A Postcard from the Canadian Rockies

The Canadian Rocky Mountains are stunning to behold. I have driven past them numerous times but have never previously stopped and stepped into their surrounding wilderness. This week, that finally changed.

Recently, we visited family in both Kelowna (BC) and Sherwood Park (AB). As a bonus, we were able to catch up with a close friend, from Beijing, who now lives in Edmonton (AB). When planning these visits, we took the plunge and booked time in Field, BC so that we could hike in Yoho National Park.

Yoho
The ‘Family (and Friend) Tour.’ Can you spot any familial resemblances?

The quaint town of Field has a population of 189. It doesn’t have a grocery store. It does, however, have a café, a bar/restaurant and many guesthouses. (In summer, book well in advance). Food and drink prices include a hefty tourist tax, but our accommodation price was fair, and the convenience high, so we were happy with this choice.

Field, BC – When the Welcome Sign mentions ‘groceries’…that’s code for ‘what you can pick up at the gas station, cafe or restaurant deli.’

For our first day ‘warm-up hike’, we walked around the nearby Emerald Lake and hiked uphill to Emerald Basin (10 km return trip). This hike is often known for spotting bears in the wild. To Richard’s disappointment, the bears did not seem to like my singing so did not come out to greet us (insert an immense sigh of relief here)!

Yoho
Emerald Basin: Practicing my ‘bear safety’…just in case!

For our second day, we completed a six-hour hike around the other side of Emerald Lake and up to Yoho Lake. It was a relatively steep climb to Yoho Pass (20 km round trip to Yoho Lake including our extra stroll around Emerald Lake). This hike brought us to a height of 1,815 meters (530-meter elevation gain). Our map showed two red Adirondack chairs awaiting us at the top of the climb.

Yoho
I have no idea how these chairs were hauled up the steep ascent, but I appreciated them immensely.

There is a much easier way to hike to Yoho Lake (4.6 km from the Takakkaw Falls Parking Lot). But why would I change my pattern and do anything the easy way? Our extended hike allowed us incredible views of several snow-capped mountains and spectacular waterfalls. It also allowed us to travel diverse terrain, including roaring waters, vivid wildflowers, lush silent forests….and narrow, rocky paths. We also crossed a flat delta formed by the glacier waters. Rocks and gravel have been deposited upstream to create an alluvial fan while the finer silt has been carried to the lake’s edge onto the delta. This formation of an alluvial fan on top of a delta is unusual in the Rocky Mountains, where both processes seldom occur together. Scientists predict that this fan will gradually continue to grow until the lake is completely filled. Our entire hike was a potent reminder of the immense power of ice and water.

Yoho
Both routes that we hiked were part of a series of trails in Yoho that connect together…. many above the tree-line. Established in 1886, Yoho National Park covers 1,310 square km (507 square miles) on the western slopes of the Rocky Mountains in British Columbia. It borders Banff National Park and Lake Louise to the east and Kootenay National Park to the south. “Yoho” is the Cree word for “awe/wonder” which is immensely fitting. Although we had only allowed for two days of hiking on this trip, we were delighted with the trails that we chose. We have already made a pact to return for an extended stay next summer.


If you are looking to combine travel with a brilliant place to hike, ski or simply soak in stunning scenery, the Canadian Rockies offer something for everyone.

91 Replies to “A Postcard from the Canadian Rockies”

  1. Yoho! What gorgeous scenery! How nice that you were able to combine your hiking trip with family and friend visits. I’m a little curious… why are you planning on returning in summer? I would think that spring or fall would be less crowded and still offer lovely weather (and, maybe a bit cooler to hike in).

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  2. Hi, Janis – Great question! Travel Guides recommend anywhere from late June/early July to mid-September for hiking in Yoho. The higher trails are not accessible before or after that. After mid-September, the days are not usually warm enough to dry out the trail, and it refreezes overnight, getting icy and slick in places. We found the mid-August temperatures perfect for our hikes. In the morning and evenings, coats and heavy sweaters were common. If you and your husband are interested in this trip….it is only another 8-hour drive to our place! 🙂

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    1. Hi, Janet – Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting. I greatly appreciate it. BTW – If you ever do want to open even a seasonal restaurant, the little town of Field (or surrounding area) could greatly use your cooking skills!

