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The Rugged Beauty of the Canadian Rockies


Love, Love, Love Lake Moraine!

There is nothing like the splendor of Alberta, Canada. Moraine Lake is located in Banff National Park and is a must see for anyone that loves nature, mountains and clean crisp air.


Traveling to Alberta, Canada in early June, can be chilly but it is the perfect time to see the Canadian Rockies snow capped peaks, grizzly and black bear leaving their dens to find food along the roadways, and weather that is warmer during the day time hours for hiking and sightseeing and clear cold nights for the fireplace!


“When we visited Banff, Canmore and the Icefields Parkway, we had done our research but had no idea the extent of the natural beauty of this area...nothing short of awe-inspiring."

Canmore

We flew into Calgary, rented two cars and drove to Canmore to stay in condos. When we arrived, we started our trip with a scare...my mom fell going up the escalator after the plane arrived on the way to customs. She was fine after the fall but security and the paramedics insisted she ride in a wheel chair to customs. It ended up giving us a "fast" pass through customs since they let us all go through the special needs lane with wheelchair. As we reflect back on the moment of her fall, we realized that this was one of the early signs of her Parkinson's Disease and the start of her journey to the end of her time on earth with us.


We rented a three bedroom and a two bedroom condo at the Solara Resort and Spa in Canmore, to accommodate Darrell and me; my sister and her husband Joe, and their two

Solara Resort and Spa in Canmore

boys Jax and Davis; and my mom and dad. The Solara was reasonable, very clean, and well furnished condominium rentals. We were very pleased with our accommodations. They gave us side by side rentals with views of the mountain range. I would recommend Solara and would stay there again!


Canmore is a beautiful city and is a short drive to Banff with much more reasonable lodging accommodations. Canmore is not as fast paced with the hustle and bustle of Banff but has plenty to do in a good central location for sightseeing. We used Canmore as our base when visiting Banff, Lake Louise and Lake Lorraine, and doing our bear watching! We visited in early June, which is a great time to go with the wildlife recently coming out of hibernation but the days can be cool and the nights cold, so pack warm clothes!


The Old Highway One between Canmore and Banff, is a two lane road through the back country with lots of trees and campgrounds. It is the perfect place to spot bears at dusk. We were fortunate to have seen a grizzly bear on Old Highway One. I would recommend taking the drive and to be patient. You need to drive the road back and forth several times in hopes of sighting wildlife. It worked for us!


A challenging and beautiful hike is the Grassi Lakes Trail outside of Canmore. It is a picturesque trail and perfect for families. You can take the easy route which is a gentle

The Grassi Lakes Trail past the waterfall

incline to a spectacular turquoise lake, or there is a more challenging wooded trail that goes past a waterfall and has gorgeous views of Canmore and the Bow Valley. Plan for one to two hours for this 2.5 mile hike. We took the more challenging route and it was worth it!


While in Canmore, we wanted to tour a sled dog facility and visited the Snowy Owl Sled Dog Ranch. They have over seven different types of sled dogs like the Alaskan Malamute and the Siberian Husky. They do summer and winter dog sled tours and allow you to meet and pet the dogs. Since we are all dog lovers, it was a fun tour!


While staying in Canmore, we did a few day trips to tour the Glacier National Park of the Canadian Rockies. We drove through Alberta and British Columbia taking in the amazing mountain views. Definitely one of the most beautiful areas I have traveled to. I have been asked if I like British Columbia and Alberta Canada more than Alaska, and it is a tough call but my heart will always be with Alaska! While this is a close second, Alaska is still my favorite!


Banff

Our first day we visited the Banff Gondola which is at the base of the Sulpher Mountain and is an 8 minute ride to the peak over 7500 feet high. There are viewing platforms at the top with plenty of trails for those that like to hike! The views are amazing. It is chilly at the top so be sure to wear warm clothes. We spent a couple of days sightseeing around the Banff area. Banff has plenty of shopping, hotels, condos, ski resorts and restaurants.


A highlight of our trip was the time spent at Lake Louise in Banff National Park in the Canadian Rockies at an elevation of 5200 feet. The lake is glacier-fed with amazing turquoise water surrounded by high peaks. There are plenty of hiking trials for the hiking enthusiasts. There is plenty to do with horseback riding and canoe docks in the summer months and skating rink on the lake in the winter months. The Lake Louise ski resort is an attraction to not miss.

Great times at Lake Louise!

Moraine Lake is a glacially fed lake in Banff National Park, 8 miles outside the village of Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada. The lake is situated in the Valley of the Ten Peaks, at an elevation of approximately 6,181 feet. The lake is fed by the glaciers and is a distinctive color of azure blue. For the hikers, there are plenty of trails around this lake too.


Lake Minnewanka is another glacier fed lake near Banff and is another picturesque lake! We were fortunate to see bear and Dall sheep near the lake. The lake has a hidden secret, an underwater ghost town and resort from the 1800's. The town was flooded and submerged back in the early 1900's due to the damns. The lake now is used for recreation and boating. It is a beautiful lake surrounded by mountains and trails.


We did a day trip to the Kicking Horse Mountain Top Resort outside of Golden, British Columbia. We took a chair lift ride to the top of the mountain. The views were amazing. We had hoped to see bear around the area since in my research it was reported bear could be spotted but we didn't have any luck. But it was a fun day trip and a picturesque drive.




Icefields Parkway

Darrell and I broke away from the group for a few nights to travel the Icefields Parkway to Jasper. It is one of Canada’s most stunning scenic drives, and passes through two national parks, heading to Jasper. We left Banff on Highway 1 and headed West and followed the signs. There are plenty of famous natural landmarks on the way to Jasper. We stopped at the Columbia Icefield, where we can walk on a glacier or take a bus out on to the glacier.

