Glacier National Park is called a Peace Park because it is the only national park that that spans two countries, the US and Canada. We spent all of our time on the US side. The Canada side of the park is drier, and while it is still beautiful, it just does not have that Swiss Alps feel that I loved about the part of the park where we stayed.
As we left Glacier, we had our first border crossing into Canada. The hardest part about this crossing was that we had to wait in line for 15 minutes. They did not even stamp our passport or ask for our vehicle paperwork. I wish they could all be this easy….
This was both Sam and my first time in Alberta and we were really excited to visit the famous national parks in the Canadian rockies, however, first we had to drive across grassy farm lands. One thing I learned quickly in Canada, it is a very big country and takes forever to get from point A to B.
We stayed our first three days in Banff, and the images I have of it are aqua blue lakes and rivers, beautiful green mountains cradling glaciers, hot, humid hikes (we were visiting during a very strange heat wave), bear warnings everywhere and soaking my feet in icy cold rivers. There was also supposed to be a lot of animals, but because it was so hot we only saw a few black bears in the distance and some goats (we always see goats….) We really loved Lake Louise, it was one of our favorite parts of Banff. We loved the hike here called the Plain of Six Glaciers, where we ascended up a mountain to see six glaciers and then have tea in a tea house. A great way to escape the crowds of Lake Louise and get some stunning views of the famous hotel on the lake.
Camping in Canada is a little different than the US. The national parks cost $19.60 a day plus camping fees which can range from $15.00 to over $30.00 depending on what kind of amenities you need. They also charge $8.00 for a fire, but you have access to unlimited fire wood. One of the things that imprinted itself into me during our time camping was the sounds of Canadians splitting wood with axes for fires in the campgrounds. We did not see a lot of places you could camp outside the campgrounds within the national parks, but maybe they are there. Also, Canadians are big campers and many of the campsites fill up quickly, especially on the weekends. We learned that some of the campgrounds cannot be reserved online and are first come first serve. The campgrounds that cannot be reserved were often the cheapest options, but most only had pit toilets and a place to get drinking water (which is all we need). These campgrounds were where we stayed, the others were full early morning Friday.
Also, if you buy food near the national parks it is a little pricy, we felt it ranged from 30%-50% more than things cost in the US. However, we went to a Costco in Canada and the prices were great (same as US or better for local products). Booze is pricy in Canada, even at Costco, so if you like to drink, stock up, but be careful about how much you can bring into the country, or forget to claim it =).
Overall, I love Canada, and I really like Canadians, they are genuinely nice people. They remind me of people from the American mid west with their patience and salt of the earth mentality. The Canadian rockies were beautiful, and reminded us of our favorite places in Colorado, but with even bluer lakes and rivers.
From Banff we headed down the spectacular Icefields Highway to Jasper, which was an absolutely breathtaking drive full of dramatic mountain vistas, large glacier fields, and more aqua blue rivers and waterfalls. Jasper was also gorgeous, but a little less lush than Banff. We spent our time in Jasper hanging out at our campsite, going on walks down the river next to where we camped and planning our next leg of the trip, the Alcan highway.