Last summer, my family and I went on a road trip in Canada.
Last summer, my family and I went on a road trip in Canada.
Molly Simmons

Exploring the outdoors: Canada

Last summer my family and I went on a road trip in Canada. We flew into Vancouver, drove to Banff, and flew out of Calgary. We stopped in multiple cities/areas for hikes and sites. Canada, with a vast variety of landscapes from mountains to valleys, seems to have it all. I would recommend visiting Canada at least once in your lifetime. Canada’s wilderness leaves you in awe and you will never want to go home. I would go back to Canada in a heartbeat. It has unique hikes, gorgeous lakes, rivers, and waterfalls, as well as lush forests. The areas we visited were similar to the views of Glacier National Park, which is my favorite national park in the states. If you’ve been to Glacier and want more, I recommend Banff. Canada is perfect to visit anytime of the year and you will see breathtaking views in each season. 

Vancouver

My family flew into Vancouver to start our road trip. We stayed for a few days and enjoyed the city. Vancouver is located in British Columbia, and is a very ethnically diverse city. I loved walking around the city and it has plenty of amazing restaurants and cafes that cater to everyone. I am gluten free, and the city had great places. Tons of restaurants had gluten free options, and others were dedicated to being gluten free. My favorite place was Heirs Pears. Heirs Pears is a little cafe that is 100% gluten free. They have options for breakfast, brunch, lunch, and dinner. I went for donuts, and they were the best gluten-free donuts I had ever had. They have other bakery items and serve a variety of lunch/dinner options from sandwiches to pizza. Even if you are not gluten-free, I would recommend the cafe. The city is fun to walk around and there are tons of shops. The city also offers other activities. Surrounded by mountains, Vancouver is perfect for hiking. One hike I recommend is Grouse Grind. Grouse Grind is a strenuous trek uphill. The entire hike is up stairs and there is only one place to turn back. The hike is dubbed “Mother Nature’s Stairmaster,” and it truly lives up to its name. The hike is 1.5 miles, and you do need to purchase a ticket to ride the Skyride downhill as you cannot hike back down. This hike was one of my favorites throughout the hike. It was a unique challenge and worth every second. One place I would recommend visiting is Granville Island. Granville Island is a melting pot of different cultures, and is a great place to shop. Gastown is another cute and quaint town in Vancouver. Gastown has many places to eat and shop. Many people visit the area for the steam clock. Only a few steam clocks still work around the world, and Vancouver has one. The clock steams and whistles to tell the time. It sounds every 15 minutes and marks each hour with its unique whistle sounds.  

Whistler

After visiting Vancouver, we drove to Whistler. We stayed in Olympic Village which is an adorable small village. Within the village there is shops, restaurants, and hotels. We only went on one hike in Whistler. It was called Train Weck, and it was short and easy. You hike through the woods and cross old and rusted train tracks. Eventually you get to empty box cars covered in graffiti. There is also a suspension bridge which is perfect for pictures. While we were in Whistler we also visited Lake Alta. We walked around the lake on a trail that was mostly flat. It was a nice and easy walk and the views were scenic. You are able to see both the lake and the forest. Swimming is an option, but we decided not to. The lake was gorgeous and there were docks for sunbathing. Alta is the largest lake in Whistler and there are three beaches. You can also rent various items like canoes and kayaks. If I ever go back to Whistler, I will definitely either swim in the lake or kayak on it. 

Golden

Our next stop was Golden. Golden is home to the highest suspension bridge in Canada. It is 426 feet above the ground and suspends across a canyon. Besides walking across the bridge there are many fun activities for both kids and adults. You will need to buy a ticket, but it is well worth it. Yoho National Park is in between Golden and Banff. We drove to the national park during one of the days in the town. A gem in the park is Emerald Lake. We visited the lake twice. The first time we went in the afternoon and hiked around the lake. The other time we visited, my mom, younger sister Autumn, and I kayaked around the lake while my dad and older sister Ella hiked the loop around the lake again. There are other activities and hikes you can do in Yoho, but we only went to Emerald Lake. 

