Shoulder season has historically been my least favorite season. The snow pack is unpredictable as is the weather. Dry hikes are few and far between and the Rockies aren’t quite ready for us to hit the slopes.
So when my good friend Michael Matti (@michalematti) called me up last minute to let me know that he was coming out for the weekend I took a deep breath and asked what exactly he wanted to see, his response may have been even less helpful, a single word… everything. So I pulled out my maps and lists of the places that I love, crossed out anything that required too much time and put together one of the most beautiful weekends I have had in quite some time.
Friday: Take a drive up the Icefield Parkway
Stop one: Stop at Bow Lake and Peyto Lake lookout points
Open or frozen these lakes are beautiful (and if you have a little bit of extra time walking back to Bow Falls is worth it). The hike up to Peyto Lake can be icy from higher volumes of foot traffic.
Stop two: Stop and see Athabasca Glacier
Another hour or so along the Icefield Parkway we stopped at the toe of the Athabasca Glacier, although the visitor center does offer glacier walks in the summer we were a little bit too late to that. Walking down the road you will find markers that show the exponentially rapid recession of the glacier over the past 100 or so years.
Stop three: Waterfalls
This drive is anything but lacking waterfalls, Stop at Tangle Falls only a few minutes past the Athabasca Glacier or continue on to take in the views of Sunwapta and Athabasca Falls.
Saturday: Hot Springs and Waterfalls
Stop one: Sunrise in Banff
Some of the most beautiful sunrises happen this time of year as the sun is rising low in the sky projecting light onto the clouds. Two Jack Lake or Vermillion Lakes are a few local favorites to take in the show. I like to take the opportunity to have my first cup of coffee of the day lakeside.
Stop two: Lussier Hot Springs, BC (via Kootenay National Park)
I will warn you now that this day included quite a bit of driving and could easily be split into two with an evening in Radium or Invermere. Thankfully google maps directed us to Lussier Hot Springs without issue, these natural hot springs seems to be growing in popularity so my tip is to get there as early as possible to avoid the rush and have a peaceful soak.
Stop Three: Wapta Falls (Yoho National Park)
This was recommended to me by a friend and was not a planned stop on our trip. We ran into standstill traffic on the road at the turnoff for these waterfalls. Not knowing how long we would be there I made a call to pop in – what’s the harm? It was 4.8km round trip of relatively flat terrain (be warned that if you go down to the falls there is a bit of a steep/slippery slope that you will want your hands free for). And something waterproof like my, The North Face, Venture Jacket, is mandatory as the spray from the falls is powerful. After visiting these falls, they are now on my must-see list for visiting the Rockies.
Stop Four: Natural Bridge (Yoho National Park)
We intended to stop here for sunset and pick up some Bumbleberry Jam from Emerald Lake Lodge but traffic didn’t cooperate and we caught the (very) last light of the day here.
Day Three: Kananaskis
Stop one: Rawson Lake
This has been my go-to all year. Its gradual incline starting at Upper Kananaskis Lake parking lot to a freshly frozen Rawson Lake is as peaceful as it is beautiful and there are plenty of spots around the lake to stop for a snack or to take in the views.
Stop two: Afternoon tea at Mount Engadine Lodge
Instead of heading back to the city we turned our afternoon drive home into a loop by heading up Spray Valley road, noticing that it was mid afternoon and my caffeine levels were dangerously low we popped into Mount Engadine Lodge for afternoon tea (or in my case, coffee) – their take on afternoon tea includes a charcuterie board and dessert along with your tea/coffee for under $20 per person.
Stop three: Sunset at Goat Pond
Finishing our picturesque drive along Spray Lake we stopped at Goat pond to take in the sunset before heading back to the city (and the reality of a looming Monday morning)
In my ideal world each of these areas would have a weekend to themselves but unfortunately, we only had three days. If you are on a time crunch and looking to see a little bit of everything (and don’t mind spending time in the car) this may be just what you’re looking for.
And, for more great getaway gear be sure to check out Live Out There