Canadian National Parks
By Bonnie and Bill Neely
Our original plan was to spend our RV camping week in East Glacier National Park in the United States, but we had failed to make reservations and found it full. Fortunately, we had our passports with us and papers from our veterinarian proving that our little dog was safe to go, so we drove into Canada and discovered three wonderful national parks that are now among our favorites.
We were fortunate to spend two nights in beautiful Yoho National Park in British Columbia. We would have named it “Waterfall National Park” because it has so many gorgeous cascades. The lovely sound of rushing water while we breathed deeply the scent of spruce and fir trees thrilled all of our senses. Yoho National Park is small and has few visitors by comparison to nearby Revelstoke and Glacier, but it is breathtakingly beautiful.
On our first day at Yoho we took a moderate early morning hike down a mountain, about five miles round-trip. Our destination was Wapta Falls, but we had no idea what to expect. To us, the trail seemed very steep in parts, but worth the effort because the waterfall had spent centuries to cut through enormous granite rocks and was powerful and gorgeous. Wapta Falls is second only to Niagara Falls in volume of water. What a way to start our stay!
We drove many more miles along the scenic highway beside the huge Rocky Mountain peaks, stopping for smaller hikes the rest of the day that allowed us to appreciate the scenery and find perfect photo spots. We spent time at the Yoho Visitor Center and had lunch at Emerald Lake with the little Swiss chalet restaurant in the background. We ate sandwiches on a rock facing the lake at the edge of the thick forest with deep grass at our feet and — thankfully — no snakes or mosquitoes.
Our afternoon hike led us to the huge but narrow Takakkaw Falls. We were exhausted by then, but happily the three-mile round-trip hike was on level ground. We were determined to see this powerful wonder of natural beauty. It was fun to walk right up to the waterfall and get a bit wet in the mist. We loved Yoho National Park, but the Golden Community Campground nearby did not offer much except its location and loud train whistles throughout the night.
We spent the next five nights in our RV at the very nice and quite large Canyon Hot Springs RV Park, about halfway between two of the oldest of British Columbia’s national parks linked by the Trans-Canada Highway: Mount Revelstoke National Park and Glacier National Park. The park was in a setting reminiscent of the gardens that surround European castles with huge hemlock and cedar forests and a lush understory of ferns. Large, grassy level grounds for all kinds of camping vehicles are near a natural hot springs pool that many enjoyed each day.
Established in 1914, Mount Revelstoke is 100 square miles in size, and the short drive on the scenic parkway led us to great mountaintop scenery and views of the city below whose citizens raised the money to establish this protected area. All summer visitors enjoy high meadows with multicolored wildflowers in prolific bloom. Trails are easy and sunny and lead through many delightful photo spots and wide-open views. There are boardwalks through wetlands with unusual vegetation and many kinds of migratory birds — a paradise for amateur ornithologists.
Traveling a bit easterly from Revelstoke, we delighted in finding totally different scenery that was protected as Glacier National Park. The highway led us through steep, narrow valleys as we gazed upward to giant peaks. Glacier has great ice fields that have only recently begun to shrink with the warming of the earth. We found the inland rainforests to be a wondrous contrast. Some of the best deep-powder skiing in North America is in these mountains. This park is 521 square miles in size.
We spent the next day at Glacier, a thickly forested park with beautiful hikes, mostly very difficult. Starting our day with a visit to the Rogers Pass Discovery Center and Museum was interesting and helpful. The friendly staff offered enticing and informative information, and we watched a film about bears that convinced us not to take food on hikes ever again.
We enjoyed an easy hike on boardwalks through the only noncoastal Hemlock and Cedar Rainforest with good interpretive signs. One of our other finds near the highway was the unusual trek through the Rock Garden Trail, climbing up, over and around unusual rock mounds and observing the tiny vegetation growing on the surface. How difficult life is for some species!
Our favorite hike was through the historic site of the Victorian Era Hotel from the 1880s, when trains brought the first excited tourists here. Pictures and signs helped us imagine the difficult way of travel those brave — and wealthy ‚ travelers experienced. We climbed up a steep, difficult path beside the river hoping to view the Glacier waterfall miles above us. We made it about seven miles round-trip, but that was only about halfway to the actual glacier. Hiking in this high altitude was a challenge, but the scenery was worth it. We found rocks for resting along the way and took it slowly. Sadly, almost no glaciers are left in the Canadian Glacier National Park and most snow has melted except in high mountains.
If you’re planning a trip there, spring is the time to make reservations for hotels and campgrounds. You will enjoy some of the most spectacular scenery in North America and capture memories that will be treasures ever after.
WHEN YOU GO
For further information, visit www.pc.gc.ca.
Bonnie and Bill Neely are freelance writers.