Before leaving Canada we decided to take a road trip around Alberta for a couple weeks. We thought that since we really didn’t get around Canada much this past year and a half, that we should at least see a little more before heading abroad again. So after my last day of work, we packed up the truck, set up the back of it so we could sleep in it and headed out.
We left from Lethbridge and our first stop was Banff, to enjoy the last of the spring skiing. We spent Wednesday skiing and then on Thursday we headed for Johnston Canyon.
Everything we had read told us that Johnston Canyon was best visited during winter when it was frozen but for some reason, we just never got there even though we had been to Banff multiple times in the winter. I usually just spent all our time skiing/snowboarding.
Visiting Johnston Canyon in April means things are already starting to melt, but the waterfall is still slightly frozen. The hike in is easy but slippery and slushy, so be prepared to fall a few times! If you go during the winter, definitely bring some crampons, as it will most likely be very icy.
If you can find it, definitely take the detour to the ‘secret‘ area of Johnston Canyon. Our friends showed us where to go, and I would explain how to get there if I could but I was paying more attention to trying not to end up on my ass than to where we were actually going.
After Johnston, we did the short hike to Grassi Lakes. Grassi Lakes is actually in Spray Valley Provincial Park, Kananaskis, not far from Canmore.
The hike in from the carpark really isn’t that hard but it is pretty much all uphill and takes about 45 minutes. I think we were pretty lucky because there was no one a) on the trail and b) at the lakes, and just as we got to the top it started snowing the biggest snowflakes! It was so pretty!
After Grassi Lakes, we decided to drive through Spray Valley in the hopes of seeing Moose! Around the Spray Valley area is a good place for moose sightings (apparently). But unfortunately, we had no luck. On Friday morning we left Banff and headed for Drumheller.
Drumheller is a small town in rural Alberta, made famous for the number of dinosaur bones found in the area. There’s even Dinosaur Provincial Park nearby that is also worth a visit. The area is top in the world in terms of the number of different species found in one area.
We spent one night and one full day in Drumheller. That morning we made a quick stop at Drumheller’s massive Dino, which is actually the world’s largest (artificial) dinosaur. It’s right in the middle of town and for $4 you can climb to the top of it and look out over Drumheller from its mouth.
We spent the early afternoon at Horsehoe Canyon. Here you can see all the different layers of sediment/dirt, each one a different era in time. It’s crazy to think that this whole area was once wetlands.
In the afternoon we went to the Royal Tyrell Museum, where you can see dinosaur fossils on display that have been discovered in the area.
After Drumheller, we headed north to Edmonton. I actually lived in Edmonton for 3 years, it’s where I finished high school. We were super lucky and saw a Moose on the side of the highway, just outside of Red Deer! We’ve actually been so lucky and have seen 3 moose during our time in Canada, all just on the side of a highway!
We spent three days here, exploring the city, eating at all the great vegan places (Edmonton has amazing vegan restaurants!) and visiting the nearby Elk Island Provincial Park.
Elk Island is a great place to see wildlife and so close to the city. We saw bison, beavers (Wills first time seeing beavers), a black bear and actually heard wolves, which is quite rare. The area is quite marshy, bushy and flat, so all the hikes are more like walks and are really easy.
After Edmonton, we drove down to Calgary. While in Calgary we visited the Calgary Zoo. We very very rarely will visit zoos or aquariums, we don’t agree with keeping animals in cages and under human care. But there are the rare exceptions where we will. The Australia Zoo was one of them, and we only went because the zoo was created by Steve Irwin whos main focus is conservation and rehabilitation. This one was another. Most of the animals in the Calgary Zoo are there because of humans and something we have done to put them there. For example, the bears are there because they have gotten too used to humans, by being drawn into towns for rubbish/food. So it is either, put them in a zoo or put them down.
Anyway, we really went to the Zoo because we really wanted to see the Pandas. And when would we ever be able to see Pandas in the wild?
We also spent some time just driving around checking out some of the street art around and went to Luke’s Soft Serve (such good ice cream! but defs not dairy-free).
After Calgary, we headed back for Banff, but not before stopping off at the Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary. The sanctuary was created by a woman who started rescuing wolfdogs from people who couldn’t look after them. Turns out this happens a lot, people get wolfdogs not being aware or understanding the things this bread needs. Once they become too much of a handful they ditch them. Poor things. So that’s where Yamnuska came in. The place is amazing and the dogs are well taken care of. Some low content wolf dogs even get re-homed, although this is rare and the process in extensive for those interested in adopting one.
ICE FIELDS PARKWAY
Once back in Banff, we stayed with our friends and when they finished work for the weekend we all packed up and headed for Jasper.
We camped for the night just outside the park, past Abraham Lake, at a campsite down a dodgy road. But it was an awesome place to camp, right by the river, and we had it all to ourselves.
The next day we headed for Jasper, stopping at Sunwapta Falls, Athabasca Falls, Maligne Canyon, Maligne Lake, and Pyramid Lake. On our way to Maligne Lake, we even saw a moose and her calf, and a bald eagle.
The next day we got up early and headed for Annette Lake, and stopped at Edith Lake as well. After that, we did the Valley of Five Lakes hike. This was probably one of my favourite stops during the whole trip. All five lakes are SO blue/teal, and all different shades.
After the hike, we needed to start heading back, so we ended up driving back to Banff that afternoon. We spent that night in Banff and then headed back to Lethbridge in the morning. In total, we spent about two weeks driving around Alberta, although you definitely don’t need that much time. We could have easily done it in just over a week but we were in no rush, so we took our time where ever we wanted and just enjoyed it.
A month and a bit later we boarded a flight with one-way tickets back to England.