The Canadian Rockies -Kamloops, Whistler

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Note : If haven’t checked out our previous story on Jasper National Park, Click Here.

Kamloops

Kamloops Downtown
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Situated at the junction of the North and South Thompson Rivers in the Thompson Valley, Kamloops is the second largest city in the British Columbia Interior with a growing population of 90,000 people. We did not spend much time here, just took an overnight stay to break our 13 hour road trip to Whistler into 2 parts. However, if you’re spending time here you can check out their tourism page for more.

It was a rainy day when we got here, it was not too cold, however the clouds dropped to almost an average building height (a regular occurrence in this part of the world if you’ve read my previous posts). If one happens to drive on a hill or a mountain during this weather, you’d see the clouds beside you, or probably drive above them, a similar experience to that of an airplane.

The surrounding landscapes are similar as our previous destinations, lush mountains and snowy tress all around, however they looked completely different thanks to the weather, almost liking getting a makeover. It’s not the same, but actually just the same.

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Kamloops downtown from the top of a hill

Kamloops is comparatively a much bigger town compared to our previous destinations, or probably can be called a small city. It has a river going through it, which allows it to have a beautiful waterfront and a small artificial pebble beach. Right opposite the waterfront is a beautiful park. There’s some really nice boutiques to shop from in the downtown area, and a really cool bar right opposite the waterfront where I got to watch some NBA action while chugging a lot of beer.

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The Kamloops Waterfront

After Kamloops, we were off to Whistler. Honestly, Whistler was the most beautiful place for me and I could have done with staying here for an extra night or even two.

Whistler Blackcomb

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Whistler is a town north of Vancouver, British Columbia, that’s home to Whistler Blackcomb, one of the largest ski resorts in North America. Whistler Mountain (2,182 meters) and Blackcomb Mountain (2,284 meters), the two peaks that rise above Whistler Village, boast some of the best skiing in North America.

Fun Fact : The Whistler Blackcomb resort’s combined skiable terrain tops 3,307 hectares with more than 200 runs accessed by 37 lifts.

Indeed, there is too much to cover in one day, which is why many visitors plan to spend a week or so on the slopes. Thanks to summer skiing opportunities on Blackcomb’s Horstman Glacier, the Whistler Blackcomb resort also offers the longest ski season of any resort in Canada.

Some hotels provide ski-in access to the two mountains, and multiple restaurants and village eateries are located within ski-boot walking distance of the gondola base (with ski racks set up outside the door and warming fireplaces inside). Snowmobile trips and heli-skiing are also popular winter pastimes at the Whistler Blackcomb resort, and for those traveling with kids, the Coca-Cola Tube Park offers no end of downhill fun.

Besides glacier skiing, in summer, the mountains are busy with hikers, as well as mountain bikers who take to the challenging trails of Whistler Mountain Bike Park. When riding the chairlifts, keep an eye out for bears ambling along the mountain trails in search of berries.

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Overview :

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  • Peak 2 Peak Gondola : Stunning 360-degree views of Whistler Village, mountain peaks, lakes, glaciers and forests. Ride the special glass-bottom gondola for a bird’s-eye view of the forest
  • Shopping : Whistler is a shopper’s paradise, especially for any kind of winter sport equipment or apparel. Spend days browsing the neighbourhoods for fine artwork and fashion, jewellery, the latest outdoor sportswear and equipment, and luxury items – or simply drop in for essential groceries and gifts.
  • Ziplining : Fly through the forest on an exhilarating high wire adventure – no experience required. Glide over spectacular creeks and through majestic old-growth trees on a guided tour. Learn about Whistler’s ecology and wildlife. Feel free as a bird with high quality safety systems and expert supervision.
  • Skiing and snowboarding : Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains are a skierֹs dream destination, the ultimate in big mountain experiences. Over 8,100 acres of snow-covered slopes, 16 alpine bowls, 3 glaciers, world-class terrain parks and 200+ marked trails. Enjoy easy access to the base Village with accommodation, shops and an unbeatable après-ski scene located slopeside.
  • Whistler Mountain Bike Park : The ultimate gravity-fed downhill biking experience, drawing mountain bikers from across the world. All levels and abilities catered to with four mountain zones, green trails, technical double blacks, jump trails and more.
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A corner of The Whistler Village
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Whistler Town is divided into two parts :

1. The Upper Village or Upper Whistler :

Whistler has a local population of approximately 10000 people. If you want to live in a proper hotel, head to The Upper Whistler, you’d find The Fairmont, The Four Seasons, etc.

