Length of stay: 2 (half) days
Visited: September 2016
We flew into Calgary at the end of August to embark on a twelve-day road trip across six national parks: Glacier in Montana; Waterton, Banff and Jasper in Alberta; and Yoho and Kootney in British Columbia. Yoho And Kootenay are nestled right beside Banff and Jasper in eastern British Columbia and together these four national parks, along with three nearby provincial parks, form the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks World Heritage Site.
Day 1: Yoho National Park
We spent the morning hiking around the super scenic (and therefore super popular) Lake Louise area in Banff National Park in Alberta. In an effort to minimize our interactions with the crowds and fully appreciate the beauty and solitude of being in the great outdoors, Yoho National Park seemed like the perfect afternoon excursion. Especially since it’s located a mere 30km away from Lake Louise.
We first headed to Takakkaw Falls. The road to get to the waterfall is a bit dicey in some areas and requires strategic maneuvering around this particularly steep switch back. From the parking area, there’s a paved path that takes you across a bridge and to the base of the falls for a better view. The waterfall is fed by a nearby glacier and is apparently much feisty in the spring when the snow starts to melt.
From there we headed down to Emerald Lake, stopping first at the pullover for the Natural Bridge. This used to be a waterfall, but over time the flowing water carved out this canyon that resembles a bridge.
We then went to Emerald Lake, which is both the largest and most popular lake in the park due to its pristine turquoise waters.
From there we drove down to Wapta Falls (4.6km roundtrip). Except we missed the turnoff. Normally we could have just pulled a u-ie, except the traffic going in the opposite direction was horrendous. Probably because everyone was driving back to Calgary after the Labour Day long weekend. So we kept driving. All the way to Golden. Which is just over 35km away (in the opposite direction) from Wapta Falls. And when we did find a suitable place to turn around in Golden we were greeted by a different kind of golden – them golden arches of McDonald’s. It seemed like an appropriate place to stop for food.
By the time we finished scarfing down our McDonald’s the traffic flowing back into Yoho wasn’t nearly as congested. At this point we were committed to embark on our hike to Wapta Falls. Plus we just ate McDonald’s and were feeling a bit bloated.
On our way back to Lake Louise we stopped at the parking lot by Emerald Lake again to hike to Hamilton Falls (1.6km roundtrip). It is a supposedly short hike to get to this waterfall, but we’re not entirely sure if we went down the wrong path or missed it entirely, but after walking for about 30 minutes or so we had yet to come across anything that resembled close to a waterfall. At this point it was getting pretty late so we gave up and turned around.
Day 2: Kootenay National Park
Similar to yesterday we spent the morning hiking in the Lake Louise area in Banff. By the time we finished our hike around Moraine Lake and to Eiffel Lake we were ready to ditch the swarms of tourists and head to a more remote area. This time we drove down to Kootenay National Park, located about 35km away.
Soon after entering the park, signs of the wildfire that ravaged through the area back in 2003 were clearly visible. The fire consumed 17,000 hectares of forest – which is equivalent to just over 10% of Kootenay National Park. While forest fires are a natural process that are vital for maintaining a healthy forest and ecosystem, their destruction is nevertheless frightening. Today, over a decade later, signs of new life are sprouting up.
We first stopped at Marble Canyon. There is a short paved path around the canyon (1.6km roundtrip) with various bridges scattered over the canyon for a closer look into the gorge.
We then hit up the Paint Pots – an ochre bed rich with iron oxide that has transformed the soil into vibrant yellow and red hues. It’s a short trail to and around the paint pot area (something like 2km roundtrip). The first part of the trail is supposedly wheelchair accessible. But you don’t actually see any of the paint pots until after crossing a bridge. The trail after that doesn’t seem very wheel-chair accessible. Not because it’s strenuous or the terrain particularly challenging, but the path narrows and there are puddles (of colour) everywhere.
Afterwards we made a stop at Nama Falls. The place was just down-right-creepy. The parking lot was completing deserted except for an abandoned car and these two crows who were watching us with their beady little eyes with one of them continuously caw-cawing. It turns out the trail was closed because a bridge had washed out. We backed it up into the car and just hightailed it out of there to our campground at Lake Louise.