Canada is our breathtaking neighbor up north. Upon visiting its national parks, I wondered, “Why didn’t I come see you sooner?” It is so stunning that it is freaking impossible to take a bad photo here. In 2017, they are celebrating their 150th anniversary so all of their national parks are free, making this year the perfect time to go visit. Canada, you win.
Below, I share a list of beautiful places to see in Canada so you can take advantage of the time you have there.
11 Beautiful Places to See in Canada
1. Emerald Lake – The lake is green. And not like a murky, swampy, “I don’t want to go there” green. Like a jewel, beautiful, “omg I want to videotape this” green. We went rowing here and I would recommend it over rowing at other lakes because it is cheaper and just as mesmerizing. There is also an onsite restaurant where you can sip a beer and relax. We also saw vacation rentals but pretty sure you have to be baller to stay there. Next time!
2. Peyto Lake – Yes, before you ask, the water color is real. From what I saw, it wasn’t possible to get down to the water, but you can reach this photo spot with a 20-minute hike. It is definitely worth it…this is the first time I’ve seen water look like this and it is magical. Also, I know the shot below is so basic but I am who I am.
3. Moraine Lake – The water is such a classic blue and in the sunlight, sparkles like a diamond. To get a good view, climb onto the rocks and you can watch all the people rowing below you. For food, there is a cafe/deli where you can buy everything from sandwiches to pizza. Tbh, the food is ok and is overpriced, but you also have a killer view so it is worth. If you’re trying to impress that special someone or are a huge fan of convenience with deep pockets, you can also rent vacation homes here.
4. Lake Louise – Lake Louise is the most famous lake in BANFF. We got here at 8:30am on a weekday to avoid the crows and heat – I would recommend doing the same. There is also a popular trail that you can take up to the Lake Agnes Teahouse. The hike takes about 1.5-2 hours round trip, depending on your pace and whether or not you decide to stop for photos. The Fairmont is right next to Lake Louise and could be worth the splurge during the winter, the photos of it covered in snow are starkly beautiful. Along the way to Lake Agnes Teahouse, you will see Mirror Lake and at Lake Agnes Teahouse is (obvi) Lake Agnes.
An added bonus of coming early and then doing the hike is that you can see two versions of the lake – when the water is a deeper blue vs a milkier turquoise shade.
6. Athabasca Falls – We stopped by Athabasca Falls on our drive down from Jasper to BANFF. The falls themselves are quite impressive and if you continue hiking down, you will find yourself at a lake-like spot. A bunch of people were chilling here, taking in the scenery, and taking photos. The water is so milky here, it reminds me of the Blue Lagoon in Iceland!
7. Sunwapta Falls – Sunwapta was also cool, you can hike down and see the canyon that the water cut through. There are plenty of trees here and it was so green! The hike is pretty consistent in terms of incline, so it’s all downhill one way and all uphill the other. It’s a good hiking spot and a great place to stretch your legs and breathe in that fresh mountain air.
8. Athabasca Glacier – The glacier can be found along the scenic Icefields Parkway, which is a beauty and a drive all rolled up into one. For the glacier, you can easily park in the lot and then hike up ~15 minutes to the glacier. Hiking boots aren’t necessary but will definitely make the trek easier, especially if your regular shoes don’t have much of a tread. This glacier is slowly melting, so it is actually receding and has led to the river that you see below. You can also book a tour to go onto the glacier itself.
9. Johnston Canyon – If you’re roadtripped out by this time, visiting Johnston Canyon can be a great break! It was a good hike and the path is paved and very safe (like much of Canada). There is a good mix of water, land, uphill, and downhill – no hiking shoes required. We visited the Upper Falls and the Lower Falls, which took about 1.5 hours round trip.
10. Pyramid Lake – You can find Pyramid Lake in Jasper National Park. It was one of the first lakes we visited on our Canada trip and it was just beautiful, with its still blue water and some elk casually chilling nearby. If only Snoop Lion was there to narrate. As far as I could tell, there were no boat rentals but it looked like people just brought their own.
11. Patricia Lake – This lake is also in Jasper National Park and is actually adjacent to Pyramid Lake. We saw a family of duckies here and once they realized that we had no food, they went right on with their day. As you can see, it’s so beautiful here. There’s also a boat dock on the lake (not pictured).
- We found that some places accept USD, but most do not. If you have one, bring a card without foreign transaction fees!
- BANFF is pretty touristy which translates to, it is expensive. If you’re looking to ball on a budget, I would recommend going to Iga, which is essentially the Canadian version of Safeway and is located in downtown BANFF.
- Bring layers – in August the mornings were cold but during the day, it would heat up quite quickly.
- Beware of mosquitoes and check to see if it’s high season when you go. Luckily we didn’t have issues with this in late August, but it can be rough during other times. Bring that DEET, so the only thing feasting is not mosquitoes, but your eyes on the majestic scenery.
Places to Stay in Jasper/BANFF
- Tara Vista Inn (Hinton) – I chose this inn because of its proximity to Jasper (40 miles) and its affordability. It was 130.32 USD for one night in August for 2 double beds. A huge pro was that if offers late check-in because we showed up at 11pm and it was fine. If you stay here, I recommend staying for one night because it’s not really a big enough room where you can lounge and chill in. The furniture looked like it could use a good upgrade, but the place was clean.
- King Edward Hotel (downtown BANFF) – This hotel is located in the heart of downtown, right next to the bars and club. If you’re trying to go out, then it’s perfect. The room was decent and featured one king bed and one sofa bed. You are mainly paying for location with this one. It cost 343.48 USD for one night in August.
- Best Western Plus Siding 29 Lodge (downtown BANFF) – The lodge is a little further from busy downtown, so if you want to get away from hustle and bustle then it’s nice. The rooms are super clean and plush, making this my favorite place to stay out of the three. There is also free breakfast and a pool. This was definitely the best value out of the three places we stayed at and if you’re staying in BANFF, I’d highly recommend it. It cost 533.5 USD for two queen beds and two nights in August.
Cool things about Canada
- In Canada, they have built bridges over the highway specifically for animals to use. This is because the highways often cut through forests, so this way, animals have a way of getting from one side of the forest to another. How considerate!
- There are maple leaves everywhere – even on license plates.
- Some gas stations allow you to pay AFTER you put in gas. So trusting!
- It really is impossible to take a bad photo here because everything is so beautiful.
Canada gets a gold star at life. People are generally warm and welcoming. They know they live in an amazing place and they are happy to share that joy with you. If you love the outdoors, you will have a great time here.
To see a video of our trip, watch the video below!