Alberta and the National Parks

Prince's Island Park, Calgary
Prince's Island Park, Calgary

We were excited to reach Alberta province after crossing hundreds of kilometers of prairies. In Alberta we visited Calgary city with its beautiful Bow River and we got the supplies needed for the much expected drive through Banff National Park, Icefields Parkway and Jasper National Park.


It was already 6pm when we reached Calgary, the capital of Alberta province. After a quick bite we decided to explore the city by bike.

We biked alongside Bow River, which crosses Calgary and which brings a unique vibe to it. Very close to downtown, you can access Prince's Island Park, a small plot of land by Bow River with a beautiful green area, coffees,  restaurants and live theater. It was a perfect spot to relax and take a breath of fresh air in the middle of the city.

I reckoned the same fresh air and calm atmosphere surrounding the area when I visited last time Calgary four years ago. We cycled through Prince's Island Park and passed by the River Cafe, the restaurant where I had dinner four years ago with my former colleagues. It was a sweet remembering. It felt good to be back here.

We continued our little journey through China Town, downtown, saw again the city’s skyscrapers and the street corners where I used to drink my coffee in the morning before going to meetings or after meetings celebrating contracts signed. Loved that feeling 🙂

By evening we left to the park where our truck was parked and prepared for a cycling marathon around Elbow River the next morning.

It was wonderful! Lots of other people cycling, running, walking, sailing alongside the lake, its vast forests and recreation trails. A very nice neighborhood. It couldn’t be a better start of the day!

Cycling around Elbow River in Calgary
Cycling around Elbow River in Calgary

Banff National Park

Before we departed to the much expected adventure in Banff National Park we wanted to make sure we are equipped for any circumstances or encounters with wildlife.

Besides the hiking shoes, we got walking sticks, bear spray, signal horn Klaxon, dog and coyote attack deterrent. We are ready now 🙂

Our first stop was in the charming mountain and holiday town, Canmore. We had a nice walk through the center which was networked with restaurants, coffee bars, local markets with fresh food and artifacts and a lot of people. It was a cute stop over, we had our coffee at Tim Hortons and we pursued to the next town, Banff.

We got there exactly in the weekend and during national holidays.There were a lot of tourists.The place was packed, we didn’t even find parking, therefore we continued towards the Banff Hot Springs.

The road through the mountains was beautiful but the view obstructed by the smoke that was coming from the burnt forests in British Columbia. It was a pity not too see the skyline and the Rockies clearly into the horizon, but it was still pretty. The smoke was really felt in the air and the mountain fresh air was slightly compromised.

We spent a good time at the Hot Springs, soaked our skin into the hot natural waters, took a great bath, got a bit of sunlight and enjoyed a well deserved moment of relaxation.

Luckily the next day the sky and the landscape cleared. It was a beautiful sunny day and we enjoyed the impressive views and landscapes of Banff National Park.

Since it was weekend all the campsites were full. Canada and especially Banff is very populated in the summertime by tourists, RVs and locals that are looking to spend their weekends hiking, cycling, canoeing, kayaking through Banff forests and its natural rivers and lakes.

We find ourselves parking on the side road.

The next morning we woke up and when we were about to hit the road, here he comes: the park ranger. He came to inform us that we are not allowed to wild camp in national parks, but only in established campgrounds. We were embarrassed and we apologized, but all the established camp grounds were full. He pardoned us.

He was very nice, very curious about the truck, where are we coming from. We were not fined.

We found very strange that although there are vast forests, plenty of space, hundreds of lakes and lots of mountains, you are obliged to camp in an organized camp site if you have an RV. This generally cuts the fun of it, especially that we have a self-sufficient truck, we don’t need to plug in or service the truck when camping.

We drove for an open air breakfast by Two Jack Lake and prepared for a full day of activities.

As we were wondering what to chose from the hundreds of activities you can do inside Banff National Park, we found the Johnson Canyon and we went for the hike.

Johnson Canyon

We were surprised to encounter so many people on the trail.However as we passed the first part which was easily accessible, the trail started to clear up and we enjoyed the trail up to the top it was a more silent atmosphere.It was wonderful. The river was crossing through the mountain forming spectacular cascades, canyons and we were climbing side by side.

