Back on the Road: Montana and the Canadian Rockies

We got back to the States in early September and enjoyed a week’s respite before hitting the road again. We took the opportunity to spend the week apart, staying with our respective families in Washington and Oregon.

Hiking a segment of the PCT in Central Oregon before our return to van life

Hiking a segment of the PCT in Central Oregon before our return to van life

We headed east from Seattle to Idaho, where we enjoyed a couple beautiful 80+ degree days in the Coeur d’Alene and Sandpoint areas.

Roadside diversion in Spokane, Washington

Roadside diversion in Spokane, Washington

"On the road again..."

“On the road again…”

View from our free campsite on Lake Pend Oreille in Coeur d'Alene National Forest, Idaho

View from our free campsite on Lake Pend Oreille in Coeur d’Alene National Forest, Idaho

From Idaho, we drove north to B.C. and Alberta. I’ve wanted to visit Banff National Park since the early 1990s, when my family had a CD-ROM golf video game that included beautiful Banff Springs Golf Club. I suppose I’ve heard a few positive things in the decades since, too.

Summer went out with a bang even before the fall equinox. One day, we were enjoying t-shirt weather in northern Idaho. Just a few days later, we were waking up to our van covered in snow!

Lake Louise, Banff National Park

Lake Louise, Banff National Park

View of the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, where we did not stay

View of the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, where we did not stay

Takakkaw Falls, Yoho National Park

Takakkaw Falls, Yoho National Park

Emerald Lake, Yoho National Park

Emerald Lake, Yoho National Park

More Emerald Lake

More Emerald Lake

Natural Bridge, Yoho National Park

Natural Bridge, Yoho National Park

My parents, who retired recently, joined us for the first week of the trip. Somehow, we’ve managed to invite them along for the most extreme weather we’ve experienced in our travels: first, during a spring heat wave in Death Valley, and second, a mid-September snowstorm in Banff. Whoops!

In spite of the cold weather, we had a great time exploring Banff, Kootenay, Yoho, and Jasper National Parks. The scenery is awesome, and we’re eager to return sometime when we can do more hiking and backpacking.

On Moraine Lake Road, Banff

On Moraine Lake Road, Banff

Moraine Lake

Moraine Lake

Bow Lake, Icefields Parkway

Bow Lake, Icefields Parkway

Peyto Lake

Peyto Lake

Near Athabasca Falls, Jasper National Park

Near Athabasca Falls, Jasper National Park

Time to take a break from camping!

Time to take a break from camping!

My parents (and the two of us, frankly) were burning out camping in the cold weather, so we made an unplanned detour to Calgary for two nights. We’re still spending all the hotel points I collected during seven years of work travel, and they’ve been great for the occasional break from nights in the van.

There's a similar head in Seattle's Olympic Sculpture Park

There’s a similar head in Seattle’s Olympic Sculpture Park

Calgary skyline

Calgary skyline

We drove south from Calgary to beautiful Montana, where we spent two days in Glacier National Park. The park’s glaciers may be disappearing quickly (they’ll all be gone by 2030), but the area should have plenty to offer for many years to come. The mountains, lakes, and wildlife were pristine.

Back in the States at a free campsite outside Glacier National Park

Back in the States at a free campsite outside Glacier National Park

Getting dirty

Getting dirty

On Highway 49 near East Glacier Park Village

On Highway 49 near East Glacier Park Village

East of Glacier National Park, Montana

East of Glacier National Park, Montana

Saint Mary Lake

Saint Mary Lake

More views from the Going-to-the-Sun Road

More views from the Going-to-the-Sun Road

Near Hidden Lake Trail

Near Hidden Lake Trail

Hidden Lake, nearly hidden by the clouds

Hidden Lake, nearly hidden by the clouds

glacier-10

Lake Sherburne

Lake Sherburne

Lake Josephine

Lake Josephine

Hiking the Grinnell Lake Trail near Many Glacier

Hiking the Grinnell Lake Trail near Many Glacier

Grinnell Lake. The hikers in front of us had just had a grizzly bear encounter, so we didn't linger!

