Gary Walsh embraces the great outdoors in the stunning national parks of Canada’s iconic Rocky Mountains.
The mighty Rocky Mountains stretch from the Arctic wilderness of British Columbia in Canada to the deserts of New Mexico in the United States. They run through the American states of Idaho, Wyoming and Montana – places that speak of the Old West – and form the border between British Columbia and Alberta in Canada.
Within its 4,800km expanse, the rich geology of the Rockies contains glaciers, plateaux, deep canyons, razor-sharp ridges, geothermal fields, and even prairies. You find moose, black bears, grizzly bears, wolves, coyotes and wolverines. It also is home to some of North America’s finest national parks, including Jasper and Banff in Canada.
Jasper is the biggest of Canada’s parks, and its commercial centre, the town of Jasper, makes the most of its splendid surroundings. It lies in the Athabasca River valley, which was forged by the massive Columbia Glacier.
The best way to get a sense of Jasper’s place in the world is to ride its famous Skytram. In seven minutes you soar from the outskirts of town to an altitude of 2,263m. Surrounding you are six mountain ranges; beneath you are ice-blue lakes, glacier-fed rivers and the sprawling Jasper township. From the gondola station you can hike to the summit of Whistlers Mountain or follow boardwalks and gravel trails to other vantage points.
Jasper is one of those places that oozes adventure opportunities. Perhaps pop on the leathers and a helmet, and take a ride in a Harley-Davidson sidecar on serpentine roads through the Athabasca Valley. Or take an exhilarating rafting ride through World Heritage-listed countryside down the Athabasca River. The ride, combining small sets of rapids and leisurely stretches of calm water, follows a route originally taken by beaver fur traders from the 1770s.
In winter, options include snowshoe tours and ice walks, but in milder weather evening is when the national park’s wildlife comes out to play, and a tour as the sun sets can reveal everything from scampering squirrels and mountain goats through to elk and grizzly bears.
Beautiful Lake Louise and its iconic Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise hotel is a delightful stopover on the way to Banff, driving along the spectacular Icefields Parkway and taking an all-terrain Ice Explorer onto the Athabasca Glacier.
The resort centre of Banff is Canada’s highest town, and enjoys a glorious setting in the shadows of the jagged peaks of Mt Rundle and Mt Cascade. World Heritage-listed national park spreads in all directions and, like Jasper, outdoor activities are the order of the day.
Heli-flightseeing takes adventurers over Spray Valley, to the east of the Rockies spine, and the Goat Range to view glaciers, lakes and wilderness forest.
Bow River rises in the Rockies and runs through the foothills into the Albertan prairies, and is lovely around Banff. Go with the flow on a relaxing float trip that often encounters native wildlife and passes by otherworldly hoodoo rock formations. The Rockies really cast a spell.
With so many ways to experience the Canadian Rockies outdoor wow factor, where do you start? Why not join us on Travelmarvel's 7 Day Rockies Marvel journey, which transports you straight to the heart of the places you visit. With included Insider Experiences and an expert tour director and travel guides, you're in safe hands and free to enjoy the high life and highlights found in this incredible part of the world.