Canadian Rockies Photo Tour: Banff, Yoho and Jasper National Parks

A Canadian Rockies photo tour is one of the most complete experiences for any nature photographer.

You will enjoy the wildlife, landscapes, twilight lights, night photography and with a bit of luck until aurora borealis. All this in one place, where the new world is still virgin and unexplored.

canadian rockies photo tours

We took a photo trip to the Canadian Rockies for 15 days from the end of May to the beginning of June 2017 and without a doubt, this has been the most incredible trip we have made to date.

In this photo tour, we got some of the best shots of our gallery. However, only by being able to spend 15 days in contact with pure nature, would have already made it worthwhile.

That is why we would like to return someday accompanied by others photographers. In this article, we will tell you our next guided Canadian Rockies photo tour itinerary, in case you want to join us, and we give you some tips if you decide to do it on your own.

Canadian Rockies photo tours & Workshops

The Canadian Rocky Mountain Park is comprised of four National parks: Banff National Park, Kootenay National Park, Yoho National Park, and Jasper National Park.

These parks are located in British Columbia (Kootenay and Yoho) and Alberta (Banff and Jasper).

When making a photographic trip to the West Coast of Canada, the common thing is to visit Banff, Yoho, and Jasper, since these are the most photogenic places in the Canadian Rockies.

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Although it is not the best destination for it, it can also be used to take a photo trip to see the Northern Lights in Canada. However, you have to bear in mind that the conditions that must be given are not the usual ones.

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Even without Aurora Borealis, do not worry. The best rocky landscapes, vibrant wildlife and the darkest skies of North America are waiting for you. A Canadian Rockies photo tour is blow-minding for any nature photographer.

In this guide you will find:

Best time to take a photo trip to the Canadian Rockies

Without any doubt, I would say that the best time to attend to a Canadian Rockies workshop is from May to October.

Let’s go for points. The weather in the Rocky Mountains is quite cold in winter, freezing all the lakes and cutting off most of the roads. In mid-May and depending on the year, the thaw begins and in mid-October, they will close roads and the lakes get frozen again.

On the other hand, if you are interested in making cheap photography trips, you should bear in mind that June and especially July and August, are high season. The prices of the accommodations soar, but what is worse, you will have to keep tourists away so that they do not appear in the photos.

Finally, you also have to take into account that the numerous glacial lakes that we find in the Canadian Rockies present the most vivid color of which they stand out at the beginning of summer and this will go off as the months run.

We traveled at the end of May – beginning of June and although there were frozen lakes and we missed some places of interest because of having still cut access, it seemed like a good time to travel to the Canadian Rockies.

However, if you want to be able to see everything the Rocky Mountains offer you, at a good price, and with the minimum amount of tourists, I would recommend that you travel in September.

15-Day Canadian Rockies Photo Tour Itinerary

In this section, we will propose a route to take in a 15-day Canadian Rockies photo trip.

DAY 1: ARRIVAL AT CALGARY AND PREPARATIONS

Our photography tour will begin in Calgary. First of all, we must pick up our rental car and buy what is necessary for our photo trip.

It will be essential to get a bear spray and other specialized equipment for this destination. Review that you do not lack anything from the list we did here.

If we want to make cheap photography tours, surely we have to camp, so check that you have everything you need.

Once we have everything ready, we will drive to Banff where we will make our first night.

DAY 2: BANFF PEOPLE + TWO JACK LAKE + MINNEWANKA

Our first photo shoot will be at sunrise on Two Jack Lake and Minnewanka Lake.

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We will take advantage of the daylight to explore the lakes and to hike some of the trails that border it, for example, the Stewart Canyon trail.

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In the afternoon we will rest since this day we will also have a Milky Way night session at Two Jack Lake.

Don’t miss our Guide to Photographing the Milky Way

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The second day we will stay in the same place as the first night.

All the information regarding the planning of this day will be found in our Guide to Banff National Park.

DAY 3: JOHNSTON CANYON + INK POTS + VERMILION LAKES

At midmorning, on the third day of our Canadian Rockies Photo Tour, we will hike the Johnston Canyon to photograph its two waterfalls.

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We will follow the path to the Ink Pots, to capture the vivid colors of the lagoons that are there.

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The rest of the afternoon we will rest in Banff and we will shoot the sunset at the Vermilion Lakes until we can capture stars.

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In principle, a long nocturnal photographic session is not contemplated, although it can be extended if the conditions are right. If there are Northern Lights, then we will go to Two Jack Lake.

Don’t miss our Guide to Photographing Northern Lights

The third day we will stay in the same place as previous days.

All the information regarding the planning of this day will be found in our Guide to Banff.

DAY 4: WILDLIFE AT BOW VALLEY PARKWAY + MORANT’S CURVE + CASTLE MOUNTAIN

The fourth day of our Canadian Rockies photo trip will be less intense than the previous days. In principle, we will be touring the Bow Valley Parkway to be able to photograph wildlife.

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The Bow Valley Parkway is one of the best areas to photograph wildlife. If you want to know the wildlife you can find, do not miss our guide to animals in the Canadian Rockies.

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In addition to spot wildlife, we will make two very interesting stops. The first one in Morant’s Curve to see the section of the most photographed Canadian Pacific Railway.

Canadian rocky mountains Photo trip in September

We will spend the sunset of the fourth day in Castle Mountain.

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We change accommodation. On the fourth day, we will spend the night in the surroundings of Lake Louise.

All the information regarding the planning of this day will be found in our Guide to Banff National Park.

DAY 5: MORAINE LAKE + LAKE LOUISE + LAKE AGNES

We will start the day early, as we are going to photograph Moraine Lake at sunrise.

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In the morning we will visit Lake Louise, to know what is possibly the most visited lake in the Canadian Rockies.

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From here it is possible to hike to Lake Agnes, where we will have views of the entire valley.

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In the afternoon and at sunset we will be driving through both the Lake Louise area and the Bow Valley Parkway itself in search of more animals to photograph.

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We stayed in the same place as the night before.

All the information regarding the planning of this day will be found in our Guide to Banff National Park.

DAY 6: MORAINE LAKE + EMERALD LAKE + YOHO LAKE

This morning we will repeat the sunrise at Moraine Lake. It is one of the most photographed lakes so we will try a second day if the conditions offer different lights.

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When the sunrise ends, we will go to Yoho National Park and its more popular lake, Emerald Lake.

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During the morning we will have an hour of canoe rental to take another perspective of the lake.

 

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At mid-morning we will start a hike that will take us to Yoho Lake and from where we will have stunning views of Emerald Lake.

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In the afternoon we will have to be back to the lake to be able to photograph the Blue Hour of the Emerald Lake.

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If with luck this night there is Northern Lights forecast we will do the photo shoot here.

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The sixth night we will stay at Emerald Lake Lodge, which has been serving us throughout the day as an element in the different compositions of the lake.

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You can find all the information regarding the planning of this day in our Guide to Emerald Lake.

DAY 7: YOHO NATIONAL PARK

In the morning we will photograph Emerald Lake at dawn.

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Then we will spend the day discovering other places in Yoho.

One of the most photogenic places is the Natural Bridge, where we can capture the blue water of the Kicking Horse River.

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We can also photograph the Meeting of the Waters or the Takakkaw Falls.

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Finally, we will visit the Wapta Falls a little further away.

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The seventh night we will stay in the surroundings of Fields. If there were Northern Lights forecast we would go back to Emerald Lake.

You can find all the information regarding the planning of this day in our Guide to Yoho National Park.

DAY 8: LAKE 0 ‘HARA + BOW LAKE

If time permits and the road is open we will visit Lake O’Hara. You can only get to this lake by public bus that must be booked in advance.

If, on the other hand, we can not access the lake this day, we will take advantage of it to make a photo editing and processing workshop.

At mid-afternoon, we will go to the Icefields Parkway to do a sunset session at Bow Lake.

The best time to photograph this lake is in the golden hour of sunset. The perspective that we like the most is that of the right margin, next to the Num-Ti-Jah Lodge, where we will stay.

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In addition, we will make a night session in the lake, making coincide with the milky way.

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If there were aurora forecast we would go to Peyto Lake.

You will find all the information regarding the planning of this day in our Guide to Yoho National Park and in our Guide to the Icefields Parkway.

DAY 9: PEYTO LAKE + MISTAYA CANYON

This day we will continue touring the Icefields Parkway, discovering places like the Mistaya Canyon.

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We will also visit other places of interest such as the Waterfowl Lakes and the Howse Peak.

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However, the most important photography session of this day is the sunset in Peyto Lake. We will take advantage, especially of the golden hour.

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The ninth night we will stay in the same place as the night before.

All the information regarding the planning of this day will be found in our Guide to the Icefields Parkway.

DAY 10: ICEFIELDS PARKWAY

This day we are going to drive a large part of the Icefields Parkway. An interesting point to photograph is the Big Hill & Big Bend and the Bridal Veil Falls.

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We will continue this road passing through the Athabasca Glacier. Previously there was an ice cave that was an essential point for any Canadian Rockies photo tour. However, the cave collapsed and this stop is no longer so interesting.

We will then arrive at the Sunwapta Falls, to make the first session of the day.

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In addition, we will visit the Athabasca Falls.

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We will spend that night at Sunwapta Falls Rocky Mountain Lodge, for a night session at Sunwapta Falls.

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You can find all the information regarding the planning of this day in our Guide to the Icefields Parkway.

DAY 11: VALLEY OF THE FIVE LAKES + PYRAMID LAKE + PATRICIA LAKE + COTTONWOOD SLOUGH

This day we will finish the Icefields Parkway to reach Jasper, the main town of Jasper National Park.

During the morning and when the sun is quite high, we will make a hike in the Valley of the Five Lakes, to capture the vivid colors of its lakes.

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Then we will visit Patricia Lake, which is next to Jasper.

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And we will visit Lake Pyramid Lake too, taking advantage of the composition that gives us the wooden bridge that leads to it small island.

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At dusk, we will go to Cottonwood Slough, where wildlife lovers can also photograph beavers.

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On the eleventh night, we will stay in the surroundings of Jasper.

You will find all the information regarding the planning of this day in our Guide to Jasper National Park.

DAY 12: MALIGNE ROAD

The next morning we will get up early to do a photo shoot at dawn on Pyramid Lake.

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Then, we will tour Maligne Road, known for being the favorite road of wildlife photographers. You must have your equipment ready at all times.

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We will make the first stops at Maligne Canyon and Medicine Lake, known for disappearing at certain times of the year.

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However, we will photograph Maligne Lake at dusk, taking advantage of the reflections of the water.

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This day we will stay in the same place as the night before.

You can find all the information regarding the planning in our Guide to Jasper National Park.

DAY 13: BEAUVERT LAKE + MALIGNE ROAD + WAY BACK

The next day our return will begin. In the morning we will visit some lakes that we have yet to see, such as Beauvert Lake, Edith Lake or Annete Lake.

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We will travel for the last time Maligne Road to spot, if possible, new wildlife.

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And we will take back the Icefields Parkway, very attentive to the animals we can find.

On the thirteenth day, we will stay at the Icefields Parkway. As we will be returning at our pace we will not have reserved accommodation, but we will decide it on the fly.

You can find all the information regarding the planning of this day in our Guide to Jasper National Park.

DAY 14: WILDCARD

Any photo tour itinerary is closely linked to the weather conditions. For that reason, we always like to reserve a free day either to repeat some of the photo shoots that we have not completed successfully or to make a new session that we could not perform before.

The unforeseen arise, so it is better to take them into account from the beginning.

In the case of the Canadian Rockies photo tour we made in 2017, we decided to repeat the sunset of Peyto Lake.

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In the strange case that there was no need to repeat any photo shoot, we will take advantage of the day to do a photographic editing and processing workshop.

We should end this day either at Banff National Park or at Jasper National Park. Accommodation will be decided on site.

DAY 15: RETURN TO CALGARY

This day we will return to Calgary to end our Canadian Rockies photo tour. It has been a very intense photo trip so it is best to arrive at the airport with time and quietly review the photographs we have made through the camera screen.

WHERE TO TAKE THE BEST PHOTOS OF THE CANADIAN ROCKIES

In this section, we tell you which are the places to take the best pictures of the Canadian Rocky Mountains.

  • Maligne Lake at sunset
  • Natural Bridge in the morning
  • Milky Way in Two Jack Lake
  • Emerald Lake at sunset
  • Beauvert Lake in the morning
  • Peyto Lake at sunset
  • Moraine Lake at sunrise
  • Valley of the Five Lakes at sunrise
  • Minnewanka Lake at sunrise

If you want to have the exact coordinates of the best photos of the Canadian Rockies offline:

  • Download the Mapswithme app on your cell phone.
  • Download and save the following KML file in your Dropbox.

where to take best pictures of the canadian rockies photo tour

  • Open the file through Dropbox from your cell phone. You will get a dialog box where you have to select open with the Mapswithme application (Maps.me)

You can also enjoy all the pictures of the Canadian Rockies in this gallery that we have prepared.

PHOTOGRAPHY GEAR NEEDED AT THE CANADIAN ROCKIES

For those who have not read it, we already have an article where we recommend the best photography equipment for traveling.

In this section, we will only mention the peculiarities that exist when preparing the photography gear to travel to the Canadian Rockies

DSLR / MIRRORLESS CAMERA

Although with a compact camera we can get good landscape pictures, I would not miss the opportunity to shoot with a DSLR or mirrorless camera with interchangeable lenses, since you can go back home with real masterpieces.

In addition, if we pretend to photograph wildlife, twilight or hopefully aurora borealis, this type of camera is mandatory.

LENSES

We recommend a wide angle lens to capture the most amazing landscapes and a telephoto lens with a good stabilizer to photograph wildlife. As an optional, we can carry a 50mm lens for panoramic photographs, as well as any medium focal.

TRIPOD

A sturdy and stable tripod will be essential for our photo tour. If we can also choose a lightweight travel tripod it will be more comfortable to transport during hikes.

You can also count on a leveling base / L-shaped plate to take panoramic pictures of the landscape.

LENS FILTERS

Whether we want to take photographs capturing the movement of water or for long exposures during the day when the light is very hard, we will need lens filters. A neutral 3-stop filter and a 6-stop filter should be enough. We always use those of Lucroit, with which we collaborate, giving you a 10% discount when buying through this link.

I also recommend that you read our guide to types and uses of lens filters in photography.

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PHOTOGRAPHY GEAR RENTAL

For us, the biggest mistake we made on our first photo tour to the Canadian Rockies was not having the right equipment. Specifically, a quality telephoto lens to capture the numerous wildlife of Canada.

Really buying a telephoto lens, and in general, other elements of the photography equipment, is expensive, especially when wildlife photo tours are taken only a few times a year. In that case, I advise you to rent instead of going to the Rockies without the appropriate gear.

Is a Canadian Rockies Photo Tour needed?

Perhaps you are wondering, is it worthwhile to hire a photo tour to the Canadian Rockies.

It is not necessary if you have experience in nature and landscape photography, you know all the animals you can see in the Canadian Rockies and where to find them, you know how to photograph the northern lights and you can plan the best photographic locations.

Even so, keep in mind that due to the presence of bears and other predators, in many of the hiking trails you are obliged to do them with more than 4 people. With a guided photo trip this problem would be solved. And of course, your guide will explain everything you have to do to avoid bear attacks.

However, if there is something fascinating about taking a photo tour, it is to be able to share with other nature and photography lovers what is going to be possibly one of the most intense trips of your life.

HOW TO CHOOSE A GOOD CANADA PHOTO TOUR

These are some of the tips we want to give you to choose a good Canadian Rockies photo tour:

  • Do not do the tour with an agency but with a photographer or team of photographers in whose name you have access before hiring. If you really want the tour to add value, make sure your guide is a photographer with experience.
  • Linking with the above, there are many unknown photographers with amazing galleries that offer these photo tours at very competitive prices. Never hire a photographer without first being able to check his gallery for that particular destination.
  • For this destination, it is very interesting that the guide also has some idea of wildlife, as well as having previously photographed Northern Lights (and of course that carries a Northern Lights alarm activated throughout the trip).
  • Hire a tour that also includes editing workshops. The weather in the Rockies is unpredictable and you can take advantage of it when weather conditions prevent you from doing outdoor activities.
  • Finally, it would be very interesting if you could read some reviews from others photographers.

As for the price, perhaps now you want to know if there are cheap Canadian Rockies photo tours.

This destination is quite expensive, also if you do it on your own. To be able to compare it, do you know how much we spend camping for 15 days in Canada and not eating in restaurants?

However, it is an experience that deserves it and not only in the photographic plane.

PHYSICAL CONDITIONS NECESSARY TO TAKE A CANADIAN PHOTO TOUR

If you ask yourself what physical conditions are necessary for this photo tour, you should know that it is not considered a very demanding trip on a physical level.

Most locations such as lakes, waterfalls, and canyons are close to the road. There are only three activities that require walking for more than an hour. These are the Ink Pots, Lake Agnes and Yoho Lake.

In the case of not wanting to perform any of these activities one of the guides will prepare an alternative plan.

CAPTURE THE ATLAS PHOTO TOURS

As we have told you at the beginning of this article, in the future we would like to return to the Rockies with other travelers. We want to show you the wonders of this place and help you get the most out of it from a photographic point of view.

This and other trips in Capture the Atlas are already underway. If you are interested, leave us your email and we will send you the information.

written by Ascenphotography by danzafra

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How to avoid a bear attack in Canada and the United States

When visiting some of the North America National Parks, it is very common to wonder how frequent bear attacks are in Canada and the United States, how to avoid them and how to behave if an encounter or attack happens.

I admit that I was a bit scared about this when planning our Canadian Rockies road trip because our plan was camping and hiking in the middle of nature.

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Grizzly bears – The boss and his daughter

However, the stats say that only 2 to 5 people die every year by bear attacks in Canada and the United States. It is much more likely that you die because of an illness or a traffic accident instead of mauled by a bear.

Still, if you are traveling to the West Coast of Canada or to the United States National Parks like Yosemite, Yellowstone or Alaska, I recommend that you inform yourself on how to avoid bear encounters and how you should act during a bear attack.

It is important to learn the following:

In short, in this guide, we have put together all the information you need to know to avoid and survive a bear attack.

HOW TO tell the difference between A BLACK BEAR and A GRIZZLY BEAR

There are three types of bears in North America. Polar bears, brown bears, and black bears. Polar bears are only found in some areas of Alaska and Canada.

In this article, we will focus on the species of bears that you will be most likely to see: grizzly bears and black bears. Their behaviors are quite different so the first thing you have to do is to learn how to tell the difference between them as soon as you see them.

The Grizzly bear is a brown bear variant that lives in North America. It is considered the most aggressive bear in the world, even comparing it with the rest of the brown bears.

black bear attack in US and Canada

Grizzly bear

The black bear or American black bear is the most abundant bear species on the planet. Although at first, they might look harmless, you should know that in some situations they could attack and be dangerous.

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Black Bear

WHERE WE CAN FIND GRIZZLY BEARS AND BLACK BEARS

GRIZZLY

We can find grizzly bears in Canada (in the Yukon, Northwest Territories, British Columbia, and Alberta) and in the United States (in Alaska, Montana, and Northwest Wyoming).

BLACK BEARS

The habitat of the black bear is more extensive. We can find them across Canada, the United States, and Mexico.

In Canada, it is found in all the territories while in the United States in 39 of the 50 states, both on the Atlantic coast and on the Pacific coast.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

SIZE

Size is not a physical characteristic that must be used to differentiate black bears from grizzly bears.

  • In general, the female grizzly weighs about 400 lbs and the males 780 lbs, although there have been cases of grizzly bears that weigh over 1300 lbs. A grizzly bear standing on its legs can reach 94 inches although the average would be 78 inches.
  • The black bear females can weigh about 220 lbs while the male bears about 660 lbs, although black bears of up to 880 lbs have also been found. A black bear can be as tall as 82 inches high at most when standing up.
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Grizzly Bear – The Boss upright

Color

Color is not a physical characteristic that must be used to differentiate black bears from grizzly bears.

  • Grizzly bears usually have a grizzly fur, but can range from copper brown, cinnamon or gray to dark chocolate brown.
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Grizzly Bear – The Boss

  • Black bears are usually black, but it is also very common to see a black bear with brown or even cinnamon fur.
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Black bear with brown color fur

HUMP

This is the main physical characteristic to tell the difference between grizzly bears and black bears. The grizzly has a marked hump on the shoulders. The hump is made up of muscle mass that empowers the front legs of the bear and helps to dig deeper and quicker.

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Grizzly Bear

EARS

This other feature will help you distinguish black bears from grizzly bears. The ears of the grizzly bear are small and rounded, while those of the black bear are elongated and pointed.

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Black Bear

SNOUT

If we look at the face of the grizzly bear from the side we will see that the upper part of the snout does not follow a straight line but curves upwards. Let’s say that the grizzly bear has a pointed nose. On the other hand, the snout of the black bear seen sideways follows a straight line.

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Grizzly Bear


tips to survive a black bear attack

Black Bear

CLAWS

The claws of the grizzly bear are much longer than those of the black bear. Their nails can measure 2 to 4 inches, while those of the black bear are very curved, black and measure a maximum of 2 inches.

BEHAVIOR AND DIET

Both grizzly and black bears hibernate during the winter. Therefore, since they leave their den until they return to enter the period of hibernation, they are almost exclusively dedicated to eat.

