for a view of The Three Sisters and an awesome view of the Bow Valley and town of Canmore.
A lone big-horned sheep standing along the roadside totally ignored us as we slowly drove past. The next stop was at Goat Pond. Here was another great photo opportunity of the magnificent Goat Mountain Range reflecting in the still water. I could have stayed here all day.
Our next highlight was Robert driving past the black bear standing on the roadside while I quietly yelled, "There… there… there on the side of the road." We quickly turned around and went back to get bear photos.
After stops at Spray Lake and Upper and Lower Kananaskis Lakes, we took Highway 40 back to the Trans-Canada highway.
Kananaskis Country offers many things to do. With over 800 miles of hiking trails, there are easy and short interpretive trails, as well as extremely difficult. One of the most popular trails is the Goat Creek Trail, which is 11.8 miles one-way, but an easy to moderate downhill trail if you have someone drop you off. Imagine beginning a trail in Kananaskis Country and ending up at the famous Banff Springs Hotel! Kananaskis Village offers rental bikes, canoes, and fishing rods, as well as two spectacular 18-hole golf courses. There are five information centers at each of the main entrances, 31 campgrounds, and several modern-day lodges, as well as many picnic tables located throughout the provincial parks. Gas is available at Fortress and Highwood Junctions.
You can also enter Kananaskis Country from the Trans-Canada Highway. Turn onto Highway 40, which is the turn off to Kananaskis. This turn-off is about halfway between Calgary and Canmore.
Allow a minimum of 4 to 6 hours to leisurely drive, stop, and enjoy the sights along the Kananaskis Loop. Regardless of how you get into Kananaskis Country, be sure to drive the entire 93-mile loop for some of the most untouched gorgeous mountain landscape scenery and, hopefully, some wildlife sightings.
The Banff-Windmere Highway, sometimes known as the Banff-Radium Highway, Highway 93 South, or the Kootenay Parkway, is the only highway through Kootenay National Park. Entrance to this park is at Castle Junction, which is nearly midway between Banff and Lake Louise on the Trans-Canada…Read More
The Banff-Windmere Highway, sometimes known as the Banff-Radium Highway, Highway 93 South, or the Kootenay Parkway, is the only highway through Kootenay National Park. Entrance to this park is at Castle Junction, which is nearly midway between Banff and Lake Louise on the Trans-Canada Highway and ends in Radium Hot Springs, British Columbia.
We did this 104km drive (65 miles one-way) on our last day in the Canadian Rockies. We had low-hanging clouds, and it was lightly raining in spurts. Happy that we had chosen to be car tourists this day, we set off not knowing what adventure this day would bring.
As soon as we turned onto Highway 93 South, the road started to climb and continued to do so for the first 3 or 4 miles, until we reached the Continental Divide at 5,650 feet. A pullout here provided a panorama view of the Kootenay National Park to the west and Banff National Park to the east. We also obtained a good view of the Vermilion Pass Burn area from this pullout (thousands of acres burned as a result of a lightning strike in July, 1968), and the short Fireweed Trail leaves from this area.
About 6 miles farther down the road was Marble Canyon. This area was closed on our visit, but it usually opens mid-June. There is an un-serviced campground here, but the main sight is the canyon.
Our next stop was at the Paint Pots, or the "Ochre Beds". After crossing a swinging bridge over the fast flowing Vermillion River, we took the half-mile nature trail to the paint pots. Here we found several areas stained with red, orange, black, and mustard-yellow dirt, water pools amongst green grass, and burnt trees, with snow-capped mountains surrounding the area. An informational sign told us the early natives believed animal spirits resided in the springs and that they collected the colored ochre and used it for body paint during important rituals.
Another 3 miles up the road had us hopping out of the van at the Numa Falls Picnic Area. At the south end of the picnic area, a bridge spanned across the Vermillion River, where it funneled through a narrow gorge and formed a fast-flowing waterfall. Restrooms were available here.
The next stop was at the Kootenay Park Lodge complex, which had historic cabin accommodations (available May through September), a restaurant, general store (complete with souvenirs), and a gas station.
