Canada’s national parks are home to glittering lakes, craggy mountains – here’s the astonishing beauty of wild Canada through a photographer’s lens. It’s the perfect destination for green travel.
Moraine Lake – Banff National Park, Alberta
I had seen images of Moraine Lake everywhere before moving to Canada. It was on the front covers of just about every travel guide or brochure I looked at, so I could not wait to get my own first shot at it. It’s located about 14km away from Lake Louise, however the access road is closed for half of the year during the winter months. So during the warmer months this place is like catnip to photographers. I went there to catch the 5 am sunrise and wasn’t surprised to see other photographers were already there in position for the sunrise. I soon learnt why. As the sun hit the mountains it was a sight of pure natural perfection.
Good to Know: Set in the rugged Valley of the Ten Peaks, Moraine Lake is surrounded by mountains, waterfalls, rock piles, and you can explore the area by canoeing and hiking. Glacier-fed, its brilliant blue-green colour is a result of light refracting off the “rock flour” (fine particles of rock) in the glacier run-off which flows into the lake. At 1,885 metres (6,183 feet), the lake does not start melting until June. Its vibrant colour peaks in late June. The Rockpile Trail is an easy path and the vista from the top is famous as the “Twenty Dollar View”, as the scene featured on the back of Canadian $20 bills issued between 1969 and 1979. There is no public transport to Moraine Lake.
Bow Lake – Banff National Park, Alberta
Without a doubt Bow Lake is my favourite in Banff National Park. Located on the Icefield Highway it can not be missed. Crowfoot Mountain stands tall over the lake with Bow Glacier feeding into the lake. During the sunrise we had the lake to ourselves and after taking our photos, we got out our kayak to explore the lake. As dawn turned into day, the water transformed colour, turning bright shade of light blue. We happily spent the rest of our day here.
Good to Know: Bow Lake & Peyto Lake are located on Highway 93 North or the Icefields Parkway on your way from Lake Louise to Jasper. The turquoise blue water of Bow Lake is the source of the Bow River and here you can view the majestic Bow Glacier.The Icefields Parkway connects Lake Louise and Jasper, parallelling the Continental Divide through some of the most wild and remote parts of Banff and Jasper national parks.
Boom Lake – Banff National Park, Alberta
Boom Lake is perhaps one of Banff National Park’s lesser known lakes. I went there on a Sunday afternoon in October and was amazed at how few people there were on the trail. The lake itself is a 5km walk away from the carpark and the trail was increasingly snow covered as I went further uphill. It took about 40 minutes to hike, but when I reached the lake, I had it all to myself without another soul in sight. The water was calm and the reflection of the snow-covered trees were gorgeous.
Good to Know: Glaciated mountains and limestone walls surround the crystal clear water of Boom Lake. This glacier-fed lake earned its name from a boom of down trees blocking its exit flow.
Lake Louise, Banff National Park, Alberta
When I first visited Lake Louise I was awestruck by the natural beauty in front of me. With the deep blue coloured water and a backdrop of glaciers feeding into it it isn’t difficult to understand why it is such a tourist draw. To beat the crowds I had paid this lake a sunrise visit. Apart from a single canoeist already on the water, I had the lake to myself. I had just enough time to take in the tranquil surroundings before people started congregating at the front of the lake. But that was ok because I was able to take one of the lakeside trails away from the crowd that took me up into the mountains in search of a tea house which is located by another lake called Agnes.’
Good to Know: Lake Louise is Banff National Park’s most outstanding feature. Banff National Park, the most famous Canadian Rockies park, is located along the TransCanada Highway. Banff & Lake Louise is a 90 minute (140 km) drive west of Calgary. From the west, Banff & Lake Louise is a scenic day’s drive (850 km) from Vancouver, travelling through the Coast Mountains, wine country of British Columbia and the Canadian Rockies. If you’re driving, purchase a Parks Pass to enter Banff National Park. The Rocky Mountaineer has regularly scheduled train services that stop at Banff. In the town of Banff, “Roam” is a hybrid bus with regular services throughout the town and the Bow Valley.
Ptarmigan Cirque – Kananaskis Country, Alberta
The Ptarmigan Cirque instantly tested my stamina as I assented upwards. However the incline was relatively short and as I looked back over my shoulder, the view was extremely gratifying as I got a different perspective of the magnificent Rockies. As I went further up the the trail I met a man who was looking through the endless number of loose rocks there. He was hunting for fossils of ancient sea creatures which are commonly found on this path. I guess the only thing that could be more awe inspiring than the Rocky Mountains standing high above me is the thought that many years ago they were once below sea level. Mind blowing.
