When you think of Western Canada, images of the Canadian Rockies and the mountains of British Columbia typically spring to mind. Additionally, one might imagine strolling the streets of Whistler or Banff, admiring the peaks with winter snow hanging on even in the first days of summer, as you hunt for the perfect souvenir that will define your trip in one sophisticated trinket.
If the touristy nature of these places is a turn-off for you, don’t despair, as there are many other places throughout the Canadian west where you can enjoy the timeless vistas that this corner of North America is famous for, without having to wade through a sea of fanny pack toting tourists to get the perfect photographic angle.
The following places are favoured by Canadian locals for their natural assets, views, and their access to amenities that ensure that you will have a relaxing getaway that won’t be disturbed by a massive wave of humanity. To really see this area at your own pace, consider traveling around in a camper. Let’s start by profiling…
1) Harrison Hot Springs, BC
Identified by Canadian Pacific Railway officials as a site for tourism in the late 1800’s due to the presence of multiple hot springs in the area, a picturesque lake, and mountain peaks that completed the area’s stunning backdrop, a hotel and community was established here. While the popularity of this place never quite reached the proportions of Banff to the east, it slowly built up a following from those living in Vancouver and the Fraser Valley. Today, commercial hot spring operations are complimented by a fabulous beach on Lake Harrison, boat cruises, sportfishing, opportunities for watersports, and much more.
2) Emerald Lake, BC
Of all the national parks in the Canadian Rockies, Banff and Jasper hog much of the attention and the press, leading many to overlook the stunning views and experiences one can have in BC national parks like Yoho and Kootenay. The former park contains the jade green gem that is Emerald Lake, which has an abundance of lush plant life due to its location on the windward side of the Rockies. Trails circle this under-appreciated lake, permitting views of the towering President Range, and they play host to excellent snowshoeing and cross country skiing in the winter.
3) Canmore, Alberta
While Banff is the most famous town in the Canadian Rockies, it comprises less than half of the population of the Bow River Valley. The town of Canmore, a former mining town that was reborn into an outdoor recreation and lifestyle destination after coal prices crashed in the 1980’s, is a place that most tourists blaze through on their way to its more glamorous cousin further up the valley.
However, the views of the front range of the Rockies are no less impressive here, as the Three Sisters make for many spectacular photos, and many trails can be hiked from town, and Kananaskis Country is a short drive away, where even more stunning treks can be embarked upon.