Lake Louise, Jasper, Cascade Gardens, Athabasca Falls… you will inevitably find these in every 'Top Things To do in the Canadian Rockies” list. Sure, you really should go see them. Take a selfie, roll your eyes at a tourist or two, and check it off your bucket list. But oh, the crowds. Being an introvert (with anxiety, because introversion wasn't enough already), I tend to shy away from these bustling locations. I will certainly go see them, you know, just to say “I've been there”, but I know of many a place much less crowded, a lot more peaceful, and sometimes, I daresay, more beautiful than those you'll see on everyone's Instagram (yes Carol, we get you saw a mountain in the Rockies, they're literally everywhere, please stop). So if you're more of a lone wolf traveller and prefer not to get poked by countless selfie sticks, here are my 4 top locations you should see in the Canadian Rockies:
Giant Cedars Boardwalk Trail
This fairy-tale looking place resides in Revelstoke, British Columbia. There's no flashy entrance to lure you in, just a subtle sign on the road so it's easy to miss it if you're driving fast. Fun fact:
there's also a trail called “Skunk Cabbage trail” nearby (I haven't been but if you go…please tell me if it smells as bad as it sounds). I was with a local at the time so she knew exactly where to stop, and as soon as I stepped out of the car I knew I could happily spend my entire day there (or lifetime really). It was around 5 PM, and not a single soul could be seen aside from my friend and I. Not even a chirping bird. I actually don't recall seeing any wild animals there either, just the perfectly silent company of towering trees. The air was fresh and the leaves kept the sun at a comfortable glow. It was the kind of place you could just snuggle up against a tree with a book or sketchpad for hours. It was practically heaven. The boardwalk itself goes all around the cedars, and there are multiple signs and informational boards along the way. I honestly don't remember anything I read on them (I was too busy hugging the biggest Cedars), but I can assure you they were pretty interesting facts. All in all, if you like relaxing environments surrounded by nature, Giant Cedars Boardwalk trail in B.C is where you need to be.
You know how almost every place in West Canada looks like a postcard? Well, Herbert Lake is one of those places. About ten minutes drive north of the village of Lake Louise, you'll see a sign on the road pointing you towards this mostly hidden gem where you'll struggle between taking a million photos or simply standing in awe. The combination of rocky mountains, pine trees, and stunningly blue water give way to a breath-taking scene. Many recommend visiting Herbert Lake during the earliest hours of the morning for a unique sunrise reflection in the water, but I found the sunset view to be just as eye-watering. If you happen to be travelling with a tent, then rejoice, because nearby is the Herbert Campground for you to settle in overnight for that bright and early view of the lake. Herbert Lake is the epitome of the kinds of sceneries you will only find in the Canadian Rockies, and if nothing else, it sure makes for an impressive photo to drive your peers insane with envy (and who doesn't like that?).
If you happen to tour Banff National Park in Alberta, any brochure with “Top Things to Do in Banff” will most likely guide you to the famous Marble Canyon and equally popular Johnston Canyon. Don't get me wrong, they're both amazing places and you should definitely go see them for yourself. But beware, they're also tourist hotspots with a dedicated walkway encircling the entire canyon, where you'll likely bump shoulders and feel pressured to keep moving whenever you want to take a moment to admire the view. No matter what time of day I went to visit, there'd always be large tour groups, screaming kids, and people waiting for their turn to take an iconic photo. You could
go in winter for more privacy, but it may not be the safest thing to do unless you have the right gear for it. Fortunately, on one of my many road trips through Alberta, I stopped at a canyon which my friend, as a local, knew would be less populated at any given time. This was Mistaya Canyon. Sure, it doesn't extend as far as Johnston or Marble Canyon, but it's definitely a sight with the rare luxury of allowing you to stand in awe for as long as you want. Here there is no cement walkway restricting you to a path, although there is a bridge you can cross to either side of the canyon. You can choose to be as close or as far as you want from the water, and if you're feeling adventurous, you can keep walking down the river to see what else lies around the bend. This was by far my favourite Canyon in Banff. Amazing scenery, solitude, and the sound of rushing water to distract me from my anxious thoughts. Note: Do take bear spray with you as this is a wooded area, and if you're exploring Banff you should have bear spray with you anyway (or an annoying friend you can use as bait while you run).
Upper Kananaskis Lake
Okay, this one is definitely not a “secluded spot” where you can be left alone with your thoughts. However, the point of this post is to show you unforgettable places in the Canadian Rockies, and Upper Kananaskis Lake is definitely one of them. A popular place for canoes, kayaks, and paddleboards, this lake gave me a glimpse of what I imagined Vancouver was like (and it was
pretty similar). The commanding mountains and deep blue water just force you to stop in your tracks and pick up your jaw. Plus, if you're a hiker, this is the starting point for the 4km trail up to Rawson Lake (about 45 mins walk), another beauty that even has a little waterfall on the way. Aside from the tranquil waters and hiking trails, this lake is surrounded by sand for you to walk along or just laze around on under the sun. I didn't get to really sit and enjoy the ambience since I was on a mission to Rawson Lake, but if I could go back to any place in West Canada, it would be here.