If you’re ready to explore the natural world on two feet, nothing beats the Canadian Rockies. Here, you’ll find splendid scenic trails populated by subalpine fir, larch, and Edelman spruce—as well as rich mountain wildlife such as bighorn sheep, moose, and bald eagles. There are few spots in North America that feel this pristine—a place where you can forget all the worries and hustle-bustle of everyday life, and just let your hiking boots carry you deep into the forest. Leave the city smells of garbage and car exhaust far behind—replacing them with the soft scent of pine needles and moss; say goodbye to the honking of horns and yammering of elevator Muzak—instead, let your ears be lulled into relaxation by the gentle flow of a turquoise river pouring itself over cool limestone rocks. Take a moment, breathe deep, and let your troubles wash downstream.
What’s All the Buzz about Pollinators?
From the moment you step into the foothills of the Canadian Rockies and enjoy the first Canada: Banff, Yoho & the Canadian Rockies walk in the protected grasslands of Alberta’s Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park, you’ll be steeped in the spirit of environmental conservation and natural history that characterizes the Canadian landscape. Your local guides will give you a naturalist’s tour of the park, followed by a delightful stop at nearby Fallentimber Meadery where you can enjoy a refreshing glass of mead—a traditional beverage made from fermented honey. Here, you’ll stroll through the local aspen groves and learn the secrets of beekeeping as you discover Fallentimber’s on-site apiaries. “As pollinators, the bees are so important to the health of the environment,” says Country Walkers Trip Designer Katerina Bacevicius. “It’s inspiring to see them thriving, and also to learn about bee keeping and the process of making mead. The mead is exceptional—and comes in a wide variety of interesting flavors.” With plenty of access to untreated wildflowers and clover, the bees at Fallentimber produce exceptionally clean and delicious honey—as well as sparkling meads, traditional meads, and even a mead/beer hybrid called a “braggot.” It’s a wonderfully refreshing introduction to the natural landscape you’ll be walking in all week.
Discovering the Landscape and Traditions of First Nations
Traveling deeper into the foothills of the Rockies, the granite spine of Mount Yamnuska arches above the Alberta plains like the elegant folds of a lady’s fan. Hiking this monolith is invigorating and takes some effort, but the views are well worth it. The mountain gets its name from the Stoney Nakota First Nations word meaning “flat-faced mountain.” In 1961, the name was officially changed to Mount John Laurie, at the request of the Stoney Nakota people, to honor John Lee Laurie—a 1940s activist who dedicated his life to promoting the rights of Alberta’s First Nations. Although the climb may be rugged, it’s marked by the exceptional natural beauty and scenic views characteristic of Alberta’s majestic landscape.
The legacy of First Nations is palpable in the region—nowhere more so than during a medicine walk through the vibrant landscape surrounding The Crossing at Ghost River (and your home for the next few days) with a local guide. After taking in the spectacular views at the summit of Mount Yamnuska (aka Mount John Laurie) a guided medicine walk with a local First Nations leader is the perfect way to discover the spiritual traditions of the people, and honor them with ceremony. You’ll learn about the plants used in First Nations spiritual practices, as well as some of the region’s most commonly found plants and their properties and stories.
The Crossing at Ghost River is the perfect place to let the magic of the region unfold. Nestled into a low ebb of the Ghost River valley, this unique hotel gets its name from the place where First Nations people traditionally crossed the river. Today, it’s home to a truly unique and special lodge on 145 acres of scenic trails, with unique and charming rooms, and irresistible cuisine. “During our stay, our group basically takes over the whole property,” says Katerina. “That gives it a really private feel. And the cuisine is to die for! The chef often comes out at dinner and introduces each dish. Everything is prepared so thoughtfully—even the packed lunch we took with us on our hike was incredible. It featured different types of mini sandwiches and a delicious homemade trail mix. Probably the best packed lunch I’ve ever had!”
This region is also famous for its vibrant blue lakes—popping with turquoise color on a sunny afternoon. The most famous of these is Lake Louise—and incredible crystal blue lagoon set against a backdrop of the Victoria Glacier. Originally called Horâ Juthin Îmne by the Stoney Nakota people, or the “lake of little fishes,” the name was eventually changed to honor Louise, the daughter of Queen Victoria and the wife of the one-time Governor General of Canada. During a stop at this splendid aquamarine marvel, it’s easy to feel the gravitas and presence of the lake’s First Nations spiritual heritage in the stunning cerulean waters nestled between towering limestone peaks.
Building Bridges in the Wild
When it comes to natural resources, the Canadian government has taken a strong stance towards environmental sustainability. With over 15% of Alberta’s 255,2541 square miles officially designated as protected wilderness, the nation of Canada has made significant investments in wilderness conservation—and it shows. In Banff and Yoho National Parks alone, the province of Alberta has established over 55 miles of wildlife crossings to protect animals traversing the Trans-Canada Highway. These protected wildlife crossings usually consist of bridges that span the highway and are planted with grass and trees—making a natural corridor for wildlife to safely pass through. Tunnels are also built below the highway for those wilderness denizens who prefer it—and, impressively, miles upon miles of sturdy fencing have been erected to ensure animals use the corridor and don’t accidentally stumble into the road.
The Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative (Y2Y) is a not-for-profit organization which helps build wildlife bridges throughout this vast territory—reducing wildlife highway fatalities and helping endangered species transition between protected areas to promote access to food supplies and diverse habitats. Y2Y is also a strong advocate for indigenous-led conservation efforts—a movement that gained strength in 2022 with a Canadian national budget of $800 million ear-marked for indigenous conservation initiatives. Country Walkers is a proud supporter of Y2Y and their conservation initiatives in the Canadian Rockies—we make a contribution to Y2Y for every guest traveling on our Canada: Banff, Yoho & the Canadian Rockies Guided Tour. You can learn more about the Country Walkers commitment to sustainable travel here. We look forward to seeing you on the trail!