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Black Bear

They spend eating all day long to get all the nutrients and fat to survive until next spring.

GRIZZLY BEARS

Grizzlies are known to be the most aggressive bears in the world. Their diet is omnivorous based 90% on vegetables and the rest on fish and meat. They hunt large deer, moose or even black bears.

However, they do not consider the human being as part of their diet. They tend to shy away from contact with people. If a grizzly bear attacks a human, it is either because they are taken by surprise or very rarely because they are stressed or hungry and can not find any food.

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Grizzly Bear

Unfortunately, this case is happening more and more because the habitat of the grizzly bear is being destroyed by human action. A well-known came after the bears that devoured the ecologist Timothy Treadwell and his girlfriend Amie Huguenard, while they were filming a documentary about grizzly bears in Alaska.

BLACK BEARS

Black bears are also omnivores, feeding mainly on vegetables but with a consumption of meat and fish that takes 10% of their diet. However, they are not great hunters, but rather opportunists. They feed on insects, carrion, crabs, honeycombs and everything they find easily.

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Black Bear

Among the food sources that they can find easily (and should not) are the dumpsters found near their habitats. Unfortunately, black bears are becoming used to humans, no longer fearing them. Following this, tricky situations happen when they go to urban centers in search of food.

We find these types of attacks especially in parks like Yosemite where measures to prevent bears from having access to human food have come too late.

HOW TO AVOID A BEAR ENCOUNTER IN CANADA AND THE UNITED STATES

Although we all like to watch wildlife when we travel, there are certain cases when it is preferable to avoid encounters with wild animals.

Especially when the animal is considered dangerous and we do not have any element of protection such as being inside a car, an electric fence or if the animal is in a short distance (in the case of bears 320 ft is considered the necessary safety distance).

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Black Bears

When we are in nature, follow these tips to avoid a bear encounter that could trigger an attack:

  • When you hike, make noise. Let the bears know about your position before they can see you. Sing, speak loudly, clap your hands … The bear bells, although they are very popular, are not useful.
  • Walk in a group of four or more people. Never leave children or pets out of sight.
  • Don’t hike at night or with low visibility. Bears are more active at night.
  • Keep in mind that if you run or ride a bicycle in bear country, you are more likely to be attacked. Most of the bear attacks are caused when the bear is startled, which happens if you suddenly pass with the bicycle or running close to its path.
  • If you see recent signs of wildlife (excrement, split trunks, holes or tracks) and you think they are fresh, leave the area.
  • If you find a large dead animal (deer, elk, bear, etc.) leave the area immediately. The predator (possibly a bear) might be nearby.
  • Store your food properly. Try to reduce the food you are carrying as much as possible if you are trekking. Just take a snack if it is essential. If bears have an outstanding sense, that is the smell.

HOW TO BEHAVE DURING A BEAR ENCOUNTER

If you are traveling to a place inhabited by bears, always take a bear spray with you. The first thing you have to do before an encounter is to keep calm and prepare to use the bear spray if needed.

safe camping with grizzly bear

Black Bear

Watch carefully. Does the bear know of your presence?

→ If not, get away immediately without making any noise that may get its attention or startle it.

→ If he has seen you, in most cases, the bear will be the first interested in leaving the area. In some cases, it is possible that it pretends to charge turning at the last second. It may also growl, snap its teeth and move its ears back in a sign of threat. At that time try to follow the next steps:

    • Do not lose your calm. Screaming or sudden movements can trigger an attack.
    • Speak to the bear. Let him know that you are human and not a prey. If the bear stands up on its hind legs and sniffs the air it is to identify what kind of animal you are.
    • Go backward slowly. Never run or turn your back on it.
    • Make yourself look bigger than you are. Go as straight as you can and if you have any object put it on your head.
    • If you are in a group, do not separate. There are no registered bears attacks to groups of more than 4 people.
  • Do not take off your backpack. You can use it as protection if the encounter ends in an attack.

If you need to follow the path that has been interrupted by the encounter with the bear, do it only if you can maintain a safe distance and if not, wait for it to go somewhere far away.

DEFENSIVE ATTACK vs PREDATORY ATTACK

Unfortunately, sometimes even following the steps above an attack may take place. In order to survive a bear attack, we must find out first what kind of attack it is because our behavior would be totally different.

DEFENSIVE ATTACK

Defensive attacks are the most common types of attack. They happen when a black bear or a grizzly bear is taken by surprise

Many times these attacks happen when a bear is taken by surprise while taking care of the cubs or when a bear is feeding. The bear can see you as a threat. Before this attack, the bear can seem nervous and he may growl.

grizzly bear in yellowstone

Black Bears

PREDATORY ATTACK

Predatory attacks are very rare. Most of the registered predatory attacks have taken place by grizzly bears. We know that it is a predatory attack if having followed all the guidelines to avoid encounters with bears that we have given in this article there has been an encounter anyway.

In this case, the bear does not see you as a threat, but as a potential prey. Before this attack, the bear will be curious, with its ears and head raised.

grizzly bear attack in alaska

Grizzly Bear

Keep in mind that an attack can go from being defensive to predatory if we do not act the right way.

HOW TO survive A BEAR ATTACK

Our response should be totally different if we are facing a defensive or predatory attack.

HOW TO survive a DEFENSIVE ATTACK

Follow all the steps described in the section on how to behave during a bear encounter. If the bear, after all, decides to approach, use the bear spray.

where to see wild bear in Canada and USA

Grizzly Bear

If you do not have a bear spray and the bear makes physical contact with you then you must be certain of what kind of bear is attacking you:

  • If it’s a grizzly bear (probably a bear with cubs), play dead and wait for the bear to leave. Lie face down with your legs straight and your hands on the back of your neck. The bear may want to turn you around to watch you. Do not resist. These attacks should not last more than 2 minutes. If the attack continues it is possible that it has become a predatory attack.
  • If you are attacked by a black bear you will have to fight for your life. Concentrate on kicking on its face and snout and use all the objects you can find to hit him. If you have an opportunity, try to protect yourself in a car. Climbing a tree is not a good tactic with a black bear since they are better climbers than you. Never play dead.

HOW TO SURVIVE A PREDATORY ATTACK

The cases of predatory attacks are very rare, so I do not believe or hope that you will ever find yourself in this situation. However, if you think you are suffering from a predatory attack, usually by a grizzly bear, then do not play dead.

Use the bear spray and try to protect yourself in a building or car.

In case you can not, try to make the bear believe that you are not easy prey. Try to Intimidate it by screaming, hitting it with rocks or with any object. It has to think that you are a bigger risk than what it is willing to pay to get food.

CAMPING IN BEAR COUNTRY

When it comes to camping in bear country, it is important to follow a series of recommendations. However, in this case, the rules are not general, since, to a large extent, it depends on where we are. We advise you to ask for information at the nearest visitor center.

Best place to see bear in Canada and USA

Grizzly Bears

In general, if there has not been a good policy to keep bears wild, they will have become used to the human presence and food and now will do personal and material damage in order to continue getting it.

For example, in Yosemite, it is prohibited to store food in cars, because bears break windows to eat it. This is the consequence of having allowed tourists to feed the bears for years. Now all food and other products with strong odors should be stored in bear-resistant food storage containers that you will find throughout the park.

However, in the Canadian Rockies, food can be stored in the car, because, thanks to the policies that have been carried out for years, bears are not used to human food.

Some generic tips that we can give when camping in bear country would be:

    • Do not cook within 300 feet of the tent and as long as the wind goes in the other direction.
    • Do not use perfume or hygiene products with a strong odor.
    • Do not store food in the tent
    • Do not store dirty cutlery or clean it near the tent.
  • Dump garbage in the places where you should. Never store or bury waste.

If you do not have a bear-proof container (United States) or a car (Canada) to store your food and scented products, hang your backpack between two trees at a sufficient height where a bear cannot reach it and at least 300 ft away from the tent.

You must bear in mind that, both in the United States and in Canada, bears that get used to human interaction or food are put down since it will be back continuously to urban and camping areas representing a danger to society.

If you do not want this to happen, it is as simple as putting all the necessary measures so that no bear can access human food.

KEEP THE WILDLIFE WILD!

If you want to know where to see bears and other animals in the Canadian Rockies, do not miss this article.

written by Ascenphotography by danzafra

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Where to Spot Wildlife in the Canadian Rockies

If watching animals from a new region of the planet is one of the best parts of traveling for you, you should plan a trip to the Canadian Rockies.

Viewing wildlife in the Canadian Rockies is easy. As easy as knowing what species we can find, where they live and at what time they are usually more active.

In this article, we will tell you everything you need to know to make your trip to Canada a real safari.

Also, we will tell you how to keep the wildlife wild and protect both animals living in the Canadian Rockies and yourself.

CANADIAN ROCKIES WILDLIFE

On our trip to the Canadian Rockies, we find different landscapes: high peaks covered with snow, glaciers, valleys with lakes of intense colors, canyons, and waterfalls.

Therefore, depending on the area where we are we can see different animals in the Canadian Rockies.

GRIZZLY BEARS

If there’s one animal that everyone who travels to the Canadian Rockies wants to see, that’s the Grizzly Bear. There are just a few areas inhabited by Grizzlies in the world, and one of them is the Canadian Rockies, where this species is seriously endangered.

15% of Grizzly bear’s diet is based on meat; they feed on moose, deer, goats and even black bears … and of course fish. An adult Grizzly bear male can reach standing on its legs a height of 100 inches and can weigh up to 1200 pounds.

 grizzly bear banff national park Canada wildlife

The only safe way to see this animal is from a vehicle. Encounters during hikes can end tragically. Some campsites that are located in areas frequented by Grizzly bears are surrounded by electrified fences to avoid encounters ansd possible Grizzly attacks.

grizzly bear lake louise canda wildlife

WHERE TO WATCH GRIZZLY BEARS IN THE CANADIAN ROCKIES

There are only about 200 Grizzly bears living in the Canadian Rockies, distributed as follows:

  • Kootenay National Park: 9-16

We only saw Grizzly bears in Banff National Park, (Lake Louise area and Bow Lake surroundings).

BLACK BEARS

We can also watch Black bears at the Canadian Rockies. They are the most abundant bear species on the planet. Despite the name, black bears can have fur from tan to dark black, but you shouldn’t get confused with Grizzly bears. Although the black bear is usually much smaller (550 pounds max) than the grizzly bear, size should not be used to determine the species of bear.

black bear jasper national park best places to viewing wildlife

Black bears are also omnivorous, although they rarely hunt large prey. They mostly feed on insects, fish, and plants. However, they are not harmless for that reason. There are also attacks of black bears on humans, some even mortal. These attacks usually occur when a female with small cubs is surprised, being in most cases defensive attacks instead of predatory attacks.

wild animal watching tour Canadian rockies

Like Grizzlies, it’s better to see this species through the safety of our car.

bear encounters in Canada best time to see wildlife

WHERE TO WATCH BLACK BEARS IN THE CANADIAN ROCKIES

Black bears are quite abundant in all the Canadian Rockies so you will see them easily; especially in Jasper National Park, as they prefer green meadows than high mountains.

We could see Black bears in the area of Pyramid Lake, Maligne Road, and Miette Hot Springs.

Black bears are more active before and after sunset, so the best way to find them is by driving roads such as the Icefields Parkway or Maligne Road before the sun goes down.

In this article, we tell you how to differentiate Grizzly bears from Black bears and how to avoid encounters and how to survive a bear attack.

MOOSE

Following the list of animals to see in the Canadian Rockies, the moose is one of my favorites. And you can not imagine how big this animal is until you can see one with your own eyes.

They can be as tall as 80 inches, not counting the antlers that can measure up to 130 inches from one end to the other. These antlers grow in the adult males during the summer, and when fall arrives, they lose them. If you travel to the Canadian Rockies in the spring, as we did, it is possible that adult males still have short antlers.

Moose maligne road how to behave during a wild animal encounter canada rocky mountains

Despite their peaceful and harmless appearance, the National Park rangers warned us that moose are more dangerous than any other animal in the Canadian Rockies, even bears.

Having an encounter with a female (cow) with her calves will probably end up on a sudden attack. Unlike other cervids that we will find, moose are rarely frightened, but if they feel intimidated they will not hesitate to charge and taking into account that they can weigh up to 1000 pounds, they can be very dangerous. Like the other wildlife of the Canadian Rockies that we have already mentioned, the best way to observe this species is from the safety of our car.

where to spot moose at the Canadian rockies

WHERE TO WATCH MOOSE IN THE CANADIAN ROCKIES

The best place to view moose in the Canadian Rockies is in humid and marshy areas, for example in the Jasper National Park, as it is the most remote and wild of the parks.

It was hard for us to see moose. However, two of the three moose that we saw were on Maligne Road.

The third time was on a section of the Icefields Parkway close to the Athabasca River.

WOLVES

One of the trickiest animals to see in the Canadian Rockies is the Wolf. We were lucky to watch a wolf at the end of May on the Maligne Road in Jasper National Park. However, the last sighting that the visitor center had registered was in March.

where to see wolf at canada jasper national park

WHERE TO WATCH WOLVES IN THE CANADIAN ROCKIES

Although in Jasper the current wolf population is growing, in Banff National Park it became extinct and is currently being reintroduced (there are approximately 40 wolves that spend part of the year in this park).

The chances of seeing a wild wolf in the Canadian Rockies are very slim, especially because in the warm months the wolves are moving away from the populated areas. In winter it is easier to see them at lower latitudes, so you could cross paths with some on the side of the roads.

wolf in jasper national park Canada animal wildlife

Remember that they are nocturnal animals, so it is more likely that you find them when driving on roads like Maligne Road after sunset.

WAPITI OR ELK

The Wapiti is the largest species of deer, only surpassed by moose. It is common on the West Coast of North America and it is the most abundant deer in the Canadian Rockies. It certainly could not be missing from our list of animals to see in the Canadian Rockies.

wapiti or elk in the Canadian rockies

It can reach up to 94 inches and weigh 800 pounds. For this reason we must be cautious with the elk, especially during two periods of the year, in spring during the calving season (May – June) where the females are taking care of their new fawns, and during the fall, in the known as rut season (September – October), when males trying to mate become very aggressive.

deer in the Canadian rockies where to see them

In this Canada Parks guide, they explain the security measures that we must take during these periods.

MULE DEER

Mule deer are also easy to see in the valleys, for example in the Bow Valley Parkway or on Maligne Road.

guide to spotting wildlife in the Canadian rockies

They are characterized by being smaller, having long ears, grayish fur and a black spot at the tip of the tail.

don’t feed wild animal how to approach

They are usually quite scared, but as with any wild animal, it is best to contemplate it in the distance.

WHITE-TAILED DEER

The white-tailed deer is quite similar to the mule deer in terms of morphology and size.

west coast wildlife where to find them

The best way to differentiate both species is by looking at its ears, smaller than the ones of the mule deer, and especially in its tail. The white-tailed deer raises its tail when it feels intimidated and never have a black spot on its tip.

white tailed deer best place to see in the Canadian rockies

Like the mule deer, the easiest place to find it is in the lower part of the valleys, such as Bow Valley Parkway or Maligne Road. However, the number of individuals of this species is lower.

mule deer animals you can see at the Canadian rockies

MOUNTAIN GOATS

The mountain goats are the most difficult animals to photograph in the Canadian Rockies. This goat has long white fur, goatee and two thin black horns curved backward.

They live at a very high altitude at the top of the mountains so spotting them is quite complicated. We could see them at a point that you can find below on the map known as “goat lookout” that is in the middle of the Icefields Parkway.

best time to see wildlife in Canada rocky mountains

As you can see, the photo is a bit poor as the goats were very far from the road. If we regret something during our trip it was not having a quality telephoto lens. We really missed many photographic opportunities especially for photographing wildlife in the Canadian Rockies.

Bighorn sheep

The bighorn sheep are common in mountainous areas although they are also located in lower areas. After elks, they are the most numerous ungulate animals of the Canadian Rockies so it won’t be difficult to see them.

bighorn sheep in Canadian rockies

These goats are brown, with a white rump and lining on the backs of their legs. The males are characterized by having big backward-curved horns, whereas the horns of the females are thin and short.

where to find wildlife in the canadian rockies

We saw them on the Icefields Parkway, on Abraham Lake and on Maligne Road. Although at first glance they may seem domestic or that are easily frightened, do not trust, like any wild animal, if they feel intimidated, they will charge and attack.

BALD EAGLE

The bald eagle is one of the most important raptors that we can find on the West Coast of Canada. This majestic eagle stands out for the white head that adults have.

bald eagle best place to spot birds at the Canadian rockies

In Jasper National Park we were able to contemplate twice the national symbol bird of the United States.

bald eagle fishing in Canadian rockies jasper national park

To see them you have to keep your eyes wide open to the sky or to some lagoon where they could be fishing. We saw one in the Edith Lake area and another one on the Maligne Road in Jasper National Park.

porcupine

The porcupine is another animal you can see in the Canadian Rockies. This rodent covered with about 30,000 quills usually lives in forests and weighs about 11 pounds.

porcupine lake louise where to find animals

We saw one in the area of Lake Louise in Banff National Park and it is true that as we approached, it raised the barbs as a sign of threat.

Beavers

As a symbol of Canada, we could not leave the Rocky Mountains without seeing beavers. This rodent with flat, scaly tail spends much of its time in the water, so the easiest way to see them is while they swim. Beavers are known to form wooden dikes in rivers and streams, so in some areas of Canada, they have been unfortunately hunted down near to extinction because they changed river flows damaging the activities of humans.

photograph beavers in Canadian rockies wildlife

Finding it was very difficult since it is a nocturnal animal. Our only occasion was at sunset in the Cottonwood Slough near Jasper.

Squirrels

The easiest animals to see in the Canadian Rockies are squirrels. We could see two different species, the Red Squirrel, which stand out for being reddish and with abundant fur in the tail and the Least Chipmunk in whose back they have black and white lines.

 red squirrel in canada jasper

It might seem funny, but the only wildlife attack in the Canadian Rockies that we witnessed was a squirrel biting a tourist who was trying to feed it. His finger was bleeding for more than an hour.

 least chipmunk Canadian rockies wild animals

Feeding wild animals in the Canada National Parks is illegal and dangerous and also it has a very negative impact on wildlife.

Columbia ground squirrel

The Columbia ground squirrel can be found living in numerous colonies in meadows.

Columbia ground squirrel best place to viewing wildlife Canadian rockies

We saw them in large numbers at the Kicking Horse Campground in Yoho National Park and the Wapiti Campground in Jasper National Park. They are like a common squirrel except that they have a thin tail and do not climb trees. They look like marmots of tiny size.

OTHER ANIMALS AT THE CANADIAN ROCKIES

In addition to the animals mentioned before, there are other spectacular animals that we couldn’t see on our trip.

If you are lucky enough to see any of this list do not hesitate to contact us and send us a photo and we will add it to this guide to viewing wildlife in the Canadian Rockies.

COYOTE

The coyote looks like a medium-sized dog. It has a thick tail, and its fur has a grayish brown color.

It is a nocturnal animal that usually lives in packs. Although an individual who goes alone may seem harmless, in a pack, they can become dangerous.

They told us there are many in the area of Vermilion Lakes and Bow Valley Parkway, although we could not see any.

COUGAR

The cougar or mountain lion is the largest of the felines that live in the Canadian Rockies (and the largest cat in the world capable of purring). They are found throughout the Americas although its population has been reduced due to human activities.

Although the chances of encountering a cougar are minimal, since they are nocturnal animals that live in the high mountains, you should know that the possibility exists and that you must get away from them without losing eye contact.

Cougars usually know that it is better to stay away from humans, but it would not be the first time someone is attacked by a cougar.

In the Canadian Rockies, the population of cougars is less than 100 specimens, of which about 70 live in Jasper National Park.

LYNX

The other feline that we found in the Canadian Rockies Park is the lynx. It is quite rare to see them since they have nocturnal habits.

There is no estimate of how many lynxes live in the Rockies.

WOLVERINE

The Wolverine is the largest of the weasels with up to 40 pounds of weight. This animal is in danger of extinction, so it is extremely rare to spot one.

They eat everything from plants to elk or wapitis. But it is an opportunistic eater, and it tends to eat what is close and accessible. Sometimes it steals corpses from other predators. They have a very aggressive character, so they can even scare bears away. Also, just like skunks, they have glands next to the anus that allow them to spray their food with musk to keep other animals away and eat them later.

CARIBOU

Another animal in danger of extinction in the Rocky Mountains of Canada is the Caribou. This deer is similar in size to an elk but with lighter colored hair. It is also different because both females and males have antlers with a peculiar shape.

Nowadays, there are only about 150 specimens in the Canadian Rockies, although seeing them is very difficult since in summer they retreat to the high peaks far from humans.

In winter and with luck you can see them on the Maligne Road and the Icefields Parkway in the area of Jasper National Park.

HOW TO AVOID ENCOUNTERS WITH wild animals IN CANADIAN ROCKIES

We know that all of us here love to watch wildlife. However, not all encounters are a positive experience at all.

For example, if you are hiking in a remote place and suddenly you find a cougar or a bear with their cubs, it may end up being your nightmare.