A couple points of interest along the next stretch of miles were Mountain Goat Lick (mountain goats are known to frequent this area for the rich minerals found on the side of the highway, but we didn’t see any) and Hector Gorge Viewpoint, which provided a beautiful view of the Kootenay Valley, Vermillion River, and the Vermillion Mountain Range.
As we were driving along, my husband commented that he hadn’t seen any wildlife. I casually reminded him that the last time he spoke those words, he passed up a bear standing on the side of the road. We rounded a curve near the beautiful emerald-colored Olive Lake, and there, on the roadside in a sea of yellow dandelions, laid a big black bear eating ever so happily. We pulled off to the side of the road and got some good photos. It wasn’t long until we had created a "bear jam" and the slamming of car doors frightened it away. My husband was happy! He had seen a bear ,and this one made number 27 on our trip.
We continued on our way to Radium Hot Springs, passing through Sinclair Canyon and the only tunnel in the Canadian Rockies, the Iron Gates Tunnel. We stopped at the parking area immediately out of the tunnel, which had picture-perfect, astounding red cliffs against a bright blue sky. I couldn’t pass up this photo opportunity.
Immediately following this area was the Radium Hot Springs Aquacourt. This complex has a swimming pool, the hot pool, bathhouse, and a restaurant. We parked and took a quick tour of this area. We actually did not go into the town of Radium Hot Springs, but the small town has over 30 motels, several restaurants, and a golf course.
As we drove back towards Banff National Park, we saw two more black bears eating dandelions on the side of the road near the Redstreak Creek Trail trailhead. We managed to get a few photos before a truck pulled up and scared one of them across the road. The other one just kept eating, oblivious to the gawking tourists!! It was funny watching the bear eat; it was like a vacuum cleaner sucking up the tops of the dandelions. That made bear sightings number 28 and 29 for us. About 14 miles up the road near McLeod Meadows Campground, we spotted a mother bear with two cubs that were extremely small compared to the other cubs we had seen. We could not believe there were this many bears in the area. But, oh, were we happy!!
There are many more short and easy interpretive hikes, as well as scenic viewpoints located throughout Kootenay National Park. This was our laid-back, not-in-a-hurry driving tour and just a few of our favorite stops.
If planning to drive through the Kootenay National Park, a parks pass is required. They can be purchased at any park entrance gate or park information center. We found that it was much cheaper to purchase a year’s pass instead of paying by the day. A year pass was $89, versus a family day pass of $14 per day. Kootenay National Park only has a few services, and those are at the Kootenay Park Lodge. Make sure you have a full tank of gas when you start.
The landscape of Kootenay is varied and beautiful in its own way. You will have a different type of national park experience by making this drive, one that showcases nature as it really is.
Written by disneyfan2005 on 08 Sep, 2006
My daughter, my mother, and I spent a weekend at the hotel, which wee booked through points. The lady at the front desk was so nice, she told me that I was in luck and that they had upgraded my room.We got to our floor and as…Read More
My daughter, my mother, and I spent a weekend at the hotel, which wee booked through points. The lady at the front desk was so nice, she told me that I was in luck and that they had upgraded my room.We got to our floor and as we walked in we could not believe our eyes. What a great surprise, it was a loft suite. There was a living area on the first floor with a small kitchen area (fridge and microwave with plates, bowls, and cutlery and sink) a sofa bed, TV, and a chair. There was also a full bathroom on the first floor. Then upstairs there was a king size bed (very comfortable), a huge Jacuzzi, another bathroom, and a TV. The windows were two the full two stories tall and the view of the mountains was beautiful. We had a fabulous stay and couldn't have wanted anything more! We had booked on points so there was no charge! We never ate at the hotel but I heard the food was great there, too, and there was free coffee in the morning at the restaurant for guests staying there.The whirlpool was very nice with a great view, there is a fitness centre and an underground parkade! The resort is minutes away from Canmore with easy access to the 1 Highway and minutes from Banff.What a beautiful area surrounded by the mountains! The staff was awesome, friendly, and very, very helpful. I would recommend that you definitely stay here! Close