Living in Oregon, I’ve been pretty satisfied with my moutain viewing options. There’s nothing like driving along I-5 and then – bam! There’s Mt. Hood looking all majestic, standing alone without any other craggy peaks competing for attention. Mt. St. Helen’s, Mt. Jefferson and the Three Sisters also strike up their fair share of awe. So, there’s definitely something validating about singling out the dramatic, single peaks along the northwest’s Cascade Range as some of the best views in our country. And, sure, Colorado’s Rockies can be impressive – the craggy peaks in Telluride are phenomenal lines of natural perfection. But, I didn’t experience true North American mountain majesty until I drove through the Canadian Rockies. I made my way through Banff National Park in Alberta, and as we entered the kingdom of the Canadian Alps, every view progressively flourished. The rivers and streams that lined Highway 93 (the main roadway) were pure, mineral mountain waters in chalky blue-greens. I had never seen fresh water like that! Big horn sheep were grazing on the shoulder of the road. And each mountain view ahead became more impressive than the last. Points of interest that I got to visit in the Canadian Lakes/Banff National Forest inlclude Radium Hot Springs, glassy Lake Louise, with it’s sister lakes, Mirror Lake and Moraine Lake, and the fabulous alpine town of Banff.
Once in the national park, we found our way to Radium Hot Springs. We were on a tight schedule and didn’t get to take a soak, but it’s on the list of things to do for the next trip. We drove straight to Lake Louise, “Canada’s Diamond in the Wilderness” – our main point of interest. Nestled beside the base of Lake Louise, and in the shadow of impressive Mt. Victoria, is the historic Chateau Fairmont Lake Louise. Stunning views and luxury accommodations make the Chateau Fairmont a spectacular stay. I hiked around the lake with my father, working hard up the incline to where we found ourselves in the middle of a storybook forest on the edge of the snowline where elk were feeding. Lake Louise is world famous for its hiking trails. While in the woods, we made our way to the smaller Mirror Lake, often called “the goat’s looking glass”, tucked away and missed if not for a hike. If you’re lucky, you’ll see mountain goats drawn to the mirror-like water. Also near Lake Louise is Canada’s “other lake”, Lake Moraine. Another amazing and generous accommodation is the Moraine Lake Lodge. We ended our tour of the Canadian Rockies in the quaint town of Banff with it’s Old World charm and panoramic views to take in. It boasts its own premiere hotel – the Fairmont Banff Springs. Depending on the season you visit, you can find lots to do – from skiing, white water rafting, hiking or simply kicking back with a brew at one of the seasonal pubs. Tip – go see Lake Louise between 4 and 7 p.m. There are hardly any tourists then and it affirms the perfect virgin view of the prestine lake.