Follow the following tips to avoid encounters with wild animals:

  • When you hike, make noise. Let the animals know that you are approaching before they can see you. There is nothing more dangerous than an animal taken by surprise. Go singing, speaking loudly, etc. The bear bells, although they are very popular, are not useful.
  • Be aware of recent wildlife signals. If you find stools, broken trunks, excavations or tracks and you think they are fresh, leave the area.
  • Try to walk in groups of four or more people. Never leave children or pets out of sight.
  • If you find a large dead animal (deer, elk, bear, etc.) leave the area immediately. A predator is probably close.
  • Store your food properly. Try to reduce the food you are carrying as much as possible if you go trekking. Just take a snack if it is essential. Similarly, if you camp, never put food inside the tent if you do not want to have unexpected visitors at night. Food should always be stored in the car or preferably in food lockers.
  • Avoid nocturnal or low visibility hikes. Also, if you decide to run or ride a bicycle along the park routes, bear in mind that you are taking a risk since you are more likely to take by surprise the animals that you find on the road.

HOW TO ACT DURING WILDLIFE ENCOUNTERS IN THE CANADIAN ROCKIES

However, even if we follow all the guidelines indicated above, we may have a wildlife encounter on our trip to the Canadian Rockies. Here are some tips to follow during our encounters to stay safe both us and the animals.

  • Never feed a wild animal. An animal used to humans is a dead animal. Keep wildlife wild. Also, Take with you your trash, so it is not accessible to wildlife. Not doing it is another way to feed them.

Bears, cougars, coyotes or wolves that usually go to populated areas or campsites in search of food are killed by the rangers of the park because they are considered a danger to people. If you don’t want that, avoid wild animals access food possible thanks to their interaction with the human being.

  • Never approach an animal and if the animal is the one approaching, get away. Always keep a safe distance. It is recommended to leave a 100 feet security distance for wapitis, moose, elk and goats and a distance of at least 300 feet for bears, cougars, and wolves.
  • Do not corner the animal. Always leave an escape way. An animal that feels trapped is more likely to attack.
  • In case of encounters with wolves, cougars or coyotes, never turn your back on them. Get away slowly without losing eye contact. Try to look as big as you can. For this, you can place an object on your head.
  • In the case of an encounter with a bear, our reaction will depend on the type of bears and type of encounter, as we tell you in this article. Having the bear spray ready is always the best solution.
  • Don’t run under any circumstances, as it could awaken its predatory instincts.

If you come across a cougar, grizzly bear, black bear or wolf, you must report it to the park, since these species populations are being monitored and controlled. Also if you have an unfortunate encounter with any other type of wildlife, you should also report it.

For Banff, Yoho, and Kootenay you can call 403-762-1470 and for Jasper at 780-852-6155.

WILDLIFE MAP – WHERE TO VIEWING ANIMALS IN THE CANADIAN ROCKIES

In this map, we have pinned the places where we could see the Canadian Rockies wildlife. In addition, as we discussed in the Jasper National Park article, at the reception of the Sunwapta Falls Rocky Mountain Lodge on the Icefields Parkway, there is a map where everyone can point out the sightings made in recent days. That map will be more updated than the map that we show you here, but this way you make a general idea of where to spot wildlife in the Canadian Rockies.

WILDLIFE ON THE WEST COAST OF CANADA

Finally, I wanted to mention other animals that we can see on the West Coast of Canada. We spent in Vancouver the first two days of our 15-day Canadian Rockies trip.

Watching orcas in freedom has been my dream since I was a child and It became true there.

Although in this article you can see more fully which animals you can spot at a whale watching tour, I don’t want to end this post without at least mentioning them.

KILLER WHALES

Seeing the largest dolphin in the world sailing the oceans is priceless. The best time to see orcas in Vancouver is from May to October since apart from the resident whales, many transients will be crossing this waters.

animals to watch at the west coast of Canada

HUMPBACK WHALES

Another whale that is common in Vancouver waters is the humpback whale.

best time to see wild animals Canada humpback whale

BALD EAGLE

As in the Canadian Rockies, you can see Bald Eagles fishing in Vancouver.

bald eagle best place to see them Vancouver canada

CALIFORNIA SEA LIONS

California sea lions can also be seen basking in the dukes of the harbor.

animals in the Canadian rockies California sea lion

STELLER SEA LIONS

We can also find Steller Sea Lions. These are quite larger than the previous ones. They can weigh 1 ton and measure a length of 10 feet.

fauna Canada steller sea lions where to see them

And with this, we end our guide to spotting wildlife in the Canadian Rockies.

PLEASE Let us know IF YOU SEE OTHER SPECIES SO we can ADD THEM TO THE LIST and help other travelers

written by Ascenphotography by danzafra

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Top things to do in the Icefields Parkway – The most scenic drive in Canada

The Icefields Parkway is one of the most scenic drives in the world. Across its over 144 miles, you will find more than 100 glaciers, blue lakes, impressive waterfalls, and stunning canyons.

It is not surprising that in 1984 it was included in the List of World Heritage Sites by UNESCO.

This road, which links Banff National Park with Jasper National Park in the province of Alberta, is not only the best way to reach many of the must-see sites of the Canadian Rockies, but it is one of the most important attractions by itself.

icefields parkway travel guide road trip canada

To drive the Highway 93, better known as Icefields Parkway, you will need to pay a ticket or to get the annual Discovery Pass. This option will save you a lot of money if you are traveling through the Canadian Rockies since it will give you access to all the National Parks and their activities.

ICEFIELDS PARKWAY – TRAVELING THE MOST BEAUTIFUL ROAD IN THE WORLD

The best way to get around the Icefields Parkway is by renting a car. There are some buses that pass through it but the most beautiful road in the world goes beyond the main points of interest where the bus can stop.

The Icefields Parkway has unmarked viewpoints that will urge you to stop your car and admire the pristine nature of the Canadian Rockies.

everything you need to know about the icefield parkway

Also, apart from the viewpoints, at any time a bear, deer or any other animal may appear, either across the road or in areas by the road. The good thing about traveling the Icefields Parkway by car is to have the freedom to stop when this happens to spot some of the mosr incredible Canadian Rockies wildlife.

the most scenic drive icefields parkway canada

As these encounters are common, the maximum speed along the Icefields Parkway is 55mp/h. However, in some specific points, there may be signs announcing a reduction in speed, for example in an area known to be a natural crossing area of caribous, a species of deer that is practically extinct.

The Icefields Parkway is open all year round, although in winter it closes occasionally depending on the weather conditions. During this season chains or winter tires are mandatory.

top things to do in icefields parkway canada

I strongly advise you to either visit the Banff or Jasper Visitor Center to get the Guide to the Icefields Parkway. Especially the guide of things to do in the Icefields Parkway in summer, as it includes a map that will be very useful in your journey.

You can download it here.

TOP STOPS IN THE ICEFIELDS PARKWAY

Before diving deeper into the best things to do in the Icefields Parkway, I’ll give you ten reasons to go through this road if you visit the Canadian Rockies:

  1. Bow Lake
  2. Peyto Lake
  3. Waterfowl Lakes
  4. Mistaya Canyon
  5. Bridal Veil Falls
  6. Athabasca Glacier
  7. Tangle Creek Falls
  8. Sunwapta Falls
  9. Athabasca Falls
  10. Valley of the Five Lakes

TOP THINGS TO DO IN THE ICEFIELDS PARKWAY – BANFF AREA

In this section, we will talk a little more about the things to do in the Icefields Parkway related to Banff National Park in the order that you will find them traveling from south towards north.

BOW LAKE

The first lake that we can find is Bow Lake at the foot of the majestic Crowfoot Mountain.

main attractions icefields parkway canada

The views are overwhelming, so it’s a stop that many people make to enjoy a picnic.

what to do at the icefields parkway in winter

We stopped at this lake up to three times. The most spectacular was at night when the Milky Way seemed to come out from behind the Crowfoot Mountain.

main stops in the icefields parkway things to do

The Canadian Rockies offer some of the best dark skies in North America, so if you want to try to shoot some night photographs I suggest you read our Guide to Learning how to photograph the Milky Way

Another magical scene that we experienced in this lake was the moment when we saw a grizzly bear in the surroundings.

Do not miss our guide to avoiding bear attacks in Canada.

top stops to do at the icefields parkway

If you look at the previous image, you can also see part of the Crowfoot Glacier, partially illuminated over the mountains.

PEYTO LAKE

However, there is a lake that in our opinion is even more beautiful, Peyto Lake, our next thing to see on the Icefields Parkway.

As it is a glacial lake, in the summer months it is painted in a beautiful and unique blue color different from any other lake,

peyto lake must stop in icefields parkway

We visited this lake 4 times during out trip. To get there you need to walk the 20-minute trail to reach the viewpoint, Bow Summit. Its wolf head shape is a wonder of nature that you must contemplate in detail.

Traveling in May, the use of crampons is highly recommended to travel the icy path. However, this month allowed us to witness one of the most spectacular phenomena: the melting of Peyto Lake.

The following photographs were taken five days apart between the end of May and the beginning of June.

best place to stay close to the icefields parkway

Peyto lake guide to the icefields parkway

Undoubtedly, the best time of the day to visit this lake is at sunset, when the light turns all the valley into gold.

best sunset from the icefields parkway

WATERFOWL LAKES – HOWSE PEAK

The next lake you have to see on the Icefields Parkway is Waterfowl Lakes, at the foot of Howse Peak.

best lakes to visit from the icefields parkway

This peak has a characteristic pyramid shape that makes it unmistakable. In addition, it is usually another regular stop for lunch, so you probably share the parking lot with RVs and tourists taking an Icefields Parkway Roadtrip.

MISTAYA CANYON

Another interesting place to see on the Icefields Parkway is the Mistaya Canyon. Getting to this wonderful canyon is very easy since it is only a couple of minutes from the car park. This means that during peak hours it is full of tourists, so if you want to take good pictures without crowds, I recommend you visit it first thing in the morning.

mistaya canyon icefields parkway canada

The water that molds the Mistaya canyon has a pale blue-green color coming from the melting glacier.

best time to visit the icefields parkway

BIG HILL & BIG BEND

At one point the Icefields Parkway starts to suddenly gain elevation. This is where we can get one of the best views of the road, at the Big Hill & Big Bend.

tips to travel to the icefields parkway canada big bend & big hill

big bend & big hill top things you cannot miss at the icefields parkway

For me, the most mountainous area of the Icefields Parkway is also the most spectacular.

tips to visit the icefields parkway

BRIDAL VEIL FALLS

Immediately after passing a sharp turn we have to stop again to see another wonder of the Icefields Parkway, the Bridal Veil Falls, a waterfall we can enjoy from the same road.

bridal veil falls canada icefields parkway

TOP THINGS TO DO IN THE ICEFIELDS PARKWAY – JASPER AREA

After this point, the Icefields Parkway enters the Jasper National Park. In this section, we will focus on the things you have to do on the Icefields Parkway related to Jasper National Park.

ATHABASCA GLACIER

The Columbia Icefield is the most significant ice mass in the Canadian Rockies with an extension of over 124 square miles. From here comes the name of the road we are talking about in this article. This ice field feeds other glaciers such as the Athabasca Glacier, the Columbia Glacier, and the Saskatchewan Glacier.

Glaciers are masses of ice formed by the weight of snow. In winter, the precipitations are very abundant, forming layers of very thick snow which weight results in solidification. In the spring, part of this ice is thawed feeding the lakes of the Canadian Rockies and the rivers that in this case flow to three oceans, the Pacific Ocean, the Arctic Ocean, and the Atlantic Ocean.

The best way to get to know the Columbia Ice Field is through one of its glaciers, the Athabasca Glacier, as it is one of the most accessible glaciers in the world. This tongue of ice thousands of years old has an area of four square miles.

We have two options to visit it. The first is to park just below the glacier and make a small route that takes you closer to it. Walking on the ice, in this case, is forbidden because there might be hidden gaps where you could fall down to a likely death.

 athabasca glacier best things to do at the icefields parkway

The other option is to hire a tour in the Columbia Icefields Discovery Center, in front of the glacier but on the other side of the road. This tour includes a ride by Ice Explorers. These 6-wheeled SUVs are entirely designed to move on the ice of the glacier. In addition, the guide will allow you to get off the vehicle to walk on the glacier in a safe area.

You can do this activity from mid-April to mid-October. The price is 100 CAD or 90 CAD if purchased 48 hours in advance.

GLACIER SKYWALK

With the Ice Explorer tour ticket, we will also have access to the Glacier Skywalk. A platform with a glass floor, hanging on the edge of a cliff, where we can enjoy impressive views of the Sunwapta Valley.

If you only want to do this activity, the price is 34 CAD or 31 CAD if purchased 48 hours in advance.

TANGLE CREEK FALLS

The next thing to see on the Icefields Parkway does not even require you to get out of the car. It is the beautiful Tangle Creek Falls that are practically on the highway.

tangle creek falls travel guide icefields parkway

SUNWAPTA FALLS

However, if we had to choose the most photogenic and unique waterfall on the Icefields Parkway with no doubt it would be the next one, the Sunwapta Falls.

To get there, you only have to walk a half a mile path from the parking lot.

sunwapta falls best things to do at the icefields parkway

This waterfall, only 62 feet high, is formed thanks to the waters coming from the Athabasca Glacier. However, its main attraction is the small island of trees just before the falls.

ATHABASCA FALLS

The following waterfalls to see on the Icefield Parkway are the Athabasca Falls.

In this case, the most eye-catching thing is how water has carved the stone, shaping incredible vertical walls.

athabasca falls top stops at the icefields parkway

Along the path, there are different viewpoints on both sides of the Athabasca River.

This waterfall, 78 feet high, takes plenty of water throughout the year, even at the end of summer, making it a place that can not be missed by anyone traveling across the Icefield Parkway.

athabasca falls icefields parkway itinerary

VALLEY OF THE FIVE LAKES

Finally, just before reaching the town of Jasper, we found the Valley of the Five Lakes.

valley of the five lakes icefields parkway canada

It takes about 3 miles to visit these five green water lakes. For us, it was the best hike on the Icefields Parkway.

valley of where to sleep at the icefields parkway canada

It is a perfect excursion to do on a sunny day, as we will enjoy the different bright colors of the lakes.

icefields parkway from Banff to jasper

Although the level of difficulty of this trekking is medium/low, high shoes and a good repellent are recommended if you visit the lakes during the summer.

top things to do in the icefields parkway valley of the five lakes

OTHER THINGS TO SEE IN THE ICEFIELDS PARKWAY

In addition to all the main and touristy spots on the Icefields Parkway, there are thousands of other unnamed places that will make you pull over to see them in more detail. Below you can find some of those spots.

icefields parkway most scenic drive road

OLD ICEFIELDS PARKWAY

There is a very sharp curve in the Icefields Parkway, just before the hill where you can see Big Hill and Big Bend. If we come from Banff, going up, we will see that on the left there is a small path going down. If we come from Jasper we will find it on the right. You can leave the car there, as this old road is blocked by granite rocks. You will have to cross a small stream.

where to stay in the icefields parkway hotel width=

The path is an old road built by the American Navy. On the way, we will pass by a bridge that dates from 1938 and by an old car that crashed at some time in the past.

drive the icefields parkway by car width=

We do not know where this road came from as there is very little information about it. When we went through it, we thought it would be an old section of the Icefields Parkway, but after looking into more information, we saw that it was a road leading to the Saskatchewan glacier where American soldiers tried modern vehicles to walk on the ice.

ABRAHAM LAKE

Although Abraham Lake does not belong to either Banff National Park or Jasper National Park, we believe that a visit to this lake is a must if you drive along the Icefields Parkway.

best lake close to icefields parkway

In summer it can go unnoticed as any other deep blue lake like those found throughout the Canadian Rockies.

abraham lake big horn sheep icefields parkway

However, during the winter, it is worth the visit to this lake.

visit Abraham lake from the icefields parkway canada

During the freezing of the lake, methane bubbles freeze creating a very peculiar phenomenon. You can observe the different gas bubbles trapped in different layers of ice, Even though it seems fragile, you can walk through the ice safely. You can see this phenomenon here.

Wildlife AT THE ICEFIELDS PARKWAY

Finally, another thing you have to do on the Icefields Parkway is to open your eyes wide. The surroundings of the most beautiful road in the world are full of life.

wildlife black bear icefields parkway canada

Black bears, grizzly bears, mountain goats, deer, caribou, mountain lions, big-horned sheep, moose, hundreds of different birds. Undoubtedly the best time to travel the Icefields Parkway if you want to enjoy the wildlife is at dawn and dusk. At this time the animals will be more active.

Don’t forget to check the small streams by the road, since it is common to find animals drinking water.

moose at the icefields parkway animals width=

And please, drive carefully. Unfortunately, crashes with animals are very common on this road. Remember that they are at home and that you are the intruder.

If you want to know all the animals you can find, do not miss our list of wildlife in the Canadian Rockies.

WHERE TO STAY IN THE ICEFIELDS PARKWAY

Although we can travel the 144 miles in a day, I do not recommend it. There are many things to see on the Icefields Parkway so take at least two days to explore it.

everything you need to know before visiting icefields parkway

Below you will find the accommodations where we stayed in the Icefields Parkway, from Banff National Park to Jasper National Park.

HI-MOSQUITO CREEK HOSTEL

Our idea was to stay at the Mosquito Creek Campground, but since we were traveling at the end of May, most campsites on the Icefields Parkway were still closed. Next to this campsite, we can find the Hi-Mosquito Creek Hostel.

The hostel offered both private rooms and a 12-bed shared room, priced at € 28 per bed. As we were traveling with a low budget we chose this option.

The downside of this hostel is that it does not have showers but it does have a wood-burning sauna.. You can book it here.

NUM-TI-JAH LODGE

We took a small break in the living room of this historic lodge. However, talking about accommodation on the Icefields Parkway and not mentioning the Num-Ti-Jah Lodge is a sin.

This mountain cabin was built by an English explorer even before the Icefields Parkway was built. Jimmy Simpson who arrived in Canada in 1896 worked as a mountain guide in the Canadian Rockies for scientists, artists, hunters, and mountaineers.

In love with Bow Lake, he promised himself that he would build a hotel here and, according to his resolution, it was opened in 1940 as a hotel with 6 rooms. The accommodation is practically the same as when it was opened to the public, being a favorite hotel for travelers on a larger budget. You can book it here.

SUNWAPTA FALLS ROCKY MOUNTAIN LODGE

As we knew beforehand that we wanted to photograph the Sunwapta Falls at night, we booked a room at the Sunwapta Falls Rocky Mountain Lodge, as it is only half a mile from the waterfall.

 sunwapta falls icefields parkway canada

The room was quite good, with a fireplace next to the bed. We paid € 150 per night. You can make your reservation here.

If you’re staying, keep in mind that the WiFi connection is very poor. The hotel is in a remote place so take advantage to disconnect and reconnect with nature.

Something to remark of this hotel is the board that they have at the reception where it shows the last wildlife sightings in the area. The map has a lot of pins of different colors that everyone who passes can update. Each color is a different species: wolves, moose, goats, bears, etc. If you are interested in seeing animals, I suggest you stop by this hotel to have an eye on the map even if you are not going to stay here.

WAPITI CAMPGROUND

The Wapiti Campground is located on the banks of the Athabasca River. It is at the end of the Icefields Parkway but at the entrance of Jasper town. We did not stay here while driving across the Icefields Parkway but the three days we were exploring Jasper.

The campsite has showers, bonfires facilities and is also an area frequented by bears so you can find traps like the one in the following image.

bear tramp icefields parkway canada

The price was € 19 per night. You can book from here.

TIPS FOR DRIVING THE ICEFIELDS PARKWAY

There is a single gas station on the Icefields Parkway. This is located in The Crossing Resort, halfway between the town of Lake Louise and Jasper. However, the price of fuel here is much higher than refueling before taking the Icefields Parkway.

Below you can find the gas prices in Lake Louise in May 2017.

gas price at icefields parkway

Do not to forget to fill the tank before embarking on your route through the Icefields Parkway!

ICEFIELDS PARKWAY MAP

To finish this guide of things to see in the Icefields Parkway, here we attached the map with all the places that you can not miss.

If you want to use this Icefields Parkway on your mobile offline:

  • Download the Mapswithme app on your phone.
  • Download and save the following KML file in your Dropbox.

icefields parkway map

  • Open the file via Dropbox from your cell phone. You will get a dialog box where you have to select open with the Mapswithme application (Maps.me)
GREAT! YOU ARE ALREADY PREPARED TO DISCOVER ALL THE WONDERS THAT THE ICEFIELDS PARKWAY HAS PREPARED FOR YOU.
written by Ascenphotography by danzafra

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Emerald Lake – The most stunning lake in the Canadian Rockies

Emerald Lake is the most beautiful lake we have ever seen. The turquoise blue of its water, bordered by pine forests and snowy peaks, is one of the most characteristic images of the Canadian Rockies.

guide to emerald lake

Maybe we are not objective when talking about it, but we spent the most magical night of our life here. From its shore, we enjoyed one of the most significant solar storms of the last decade in the form of Northern Lights dancing across the sky.

best place to stay in emerald lake canada yoho

In this article, we present the complete guide of things to do in Emerald Lake.

WHERE THE EMERALD LAKE TURQUOISE COLOR COME FROM?

Undoubtedly Emerald Lake is the main attraction of Yoho National Park. And, mainly, the blue and turquoise color is the principal reason to make this lake considered as the jewel of the Canadian Rockies.

Most of the lakes that we will find in this area are full of water coming from the melting glaciers in the near mountains. During the winter the glaciers grow and move. This movement causes erosion in the rock created by the ice. The small particles torn from the rock are known as silt, and in spring, they are usually washed away with meltwater forming what is known as glacial milk.

