Most people refer to the Rocky Mountains by calling it "the Rockies", more like a term of endearment than the name of the mountains. People come to the "Rockies" and fall in love with the scenery that surrounds them.
Most scenery is something that you look at in one direction, but here in the Rockies you are surrounded by it, with mountains, snow, lakes, forests, clouds and sky everywhere you look. You just have to look at the faces of people here to see how big their smiles are, to recognize the sense a wonderment that people experience when they see what nature has created here.
There is also Whistler – one of the best known and most popular Ski Resort cities around 127 kilometres (79 miles) north of Vancouver with Whistler Mountain and Blackcomb Mountain next ti the city – with these mountains being part of the Fitzsimmons Ranges, not the Rockies.
It may be cold, it may even be wet, but there is no denying that you are in one of the most beautiful parts of the world.
WELCOME TO THE ROCKIES!
If you are coming to ski – then you will want to be here over Christmas, with the ski fields opening most years in late November and closing around April, depending on the season and when the snow falls, followed by Spring in May.
Whistler opens its Ski season in November and it runs until July.
While much of Canada may be covered in snow or freezing cold in winter, that doesn't mean that the Canadians can't enjoy winter and they make the most of it with ski resorts, snowboarding, ice-skating, ice-fishing and Ice Hockey games that are fast and great fun to watch.
If you are looking to just see the scenery or to hike, then peak season is in June, July and August, with Fall (Autumn) following on from this in September and October.
People come to the Rockies, just to see it, stay over, work, relax, chill out, mountain ski, cross-ski, snowshoe, snowboard, dog-sled, walk, hike, rock climb, mountain climb, kayak, canoe, raft, fish, bird watch, bear watch, ride horses, and all of these are possible here in Rockies.
Getting your bearings –
There are a number of National Parks here –
All are great Parks, and when you consider that Banff National Park was first opened in 1875, ten years before the Trans Pacific Railway was built crossing over the Rockies, then you get the idea that even then people really understood that the whole of the Rockies was something very special that a lot of people would want to see if they could.
The head of the Pacific Railway Company William Van Horne (1843-1915) also recognized how special the area was, and soon after the Railway was completed he built the Chateau Lake Louise Hotel, the hotel opening for guests in 1888. The hotel has been considerably extended from that time, and it is now called the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel.
William Van Horne was born in Illinois and was instrumental in using the Railway to build both a freight and passenger business, alongside a telegraph business and even a sea connection for Canadian freight to be transported across from the east to Vancouver and onwards to Hong Kong. His company also built the Railway in Cuba in 1888.
William Van Horne is however best known for some of his wisdom and some of his best known quoted words are –
"Nothing is too small to know and nothing too big to attempt"
"The Biggest things are always the easiest to achieve, as there is no competition"
Both quotes could well apply to the building of the Railway across Canada and the building of the remarkable Fairmont hotel.
Remember – that summer and winter it is best to book your accommodation early so that you know where you are staying. It can get very cold too, so be prepared with the right clothing, gloves, scarf and headgear just in case you need it.
Glacier National Park (USA) covers a wilderness area of over 4000 square miles of rugged mountains and valleys with the highest mountain peak being Mt Cleveland which is over 10,000 feet or just short of 4000 metres, and the second biggest peak is Medicine Peak, which is over 8000 feet or just over 2500 metres high. The park is used a lot by campers during the summer months (May to September) and Grizzly Bears are also here too, so you need to understand the rules of camping in 'Grizzly bear Territory' and be prepared for both the isolation of the park and rapid weather changes too.
The main entrance to the National Park is from Apgar and West Glacier in the USA western side, with the 53 miles long (85Km) Going to the Sun Road crossing from Apgar through the park to the Eastern Gate at St Mary. This road is said to be one of the most scenic roads in North America, passing by Lakes, waterfalls, melting snows, glaciers, mountain peaks, rivers and deep valleys on all sides, over Logan Pass and through tunnels, over bridges with great drops from the side of the road and even sometimes landslides of snow covering the road. This is not a road for nervous drivers! There is also a Shuttle Bus service that runs between the two park entrances, and also many trails in the Park too with varied distances and levels of difficulty. Also you can hire boats on some of the lakes – see www.riverwild.com and www.glacierraftco.com (Rafting) and www.glacierparkboats.com (Kayaking), and guided tours of the Park see www.glacierguides.com , www.glacierparkinc.com and www.glaciersuntours.com There is also an Amtrak train service that crosses over the Park from East Glacier to West Glacier (See Rail on this website to book). The Amtrak trains also cross from Chicago to Seattle stopping at these two stations.