2. The Lower Village or Lower Whistler :

The Lower Whistler is where lies The Whistler Village. A lot of lodges, and some really luxurious ones are to be found in this area. All the sightseeing, shopping and the activities are located in the Whistler Village. It also includes a lot of really good cafes, restaurants, bars and clubs. It basically is the place to be for tourists. There’s Gondola rides to the mountains, ziptreks, bike rides, quad bikes, skiing, snowboarding, cycling on the mountains and terrains, etc.

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Just outside the boundaries of The Whistler Village

Peak 2 Peak Gondola

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The best and a must do activity here is the Gondola ride which further connects to the Peak2Peak Gondola. How it works is you take a gondola ride from ground level to the peak and then you walk to a separate station and take a second Gondola from that peak.

Fun Fact : The Peak2Peak Gondola is 4.4 kms in length, supported by just 4 pillars that are to the very ends. There are no columns or pillars in between whatsoever. The views are absolutely incredible and if you have time, wait for a car that has a transparent glass floor. Those circulate every 30 minutes.

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View from within the Peak2Peak Gondola

At the peak, loop-hiking trails introduce the alpine terrain. There is also a tea hut for warm ups, as the temperatures can be cooler at higher elevations. In winter, skiers and snowboarders make use of the Peak 2 Peak gondola to hop between runs on Blackcomb and Whistler.

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Mountain Biking & Other Sports in Whistler

Check out this video by Berm Peak that talks about why Whistler Bike Park is a big deal!

Mountain biking is certainly the most popular summer sport in Whistler Village, and visitors will see legions of armor-clad bikers heading up the slopes by chairlift to Whistler Mountain Bike Park. But the region offers many other adrenaline-fuelled activities, too. Ziplining is one of the most thrilling, and zipliners do reach highway speeds while flying across forested valleys.

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Whistler Sliding Centre and the Peak2Peak Gondola Station

Another high-speed option is at the Whistler Sliding Centre bobsleigh and skeleton track. Built for the Olympics, the center is also open for self-guided tours. More local thrills are available in the form of bungee jumping above the Cheakamus River, ripping along logging trails on off-road vehicles, and rafting the high waters of the spring freshet.

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Ziplining

Check out this youtube video by Earth Titan

Hiking & Climbing

British Columbia is renowned for its many hiking trails, and Whistler is no different. Trails range from easy nature walks around Lost Lake to elevation-intense mountain climbs. A well-traveled network of hikes radiates from the lookouts atop Whistler Mountain. Gondolas take hikers above the tree line, where the trails are especially lovely during alpine wildflower season.

Read More : Top-Rated Hikes in Whistler

After our time in Whistler, we set out for the beautiful city of Vancouver, where after a brief stay, The Alaskan Cruises awaited us! Stay tuned, to read about our experience in Vancouver.

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The Canadian Rockies – Calgary, Banff National Park

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Calgary

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View from the flight between Calgary and Seattle

Note : If you want to read an overview of my journey through The Canadian Rockies, you can check out my previous article here.

My Canadian Journey started from Seattle. and taking a small flight to Calgary. Calgary does not have much to offer.

Simple flat lands and a downtown area. And there’s nothing too impressive about the downtown area, and there’s grasslands but scarce in trees. Getting lunch in Calgary, we set off to our first main location and the start of the rockies, Banff.

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Banff National Park

Overview :

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  • The Banff Town : Walk through the picturesque town of Banff and soak in the hustle bustle of the area. There are plenty of restaurants and cafes to grab lunch here.
  • The Bow Falls : The Bow Falls is not too extraordinary, a simple height of 10 – 12 meters. What makes it really beautiful is the vegetation around and the crystal clear blue water. The highlight for us was a beautiful sunny day at around 14 – 15 degrees.
  • Gondola Ride to The Sulphur Mountain Range : The main attraction being The Samsun Peak, the tallest amongst this range. There’s two ways to go on this peak, one can take the Gondola, or trek all the way to the top! It would make for a beautiful 4 – 5 hour trek!
  • Short Boat Ride on Lake Minnewanka : Minnewaka is the largest lake in Banff. Expect incredible mountain scenery, rocky cliffs,  and emerald green waters. If you’re lucky you might spot grizzly bears and bald eagles too!
  • Moraine Lake : Moraine Lake is a glacially fed lake in Banff National Park, 14 kilometres outside the Village of Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada.
  • Lake Louise : The water in the lake is different shades of blue, thanks to the varied depths and plants beneath, and beyond the lake are some frozen waterfalls, that are really beautiful. (Check out in detail in the next post)
  • Emerald Lake : Although a part of Yoho National Park, it is only 73kms from Banff and really beautiful. (Check out in detail in the next post)
  • Johnston Canyon: Situated half an hour away from Banff on Bow Valley Parkway, this is a really nice, albeit crowded, hike through a gorge. It’s an easy trail to the Lower Falls, and if you want moderate exercise, make your way to the Upper Falls. (Check out in detail in the next post)

