We decided to start things off by driving up the first 16 miles of the Going-to-the-Sun Road that is open on the western side. We could see right off we were still in for a treat with the beautiful and crystal clear Lake McDonald off to our left and gorgeous mountain ranges ahead of us. We discovered many beautiful places we were able to pull over and enjoy including a portion of Lake McDonald, some great mountain views, a raging river and a few waterfalls. We also found ourselves a quiet little spot on the side of a river with a view of the mountains where we were able to enjoy our picnic lunch.
Unfortunately, the week we stayed in Coram, MT turned out to be rainy on most days so our traveling was limited. On one of the days when we had a break we decided to take a drive over to the Hungry Horse Dam a short drive away. It was a really interesting visit with some nice views in a very remote area.
We did have one additional day that started out beautiful and the forecast looked great so early that morning we packed our stuff into the car including jackets and hats since the forecast also predicted cooler temps. With the Going-to-the-Sun Road closed in the middle, we made the two hour drive around to the Saint Mary entrance on the eastern side of Glacier National park. It turned out to be a beautiful drive with some stunning scenery. More snow covered mountains than we could count but also gorgeous meadows, many filled with flowers of all colors.
Once we arrived we began our drive along the Going-to-the-Sun Road, but this time heading east to west. We enjoyed many scenic stops along the way including one spectacular stop in particular that overlooked Saint Mary Lake with the snow covered mountains surrounding it. As we were getting close to the section where the road was closed we found a parking spot and walked to a trailhead leading to several waterfalls. We decided on a hike over to Saint Mary Falls, a trail that meanders through the forest for about a mile and a half before we reached the falls. While at the falls we wandered around to several viewpoints enjoying the beauty and taking as many pictures as we could. There were bear warnings at the trailhead so we stayed aware of our surroundings and I had my bear spray but we had no bear sightings on this day although we did see signs on the trail.
After we returned to the car we completed the drive to the closed portion of the road before turning around and heading back. At this point we drove a short distance to a picnic area and decided to enjoy lunch outdoors. The sun was out and up to this point the weather was beautiful but cool. Just as we finished lunch however, the wind picked up and the rain came. It really didn’t matter to us since we had completed what we came to see so we were happy. Once we left the mountains, the sunshine returned and the rain stopped so that we could enjoy our two hour return trip back to the campsite and of course, to Stella.
On the day we left Montana we enjoyed exceptional weather and lovely roads that were beautiful although narrow and rolling at times. Our cross into Canada was routine with no problems. They still have a problem believing that we’re from Texas and don’t have any guns until we admit we’re transplants from Massachusetts.
That first night’s stay in Fort Steele, British Columbia turned out to be a very pleasant surprise. Not only was the weather gorgeous with sunny skies and temps in the 80’s but the campsite we were in had spectacular views of the snow covered Rockies. We enjoyed an extended happy hour followed by a grilled dinner outside. Obviously this was their first warm sunny day in a while because the snow covered mountains had a lot less snow by the end of the evening. Having a sunset at 9:47 and a last light at 11:30 certainly helps. Our next stop in Golden, BC sunset occurred at 10:03 with a last light at 12:02. Good thing we have nice shades.
We arrived in Golden the following day and headed downtown that night to enjoy a dinner at one of the local pub & grills. After dinner we took a stroll over to Spirit Square, a popular area of town where the locals get together for community fun. A live band was playing so we pulled out the folding chairs from our car, set them up, sat down and enjoyed the music while watching the locals all having a great time.
The next day we headed off early and drove over to Canada’s Glacier National Park. It took about an hour to get to the visitor center where we got some ideas on how to spend the day. We decided to continue further along the highway for another hour until we got to Revelstoke National Park for a drive along the Meadows in the Sky Parkway. It turned out most of the day would be in the car as there weren’t too many short hikes in either parks that we were interested in and we were limited to a seven or eight hour day due to Stella being left behind at the RV. The drive along the Meadows in the Sky Parkway was well worth the trip since it gave us the views and vistas we were looking forward to. The Parkway climbs about 5,250 feet along about 16 miles of roadway with many scenic viewpoints to enjoy along the way. As a bonus, on our way back down the parkway we were treated to a mother black bear and her cub who was just strolling along the side of the road before the cub scampered back into the woods followed by mom. It’s about as close as we’ve ever been to a black bear and definitely closer than we’ve ever been to a young cub in the wild. We also decided we had enough time for one hike before completing our day out so we enjoyed a mile long hike along an interpretive boardwalk through rare Columbia Mountain wetland.
