Following the Bears: North America – South Alberta to North Montana

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The Route

One and a half weeks minimum, but you could spend a lot of time around this area if you are an avid hiker.

The roads are all easy driving and the trailheads easily accessible by car for hiking. We travelled in summer which meant getting around was very easy, in winter this may be a bit more of a challenge with snow and road closures, but the skiing would be amazing!

The Highlights

Hikes

2017-06-29 09.33.04 (2)Mt Brown – Glacier National Park, Montana

  • Really stunning hike through the forest to a lookout over stunning mountain ranges. The second half of the hike is quite challenging and a reasonable level of fitness is needed to make it to the top. A highlight of this hike for me was the wildlife. We saw several mountain goats waling on the trail and deer hiding in the forest. Check out more here!

 

2017-06-21 09.15.14 (2)Mt Rundle – Banff National Park

  • A strenuous hike, a scramble in some places. A decent level of fitness needed for the 7-8 hour hike, but it’s a lot of fun getting up and the view at the top is stunning. The schist is a bit of a challenge if you don’t have experience, or a fear of heights, but a really great hike! Find out some more here.

 

2017-06-28 07.08.12 (2)Cracker lake, Glacier National Park

  • A beautiful hike through bear country to a turquoise lake in the mountains. You can stay out here in the backcountry with a permit, but a reasonable level of experience is needed, as this hilarious review will tell you. Find out more here!

 

Other Highlights

2017-06-16 14.29.06 (2)Lake Louise

  • It really is a lake that lives up to it’s hype. Beautiful turquoise water and mountains shooting up all around. A day hike takes you around some small tea houses. Try not to avoid going in the middle of the day to avoid big groups of people.

 

2017-06-19 03.11.25 (2)Banff Marathon

  • I’m a bit biased due to the fact it was my first marathon, but it was a lot of fun!

 

 

2017-06-18 04.18.00 (2)Emerald lake, Yoho National Park

  • Gorgeous turquoise lake with an easy walking circuit around it. You can also go kayaking and canoeing on the water!

 

 

2017-06-17 10.37.43 (2)On the road

  • The views from the road, especially going north of Banff are stunning. Just driving around is a huge highlight and stopping at some of the beautiful lakes on the way. A really amazing road trip.

 

The Story

With my cousins wedding in Montana we decided to take a bit of extra time and do some travelling around Canada as well. As well as this road trip we flew to Vancouver and spent a few days there and a few days in Victoria. For most of this month we travelled with the brother kiwi, and spent a chunk of time in Montana with the kiwi-american family.

The structure of our trip was based around a wedding in Montana and a marathon in Banff, so with places to be at certain times this is what we worked with. I’d definitely love to go back and explore more of the area some time soon!

On the road

What you can see just from the road in the national parks is stunning. Huge mountains shooting up either side of you, magnificent lakes and wildlife – yes that means bears. On our first day we saw four bears in three different places right by the road!

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The roads are also very easy driving, and while we were there in June not too many people on the road which was quite surprising. Of course in the hot spots like Lake Hayes there was a little congestion in the parking spots, but they had an extra parking lot set up a little out of the town with free buses taking you in.

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Banff National Park

Camping

The camp sites in the national parks are fantastic. They are all set up in the wilderness with individual sites planted amongst the trees. They are affordable, well set up with all well set up with bathrooms, bear-proof rubbish bins, fire pits and in some areas wildlife protection. All that and you get to feel like you are isolated in the wild.

Most places you couldn’t book so you needed to turn up at a reasonable time to secure a site for the busy spots, but we never had any issues. If one was full there would be another nearby that wasn’t.

Lake Hayes, Lake Agnes & Tea Houses

The beautiful Lake Hayes lived up to its reputation! Stunning turquoise water with snowy mountains in the distance. We came here on two occasions, the first for a picnic dinner. We set up our cooker on a grass patch with a view of the lake and cooked up some pasta, ensuring no food was spilled as not to attract the bears from the nearby bushes.

The second time was the day after the Banff Marathon for a bit of a hike. There is one hike that goes around several tea houses. The first one, and the easiest to reach, was by Lake Agnes. A beautiful lake, but so many tourists packed the area. We decided not to stay here long and hike around to the next hike. This track was not recommended by the rangers due to snow, but that was great because it meant nobody was on it.

