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Oh Canada the Beautiful: BANFF & Jasper

Updated: Jan 4, 2023

We approached the Montana border line giddy with excitement, ready for the next leg of our adventure in Canada, only to find that due to COVID, they had implemented a new app requirement for crossing over. Failure to research that one before arrival and before reliable WiFi meant we found ourselves turning around and posting up at the nearby duty-free bar/store to use their sluggish internet connection. Painfully and slowly, we watched the percentage crawl up till finally the app was downloaded and we could further upload covid cards and passports. Important lesson learned: ArriveCAN is actually super awesome and expeditious, but not if you're trying to download it at the gates on the cusp of adventure. Our set back put us at the end of the growing line of cars, RVs, and motorcycles, and we painstakingly waited another hour, inching our way back up to the booths. Nevertheless, we made it, and we have since been obsessed with British Columbia and Alberta.

We had another few hours of rolling hills, sidewinding mountain trails, and towering earth before we made it to BANFF. As you approach the mountain town, it's unlike anything else seen before. The rugged, rocky flat top mountains stretched out across the skyline, white peaks pouring into the horizon in either direction, and green hues of healthy, happy earth. It was so clean, even the sidewalks seemed to sparkle. We checked into our glamping at Tunnel Mountain Village where I booked with Elevated Escapes to surprise my wife with a luxurious yurt tent. It was totally worth the little splurge. They set up a beautiful site complete with everything you need: cooking utensils, firewood, chairs, and a whole beautiful bed. Not to mention they chose an excellent site, and we were at the far end of the campground with views of the vast forest at our toes.

We ventured into the city actual for some food since we drove straight from Glacier Montana - there are two food spots worth high mention over the course of our few days there: Banff Ave Brewing was spectacular and they had outdoor seating we could enjoy with our doggos. Their beers rotate, so all I can say is we had a sour that was otherwordly. We stocked up with what we could bring back with us - we ultimately brought a few all the way down to Florida to share with our family; that's how good it was. Our other mention-worthy food stop was Good Earth Coffee, excellent for pre-hike sandwiches and coffees. Otherwise, there's a great market right in town to pick up campfire provisions and solid trail snacks. We made daily use of the free parking all day everyday by the train station; it's actually super helpful and very walkable.

Now, nutrition aside ...the good stuff! With our doggos, we explored Corys Pass. We were able to do about half before we needed to turn around due to our dogs showing some symptoms of heat fatigue. We were bummed to not complete the route but it was and always will be more important to keep our girls safe. Tunnel Pass is a nice, albeit paved path, and there are nice trails down by the river that are completely dog friendly.

Our favorite experience during our trip was the canoe adventure with Wild Currents Outfitters Canada in Jasper. I had made a grave error in our planning somehow with googling maps, and I had mixed up the true difference in how far Banff and Jasper really were from each other. What I had thought was an hour drive was actually five. We had originally planned for an 8am trip, meaning we would have to get up and start driving at 3AM. Oops. We were scrambling to figure out what to do and reached out to explain we may be a little late. To our deep surprise the guide kindly suggested moving to 11 am and to enjoy the drive out - even recommended some stops for our way back! Empathy and kindness aside, the trip itself was absolutely AMAZING! The guide honestly didn't need us for most of the paddling and instead pointed out all of the beautiful features, wildlife, and terrain around us. It was truly remarkable and breathtaking. I also deeply appreciated that they were pet friendly. The guide took us to a hidden beach on a far end of the lake where we had delicious snacks and lemonade and the girls could play and splash to their puppy hearts' content. The whole experience was incredible to say the least and when we go back we will absolutely book again. Wild Current Outfitters is a family run and just phenomenal business and the experience was unforgettable.

After staring at its peak for days, we decided we absolutely had to hike Mt. Rundle and made a little switcharoo in our itinerary. Instead of moving on to Bighorn National Forest, we opted to stay in Banff just a little longer. Because of its intensity, this hike was not pet friendly, so we scrambled to find a safe and fun day-sitting location for our girls last minute. We have a huge shout out and depth of appreciation for 762 Dogs. We called that morning and miraculously were able to get the three of them in; our girls had a great time playing and we got to hike an epic mountain!

Mt. Rundle, was a beast. We dropped the girls off at aprox. 7 am and needed to pick them up again no later than 5pm, so for a trail that typically takes hikers 8:45 hours, we had under 8 from car to summit and back- parked just about a mile away from the trailhead down by the river. We just about ran to the top reaching the rocky pre-summit in about 3.5 before the weather turned quite bad forcing us to break and make some decisions. The formerly clear and radiating day turned quickly to dark and stormy skies featuring downpour and hail in a matter of moments, the wind violent enough for us to seek shelter behind some of the bigger rocks. We debated continuing the climb, waiting and watching the weather, or turning here. We aspired to make it up to the dragons back and the true summit only a 1/2 mile or so from where we were. Gut wrenchingly, we decided to turn around though we would have preferred to wait and see if it turned to finish, but ultimately we were really grateful for the dog daycare and didn't want to be disrespectful by making them wait for us. The views were epic even not fully at the summit and we were pretty wrecked by the time we got back down - you know how the trail feels like it adds a mile or two when you're tired and trying to get back to your vehicle.

Pit stops:

Lake Louis is a tourist mecca but not super dog friendly and very challenging- we made a pit stop after paid parking hours and did a short walk but just found, albeit very beautiful, very crowded for us.

We enjoyed our time so much we actually could not leave and stayed in Banff an extra day. We absolutely loved it here.

Happy Adventures, with love and gratitude -

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