A road trip in the Canadian Rockies in October was always going to be a risk. The last time I went to the Icefields Parkway, arguably one of the most beautiful scenic drives in the world, it was September and we had low clouds and rain on the way up the Icefields Parkway, and slightly higher clouds and slightly less rain on the way back down. In short, not ideal weather for prime mountain viewing.
It wasn’t entirely a disappointment – it was still a stunning road trip, and I got some incredible photos of our views, but it wasn’t quite the postcard perfect trip we had expected.
This time, it was October. Potentially worse, although definitely quieter. In fact, we missed Banff’s earliest major snowstorm in years by mere days, which was both a blessing and a curse. A curse because when we rented our car, they insisted that we needed winter tyres for the first few days of our trip, but also wouldn’t allow us to return the car a week later and take a cheaper one for the remaining month. It added a whopping $700 to our five week rental, essentially almost doubling our rental cost. Not the ideal information you want to find out before you’ve even started your trip.
Unfortunately, it was also a curse because the road to Moraine Lake was closed a week earlier than expected, so they decided to close it for the rest of the winter. Only the place I was looking forward to the most on our trip, but what can you do?
However, it was a blessing not only because, well, we missed the snowstorm, but also the remnants of the snowstorm made the Icefields Parkway even more beautiful than it would have been a week earlier. The snow had cleared, leaving lovely traces of winter all over the lakes and mountains. (Also the roads had literally zero snow on them, making our snow tyres completely redundant)
We’d had perfect weather throughout Glacier National Park and Yoho National Park, so it stood to reason that it would take a turn for the worse now we were getting to the creme de la creme of the Rockies. The weather forecast confirmed that it would be cloudy and raining, and we went to sleep in our Lake Louise hostel (eventually – a family above us were stomping around for two hours until about midnight) expecting to lose sight of the mountains around us.
Incredibly, instead we woke up to clear skies and beautiful sunshine. Screw breakfast, I said. We’re getting in the car NOW.
Of course, it was absolutely perfect weather for Moraine Lake, which made it hurt even more. But we couldn’t have been luckier.
We spent the first couple of hours walking in awe around Lake Louise’s lovely shoreline. Last time I was here, I did the Lake Agnes trail, and if it hadn’t been for the snow I might have considered the Plain Of Six Glaciers hike. But for us, this was perfect.
Doesn’t it look like magic?!?
Eventually, we had to tear ourselves away from one of the most picturesque places in the world in order to find some more.
Peyto Lake was another must-do on my list. It had looked stunning last time, and this time because of how much snow had melted into the lake, it wasn’t the out-of-this-world turquoise that we had seen before – but the view was completely clear, and I got some of my absolute favourite photos of Canada.
The walk up to the main viewpoint and the subsequent hike to this viewpoint were both in thick snow. We saw people sliding down on their bums a lot of the time! Absolutely worth it though, right?!?
Eventually, we had to tear ourselves away from there, too. Because as much as I couldn’t take my eyes off it, I knew we had to take advantage of the clear mountains before the clouds rolled in. We decided to just drive until the weather turned.
There’s not much I can say about it. I’ma just spam you with a load of photos instead.
All of these photos were taken by Ash, because I was driving. Easily the most incredible place I’ve EVER driven!
We made a couple of stops on the way, of course.
This might be my favourite piece of the road! What a view back.
We got as far as Columbia Icefield, the famous glacier, when the clouds finally defeated us – we still haven’t seen the tops of the mountains around it, but we got a fantastic view of the glacier, so we were happy!
We were just in time for heading back to Banff, where we’d be spending the next couple of days with my cousin and his family over Thanksgiving. The weather also worsened again, but we didn’t care – we got SO lucky with this part of the road trip that nothing could dampen our spirits (not even realising how much money we’d wasted on winter tyres!).
Autumn is a fantastic time to visit the Icefields Parkway. The weather is usually still good, the crowds have thinned out, and if it hadn’t been for the unprecedented snow storm, it would have been the best time to visit Moraine Lake, which doesn’t re-open until June. (By which time the crowds are out in force until it closes again after Thanksgiving weekend in October) Plus we got some amazing colours in some of the trees!
Honestly, this is one of the best road trips I’ve ever done and I’m so thankful that the weather turned out the way it did. We’ll be back, Canada!
Have you driven the Icefields Parkway? Is it on your bucket list?!
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