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An Unforgettable Road Trip to 5 Canadian National Parks in 5 Days

We loaded our gear and set out to explore the Great White North. What we experienced was nothing short of unforgettable.

By: Kevin Abernethy + Save to a List

Canada has been on my list of places to see for quite some time, so a friend and I packed up our car and headed north for what ended up being a 2,800 mile round trip. We decided to take advantage of every second we were across the border and while some may think we did too much and didn't get to enjoy each location as much as we could, we all thought the trip couldn't have gone any better. Needless to say we will be back again soon. Below are some highlights from our week.

Day 1: US to Banff

We road tripped from Denver to Banff, and while it wasn't the easiest trip, my friend and I split up the driving duties so we could get there as soon as possible. We arrived in Canmore Alberta around noon, loaded up on groceries with another friend and then we headed northwest for Banff. Due to the cold temperatures I was pleasantly surprised at the lack of crowds, and the views were non-stop the moment we entered the area. We were able to stop at Lake MinnewankaTwo Jack Lake, and Lake Louise before we ran out of sunlight. We hung out in the Lake Louise parking lot for sunset and fired up some camp tacos on the stove before heading to the town of Banff to sleep for the night.

Day 2: Banff to Kootenay, Yoho, and Jasper

We squeezed in as much as possible on day 2 and while we had a full itinerary, we still had time to cook eggs and bacon on a roadside pullout to enjoy breakfast in front of the towering Canadian Rockies. We woke up for sunset at Vermillion Lakes, then set out to see the Natural Bridge and Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park. Driving on the Icefield Parkway allowed us to traverse the Athabasca Glacier, strap on our snowshoes at Bow Lake, take a short hike to the Peyto Lake overlook, and finally stop at Athabasca Falls for sunset. Feeling pretty exhausted we took the short trip to the town of Jasper to rest up after the busy day.

Day 3: Jasper to Vision Quest

We squeezed every second out of Day 2 so we thought we would take it easy for Day 3. We started the morning by eating breakfast on the beach of Pyramid Lake and then traveled east of the park to meet up with another friend. She recommended we take a "short hike" up the Vision Quest Trail for great views of Abraham Lake. Well, 3 miles and 2,600 feet later we were standing at the summit with an unbelievable view. It wasn't an easy hike, and I think I let a couple of 4 letter words slip out on the way up, but it was by far the highlight of the trip for me. 

Day 4: Relax at Sylvan Lake

We were lucky to have a friend with a cabin at Sylvan Lake so we sat around drinking coffee, filling up on good food, and talking about our favorite places during the past couple of days. The hikes and views were phenomenal, but after going non-stop for 3 days it was great to sit around to laugh and smile about the specifics of our trip. 

Day 5: Sylvan Lake to Waterton

We were indecisive about Waterton National Park since most of the attention goes to Jasper and Banff, but we were not disappointed with this detour. The road to Waterton stays pretty flat and then you get one more phenomenal view of the Canadian Rockies as you enter the park. We scrambled up a small hill while fighting 60 mph wind gusts (96 km per hour for the Canadians) to enjoy one more view before the sun set on us. We enjoyed the last view and then started our trek back to Denver that evening. 

Time never stops and I think more times than not we are all stuck wishing and hoping we can eventually do the things we have always wanted to do. I was with 3 other outdoor enthusiast and I will always remember this trip as the week we chose to stop making excuses and to truly live. Add a comment below if you have any questions about our trip.   

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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