This year Canada is celebrating its 150th birthday. To commemorate this year-long event, Canada is bestowing a gift to you
If you like to get out into nature, then here’s your opportunity to visit, explore, and experience some of Canada’s beautiful national parks. I’m fortunate enough to live within driving distance to a few of them.
Waterton Lakes National Park
Lofty mountains, peaceful prairies, rare wildflowers, and indigenous wildlife collaborate to make Waterton National Park the panoramic jewel of southwest Alberta.
The park was named after Charles Waterton, a 19th-century naturalist in 1895. In 1932, the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park was created to commemorate the peace, goodwill and cooperation between Canada and the U.S.A. The park has grown from 140 sq. km (54 sq. miles) in 1895 to today’s 505 sq. km (195 sq. miles). The vast amount of this area is rich with abundant lakes, streams, and waterfalls, making it wildlife friendly and postcard perfect.
The park contains 45 different habitat types, including grasslands, shrublands, wetlands, lakes, spruce-fir, pine and aspen forests, and alpine areas. The park’s variety of vegetation communities provides homes for many animals, including more than 60 species of mammals, over 250 species of birds, 24 species of fish, and 10 reptiles and amphibians. Large predators include wolf, coyote, cougar, grizzly bear, and American black bear. The grasslands are important winter range for ungulates such as elk, mule deer, and white-tailed deer. In the fall, the marsh and lake areas of the park are used extensively by migrating ducks, swans, and geese.
There are lots of hiking trails but only 5 bike trails. Canoes, paddleboats, rowboats and kayaks are a superb way to experience the crystal clear, spring-fed mountain lakes. Power boats are restricted to Upper and Middle Waterton lakes. There are several hotels – one being the Prince of Wales hotel, lots of restaurants and a deluge of souvenir shops to satisfy all travelers. I along with thousands upon thousands of travelers come to see the beauty this park has to offer year after year.
Banff National Park
Banff is one of the oldest and most scenic parks in Canada. It spans 6,641 square kilometers and is filled with the freshest air, stunning mountains, picturesque lakes, dense forests, numerous glaciers, and an incredible diversity of wildlife. It’s located in the Alberta Rockies along the Trans-Canada Highway, approximately 100 kilometers west of Calgary. I have the ultimate pleasure of driving to Banff on a whim if I so choose.
If you walk or jog early in the morning, it’s not uncommon to see deer, elk, or bighorn sheep grazing along a road. Animals are an integral part of the ecosystem. They might not show any fear of people, but they are wild animals, not tame. For these reasons, it is important you are aware of how to help protect both yourself and the animals. You should never try to get too close or give food to wildlife. In fact, it is illegal to feed, touch, or even approach wild animals.
Some Main Attractions in Banff
Lake Louise is popular all year around, but the tourist season draws the most traffic. The stunning turquoise color and mirror surface of Lake Louise will mesmerize everyone who sets eyes on it. Set in a small picturesque glacier valley and encompassed by snow-capped mountains, it’s terrain is perfect for hiking, walking, and canoeing. There are several world class hiking paths each with varying degrees of difficulty, but all boast the best views in the world.
Moraine Lake, also known as the Valley of Ten Peaks, is approximately 14 km from Lake Louise. This lake also flaunts astonishing turquoise colored waters. Hiking around Moraine Lake’s shoreline is the best way to soak in the beauty of this famous alpine lake. The well-trod flat and easy trail will guide you around shoreline trees and expose you to breathtaking views of the Ten Peaks. Or for an alternative view of these turquoise waters and the nearby Tower of Babel, hike up the Rock Pile.
Banff Hot Springs are one of nine different naturally occurring hot springs in the Banff area. It’s a great place to soak your weary bones after a long arduous hike. The hot spring water flows naturally through the Sulphur Mountain Thrust Fault, with the source area located at higher elevations on either Sulphur Mountain or Mount Rundle. The flow rates fluctuate seasonally with snow melt, with highest flows in the spring and lowest during winter.
Lake Minnewanka is an outdoorsman’s paradise that’s located about 4.5 km northeast from the town of Banff. It attracts thousand of tourists every year because of it’s beauty, versatility and location to Banff and other attractions. It offers a picnic area, hiking paths, and boat access camp sites. But be careful though, the Stoney Indians called this lake Minnewanka for a reason. It means Lake of Spirits because strong gusts of wind can blow in unannounced.
Lake Minnewanka is on the edge of one of three “core areas” for grizzly bears in Banff National Park. These core areas contain critical bear habitat, and a concentration of female grizzlies live and raise their cubs here. Female grizzly bears are dependent upon an important food source, buffaloberries, which grow in abundance here. Please be cautious, there have been surprise bear encounters involving cyclists along the Minnewanka Trail.
Being out in nature is so relaxing, peaceful and stress-free. You can feel yourself unwinding from the constant chaos and din we deal with in our everyday lives. Nature just has a way of rejuvenating our spirit. But we need to remember that having access to a national park is a privilege and a responsibility. It’s important that we respect all aspects of each national park, from revering animal habitation to consciously keeping the park clean by picking up our litter. Our parks are here for us to enjoy, not destroy!
Come visit one of our parks and help celebrate Canada’s birthday. Happy Birthday Canada!