In a year where international travel is virtually off the cards, it was pretty convenient that the Candian Rockies, one of my top bucket list destinations, lies a mere 8 hours away. We had planned our trip with Andy’s brother and his wife, but Covid-19 put its non-negotiable stamp on that. We were incredibly fortunate that two of our friends from Vancouver, Nick and Jocelyn, were at the last minute able to join us for what was inevitably going to be one of the best things we will do in Canada.
We broke up our drive to Jasper by spending the first night in Kamloops. We’d heard a bit about Kamloops, namely that it is Canada’s tournament capital and that not much else happens there. I had a fun fact about the cheerleading team, but I think by this stage we’d already lost interest. Things could have got ugly when our motel appeared closed and no one was answering the phone, but it turns out the receptionist had just popped out to get milk and her phone had died. Coffee at 5Bean the next morning had us seated next to some overly forthcoming anti-maskers, so we were pretty glad to hit the road not long after.
We had designated two nights in Jasper and four in Banff, with a night each in Blaeberry and Revelstoke on the way home. That time could easily have been doubled, so if we have any visitors that do, somehow, make it over to Canada next year, I know Andy and I would happily do the whole trip again – and easily find completely different things to fill our days.
Starting in Jasper enabled the scenery to constantly improve across the week. The mountains surrounding Jasper are undeniably beautiful (and the national park is actually twice as big as that of Banff), but the mountains as approaching Banff along the Icefields Parkway are far more looming and dramatic in their appearance. I was glad that Andy was the designated driver, so that I could spend my time with my head halfway out the window, soaking up the sheerness of the Rockies.
Jasper was considerably less touristy than Banff. Jasper has two main streets, essentially both sides of a block, a few blocks long. I really liked the neighbourhood feel it had, the ability to walk anywhere and feel like a local. The town had a huge residential area and the street we stayed on was lined with cabins of varying shapes and sizes. The log cabins in particular, against the mountain backdrop, made me really pine for winter. Bring on the snow!
Our holiday was mostly filled with hikes and lakes, but in between we made time to eat and drink. In Jasper we ate at Jasper Brewing Company and The Pizza Place. Both were welcoming, family friendly spots, with very extensive menus. Both felt like institutions, but I much preferred the Brewing Company. The food was executed extremely well, the service was great and we didn’t feel rushed at all, despite it being busy. The Pizza Place was fine, but I’d recommend not straying far from the pizza – it is its namesake after all. We didn’t see the rooftop, but it was certainly popular. For coffee, The Bears Paw Bakery was our go-to for coffee; it’s sister restaurant, The Other Paw, is also good.
Banff is ridiculously expensive, so we opted to stay in Canmore, 20 minutes away. It was a great option, as not only was it affordable, but it was away from the hustle bustle and again, it provided the neighbourhood feel that I really like. In contrast to Jasper, Banff felt like a movie set (fun, in small doses) and Canmore township felt double the size. Eclipse Coffee was just around the corner from our Air BnB and it certainly became a pitstop for the group. We also visited the Banff Brewing Company; again, another institution (it’s interior felt like a former Hardrock Cafe), but the beer was pretty great!
Our drive home was split up by first staying a night in Blaeberry, so that we could explore Yoho National Park, and then having a night in Revelstoke, just to see the town. I loved both of these places, particularly Revelstoke – a place we are more than excited about to visit again in winter. The Emerald Lake in the Yoho National Park is also must see for anyone in the area. I loved everywhere we went and I have highlighted some of our favourite spots in the video below.