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    1. On my first try the system came up and told me I was blocked from commenting here. I tried again and the comment went through. I didn’t receive your reply in my WP system so I’ve come back here to see if you answered. Sometimes your replies come through on the WP system, other times they don’t. I know not why…

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      1. Uggghhh!! Just when I think my WP site is running smoothly! I greatly appreciate this feedback, Ally. I meet with my WordPress Group tomorrow. I will check with them to see if they have any answers for this!

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      2. Donna, this time your replies came right through. 🤷‍♀️ Glad you liked the video. It makes me smile just to think about it. See ‘ya later, alligator!

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  3. Thank you Donna for bringing joy to my day with your beautiful photos of family and of course, the stunning Rockies. Your photos probably don’t do the Rockies justice but I’m still in awe of them. Canada, as you know is on our list so you have certainly whetted my appetite to visit. I love how you and Richard are showing us all how to enjoy our retirement. Have a beautiful day, my friend xx

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  4. Wow! Now that is just breathtaking, Donna! I don’t think I’d ever want to leave…but if I did, I’d have to take one of those red Adirondack chairs with me…they’re beautiful! Thanks for sharing your amazing photos. What a summer you’ve had and you deserve it!

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    1. Hi, Jill – Your comment made me smile! At first, I thought that the Park Rangers wouldn’t like anyone to ‘borrow’ the chairs. But then I thought that they would likely enjoy seeing a hiker trying to manoeuvre one of the chairs over 530 m down the zigzagging mountain trails! Thank you for your kind words! 🙂

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  5. Thanks, Donna, for sharing your recap and stunning photos. Great fitness level you have to do the hikes! The photos bring back fond memories of the Canadian Rockies for me. I’m wondering… what trekking/ hiking poles do you use and would you recommend them to others?

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    1. Hi, Natalie – Thank you for your kind words. I am not sure about my level of fitness. My true motivation is that I married an adrenaline junkie…so I do my best to keep up where I can! 🙂 On that note, I did splurge when buying my trekking poles (that is entirely unlike me)! I use Black Diamond Distance Carbon FLZ poles. They were pricey, but for me, they have been totally worth it. They are super lightweight (100% carbon fiber) and have a three-section foldable shaft that allows me to easily stash them into my backpack (which was a lifesaver on the Camino). They have awesome durability and an easy to use locking system. They came with interchangeable tips. That’s probably more than you wanted to know. For anyone doing lots of hiking and backpacking, I highly recommend them. They definitely made walking the Camino (and hiking in the Rockies) much easier!
      https://www.blackdiamondequipment.com/en_CA/trekking-poles/distance-carbon-flz-trekking-poles-BD112204_cfg.html

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    1. To entice you further, I should have included the picture of the SUP on Emerald Lake. I just had too many pics to choose from! I believe that you would love that trip, Terri. And if you do come out that way, please be sure to book in time to visit Vancouver Island as well!!

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  6. Donna, I haven’t been on a good mountain hike in quite a few years (last was Yosemite – the Picture of my blog!)…your pictures are inspiring me to plan something again. Our only Canadian hike has been Waterton, when we visited Glacier a few years ago. When I was much younger I did Banff and Jasper. I know… lots more of Canada to see!

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  7. Hi Donna! What a refreshing post with awesome photos. It’s been pretty hot here in Southern California (and yes, Thom and I are home in the desert for a week and it’s REALLY HOT!) so your photos looked lovely and cool. I am jealous with all the hiking you are able to do and it looks like you are having lots of fun too. ~Kathy

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  8. Hi, Anabel – I was hoping that you would read and comment on this post. I wondered if you had stopped in Field during your travels. As Field is sandwiched between Lake Louise and Golden (25 min. drive from Lake Louise) you likely passed it on the highway last year. And, as it is only 10 minutes from Emerald Lake, you definitely passed by it on your first trip to the Canadian Rockies. I highly recommend it for your next visit!

