Best travelling guide - Mountain Vistas

Best travelling guide - Mountain Vistas

    Mountain Vistas

    ‘No scene has ever given me an equal impression of inspiring solitude and rugged grandeur.’ So said the explorer Walter Wilcox when he first laid eyes on the Valley of
    the 10 Peaks, close to Lake Louise, in 1899, and it’s a maxim that could happily apply to any of these three national parks.
    They might not be quite the same untouched landscape experienced by pioneers such as David Thompson, Tom Wilson and Mary Schäffer at the end of the 19th century, but these mountain parks are still among the best places to see the raw machinery of Mother Nature in action. These precious regions harbor some of the world’s grandest landscapes: vistas of stunning and often savage beauty, where for once human meddling has been kept to a minimum, and there’s still a whiff of wildness on the mountain breeze.

    The Great Outdoors

    Whether it’s hiking along a snow-dusted ridgeline or trekking through the spray of a thundering waterfall, Banff, Jasper and Glacier collectively boast some of the finest outdoor activities that North America has to offer. Getting out and about in the great outdoors is an essential part of experiencing the national parks, and there are activities to suit all ages and abilities – even if that just means a gentle stroll along a lakeshore or a soak in one of the region’s natural hot springs. For more active types, there’s no end of ways to get your adrenaline racing – from exploring the endless network of backcountry trails to kayaking the restless white-water rapids of the Kicking Horse River.

    Wonderful Wildlife

    There’s nothing quite like glimpsing animals in their natural habitat, and the Rocky Mountains has some of the best wildlife watching in North America. Shaggy mountain goats, curly-horned mountain sheep, hooting marmots and majestic moose are just some of the inhabitants you’re likely to encounter, and if you’re really fortunate, you might glimpse
    a wild black or brown bear moseying down the avalanche slopes, maybe with some of fuzzy cubs in tow.
    Seeing a bear in the wild is the holy grail for wildlife watchers, and as long as you remember to keep your distance, it’ll be an experience that will remain with you long after the Rockies have faded from view.

    Skyline Trail

    Cross-park views of Jasper are par for the course on the widely celebrated Skyline Trail (Click here). It could have had any number of descriptive names conferred upon it – the Homeric path, the celestial walk, the resplendent ramble, but instead its name describes exactly how it is: a 45.8km (28.7-mile) promenade through Jasper’s splendidly glaciated high country that offers kilometer after kilometer of seemingly endless skyline. Is there a more spectacular hike anywhere in North America? Possibly not.

    Lake Louise Gondola

    For an instant rush of mountain scenery, nothing beats a ride in the Lake Louise Gondola (see boxed text, Click here). In just 14 vertigo-inducing minutes, you’ll be whisked up to the viewing station at a sky-topping altitude of 2088m (6850ft), from where you’ll be treated to a 360-degree view of the peaks and glaciers encircling Lake Louise. It’s a fantastic lookout in its own right, and if you’re really lucky you might be able to spot grizzlies wandering along the avalanche slopes of Whitehorn Mountain nearby.

    Icefields Parkway

    There are amazing road trips, and then there’s the Icefields Parkway (Click here). This iconic highway unfurls for 230km (143 miles) between Lake Louise and Jasper, and takes in some of the most mind-blowing mountain panoramas anywhere on the Continental Divide. En route you’ll pass cerulean lakes, crashing cascades, gleaming glaciers and the largest area of unbroken ice anywhere in North America, the mighty Columbia Icefield. It’s a true trip of a lifetime, so fuel up, sit back and let one of the world’s great scenery shows unfold.

    Moraine Lake

    Canoes have been the preferred method of transport in the Rockies since time immemorial, and they’re still an ideal way to explore the region’s lakes and rivers. Canoes and kayaks can be hired on many of the region’s waters, but few water journeys can match Moraine Lake (Click here) in the scenic stakes. Paddling out across this peacock-blue lake in a traditional canoe, gazing up to the icy summits of the Wenkchemna Peaks, you’ll feel like you’ve been transported back in time to the days of the early pioneers and voyageurs.

    Going-to-the-Sun Road

    The start’s inauspicious enough: a signposted turning off US 2, the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it village of West Glacier, followed by a serendipitous plunge into dense forest around Apgar. It’s only on the shores of Lake McDonald that the views start getting better and better until you feel as if the Going-to-the-Sun Rd (Click here) really is – well – going to the sun. The highpoint is Logan Pass on the Continental Divide; after that it’s all downhill to St Mary, amid more jaw-dropping scenery and potent lessons in glacial erosion.

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