By Michael Lanza
While I always prefer to get as far from any road as possible whenever I visit a mountain range, one truth that may—and perhaps must—be said of the Canadian Rockies is that they will leave you smitten with an lifelong, unshakeable love before you even step out of the car. Driving to any trailhead along the 143-mile-long (232-kilometer) Icefields Parkway between Lake Louise and the town of Jasper, or along the Trans-Canada Highway across the mountains, and you will struggle to sound like a literate person as superlatives and simple gasps of “wow” roll repeatedly off your tongue. On my most recent visit we saw, in addition to countless, sizable glaciers tumbling off a chain of peaks stretching for miles, perhaps the largest grizzly bear of my life (a sow with two cubs), two bull elk with racks possibly broader than my wingspan, and a pod of bighorn sheep—all from the car in one afternoon on the Icefields Parkway.
But if you’re like me, you go to the Canadian Rockies to walk deeply into the mountains, either for a day or multiple days. This story will provide you with a window into that experience, sharing images from many of the backpacking trips and dayhikes I have taken in Canada’s Rockies on my recent trip and over the past three-plus decades, including the 10 years I spent as Northwest Editor of Backpacker magazine and even longer running this blog.