When arriving at the lakes, the silt does not settle in the bottom but it remains in suspension for a long time, and when the sunlight hits the surface, we can see these characteristic colors.

emerald lake yoho national park canada travel blog

Each glacial lake has a unique color, depending on the type of rock where the glacier is located. The Emerald Lake has a bright green/turquoise blue color.

BEST TIME TO VISIT EMERALD LAKE

If you want to know the best time to visit Emerald Lake and find this original turquoise color, you should take into account the time of thawing of the lake.

Emerald Lake is located at an elevation of 4265 feet, quite low compared to other lakes in the Canadian Rockies. It usually thaws earlier than most of the lakes, between mid-May and early June.

It is not only necessary that the lake is thawed to enjoy its intense color. If you visit it too soon, even though it is melted, it may still not have enough silt to enjoy it at its maximum splendor.

kayaking in emerald lake price activities

Conversely, with the passage of time, the silt of the lake decants, falling into the bottom of the lake and losing the light reflection. If you go too late (as of September), you may not see the turquoise color.

In addition to going in the best time of the lake’s thawing cycle, you have to consider the lighting. The sunnier the day, the more vivid the color will be.

HOW TO GET TO EMERALD LAKE

Emerald Lake is located in Yoho National Park, just 15 minutes from Field, the main town of the park and where we will find the visitor center. In this information center, they offer the Guide of hiking routes in Yoho National Park. Here you can see it attached. All the hikes that can be done from Emerald Lake are shown in this guide.

To get to Emerald Lake, you can drive the Trans-Canada Highway for two hours from Calgary, where many commercial flights arrive every day.

On the way, you will pass through Banff National Park, where you can see other glacial lakes such as Peyto Lake, Moraine Lake or Lake Louise.

Another way to get to Lake Emerald is from Vancouver. Also, taking the Trans-Canada Highway but in the opposite direction.

PARKING IN EMERALD LAKE

There are two parking lots in Emerald Lake. The first one we found on the road going to the lake, is only for those who are staying at the resort, the Emerald Lake Lodge.

If you are going to stay here, park your car in this parking lot and go to the cabin at the entrance. Once there, you will find a telephone so you can call the reception asking for the free shuttle to pick you up. Do not try to walk; it’s too far.

If you only go to Emerald Lake to spend the day, you should arrive early during the high season. The parking lot by the lake is quite small. In the morning, during our visit at the end of May, there were already cars waiting for a spot,  so I can imagine that finding a parking spot during the summer must be a real challenge.

TOP THINGS TO DO IN EMERALD LAKE

Once we get to the lake, whether we go with our car or using the shuttle, the first thing we see is the small island of the Emerald Lake Lodge linked to the shore by a small bridge.

what to do in emerald lake canada

From here we can already enjoy the intense color of the lake. In this section, we will tell you all the things you can do in Emerald Lake and its surroundings.

CANOE AND KAYAK RENTAL IN EMERALD LAKE

On the left bank of the Emerald lake bridge, there is a small souvenir shop. In this same store, in addition to selling all kinds of gifts, they rent kayaks.

kayak in emerald lake canada best things to do in yoho

The price is not low, CAD 60, to rent the canoe for two people for 1 hour. However, it is worth it, since it is the best way to see the real size and brightness of Emerald Lake.

best tours to emerald lake resort canada

Emerald Lake is not only the prettiest, but it is also the largest lake in Yoho. It is true that we were not paddling all the time, but in an hour we did not have time to explore even half of the lake.

If you rent the kayak for one hour, my advice is that you go to the center and from there just enjoy the intense color around you.

Walking AROUND THE LAKE – EMERALD LAKE TRAIL

Another way to enjoy the lake is merely walking around the shoreline. There is a very accessible and straightforward path, even for wheelchairs. The Emerald Lake Trail goes around the lake on a 3-mile route that you can do in about two hours.

best things to visit in emerald lake

From this trail, you will have views both of the lake, as well as the mountains and glaciers surrounding the lake.

top things to do in emerald lake trail in one day

Keep in mind that in the spring there is usually a tongue of ice and snow on the left side caused by an avalanche. With the pass of the summer it melts, but at the end of the winter, it can be dangerous to cross this area as it is expected that the avalanche occurs from one moment to another.

emerald lake in a day for backpackers canada yoho

When we went, in May, the trail was partially covered by this mass of ice.

HAMILTON LAKE

This 7’5-mile round trip is one of the most difficult routes in Yoho National Park. It gains an elevation of nearly 3000 feet, with a neverending slope. It is essential to wear high-top boots so yo protect your ankles.

On the way, we will pass by the Hamilton Falls, just 0’6 miles from Emerald Lake and with hardly any elevation. From here the climb is steep until you reach the Hamilton Lake.

It usually takes about 3 hours to get to the lake, and from there you will have incredible views of Mount Vaux and Mount Goodsir. The best time to do this route is in July and August. In other months it is possible that you will find snow and that the lake will still be frozen.

EMERALD BASIN

This other route starts from the northwest corner of the Emerald Lake. In the beginning, the path is flat and straight. However, at some point, it turns to the left and begins to gain elevation quickly (492 feet).

In this section, you can find a dense forest of cedars and fir trees, in which it is essential to carry your bear spray since encounters are frequent here.

Do not miss our guide to avoiding bear attacks in Canada.

Once we leave the forest, the road flattens out but is stonier than the previous path, until we reach a field of stones.

From here we will have incredible views of The President, Wapta Mountain, and Mt. Burgess mountains.

YOHO LAKE

Another route to do in Emerald Lake is known as Yoho Pass, which takes you to Yoho Lake.

At the north end of the lake and after passing the detour that begins the Emerald Basin the road separates again and crosses a rocky terrain with small streams that end up in the Emerald Lake.

emerald lake from yoho pass how to get

After crossing them, the trail leads to a mountain slope until arriving at a small waterfall coming from the melting snow.

best things to do in emerald lake

Behind us, we leave the Emerald Lake, shining blue among the green pines.

where to stay in emerald lake view

In our case, traveling at the end of May, the road was difficult to follow because of the snow. Despite wearing microspikes, it was complicated to advance with the more than 30 inches of snow that covered the path.

things to visit in emerald lake trail hikes

It will take approximately 3 hours to get to Yoho Lake on a round trip of roughly 10 miles.

where to eat and where to sleep in emerald lake

TAKAKKAW FALLS

From Yoho Lake, you can follow the path until you reach the Takakkaw falls. It’s just a 1’8-mile trek, but we could not do it since the snow cover increased from that point.

These waterfalls are among the most impressive natural wonders in the Yoho National Park, so we will be back soon to visit them.

Takakkaw Falls can also be reached by road, along the Yoho Valley Road. However, it is usually closed until mid to late June.

BURGESS SHALE

One of the curiosities of Emerald Lake is that between two of the mountains that border the lake; Mt Field and Wapta Mountain, there is one of the most important fossil remains that have been found to date. It is known as the Burgess Shale, and it stands out for conserving not only skeletons but also soft parts of very varied creatures.

To visit this area, you must reserve a spot for the guided group of 12 people that leaves every day. This activity is carried out from the middle of July to September. The route is known as Walcott Quarry, and the price is CAD70.

where to stay in emerald lake lodge canada

The path that the guide follows starts at the Takakkaw Falls making the route back to Emerald Lake passing through Yoho Lake. However, before descending the whole trail to the lake, turns left to reach the fossil settlement. The route is troublesome in some sections, so it is not allowed for children under eight years old. In total, 13 miles are covered in 11 hours with an elevation of 2624 feet.

emerald lake snow winter canada

On the Parks Canada website, you can find more information and book your spot.

ICELINE TRAIL

We will pass again by Yoho Lake and the Takakkaw Falls, to make one of the most popular multi-day hiking routes in Yoho, the Iceline Trail, that runs through different glaciers.

To complete this hike you will need at least two days, staying overnight at the Stanley Mitchell Hut.

The easiest way to do this hike is by starting at the Takakkaw Falls (arriving by car). From here we will take the path that leads to the Laughing Falls and continues through the Yoho Valley. After 5’6 miles and an elevation of 1640 feet (approximately 4 hours), we will reach the refuge.

The next day we take the Iceline Trail, the main route that goes to the foot of the Vice President MT. After passing through Yoho Lake, we will continue the Yoho Pass descent until we get to Emerald Lake. It will take about 7 and a half hours to travel the 11 miles that separate the lake and the hut, with an elevation of 3280 feet.

burgues pass emerald lake canada

Another way is to return directly to the Takakkaw Falls, where we had previously leave the car, although the idea of linking the Iceline Trail with the Yoho Pass is a great way to make both trails in less time. Of course, if you are traveling through Canada by car, after arriving in Emerald Lake we will need someone to take us to the parking lot in Takakkaw Falls to pick up our car.

If you do not have two days to do this route, then you must do the Iceline via Celeste Lake, shortening much of the Iceline trail section that takes to the refuge and missing all the part of Yoho and Emerald Lake but visiting Celeste Lake. It will take you 6 hours to return to the parking lot of the Takakkaw Falls on a 12-mile route with an elevation gain of 2624 feet.

NORTHERN LIGHTS AT EMERALD LAKE

Maybe it’s unfair to make you believe that seeing Northern Lights in Emerald Lake is easy. The chances to enjoy a huge solar storm (starting from KP5) to make them visible here are quite low.

top things to do in emerald lake

However, we saw them, and it is not impossible. If you visit Emerald Lake and there happen to be a solar storm producing Northern Lights, we don’t want you to miss them only because you don’t know it is possible to see them in this location.

emerald lake lodge northern lights

If you visit Emerald Lake or any place in the Canadian Rockies, check if there are chances to see the Aurora Borealis. We explain how In the prediction section on this Guide to photographing Northern Lights.

WHERE TO STAY AT EMERALD LAKE

Of course, the best option to stay is in the Emerald Lake Lodge, inside the wooden huts that are located on the Emerald Lake islet.

best sunset in emerald lake canada

One of the things that we were more surprised about this hotel is that it seems that the decoration of the rooms is still the same as when it was opened in the 80s. However, this fact instead of making us feel to be in an old-fashioned hotel, made us travel in time, to the time when the Canadian Rockies were just based only on luxury tourism, and only a few could enjoy this fantastic place.

best accommodation in emerald lake lodge canada

In our cabin, we had a terrace overlooking the lake with a partial view coming out of the pine trees, a fireplace by the bed and a small bathroom.

You should also know that the rooms do not have WiFi. If you want to connect you should go to the reception or the restaurant.

hotel emerald lake canada

Within the common areas, the Emerald Lake Lodge has a sauna, a jacuzzi and what I liked most, a huge and beautiful communal firepit. In addition, the hotel supplies chocolates and marshmallows that you can roast over the fire.

travel blog emerald lake canada

We only stay one night at this hotel since the price was very expensive, even with a low-season discount it was about $ 230 per night.

However, according to our experience, it is recommended to stay at the Emerald Lake Lodge at least once in your life.

WHERE TO EAT IN EMERALD LAKE

The Emerald Lake Lodge restaurants are not only the best places to eat in Emerald Lake, but I would say in the Canadian Rockies.

After several days camping and eating freeze-dried food, enjoying a good dinner was revitalizing.

The main restaurant is known as Mount Burgess Dining Room, and it is open all year. The Cilantro Restaurant only opens during the summer months.

We dined one night in the first, and although it was somewhat expensive, it was delicious.

best restaurant in emerald lake canada

However, what we liked most was the breakfast. You can not miss the banana French Toasts.

WHERE TO TAKE THE 5 BEST PICS OF EMERALD LAKE

These are for us the five best photographs you should take in Emerald Lake

  • Emerald Lake at noon from the center of the lake
  • Sunrise from the bridge that goes to Emerald Lake Lodge.
  • Sunset from the right shoreline of the Emerald Lake
  • Sunrise from the canoe rental house
  • View of the Emerald Lake from the way to Yoho Pass

EMERALD LAKE MAP

To finish this guide of things to do in the Emerald Lake we attached below a map with all the places of interest mentioned and the hiking routes marked in different colors.

 

If you want to use this map of the Emerald Lake area on your mobile and without internet:

  • Download the Mapswithme app on your cell phone.
  • Download and save the following KML file in your Dropbox.

emerald lake yoho national park map

  • Open the file through Dropbox from your cell phone. You will get a dialog box where you have to select open with the Mapswithme application (Maps.me)

And…You are ready! Now you have all the routes in your cell phone even if you have no connection in the surroundings of Emerald Lake.

Hope to SEE YOU IN THE NEXT ARTICLE AND DO NOT HESITATE TO LEAVE US A COMMENT IF YOU NEED MORE INFORMATION ABOUT THE BEAUTIFUL Emerald LAKE!

written by Ascenphotography by danzafra

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Best things to do in Jasper National Park – Ultimate guide to Canada

Visiting Jasper National Park (Alberta, Canada), is the best way to enjoy the wildlife of the Canadian Rockies.

If an animal Safari is on your travel bucket list, know that North America has its own version! In Jasper National Park, you can find Grizzly bears, black bears, elks, beavers, caribou, wolves, moose, eagles, marmots, and more.

best itinerary for a jasper Canadian rockies trip

Also, you have many other things to see in Jasper National Park: lakes with incredible reflections, hot springs, glaciers, waterfalls… the list is countless.

Although we will go into details throughout this article, these are the most important things to do in Jasper National Park:

WHAT TO DO IN JASPER NATIONAL PARK

  • Maligne Canyon: Do not miss the Maligne Canyon hike where we find six bridges with incredible views of this canyon.
  • Jasper SkyTram: Take the highest aerial tram in Canada to have unparalleled views of Jasper.
  • Athabasca Waterfalls: You can not miss a visit to the Athabasca waterfalls during your trip to Jasper.
  • Maligne Lake: Without a doubt, it is the best place to have animal encounters in Jasper. Here you can find moose, bears, wolves and much more.
  • Medicine Lake: This magical lake that disappears during certain times of the year. A must-see in Jasper.
  • Pyramid Lake: Under the Pyramid mountain, this lake surprised us for its tranquility. Do not hesitate to rent a kayak to explore it.
  • Sunwapta Fall: Visiting a waterfall where at the fall there is an island full of pine trees is something you have to do in Jasper.
  • Beauvert Lake: This lake is one of the quietest areas of Jasper, although you have to be alert for the presence of grizzly bears.

Here, you will find our Guide with the top things to do in Jasper.

VISITING JASPER NATIONAL PARK – TOURISM IN JASPER

Jasper is the northernmost of the Canadian Rockies National Parks. It is located in Alberta and linked with Banff National Park via the Icefields Parkway, one of the most scenic roads in the world.

Due to its remoteness within the Canadian Rockies, the number of tourists that visit Jasper is lower than other parks such as Banff National Park or Yoho National Park.

jasper road trip itinerary

For this reason, wildlife spreads freely across the park. We can even find some endangered species here, such as the Caribou.

If you want to know more about wildlife do not miss our wildlife article with the list of animals you can find at the Canadian Rockies.

Jasper National Park is also a Dark-Sky Preserve. These areas are committed to protecting and preserving the night sky, thus reducing or eliminating light pollution of all forms. If you like star gazing or night photography, Jasper is your place. Also, the Jasper Dark Sky Festival is celebrated in October, where special workshops take place in addition to all the star-gazing activities throughout the year.

Don’t miss our Guide to Photographing the Milky Way

We spent four days in Jasper National Park during our 15-day Canadian Rockies trip. However, there are some multi-day trails that we missed and would like to hike next time we return.

HOW TO GET TO JASPER

There are different ways to get to Jasper National Park, but I recommend renting a car, since you can’t reach many places via public transit.

HOW TO GET TO JASPER FROM BANFF

The best way to get to Jasper is through Banff National Park. Banff and Jasper National Parks are linked by the Icefields Parkway which is one of the most beautiful roads in the world. Driving across this road is simply one of the best experiences in the Canadian Rockies, so buckle up and enjoy some of the best landscapes in the world.

HOW TO GET TO JASPER FROM CALGARY

The closest airport to Jasper is Calgary, which is closer to Banff, so I recommend to first go from Calgary to Banff and then take the Icefields Parkway to Jasper.

HOW TO GET TO JASPER FROM VANCOUVER

Another option is to drive directly from Vancouver, which takes approximately 8 hours. Along the way, you could go off to see the Wells Gray Provincial Park.

TOP THINGS TO DO IN JASPER NATIONAL PARK

Jasper is the largest Canadian Rockies National Park. However, most of it is inaccessible. That’s why nature and wildlife thrive significantly more here than other parks. Additionally, it is an ideal place for multi-day hikes away from any vestige of humanity.

eagle wildlife in jasper national park maligne road canada

The landscapes that are found here varies – between cold glaciers in the south and hot springs in the north, we passed through waterfalls, lakes, valleys, mountains, and endless wildlife.

best lakes in jasper national park pyramid lake

Throughout this travel guide, we will discover all the essential places you cannot miss in Jasper National Park. We will focus mainly on symbolic sites with wildlife. And of course, we will tell you about the best points of interest and excursions in Jasper National Park.

♦ GUIDE TO jasper NATIONAL PARK

To help prepare your trip, we divided the post into four main areas:

  • Icefields Parkway. The most beautiful road in the world that we took from Banff National Park, with plenty of incredible waterfalls, glaciers, and lakes.
  • Jasper. The visitor center, restaurants, and shops surrounded by dreamy lakes and wildlife.
  • Maligne Road. You will feel like being in an animal reserve. Do not worry, they are all free and roaming wild.
  • Miette Hot Springs. Relax in thermal waters surrounded by snow-capped mountains and wildlife.

We will also talk about our accommodations (mostly campsites) in Jasper National Park as well as a list of the best hotels in Jasper.

Finally, we will give you some tips, some of which are included in our Canadian Rockies Post. I recommend having a read before continuing with this article.

ICEFIELDS PARKWAY

The Icefields Parkway is considered the most beautiful road in the world. As we commented in the Banff National Park post, waterfalls, deep blue lakes, and glaciers can be found. It is also full of wildlife.

black bear in jasper national park canada

This 142-mile-long road links Banff National Park to Jasper National Park. Even though it sounds like a significant distance, points of interest are well distributed along the road. With mesmerizing views along the way, you won’t get bored of driving here.

In this section, we will focus only on the stretch of Icefields Parkway relevant to Jasper National Park.

ATHABASCA GLACIER

The Athabasca Glacier is one of the most accessible glaciers in the world. This multi-thousand years old ice tongue covers a 4 square miles area.

From the Columbia Icefields Parkway, we can only see a small portion of the glacier, although it is relatively close. You can visit this must-see glacier in one of two ways:

The first is to park just below the ice tongue and hike up a little to observe the beginning of the glacier more closely. It is not recommended to walk on the glacier since there are cracks and sinkholes hidden by thin ice layers that have killed some tourists in the past.

athabasca glacier icefield jasper national park in 7 days

Another option is to hire a tour at the Columbia Icefields Discovery Center to visit the glacier by Ice Explorers. These 6-wheeled SUVs are designed to move around on the glacier. In addition, the guides will take you to an area where it is safe to walk on.

We would also have access to the Glacier Skywalk, a glass platform hung on the edge of a cliff with incredible views.

Tours operate from mid-April to mid-October. The price is 100 CAD or 90 CAD if purchased 48 hours in advance, and the tour takes approximately three hours for both attractions.

SUNWAPTA FALLS

The Sunwapta Falls are without a doubt the most photogenic waterfalls we have ever seen. Also, they are very accessible since the path that takes you there is only 2000 feet away from the Icefields Parkway.

sunwapta falls jasper national park itinerary

This small waterfall is formed from the waters of the Athabasca Glacier, at only 62 feet tall. However, its main attraction is the small island just before the fall with a beautiful background of snowy mountains. For me, it is one of the essential things you have to see in Jasper.

Many photographers for photos, especially during the night time, since there is no light pollution in the area.

Sunwapta falls nigh photography jasper best places to visit

Sunwapta Falls Rocky Mountain Lodge is the only place where you can stay in nearby. We will talk about this hotel later in the accommodation section.

ATHABASCA FALLS

Visiting the Athabasca Falls is another one of the main attractions in Jasper National Park. As we continue on the Icefields Parkway, we will arrive at the beginning of the path that takes us to these waterfalls.

The primary interest of this place is the water carved limestone rock forms. Along the path, we can observe the waterfall from different perspectives. Several trails go to both sides of the Athabasca River.

athabasca falls. Everything you need to know before traveling to jasper national park

This waterfall, at 78 feet tall, carries plenty of water throughout the year – even at the end of summer, it is a mandatory stop for anyone who travels the Icefield Parkway.

athabasca falls travel guide to jasper national park

VALLEY OF THE FIVE LAKES

The Valley of the Five Lakes is located at the end of the Icefields Parkway, very close to the entrance of Jasper.

valley of the five lakes. Things to visit, see and do in jasper national park

For us, it was Jasper’s best hiking trail. Each of the lakes in this valley has a different hue, from jade to emerald. It is a perfect excursion to take it on a sunny day, as we will enjoy much more of its bright colors.

best way to visit Jasper banff canada

The loop trail is 2.5 miles, which takes about two hours to hike. The terrain is not very steep despite constant ups and downs. In addition, wear closed toe shoes and powerful mosquito repellent if you come in the summer.