I think normally this hike would not be too much of a challenge, but the day after running a marathon it was a bit of a push. It was a full day hike and ended in a sprint, racing to the last bus back to Lake Hayes. We didn’t have that much time here and wanted to see as much as possible, running a marathon can’t stop that!

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Banff Marathon

First marathon! And what a great place for it! I had been wanting to run a marathon with my brother for a while, and this seemed like the perfect time, on holiday in another country surrounded by mountains. I probably should have trained for it, but lets save the training for the next one πŸ˜‰ Elric was our support crew, driving us around, being our personal photographer, providing us with food at the end, and cider!

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The Marathon itself was on the road and (to our surprise) had about a 500m elevation, but there were stunning mountains all around us and I even spotted some deer in the forest right beside us! I have to be honest, it was a pretty hard slog without training, but the last view maybe 200m before the finish was probably the most stunning thing I have ever seen. After 42km, a broken body and an exhausted mind, seeing this magnificent snowy mountain shoot up in front of me on a background of blue sky was the most amazing feeling. I can’t even describe it. May have had a couple of tears, first marathon feels.

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Mt Rundle

Phew! What a mission! This hike is pretty much straight up and a bit of a struggle on tired legs, but a lot of fun! The only real issue was at the top. For somebody with a bit of a fear of heights the last leg was a little too much. With schist rock at the top it makes footing a bit of a challenge, and at 3000m up without experience with it, its a bit daunting. But the view at the top is beautiful, and next time it’ll be better. Conquering fears one step at a time.

North of Banff

ColombianΒ Icefield

This was the northernmost point we travelled to. We took a short wander to the Athabasca Glacier, one of the many glaciers in the area. It is pretty massive! You are able to walk on it, at a very expensive price, with a guide, but the track gets you pretty close to the bottom for a great view!


Bow Lake & Peyto Lake

There are some really beautiful lakes spotted all through this area and these are a couple of stunners. Bow Lake can be seen right from the road. Turquoise water surrounded by snowy mountains, truly stunning.

To get to Peyto Lake there is a short 3km loop track up to a lookout over the lake. The lake is beautiful and the mountains disappearing into the distance stunning.

Yoho National Park

Emerald lake

The day before running the marathon we wanted a nice relaxed walk somewhere beautiful. Emerald lake fit the bill perfectly! A short flat circuit around this beautiful lake surrounded by mountains. What a perfect day for it too!

Glacier National Park

Camping

We stayed at Many Glacier campground just off the Going-to-the-Sun road. The campsite was right by the trail heads of many hikes. The campgroud was a bit busier than the ones we had stayed at around Banff, but as we had a few more people this time that was ok! It was also right next to a lodge for those wanting accommodation more sturdy than a tent.

So many friendly squirrels filled the site, some that you could tell had been eating too much left-over camper food. But at least it’s not the bears coming to eat the scraps!

Redrock Falls

Our first hike in Glacier National Park was a small day hike to Redrock Falls. The trailhead was right next to the campsite, and last time I hiked here we saw a young Grizzly on the trail.

This was a perfect short hike for all fitness levels, flat and through a gorgeous valley filled with wild flowers, notably the white Beargrass which was everywhere you looked.

The hike took us to a waterfall, hidden amongst the mountains. A truly stunning hike, and a beautiful day for it!

Cracker Lake

We headed out for Cracker Lake relatively early in the morning. The hike is around 20km with around 500m elevation so it’s a fairly decent trip. But in June the days are so long that you have the time to do it. It wasn’t dark until around 11pm at this time of year!

The hike took us through bear country. Some dense bush followed by magnificent mountains and at the end of the hike a beautiful turquoise lake. This would be an amazing place to camp in the backcountry.

Mt Brown

A stunning hike! 16km with a 1300m elevation to a beautiful lookout with a friendly mountain goat. In fact all through the trail we spotted several mountain goats on the trail as well as some deer hiding in the bushes. Not going to lie, those horns look pretty huge up close!

The first section of the hike was relatively flat with a slight elevation, but for the second half it was straight up! At the top was a little hut where we sat and had our lunch. A really stunning lookout, and a great hike, a reasonable fitness level needed though I think…

The Extras


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