Grinnell Lake. The hikers in front of us had just had a grizzly bear encounter, so we didn’t linger!

Though I failed to photograph much in Montana’s more populated areas, we also had a great time exploring the western side of the state, including Kalispell, Missoula, and Bozeman. Missoula’s laid-back vibe and brewery scene were particularly nice; I’m lobbying Daniel that we settle there whenever we’re done traveling. (It probably didn’t hurt that we were there on the first warm day in two weeks.)

Ms. Montana from Montana Money Adventures kindly met up with us while we were in the area, and we had a blast hanging out with her and meeting her family. Their story of saving aggressively to “work optional” status, taking a year off work, practicing moderate minimalism, and finding their tribe has been inspirational for us. If you’re not reading the blog yet, check it out!

26 Comments

  1. Wow! Emerald Lake looks beautiful! I love all of your photos–breathtaking! 🙂

  2. I love mountains. =) It was incredible hanging out with you guys! I hope your lovely photos bring more folks to our neck of the woods. We dove into GNP yesterday and ventured up to Polebridge for some pastries. I constantly pinch myself that we get to live here. Thanks for the GNP and Montana Money Adventures shout out! =)

    • I’ve always felt that way about living in the Pacific Northwest: people travel across the world to see natural beauty like this, and we get to live right next to it!

  3. fierymillennials

    November 6, 2016 at 7:26 am

    Wow. That’s amazing! I can’t wait to see the area with my own eyes now 🙂

  4. These photos are so amazing! I’m getting excited about hitting the road! How do you add the little border around them? or is that just part of your theme?

  5. Beautiful pictures! What camera do you use?
    Time to head up there. We were thinking about heading to Wyoming and Idaho next year. Maybe we should make a bigger loop and include Montana as well. Not sure, though, if we can also go all the way to Canada. We’ll do that when I’m retired. 🙂

    • Thank you! I’ll do a post about the camera gear we carry shortly. Wyoming (Yellowstone and Tetons, in particular) is just the best, but Montana is well worth the trip, too. ER helps in that we don’t have to cut down on destinations quite as much!

  6. Those Banff photos are ridiculous. I’ll also have to add Missoula to the small city bucket list as well.

    • Yes, let’s start the FIRE colony there! Outdoor access, low COL, no sales tax, college town, decent airport, craft breweries… what more do you need?

  7. Oh my gosh, Banff is jaw-droppingly gorgeous!! Wow. The Canadian Rockies have long been at the top of my road trip travel list, and you’re affirming that that’s where they belong! I’m so curious to know how long our hotel points will last us… not nearly as long as our air miles will! But glad you still have enough to be able to escape the cold!

    • I’m longing to be back there after our last month in the flat midwest (no offense to our many midwest friends). We want to go back when it’s warmer! Our hotel points have been great, especially with SPG/Marriott status (until it expires). Wish we had more air miles banked for the international flights.

  8. Looks awesome. I have been to Banff a few times but not recently. Totally need to go back there soon with the family.

  9. I lived in Calgary for seven years, and all of your photos made me “homesick”. I think I’ve been to most, if not all, the places you went on your trip, and I would love to get back. So jealous of you for having so much freedom to travel!

  10. Chris @ KeepThrifty

    November 6, 2016 at 7:08 pm

    We hit Glacier this summer – The Going to the Sun Road was incredible (though it was super foggy when we drove it). Thanks for sharing the beautiful photos!

  11. Gorgeous pictures… Defently an area worth to visit!

  12. I feel like I want to follow you guys around so that I can capture all these beautiful photos for myself, haha! Actually, I want to give you thanks because following your blog a little earlier this spring/summer inspired me to take a hiking/park vacation in September. An old school friend and I decided to meet up, and we traveled through parts of Montana, Wyoming, and South Dakota. It was an amazing trip!

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