Chasing Waterfalls in the Canadian Rockies

A road trip to celebrate 39 years together

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We have abandoned our annual overseas travel adventure, due to the pandemic, to celebrate our 39th wedding anniversary locally. We embarked on a ten day road trip through the Rockies to Banff and Jasper – a trip we had taken 25 years ago with our 3 young children at the time, en route to Drumheller, but now embarked on with just the two of us.

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September 14
We relied on our trusty SatNav to guide us to our first port of call; Grace’s Bed and Breakfast in Sorrento, and we were surprised to hear that “you have arrived at your destination” because at that time there was only bush along the highway.

It turned out that the B&B was 100 yards up the road from where our SatNav said, and was accessible via a small dirt road.

The accommodation was beautiful and our hosts were lovely. And we had all the room to ourselves.

September 15th
At breakfast our hosts gave us some tips on where we might stop on our way to Golden via Revelstoke. A recommendation was Margaret Falls, about 15 minutes from Sorrento. It’s a short hike up a nice little waterfall. Coming back by the same trail, we crossed the road and got to the beach at Shuswap Lake. A brief stroll along the beach and its campgrounds and we were back on the road to Revelstoke.

Here we stopped for our main day hike to the top of the mountain in Mount Revelstoke National Park. It rises to 6,360 feet, but don’t worry you can drive all the way to the top and cover the last mile for some spectacular views. Between the many sunny breaks we saw a bit of precipitation in the form of snow, so dress accordingly!

After our hike, we continued on to Golden, spending the night at another lovely B&B, the Tschurtschenthaler Lodge.

September 16
We asked our host for advice on where to stop en route to Lake Louise. She suggested three points of interest, starting with a visit to Wapta Falls. It’s about a 2.5 mile hike to see the falls, but well worth it.

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Wapta Falls is a waterfall on the Kicking Horse River located in Yoho National Park.
Wapta Falls is a waterfall on the Kicking Horse River located in Yoho National Park. Photo by Tom Jamieson

From there we continued to Emerald Lake and enjoyed hiking the 5 mile loop around the lake. Then we will move on to our last stop of the day, Takakkaw Falls, a truly spectacular setting.

The drive to Lake Louise ended another spectacular day of scenery.

September 17
The Lake Louise area offers two main lakes – Moraine Lake and surrounding area, and Lake Louise itself. The parking lots at both lakes (Lake Louise in particular) get very busy early on, a better alternative is to take the shuttle which can be ordered online.

We first visited Moraine Lake and were rewarded after a short hike on the Rockpile Trail with some breathtaking views. We then returned to Moraine Lake for a walk on the lake trail, which has some beautiful scenery and is definitely worth doing.

We then boarded the shuttle for the 15 minute drive to Lake Louise and called the Fairmont for lunch at their cafe.

Then we went for a walk on the Lake Louise Shores Trail, which goes all the way to the end of the lake and back – about 4 km in total. Looking back from the end of the lake offers a magnificent view of the Fairmont Castle, and the surrounding mountains and vistas are fabulous.

After that it was back to the lodge for dinner and to celebrate my birthday.

September 18
We traveled to Banff, stopping at Johnson Canyon. It is a very popular stop and the foot traffic is high, but it is well worth it.

There are two falls here; the lower falls are about 1.2 miles and there is a small tunnel at the lookout point that you can walk through to see the falls up close. It tends to get very busy and you may have to wait your turn. We chose to skip that and still have a good view of the falls without having to enter the tunnel.

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Another 1.5 miles from the trail is the Upper Falls which was less crowded and well worth the extra hike.

After visiting the falls we continued to Banff and checked into the Moosehead hotel. We had dinner at the Radiant: great food and we were treated to a jazz performance by Allison Lynch, accompanied by Mark Limacher on the keyboard.

The Banff Gondola.
The Banff Gondola. Photo by Tom Jamieson

September 19
We made the short drive to Canmore to visit one of my wife’s cousins ​​and his wife. They took us on a nice hike close to home which provided a nice waterfall and a small lake at the top of the trail.

From there we headed to the Banff Gondola, which took us to Sulfur Mountain for stunning views of the Bow Valley.

On the sulfur mountain
On the sulfur mountain

There is a restaurant at the top, but reservations are recommended, and also a cafe which is more first come, first served, but fills up very quickly. We chose the third food option; a small store where you can buy snacks and sandwiches to go.

September 20
The drive between Banff and Jasper offers endless magnificent views and we found ourselves stopping at many lookout points before arriving at the Columbia Icefield.

We purchased a pass for the Columbia Icefield Skywalk, a platform where you can walk on the glass base and see the fall to the canyon below, as well as take in the beautiful scenery.

After completing our Skywalk and being returned to the parking lot, we made our way to the road where you can walk to the foot of the ice field. What we found most interesting and at the same time unsettling were the various markers that were displayed on the road that showed where the ice has arrived at various times dating back almost 100 years. The shortening of the ice field over the past 20 to 30 years is dramatic.

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As we were experiencing the Icefield and starting our drive to Jasper, we came across a mountain goat by the side of the road which was our first wildlife sighting of any note – a very handsome man.

A mountain goat by the side of the road near Jasper.
A mountain goat by the side of the road near Jasper. Photo by Tom Jamieson

September 21
For our full day in the Jasper area, we chose to visit Maligne Lake, for canoeing. Just before reaching Maligne we noticed a few cars parked in front which is usually a sign of wildlife. Indeed, we were treated to a moose grazing by the side of the road.

The weather at the lake was a bit windy so we hiked to nearby Moose Lake (about 2 km) in the hopes that the winds would ease to allow us to get out a canoe. By the time we got back to the boat rental it was still hectic, but a little quieter so we ventured out. Luckily the wind and current of the lake were against us on the way out, so by the time we turned to turn around we were practically sent back to shore.

Canoe on Maligne Lake.
Canoe on Maligne Lake. Photo by Tom Jamieson

September 22
It has been a long day of driving as we drive home, with an overnight stay in Clearwater.

Just outside of Clearwater we took a detour to Spahat Falls which was a nice little detour and a fairly short walk to the falls.

Once in Clearwater, our B&B host recommended the Hog N Hop Tap and Smokehouse for dinner. A word of advice: eat a light lunch if you plan to go, as the portions are huge. Exceptional recommendation however.

September 23
Once in Kamloops, rather than taking the usual route back home along the Coquihalla, we took the longer but spectacular cross-country ski route (using highways 1 and 99) and spent the night at Whistler.

We found a great place to stop for our picnic just outside of Lillooet overlooking a beautiful lake and then continued on to Joffre Lake where we made a quick stop to see the lower lake.

September 24
Our last stop was in Whistler, and we took a quick walk around Lost Lake to stretch our legs in the morning, then continued on to the Whistler Train Wreck Trail, located just outside of Whistler, near Function Junction.

The trail follows the Sea To Sky Trail and crosses a suspension bridge and offers panoramic views of the Cheakakmus River, before arriving at the brightly colored boxcars.

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About Jerilyn Graves

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