After taking our next day to relax and enjoy a walk downtown for some lunch, we headed off early on our third and final day to another national park we hadn’t heard about before. Yolo National Park is just east of Golden and sits between Golden and Banff National Park. After a relatively short drive we stopped at our first hiking trail. This trail would take us over to Wapta Falls. It turned out to be a 3 mile hike through dense forest until we reached the Kicking Horse River. After about a mile or so we could begin to hear the roar of the falls. After a fairly steep descent we reached the river and gazed at this beautiful waterfall right in front of us. It’s the largest waterfall of the Kicking Horse River, at about 100 feet high and 500 feet wide. It was well worth the descent we had to make to get to it. After taking our time and enjoying the area for a while and of course taking many pictures we began the inevitable ascent back up the mountain until we reached the main trailhead where we completed our return to the parking area. Once again we were very conscious of our surroundings as we knew the area was well populated with bears but once again, thankfully, no encounters.
After Wapta Falls we continued our drive through Yoho National Park, enjoying the scenery all around us. Snow covered mountains were the norm with a thick growth of green forests below the snowy peaks. The signs of past avalanche activity were clearly evident with large patches of trees just driven down the sides of the mountains. The mountain peaks that were not covered in snow were just as gorgeous with rock faced cliffs in all imaginable shapes.
Our plan was to stop at a place called Emerald Lake but unfortunately there were no parking spaces available so we moved on from there and stopped at another spot nearby called Natural Bridge for our picnic lunch. Natural Bridge is a beautiful natural rock formation that spans the flow of the Kicking Horse River, where the slower-moving waters from the valley flats begin their descent through a canyon to be joined by the Amiskwi River. This was another impressive stop that we didn’t expect but won’t be forgetting. Following our visit to Natural Bridge we began the return drive back to our campground ending our trip into Yoho National Park.
I’ve said this before but I want to say it again. One of the best things about traveling as we do is discovering and exploring spots we have never even heard of before. We came to Golden, BC to visit Canada’s Glacier National Park and ended up discovering both Yoho National Park and Revelstoke National Park that each fit into that category. All three of these parks were gorgeous in their own way and all three were well worth the time we spent at them.
Our next stop took us to Canmore, Alberta where we intended to enjoy six full days exploring Banff National Park and its surrounding area. Unfortunately, most of the week was cool and wet so our sightseeing opportunities were limited. On the first nice day we did have we took advantage of it and headed off early to downtown Banff. There we located a parking spot we could stay at for the day before catching a shuttle over to the Banff Gondola. The weather was quite overcast early but the hourly forecast called for clearing so we took the chance and bought our tickets for the scenic gondola ride to viewing decks & hiking trails at the summit of Sulphur Mountain.
Once we arrived at the summit we were greeted by the sight of six stunning mountain ranges and the sweep of the Bow Valley below. There we enjoyed the views from the Sulphur Mountain summit at 7,510 feet and they were breathtaking. It was raining as we arrived and quite overcast but as we had hoped, the sky cleared quickly and we were able to explore the area. We started by taking a walk along the Sulphur Mountain Boardwalk to learn more about Canada’s first national park and climbed to their first weather station at the peak. Following our return to the Gondola Summit Building we enjoyed the exhibits in the interpretive center as well as more views from the Rooftop Observation Deck. After we returned to the gondola base and caught a shuttle back into Banff we walked around downtown for a bit before finding a place for lunch and for Claudia to do a bit of shopping.
Over the next few days the rain was steady and the temps remained cold. We woke up to fresh snow on the mountains around us a couple of times. We did enjoy one afternoon in downtown Canmore as we explored the area and enjoyed a nice lunch at the Grizzly Pub. We took our time and explored lots of shops as well as an open air market. Unfortunately, on one of the coldest nights when the temp was about 38 degrees outside our heat decided to stop working. For whatever reason the furnace just won’t ignite so we pulled out the infrared quartz heater that we keep underneath the motor home and we’ll that use until we figure out what’s going on. Of course that might not be till we get back to Texas. We’re actually hoping that it just won’t be needed.
On our final full day in the Banff area we awoke to beautiful weather with bright blue skies and temps in the 60’s. We were happy to have for one more day like this so we headed off for a one hour cruise on Lake Minnewanka, the largest lake in Banff National Park. The cruise began at the western end of the lake and we enjoyed views of towering peaks and emerald green water surrounded by forested slopes and rocky shorelines. The boat was great with comfortable seats and awesome views for everyone. I particular liked sitting next to a window that opened allowing me to take some great pictures.
On the following morning we once again headed back on the road, this time to Calgary, Alberta, officially ending the National Park portion of our 2019 road trip. Although the weather didn’t cooperate as well as we hoped at times, we had wonderful visits to each of the five national parks with great sights, wonderful hikes and views of some spectacular scenery.