Well, this past summer, we were so excited about planning a trip to Alaska! Our original plan was to travel through Canada and into Alaska, which meant we had to hustle through most of North America and enter through Canada. Since we were going to spend a few weeks in Alaska, we didn’t really plan much for our time in Canada. Looking at Google maps, it seemed like we would be driving through a lot of wilderness with not too many stops.
However, our plans took an unexpected turn when my dad had some medical issues. Unfortunately, we had to cut our trip short, and we only made it as far as Jasper, which is about halfway to Alaska. It was a bit disappointing because we had put in so much effort and hours of work to make all the necessary reservations and plan for gas station stops, just to ensure that we would reach our destination. It was tough to have everything change like that.
But let me tell you, even though our trip didn’t go as planned, the Canadian Rockies are absolutely breathtaking. They are definitely worth a visit to Canada!
Leaving Southern California, we headed north on the 15 towards Salt Lake City. I purchased my mountain bike from Contender Bikes in Utah. Let’s just say this is a huge bike shop and if you ever find yourself in the area, you have to stop by and check out their large selection of bikes. Our next stop was a KOA in Montpelier, Idaho. Our goal was to pass through the Grand Tetons and drive through Yellowstone. With an extra day to spare, we took some time to explore the Grand Tetons and admire the beauty of Jenny Lake. We thought we had seen the most beautiful lake ever, but we were heading to Yellowstone for three days, so we soaked in all the beauty. However, we didn’t have enough time to fully explore Yellowstone. Ideally, plan for a good four or five days, as there are so many different directions to go. Despite that, we did our best to visit the major attractions, but to be honest, everything in the park is worth seeing. Our favorites were the Mammoth Hot Springs, and we could have spent much more time on that side of the park. Unfortunately, we didn’t make it to the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, which we really wished we had more time for. However, we did get to see most of the geysers, the molten lava fields, as well as bison and elk in the park. One thing to keep in mind is the traffic, not just the number of people in the park, but also the road construction. Due to late snow in 2023, the road construction was delayed, causing us to lose a couple of hours a day trying to get through the park. Nevertheless, the trip was well worth it. You can see some of the pictures below.
We had an amazing time exploring Yellowstone and then made our way up to Canada. Our first stop was the Big Sky Deli and Bakery WY, and let me tell you, we absolutely fell in love with this place! We had the pleasure of meeting some other full-time travelers who were also heading to Canada. They would be a few days behind us, but it was so much fun sharing our travel stories. The next day, it was time for our border crossing with Van Haulen. We had crossed into Mexico before, but never in our van. We wondered if we would encounter any issues. The Canadians were absolutely wonderful. They asked us a few questions, we showed them our passports, and just like that, we were over the border and on our way to our next evening stay with Harvest Host. This time, we were fortunate to stay at a brewery called High River Brewing. The staff there was incredibly accommodating, and there were other friendly people staying at the same location. Throughout our trip, we mainly stayed at Harvest Host locations or KOAs. We understand that some people may have different preferences when it comes to KOAs, but personally, we really enjoy them. They offer convenient amenities like laundry facilities and the option to have dinner. Plus, we appreciate the flexibility of being able to arrive late and still have a nice hot shower. Since the pandemic, we’ve noticed that KOAs have taken extra cleanliness measures, which has made us very happy and satisfied. We do understand that there may be instances where some KOAs have been closed down, but fortunately, we have had really positive experiences with KOAs for the past 4 years.
We had a wonderful afternoon in Calgary, which was a refreshing change after traveling through prairie lands for several days. After visiting the brewery, we continued our journey to the Canadian Rockies. It’s like a National Park in America, similar to Yellowstone or Yosemite. There are two major towns that people enjoy the most. The first one is Banff, which we passed through on the first day. We planned to come back and explore it properly. However, our main destination was Jasper, so we were excited to see how far north we could go.
The night before, we watched a YouTube video about exploring the Columbia Icefield glacier. They have these huge monster trucks that take you up the mountain onto the glacier, allowing you to hike around. It was an incredible experience, and we really enjoyed the Columbia Icefield Restaurant and viewing area. But we still had to drive a couple more hours to reach Jasper.
We only made it about 5 miles up the road when we encountered a serious accident. Thankfully, we were not involved, but unfortunately, a family lost a loved one. The highway was closed for over 10 hours. This unexpected situation left us in a dilemma about where to stay for the night. Going back would cost us an additional 4 hours of driving, and we were supposed to take the monster trucks up to the ice field the next morning.
Eventually, we decided to return to the icefield from the accident site and discovered that they actually had a wonderful campground. Well, maybe not a traditional campground, but more of a parking lot. However, considering the alternative of driving for hours, it was a beautiful spot to spend the night, especially for only $12 US (or around $16 Canadian). One thing we learned about Canada is that their currency and gas measurements can be confusing, but it felt like things went further here compared to America. The mileage wasn’t as bad as we expected. We also enjoyed the speed limit being in kilometers per hour, as it allowed us to comfortably cruise at 100 km/h (which is only about 60 mph).
That night, we stayed in the campground/parking lot and had a pleasant conversation with our neighbors. We asked about the cold temperatures at night, as we were concerned about our van’s insulation. They assured us that it rarely goes below freezing, and even then, it’s in Celsius (which initially freaked us out). So, in Fahrenheit, it’s only 32 degrees, and our van is built to handle temperatures well into the twenties. We’ve actually experienced even colder temperatures, down to the 15s and lower, and have been quite comfortable with the small heater warming up our cozy space.
Looking back, we feel incredibly blessed to have been able to stay at the base of this amazing glacier and witness the breathtaking sunset around 10 pm.