We walked out on the glacier but didn't take the bus out. It was a long walk and a huge glacier!


We were very fortunate to see wildlife along the Icefields Parkway. There are plenty of places to stop and take photos of the scenery and mountain views but you need to be alert watching for the wildlife as the grizzly bear, black bear, goats, Dall sheep, big horn sheep, and deer just seem to come out of nowhere and walk along or cross the road. We were fortunate to see many different bear on our trip through the Icefields Parkway from Canmore to Jasper and back!


Jasper

After the drive through the Icefields Parkway, we ended our trek in Jasper and stayed a couple of nights. Jasper is a small relaxed town in the mountains on the Canadian National Mainline Railway. We did a 5-hour combination railroad and van trip leaving from the Jasper railroad station through the Canadian Rockies seeing the Frasier River, Mount Robson, which is the tallest peak in the Canadian Rockies, and passed through the Yellowhead Pass. We thoroughly enjoyed this train adventure. I highly recommend taking the trip! Our train ride

Mount Robson near Jasper, B.C.

ended in Dunster in British Columbia. They bused us back to from Dunster to Jasper in a mini-bus and stopped at Mount Robson for photos and along the highway headed back to our hotel, a grizzly bear was walking along the road. Amazing! We stopped to take a photo and kept going. That wasn't enough for us so we headed back along Highway 16 toward Mount Robson. Sure enough, we found the grizzly bear plus one right along the roadside! Of course we returned to the same location the following day and were lucky to see a bear or two again! We decided to drive back to Mount Robson too since it was not completely clear the day before, and again, we were lucky, we were able to see the peak! It is a breathtaking view and a gorgeous drive from Jasper.


The Bears of Jasper

We were fortunate enough on our journey to see both Grizzly and Black Bear. Below are photos of the bear we saw near Jasper. I am always amazed and like a kid in a candy store when I see any type of bear. They are majestic animals and leave me wanting to see more!


The Wildlife

Bears were not the only wildlife we saw in Canada. The wildlife was abundant. It was early June so many were just coming out of a long winter hibernation and others we looking for their early summer food supply. From sled dogs to mountain goats, I love photographing wildlife!



TIPS TO TRAVEL ECONOMICALLY AND GET THE MOST FOR YOUR TIME AND MONEY

I also get asked many times, "How do you travel so often and keep it affordable?" A few tips are below:

  • For me, planning and researching is part of the excitement of the trip! Visioning is so much fun!!!

  • I plan all of my own trips and research, research, research on the internet. I utilize TripAdvisor, Frommer's, and blogs from other travelers to find the information I need for my trip. I do ALOT of reading and researching. It takes patience to plan a good affordable trip!

  • I have a budget in mind for each trip and challenge myself to stay in the budget. Depending on the location, I typically start planning and booking hotels, cars, etc., approximately 9 months out. Hotel prices usually get more expensive the closer to the trip unless you are willing to do a last minute internet deal. Car rental and airline prices also go up the closer it is to your trip. Occasionally you can get a last minute deal but something else may be more expensive and you are really not saving. I like to plan!

  • For hotels, I use Booking.com, or Priceline.com. I look for hotels with good reviews, pay when you stay, and free cancellation in advance.

  • We have done all-inclusive in a couple of tropical locations years and years ago but found that we do not eat and drink enough to make it worth the extra expense. We like to go off site from the hotel and experience the local cuisine and traditions. We have not done all-inclusive in the last 15 years. However, all-inclusive is wonderful if you want to stay at the resort for all meals, not rent a car, and have the hotel shuttle you to your destinations. That has worked for us in Jamaica and it was very relaxing! But I would not drive in Jamaica so all-inclusive was the smartest option! If you enjoy all-inclusive, the earlier you book the trip the lower the price. Unless you are game and are not a planner, and are willing to travel where the last minute deal is advertised. Then you could get a great all-inclusive deal!

  • If we are flying, I use the Skyscanner app to check airfare prices and I try not to buy until about 60 to 75 days out. There are times where I will by earlier if the price is super reasonable. I usually do not book on Skyscanner. It will tell me the site that is the most affordable to purchase the tickets and if it is a more well known trust site, I go directly to the site to purchase the tickets. Many times Skyscanner will take you right to the airline website. Skyscanner will search all airlines and will sort by price, times, shortest trip, etc.

  • Have a credit card that gives you miles or hotel points. We will use points for many of our trips. We are American Advantage members and have an Advantage credit card. We try to fly American as often as we can to earn points and then use those points for future airline tickets. Our credit card is tied to our Advantage numbers and awards points as well.

  • We drive if the location is in the United States and we can drive and sightsee along the way. If we need to rent a car, we reserve online using Booking.com, Orbitz.com, or Priceline.com. They are usually the most reasonable. I watch for specials and never book a luxury vehicle! We also have a credit card with a low limit that we use for vehicle rentals that provides insurance as a credit card benefit. We always decline the insurance when we are in the United States. If we are traveling out of the United States, we check with the credit card if the insurance is valid internationally. We have found it is valid in Europe, Canada, U.S. Virgin Islands, but in other locations, we are forced to purchase the liability insurance from the rental car company.

  • While there are free maps online for most destinations, I always go onto Amazon and buy a map of my destination, especially if it is international. I do not buy maps for tropical Caribbean islands. I just get one when we arrive. But for countries like Costa Rica, Panama, Belize, England, Canada, Germany, France, etc., I always purchase a good map. As you do you research, you can use the map to highlight the places you want to visit and the sites you want to see. I have it as a reference later for putting my me

Banff and Calgary Summer 2016 Trip
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