The last of the five lakes was the one that we liked the most, with the small wooden pier.

valley of the five lakes best hikes in jasper national park

DO NOT MISS OUR GUIDE ABOUT THE ICEFIELDS PARKWAY

JASPER

Jasper has everything you need. Restaurants, hotels, cafes, bars, ice cream shops, and even clothing and mountain equipment stores.

However, the most important of all is the Jasper National Park Information Centre, where you can get maps and guides you need for your hikes and excursions, including the Day Hiking Guide in Jasper National Park. You can also find it attached here.

Before talking about the best things to do in Jasper, we would like to recommend two places we loved here.

The first is the Scoops & Loops ice cream parlor, just in front of the information center. We had the best ice cream of our whole trip, and the best part is the names of the flavors which are perfect for the occasion, like Moose Tracks and Rocky Mountain Raspberry.

The second place I want to recommend is the Bear’s Paw Bakery, a craft bakery that became a ritual every morning that we spent in Jasper National Park. The smell of sugar and cinnamon overwhelms as soon as you walk through the door, and it is full of different natural options which make it even more difficult to decide.

COTTONWOOD SLOUGH

Cottonwood Slough is an area close to Jasper where several hiking routes begin. You can leave your car in the parking lot labeled as P4 in this guide. Here, we will find several wetlands – and with good luck, it is possible to see moose, bears, deer, and even beavers at sunset.

beaver cottonwood slough jasper where to go

We came here one evening, apart from seeing these elusive animals (Can you see the beaver in the photograph above?), we also saw a black bear close to the lake. He ran away as soon as we approached the lake.

We think this is a perfect place to enjoy the sunset, although it is more than advisable to bring a good mosquito spray (and bear spray too).

Do not miss our guide to avoiding bear attacks in Canada.

must-see places in jasper national park travel guide

PATRICIA LAKE

On the same road, the Pyramid Park Road, we can find the first big lake in Jasper, Patricia Lake. This lake has a shoreline similar to a beach, where canoe rentals are offered, making it an especially popular destination during the summer months.

patricia lake in jasper national park things to do and to see in canada

We can find the Patricia Lake Bungalows around the lake where a path connects them with the Cottonwood Slough.

One of the peculiarities of this lake is the remains of the Habakuk Project, where the British investigated ice-based composite materials to manufacture unsinkable aircraft during the Second World War. To visit these remains, you have to request for a special diving permit.

PYRAMID LAKE

Continuing along the same road, we will soon arrive at Pyramid Lake. This lake is located at the foot of the Pyramid Mountain which is a point of interest that you have to see in Jasper.

best sunset in jasper national park

This lake is also famous for Pyramid Island, a small island within the lake which can be reached by crossing a wooden bridge. There are benches and a picnic area once you get there.

top things to do in jasper national park pyramid lake

Like Patricia Lake, this lake is perfect for kayaking or enjoying a day at the beach. Also on its shore is the Pyramid Lake Resort.

where to stay in jasper national park pyramid lake

In this area, it is quite common to find moose, bears, and all kinds of wildlife at dawn and dusk. Pyramid Lake is a must see in Jasper National Park.

BEAUVERT LAKE

Moving from the west to the east side of Jasper, we will find a series of lakes that were once a single lake that covered the entire Athabasca Valley at the end of the ice age. The first of the so-called Kettle Lakes is a beautiful bright green lake called Beauvert Lake.

beauvert lake in jasper. All you need to know about jasper canada

There are several trails around, but all were closed in May when we visited due to Elk Calving Season. At this time, female deer are very dangerous as they are always on alert due to the presence of Grizzly bears that prey on the young deer.

elk calving season wildlife Canada jasper national park

ANNETTE LAKE & EDITH LAKE

Anette Lake and Edith Lake also belong to the Kettle Lakes. These lakes receive their water through an extensive network of underground springs.

annete lake best things to do in jasper national park

They are located very close to each other with a picnic area and parking between them. Both of them have a bluish green color, perfect for spending a day canoeing or kayaking. Also, Annette Lake has a beach that is very popular during the summer months.

Edith lake kayaking in jasper

By the beach, we find the fenced Ochre Lake, a lagoon full of quick sand. Entering this lagoon is prohibited.

MALIGNE ROAD

The Maligne Road goes from Jasper to Maligne Lake. It is the only way to get to this lake, and across its 26 miles, we can find canyons, lakes, and plenty of wildlife.

If you like animals, it is very likely that you will travel this road more than once. To be exact, we went through it every day we spent in Jasper (I would say more than once a day). The best time to do it is at sunrise and sunset.

moose maligne road jasper national park wildlife

Keep in mind that you will not find gas stations or shops here, so be prepared with everything you need, including food, water, and gasoline.

MALIGNE CANYON

Maligne Canyon is at the beginning of the road. This canyon is one of the most exciting attractions in Maligne Road and Jasper National Park. The complete tour is 2.4 miles, and you will pass through six bridges with stunning views of the canyon.

maligne canyon map. Ultimate guide to jasper national park

There are two possibilities, either park your car at the tea house that is next to the first bridge or park your car in the parking lot at the sixth bridge.

The first five bridges are pretty close to each other. Therefore, many people walk from the tea house to these five bridges and then drive to the last one.

maligne canyon waterfalls best view in jasper national park

Also, the most exciting part of the canyon is the area around the first bridges, since the canyon is much narrower here.

MEDICINE LAKE

Medicine Lake is probably the most mysterious lake in Canada as this lake disappears entirely during some months of the year.

The Maligne River flows from Maligne Lake to Medicine Lake. At the bottom of Medicine Lake is an underground drainage system in the limestone, where the water vanishes and then later appear in the Maligne Canyon.

medicine lake magic lake that disappear in jasper national park

During spring, melting of the glaciers means that the lake is receiving more water than it is draining, so we will find the lake full at this time.

However, in autumn and winter, the amount of water it receives is lower than its drainage rate, which then transforms the lake it into a marsh.

medicine lake the best lake in jasper canada

This unique seasonal phenomenon led the aboriginal tribes to believe that this lake had magical and healing properties, and decided to call it “Medicine Lake”.

Due to a recent fire in 2015, the entire area surrounding the lake is devastated. It will break your heart to see thousands of rows of pine trees wholly burnt out. It was an ecological catastrophe since the vicinity of the lake is home to many species.

MALIGNE LAKE

Undoubtedly, Maligne Lake is the most fantastic lake you must see in Jasper National Park. It doesn’t matter how many pictures you see – you need to enjoy the intense blue color that shines during summertime with your own eyes.

The northern end of the lake is accessible by car, and the rest of its 14 miles can be explored by boat or canoe.

maligne lake reflexion cabin jasper national park sunset

One of the most interesting points to visit is the Spirit Island, which is 8 miles away. This tiny island lures many visiting photographers. However, we did not have the opportunity to see it mainly due to time constraints.

Our boat ride here was expensive (CAD 74 or CAD 67 if you pay in advance) and not as fun as we had planned.

Our plan is to visit it by canoe, for which we would need at least three days.

The lake has three backcountry camping areas for those who are motivated to go by canoe or kayak. You can book them from here.

Also, the great thing about exploring Maligne Lake by canoe is being able to go beyond Spirit Island, where tourists are few and wildlife is bountiful.

Pure Outdoors is one of the companies that offer kayak rentals in Maligne Lake. The price is 90 CAD for individual kayaks and 120 CAD for tandem kayaks on the first day. On your second day, you get a 25% discount on your rental. Remember to book in advance so they can get the kayaks to the lake, as they do not keep them there.

MOOSE LAKE

In our attempt to see moose, we decided to hike a small route that starts from Maligne Lake which is known as Moose Lake Loop.

This area is supposed to be frequented by moose, especially toward the end of the route, where they go to the lake to drink and cool off.

We did not see any moose, but we liked the trail. It was also the only one we could hike in this area since the rest of the trails that begin from Maligne Lake were full of ice and snow.

moose lake in maligne lake area hikes to do in jasper

It took us an hour to hike the 1.25 miles trail, and luckily, we saw moose on the main road of Maligne Road later on.

wildlife in jasper national park moose

 

MIETTE HOT SPRINGS

Taking Yellowhead Highway 16 from Jasper, we arrive at one of the park’s best landmarks. The Miette Hot Springs, located in the unique setting of Fiddle Valley.

miette hot springs in jasper canada

To get there, you must cross the small town of Pocahontas through a wild and remote road. We were lucky to see several black bears here.

baby bear in jasper national park canada

The facilities are quite small, and despite being the beginning of the season, it was full of people. However, the views from here are not exciting. The price is very low, just 6 CAD per person, and they are open from May to October.

miette hot springs piscina jasper itinerary

It is also exciting to visit where the first pools were, about a half a mile away, and also to see the original spring where the water runs at 129ºF. Once the water is in the pools, it is cooled to a comfortable 104ºF.

miette hot spring in winter jasper national park

 

ACCOMMODATION AND CAMPSITES IN JASPER NATIONAL PARK

As we discussed in the Canadian Rockies article, we prefer to camp rather than staying at a hotel.
However, we stayed at the Sunwapta Falls Rocky Mountain Lodge one of the nights since it was the only lodging in this area of the Icefields Parkway.

In addition, as we commented at the beginning of this article, Jasper National Park is quite remote, and much of this area can only be entered on foot that can last even weeks. If you like nature and have enough time, do not miss the backcountry campsites.

SUNWAPTA FALLS ROCKY MOUNTAIN LODGE

We wanted to enjoy a night photography session at Sunwapta Falls and the best way to do it was to stay in these cabins that are just a quarter of a mile from the falls.

Don’t expect a Wi-Fi connection in such a remote place. It is scarce and does not work well at all. However, you will not miss it because you will be in a beautiful environment.

Our room was $173 with a fireplace next to the bed.

What we liked most about Sunwapta Falls Rocky Mountain Lodge is a board placed in the reception where guests can report their wildlife spotting. This lets guests help each other find wolves, moose, bears, etc. It was very helpful for us, as knowing where animals have been seen in the past few days of our visit greatly increased the chances of our own success.

WAPITI CAMPGROUND

The Wapiti Campground lies within the edge of the Athabasca River. It is located on the Icefields Parkway but very close to Jasper.

We stayed at this campsite during the three days that we spent in Jasper and surroundings. It is quite a large camp, and I think that it would be full in the high season since it was already quite crowded in May. You can book a spot here.

The campsite has bathrooms with showers, wood to make bonfires, and bear traps, so we assume that bears have been seen here more than once.

all you need to know before visiting jasper national park

We paid $ 22 per night.

BACKCOUNTRY CAMPINGS

As we mentioned, most of the area is not accessible by road in Jasper National Park, which results in a lot of remote trails enticing the most adventurous.

Here is a list of off-road trails that you may be interested in, classified by the number of days it takes to hike them.

Also, you will find all the backcountry campsites in the park here, so that you can plan where to sleep on your trip to the wildest Rockies.

IIf you prefer a comfortable quality hotel at a reasonable price, then I recommend choosing one of the better-valued ones at Booking.com

OTHER TIPS TO VISIT YOHO NATIONAL PARK

We provided some good tips in the Canadian Rockies Mountain article, and if you have not read yet, I strongly recommend doing so. In that post, we talked about visas, currency, park entrance fee, and the things you need to bring, etc.

Here we will focus on useful tips for Jasper.

BEst TIME TO TRAVEL TO JASPER NATIONAL PARK

The best time to visit Jasper is from May to October. However, if you travel in the spring, temperatures are considerably higher here than in Banff National Park or Yoho National Park. I recommend heading to Jasper first when visiting these three parks in one trip.

The lakes here thaw before the other parks. Also, fewer tourists at this time increased our chances to see wildlife.

HOW MUCH TIME IS NECESSARY TO VISIT JASPER NATIONAL PARK

We spent three days here, and the truth is that we would have stayed a few more days, especially so that we could kayak Maligne Lake. If you travel for 15 days to visit the Canadian Rockies, this is the time frame you can plan for this park.

In my opinion, it takes at least a week to visit all the exciting places in Jasper, including a canoe tour to Spirit Island.

WHERE TO TAKE THE 5 BEST PHOTOS OF JASPER NATIONAL PARK

The five best images of Jasper of our choice are the following:

  • Sunwapta Falls
  • Sunset in Maligne Lake
  • Sunrise at Five Lakes Valley
  • Beauvert Lake shoreline
  • Pyramid island from the wooden bridge of Pyramid Lake

JASPER NATIONAL PARK MAP

To finish this guide of things to do in Jasper, you can find a map with all the places of interest below.

If you want to use this map of Jasper National Park on your mobile offline:

  • Download the Mapswithme app on your cell phone.
  • Download and save the following KML file in your Dropbox.

jasper national park map

  • Open the file via Dropbox from your cell phone. You will get a dialog box where you have to select open with the Mapswithme application (Maps.me)

And…all set! You have everything you need to start your trip to Jasper National Park

HOPE TO SEE YOU IN OUR NEXT ARTICLE AND DO NOT HESITATE TO LEAVE US A COMMENT IF YOU NEED MORE INFORMATION ABOUT JASPER!

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written by Ascenphotography by danzafra

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Best things to do in Yoho National Park – Ultimate guide to Canada

Visiting Yoho National Park (British Columbia, Canada) means discovering all of the Rocky Mountains’ magic. Deep blue rivers, roaring waterfalls, and green pines surrounding the lakes – those sceneries are waiting for you.

top things to do in yoho national park natural bridge

Excuse me if I sound biased while talking about Yoho, but this park gave us so much – unexpectedly, it fulfilled our dream of seeing the Northern Lights in Canada.

northern lights in yoho national park

We wrote about how to photograph the Northern Lights in a separate post. In this post, you will find a travel guide of essential things to do in Yoho Canada.

Visiting YOHO NATIONAL PARK – TOURISM IN YOHO

Yoho National Park is the smallest park in the Canadian Rockies. However, it is a must visit per all of the exciting things to do here.

Yoho is in the British Columbia Province, bordering Banff National Park to its east and Kootenay National Park to its south.

Yoho means admiration and astonishment in the language of the Canadian First Nations. Unsurprisingly, it is the main feeling that you will experience during your visit. Waterfalls, turquoise blue lakes, rivers tinted with glacial salts, and trails through the most scenic landscapes are waiting for you.

BEST THINGS TO SEE IN YOHO NATIONAL PARK

Throughout the article, we will see in depth all the important places you can visit in Yoho. Before, and, just to sum up, these are the best things to see in Yoho National Park:

  • Emerald Lake: One of the most spectacular lakes in the Canadian Rockies famous for the particular turquoise color of its water.
  • Takakkaw Falls: The second highest waterfall in Western Canada is worth a visit just to see and to hear the impressive roar of its waters.
  • Lake O’Hara: The jewel of Yoho National Park. This area is essential if you visit this park during the summer.
  • Burgess Shale: Yoho’s best-known geological formation known for its dinosaur fossils.
  • Field: The town of Field is the largest town located in Yoho. In addition to the Yoho National Park Visitor Center, nearby we can find the historic “Spiral Tunnel”, one of the most historic railway works of engineering in the world.
  • Natural bridge: The waters of the Kicking horse River have shaped an impressive natural bridge with different waterfalls.
  • Wapta Falls: Hidden in the mountains, the roar of the Wapta waterfall is heard even from a far distance.
  • Meeting of the rivers: The union of the Kicking horse, the Amiskwi, and the Emerald rivers, offers an impressive natural view where you can see the mix of colors of the three rivers.

best tours and excursion in yoho national park

We traveled to the Canadian Rockies for 15 days, and spent 2 of them in this park. As it was May, some of the most important things to do in Yoho National Park were closed due to snow. However, considering all the trails and attractions that will be open during your trip, three days seems more appropriate for a visit to Yoho.

HOW TO GET TO YOHO

There are different ways to get to Yoho, and you will discover some of them in this section.

HOW TO GET TO YOHO FROM CALGARY

The easiest way to get to the Rocky Mountains is by flying to the Calgary airport. To get to Yoho from Calgary, we will have to first cross Banff National Park which takes a total of 2 hours. The typical plan is to fly to Calgary and rent a car or camper to get into the Canadian Rockies.

HOW TO GET TO YOHO FROM VANCOUVER

Another option is to get to Yoho from Vancouver. With this option, you can take a whale watching tour in addition to visiting Vancouver.

It takes 8 hours by car from Vancouver to Yoho. Since we did not have much time, we took an internal flight between Vancouver and Calgary to shorten travel time.

HOW TO Get TO YOHO FROM BANFF

Yoho and Banff are very close, with the Lake Louise area right in the middle, so you can even stay in one park on the days you are visiting the other. The largest town in Yoho, Field, is only 20 minutes from Lake Louise in Banff. To give you an idea, we stayed in a Yoho campsite while visiting Lake Louise, since there was still too much snow to camp in that area and the campgrounds were still closed.

TOP THINGS TO DO IN YOHO NATIONAL PARK

The things to do in Yoho National Park will change depending on the time of year when you travel.

Many of the main points of interest in Yoho National Park are inaccessible during the winter. Also, these tend to open later than the ones in Banff National Park. In short, if you are traveling during spring, leave Yoho National Park to the end of your trip.

We traveled at the end of May, and unfortunately, there were some activities that we could not do.

Nonetheless, you will find all the essential places you cannot miss in Yoho National Park in this travel guide.

best tips for yoho national park travel

We will especially emphasize on trekking routes that will leave you speechless, and the most photogenic corners within the park. And of course, we will tell you about the places of interest and excursions that you have to do in Yoho National Park.

♦ GUIDE TO YOHO NATIONAL PARK

To structure the information, we will divide the post into four main areas:

  • Field: Main town of Yoho National Park, highly recommend to stop by at the beginning of your route.
  • Emerald Lake: Yoho’s most impressive lake that you should not miss.
  • Lake O’Hara: If you travel to Yoho in the summer, you can not miss a visit to this lake.

We will also speak about all of the accommodation we stayed at in Yoho National Park.

Finally, we will give you some tips, some of them are included in the Canadian Rockies post, which I recommend reading  before this article.

FIELD

Field is the only major population that we will find in the entire park. It has a gas station, ATM, some restaurants, and most importantly, the Yoho National Park Visitor Center.

all the information you need to visit yoho national park in 7 days

Even if you have the information in advance, it is always useful to get a map to plan your excursions and day hikes. In this information center, they distribute Hiking Guides in Yoho National Park. You can find it attached here.

EMERALD LAKE

Emerald Lake is the most visited point of interest in Yoho National Park, and it is no surprise why. The emerald color of its water is unique in the world.

emerald lake the best lake in yoho national park

It also has a wooden cabin resort wholly integrated into the natural landscape. We will talk about the Emerald Lake Lodge in the accommodation section later in this article.

emerald lake lodge best resort in yoho national park

One essential thing to do in Yoho National Park is canoeing in Emerald Lake. You can rent a canoe in the small souvenir shop at the entrance of the resort.

kayak in emerald lake yoho canada

We found the price to be quite expensive – a canoe for two at 60 CAD per hour. However, having the opportunity to explore further is priceless. Of course, canoeing is one of the most important things to do in Yoho.

things you cannot miss in yoho national park

Also, we can walk along the lake through a straightforward 3.1-mile trail that takes about two hours. If you travel in early summer, it is very likely that avalanches take place every year on the left bank, which would then block the trail. During the winter, this area can be dangerous to cross.

We may not be impartial in saying that Emerald Lake is the most beautiful lake in the world, because we had a one in a lifetime experience here seeing the Northern Lights for the first time.

see northern lights in yoho canadian rockies

Did you know that you can see Northern Lights in the Canadian Rockies? Don’t worry, you’re not the only one if you didn’t. We’ve prepared another post to tell you how to see Northern Lights in Canada. We also have a guide to learn how to photograph them.

travel guide to yoho national park

In the following sections, we will speak about other exciting hikes in Yoho that start from this lake.

YOHO LAKE

Yoho Pass, which takes you to Yoho Lake, is one of the most popular trails that starts from Emerald Lake.

The route begins along the left bank of Emerald Lake, crossing the ice tongue of the avalanche.

yoho national park best hikes

When you get to the other side of the lake, the path, known as Yoho Pass, separates and goes through a plain where we can find small streams and creeks that will flow into the lake. After crossing them, a slight ascent begins and takes you to a small waterfall.

And we leave the Emerald Lake behind us, shining blue among the green pines and beautiful mountains.

yoho lake you cannot miss hikes canada

From this moment on, the path became quite complicated for us, not because of trail difficulty, but because of the 30+ inches layer of snow on the field. Crampons became very useful for this activity.

best things to do in yoho national park

And after a long 3-hour hike, we finally reached Yoho Lake, entirely frozen.

things to see and to do in yoho in winter

TAKAKKAW FALLS

From Yoho Lake, you can continue on the trail until you reach the Takakkaw falls. It is only a 2-mile trek, however, the layer of snow increased to forty inches, and hiking over that terrain became very exhausting.

Since we started the hike in the afternoon, we didn’t have time to return to Emerald Lake before dark if we had continued to the Takakkaw falls. I confess that we were a bit afraid of an encounter with a Grizzly bear, which are quite abundant in Yoho National Park.

grizzly bear in yoho national park

Do not miss our guide to avoiding bear encounters and attacks in Canada.

The easiest way to get to this falls is through the Yoho Valley Road. However, this route was also blocked by snow during the late spring. It usually opens from the second half of June.

