After living in Calgary for two months now, I have had the opportunity to experience not just what the city has to offer but the surrounding areas as well. One of the key attractions of Alberta is the Rocky Mountains, which contain some of the world’s most amazing landscapes. Within a short driving distance, you can be immersed into beautiful national parks with truly breath-taking views.
The first park I visited was Banff, and more specifically Lake Louise. This is a famous lake that is surrounded by a vast mountain range allowing stunning views. We took the opportunity, while it was still warm, to canoe on the lake before it freezes over. This gave a whole different perspective of the lake as instead of looking at it from the edge, you were within touching distance with the emerald green water. The contrast of the warm sunny weather with the snow capped mountains in the distance was a truly increadible sight. There was also a short hike up to a viewpoint allowing you to see the lake from above. On the way was a small teahouse, which was a great lunch spot after a tiring walk!
After seeing Lake Louise, we went to see Lake Moraine which was easily accessible by bus. We were very keen to see this particular lake as it closes for the winter months. The lake was a more azure blue shade which I personally prefered, which looked great with the sun shining. There were more great views although we didn’t have the opportunity to see it from above as the trail was closed. After seeing these lakes we headed back to Banff town, which had a small ski resort type feel. It was full of buzzing restaurants and shops, with plenty of places to buy clothes or souvenirs. It also ran a regular shuttle bus back to Calgary, which came in very useful after an action packed weekend!
A few weeks later we decided to do our first challenging hike in a place called Kananaskis, which was one of the closest ranges from our campus. We drove to a fairly desolate location and ventured through a small gap in the trees to start our hike. We were further excited by the chance of seeing the famous Canadian wildlife such as a moose or if we were lucky a bear. Sadly we didn’t see either but this was compensated by seeing the spectacular view at the summit of the mountain. It gave great views of the surrounding ranges and vegetation that could survive the harsh conditions at the top. It was not a popular route with lots of tourists so it was very peaceful at the summit and gave a real sense of harmony.
The third place we visited was Jasper national park which is one of the better known parks in the Rockies. Like Banff, there was a small town full of shops and restaurants which gave us a chance to have some great food in the evenings. It wasn’t just the views in Jasper that were amazing but the 5 hour drive from Calgary provided some stunning scenery. Whilst driving we stopped at a few locations along the way including Bow lake and .. Icefield. It was incredible to see some of the most beautiful mountains that Canada has to offer from the window of a car. This also gave us the perfect excuse to stop the car regularly and absorb the view from the side of the road. Once in Jasper, we attempted the most difficult hike to date. It was relatively short at 8.6km but had an elevation of 1300m over this distance. As this was in late October, the weather was getting colder and as we approached the summit, we encountered some very steep and slippery terrain. At some points the snow was also knee high and made for a challenging but enjoyable day. Sadly the day was slightly overcast, so the further we ascended the more the visibility diminished. After a very tiring day it was nice to relax and enjoy some downtime in the hostel and have a nice meal out with friends.