By Kristen Munk.
The drive to Alberta has always been one of my favourite road trips. With the changing landscape, refreshing lakes, wildlife sightings and plentiful mountain views — these are just some of the reasons why I love driving to the Rocky Mountains. On my first road trip of 2019, my brother and I visited a number of different places throughout our journey to Alberta. These locations ended up being our favourite places to stop at and you will see why!
Natural Bridge near Field, British Columbia
In the small town of Field, British Columbia, this natural wonder is tucked off the Trans Canada highway; just a 30 minute drive from Lake Louise. The Kicking Horse river carved this natural rock formation creating the well known “natural bridge”. When you get here you are able to admire the formation from two viewpoints, which are located on either side of the pedestrian bridge.
If you’re feeling adventurous, you can go past the first look out to reach the river below. From there, you’ll be able to enjoy the river up close and admire the physical weathering the rock has endured. If you have proper foot wear and a sturdy grip, you can venture on to the Natural Bridge. But be cautious, as there is a steep drop to the cold, fast flowing water below.
I always make sure to arrive here first thing in the morning, not only do you get the entire place to yourself but you can also avoid the crowds. The Natural Bridge is one of my favourite places to watch the sun rise, so we made sure to get here early. When the sun comes over the mountain tops, it highlights the glacial fed river that flows beautifully through this majestic landmark.
Emerald Lake near Field, British Columbia
Just a 10 minute drive from the Natural Bridge, is a must see — Emerald Lake. This beautiful lake is known for its radiant turquoise colour and it has a spectacular view of the surrounding mountains.
In summer, the lake is bustling with tourists and can get extremely crowded, so if you want to explore make sure to arrive early. One of my favourite ways to explore the lake is by canoe, which can be rented at the gift shop. This allows you to explore the lake from a different perspective. But, if the water isn’t your choice of exploration you can follow the trail that surrounds the lake to find a quiet spot to have lunch.
In winter, the lake and surrounding areas are covered in snow. So, unless you have proper clothing and snowshoes, it’s best to stay off the trails. However, the benefit of going in the winter is that there are a lot less people, which gives you the unique opportunity to enjoy the lake in all of its glory. In order to explore this frozen gem we put on some micro spikes, added a few more layers and brought a hot drink to keep us warm. It was totally worth it!
Bow Lake along the Icefields Parkway in Alberta
Only 38km north of Lake Louise, this beautiful lake is one of the first locations you can stop at along the Icefields Parkway. The magnificent Bow Glacier that feeds the lake, can be seen in the distance from the turn out.
In summer the lake has a remarkable blue colour and wildflowers can be found encompassing the perimeter. You are able to enjoy a picnic lunch near the water or you can seize the opportunity and paddle across in a kayak or canoe! In comparison to winter, the lake is frozen over and the ground is blanketed with snow.
You’re welcome to explore the surrounding area with snow shoes while admiring the frigid landscape. We were able to walk across the deep snow to reach the edge of the lake. The ice on the lake was thick enough to walk on, which allowed us to explore the lake from a different point of view.
Morants Curve along the Bow Valley Parkway in Alberta
Driving 5km from Lake Louise, and just off the scenic Bow Valley Parkway, you’ll discover Morant’s Curve. It is known as a popular photography hotspot where people will wait for one of the Canadian Pacific Railway trains to emerge around the infamous corner.
Practice patience, and you can wait at this spot in hopes of catching one of the passing trains, since there is no specific schedule that they run on. If you don’t happen to catch one, it is still a beautiful spot to admire the curve of the Bow River and the sprawling mountains in the background.
On our road trip we were lucky enough to catch one of the trains. We waited for some time, but with no train in sight, we decided to head back to the car. Just as we crossed the road, a train whistled in the distance, so we dropped everything and scrambled back for a shot. Thankfully, we got there just in time, and caught the train passing by.
Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary in Cochrane, Alberta
About 90 minutes from Lake Louise, found in the city of Cochrane, Alberta, this sanctuary is nestled in the grasslands. It is one of the only rescue organizations that provides refuge for wolfdogs that are displaced and in need of being re-homed. They are a non profit organization and they welcome visitors to observe and learn about these beautiful hybrid animals.
You can choose from three different tour options and depending on which one you select, you’ll get the privilege of being close enough to admire these naturally timid animals. The wolfdogs have plenty of space to roam and an abundance of vegetation in their enclosures — in order to replicate their natural habitat, which ensures a stress free environment.
It is a unique experience to be so close to these beautiful wolfdogs. We chose the Intro Tour, which allowed us to go on to a viewing platform with a guide. From there, we were able to learn about the wolfdogs, the sanctuary, and get close enough to take pictures. It was an amazing experience that highlighted the end our road trip!
If you’re thinking of exploring Alberta, you will not be disappointed. There is so much to see around every corner, it is worth the early mornings and the long drive. So, stay curious, get out of your comfort zone and explore all there is to offer in your own backyard!