Spotting wildlife in the Canadian Rockies

A highlight for any trip through the Canadian Rocky Mountains is the opportunity to spot wildlife.

Bear

It is possible to see elk, deer, big horn sheep, mountain goats, bears, moose, coyote, wolves, cougars and lynx.

As well as this there are many birds and smaller creatures, such as squirrels, chipmunks, pika, and hoary marmots.

The best time to see wildlife is first thing in the morning (around dawn) or late in the afternoon as this is feeding time for many animals.

Remember that you are visitor to these amazing creatures’ home, so be respectful and keep your distance. I seriously saw someone get out of their car to take a closer look at a bear – it’s not that cuddly teddy bear from your childhood!

Below are some of my photos from a week long road trip from Calgary to Jasper through Banff and Jasper National Parks back in July.

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Athabasca Falls

Athabasca Falls is a waterfall off the Athabasca River in Jasper National Park.

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The waterfall has a drop of 24 metres (80 feet) and a width of 18 metres (60 feet). While not the largest waterfall in the Canadian Rockies it is the most powerful due to the volume of water passes over the waterfall.

Athabasca River runs 1231 kilometres (765 miles) from the Columbia Icefield to Lake Athabasca. Athabasca means ‘there are plants after one another’ in Woods Cree.

It is important to stay to the designated paths. There are several memorials to people who have their lives.

Athabasca Falls is approximately 30 kilometres south of Jasper township. There is a parking lot on Highway 93A.

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Glacier Skywalk Columbia Icefields

The Glacier Skywalk is a glass floored observation platform overlooking the Sunwapta Canyon in Jasper National Park.

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The glass floored observation platform is 280 metres (918 feet) above the Sunwapta Valley. The glass is 3.81 cm thick, if that reassures anyone.

The skywalk took three years to construct and cost CAD$21 million.

I should be clear that the term ‘glacier skywalk’ is not exactly accurate. It is a walk over the Sunwapta Valley, rather than a glacier.

Visitors catch a shuttle bus from the Columbia Icefield Glacier Discovery Centre. Shuttle buses leave every 15 minutes during operating hours, and it is approximately a five minute trip.

There is an audio guide available. Although one of the staff did tell me that what was  covered on the audio guide is on the interpretive signs. The signs or audio guide have information on the landscape and wildlife in the area.

The Columbia Icefields Discovery Centre is on Icefields Parkway (Highway 93 North), approximately 1 hour south of Jasper or 2.5 hours north of Banff.

It is usually open mid April/May till October.

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Parker Ridge Trail

The Parker Ridge Trail provides amazing views of the Saskatchewan Glacier.

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The full hike to the end of the trail is 5 kilometres (3 miles) return. I did observe that not all hikers walk right to the end of the trail.

There is a turquoise lake at the foot of Saskatchewan Glacier. Parker Ridge only provides a view of part of the glacier. The glacier is approximately 13 km (8.1 miles) in length and covers an area of approximately 30 square km (11.5 miles).

Parker Ridge is named after surveyor Herschel Clifford Parker.

The Parker Ridge Trail is located on the Icefields Parkway in northern Banff National Park. There is a parking area on the west side of Icefields Parkway at the 117 km mark or 4 km south of the boundary between Banff and Jasper parks.

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Lake Agnes Tea house

The Lake Agnes Tea house is an mountaintop tea house overlooking Lake Agnes, which serves over 100 varies of tea and other delicious goodies.

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The trail begins near Fairmont Chateau on the eastern shore of Lake Louise. It is a 3.6 kilometre (2.2 mile) hike to the teahouse. It takes most visitors between an hour and an hour and half to reach the tea house.

The forested trail will pass Mirror Lake (with the Big Beehive as its backdrop) and a small waterfall before reaching Lake Agnes and the tea house.

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Lake Agnes is named after the first prime minister of Canada’s second wife Lady Susan Agnes Macdonald.

The tea house, which has no electricity or running water, was built by Canadian Pacific Railway in 1901. It began serving tea in 1905. The original log building was replaced in 1981 and used the original windows in its design.

The tea house serves over 100 different varieties of tea. They also serve a selection of sandwiches, salads, soups, and baked goods (baked in the tea house’s propane oven).

It is open from early June to October (Canada Thanksgiving). Bring cash (US and Canadian dollars accepted).

From the tea house it is downhill to return to Lake Louise. For those wishing to go for a longer walk it is approximately 1 km to Little Beehive and 1.6 km to Big Beehive.

There is a second tea house – Plain of Six Glacier’s Tea House. This is approximately 5 kms from Lake Agnes. It is a full day hike to see both tea houses. The entire trip is around 14.5 km.

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Lake Louise

Lake Louise is a glacial lake in Banff National Park.

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The lake, which is about 2.5 kilometres (1.5 miles) long and 90 metres (295 feet) deep has a pretty emerald colour in the summer. This is caused by the light refracting off the rock flour, which is deposited into the lake by the glacial melt.

Lake Louise is named after Princess Louisa Caroline Alberta, the fourth daughter of Queen Victoria, and the wife of Marquess of Lorne, the fourth Governor General of Canada.

The Stoney Nakota First Nations People named the lake Ho-Run-Num-Nay (Lake of the Little Fishes).

The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise sits on the eastern shores of the lake. This hotel was opened by the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1911. My family had the buffet breakfast at Poppy Brassiere, the service and food were excellent.

Lake Louise is approximately 5 kilometres (3.1 miles) west of Lake Louise village.

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Bow Summit & Peyto Lake

The Bow Summit Lookout provides amazing views of the turquoise coloured Peyto Lake.

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At 2070 metres above sea level the Bow Summit is the highest point on the Icefields Parkway.

It is approximately 10 to 15 minutes walk from the carpark to a viewing platform overlooking Peyto Lake.

Peyto Lake gets its a strong turquoise colour from the glacier rock flour that flows into it during the summer months. The lake is named after William ‘Wild Bill’ Peyto, an early park warden of the Banff National Park.

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