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Science, Photography, and Trip Reviews


Canadian Rockies Scenic Tour

Jasper, Lake Louise, & Banff

Mountains, lakes, water falls, & rivers

Brewster & luxurious Fairmont hotels

Via train from Vancouver to Jasper.

VIA train headed from Vancouver to Jasper through beautiful country.

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Vancouver to Jasper

We flew to Vancouver in British Columbia and immediately headed to the train station where we were to board a VIA train for an evening departure to Jasper in Alberta. We were there to take a tour with Brewster, one of Canada's best tour operators. The tour featured stays in four of the fabulous Fairmont hotels. While waiting to board the train we were offered snacks and live entertainment was provided. This was a nice touch which was not expected. On the train, seen in the picture above, we had a private room for two people with washroom facilities. Each sleeping car had a shower, and at night our room converted to upper and lower berths. Although the room had a large window for viewing the scenery, we preferred to view sights from the domed observation car. We had our meals in the dining car, and both the food and service were excellent. Traveling by train was a nice experience, and a number of people were going all the way across Canada.

Jasper Park Lodge accommodations.

Accommodations at Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge Hotel are scattered around the extensive property.

We arrived at Jasper in the morning and proceeded to the magnificent Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge where we stayed for two nights. The lodges, some of which are seen above, are scattered about the spacious and beautiful property. There are two lakes and gorgeous views of the mountains. The Main lodge has nice lounges with big fireplaces, and there are a number of high quality restaurants as well as places to shop.

View of Lac Beauvert from Main Lodge.

Lac Beauvert viewed from the Main Lodge at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge Hotel.

The beautiful lake and some mountains viewed from the Main lodge are shown above. Activities at the Jasper Park Lodge include an 18-hole golf course, pool, tennis courts, and stables. It is fun to walk around the property, and on one occasion I encountered an elk. While he stared at me I took his picture, shown below, and hoped that he was friendly! This is a very nice place to spend time.

Elk at Jasper Park Lodge.

A wild elk visiting at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge Hotel.

Maligne Canyon, Medicine Lake, Maligne Lake, & Spirit Island

Maligne Canyon.

Maligne Canyon.

On our second day at the Jasper Park Lodge we went on a day tour that took us first to Maligne Canyon, pictured above. Crafted by Mother Nature, the limestone rocks were cut over many years into a gorge by the Maligne River. The gorge reaches depths of 165 feet (50 meters), and can be viewed at a number of places along a trail and from bridges. From there we went to Medicine Lake. Because of an underground drainage system this lake undergoes great fluctuations in water level. The water can even disappear, and where the water goes is a mystery. Early Indians attributed this phenomenon to "spirits."

Malinge Lake.

Maligne Lake.

From Medicine Lake we traveled to Maligne Lake, shown above. This is the second largest glacier fed lake in the Rocky Mountains, and it is surrounded by gorgeous mountains. We took the hour and one half boat trip to Spirit Island and back. Although in a beautiful setting, Spirit Island had somewhat of an eerie look in the rain, snow, and fog that day. On the way back to the Jasper Park Lodge we were stopped in the road at Medicine Lake by wild goats. Traffic was stopped in both directions as they checked us out.

Athabasca Falls, Columbia Ice field, Peyto Lake, & Bow Lake

Athabasca Falls.

Athabasca Falls.

The next day we boarded the luxury motor coach and started our day of touring at the Athabasca Falls, pictured above. At the falls a deep canyon has been formed by the Athabasca River which cuts through the hard quartzite rock. The headwater comes from the Columbia Glacier located about 43 miles (70 kilometers) to the south. This is considered to be one of the most spectacular falls in the Rocky Mountains.

The next stop was the Columbia Ice field, a highlight of the week of touring. The Columbia Ice field has an area of 130 square miles (325 square kilometers), and it is the largest body of ice in the Rocky Mountains. The greatest thickness of the ice is estimated to be 1,200 feet (365 meters). The ice field straddles the Continental Divide, feeds six major outlet glaciers, and three of Canada's largest rivers. A snocoach takes people out to the Athabasca Glacier where you can get out and walk around, which we did as seen in the picture below. It was snowing when we were on the ice, and we found it very interesting.

Rebecca & Sunny at the Columbia Icefield.

Rebecca & Sunny at the Columbia Ice field.

In the afternoon we went to Bow Summit where there is an impressive view of Peyto Lake. We then visited Bow Lake, which is another attractive lake surrounded by mountains with beautiful peaks.

Banff, Cave, Sulphur Mountain, & Gondola

Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel.

Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel. Picture taken from Sulphur Mountain.

We went to Banff, and that night we stayed in what looks like a castle. It was the elegant Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, pictured above. This is a great place to spend time, and we wished that we could have stayed longer. The hotel offers quite a few services including a number of dining rooms, lounges, indoor and outdoor pools, health club, spa, specialty shops, tennis courts, and a twenty-seven hole golf course. The Banff Springs Hotel is located close to downtown Banff, and if you like exercise it is a nice walk to the shops and restaurants there.