It is a pity that we could not visit this waterfall since it is one of the essential points of interest in Yoho National Park. For now, it is one of the main reasons for us to be back soon.

BURGESS SHALE

Another activity of interest that you can do in Yoho during summer is to visit the Burgess Shale, one of the most important fossil discoveries on the planet. Not only skeletons were preserved here, but also soft parts of many different creatures.

It is mandatory to visit with guided groups, which operate from the middle of July to September.

There are two main guided routes. The most popular one is the Walcott Quarry, which cost 70 CAD. This route starts from the Takakkaw Falls and takes you on part of the route to Emerald Lake, passing through Yoho Lake, but veers to the left. This is considered a high-intensity route. In total, you will hike 13 miles in 11 hours with an elevation of 2625 feet.

The next route is Mount Stephen, which cost 55 CAD. This route departs from Field. It is also considered a high-intensity trail. You will need 7.5 hours to hike the 5 miles trail with an elevation of over 2600 feet.

These two hikes are not suitable for children under eight years old, although there are some other activities for families. On the Canada Parks official website, you can find more information and book your guided tours, since only 12 people are accepted per excursion.

If you are interested in more information about what to do in Emerald Lake, you can visit our special article about Emerald Lake.

LAKE O’HARA

Lake O’Hara is a jewel only accessible in the summer months. It can be reached only by bus, which is booked in advance here. The reservation will be processed according to day and time (4 times a day), to get back, you can take any of the buses that go down (4 drop-off times) free of charge.

You can also reach this lake by walking the same route as the bus. It takes about 3 and a half hours to do 7.5 miles from the parking lot. The good thing is that the return trip can be done for free on any of the buses whenever there is an open spot.

If you travel during summer, Lake O’Hara is one of the most important places to visit in Yoho National Park.

Many other hiking routes start at Lake O’Hara. It also has two hotels and a campsite where you can stay for up to three days. You can book it here.

Other things to do in YOHO

In addition to all the hikes to do in Yoho, there are many other very interesting quick stops that I suggest taking during your stay.

NATURAL BRIDGE

The Natural Bridge of the Kicking Horse River is a unique rock formation. It shows the strength of water from an old waterfall that has been carving a hole into the rock, shaping a natural bridge.

meeting of the water natural bridge yoho national park

It is very easy to get to this spot since you can park the car directly at the viewpoint. Although it is usually a stop for lots of tourists, it is still a highly recommended visit, not only to see the Natural Bridge but also to enjoy the blue water of the Kicking Horse River. Like other rivers that we saw in the Canadian Rockies, its color comes from the minerals of the glacial waters.

best images yoho national park

MEETING OF THE WATERS

Meeting of the Waters is another interesting point to see in Yoho, located north of the Kicking Horse River. This spot is where the Kicking Horse river meets the Amiskwi and Emerald River.

meeting of the waters yoho canada

You can also get here by car without difficulty. From the “Meeting of the waters” viewpoint, it is very interesting to see different types of water converge into a single river.

best things to do yoho guide

The Yoho Valley Road that goes to Takkakkaw Falls starts here, but it is usually closed until the beginning of June.

Spiral Tunnel

We commented in the Banff National Park article about the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway and how vital it was for tourism development in the area. This railway joins the east and west coasts of Canada, and without a doubt, the most significant engineering difficulty was to cross the Canadian Rockies.

Spiral Tunnel is a section of the railway where the train must turn on itself, as a solution to the large slopes of the terrain.

There are two lookouts, one located on the Trans-Canada Highway itself, known as Lower Spiral Tunnel, and another on the Yoho Valley Road, known as Upper Spiral Tunnel.

WAPTA FALLS

A little further away from Field, we found the Wapta Falls. These falls are relatively low (100 feet) but quite wide (490 feet) and easily reachable. The trail is only 1.24 miles from the parking area.

wapta falls best falls in yoho national park

It is a bit steep at the end of the road, as we must descend between trees and roots until we reach the base of the waterfall. I have to say that this waterfall is one of the most peculiar that we have ever seen. The water goes to the bottom of a small sand dune that I’m not sure if is a product of the sediments or if it is a small hill that has been eroded by moving water and will someday cease to exist.

wapta falls yoho national park

After this fall, the water splits into two different streams, where you can find a small island in the middle of the riverbed.

yoho national park guide

Although it is quite interesting, it is somewhat far from other points of interest, so visiting it is not something essential to do in Yoho.

ACCOMMODATION AND CAMPSITES IN YOHO NATIONAL PARK

As we commented in the Canadian Rockies post, there is no better accommodation than staying in the different campsites of the National Parks. However, one of the most popular resorts in Canada, the Emerald Lake Lodge, is in Yoho National Park, so we decided to spend a night there while we camped the rest of the nights.

accommodation yoho national park canada

Regarding campsites, you should bear in mind that they are not open year-round, so if you want to camp, you should check which ones will be operating when you travel to the Yoho National Park. You can find all the information about the campsites that are in Yoho and operational dates here.

Campsites in Yoho cannot be booked in advance. They operate on a first-come, first-served basis upon arrival. Then, you will need to fill out a form and leave it in a mailbox with the campsite fees in cash or with your credit card information.

KICKING HORSE CAMPGROUND

Like most campsites in Canada, each spot is equipped with a table with fixed benches, a firepit, and enough space to park the car and pitch your tent at Kicking Horse campground. To enjoy a bonfire, you will have to pay a separate fee, but you can use the firewood supplied by the campsite.

best camping in yoho national park

The Kicking Horse is a pretty big campsite. We found a spot at the end of the campground that was also perfect for an RV or camper while still having plenty of space for yourself.

camping kicking horse yoho national park canada

We especially liked it because you can see a glacier from here.

EMERALD LAKE LODGE

We are generally not very into luxury hotels and resorts, but if you travel to Yoho National Park, it is essential to stay at least one night at Emerald Lake Lodge.

Emerald Lake Lodge, located on the small island within the Emerald Lake, features a complex of wooden cabins that is linked to the shore by a walkway.

Emerald Lake yoho canadian rockies canada

HOW TO GET TO EMERALD LAKE LODGE

To visit Emerald lake, you can park your car right in the nearest parking lot from the lake. However, if you are staying at Emerald Lake Lodge, you have to park your car in a parking lot further away and wait for a shuttle to come and pick you up.

The signs pointing to Emerald Lake will let you know which exit takes you to the guest parking lot. Here is a cabin where you can wait and a phone to call the reception and ask for the shuttle.

THE HOTEL

We were dropped off at the reception at the hotel. We liked the room a lot, but the style was peculiar. Our cabin seemed to have maintained its original decoration from more than 50 years ago. Nonetheless, it was very clean and took us back in time for an evening. The fireplace next to the bed was ready for us and when the windows opened, the turquoise blue of Lake Emerald loomed through the pines.

emerald lake lodge room firepit

Emerald Lake Lodge also has common facilities such as sauna and jacuzzi that we did not have time to use. What I liked most was the bonfire area where you could share conversation with other guests. In addition, the hotel supply marshmallows and chocolates at your disposal.

best time to visit yoho canada

The main restaurant at the lodge is another thing you cannot miss. While it is expensive, the day we spent at Emerald Lake Lodge was our resurrection after spending so many days camping and eating freeze-dried meals. We dined at the restaurant that is right behind the reception, the only area of the resort with a Wi-Fi connection.

where to eat in yoho national park

We also ended up having two breakfasts here, as they served the best brunch out of this whole trip.

PRICE

The hotel is expensive, but we got a significant discount. Since it wasn’t high season, we paid €200 for one night.

I think it was definitely worth it, and with no doubt, this was an incredible, once in a lifetime experience.

THE MOST EXCITING NIGHT OF OUR LIFE

And we may be biased when talking about this resort, but here, we had one of the most exciting moments of our lives. After our trek to Yoho Lake, we decided not to book any accommodation, but to stay close to the Emerald Lake to do some night photography and watch the sunrise.

While it was dark, we decided to go through the Lodge’s reception area for some Wi-Fi connection. Then, the magic happened all of sudden: Dani had his cell phone in his hand, I had mine, we looked at the screen, and then into each other’s eyes. KP7 alert and increasing. The next 5 minutes were incredible. We were screaming, jumping, running out of the resort to experience the most exciting night of our lives.

northern lights in yoho national park canada

I’m sure you can understand why we couldn’t sleep at all that night.

 

Other tips WHEN YOU VISIT YOHO NATIONAL PARK

To finish this section, we will give you some other tips to visit Yoho National Park. There are general recommendations that have been provided in the Canadian Rockies post – we talked about visas, currency, park entrance fees, necessary luggage, etc. If you have not read it yet, I highly recommend doing so before continuing with this article.

Best TIME TO TRAVEL TO YOHO NATIONAL PARK

Takakkaw Falls and Lake O’Hara, two of the essential things to do in Yoho National Park, open between the middle and end of June. If you come before, it is very likely that you won’t be able to enjoy these attractions.

However, in July and August, the park is usually crowded, so it can be difficult to find accommodation. That’s why I find September to be the best time to visit Yoho National Park.

HOW MUCH TIME for your VISIT to YOHO NATIONAL PARK

If all the places of interest are open when you visit Yoho National Park, 3 – 4 days should be enough, including a night camping in the Lake O’Hara campground.

However, if, like us, you travel at a time when some places of interest are still closed, two days will be enough.

WHERE TO TAKE THE 5 BEST PHOTOS OF YOHO NATIONAL PARK

To end this section, you will find our best five images of Yoho National Park below.

  • Natural Bridge
  • Emerald Lodge at sunrise
  • Symmetry on the walkway towards Emerald Lake Lodge
  • Wapta Falls
  • Canoe in the middle of Emerald Lake

YOHO NATIONAL PARK MAP

And to finish this guide of things to do in Yoho National Park, below you can find a map with all the mentioned places of interest.

If you want to use this map of Yoho National Park on your mobile offline:

  • Download the Mapswithme app on your cell phone.
  • Download and save the following KML file in your Dropbox.

yoho national park map

  • Open the file via Dropbox from your cell phone. You will get a dialog box where you have to select open with the Mapswithme application (Maps.me)

Now, you have everything you need to start your trip across Yoho National Park!

written by Ascenphotography by danzafra

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Top things to do in Banff National Park – Canada Travel Guide

A visit to Banff National Park, Alberta Canada will make you believe in love at first sight. The sublime nature of the mountain peaks, the dreamy lakes, and the abundant wildlife will conquer your wild heart. Banff will probably be your first contact with the Canadian Rockies and I am quite sure that there is no better place to start your Rockies adventure!

In this travel guide, we will tell you about everything there is to do in Banff Canada, so you can be prepared to make it the trip of a lifetime.

banff tourist how to get to banff from calgary

But before moving on to the guide to Banff National Park, let’s take a brief look at the main attractions in Banff.

WHAT TO DO IN BANFF NATIONAL PARK

  • Banff Spring Hotel: Visit the Upper Springs of the Fairmount Banff Springs Resort, one of the first Banff hotels located near hot springs.
  • Moraine Lake: This lake is a must see in Banff, although its access is cut off during the winter.
  • Lake Louise: Without a doubt, this is the most touristic lake in Banff. Although it is always crowded it is a place you can not miss in Banff.
  • Minnewanka Lake: In summer remember to go in a group as it is an area frequented by Grizzly bears.
  • Johnston Canyon: In this canyon, there are two waterfalls and those who make the complete route are rewarded with one of the best views in Banff: The Ink Pots.
  • Bow Valley Parkway: This road between pines is the best place to see wildlife in Banff.
  • Peyto Lake: Touring the Icefields Parkway you will pass through this lake with the shape of a wolf’s head.
  • Mistaya Canyon: Enjoying the glacial waters that have carved this canyon is something you have to do in Banff.

VISITING BANFF NATIONAL PARK – BANFF TOURISM

Banff, the oldest national park in Canada, is located in Alberta. It is one of the four national parks that form the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks – through the Icefields Parkway to its north is Jasper National Park, to its west is Yoho National Park, and to its south, is the Kootenay National Park.

Considering all the National Parks of the Canadian Rockies, I would dare to say that there are more things to do in Banff than the rest of the parks. Lakes, ice fields, canyons, waterfalls, glaciers and mountain ranges full of wildlife create the perfect environment for all kinds of adventure activities. Camping, hiking, kayaking, wildlife encountersYou can take the adventure for granted!

things to do in Banff national park travel guide

We traveled to the Canadian Rockies for 15 days, 6 of which were spent in Banff, though not consecutively. Rather, we visited two separate times, once at the beginning and once at the end of our trip.

HOW TO GET TO BANFF

There are different ways to get to Banff, as you will find in this article.

HOW TO GET TO BANFF FROM CALGARY

The easiest way to get to the Rockies is to fly to the Calgary airport, which is only an hour and a half away from Banff. This accessibility makes Banff the most visited of all four parks that shapes the Canadian Rockies. Most travelers fly to Calgary, pick up their rental car or camper, and go into the mountains.

how to save money before heading to Banff

Once we got our car, we bought the necessary supplies and mountain gear for our trip before heading to the Canadian Rockies.

Although we took most of our equipment from home, fuel for the camp stove and bear spray are important things that we bought at the Calgary MEC store. You can also find a very useful post (written by us) about things you need to bring on an adventure like this here.

In general, Canada is expensive, so I would suggest to bring as many things as you can instead of buying them in Calgary, or even worse, in the Rocky Mountains. Once you enter the national parks, prices rise exponentially. Here is our budget for this 15-day Canadian Rockies trip if you are interested in estimating expenses.

Once we got everything ready, we set off for the best travel experience of our lives.

HOW TO GET TO BANFF FROM VANCOUVER

Another option is to get to Banff from Vancouver. In addition to visiting Vancouver, you can take a whale watching tour with this itinerary.

It takes 9 hours by car from Vancouver to Banff, so we decided to take a cheap flight from Vancouver to Calgary instead, and booked it three months in advance.

HOW TO GO FROM BANFF TO JASPER

If you decide to visit Banff and Jasper on your Canadian Rockies trip, you should know that these two national parks are connected by the Icefields Parkway, one of the most popular scenic roads in Canada.

I recommend that you travel between Banff and Jasper both ways via the Icefield Parkway (a 4-hour drive), since the road itself is one of the best attractions of the Canadian Rockies.

TOP THINGS TO DO IN BANFF NATIONAL PARK

Standing in the Rockies for the first time is a compelling experience. You cannot help but be surprised along the 80 miles road that takes you across Banff national park.

Our time in the Rockies was limited and we had no choice but to leave Canmore out of our plan. This town is in the first that you will pass on the way to Banff when driving from Calgary. There are many interesting activities to do here, but we decided to head directly to the heart of Banff.

Throughout this travel guide, we will discover all the essential places you cannot miss in Banff National Park. We will especially emphasize the best scenic hikes in Banff, of which will leave you breathless. And of course, we will tell you about the places of interest and tours to do in Banff National Park.

moraine lake the most popular lake in banff

♦ CONTENTS OF THE BANFF NATIONAL PARK TRAVEL GUIDE

We have structured the information in this post into four main areas:

  • Banff. The most populated town in the park and in the Canadian Rockies. Your visit is essential not only for the different hiking maps available in the Banff Visitor Center but also because there are amazing places in the surroundings.
  • Bow Valley Parkway. A narrow road bordered by thousands of pine trees that you will want to drive through again and again. In addition, it is one of the best places to discover the Banff wildlife.
  • Lake Louise and Moraine Lake. Possibly the most touristy places in Banff. These lakes are the main attractions of the park and likely in all of the Canadian Rockies.
  • Icefields Parkway. The most beautiful road in the world that crosses glaciers, ice fields, lakes, alpine landscapes, canyons, and waterfalls. It is the link between Banff National Park and Jasper National Park.

We will also talk about lodging (mostly campsites)inside Banff National Park where we stayed, as well as a compilation of the best Banff hotels.

Finally, we will give you some tips, including a few that has been discussed in the Canadian Rockies post, which I recommend reading before this article.

BANFF

Banff is a good place to start your trip across the Canadian Rockies. It is the largest town within the park, although still small since all construction and development are under tight control considering its location inside the national park.

In addition to a wide range of accommodation, there are shops, restaurants, bars, and mountain equipment stores. However, the most interesting place is the Banff Visitor Centre, where they provide the maps and guides you need for your tours and hikes. Specifically, you can get the Day Hikes in Banff Area Guide. You can also find it attached here.

TWO JACK LAKE

The first thing I recommend doing in Banff is camping at Two Jack Lakeside Campground for at least one night. Imagine a summer camp on the shore of a lake, stories around a bonfire and the fresh smell of pine when you open your tent in the morning.

best campsite in Banff two jack lakeside campground

This was our base camp for exploring other places within Banff National Park. We spent two nights here and were lucky that the changing weather of the Rockies gave us a summer day and a winter one in the month of May.

winter in Banff national park alberta canada

It is also essential to take a night visit there when the Milky Way crosses Mount Rundle.

Don’t miss our Guide to Photographing the Milky Way

two jack lake Banff national park travel planner

Another phenomenon that you have to see in Banff, is to get up early enough for sunrise to see the alpenglow tint the peaks in orange.

two jack lake mount rundle Banff national park holiday package

MINNEWANKA LAKE

And while you are already up early, turn yourself and the tripod 180 degrees, and you will get an even better view of the sunrise over Minnewanka Lake. Two Jack Lake is nothing more than a smaller version of the imposing lake Minnewanka, impossible to cover at a glance.

Minnewanka Canadian rockies Banff national park guide

Some of the best hikes in Banff start at this lake. Note that for some of them, access is restricted during the Berry Season, (July 10 – September 15) when grizzly bears descend toward the lake to eat about 250,000 berries per day until hibernation. During this time, it is obligatory to hike in groups of at least 4 people and carry bear spray at all times.

You can also learn how to prevent encounters and how to react (if it happens) in our guide to avoid bear attacks in Canada.

We decided to do the Stewart Canyon hike, which is 1 mile long one way (40 minutes round trip). At the end of this hike, a much more complicated trail begins, at 7.3 miles one way (8 hours round trip) that takes you to the Aylmer lookout. We had to leave halfway when it suddenly started to snow.

 things to do in winter in Banff national park stewart canyonStewart Canyon Aylmer lookout puente nieve que hacer en el Parque Nacional Banff

VERMILION LAKES

Another thing I recommend doing in Banff is to visit the Vermilion Lakes on the other side of the town. The best time to visit is at sunset. In the map of Banff below, we marked the best location to visit these lakes that is accessible by car.

things to do in Banff in summer sunset vermilion lakes

Also, if you like night photography, spend at least one night here. The night lights of Banff in the background will help create a nice glow in your compositions.

vermilion lakes Banff national park images

 

BOW VALLEY PARKWAY

Even though the Bow Valley Parkway seems like just a road, it is a real attraction and one of the best in Banff. It used to be the main road connecting Banff to the northern parts of the Canadian Rockies, but after the highway was built, the road was not used anymore and is now full of nature and wildlife, only used by visitors during spring and summer. For me, this is one of the most beautiful roads I have ever driven through. It is very narrow with many sharp turns, surrounded by thick pine trees and plenty of wildlife that will force you to drive slowly as you enjoy this scenic old road.

If you want to know what animals you can find, do not miss our list of animals that live in the Canadian Rockies.

If and when there is a storm, I recommend staying alert. While driving through, a huge pine fell a few meters in front of us and blocked our way.

Bow Valley Parkway where to stay in banff

While you can always use the highway to get up north faster, the magic of the Rockies is definitely here, on this road that is full of life.

must-see places in Banff icefields parkway road

JOHNSTON CANYON

One of the most popular treks in Banff National Park is the Johnston Canyon. There are two waterfalls in this canyon. The first is Johnston Canyon Lower Falls, an easy one hour round trip hike (0.75 miles one way) with only 90 feet of elevation. Many people visit this fall as it is easy to access.

After the first waterfall, the path continues and takes us to the second fall, Johnston Canyon Upper Falls. The number of people decreased a lot on this portion, however, it is still an easy route to the fall, and can be reached within 30 minutes.

Johnston canyon best hikes in Banff national park

What made us fell in love was the Ink Pots further up the hike, a must-see in Banff National Park.

Inkpots best places to visit in Banff alberta canada

The hiking difficulty is moderate-hard. From the parking lot, it takes about 4 hours round trip, 3.3 miles one way with a vertical drop of 1080 feet. After passing the two main waterfalls, there were no other on the trail.

In the Ink Pots, the spring water is tinted in turquoise and green, with a temperature that stays at around 39ºF throughout the year. It is a real show to witness, and that makes the last steep section of the hike totally worthwhile.

best things to do in Banff Canada alberta

MORANT’S CURVE

After finding hot springs there, Banff National Park was formed during the construction of the well-known Canadian Pacific Railway, which aimed to unite the east and west coast of Canada.

As they discovered the wonders hidden in the mountain ranges, the railway company decided to advertise using the Rockies as a tourist attraction and started building several hotels, resorts, and spas in the Banff area.

Nicholas Morant, a photographer who worked for the Canadian Pacific Railway, popularized this section of the road with his photographs that were used in different promotions of this train line.

morant's curve train Banff Canadian railway

Morant’s Curve is located on the banks of the Bow River. To find it, follow the Bow Valley Parkway until you almost reach the town of Lake Louise. There is no sign, but you can check the location on the map below.

The desired perfect shot happens when the train passes through the curve. However, this is not an easy task since only two trains pass each day and without a fixed schedule, so taking this picture home is a matter of luck rather than preparation.