When we arrived on top of the trail we could see ponds of natural springs and a beautiful plato of tundra surrounded by afar mountains.

The valley of the springs looked a perfect spot for encountering the bear.It was wild, vast, clean, green, the water so blue, fresh and pure. We had the impression that the bear could come and surprise us from anywhere. Luckily it was not the case, as I don’t think we were prepared to meet him so soon in our journey.

We got energized with every breath up in the mountains and the way down from the top was almost a trail running experience.

It was excellent. We couldn’t stop wondering how beautiful and generous the nature is here.

Lake Louise

After this wonderful experience we couldn't miss the popular Lake Louise.The time we arrived it was packed. Literally you had one meter by the side lake to take a picture because the rest was populated by tourists..

We had a quick stop, took the popular picture and left. Nevertheless, Lake Louise remains an extraordinary place to see. Maybe not in the peak season.

Our next stop was about making sure we supply the truck with potable water. We drove 50 km towards British Colombia and found a water pump station where we got the water for free. For the first time I appreciated how important is to have tap water connected to a network and have no limitation in consuming it.

It felt great to fill up our tank, to be able to cook and to take a proper shower that evening.

The road to British Colombia was packed. The scenery was a mixture of the impressive Rockies, abundant rivers and beautiful valleys, a perfect built up highway passing through, a parallel rail road that would transport commodities throughout Canada, the Canadian Pacific Railroad.The highway was full of cars, RVs and trailers of all types. It looked like a summertime holiday scene. I loved the diversity of campers styles. Summertime is on, free time for everybody. Happiness in the air!

The next day we woke up by the beautiful valley of Saskatchewan River, with a crystal clear light blue river, view to the Rockies, pine trees and lots of space for bbq and camping.We decided to stay for the weekend and installed the camping gear.

We had fried eggs that morning, fried ham, toast with butter and honey. Lovely start of the day.

We took our sunbathing suits, prepared the blankets, the sun umbrella and laid down the whole day in the sun, resting, relaxing and reading. The last time I experienced this type of scenery and the feeling of having enough time to just lay down and enjoy the day, was when I was probably 12 years old during the camping weekends with my parents.It was such a nice throw back into my childhood and a healing moment.

The day passed quickly, we had dinner again, read again and slept in peace.

Icefields Parkway

After a relaxing weekend we pursued the road towards the much expected Icefields Parkway and Jasper National Park.

Athabasca Glacier 

After a relaxing weekend we pursued the road towards the much expected Icefields Parkway and Jasper National Park.

JP is fascinated by glaciers and we went straight forward to Athabasca Glacier of the Colombia Icefields.

It was a short hike, about 2.5km, but very windy and the weather was getting colder as we were approaching the glacier. JP was fascinated to be on top of the glacier. Water was pouring like springs throughout it.We had to stay away from hidden crevasses.Therefore we hiked only the bottom of it. It was a special sensation, you felt on a dangerous terrain, but navigating an old ice giant. JP was thrilled.

We continued the road, a bit of traffic due to the summertime season, but we crossed through the most spectacular mountain views and glaciers. It was simply the best!

Jasper National Park

Miette Springs were the ones we were after in Jasper National Park. I love thermal springs because it’s a great way to relax and of course we don’t get the chance everyday to take a long bath in hot water in an RV. On top of this your skin gets smoother and healthier afterwards.

It was quite a drive up to the Miette Hot Springs and surprisingly it was less crowded than Banff. Miette Hot Springs had larger pools than the hot springs in Banff and more beautiful views. We simply loved it, relaxed and enjoyed.

Icing on the cake as we came down the road we saw for the first time a cub bear who was eating its berries in peace next to the road. A column of cars stopped to take pictures and by the time we arrived and prepared the camera, the cub was gone. Such a pity. He was sooo cute! It looked almost like it is not a wild animal, inviting you for a hug.

JP was happy! Another one of his dreams came true: he saw the bear in its natural habitat. JP wants to see the bear all the time, he is fascinated by this animal. I want to see it too, but from far, not surprising us in the wild, camping or hiking.

The same day we saw the white mountain goats, which was very nice to see too. 

What a day!

Jasper National Park road trip

About the author: Ioana Marins

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