Cave & Basin Historic Site.

Cave & Basin Historic Site.

The morning of the fourth day we were taken to Tunnel Mountain Drive to view the beautiful valley and mountains around Banff. We then went to the Cave and Basin National Historic Site of Canada. Thermal springs are found there. The hot bubbling water is melt water or rainwater that percolates to great depths below Sulphur Mountain, where it is heated to near boiling before returning to the surface due to pressure. The water has a rotten egg odor from sulfur minerals picked up by the water circulating in the rocks. The thermal springs have healing powers which were known to the early Indians. The first recorded existence of the thermal springs was in 1859. The early white settlers saw that the hot springs would attract tourists, and there was an attempt to develop the area. However, there was a dispute as to who owned the springs, and this led the Canadian government in 1885 to declare the Hot Springs Reserve a national park. This was the birth of Canada's national park system. While there we visited the cave, pictured above, with its attractive rocks and pool of water.

Banff Gondola for ride to Sulphur Mountain.

Banff Gondola for ride to Sulphur Mountain.

To see the surrounding area we took the Banff Gondola, shown above, up Sulphur Mountain in an eight-minute ride to an elevation of 7,486 feet (2,281 meters). This was another of the many photo opportunities on the tour, and a picture taken from an overlook is shown below. There were spectacular views in all directions on a beautiful sunshiny day. You can see the town of Banff, and that is where we headed after taking the gondola back down the mountain. We had free time in the afternoon to browse the shops and have lunch. We very much enjoyed Banff. Later that afternoon we boarded the motor coach and were taken to Lake Louise.

View from Sulphur Mt.

View from overlook on Sulphur Mountain.

Lake Louise

Fairmont Lake Louise Hotel

The Fairmont Lake Louise Hotel.

The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise is world famous, and that is where we spent the night. This lovely resort is in a beautiful setting on Lake Louise. Looking from the resort across the lake you see Victoria Glacier along with mountains. This spectacular site is widely photographed. Along the lake next to Chateau Lake Louise are beautiful flowers, which I could not resist photographing. There are plenty of choices for eating with nine dining rooms available during the summer months. We had fondue in the Swiss dining room, and it was outstanding. The lounges are gorgeous. The resort also features an indoor pool, steam room, health club, recreation room, and outdoor activities including canoeing and golf.

Revelstoke, Shuswap, & Lac Le Jeune

Day 5 was a day of travel as we headed west. As was the case throughout this tour the views along the road were often stunning. Frequent stops were made along the way, so there was often a chance to stretch your legs or get a snack. In the morning we passed over the Continental Divide at Kicking Horse Pass. In Revelstoke we stopped for lunch, and in the afternoon we visited Lake of the Shuswap. Even though there was rain at times the mountains never lost their beauty. That afternoon we arrived at Lac Le Jeune Resort, which is a nice retreat in the wilderness near Kamloops and where we spent the night.

Whistler, Canada.

Whistler, a great year around destination.

Hat Creek Ranch, Fraser River, Lillooet, & Shannon Falls

On the morning of our last day of touring we looked out from the resort to see a mist over the lake, which added much to the view. As we continued our journey west we stopped at Hat Creek Ranch near the town of Cache Creek. The ranch shows the Canadian West as it was during the early days of the white settlers. This is the former site of the B. C. Express Stage Line.

Salmon in rivers near Lillooet.

Salmon in rivers near Lillooet.

The largest river in British Columbia is the Fraser River. We saw gorgeous views of it meandering through the mountains. Near Lillooet we saw a river flowing into another with a large dark area in the water. The dark area was a large school of salmon fish, and can be seen in the picture above. After lunch in Lillooet we stopped at yet another beautiful lake to take pictures. This large lake had a rather large logjam. From there we went to Whistler where we had a delightful stop at this charming place. You can certainly spend a lot of fun time there. As we worked our way to Vancouver we made one last stop at Shannon Falls, seen below. Traveling along the scenic Sea to Sky Highway we passed Stawamus rock, which is a favorite of rock climbers.

Shannon Falls.

Shannon Falls.


In the late afternoon we reached Vancouver. Our last night was spent in the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver. This is another fine Fairmont hotel. When we were there we really enjoyed Mavis, the resident dog at the hotel. He was truly leading a dog's life! The tour had come to an end. This was a fantastic tour with Brewster, and the Fairmont hotels were wonderful.

Great ski destinations

Although our tour was during the summer months, it should be pointed out that Jasper, Lake Louise, Banff, and Whistler are all great winter destinations. They offer great places to ski which complement the delightful places to stay.

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Photo of Rebecca and Sunny by Joe Carrine. Remaining photos by Sunny Breeding. We sell prints and images.