Banff national park Canadian railway morant's curve

CASTLE MOUNTAIN

One of the most impressive but lesser-known sights from the Bow Valley Parkway is the one on the opposite bank of the Bow River looking towards Castle Mountain.

Banff national park castle mountain itinerary best views

To get to this point, you must leave the Bow Valley Parkway in Castle Junction, cross the river crossing and a bridge, then you will find a fence that you can open on the right. This fence prevents animals from crossing the Trans-Canada highway, but you can enter and exit as long as you keep it closed.

In fact, we later took this highway to go to the town of Lake Louise (faster than the Bow Valley Parkway) and saw our first Grizzly bear on the other side of the fence.

grizzly bear in banff national park wildlife the boss

 

LAKE LOUISE area

The town of Lake Louise is closest to the touristic Lake Louise. This lake is the most visited in all the national park, so as you can imagine, most of Banff’s tourism is concentrated here.

Lake Louise is smaller than Banff, but it has its own Canada Parks Information Center. In this office, you can get the Day Hike guide to Lake Louise, Castle Junction, and Icefields Parkway area. You can also find it attachedhere.

Also, you have to be especially careful in Lake Louise and surroundings, since it is one of the most active areas for Grizzlies in Banff.

If you are interested in learning how to avoid bears attacks in Canada, you can find our article about it through this link.

grizzlies in Banff Canadian rockies

LAKE LOUISE

The Lake Louise area is located at a higher altitude than any other in Banff National Park, and when we got to this lake, we found it mostly frozen.

Lake louise and Banff itinerary package

If you are visiting this area early or late in the season and want to check the conditions of the lake beforehand, there is a very useful camera you can use through this website.

Even though it was still low season in May, there were a large number of tourists crowding the lake even early in the morning. In full peak season, visiting this lake could be a very stressful experience, with the imposing and misplaced Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise hotel behind. This luxury hotel is at the top of my list of constructions that should be demolished because they greatly affect the environment of this natural area.

best hotel in Banff lake louise fairmont chateau

This construction was built also by the Canadian Pacific Railway to promote its train line, and was later sold to the Fairmont hotel company. With 3500 m2 and 500 rooms, it seems incredible that it can be in such a beautiful place: on the bank of Lake Louise, the mountain range, and Victoria Glacier above.

Victoria glacier and Banff lake louise

LAKE AGNES

From Lake Louise, you can hike to Lake Agnes, a quiet lake known for its tea house at 7004 feet (1312 feet from Lake Louise). Hiking to this cozy teahouse hidden in the mountains was one of my favorite things to do in Banff.

In May, you very well may need crampons to reach the top. It was the first day that the tea house opened that year, and we were not the only ones who dared this trek despite the difficult icy conditions.

lake agnes lake louise Banff in winter

Built in 1901, also by the Canadian Pacific Railway, the tea house sells homemade soup, fresh baked bread sandwiches and more than 100 different types of tea to their visitors. Remember to carry cash because cards are not accepted. Fun fact: the electricity of the tea house is created by a small generator, and the fuel, along with the different ingredients they use for drinks, are brought in by workers on foot.

Halfway through the hike, we were able to see the melted part of Lake Louise that we did not see from below. From here, you could see the well-known emerald blue of its glacial waters.

Banff national park lake louise in summer

Before arriving at the tea house, we found Mirror Lake, much smaller and completely frozen.

Once up there, we enjoyed the views under our feet, with an incredible waterfall that fills Lake Agnes.

lake agnes Banff national park overlook

We highly recommend this hike. However, I think that the summer months (July – August) could be too crowded.

PLAIN OF SIX GLACIERS

Keep in mind that some of the treks may be closed due to snow if you are visiting Banff National Park in the early season before mid-June.

The Plain of Six Glaciers is one of them. This trail is situated along the path that borders Lake Agnes on the right and continues through an abrupt zigzag passing the top of Big Beehive.

 photo tour to Banff

This trek will descend along the left half side of Lake Louise, a 9 mile loop that takes 5 hours.

At the furthest point of the hike, we can find another tea house even more remote than the one in Lake Agnes, just in front of the Victoria Glacier. If you are visiting Lake Louise during the summer, hiking the Plain of Six Glaciers should definitely be on your list of things to do in Banff.

MORAINE LAKE

The first time we tried to go to Moraine Lake, the road was not yet open after the long winter. A thick layer of snow was keeping us from one of the most photographed lakes in the Canadian Rockies.

Luckily, they cleared the road the next day and we were the first to arrive. The way to the viewpoint was completely covered by a layer of snow. From here, we saw the lake for the first time, covered in snow and ice, and flanked by the majestic Ten Mountain Peaks of Moraine lake.

Moraine Lake Banff national park itinerary in 6 days

We returned the following morning at dawn. This time we were not alone. At least 10 other photographers were already waiting to take one of the most characteristic photographs of the lake when the peaks are tinted in orange by the light of the sunrise, an essential phenomenon to see in Banff.

Moraine Lake is located at an altitude of 6180 feet and the weather is significantly colder than other areas of Banff and the Canadian Rockies. Remember to wear the right clothes if you are planning to shoot the sunrise since temperatures drastically drop during the night.

Moraine Lake Banff Canada travel

Although it is true that we missed Moraine in its famous electric blue, we would not change this experience. The intense blue color of this lake when it is thawing is a rare natural wonder – same goes for Lake Louise. The glaciers erode the surrounding rocks, creating dust in the form of silt. With the thawing, these sediments are dragged into to the lakes, in the so-called form of glacial milk or rock flour, giving them the iridescent blue-green colors when the sunlight strikes them.

Moraine lake and Banff road trip in 6 days

CONSOLATION LAKES

It is one of the easier treks from Moraine Lake. However, we couldn’t do this hike due to the snow. This trail takes two hours round trip, and when you reach the Consolation Lakes, you can enjoy a very beautiful alpine view.

SENTINEL PASS

Sentinel Pass is the most popular trail around Moraine Lake. However, the freezing state of the area made it impossible to do the hike.

The first part of the trek leads you through a unique larch pine forest where the most impressive views of the Ten Peaks are found. From here, the trail continues to take you through the famous Larch Valley and Paradise Valley. 3.6 mile one way and 5.5 hours round trip.

ICEFIELDS PARKWAY

They say that the Icefields Parkway is the most beautiful roads in the world and we were a hundred percent sure of this after our visit – Waterfalls, beautiful blue lakes, rivers, glaciers and ice fields. High mountain passes with year-round snowy peaks and abundant wildlife wherever you stop are some of the reasons why this is considered one of the most scenic roads on earth.

This 142-mile road links Banff National Park with Jasper National Park. We suggest taking a round trip when visiting the Canadian Rockies, so you can enjoy it again on your way back. If you take this drive at the beginning of the season, you will be able to see how quickly the landscape changes in a matter of days with the thawing of many lakes and snow.

In this section, we will only talk about the points of interest along the Icefields Parkway related to Banff National Park. If you want more information about the Icefields Parkway, then do not miss this guide with exclusive content about this scenic road.

BOW LAKE

Of the dozen lakes along the Icefields Parkway, Bow Lake is a mandatory stop. This lake that is just off the main road is the perfect place to park your car and have a picnic with the surrounding views.

bow lake icefields parkway thing to do in Banff in 6 days

Although this area is not known for Grizzly bears sightings, we saw one just a few meters away from our car.

things to do in banff national park bow lake icefields parkway

The views of this lake that we liked the most were at night, when the Milky Way crosses the Bow Summit.

Bow lake itinerary banff

PEYTO LAKE

We visited Peyto Lake 4 times in total: two times during the day and two sunsets into the night. Peyto Lake catches your eye and it is undoubtedly one of the essentials you have to see in Banff. The first time we visited, it was still quite frozen, and we needed crampons to get to the main viewpoint.

The trail is very simple and you should be at the lake viewpoint within 15 minutes. However, if the ground is covered with ice and snow, it can be quite complicated. In the mornings that we went to Peyto, we found a quite a few other backpackers at the viewpoint. On the other hand, we were alone during sunsets.

best time to visit banff

On our last night in the Canadian Rocky Mountains, we were lucky to witness the thawing of Peyto Lake, revealing its intense blue color from the glacial salts. The wolf that shapes the lake was thawing, keeping only a thin mask that ended up disappearing with the night.

The memory of dining with this show and our delicious campingaz dinner is one of those moments that make us smile every single time.

Peyto lake all you can do in Banff national park canada

MISTAYA CANYON

Another essential stop on your trip along the Icefields Parkway is Mistaya Canyon, only 0.3 miles away from the parking lot. It is recommended to go early in the morning to avoid crowds that occur at midday.

mistaya canyon Banff national park from vancouver

The roar of the powerful stone carving water is amazing – the foaming water, once part of a glacier, reveals a milky blue color.

IF YOU WANT TO learn MORE, DO NOT MISS OUR GUIDE about THE ICEFIELDS PARKWAY

WHERE TO Stay IN BANFF NATIONAL PARK – CAMPING AND HOTELS

As we have discussed in our 15-day Canadian Rockies trip article, we prefer to camp, and Banff National Park is the perfect place to do so with a wide variety of available campsites.

Bear in mind that campsites are not open all year round. Here is the brochure of campsites in Banff National Park with opening dates.

 and very useful tips to consider, such as food storage methods that keep from attracting bears, regulation of bonfires, quiet hours, etc.

Although they recommend booking in advance, we didn’t have any problems without a reservation while traveling at the end of May. Though we always found a free spot, most of the campsites fill up quickly during high season. If you want to ensure your spot, you can book through this link or by phone at 1-877-737-3783.

Most campsites in Banff have the same services. Each spot is equipped with a table and fixed benches, a fireplace, a spot pitch your tent, and enough space to park your car. If you want to have a bonfire, there are some campsites where you pay for a special permit to do so, and they will supply the firewood.

TWO JACK LAKESIDE CAMPGROUND

During the two days that we camped here, we explored Banff and Bow Valley Parkway.

With only 72 spots, this is one of the campsites that, I recommend booking ahead if you go during high season as they sell out quickly. You can also find wooden huts in the same campsite next to the tents area.

We paid only € 12 per night, but we would have paid a much higher price because camping on the shores of Two Jack Lake is priceless.

The campground is small, family friendly, and equipped with hot showers. The tent sites are shaded from the sun by the tall pines in the area. Nonetheless, the best thing about camping here will be having breakfast while overlooking the lake.

best hikes in banff national park

Right next door, the Two Jack Main Campground is a much larger but offshore campground. It is open during the high season months to accommodate overflow campers who cannot find a spot at Two Jack Lakeside.

LAKE LOUISE CAMPGROUND

We stayed at this campsite on the last night of our trip since it was totally frozen and closed at the beginning of our trip (we had to go to the nearest open campsite in Yoho National Park). Lake Louise Campground is the ideal place to visit the Lake Louise area. The price was € 18, a little more expensive than the previous one. The campsite has a cattle grid at the entrance and is also surrounded by an electric fence in its entirety to avoid grizzly bear attacks that can be more common in this area.

Texas gate lake louise campground in banff

We were surprised about these security measures initially, as they were not found in any other camping areas in the Canadian Rockies. Then, we saw two grizzly bears a few meters away the next morning and realized the need.

In fact, the park rangers who permanently track one of the two we spotted, arrived shortly after it was in sighting. The Boss (the bear’s name), is the largest and most dominant bear in the Canadian Rockies.

the boss grizzly bear in Banff lake louise

The Boss is so feared and admired that many articles have been written about this beast. We were very lucky to see him.

HI-MOSQUITO CREEK HOSTEL

In the Icefields Parkway area, we had problems with finding open campsites, so we stayed at Hi-Mosquito Creek Hostel in the end. This hostel has both private and shared rooms. We stayed in a 12-bed shared room, priced at € 28 per bed, to reduce our budget.

The interesting thing about this hostel is that while it does not have showers, there is a wood-burning sauna, which we could not enjoy since we still had many things to do in Banff National Park. If you like this place, you can book here.

FAIRMONT BANFF SPRINGS RESORT

Fairmont Banff Springs Resort is considered one of the best hotels in Banff. It was built in 1888 by the Canadian Pacific Railway to accommodate the wealthiest guests.

It has 14 restaurants and 11 stores, among which include ski equipment rental. This hotel is the best for those coming to Banff in the winter for a skiing holiday since it is located very close to the slopes like Sunshine Village Ski Resort and Mount Norquay Ski Village.

One of the main attractions of this hotel is its proximity to the Upper Spring, a hot spring one can enjoy throughout the year. The hours of the Banff Hot Springs are from 10 am to 11 pm.

BANFF ROCKY MOUNTAIN RESORT

Another of the best hotels in Banff is the Banff Rocky Mountain Resort. Like the previous one, it is a luxury hotel located very close to ski slopes. The other touristy attraction that we did not visit is the Banff Gondola.

This cable car takes you to an observation platform in the Sulfur mountain that features 360º views to 6 impressive mountain ranges at more than 6560 feet high.

Other tips for your visit in BANFF

If you have not read our Canadian Rocky Mountains post yet, I recommend doing so. In that article, we included many tips regarding visa, currency, park entrance fee, and necessary luggage, etc.

Here, we will focus on providing information about Banff Canada that complements the previous article.

Best TIME TO visit BANFF NATIONAL PARK

The best time to visit Banff is from mid-May to early October. However, keep in mind that during July and August, the main attractions in Banff will be crowded with tourists. Consider the many other things to do in Banff during summer.

If you come at the beginning of the season and don’t want your fun to be ruined by closed treks or frozen lakes, I recommend leaving the Lake Louise area and Icefields Parkway toward the end of your trip, giving summer a few more days (which are significant) to do its job.

If you plan to visit Jasper National Park as well, I would advise going there first and then backtrack to Banff, since melting takes place later in this area.

If you travel between October and May, there are also many things to do in Banff during winter, especially if you enjoy winter sports.

SUMMING UP, WHEN TO VISIT BANFF NATIONAL PARK?
  • July and August: All the roads in Banff will be open, but there will be many tourists, the accommodations will run out quickly and the prices increase.
  • June and September: There is already a lot of tourism in Banff, although not as much as in the previous months and depending on the year, there may be areas that are close but it is not usual.
  • May and October: There won’t be many people in Banff but we are totally dependent on the weather. There are years that the weather is very good on these month and others that it is very bad.
  • November, December, January, February, and March: Best months to do winter sports in Banff.

HOW MANY DAYS TO SPEND IN BANFF NATIONAL PARK

We spent 6 days in Banff and found it to be perfect for a 15-day Canadian Rockies trip itinerary. However, if you travel to Banff in the summer when most of the hikes are available, I would suggest to visit Banff for 1 week.

If you want to take a tour to Banff and Jasper, plan to spend a minimum of 8 days between the two national parks.

Animal watching in BANFF NATIONAL PARK

The Banff National Park is one of the most touristy parks in Canada, so it is increasingly difficult to see animals. The best way to watch wildlife in Banff is by driving through the Bow Valley Parkway and the Icefields Parkway at sunrise and especially at sunset.

It will also increase your chances for wildlife spotting in Banff by visiting the area early in the season when animals start getting out in spring and when there are fewer tourists.

Here is our article about some of the animals you might see during your trip in Banff.

BANFF CANADA tour PACKAGES

The Rocky Mountains is an increasingly popular tourist destination with many travel agencies offering tour packages to Banff Canada.

It is not necessary to hire a tour as it is relatively easy to visit Banff on your own.

The only exception that interested us are the Banff and Jasper photo tour packages where a guide takes you to the best locations whilst helping you capture all the magic of the Canadian Rockies.

WHERE TO TAKE THE 5 BEST photos OF BANFF

If we had to choose where to take the 5 best pictures in Banff National Park, we would pick:

  • Two Jack Lake with the Milky Way behind Mount Rundle at night
  • Vermilion Lakes with Banff’s lights in the background at night
  • Sunset from Peyto Lake viewpoint
  • Sunrise from Moraine Lake viewpoint
  • Blue-green pools of the Ink Pots

If you want the exact location in your phone (offline version):

  • Download the Mapswithme app on your cell phone.
  • Download and save the following KML file in your dropbox.

best places to take pictures in banff canada

  • Open the file through dropbox from your cell phone. You will get a dialog box where you have to select open with the Mapswithme application (Maps.me)

BANFF CANADA MAP

To finish this guide of things to do in Banff, we attached a map where you can find all the places of interest mentioned in the article marked below.

We also made the KML file of the map available in case you want to use it offline. Simply click on this icon to download and follow the steps mentioned above.

Banff map Canada

SEE YOU IN THE NEXT ARTICLE AND DO NOT HESITATE TO LEAVE US A COMMENT IF YOU NEED MORE INFORMATION ABOUT BANFF.

written by Ascenphotography by danzafra

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Best things to do in Vancouver in one day

Visiting Vancouver Canada in one day was the best start we could have on our trip to British Columbia and Alberta. In fact, we decided to travel to Vancouver, just before our Canadian Rockies trip to fulfill the dream of my life, watching wild killer whales.

Therefore, we left two days for Vancouver just in case we were not lucky watching orcas on the first day,

vancouver aquarium vancouver apartments

However, as everything went as expected, we spent our second day in Vancouver exploring the city.

In a nutshell, these are the top things to do in Vancouver in a day.

WHAT TO DO IN VANCOUVER IN ONE DAY

  • Stanley Park: Immense park to visit in Vancouver, where we will find a lot of indigenous totems and the famous Girl in Wetsuit statue.
  • Gastown: Stroll through this old neighborhood full of bars and restaurants and visit the Steam Clock.
  • Canada Place: From the Waterfront terminal take the ferry that takes you to North Vancouver to have some amazing views of Canada Place.
  • Chinatown: Surprise yourself with the majority of Asian population living in Vancouver visiting Chinatown and its peculiarities.
  • Grandville Island: Take a craft beer on this hippy island and enjoy the good atmosphere of the area.
  • Capilano: Walk the Capilano suspension bridge, with a length of 137 meters and 70 meters high in a unique environment.
  • Killer whale tour: Do not leave Vancouver without seeing the incredible marine life that inhabits its waters.

In the following section, you will find our travel guide with the best things to do in Vancouver in one day. Below you will go through the best places to visit in Vancouver in 24 hours, the best restaurants in Vancouver and where to stay in Vancouver.

We will also give you some itinerary ideas for Vancouver in 2 days, 3 days or 4 days.

best time TO visit VANCOUVER

If you want to know when is the best time to travel to Vancouver, I would say it depends a lot on what you are looking for. In this section, we tell you about Vancouver weather.

If you travel to Vancouver in summer, between May and September, temperatures are warmer making your visit more pleasant, but it is usually difficult to find cheap hotels.

If you like snow and winter sports, visiting Vancouver in winter is the best thing for you, since there are ski slopes very close to the city.

Between March and May and September and November, the temperatures are mild and you can find hotels with very good prices, so over that period you can find the best months to travel to Vancouver.

HOW TO GET TO VANCOUVER

The best way to get to Vancouver is by flying directly to the Vancouver International Airport which is half an hour by train in the south of Vancouver.

If you want to find cheap flights to Vancouver I recommend to search them 3 months in advance , in addition to using some warning service in case of price drops, like the one offered by  Skyscanner.

THINGS TO DO IN VANCOUVER IN ONE DAY

If you want to have a perfect day in Vancouver, plan your visit in advance. For this, we are going to tell you everything you have to visit in Vancouver.

First of all I have to confess that Vancouver is not a city that excited me greatly. For me, the real appeal of Vancouver are the surroundings. Dreamy mountains and the sea full of surprises. For downtown Vancouver, 24 hours is enough to explore the most popular attractions.

STANLEY PARK

Of all the things you have to see in Vancouver, the first one I recommend doing in Vancouver is to visit Stanley Park. This was what we liked most about our day in Vancouver.

This huge park will make you forget about the city. We walked a big section and it took us more than two hours. Renting a bicycle to visit it is also a good option.

things to do in vancouver in one day aquarium

You will find an area where there are a lot of indigenous totems. This is, for me, one of the best places to see in Vancouver. Tellingly on the west coast of Canada lived for more than 500 generations  the so-called First Nations.

vancouver bc things to do vancouver international airport

Also in this park, we can find the statue “Girl in Wetsuit“. This is possibly the most popular statue in Vancouver.

vancouver canada vancouver bc

To the west of the park, we find two beaches, Second Beach and Third Beach that are filled with people on sunny days. We visited Vancouver on a very sunny day and the beach was completely crowded.

What I liked most was knowing that orcas and whales could be seen from those beaches. For all this, Stanley Park could not be missing from our list of things to do in Vancouver in 24 hours.

FERRY TO NORTH VANCOUVER

Taking the public ferry that leaves from the Waterfront terminal and goes to Lonsdale in North Vancouver is another thing we recommend you to do in Vancouver in one day. The boat departures approximately every 15 minutes and the views are impressive in both directions. Coming back to the center, you will see Canada Place, a building with 5 white sails as a roof, used both for cultural activities and entertainment. It is a true icon of Vancouver.

airbnb vancouver airport hotels

To take the ferry you can use the public transport pass that we will talk about later, which is very useful to do everything you want to do in Vancouver in 24 hours.

GASTOWN

Old Gastown neighborhood is something that we can not miss in our list of things to do in Vancouver. Walk through it until you find the curious Steam Clock built in 1977.

vancouver apartments attractions

The neighborhood itself is very lively. There are a lot of souvenir shops inspired by the First Nations of Canada. You will also find cafes and restaurants with a great atmosphere.