Good to Know: Kananaskis country is Alberta’s mountain playground. Ptarmigan Cirque is a large scree filled bowl created by melted glaciers. This steep trail leads to a fragile alpine meadow and a stunning view of the surrounding mountains.
Vermillion Lakes – Banff National Park, Alberta
The Vermillion Lakes at sunset is somewhere I love visiting. They are located just outside of Banff town so after a day’s hiking I get a meal in town and easily have time to go catch the sunset over the lakes afterwards. The only things I have to watch out for are the bugs, like minded photographers and there are some signs warning about aggressive wolves. But on this occasion, as on any other, it was worth the risks to watch the sun illuminate Rundle Mountain.
Good to know: 5 minutes west of the Banff townsite on the Vermilion Lakes drive. This year-round 4.3 kilometre scenic road offers wildlife viewing opportunities, views of Sulphur Mountain and Mount Rundle, one of Banff’s most recognizeable mountains. Vermilion Lakes Drive is also part of the 26 km Banff Legacy Trail. Great for hiking, canoeing, kayaking and wildlife watching.
Herbert Lake – Banff National Park, Alberta
There are so many lakes in Canada, more than the rest of the world put together actually, that it is easy to drive past some without giving them their due attention. I almost made this mistake with Herbert Lake. I had been looking for a good sunset on the Icefield Highway, but had been impeded by a snowstorm that had chased me all the way down the Icefield Parkway. I stopped at Herbert Lake as a desperate last hope to get a photograph that day. I’m so glad I did, this place is a little gem. I had ten minutes there before the snowstorm caught up with me.
Good to Know: Just a few kilometres from the exit off the TransCanada is Herbert Lake. The north side of the lake offers surreal views of Mt Temple with stunning reflections.
Beauvais Lake – Beauvais Provincial Park, Alberta
This year I tried Winter camping for the first time at Beauvais Lake. At 2am I was awoken in my tent by a loud cracking sound coming from outside. Peering out of the tent with my flashlight, it turned out that I had the company of a large moose loitering around the camp site, a little too close for comfort. In the morning, lacking sleep and wondering why I was doing this, I left the tent and was greeted by one of the most amazing sunrises I have ever witnessed. For two hours the sky glowed and changed colours and I quickly forgot about any sleep deprivation I was feeling.
Good to know: Beauvais Lake Provincial Park, located about 20 km (12 mi) southeast of Pincher Creek, is paradise for birders and outdoor enthusiasts.
Kananaskis Lower Lake – Kananaskis Country, Alberta
The Kananaskis Upper and Lower Lakes are marvellous places to spend any amount of time in. I caught this sunset over the Lower Lake one evening which was magnificent. However I was not allowed to feel too comfortable in my surroundings that day as many of the trails in the area had been closed due to bear activity. The bears where in the area feasting on the wild red berries which were in abundance this year. We actually saw a Grizzy Bear on this occasion by the roadside doing just this. Despite a few vehicles pulling over to have a look she did not seem to have any concern. Perhaps a reminder that we are guests in their habitat.’
Good to know: Kananaskis Country is a dramatic foothill area that spreads along the eastern edge of Banff National Park. Upper and Lower Kananaskis lakes are two mountain lakes in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park (part of the Kananaskis Country park system). Upper and Lower Kananaskis lakes can be found along Highway 40 (Kananaskis Trail) around 80 kms south of the Trans Canada Highway. Enjoy the numerous hiking trails here.
Numa Falls – Kootenay National Park, British Columbia
Numa Falls was one of those gems, of which Canada has numerous, that we didn’t plan to visit but were very glad we did. We were heading back to Alberta from Radium Hot Springs, which is just over the provincial border in British Columbia. En route we saw a young deer race across the road ahead of us. I slowed down in case his brothers and sisters decided to do the same. What actually ran out of the trees next was a large wolf in hot pursuit. It was spooked by our vehicle and stalled its chase, I suspect giving the deer ample time to get away. It was an image I will never forget. I pulled over at the next opportunity and by chance it was by these magnificent waterfalls which we had all to ourselves. In the matter of minutes we saw the spectacular beauty and tough reality of wild Canada.
Good to know: Numa Falls is a waterfall of the Vermillion River located in Kootenay National Park. The park is bisected by Highway 93 and Numa Fall can be viewed from the road.
Check out more of Geoff Pinkney’s stunning photography on his website.
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