For this summer trip we decided to finally see Glacier and Banff national parks, visiting the Rockies on each side of the US/Canadian border. The closest major airport to Glacier is Calgary, Alberta – it’s about four hours’ drive from there to the US side of Glacier.
We got into Calgary on a Saturday night and had a good time with our free day on Sunday, checking out the tower, ducking into restaurants in the rain, and stumbling across the local Latin festival.
At Glacier we stayed at the Rising Sun Motor Inn, just inside the park on the Going to the Sun Road. It’s a decent motel, with a good restaurant and a little general store that we ended up frequenting. The staff was friendly, most of them students working through the relatively short summer.
There were a couple of rifle shots one evening (just warning shots!), rangers coaxing a bear back into the woods.
A couple of the trails we were interested in were closed due to bear, and a ranger suggested we get Iceberg Lake out of the way before that closed as well.
Good times in Glacier:
- The Iceberg Lake hike – this secluded lake sports ice well into the late summer. Note that bear spray is forty bucks at the trailhead store, no refunds. I talked myself into buying a can, felt a little better for it.
- The restaurant at the Many Glacier Hotel is a nice place to stop after getting back from Iceberg Lake.
- Scenic Point – this is a tough, rocky climb but the payoff is worth it.
- Avalanche Lake – a fairly easy, woodsy trail to a larger secluded lake.
- We can’t comment much on the famous Going to the Sun Road because it had gone to fog when we took it to cross the park.
When in Banff, make a point of visiting Sunshine Meadows above all else. Take the bus. You think you can hike it up, and you probably can, but take the bus. We showed up at the bottom of the hill in the morning when we thought all the rides were full, but we found there was room on the bus.
The road up – and down – is awful. But the hikes are spectacular. Take the bus.
When in Lake Louise, stop by the old train station restaurant.
We were lucky to have clear skies on our drive up the Icefields Parkway to the Columbia Icefield and on to Jasper.
We showed up at the Columbia Icefield visitor center close to the end of the afternoon and somehow managed to get one of the ice crawlers to ourselves.
On the way back some humidity and the smoke from a distant forest fire clouded the view and gave us an appreciation of what we’d lucked into on the way up.