Scenes from the Canadian Rockies (2004)

Sprawling across the jagged southern border between Alberta and British Columbia, the Canadian Rockies are a marvel of natural beauty, with jagged peaks, massive glaciers, raging rivers, crystalline blue-green lakes, and plenty of flora and fauna. This "SuperSceneSet" contains over 300 photographs taken during a three-week trip in early July 2004, which focused on the four main national parks in the Canadian Rockies -- Banff, Yoho, Jasper and Kootenay -- along with short visits to the Waterton Lakes and Mount Robson.

Waterton Lakes National Park

Our first stop in the Canadian Rockies was Waterton Lakes National Park, which is located at the southernmost part of the Canadian Rockies, and is in fact contiguous with Glacier National Park in Montana. The often forgotten-about "younger brother" of more famous Canadian parks such as Banff and Jasper, Waterton Lakes is a beautiful destination fully worth a visit; I only regret we didn't have more time to explore it. Most of the photos in this sceneset focus on the series of Waterton Lakes that give the park its name.

Banff National Park - Banff Region

Probably the most famous of the national parks of the Canadian Rockies, Banff National Park is a "must-see" for anyone who likes mountain scenery, although with a size of over 2,500 square miles, no casual visitor could possibly hope to actually see it all. This is the first of three scenesets covering Banff National Park, focusing on the attractions in and around the town of Banff, which is considered by many the "capital" of the Canadian Rockies. Highlights in this area include hot springs, the distinctive Mt. Rundle, the Vermillion Lakes and Johnston Canyon. More of Banff National Park can be seen in the Lake Louise and Icefields Parkway scenesets.

Banff National Park - Lake Louise Area

The Lake Louise region of Banff National Park is famous for two lakes, Louise and Moraine, both of which are shimmering torquoise bodies of water surrounding by craggy peaks and glaciers. This sceneset features many of the moods of these two lakes, along with spectacular scenery captured during a trip to the Plain of Six Glaciers, a high alpine region accessed by a phenomenal hike along and then behind Lake Louise.

The Icefields Parkway

One of the most spectacular mountain roads in the world, the Icefields Parkway follows river valleys just east of the Continental Divide, running 140 miles from Lake Louise northwest to Jasper. The parkway is part of what makes visiting the Canadian Rockies so worthwhile, even for casual tourists, as incredible scenery is easily visible right from the road for most of its length, along with a great deal of wildlife. Most of the parkway is in Banff National Park, with this sceneset focusing on the area from Lake Louise to the Icefields Visitors' Centre across from Athabasca Glacier. Be sure to also view the Columbia Icefield Region subset, since it also includes parts of the Icefields Parkway.

Columbia Icefield Region

One of the most famous icefields in the world, though certainly not anywhere near the biggest, the Columbia Icefield straddles the Continental Divide between Alberta and British Columbia, as well as the boundary between Banff and Jasper National Parks. Perhaps ironically, most of it is not actually visible from the Icefields Parkway itself, because it is an ice cap located behind most of the mountain slopes visible from the road. The icefield is the source from which many of the famous glaciers of the Canadian Rockies flow. This sceneset includes views of mountains and glaciers in the area, including images from a visit out onto the ice of Athabasca Glacier, some shots from a climb up Parker Ridge, and some images from the more northern reaches of the Icefields Parkway.

Jasper National Park

Jasper National Park is the largest of the Canadian Rockies national parks, sprawling across 4,200 square miles. In three or four days one can only really scratch the surface of this magnificent place, but I did my best in this sceneset. Highlights include amazing views of Jasper and surroundings from the top of the Jasper Tramway; various images of Pyramid Mountain, an icon of the park that looms above the town of Jasper; Mt. Edith Cavell and Angel Glacier; the beautiful Maligne Lake and mysterious Medicine Lake; Maligne Canyon and Athabasca Falls.

Yoho National Park

Supposedly, the name "Yoho" comes from a Cree Indian word that expresses amazement -- at least, a lot of websites seem to think so. Once you visit the park, though, it's easy to believe. In fact, I think Yoho is probably the most underrated of the Canadian Rockies national parks -- it is every bit as pretty as Banff and Jasper, but seems to be much less well-known. Located just on the other side of the Continental Divide from the Lake Louise area of Banff National Park, the highlights of Yoho include a natural bridge, the staggering heights of Takkakaw Falls, and a personal favorite, Emerald Lake. Yoho is also home to the unique Lake O'Hara high alpine region, which is covered in a separate sceneset.

Yoho National Park - Lake O'Hara District

Lake O'Hara is a breathtakingly beautiful high alpine wilderness area in Yoho National Park. The lake itself is at an elevation of almost 7,000 feet, and can be accessed only by taking a special shuttle bus (or a very long uphill hike) from the Trans-Canada highway. The bus requires advance reservations, and I was really hoping for a nice day on the one we had set aside to hike the region, but alas, it was not to be.

Despite the gloomy conditions, the lake and environs were still really a sight to behold. Most of this sceneset is comprised of images taken on a hike around Lake O'Hara and up towards Lake Oesa, a frigid glacial lake still mostly iced over even in early July!

Mount Robson Provincial Park

When I'm in a new area I like to explore the popular "classical" destinations, but also look off the beaten path for attractions nearby that might also be worth a visit. When researching the trip, I discovered that directly adjacent to Jasper National Park was a small provincial park in British Columbia devoted to the tallest peak in the Canadian Rockies, Mount Robson. We set off on a day trip to the park, including a short hike to Kinney Lake that afforded lots of distant mountain views and close-ups of flora and fauna.

Kootenay National Park

In the early 1900s, residents of British Columbia lobbied the federal government of Canada to build a highway between the Columbia Valley region of Windermere and the important mountain hub of Banff, Alberta. The government agreed, on the condition that a five-mile wide swath on either side of the highway be set aside as a national park. The province and Ottawa came to an agreement, and in 1920 Kootenay National Park was born.In my honest opinion, Kootenay is the least impressive of the Canadian Rockies national parks, but is still a lovely place to visit. Highlights here include the Kootenay Valley, the town of Radium Hot Springs, Olive Lake... and mountain goats!