Waterton National Park – is a Unesco World Heritage site and covers an area of just 328 square miles and is almost just the Canadian side of the border with Glacier National Park. Being less known and smaller also means that there are far less people, but it also has just as much scenery and wildlife to see with Waterton Lake next to Waterton village and Anderson Peak, Lone Mountain and Mt Blakiston all over 8000 feet (2500 metres) within the Park.
Most people coming to the Park will come from Calgary or head up from Glacier National Park, and inside the Park there are a small number of short roads and lots of walking trails in and around the lakes and mountain areas. Waterton is pretty much the main Village or town, with camping, golf club, Prince of Wales Hotel and a number of other places to stay (see Hotels section on this website). There is also a cruise company to take you out on Upper Waterton Lake – see www.watertoncruise.com and horse riding – see www.alpinestables.com
Banff National Park – is just outside the town of Banff, which is very much a Tourist town with lots of facilities, accommodation, restaurants, activities and night life too. A lot of people come here as day-trippers, while others come here looking for fun, to get married, play golf, to ski or snowboard or to stay in town, but spend their days trekking or heading to the mountains, or to Lake Louise. These are some of the places to look for –
In Banff itself – just wander Banff Avenue Caribou Street and Bear Avenue and see what you see; drop into the Visitor Information Centre on Banff Avenue
to book tours; see the Banff Park Museum next to Bow River at 93 Banff Avenue; Other museums the Buffalo Nations Luxton Museum at 1 Birch Avenue and the Whyte Museum at 111 Bear Street; head to the Cascade Plaza Shopping Mall near corner of Banff Avenue and Wolf Street; take a canoe ride on the Bow River, or just take a walk to see the river itself.
Yoho National Park – this is smaller than Banff National Park and equally beautiful too. Here you will also find Lakes and waterfalls, and if you like finding some of the 'secret gems' in traveling to less known places, this Park is worth exploring. Being more isolated also means being better prepared with food, drinks and good walking shoes and clothing to wear, but there are places to stay along Yoho Valley Road and in the small village of Field.
Kootenay National Park – is also a smaller park near the small village of Radium, where you will also find the Radium Hot Springs. There is also a golf club and the Panorama Ski Resort here and of course lots of good hikes that you can do in the Park. Also look for the small village of Golden with a number of places to stay including the Kicking Horse Mountain Resort (See www.kckkinghorseresort.com ) as well as the Kicking Horse River and the high wooden Kicking Horse Pedestrian Bridge that crosses over it. Golden is a centre for white water rafting. Also here too you will find two interesting Wildlife places where you can see wolves and Buffalo up close – See www.northernlightswildlife.com and www.rockymountainbuffaloranch.com
Jasper National Park and Jasper –
Jasper National Park is further north than Banff National Park, but equally a great place to see and experience this part of the Rocky Mountains.
The Park first opened in 1907 and it covers 10878 square kilometres of mountains, forest, rivers, lakes, waterfalls and glaciers and is the biggest National Park in Canada.
People come to Jasper and the surrounding area by car, bus, bike and especially by train from Vancouver or Prince Rupert in British Columbia or from Edmonton. A train journey here can be both more relaxing than driving or sitting on a bus, and trains take different travel routes to the roads, so that you see countryside that you could well miss if travelling by road. Check out the Rail section of this website to learn more.
There is a lot to do in and around Jasper and these are some of the best things to see –
Glacier National Park and Mount Revelstoke National Park –
Glacier National Park (British Columbia) is often confused with Glacier National Park just over the border in the USA (see details above), but it also a great National Park to visit, as is the nearby Revelstoke National Park. Both Parks are close to the town of Revelstoke in British Columbia, which is the best place to base yourself if you are coming here to ski in the winter or trek in the summer months. There are a number of hotels to stay at here and all the amenities of a town of around 7500 people. The Canadian Pacific Railway and also the Trans-Canada Highway both pass through Revelstoke.