Author’s Note :

The Banff Town

Banff Town at 7 am

Banff is almost a 2 hour journey from Calgary. This route isn’t the most scenic through the journey, but there are some beautiful landscapes and you’d very soon realize there’s something beautiful coming your way. Banff is a really small town, located in Alberta, within the Banff National Park and has a lot of character and color. It is surrounded by snow clad mountains on all sides, and the weather there is anywhere between 10 to -25 degrees. We were lucky enough to go during a warmer season and it wasn’t too windy and a decent jacket did the trick for us.

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Banff Avenue at 4pm

There is one main avenue, known as The Banff Avenue, all the gift shops, restaurants, other shops, hotels and the local school are all on this avenue only. Going straight on this route takes you to The Fairmont Hotel and The Bow Falls. The population of Banff is anywhere between 2000 – 2500 people and one must obtain the permission of the local body before finding a place for residence here. The whole town runs solely on tourism and hence you can expect good hospitality and warm people. We stayed at The Ptarmigan Inn, one of the many hotels located on the Banff Avenue.

Fun Fact : All the crossroads in Banff are named on the local animals found in the area!

The Bow Falls

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The Bow Falls

The Bow Falls is not too extraordinary, a simple height of 10 – 12 meters. What makes it really beautiful is the vegetation around and the crystal clear blue water (which doesn’t seem as special once you go ahead on this trip). The highlight for us was a beautiful sunny day at around 14 – 15 degrees.

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Sulphur Mountains

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View from the gondola

Going forward from the Bow Falls, is another tourist attraction known as The Sulphur Mountains, and the main attraction being The Samsun Peak, the tallest amongst this range. There’s two ways to go on this peak, one can take the Gondola, or trek all the way to the top! It would make for a beautiful 4 – 5 hour trek! Going up from the Gondola, the view is just breathtakingly magnificent. It isn’t too cold on the top, but its very windy and that makes all the difference. One has to climb a total of 257 Steps to get to the top of the Samsun Peak.

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So on top of the peak is a small hut where an old lady used to live all by herself and there’s an exhibition of all of her tools.

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The Sulphur Mountain Range

Lake Minnewanka

Lake Minnewanka
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From the mountains, coming back down, we set off towards Lake Minnewanka. It is a huge lake, and a man made glacier lake about 28kms in length and 2kms wide. And the water in summer is around 4 degrees, making it unavailable for water sports. There is small ferry ride on the lake, with the guide telling you about local animals and traditions, and the history behind the great Banff Fire.

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Devil’s Gap at the end of the Minnewanka Lake

Devil’s Gap is a mysterious place. It is also a secretly beautiful place that must be seen to be understood.

Imagine a deep amphitheatre flanked by soaring mountains that trace a dark curving line against the bright blue sky. Green prairie land peers through in the far distance to the east. Picture the bald eagles that are nesting there, the Fairholme wolf pack roaming near the south shore and the occasional bear scaling the slopes of Saddle’s Peak.

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One part of the Devil’s Gap is a glacial path that winds through the far east end of Lake Minnewanka, near Ghost Lakes. The whole area is situated at the lake’s deepest point, 152 metres, and you’d have to travel 30 kilometres deep into the Canadian Rockies backcountry to reach it on foot.

A Still of the beautiful Moraine Lake
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Johnston Canyon

From Banff Town, we set out to our next location which is Lake Louise. It is a beautiful 2 hour drive through the National Highway 1. On the way, we took a pitstop at the Johnston Canyon. By this time, the weather had changed significantly, the clouds came further down, covering half of the mountains and leaving the other half barely visible.

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At the Johnston Canyon, there is a trek to get to the waterfall, divided into two parts :

1. The Upper Falls : This is a 1.5-2 mile upward trek and takes about a couple of hours to get to the top of the fall.

2. The Lower Falls : Less time consuming and easier, and the most ideal for tourists who are short on time.

Due to time constraints, we ended up doing only the lower Falls. It was still a very pretty sight, the fall was about 20-25 meters in height, and one had to enter into a small cave, about 2-3 people at a time, and enjoy the beautiful mist of the fall. I found this really nice video from ‘The Flying Dutchman’ of the Johnston Canyon, click here to see it!

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The route all throughout the journey, is so beautiful and so breathtaking, it just stumps you out. It is said the closer one is to nature, the more in touch he/she is to his/her soul and inner peace. Having experienced that in real, I cannot help but agree with it toally!

