I have driven through the Canadian Rockies a few times now and have always been awestruck by the spectacular scenery. Every turn provides a new and stunning view of the numerous mountain peaks and either the glaciers, lakes, waterfalls and canyons. This year however, we decided to get a new perspective of this incredible landscape and travel across the mountains in Canada in the wintertime. We decided to travel from our home in Calgary in Alberta on the Trans-Canadian Highway across the mountains to the city of Vernon in British Columbia with the intention of stopping where conditions allowed us to take in the snow-covered scenery.
Canada: Winter wonderland through the lens
It’s approximately one hour’s journey from Calgary before the flat prairies become the vast rugged terrain of the Rockies. The mountains are a very different place in the winter to what they are in the warmer seasons. The vivid greens and blues transition into an otherworldly spectacle of whites and blacks. It often feels as if I have fallen straight out of the wardrobe into Narnia itself. Looking through the trees I was half expecting to spot a faun or a sledge riding witch.
The Scenic Road
However despite the beautiful surroundings I had been given a lot of advice to be cautious on the roads in winter. Furthermore there were weather warnings on the radio and we drove past trucks which were towing wrecked vehicles which had been involved in a forty car pileup on the highway. Concentration was certainly required.
Frozen waterfalls, Johnston Canyon in Banff National Park
Our first stop was Johnston Canyon in Banff National Park. In the summer tourists from around the world come to walk along Johnston Creek to witness the effects on the landscape of the water which has carved its way through the limestone to create this impressive canyon. During the winter it tends to be much quieter as the waterfalls and rapids freeze to a standstill with spectacular effects. I really wanted to get a photograph of the frozen waterfalls, so we attached crampons to our boots to navigate the icy paths without injuring ourselves. We had to bum-shuffle our way down the embankment to get our photo on the frozen river, but it was worth our efforts.
Bow Lake, Banff National Park
Further along the Trans Canadian Highway I decided to take a detour to Bow Lake which is located on the Columbia Icefield Highway. This is my favorite lake in Banff National Park and in the summer it is an impressive deep shade of blue. It was amazing to see it now snow-covered leaving only the imposing Crowfoot Mountain as its marker.
Icicles on the Trans Canada Highway
Back on the Trans Canada Highway and on course to our final destination it was hard not to be mesmerized by the impressive icicles. Some ran the full length of the cliff sides and waterfalls were frozen solid as if suspended in motion. There were not many opportunities to pull over on the slick roads, but as soon as I saw my chance I had to take it.
We soon exited Banff National Park in Alberta and simultaneously entered Yoho National Park in British Columbia as we did. We decided that we must visit one of the Park’s amazing lakes, so we detoured down a snow packed road which leads to Emerald Lake. I had never actually visited this lake before but have seen many beautiful pictures when researching it. However it looked very different to the image I had imaged as it was completely frozen over. Here is a shot of the one area of the lake that wasn’t frozen over. I can’t wait to come back here with my kayak in the summer.
Snow covered pines around Emerald lake
We decided to put on our snowshoes and wander around the perimeter of the lake. The snow in the forests was very thick and without our snow shoes our legs would have sunk knee deep. After several minutes of concentrating on my feet, trying our best not to trip over as we trudged through the woodland, I took a moment to look up and see the beautiful snow-covered pines.
On the rocky banks of Kicking Horse River
Nearby Emerald Lake is located the Natural Bridge. The bridge is actually a rock which Kicking Horse River has calved its way through over the centuries. It is not advisable to stand on the bridge due to the level of erosion. But stood from above on the rocky banks, it was amazing to see this fast flowing river almost completely covered by the snow.
Into the heart of British Columbia
We got back on the road and proceeded to drive on through the Rockies. Once we started descending downhill further into the heart of British Columbia near Shuswap I felt compelled to pull over to take in the beautiful scenery. The pale whites and blues reflecting off the river was a sight to behold. I love pulling over at these places which are unmarked and unknown to most passersby. It felt as if we had discovered own little part of British Columbia.
Final destination – Vernon
Finally after 6 hours of driving from Calgary we arrived at our final destination. Vernon is located near Kelowna surrounded by the winter scenery it seems hard to believe that it is a world famous region for producing wine. We spent the remainder of the day wandering the paths of the small foothills in the area before retiring to our hotel. Once the sun had set we located some of Kelowna’s fine produce and can now confirm that it is excellent.