Category Archives: National Parks

Coping with gridlock in Banff

Planning a trip to the mountain parks this summer? Prepare for gridlock. Canada, the Canadian Rockies, and particularly Banff, are everywhere you look these days. On the cover of the December-January issue of National Geographic Traveler and as the subject of a flattering feature article. And as a full, two-page photo spread in Lonely Planet magazine’s “Best in Travel 2017”. Just two examples of the flood of publicity lauding  travel to Canada, particularly […]

A case for park trailminders

The recent citation issued to a civilian trailminder in Kootenay Park has brought national attention to a question I’ve been asking for quite sometime. Why is it that provincial parks, lands & forest agencies, and municipalities can work with volunteer groups to maintain recreational trails and facilities, but Parks Canada cannot… or won’t? While Radium’s David Pacey was operating without Parks Canada authorization (Retiree ticketed for clearing trails in Kootenay National Park, […]

Golden larches gild the Rockies

Just like Halloween and Christmas, alpine larches (Larix lyallii) are providing an annual celebration in the Rockies’ high country. And despite rather grim weather last weekend, hundreds of larch enthusiasts hiked through mud and rain to pay homage to this unique tree that paints mountain ridges and passes gold every September. Larix lyallii is one of three species of larch in Canada that are deciduous conifers—unlike true conifers, needles turn gold […]

2015 Perseids meteor shower

The 2015 Perseid meteor shower promises to arrive in the night skies over the Mountain Parks in spectacular fashion this week. Often obscured by clouds or the light of the moon, both the moon (new moon August 14) and the weather are cooperating this year. The Perseids are the most active and easily viewed of the year’s meteor showers. Since they occur in the middle of August, it is usually mild enough […]

National Geographic maps

In 2012, National Geographic produced four maps covering Banff South, Banff North, Jasper South and Jasper North. These 1:100,000-scale, double-sided maps are printed on waterproof, tear-resistant material and with 30m-contour intervals and relief shading. In addition to Banff and Jasper, they cover Kootenay, Yoho, Mt Assiniboine and the core area of Mount Robson parks. Thanks to careful input from Parks Canada and BC Provincial Parks, the placement of trails, backcountry […]

Hiking starts early in the Mountain Parks

June has always been the start of our hiking season in the Mountain Parks—the time when trails start opening up above the valley bottoms. But this year is well advanced as we enter the month. Thanks to dry, warm conditions and low snowpack in the southern sections of the range, we’re already hiking dry, snowfree trails that are usually just emerging from winter’s grasp. Here are some samples of longer day […]

Low snowpack south of Jasper

Normally during the first week of spring, I would be talking about another long winter coming to an end and looking towards the first hike of the season. This year is different, particularly in the southern half of the Canadian Rockies. A month ago I was hiking up a small mountain in the Sanford Range above the Columbia Valley on a snowfree, unfrozen trail. And little has changed since then. Automatic snow pillow […]

After the snow—autumn hiking in the Canadian Rockies

September snow used to be a regular event in Banff and the eastern valleys of the Canadian Rockies. Not so much during the past two decades. But conditions turned very “old school” this week when the Front Ranges experienced a major storm and freezing temperatures (minus 8 degrees in Banff on Sept 11). It certainly wasn’t a time to go hiking in the mountain parks or, worse yet, to get […]

Balmy days and dry trails in the Mountain Parks

  Back in the early days, people had a choice for cooling off during the heat of summer—go to a movie theatre (the first air-conditioned venues) or travel to the mountains. Air conditioning may be universal today, but the alpine trails of the Canadian Rockies are still superior to the shopping mall. I can only remember a couple summers when we could scamper about at 2400m in shorts and t-shirts. But […]

Favourite waterfall hikes in the Canadian Rockies

The first hot weather of summer has descended on the Rockies, and as snow and icefields start to melt, most of the waterfalls start to roar. Athabasca, Sunwapta, Takakkaw and Bow are all impressive cascades that are visited by roadside visitors every summer. But for me, the real gems are those that I reach by trail. Some of these waterfall hikes are short, others are longer. And some are far enough […]