Three Wonderful 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 showing our little dog was safe to go, so we drove into Canada and discovered three wonderful National Parks, now among our favorites.

We were fortunate to spend two nights in beautiful Yoho National Park in British Columbia, Canada. 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 made all our senses thrill. Yoho National Park is small and has few visitors by comparison to nearby Revelstoke and Glacier, but Yoho is breathtakingly beautiful.

On our first day at Yoho we took an early morning moderate hike down a mountain, about five miles roundtrip. Our destination was Wapta Falls, but we had no idea what to expect. To us the trail seemed  very steep in parts but really worth the effort because the waterfall had spent centuries to cut through enormous rocks of granite and was very, very 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 appreciating the scenery and capturing perfect photo spots. We spent time at Yoho Visitor Center. We had lunch at the lovely Emerald Lake with the little Swiss chalet restaurant in the background while 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!!!  (I would not dare sit on a rock like this in Texas!)

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In the afternoon our hike led us to the huge but narrow Takakkaw Falls.  Although we were exhausted by then, the three mile round-trip hike was on level ground, thank goodness. 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, however the Golden Community Campground nearby did not offer much except its location and loud train whistles during the night.

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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: Mt. Revelstoke National Park and Glacier National Park.  Luckily we reserved ahead and got the last spot during this Canada Day July holiday weekend when it seems all of British Columbia is traveling, like Fourth of July vacationers in the USA.  Canyon Hot Springs RV Park is a BEAUTIFUL setting…like gardens that surround European castles with huge hemlock and cedar forests and lush under-story of ferns. Large, grassy, level grounds for all kinds of camping vehicles are near a natural hot springs pool which many enjoyed each day. Our Internet barely worked, but we have weened ourselves from it while enjoying out of doors.

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Established in 1914 Mt. 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 multi-colored wildflowers in prolific bloom. Trails are easy and sunny and lead through many delightful photo spots and wide-open views. It is a pleasant day in nature. There are boardwalks through wetlands with unusual vegetation and many kinds of migratory birds…a paradise for ornithologist amateurs.

Traveling a bit Easterly from Revelstoke we delighted in finding totally different scenery, protected as Glacier National Park. The highway led us through steep narrow valleys as we gazed upward to giant peaks. Glacier has great icefields which have only recently begun to shrink with the warming of our earth. We found the inland rainforests such a wondrous contrast.  Some of the best deep powder snow-skiing in North America is in these mountains. This park is 521 square miles in size.

5 GLACIER NP CANADA (Rogers Pass Visitor Center SMALL

We also spent the next day at Glacier,a thickly forested park with beautiful hikes, mostly very difficult. Starting our day was The Rogers Pass Discovery Center and Museum was helpful and very interesting. Their friendly staff offered enticing and informative information. We watched a film about bears, which convinced us not to take food on hikes ever again!

We enjoyed an easy hike on boardwalks through the only non-coastal 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 these unusual rock mounds and observing the tiny vegetation growing on the surface. How difficult life is for some species!

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Our favorite hike was through the historic site of the Victorian Era Hotel from 1880’s 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 difficult, steep path beside the river hoping to view the Glacier waterfall miles above us. We made it about 7 miles roundtrip, but that was only about halfway to the actual glacier. Hiking in this high altitude was a challenge but very beautiful. We found rocks for resting along the way and took it slowly. Sadly, almost no glaciers are left in this Canadian Glacier National Park and most snow has melted except in high mountains.  We happened to be there during a terrible heatwave which was very unusual for Canada, but it only lasted a few days.

If you plan a trip there early spring is the time to make reservations for hotels and campgrounds. You will enjoy some of the most spectacular scenery in North America, capturing memories that will be treasures ever after.