Glacier National Park and the Canadian Rockies

Many people asked us how we heard of the places we were visiting while we were in Canada, and all I could say was that I’ve dreamt of these places, these clear blue green lakes, and these enormous jagged peaks since I first set eyes on them in my travel magazines back in high school (possibly middle school!). How did I know about Lake O’Hara? Gosh, it’s been a subject of my dreams for years!

It all started on August 3rd when we flew into Calgary on a red eye, picked up our rental car at 2 AM and headed out for Glacier National Park, Montana. We pulled into the park for an early breakfast, paid way too much money for the first couple days groceries because it was our only option, and hiked 10 miles round trip (on two hours sleep none the less) to Iceburg Lake in the Many Glacier area north of St. Mary. Not long before the lake, there was a bull moose at the side of the trail. That was a nice surprise!2015-08-23_00012015-08-23_0003
2015-08-23_00042015-08-23_00052015-08-23_00022015-08-23_00062015-08-23_0007Morning rush hour traffic in Glacier National Park. 2015-08-23_0008

The next day we ventured south to the Two Medicine Lake are and hiked about 13.5 miles round trip to Upper Two Medicine Lake and No Name Lake. I kept imagining a bear popping out of the bush, but we were safe! The Reynold’s Creek fire prohibited us from venturing any further west from our campground on the Going-to-the-Sun Road, however, both the Many Glacier area and the Two Medicine Lake area were more than we could have asked for as far as great hiking and beautiful scenery. We saw another moose at the far end of Upper Two Medicine Lake as soon as we got there. We finished off our hike that day watching the fire burn across St. Mary Lake along the sides of the mountains, and as is tradition, we devoured an ice-cream sandwich with a view!


My partner in crime, my forever adventure partner, I’m so thankful to have someone that allows me to boggle him down with all of my dreams of travel to places around the world. Wherever will I force you to next??2015-08-23_0012

The color of the water is no joke. It left us captivated for two weeks still not believing that it’s possible for water to be that pretty!2015-08-23_00132015-08-23_0014

We saw three smaller bighorn sheep at Two Medicine Lake just off the parking lot. This one knows how to follow traffic signs. 2015-08-23_0015

Off to Canada! From St. Mary we drove up through Waterton Lakes National Park. It was quite stormy and we had a ways to go before stopping for the night in Radium Hot Springs, B.C., so we did a couple different drives and short hikes this day, along with some viewpoints along the road. We stopped in some ridiculously cute towns on our way up north, and made note of Fernie as a place to come back to, among many other places. Seems there’s lots of hiking and lots to see in this area, and the people are so unbelievably sweet!


We had a particularly late dinner this night before going to the hot springs to soak after about 25 miles of hiking in Glacier in just two days. It was still really light out in this picture below, but I think it was 9 o’clock. It totally threw us off!2015-08-23_0020

We drove up through Kootenay National Park after our night in Redstreak Campground and we stopped at a few beautiful locations along the way. Tonight is our first night in Lake O’Hara, so we took it easy knowing the next two days of hiking are going to be intense! We look forward to traveling to Kootenay in the future, as we had to pass up many worthy long day hikes since we were on a tight schedule that day.


Let me tell you more about Lake O’Hara, and I hope to do it justice. In the vicinity, there is a lodge (ching ching!) and a backcountry campground, albeit luxurious for a backcountry campground. There are also staff headquarters and a small store with delicious snacks where they hold talks or musical entertainment a couple nights a week. This place is a dream. First off, they only let in so many people to hike every day, and once you’re in, they only let you stay for three nights. I had to call in three months to the day of our first night there and I had to cross my fingers that I got through because the spots usually fill up in just an hour of open phone lines and if that happens you’re out of luck. You get your bus ticket, your campground reservation, and you park in a lot not far from Field and Lake Louise. The school bus takes you with all your camping gear and brings you up the dirt fire road 10 km to the campground. There’s an area with picnic tables, a rough bathroom/kitchen sink area, bear lockers, etc. This is basically like the mess hall at camp. It was seriously like being at camp. Very neat, you meet some great people, most of whom were shocked two people from Boston were there with them. You hike up the fire road a bit more and you make it to the lake, as well as the lodge, and the day shelter with the yummy carrot cake. From there, the area is littered with trails. That first night we were able to complete the circuit around the lake because it stays light out so late. We were able to catch a talk from a naturalist in the area about the life of animals and plants during the harsh wintertime. We learned quite a bit about the flora and fauna which was quite helpful in the following days!


I mean, c’mon, that water!

The first full day we chose to do the alpine circuit. It’s a very steep climb up through the Wiwaxy Gap, then you make your way back towards Lake Oesa and Lake Victoria, along the Yukeness Ledges (yes, a steep drop off…), back to the Opabin Plateau with various other gorgeous lakes, up to All Soul’s Point, before descending back into the forest on the opposite side of Lake O’Hara. We saw many pika (seriously, look at this creature), and I wanted to take one home. We saw a lot of ground squirrels, and chipmunks, and chunky little furry marmot! It was beyond my imagination…


On our second full day there we decided to hike back to Lake MacArthur, but before doing so we saw a couple of hikers go into an area that is limited by a daily quota of three groups. We were the third on the list so we decided why not. Little did we know that we would be doing another mountain the size of the two we did yesterday, so switchbacks, here we come! It felt like we were on top of the world up on the Odaray Highline and The Grand View. A grand view it was as the wind whipped through us and the air got colder and we were in line with the glaciers. We had an amazing view of Lake MacArthur and where we would be hiking from there, so we descended and continued on. Today we saw some of the same animals, as well as a fisher which was very catlike. Super cute. We saw some mountain goats climbing up along the steep cliffs, too. At the end of this night we listened to a great folk singer from Field who sings about the train history of the area which is really fascinating. If you ever get a chance, look up the Spiral Tunnel in Field and learn about some great train history. This singer was great and we learned so much from his brilliant way of telling the stories.