Jasper

After Golden we traveled to Jasper. Jasper National Park is in both Alberta and British Columbia. We spent quite a bit of time in Jasper and went on many hikes. The hikes were Mount Edith Cavell, Valley of the 5 Lakes, Maligne Canyon, Athabasca Falls and Sunwapta Falls. Mount Edith Cavell is 5.3 miles round trip. We did not hike to the highest point, but we were close to the top. Mount Edith Cavell was one of my favorite hikes during the trip and I would definitely recommend hiking the trail. Valley of the 5 Lakes was another hike we went on. There are several different routes and we turned back early on the trail we were on, but if I ever go back I would want to fully hike the trail. The hike features several lakes, hence the name, and the lakes range from blue to green and are all gorgeous. You can swim in the lakes but we chose not to. The trail we took was 3 miles long and very scenic. There are a few moderately challenging areas, but nothing too strenuous. There are two big red chairs at one of the lakes that is perfect for pictures. The same red chairs can also be found in over 100 locations in Canada. Maligne Canyon hike is about 3 miles round trip and features 6 bridges. The hike includes waterfalls, cavernous channels, and other beautiful geological formations. You can hike the all the way, or turn back at any point. Some sections of the hike are easier than others, but overall it is a great hike. The hike to Athabasca Falls is about 0.5 miles and fairly easy. The waterfall is picture perfect and worth the small trek.The waterfall itself if located on the upper section of the Athabasca River and less than 20 miles from Jasper. Sunwapta Falls is another beautiful site to see waterfalls. It is part of the Sunwapta River and the falls have a drop of 11 miles. One site to visit near Jasper is Medicine Lake. It is known as the disappearing lake and is located 12 miles from Jasper. If you want to see the lake with water, visit the area in the summer. Jasper is amazing area in Canada and is full of scenic views, hikes, and other fun activities. You will never run out of things to do or sites to see. 

Icefields Parkway

Icefields Parkway is a road that connects Jasper National Park to Banff National Park. It is on the Alberta’s Highway 93 and stretches over 140 miles through the Continental Divide with views of the mountains, valleys, waterfalls, and everything else in between. Popular stops include Bow Lake, Peyto Lake and Bow Summit, Saskatchewan River Crossing, Weeping Wall, Big Hill and Big Bend, Parker Ridge, Columbia Icefield, Glacier Sky Walk, and many more. There are also many hikes and sites to see along the way. We hiked Peyto Lake Overlook and Bow Summit to get a better view of the lakes. The lakes are located off the Icefields Parkway and less than ten miles apart from one another. To tell the difference between the two, Peyto Lake looks like a fox. You can take a small 1.5 mile loop hike to Peyto Lake Overlook or a 4 mile loop hike to Bow Summit which goes beyond Peyto Lake Lookout. I loved the Bow Summit hike and hope that I can complete it again. There was different scenic views of streams, trees, lakes, and mountains. I highly recommend taking this route if you are planning to visit Jasper and Banff.

Banff

Banff was our last stop on this trip. Banff was my favorite place we visited in Canada. The hikes are incredible and and the sites are breathtaking. Hikes we went on in Banff was Plain of Six Glaciers Ink Pots via Johnston Canyon, and Bourgeau Lake. The Plain of Six Glaciers is located behind Lake Louise. The hike is a little over 8.5 miles, and at the top of the hike is a cute little teahouse. The food was good, and is perfect if you forgot to pack a snack. There are also bathrooms near the teahouse along with benches and picnic tables. There is a bridge on top as well, and it is perfect for pictures. The hike was more moderate and you can make stops along the way. You can also take the Lake Agnes Teahouse trail or the Beehive trail. Lake Agnes Teahouse is a different teahouse than the one in the Plain of Six Glaciers. Lake Louise is a popular stop for many tourists, and we visited the lake multiple times. We watched the sunset there and visited the lake during the day for hikes. We saw people rockclimbing several times and wished we could have joined them. In Banff we also went to Johnston Canyon to hike to the Ink Pots. The Ink Pots are five blue-green pools that bubble up. There is sand at the bottom of the pools which releases air and water up through little holes causing the pools to bubble. There is also a river by the pools, which is perfect to cool off your feet. The hike is about 7 miles round trip but relatively easy to moderate.

My favorite hike the entire trip was Bourgeau Lake. It is connected to Harvey Pass and one of the best hikes I have ever completed. We went early in the morning and throughout the entire hike we saw under 10 people. All of the other hikes we went on we were constantly passing people. This one was quiet and breathtaking. I loved every step I took and was devastated when we had to head back. This hike is more hidden, there is limited parking, and you may see a few bears along the way. This hike is on the top of my list for favorite hikes, and I would hike this route everyday if I could. Banff offers more than just hikes. You can visit lakes like Lake Louise and Moraine Lake, watch the sunset or sunrise, or even just walk around the towns. There are a variety of restaurants and places to shop for everyone. Banff Avenue is similar to Whistler’s Olympic Village. We stayed in a hotel near the area and went there for meals and shopping. We went in the summer and the town was quaint and cute, but it is said to be an adorable Christmas village during the winter. I do want to visit Canada in the winter especially Banff. You can hike, ski, and bike just like in the summer but on snow. Canada is beautiful year round and I hope to visit there at least once more. After out last day in Banff we flew out of Calgary. I would highly recommend taking a roadtrip across Canada. It does cost more to rent a car from one place and return it in another, but it is worth every penny.

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About the Contributor
Molly Simmons, Journalist
Grade: Senior Hobbies: Crossfit, Reading, and Cooking Car's Name: Raquelle Favorite Holiday: Halloween Dream Vacation: Okinawa