For the 100 year anniversary of our National Parks in August, I wanted to celebrate that milestone by taking a tour of the Grand Tetons, Yellowstone, Glacier, Banff, Jasper, Olympic and Redwood National parks. I’ve been to all of them before except for Banff and Jasper. Evan though they aren't included in the 100 year anniversary, I’ve always wanted to go to Banff ever since I saw the crystal blue water images in books and on social media. It seemed unreal and the experience I had was just that... unreal.
Before I talk about the Canadian Rockies, I want to mention my time in a few of America’s National Parks. I remember setting foot in Yellowstone for the first time in 2008. It was the height of gas prices and because of that, I pretty much had the park to myself. I went in late August and remember talking to the ranger about over 200 sites still available at the time. It seemed that I had the park (almost) to myself. I’ve been back to Yellowstone a handful of times since then and every year it gets more popular. I love our parks, but not crowds so I had mixed emotions on this visit.
If you’ve never been to our first national park, you should plan a visit. It doesn’t matter how many times I’ve been to Yellowstone, I still get that excited feeling inside as I get to the entrance gates. I usually don’t plan ahead of time and have always lucked out somehow on a camp site. This wasn’t the case in Glacier so I did a tour of the park and went on a hike while Max slept in campy.
It was Campy’s first time in Canada and the minute we crossed the border, it was a sight to see. Beautiful rolling hills, snow capped mountains... it was as if we drove into the pages of a travel magazine. The closer we got to the rockies, the more amazing the scenery. You never really know the magnitude of the mountains until you get close and see how insignificant you are. Although I have wanted to visit Banff for a long time, I didn’t do that much research for the journey. I figured that all the kids would be back in school and it would be empty. That assumption couldn’t be further from the truth. As luck would have it, I found the last campsite at Lake Louise in the RV section. The ranger asked if I was able to sleep in Campy without popping the top and since I agreed, I was awarded the last spot. He gave me his usual bear speech with a seriousness that I haven’t seen in a while. Quite frankly, it felt a bit uneasy. I settled in campy and started to read about the area from the leaflets he handed out and realized that the tent section is surrounded by an electric fence to deter the bears. Needless to say, I dusted off my bear spray and kept it handy.
The following morning I headed out to see Lake Louise. I read that it can be popular but I wasn’t prepared to encounter the madness of people that were there. It was just before 10am and I was the last vehicle to pull into a dirt patch on the side of the road to get a spot to park. I was amazed at how many people were there. I took the hike up to the tea house and it was a challenging uphill climb but wasn’t quite the experience I had hoped for. Although the lake was beautiful, the resort and amount of people led me to the exit to headed north for Jasper.
The highway between Banff and Jasper was one of the most beautiful roads I’ve ever been on. The views were stunning and it was encouraging to see most of the traffic heading south. There are a few camps to stay at along the way and I pulled into honeymoon lake early afternoon to secure the last spot. I decided to relax for the remainder of the day and take a swim in the lake.
The following morning, we headed to Jasper and rented a canoe at Maligne lake. I would highly recommend a visit to the lake and the park. Jasper has about half the crowds and the park is just as beautiful as Banff. It was a nice relaxing day of touring, hiking and floating in the lake. Max was allowed to join me on the canoe ride which was surprising for a National Park. The life jacket was his own.
From Jasper we headed to Olympic National park, along the Oregon coast, and then to the Redwoods in California. There is so much to talk about with these parks but to keep the blog short, I will have to talk about them in another blog. Know that in just a few short weeks, you can see all of these parks on a road trip. If you are able, I would recommend a visit to see it for yourself.