Well, we logged another 25 miles or so here, and it was super sad to leave Lake O’Hara the next morning on the school bus but our time was up. Until next time… there WILL be a next time!2015-08-23_0053


Once we departed the parking lot for O’Hara, we explored a bit of Yoho National Park. We’d love to come back here someday too because we didn’t have enough time!


Our next destination was Banff National Park and Lake Louise. After leaving Lake O’Hara, it was really hard to match up with the expectations That had been set. So many people, lots of tour buses, and we decided the only way to get away from the people was to hike some more. These were still our “break days” but we did some small hikes around Banff town, walked about town and enjoyed our campground at Two Jack. It was also nice to take showers after not having any for three days, let’s be honest!


At Lake Louise, we knew we needed to get there before the bus crowds (the picture below was from a quick stop we made there earlier in the week), so we did just that and hikes up to the Lake Agnes Tea House, Big Beehive, and back a few kilometers to the Plain of Six Glaciers and the Abbott Pass viewpoint (from this viewpoint, you can see a hut that is accessible from Lake O’Hara. A part of me wanted to hike right up that glacier and go back to where we were a couple days prior! We made friends with a squirrel trying to get a share of our trail mix and got some fun pictures of him on the bench with us.

2015-08-23_00632015-08-23_00622015-08-23_00642015-08-23_0065In the distance, you can see the lake, and WAY at the far end of the lake is the lodge, and the parking lot where we started this hike.2015-08-23_0066To cap off the day, we drove up the road to Moraine Lake, another place with hoards of people. We waited until days end to do this so we could at least have some peace there! We climbed up and enjoyed the view from the “rock pile”. The hikes around this area are limited to groups of four or more because of the grizzly activity in the area. If we had another full day we would have grouped up with some other hikers and done some trails through the valley because we’ve read so much about it. Next time!2015-08-23_0067


Off to our last stop, Jasper National Park, we drove up the Icefields Parkway and made a few stops along the way. The parkway was longer than anticipated, so it was another rest day with some driving. There were a couple worthy stops if only for a short period of time. We also stopped in at the Icefields Center for a hot minute and realized it was too much of a madhouse, before we walked across the way to the Athabasca Glacier, receding at an alarming rate.



Maligne Lake is another one of those places at which you want to arrive early. That we did. We got there for sunrise and hiked up to Bald “Hill” before coming down and looping around to Moose Lake. So often lakes and places are named after an animal and you never actually see that animal there, but we saw SIX moose at Moose Lake and it’s like they just kept coming out of the woodwork. They had their midday lunch and swim in the lake and then wandered off an hour later. A beautiful creature to watch for sure!


Our last day was going to be pretty cold and rainy (we got lucky with such beautiful weather the whole time) so we hit up Maligne Canyon in the rain before packing up camp and heading out a day early. We ventured east towards Edmonton and stayed overnight in a hotel (fun splurge!), before making our way to Calgary and the airport late the next night. I think at that point we weren’t very disappointed to have a nice cozy bed, a shower without flip-flops and a hefty complimentary breakfast the next day. We had earned it!


We got to ride this beauty into Logan Airport and it was so much fun! What a great surprise!2015-08-23_0084








Add a comment...

Your email is never published or shared. Required fields are marked *

  • Lisa May Proulx

    Amazing journey! Beautiful pictures!!ReplyCancel

  • Ann Pitt

    Thanks, Chelsea! I feel like I just had some travels through you! Beautiful!!!ReplyCancel

  • Maureen Ty

    Absolutely breathtaking! Thank you for sharing Chelsea.ReplyCancel

  • Ashley Lloyd

    Looks like such a fantastic trip! I’m originally from Canada and I really miss all of that GREEN everywhere!ReplyCancel

  • Ashley Lloyd

    Looks like such a fantastic trip! I’m originally from Canada and I really miss all of that GREEN everywhere!ReplyCancel

  • Amber Gregory

    AHHHHH! Love these so much! I was really excited that you were one of the 5 posts above mine on the Rising Tide blog post because I’d get to look at these gorgeous images. Travel is the best.ReplyCancel

  • Amber Gregory

    AHHHHH! Love these so much! I was really excited that you were one of the 5 posts above mine on the Rising Tide blog post because I’d get to look at these gorgeous images. Travel is the best.ReplyCancel

  • Monashee Alonso

    Stunning! What an amazing adventure… I love that you knew it before you had been. I am in Canada, but I haven’t explored this area, and I love seeing it through your eyes.ReplyCancel

  • Chloe Minyon

    Absolutely stunning!ReplyCancel