Touring the Canadian Rockies

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The Canadian Rockies mountain range spans the province of British Columbia and Alberta. With jagged, ice-capped peaks, including towering Mt. Robson, it’s a region of alpine lakes, diverse wildlife and outdoor recreation sites. Yoho National Park is home to the massive Takakkaw Falls. Other national parks are Jasper, with the famously accessible Athabasca Glacier, and Banff, site of glacier-fed Lake Louise.

Lake McArthur, Yoho National Park, British Columbia

McArthur rewards determined hikers with one of the most serenely beautiful views in the Rockies. It takes between three and five hours to make the round trip. It’s worth it.

Larch Valley, near Lake Louise, Alberta

Larches lurk on every mountainside in the Rockies. They blend in with the evergreens for most of the year, but in the fall their needles turn a brilliant gold. In Larch Valley, a short hike from Lake Louise, they reach a captivating concentration.

Lac Beauvert, near Jasper, Alberta

Located at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge — Jasper’s answer to the Banff Springs — Lac Beauvert produces dazzling emerald colors on a sunny summer day. My dad once saw Patrick Stewart hanging out here. Who are you to disagree with Captain Jean-Luc Picard?

Waterton, Alberta

Nestled near the US border, Waterton National Park is contiguous with Montana’s Glacier National Park. It offers all of the beauty of that park and its other famous cousins Banff and Jasper with a fraction of the crowds. Its namesake lake is anchored by the charming Prince of Wales hotel, which is not far from the Bear’s Hump, a short hike still steep enough to offer commanding views of the valley and Mount Cleveland.

Canmore, Alberta

The so-called Three Sisters are the calling card of Canmore, a cozy town just outside the boundary of Banff National Park. A single mountain named about an ancient story of the Stony people, the sisters, are also called “Faith,” “Hope,” and “Charity” by some, though not by anyone who has tried to climb them without adequate preparation.

Maligne Lake, Alberta

Maligne is the second-biggest glacial lake in the world. I drove a tour boat here as a summer job in university and left convinced it might be the most beautiful spot on the planet. Maligne has many moods, each of them exquisite. If a tour doesn’t float your boat, you can hike around the lake on the extensive trail network, hang out in the chalet, or even get hitched. On a scorching summer day, you can also dive in, but be aware that glacial lakes don’t warm up much even in the heart of summer’s heat. Unless you’re craving for hypothermia, don’t hang out in the water.

Athabasca Falls, near Jasper, Alberta

This is the most powerful waterfall in the Rockies. Do yourself a favor and stay on the right side of the viewing fence. People have drowned trying to get an ideal photo. On a trip in my youth, my dad hopped over the barrier to get better, and I about lost my mind.

Mount Robson, British Columbia

Part of the Rainbow Range, Mount Robson is the highest peak in the Rockies, climbing almost 13,000 feet into the sky. An ultra-marathon in the area attracts the genuinely determined and outright masochistic. A gift shop that sells ice cream caters to the rest of us throughout the summer.

Moraine Lake, near Lake Louise, Alberta

The Canadian Rockies are lousy with glacial lakes, but this is one of my favorites. The Valley of the Ten Peaks provides a backdrop like no other. The iconic view of Moraine from the rockslide that dams the lake is an easy walk from the parking lot, or you can rent a canoe and meander down the length of the lake.

Glacier Skywalk, Alberta

You can stop on the Parkway to visit the Glacier Skywalk, a glass-floored walkway cantilevered along the edge of the Sunwapta Valley. As you sweep your gaze from the top of a mountain to the valley floor 918 feet directly beneath you, do your best not to think of cracks.

The Icefields Parkway, Alberta

Banff and Jasper are the two most popular destinations for visitors to the Rockies. They are connected by a 140-mile highway that offers unobstructed mountain views on both sides. Driving the Parkway might be the most sublime experience you can have in a car with your pants on.

The Rockies are beautiful and the Canadian Rockies are even more beautiful. We took a group of friends to celebrate our 10th year in business as BGB Painting, LLC. We stayed in Banff and hiked many of the mountains around that area. Highly recommended!