Part 2 of our adventure in the Canadian Rockies started with a drive along the famous Icefield Parkway. The 230km route is known for its wildlife and its scenery across the rugged landscape of the Rockies. We saw snow along the road the whole route so it felt like we were driving in Northern Ontario in March. Along the way we stopped at the Columbia Icefield which receives over 7m of snow per year and got to see actual glaciers. We saw a few deer and elk along our route but the highlight of our drive was when we saw a herd of over 20 mountain goats less than 10 feet from the shoulder.
The campground we stayed at in Jasper National Park is called the Wapiti campground, which is the French term for elk. We found out pretty quickly why they named it as we saw an elk within 2 minutes of arriving at the campground. During our 4 days at the campground we saw elk walking right in front of our campsite multiple times a day. One evening while the kids were reading their before-bed books, we opened a curtain and witnessed a pack of 12 elks and their calves right beside our motorhome.
On our first day in Jasper we decided to bike to the Jasper Skytram. This bike ride was only 6.5km but Google told us the elevation would be 250m. We tried it anyway. We were only able to bike for a quarter of the trip and needed to walk the bikes up the steep hill the rest of the way. Danielle and I took turns pulling the bike trailer which made this bike ride one of the biggest workouts of this trip. The ride took us nearly an hour and half. To put that in perspective, the ride back going downhill took us only 20 minutes. The tram brought us up another 1000m to an elevation of over 2000m on the Whistlers mountain where we could see all the surrounding area and several mountain ranges. The 7 minute tram ride up (and then down) cost over $100 but I will surprisingly say that it was really worth it. At the top of the mountain, we walked on snow covered paths and even cooled off by playing in a snow mound taller than me. Quinn was in heaven as she was able to eat as much snow as she wanted.
One of the common negative comments regarding the campground we stayed at, is that they recently cut many trees due to a potential beetle problem. This makes the campsites much less private but all the recently cut trees provided hours of fun for the kids all week. There were cut branches everywhere so the kids spent all their afternoons collecting branches, building cabins, creating “wapiti recipes”, making up games and feeding the fire. As is the case with most National Parks, you need to buy a fire permit for $8 or $9 per night but firewood is free and you can take as much as you wanted from the various piles around the campground. Because of the mountains, it was always cold enough to have a fire so we kept one going every afternoon until bedtime.
On our second day, after our regular school routine, Danielle and Caleb rode their bikes 12km to town and back to do our laundry. Then on day 3 we biked over 20km to spend a few hours at the lake Annette beach and playground. On the way, I experienced my closest and coolest encounter with wildlife so far. On one of the trails there was a herd of bighorn sheep who were blocking the trail. When I tried to advance on the trail and was within 20 feet, two males got up and started stomping their feet. As we had read, this was a sign of aggressiveness, so we decided to turn around and found another nearby trail to follow. Overall Caleb and Danielle biked over 50km during our stay here.
Once again I am very happy with the itinerary we followed as every destination we get to ends up topping the last one. The incredible views as well as the abundance of wildlife definitely makes Jasper my favourite National Park so far.
After spending four days in Jasper we only had to drive three hours to get to Field, BC to visit Yoho National Park. We camped at the Kicking Horse Campground. We had a riverfront site and we had beautiful massive mountain views on every side of us. While in Yoho we visited Emerald Lake, explored the riverfront and spent lots and lots of time at the playground. This park is known for having lots of grizzlies and the park attendant told us they had one in the campground the day before, but unfortunately (or fortunately) we didn’t see one.
After a short two-night stay at Yoho we drove just two hours to Kootenay National Park. That’s the best part of visiting this part of the country. There are so many amazing parks that are so close to each other. We decided to skip going to Glacier National Park, which would have been just a one hour detour between Yoho and Kootenay because the campground was not due to open for another week.
As Banff and Waterton Lakes were known for their deer, and Jasper for their elk, Kootenay is known for their bighorn sheep. And sure enough, like at the other parks, we saw the wildlife within minutes of arriving. While pulling into the campground, we had 7 sheep cross the road. We continued seeing them everywhere during our stay.
One of the things we really wanted to try while in the Rockies was the hot springs but with COVID protocols, we were not holding our breath that we would get to experience them. But just as our BC trip became officially legal this past week (interprovincial travel is no longer prohibited here), hot springs started opening up! Visiting the Radium Hot Springs in Kootenay made for the perfect Father’s Day activity. We hiked a very nice 2.7km trail to get to the hot springs. This is a pretty popular activity and we were there on a Sunday, so we had to wait one hour to get in, but it was definitely worth it. Once inside we spent nearly 2 hours alternating between the massive hot spring pool (100 degrees) and the cool pool (84 degrees). The kids had a blast enjoying a pool day for the first time in over a year. Overall the day felt very normal. Even though there were quite a lot of people at the pool, nobody wore masks, there were no restrictions to stay in one section of the pools, and the general atmosphere felt pre-COVID.
Our awesome stay in Kootenay makes me not want to leave BC but we made the bittersweet decision to start heading back east tomorrow. We will travel very slowly on the way back and we are giving ourselves two weeks for the return trip. We want to spend more time with family and friends for a couple of months before we head south of the border for 6 months of fall/winter.
Today we will drive for most of the day and arrive at Dinosaur Provincial Park. This highly recommended campground has a lot of dinosaur related features the kids (and adults) will really enjoy. We will stay there for 2-3 nights and then identify the next stop we want to do.