CHINATOWN

Vancouver surprised us by the vast majority of the Asian population. It was a cultural shock. Although we knew that Canada is one of the most multicultural countries in the world, we did not expect it to be so obvious.

We experienced this great Asian majority in Richmond, the neighborhood where we stayed and of which I will speak later. That’s why we went to ChinaTown, which is located in downtown Vancouver, with very high expectations.

However, we got disappointed. ChinaTown today is a marginal neighborhood. We saw dozens of young drug addicts in a miserable situation. It turns out that Hastings Street in its crossing through ChinaTown is the main marginal neighborhood of Canada.

Of all the attractions in ChinaTown we could only see the Millennium Gate, because the main attraction in the area, the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden, was being refurbished.

vancouver things to do vancouver whale watching

Despite our experience, I think it is a place worth visiting if you travel to Vancouver in one day. To explore the city you must live the tremendous contrasts inside Vancouver. Even if you do not want to visit it, you will do it without intention, as the dividing line between ChinaTown and Gastown is non-existent. All of a sudden you will find the marginalization and poverty of this area of Vancouver. But do not worry, even here Canada is a safe country.

That’s why we have no choice but to include ChinaTown on our list of essentials attractions to visit in Vancouver in 24 hours.

GRANDVILLE ISLAND

Another interesting plan you can do in Vancouver in one day is to visit Grandville Island. This small hippie island, under the bridge that gives access to the center of the city, is a must.

vancouver 2 day itinerary

Here, you will find bars, terraces, and restaurants with a very good atmosphere. We recommend the Granville Island Brewing. trying the tasting menu with different kinds of beer is one of the essential things to do in Vancouver in one day. Our favorite was Maple, the symbol of the country.

travel to vancouver canada bc

To get to the island you must do it by ferry or walking on the bridge. Unlike going to North Vancouver, there is no public ferry, so you’ll have to go with some private companies that are not cheap. We opted for walking the bridge with the reward of seeing all the terraces of Granville Island from above.

vancouver bc things to do

Another thing you have to do in Granville Island is to visit the public market. Once there you will find everything from crafts to agricultural products of the highest quality and food stalls. The atmosphere is unique so it is very popular with both tourists and locals.

We recommend that you come to Granville Island in the afternoon since it is the liveliest time and if the weather is nice all the terraces will be full.

THINGS TO do IN VANCOUVER IN 2 DAYS, 3 DAYS OR 4 DAYS

If you have more than one day to explore Vancouver do not miss these other things you can do.

CAPILANO HANGING BRIDGE

Actually, we could have arranged in a day in Vancouver the visit to the Capilano suspension bridge. However, the price of $ 43 CAD per person was not within our travel budget.

This bridge is suspended more than 70 meters above the Capilano River with a total length of 137 meters. The natural environment is fantastic but we still do not know if the price is worth it. In the images, it seems ideal for lovers of extreme experiences. If it had been cheaper, we would have visited it, especially if we had visited Vancouver in 3 days.

It is only half an hour by public transport from the city center. And best of all, there are buses that take you for free. Here you can find the pickup points.

SKI IN GROUSE MOUNTAIN

If you are traveling to Vancouver in winter and you like snow sports then prepare at least 4 days in Vancouver. Less than half an hour away you have the Grouse Mountain ski slope.

In summer, Grouse Mountain can also be a place of interest for Vancouver tourism. Some of the activities offered are the Super Skyride cable car, the World Famous Lumberjack Show, the Birds in Motion show and, of course, amazing views of Vancouver and the nearby fjords.

You can also make other trips in Vancouver, such as Mountain Ziplines, The Eye of the Wind, Peak Chairlift, or helicopter tours.

WHALE WATCHING

Taking a whale-watching tour is, for me, the perfect activity to spent one of a two-day trip to Vancouver.

vancouver whale watching itinerary for one day

As it was the best thing to do in Vancouver for us, we wrote a special post where we described thoroughly everything about this experience.

VANCOUVER ISLAND VISIT

One of the alternative plans you can do around Vancouver is to visit Vancouver Island and its capital Victoria.

If you like nature and do not have time to visit Vancouver and the Canadian Rockies on the same trip, at least try to combine Vancouver + Vancouver Island.

To get to Vancouver Island you will have to take a Ferry or a hydrofoil from Vancouver.

In addition to whales, you can find all kinds of wildlife on that remote island. Here we can also find one of the most popular treks in the world, the West Coast Trail.

HOW TO MOVE around VANCOUVER

Vancouver’s public transportation is very efficient. It is equipped with the fastest automated subway in the world, the SkyTrain, an extensive bus network and the SeaBus, the ferry that we used to go to North Vancouver.

The price of public transport changes depending on the areas you travel. The tickets are $ 2.5 CAD if you travel through zone 1, $ 3.75 CAD if you travel through zones 1-2 and $ 5 CAD if you travel between zone 1 and zone 3. Here you have a map with the detail of the different zones. Once you use the ticket you have 90 minutes to make all the transfers you need until you reach the destination.

A way to save money on transportation is by getting a bonus of 10 FareSaver tickets. The price would be 19 $ CAD for zone 1, 28.5 $ CAD for zones 1-2 and 38 $ CAD for zones 1-3.

However, if you are visiting Vancouver in one day we recommend you to buy a DayPass. The price is $ 9 CAD and covers all areas so it is definitely the best option. Of course, keep in mind that the “change of day” is considered at 18:30, so if you buy the DayPass at 18:00, you can only use it for half an hour. However, if you buy it at 6:30 p.m., you can use it until the same time of the next day.

WHERE TO EAT IN VANCOUVER

If in your day in Vancouver you want to try the best restaurants, here we recommend some that you should not miss.

BEST BREAKFAST IN VANCOUVER

If you want to have a good start in your day in Vancouver, there is nothing like having a brunch in the purest American style of the 1950s at The Templeton.

The peculiarity of this restaurant is that each table is decorated with old jukeboxes that no longer work and leather stools around the bar. The quality of the menu is very good and the amount of food is literally huge.

The highlights include the Farmers Breakfast and the Big Ass Breakfast. And of course the Milkshakes. Share it with your partner or friends, the size is too large to be taken by a single person.

vancouver things to do vancouver whale watching

The Templeton is located at 1087 Granville Street and is open daily from 8:30 a.m. to 11:00 p.m., although it is famous for breakfasts. Here I leave the menu.

TRY A GASTOWN RESTAURANT

For lunch I recommend you stop at one of the many stylish restaurants that you will find at GasTown.

We ate at the Guilt & Co and we liked it a lot. I recommend you to check the menu.

ASIAN STYLE DINNER AT A NIGHT MARKET

Another place that we can not forget in our plan of things to do in Vancouver is to dine in a Night Market.

Although they are not located in the center of Vancouver but in the neighborhood of Richmond, in the south, you need to visit it to understand the important Asian influence on the west coast of Canada.

The population of the neighborhood is mainly asian, with a percentage of 65% of the total population. Restaurants, shops, supermarkets, and kiosks. Everything is of Asian origin. Canada is one of the most multicultural countries in the world and in Vancouver and we could experience it.

The best way to do it is by going to dinner at the Summer Night Market, an open-air market that operates during the warm months.

vancouver attractions bc things to do

Actually, in Richmond, there are two Asian markets, the Summer Night Market, smaller and authentic (closed since 2017) and the Richmond Night Market, hugely large and where most tourists go. The basic is essentially the same, hundreds of smoking places to eat.

vancouver things to do vancouver whale watching

Visiting at least one is a must in the list of things to do in Vancouver in a day.

WHERE TO Stay IN VANCOUVER

As we told you, our motivation to visit Vancouver was mainly to take an orca watching tour. In the event that we could not seen whales the first day we would have repeated the second day.  To be honest, we did not have a special interest in visiting Vancouver considering we had just 15 days and our trip was focused on the Canadian Rockies.

The company we hired the Orca watching tour with was located in Richmond. It was 45 minutes by public transport from the center. That is why we decided to stay in the Richmond neighborhood.

Another reason for not staying at the center was the prices of hotels in Vancouver as they are very expensive and were out of our budget. Staying in Richmond we managed to save some money but nevertheless, we also had other downsides.

Although Vancouver’s public transportation also reaches Richmond, the frequency is not as high, especially at night. For this reason, we often ended up taking taxis, which considerably increased the price.

Besides, Richmond is mostly a residential neighborhood. By this I mean there are no areas where you can find different restaurant options, except for the two Asian food markets.

You can feel the Asian majority in this neighborhood after every step and this means good news: The best sushi we have ever tried was in a restaurant near our accommodation. From what we read after our trip, in Vancouver, are found the best sushi restaurants outside of Japan.

We chose to rent an Airbnb in Vancouver because it was the cheapest option, so I will provide  you with coupons so you can save on your next trip.

VANCOUVER MAP

And with this map of Vancouver, we say goodbye. Do not hesitate to leave us a comment if you need any other information about Vancouver. We will be happy to help you.

And remember that this is just our opinion according to our experience. We will be happy to include other different activities that we don’t know yet if you tell us about in the comments.

written by Ascenphotography by danzafra

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Orca watching in Vancouver – Whales in Canada

Seeing wild Orcas has been a dream of mine since I first saw the movie Free Willy. So when we started planning our trip to the Canadian Rockies, I included a whale watching tour in Vancouver, knowing that the detour would increase my budget significantly. Simply put, I could not have left Canada without trying to see some whales.

And yes, I would do it again.

Watching these black giants navigate the cold waters of the northern Pacific, with snowy mountains and Canadian pine forests in the background (formerly inhabited by indigenous tribes) is a priceless experience.

whale watching vancouver canada

Wild whale watching in Canada was one of the best experiences of our trip – if this is also your dream, keep reading. We will answer all of your questions while telling you about our experience.

Best places for Whale-watching in Canada

Canada is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean to the east and by the Pacific Ocean to the west. You can see whales of different species on each of the coasts.

In the Quebec province to the east which connects to the Gulf of San Lorenzo, you are almost guaranteed to be able to see white and blue whale, sperm whale, porpoise, and beluga whale.

On the coast of British Columbia to the west, orcas and humpback whales are the most abundant cetaceans species, making it the best place to watch orcas in the wild. Therefore, you will find many companies offer whale watching tours here.

Many of these whales go through Canada as part of their migration route, while some live there permanently.

In the west coast waters near Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands, a large number of Orcas reside between here and the San Juan Islands (US), making it the perfect and a popular place to whale watch in Canada.

whale watching canada vancouver killer whales

However, if you do not have enough time to go to Vancouver Island, you can also take a killer whale watching tour from Vancouver (city). The chances of seeing these cetaceans are the same amongst the various tour companies since all excursions look for them in the same waters, the Strait of Georgia.

With only two days to see orcas, we decided to do it from Vancouver. Nonetheless, there are many interesting things to do in Vancouver Island. If you have more time, don’t hesitate about spending a few days there.

BEst TIME TO to see  ORCAS IN CANADA

Spring and summer are the best times to whale watch in Canada on both the east and west coast. In addition to the resident whales, thousands of transient whales pass through these waters as part of their migration route.

Watching killer whales in Vancouver is easiest from May to October. Spawning salmons at the rivers during this time attracts whales to this area. While salmon is the main food of resident killer whales, transient killer whales also feed on small mammals such as seals and sea lions. Therefore, we can find both resident and transient orcas in these months. In the fall, the whales migrate towards the south in search of warmer waters to mate.

orca whale watching canada

But don’t assume that traveling to Vancouver during peak season will automatically fulfill your killer whale watching dreams. Like any activity involving wild animals, there is no complete assurance of an encounter.

Should there be no success on your first try, most companies that offer orca watching tours in Vancouver will allow you to repeat the tour as many times as necessary until you see whales, at no extra charge.

ORCA WATCHING IN VANCOUVER

Different types of whale watching tours IN VANCOUVER

Being that Vancouver is the best place to whale watch in Canada, you will find a variety of ways to do so. We will explain a few in this section.

Whale-watching BOAT TOUR

The most common whale watching tours are by boat, some in large boats and others in faster small zodiacs, through which you can get closer to the animals.

We thought we had booked a tour with the smaller boats, but we realized there was a misunderstanding with the reservation just as we were about to start the tour. We ended up on the big boat with many people and were initially a bit disappointed. However, after the tour, I found that it is better to opt for the larger boats if you want to photograph the whales well.

In the smaller zodiacs, your photography gear will likely get wet, and you will not be able to stand up, which means that you will not be able to see the whales if they do not come above water for breath right beside your boat.

vancouver whales

 However, if you do not intend to take photos, the zodiac is much more fun and get you closer to the killer whales.

Boat trips to see killer whales in Vancouver usually last from 3 to 5 hours and cost approximately CAD $130 (€ 90) per person.

HYDROPLANE

There are airplane tours to whale watch from above. There are also others that combine boat + hydroplane, especially for orcas watching in Vancouver. First, the plane fly to Sofia (main city of Vancouver Island) looking for whales from above, and from there, you get on a boat to get a closer look.

Some of these tours also give you a few hours to explore Vancouver Island before returning to Vancouver on the hydroplane. These trips last longer and are more expensive.

kayaking with orcas in canada

There are kayaking + orca watch tour packages out there, but the chances of finding orcas are much lower since you can only go so fast and so far on a kayak than on a boat or plane.

Therefore, these kayak tours are usually multi-day camping trips, featuring a daily whale search with other adventures mixed in. Note that like all other tours, there are no whale encounter guarantees, no matter how much time or money you invest.

Nonetheless, it remains a bucket list activity for me. Here is a video for those who are thinking about it.  North Island Kayak is one of the companies that offer this type of tour camp.

Companies that offer orca whale-watching boat tours IN VANCOUVER

Most orca whale-watching companies in Vancouver collaborate by informing each other whenever they find whales. Therefore, it doesn’t matter which one you pick.

The vast majority of the tours operate out of Vancouver Island. From Vancouver and outskirts, here is a short list of companies among many: Wild Whales Vancouver, Vancouver Whale Watch, White Rock Sea Tours & Whale Watching Vancouver, Steveston Seabreeze Adventures Vancouver, Prince of Whales Whale Watching, Lotus Land Tours Vancouver.

Prices tend to be similar at approximately $130 CAD (€90) per person. The orca whale watching tour that departures from Vancouver usually takes about 5 hours.

OUR EXPERIENCE

OUR BOAT

We arrived in Richmond (south of Vancouver) at 10 AM. From here, we started our adventure watching killer whales in Vancouver about an hour later. It was mid-May, and the day was quite sunny, perfect for our expedition.

As I said earlier, we expected a smaller boat than the one we took. There were at least 50 people on this tour with us. The boat had two decks. At the lower front deck, there was a window to protect you from the cold, while the back one was uncovered.

In the smaller upper floor, there were no more than 10 people. This is the best place to see it all with a 360-degree vision. Dani and I did not move from there during the whole tour. From here, we could photograph the orcas regardless of where they were coming up to breath from the water.

the dike at the port

The first thing we saw right after leaving the port was a dike with a few sea lions.

killer whales eastern canada

It was the first time we saw seals in the wild, and part of my dream was being fulfilled.

At that time, I decided that even if we don’t see orcas in the end, the experience would still have been worthy.

swimming with orcas in canada vancouver

In addition, we saw the symbol of the United States of America, a bald eagle. It was a young one without its adult feathers.

canada whales dying vancouver

where to see orcas in canada

OUR FIRST time watching ORCAs

Once we left the dike, we sailed towards deeper waters and saw our first killer whale shortly after.

orca whale watching canada

Watching wild orcas swim in the sea was a euphoric experience. The sound of their breaths cutting through the waves amazed everyone that was present. You can’t get enough no matter how many times you see them.

whale watching vancouver orca

Seeing them in an immense ocean along with icy mountains in the background is a good reminder for all to never visit places where orcas are living in captivity. It is impossible not to feel guilty as human beings in a society where such practice is still legal.

whales watching canada seasons

Our boat followed them at legally mandated safe distances to avoid disturbing these cetaceans.

transient ORCAS IN VANCOUVER

Soon after, other whales appeared.

The orcas rose to the surface for a few seconds to breathe and returned to the depths. We boated to the next predicted location, and one of the dorsal fins appeared a few minutes later, accompanied by water vapor jets coming out of its blowhole.

The ones we saw were transient killer whales. It was explained that transient orcas rarely jump or do acrobatics in the water since they are always busy hunting. Residents orcas, on the other hand, feed almost exclusively on salmon so they don’t spend as much time hunting, making it easier to enjoy their incredible jumps.

Of all the killer whales we watched, three swam quite close together. They were a male and a mother with her calf.

Seeing the head of the little orca completely out of the water was the most special moment of the day. In the next photo, you can see her swimming right next to her mother.

see whales in canada killer whales

In total, we got to see 7 transient killer whales. They all swam away from each other; except for the baby and the two adult orcas that were swimming together.

SOME INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT ORCAS

Orcas are not actually whales, rather, they are relatives of dolphins. In fact, it is the largest member of the dolphin family. The males weigh up to 5 tons and measure up to 9 meters whereas the females can get to 4 tons and 7 meters.

In addition to size, you can easily guess the sex of the adult orcas by comparing their dorsal fins.

The male ones are big and straight, while the female ones are smaller and angled backwards like common dolphins. Don’t confuse this with the lateral fin that appears in captive killer whales.

Killer whales are hierarchical and social animals where females are the dominant ones. They never separate from their family and always go together in what are known as pods. A typical pod can have up to 40 individuals, although at certain times several pods can be joined temporarily for mating or social purposes. Orcas even hunt together are known to strategize their plans beforehand.

They are very intelligent animals who communicate through sounds. Each pod has its own sounds as if they spoke different languages.

Although we didn’t see killer whales swimming in a group, all individual ones we saw belonged to the same pod, each having swam more than 100 kilometers in a day.

SEA LIONS

Afterward, we continued our journey toward the Gulf Islands and loved the thick pine forests we saw along the way. When we come back to the Canadian west coast once again, we will be spending a few days on Vancouver Island. Nature is sovereign and it is impossible not to think of the First Nations, the tribes of natives who lived here for hundreds of years.

killer whales eastern canada

Near the coast, we saw another bank full of sea lions. There are two species of sea lions found in this area, the California Sea Lions and Steller Sea Lions.

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The latter are the largest sea lions in the world, where a male can weigh up to 1 ton and measure up to 3 meters in length.

whales migration canada

BALD EAGLE

Also, we saw another bald eagle. Since their main source of food is fish, it is easy to spot them in this area of Vancouver.

resident orcas canada

HUMPBACK WHALES

Just when we thought that our Canadian wildlife session was ending, we heard a loud roar from the sea – a humpback whale that came out to breathe.

orca whales canada

This was a delightful surprise as Humpback whales spend more time underwater than killer whales, making it impossible to predict their location.

kayak orcas canada

These whales, much larger than the others, greeted us with tail slapping as a form of communication to their peers.

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Summary

We took this tour without any expectations and the result far exceeded them. Not only did we see orcas, but also humpback whales, sea lions, and bald eagles. We could not believe it! Whale watching in Canada was one of the best experiences we have ever lived.

swim with orcas canada

We also had a wonderful guide who showed us a map of our route and marked where we saw the different species.

orca whale watching vancouver map

After seeing orcas in Vancouver, I want to return to discover the wondrous life hidden there more than ever. I never imagined that witnessing these creatures in the wild could make me feel so free and happy. It is an experience that I definitely recommend to everyone and I hope to repeat myself very soon.

whale watching vancouver

As we were lucky on our first tour, we did not need to try again the following day. Instead, we spent the second day in Vancouver visiting the city. Not as exciting as what we did on the orca tour, but we still recommend it.

ORCAS IN CAPTIVITY

Orcas had awakened the curiosity of humans for long time. We want to see them up close, but there are times when we need to ask if it is worth it. What I am talking about is the cruelty wild animals in captivity for the sake of show, be it an orca or a whale.

Wild orcas over 90 years old have been found swimming in the sea, however, killer whales in captivity live a maximum of 20 years. Nevertheless, what shocked me most is the cruelty they go through away from the wild. In particular, cetaceans are deprived of food for training, punished without companions and forced to perform movements not natural to them.

Used to swimming hundreds of miles, there is no pool big enough for them. The ocean is the only place they belong. When you go to dolphinariums, aquariums, and zoos, you are paying to chase an orca family, kill the mothers, and kidnap the young. Their stupid performances for the public are not fun, but rather, cruel and humiliating.

swimming with orcas in canada

There has not been a single wild orca on human attack on record. Conversely, there has been reported cases of orcas that prevented shark attacks on humans. Killer whales are often stressed to the point of madness while in a crowded pool. As a result, there have been some incidents where the whales ended up killing their trainers.

WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP

If you want to help us end this cruelty, do not go to places with animals in captivity. Get all the information you can first before your visit. I recommend watching the Blackfish documentary, which also talks about trainer deaths by orcas in Loro Parque, Tenerife. Another one is The Cove, created by the Flipper dolphin trainer, after his suicide. Ask your friends watch these documentaries.

Luckily, the solution is not to stop whale watching. You can still see killer whales in Vancouver or any other place where they live in the wild, like in Norway, Iceland, Argentina or Spain. I promise you, watching them locked up in an aquarium can never compare.

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written by Ascenphotography by danzafra

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