It just somehow manages to touch a nerve in your mind that’s usually as intact and out of sight as a bee in a garden of flowers.

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The route along the way!

The mountains, half covered with lush pine trees and the other covered in snow enveloped by a thick group of clouds and add small lakes and streams, with their crystal clear turquoise water to make The Complete Package. I could write a 1000 word essay on it and use the most expensive camera to click pictures, but nothing could do justice to what was experienced by the naked eye.

Fun fact : Alongside roads, you’d also find tracks for the the freight trains and passenger trains for tourists, provided by the Canadian Government for the Canadian Rockies package. These trains range from 4 upto 15 nights covering parts or the whole of the rockies, but are comparatively more expensive than normal road travel.

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Emerald Lake

The Emerald Lake on a bright sunny day in all it’s glory as captured by Audley.

The Emerald Lake in itself is very beautiful. Mountains in the background, the water a beautiful shade greenish blue. The still water makes it look lake it is one big gemstone. During a colder day, it is very common to see a thin sheet of ice covering the water beneath.

Here’s a video to show y’all how it was like a cold rainy day!

The Emerald Lake on a rainy day!
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Find out our experience at Lake Louise and Jasper National Park in our next post!

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The Canadian Rockies – An Overview

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Usually, A trip to Canadian Rockies starts and ends between Banff and Whistler, however the nearest airports to them would be Calgary and Vancouver, and takes about 10-12 days. However, if one is short on time, or wants to explore other parts of Canada, they can cover the whole thing in 7-8 days too. However, to most people, It doesn’t do justice to the expensive flights to go for a period of a week or so. What a normal Tour Operator normally does is start at Calgary, drive you to Banff and across the Red line to Jasper. From Jasper to Whistler is a long 16-18 hour drive, and hence they prefer taking an unnecessary stop at Kamloops. Kamloops doesn’t have much to offer, although I’ll be mentioning things about the city in the following post. So thats basically wasting (not exactly waste because the drives are very scenic, but they get a little old with each day) 2 days in driving.

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Picture Courtesy : National Geographic Expeditions

My ideal travel plan would be : Land in Calgary – Drive to Lake Louise and stay at The Fairmont (Which is also a UNESCO World Heritage Sight) – Drive to Jasper and watch the lakes and falls quickly and then drive back to Calgary and fly to Vancouver – Drive and Stay at Whistler for 3-4 days – Fly back to Vancouver. Efficient planning can help you complete it in 8-9 days. (NOTE : This plan is only for those who want to save time, but isn’t something I would personally recommend.)

One of the most memorable things for me for this trip was the roadtrip. The landscapes so majestic, The nature so beautiful and The weather so perfect! This place makes for an amazing roadtrip, where one is looking for peace of mind and gets lost in nature. You will also find a lot of hikes and trails through your journey or camping sites, if you’re looking for some adventure.

Also, One can see grizzly bears and other animals walking/running along the roads. Some flowers and herbs grow only besides the roads, that make a good feast for these bears before they go into hibernation. The most ideal time to go would be between May and July, Although it starts pouring by June and the cold winters start by August all the way upto March. Here’s an overview of our trip there :

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The Start :

Calgary

The most logical place to start a road trip to Banff and Jasper is Calgary. It is well connected domestically and internationally and is only a short 2 hour drive from the fairytale town of Banff. You could choose to spend a night here or head directly towards Banff. I shall be posting a detailed excerpt of all the locations shortly and add quick links for y’all to navigate through it all, so stay tuned.

Banff National Park

Photo by Marlon Martinez on Pexels.com
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Places to Visit :

Jasper National Park

Places to visit :

The Athabasca Skywalk

Kamloops

Situated at the junction of the North and South Thompson Rivers in the Thompson Valley, Kamloops is the second largest city in the BC Interior with a growing population of 90,000 people. It has a peaceful waterfront and a small artificial pebble beach.

We did not spend much time here, just took an overnight pitstop to break our 13 hour road trip to Whistler into 2 parts. However, if you’re spending time here you can check out their tourism page for more.

Whistler

Peak2Peak Gondola Ride from afar

Whistler is a town north of Vancouver, British Columbia, that’s home to Whistler Blackcomb, one of the largest ski resorts in North America.

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Things to do :

Vancouver

  • Fly Over Vancouver
  • The Butchart Gardens
  • Capilano Suspense Bridge
  • Gas Town
  • Boating, Fishing and Yacht Charters
  • Nightlife
  • Stanley Park
  • Other things

In my following post, I’ll be mentioning my personal experience all throughout the trip. We also took The Alaskan Cruise after covering The Rockies!

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