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Nathanael Martin 

I’m not even sure where to start with this travelogue. To put it quite simply, the Canadian Rockies are one of the most incredible destinations on earth. There is unparalleled grandeur and beauty here, perhaps more than any other place I’ve traveled. It’s truly a world-class destination which would be worth flying halfway around the world to see, but it’s nearly in my backyard! When I was 16 years old, my family took a two week road trip from Oregon all the way up to Jasper and down through Banff, Yoho, and Glacier National Parks. I had just aquired my first digital camera, and it was an unforgettable experience.


Almost exactly fifteen years later I returned to Banff and Yoho for the first time as an adult. Digital photography has of course come a long ways, and so have my skills so I was extremely excited at the opportunity to photograph these areas again. My flight to Calgary was rough due to a missed connection, but I eventually made it and ended up in the national parks on the very first two days of beautiful summer weather they’d had all year.


I was a bit disappointed to see how much overtourism is becoming a problem here. July is peak season and Banff was completely jammed. I arrived at Moraine Lake, perhaps the most beautiful lake in the world, at 5:15am and found the parking lot already ¾ full with probably 200 people there, quite amazing. Thankfully, if you’re willing to get up early and hike away from the popular areas, there is still plenty of unspoiled beauty and solitude – well worth the effort! Of course, visiting outside peak summer season is probably a good idea as well!


My favorite part of the trip was visiting the Lake O’Hara. This stunning lake is just a few miles from Lake Louise, but has a strict entrance quote which has been in place since the 1970s to help keep it pristine and uncrowded. To visit here, you must either reserve a camping site, or a room or cabin at the lodge (VERY expensive)…or you can try your luck at a reservation on the day shuttle. It’s inexpensive, but the entire year sells out within minutes of being made available, usually in April. The only other option is to hike seven miles one way uphill from the highway parking lot. I was fortunate enough to get a ticket for the shuttle and was able to then hike the gorgeous 7.5 mile alpine loop all around the lake. This trail has taken its place as my favorite trail I’ve ever hiked anywhere in the world. For any avid hikers and fans of natural moutain beauty, Lake O’Hara demands a top spot on your bucket list!


I only had a long weekend, so after about three days of hiking I had to return home. But I look forward to returning soon – there is so much more to explore, especially in Yoho and Kootenay National Parks which are much less crowded than Banff and perhaps even more beautiful.

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