Warning: This post contains an absurd amount of photos due to stunning scenery. I took about 400 photos in this time, and cut down to about 140 for this post. Didn’t want to leave anything out!
I’m struggling to find words for what I have witnessed over the past week. It’s been an unbelievable whirl of world class scenes, bringing out a photographer in me I didn’t know existed. It took an action-packed nine days to traverse the stretch from Calgary to Jasper, when I could have cycled it in four.
What I’ve done during this stretch has actually been quite dull. Every day has been essentially the same: Cycle for a short stretch, maybe hike for an hour or two, soak up a breathtaking viewpoint. Rinse, repeat. Barely make it to the next campsite by dark.
Although eagerly eyeing what was ahead of me, I was sad to leave Calgary on May 29th. Very nice city, full of greenery with the Bow River flowing straight through the heart.
A short Monday evening cycle mostly on highway 1A took me next door to Cochrane, a quick overnight stop before pushing into Banff the next day.
From Canmore I hopped over to the Banff Legacy Trail, which provided a gorgeous ride and is understandably popular with local cyclists. I met one commuting from Banff home to Canmore, informing her that her commute is my vacation – must be nice!
Tuesday night I rolled in to the Banff International Hostel. Great place full of young travellers, great facilities, and positive vibes. Large courtyard for hanging out, full kitchen with all dishes and essential spices, and all-you-can-eat self-serve breakfast that of course I took full advantage of. They even made an exception to put my bike in secure storage, as they “understand my bike is my livelihood”!
I spent Wednesday exploring Banff, finding a couple good short hikes. As I generally found everywhere, any long high-elevation hikes were inaccessible due to snow and/or avalanche hazards from our unusually long winter.
“Tunnel Mountain” hike:
Cycling up to Mt. Norquay ski area for the “Stony Squaw” hike:
Cycling the “Surprise Corner to Hoodoos” trail:
I then set out on a short Wednesday evening ride of self-discovery from the town of Banff to the Johnston Canyon campsite, which despite my best efforts would not give me a family discount. For those wondering if I’m doing this trip to find myself, I suppose I’ve done that twice now – first Cameron Lake in Waterton and now Johnston Canyon in Banff!
Thursday I did the “Ink Pots” hike, which is an extension of the “Upper and Lower Johnston Falls” trail.
Thursday evening I made my way to the Lake Louise campground.
With a couple hours of sunlight left, I made the short trek to the Lake Louise for some photography fun. As I would find the next day, this is a tourist hot spot so going late in the evening was a great way to avoid large crowds. Absolutely stunning. The lake was about half icy, making it more interesting in my books.
The next morning I returned to do the Lake Agnes hike – snowy parts near the end, but it was packed down from herds of previous footsteps.
Next up was Moraine Lake – an 11km uphill ride to get there, but well worth it! Similar to Lake Louise, but with a different mountainous backdrop, some beachy shoreline, and more ice due to its higher elevation.
Late Friday afternoon I veered onto the much anticipated Icefields Parkway.
With this very handy guide from Parks Canada, I began the exquisite 233km stretch. While there are “viewpoints” along the way, I consider it 233km of non-stop viewpoints.
Some shots of my typical surroundings while riding:
Camped at Mosquito Creek Friday night:
My arrival at the Crowfoot Glacier viewpoint was nearly simultaneous with a grizzly bear wanting to cross the road. Quite the traffic jam: Buses battling for parking spots, streams of tourists rushing out, everyone desperate to get their own snapshot. After a few minutes Parks Canada officers showed up, shouting at us to get in our vehicles. Some tourists just would not stop touristing! I took off to avoid the scramble, but not before snapping my own shot – bear spray in hand of course!
Bow Lake and Bow Glacier:
Peyto Lake, a short hike from the Bow Summit parking lot:
Short walks to the upper and lower Waterfowl Lakes:
Hiking to Chephren Lake:
A quick walk down to this Mistaya Canyon viewpoint:
Dinner at Howse Pass:
Camping Saturday night at Rampart Creek:
Hiking Sunset Lookout – snowy near the end, but manageable as there were some footsteps to follow. Incredible views of rivers, mountains, and the highway far below awaited:
Cycling on rainy Sunday afternoon to reach the Icefields Centre for a warm dinner, then camp in the Icefields Tent Campground:
Monday I slept in before an all-you-can-eat lunch buffet at the Icefields Centre. As the name requested, I ate all I could!
Backtracked slightly to hike the Wilcox Pass, which featured a mountain goat glimpse x4:
Camped at Honeymoon Lake Monday night.
Short walk to Buck Lake and Osprey Lake.
Horseshoe Lake: Met a couple from Holland on an RV tour of BC and Alberta, Pete and Anika. They were very inspired by my trip, saying how popular cycling is at home – but then again, it’s flat over there!
Tuesday afternoon was my bittersweet end to the Icefields Parkway. I felt accomplished to have cycled the hilly highway amongst all the hikes, sightseeing, and tourist-dodging. On the flip side of the coin, knowing I will not see another stretch of such marvellous mountains on the road ahead was a tough pill to swallow. This mountainous week is certainly ingrained in my rear view mirror to reflect on fondly as my Eastbound expedition extends.