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  9. Hi Donna,
    I’ve been to the Rockies many times. My first time involved driving a huge truck full of stuff from Vancouver Island back to Ontario. It was the summer before my year in the Faculty of Education and I remember two things – the beauty of the Rockies and a fervent wish not to die by plummeting over the edge of those gorgeous mountains.
    Subsequent visits were when I was leading workshops and such in the area.
    What I’ve never done is hiked the Rockies and your post confirms that it’s something I definitely need to add to my list. Thanks.

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    1. Hi, Karen – I am immensely impressed that you drove a massive truck on those mountain roads — they can be very tricky at the best of times. I had stopped for coffee in Lake Louise and even stayed overnight in Banff previously. Getting out and hiking in the mountains was an exhilarating experience. I recommend it highly!

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  10. Hi Donna,
    Thank you for this excellent virtual tour of the Canadian Rockies. Excellent writeup and the stunning photos.
    Such trips and treks can be so soothing for both the mind and the body.
    If I come that side of the globe (post retirement), I will keep this in mind as a must-see destination.
    – Pradeep

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  11. Donna, I am not much of a mountain hiking gal, but that lake is just my style. I’m picturing myself and hubby out there on our tandem….ahh! Thanks for sharing this beautiful experience.

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    1. Hi, Suzanne – Thank you so much for commenting.The Canadian Rockies truly offer something for everyone. The entire area offers stunning views everywhere that you look….without needing to leave your chair, book or refreshing drink! 🙂 There are also super easy, flat walks and lakes to which you can drive right up. During our stay there, we saw all different kinds of people…many of them had no interest in hiking.

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  12. Was it very busy while you were there, Donna? You said you had to book accommodation quite far in advance, but I’m guessing there were not many visitors because there was not a huge choice of accommodation? Or was there? I guess there may have also been some day-trippers?
    Stunning scenery. Especially love the pine trees and the snow-capped mountains. The fresh air must have been wonderful to breath in.

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    1. Hi, Hugh – Good questions! One of the reasons that we chose to stay in Yoho National Park is that it offers stunning hikes while not having the same crowds as nearby Banff National Park or Lake Louise. Field is a tiny town found in the middle of Yoho. Its accommodations are limited because of its size. There are numerous other accommodations options for staying in Yoho including camping, backyard huts, hostels, lodges as well as staying in nearby towns of Lake Louise and Golden. The hikes that we chose drew in very few people when we were there. On our second day of hiking, we did not see one other person on our 2.5-hour ascent up the mountain. We did see a couple of others when we were climbing down…which did help with bear safety! 🙂

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      1. Oh, wow! It must have felt like you two were the only people on planet Earth. It’s amazing to think that there are still vast places on planet Earth where you could be the only people there. It’s a great way to connect with nature.
        Glad you never bumped into any bears, Donna. We once saw one when visiting Yosemite. It was a fleeting glance. We were in a car, and it quickly made a get away when it heard us roaring down the road. 😀

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  13. I’m so glad to read you didn’t take the easy way Donna! That just wouldn’t be like you at all. I love the views and the info about the hikes you took and I just adore the red chairs, what a great few days. I feel for Richard a little bit for not seeing any bears 🙂 One day I will get to this area!

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  14. Oh WOW, enjoyed seeing the pics! I knew you’d have to get a hike in 🙂 Do you worry about wild animals, have you all ever encountered any?

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    1. Hi, Clare – Thank you for stopping by, and for your kind words. The Canadian Rocky Mountains are much more beautiful than my smart phone (read here “its user”) could ever capture. If you get the chance to visit, I recommend it highly.

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  15. I have driven through Field many times but have never done either of the hikes you describe. However, I have hiked many times in the Rockies, especially in the areas around Banff and Jasper, and various sections of the southern slope of the Rockies ranging from Waterton Lakes Park up to Crowsnest Pass. I really love mountain hikes.

    Jude

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