Exploring a Sublime Strand of National Parks in the Canadian Rockies

Last year, Richard and Donna Apple decided to pursue what they’d been told was “the most beautiful scenery in the world” with a trip deep into the Canadian Rockies.

Ten thousand miles later, they weren’t disappointed.

The Apples, who live in Western Florida, packed up their fifth-wheel, grabbed their two golden retrievers, shrugged at some of the highest diesel fuel prices they’d ever seen, and let wanderlust lead the way.

Their destination: A dense strand of national parks that stretches northward across Western Canada like a string of pearls, including such gems as Banff, Kootenay, Yoho and Jasper National Parks.

The four-month journey took them deep into some of the most sublime, breathtaking scenery that the couple has witnessed in all their lives – ice-rimmed glaciers, emerald green lakes, sweeping forests, and steaming mineral hot springs.

They couldn’t take enough pictures, coming home with hundreds of images of a land of staggering natural grandeur.

Here, they share a few of those memorable sights – along with some travel tips – to whet your own wanderlust.

Their advice? Don’t miss it.

Canada’s Contiguous Western National Parks

Banff National Park, Alberta: Canada’s first national park has a little of everything – gleaming glaciers, dense forests, mineral hot springs, sweeping valleys and majestic mountains. The distinctive peacock-blue lakes are colored by glacial silt. Bonus Feature: Lake Louise.

Kootenay National Park, British Columbia: Located along the Western edge of the Rockies, Kootenay is the southernmost of the four parks that comprise the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks World Heritage Site, one of the largest protected areas in the world. The park features wild rivers, glaciers, rugged canyons and hot springs.

Yoho National Park, British Columbia: Bordered by Kootenay and Banff, Yoho is said to contain some of the most spectacular scenery in North America, including deep forests, ice-rimmed glaciers, high-mountain lakes and a rich vein of prehistoric fossils. It’s located on the western slope of the Continental Divide.

Jasper National Park, Alberta: Canada’s largest national park is home to glacial lakes, steaming hot springs, rugged mountain slopes and thousands of plant and animal species, including bear, elk, moose, caribou, big horn sheep and mountain goats. The park also boasts Athabasca Glacier, one of the largest, most accessible glaciers in the Rockies.

Donna Apple: “Neither of us grew up in families that had much to do with trailers or motorhomes. We just consider this another chapter in our life. We’ve done cruising the shoreline by boats, now we’re doing it by land.

“We’ve been at it for six years now. We’re semiretired, so we’re gone every summer for three to four months at a time – usually we pick a stationary spot, like meeting friends in the Carolinas, but once every so often we’ll tackle a bigger trip.

“We chose the Canadian Rockies based on the rave reviews about the pure beauty of it from others. There are four national parks clustered close together, so that was our destination.

“We left the last week of July and didn’t get home until the end of October. There were a lot of days when we didn’t go very far. (Their meandering route included North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Montana.) We finally reached Glacier National Park on Aug.10, and that’s where the trip really began.

“Once in Canada, we visited all the national parks – Yoho, Jasper, Banff, and Kootenay. They were absolutely worth it. The best way I can describe it is that when I thought I’d seen the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen, we would go around the corner and see something that beat it.

“The wildlife was wonderful. When you’re in the national parks, the speed limit is pretty slow and wildlife is abundant – it’s pretty common to see small traffic jams where people are stopping to look at the wildlife, which was actually pretty tame.

“We used to have a 30-foot fifth wheel before we bought this one, which we purchased with this trip in mind. Pulling up and down mountains, we knew we had to go small and light – that’s something I would strongly recommend to anyone.

“I would also go well-prepared with provisions because everything up there is more expensive. Fill up before you get into the country and fill up as little as you can while you’re there. At the time, diesel wound up being our largest expense on the whole trip.

“Also, if you have animals, just make sure you have proper documentation. And be sure that your vehicle is well-maintained for a trip like this. We were pleased to find that Canadian national parks were clean, the roads well-maintained. In generally, it was a more trusting environment than here in the states – lots of self-pay options, very pleasant, no problems whatsoever.”

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