Glacier National Park covers an area of 521 square miles whereas Revelstoke covers an area of 100 square miles, so much smaller.
In Glacier National Park you will find a number of trails that you can take to explore the Park and see beautiful alpine forests, glaciers, snow-capped mountains and there are also huts and some campgrounds here too. The most famous Glacier in the Park is Illecillewaet Glacier, with a number of rivers here too. There is also a large cave system, called the Nakimu Caves, but these are not usually open for the public. Inside the Park during the summer months you may come across Black bears and Grizzly Bears in the wild, caribou, elks and certainly lots of birds too.
The Meadows-in-the-sky Parkway is a road that leads through the forests in Revelstoke National Park which is a mix of lush meadow lands sweeping upwards to the alpine forests and snowline of the mountains. One of the best things to see here in summer is the Giant Cedars Boardwalk that takes you through forests of ancient 800 year old Western Red Cedar and Hemlock trees. There is also the Skunk-Cabbage Boardwalk where you might come across beavers and bears, and also see the skunk-cabbage plants in the wetlands with their large green leaves and pungent smell designed to attract insects.
Revelstoke in the winter is a great place for skiing, with 3121 acres of fall line skiing, heli-skiing, cat-skiing, lifts, 65 named runs and slopes for both beginners and expert skiers. There is the Turtle Creek beginner area and ski schools, but also the most vertical drop in North America – a jaw dropping 1713 metres (5620 Feet). Here you will find the Revelstoke Mountain Resort open year round for skiing in winter and also events during the summer months and also golf and all the walking trails you could want. (You can book the Resort here on the website, or other hotels and accommodation in Revelstoke).
Whistler is one of Canada's most popular ski resort cities, with a permanent population of around 9500 people with even more Canadians and Americans having a second home here too. The town is built on tourism and skiing, with the ski season lasting from November to July, longer than most other resort areas.
The City of Whistler is located 127km (79 miles) north of Vancouver along the coast on Highway 99, often called the "Sea to Sky Highway" due to the beauty of the landscape as you travel north by car, bus or train. Whistler is where the 2010 Winter Olympics were held, and much of the infrastructure that was built for the Olympics still remain here.
There are around 8000 acres of ski fields and 38 ski lifts, and while at other ski resorts you need to get to them by a Shuttle, here in Whistler you are right next to the ski fields, so you can almost ski out from your front door, depending on where you are staying. In winter you are spoiled by choice as to where to ski, with both downhill slopes, with both easy and difficult levels of skill needed as well as miles of cross country skiing areas too – Whistler Olympic Park has 56 Kilometres (35 miles) of cross country trails; Callahan County 42 kilometres (26 miles) and Lost Lake Park 32 kilometres (20 miles) of trails – so lots of choices.
The Peak-2-peak Gondola also travels across between Whistler Mountain and Blackcomb Mountain and with 38 lifts running there are again lots of choices as to where to ski. There is also an Ice Rink for skating at Olympic Plaza.
In Whistler itself there are lots of places to stay, over 90 restaurants and 200 shops, so the city has all the amenities and Aprés-ski activities to enjoy.
During the summer months you can paddle out in a canoe on the River of Golden Dreams, or paddle board on one of the lakes, or do some white-water rafting. There are also hundreds of bike paths and walking trails, and activities like Bungee Jumping, ziplines, tree-top adventures, horse riding, golf, wind surfing, dog sledding and wildlife watching.
Whistler is also the home of Squamish and Lil'wat First Nations, and in Whistler you can also learn about their culture and see galleries and craftwork too.
The Rocky Mountains, as you can see from the information above has a lot to offer both general tourists as well as adventurer travellers, hikers and skiers, and your camera will no doubt be working overtime.
There are lots of great places to stay, mostly good food, fresh air, mountains and snow. If you are really looking for an outdoor adventure with like-minded people you should also consider joining the Alpine Club of Canada. They have back country huts in many places across Canada and also adventure programs and guided tour adventures too. Their website is www.alpineclubofcanada.ca
Certainly there is a lot to see and do in Canada, and I am sure that the Rockies will live up to your every expectation as a great and memorable place to holiday, ski or visit.