Bucket List: Canadian Rockies

The Canadian Rockies

File:Mount Rundle at Dusk.jpg
What Yellowstone is to the United States, Banff is to Canada…Stevan Marcus Stevanm1 [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D

Region: British Columbia and Alberta, Canada

Logistical Difficulty: Moderately High; permits alone VERY high

Hiking Difficulty: Moderately High

Degree of Risk: Moderate

Estimated time required (including travel and logistics): One and a half weeks

The Rocky Mountains get better as they go north with the Canadian Rockies generally held to be the most scenically splendid section. Vistas are on a par with the Dolomites, Patagonian Andes and the best of the Alps. Excellent National and Provincial parks preserve this vast and beautiful ecosystem…but the challenges are great in these remote areas, and well meaning but rigorous government regulations often leave hikers shut out.

Berg Lake from the Mumm Basin Trail, 2005. Photo by Olivier George.


Why Hike Here?

  • Considered the most scenic part of one of the world’s great mountain ranges
  • Grand, jaw dropping scenery
  • One of the world’s great National Parks systems
  • Canada takes great pains to preserve its A-list outdoor splendor
  • Much more wildlife than in most other comparable mountain ranges
  • Tight quota systems keep the crowds to a minimum
  • Altitude only a serious factor in a few places
  • Very easy for Americans to enter/exit Canada
  • Most Americans speak Canadian very well
  • Finish up with a meal at Tim Horton’s, eh?
  • Banff-ff-ff-ff-ff

But First Consider…

  • This is a vast and remote true wilderness
  • Self-sufficiency is important in the Canadian backcountry
  • Lot of red tape to hike here
  • Lottery/quota systems make some hikes almost impossible to book
  • Hiking infrastructure/public transit options not much better than in the US
  • Short hiking season (July-September)
  • Freak weather possible any time of year
  • Bears quite common, though attacks are rare
  • With that said, we’d rather face a griz than a bull moose in rut
Moraine Lake sunrise.jpg
Moraine, the lake that graces one billion wall calendars and screen savers. By Jakub Fryš – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=78702629

Hikes that we have done here:

Queue the tumbleweeds. We’ve never hiked here, though Brian has been north of the border three times.

Hikes that we want to do here:

  • The Berg Lake Trail, Mt. Robson NP *
  • Lake O’Hara Traverse, Yoho NP *
  • Skyline Trail, Jasper NP
  • “Sunshine to Mt. Assiniboine” Hike, Yoho NP
  • Rockwall Trail, Kootenay NP
  • Skoki Loop, Banff NP

*On the BucketList!!!

**Note that the Lake O’Hara Alpine Traverse is notoriously difficult to get permits for, to the extent that it’s unlikely we will ever hike here (unless things change.) It may be more of a ‘fondest wish list” than actual BucketList hike. The good news is that ANY of those listed about are first rate…you won’t do wrong with any of them.