Oh, Canada 🍁


High on my list of places to explore post-pandemic is North America – I’m already mentally mapping out my van set up and compiling list of ‘must do’ trails across the expansive continent. But nowhere in my idyllic dreams of van life do record breaking heatwaves, dangerous air quality or devastating wildfires get a mention, despite that being the current reality of summer in the US and Canada. A harsher climate accompany travel plans now and into the future. But the opportunity to experience incredibly wild and rugged places isn’t going to keep me away, and nor should it you! So today I hope to transport you to Alberta, Canada to inspire some future adventures along the Great Divide.

In 2017, I travelled to the Rocky Mountains in western Canada to visit my sister and her family, whom called Vancouver home for a few years. Before moving back to Australia with their two young kids, they were enjoying a summer in Canmore – a small town nestled amongst the majestic Rocky Mountains. 


It was July, peak summer, and mornings were spent exploring the many beautiful trails and afternoons at the nearby Quarry Lake, (when the access tracks weren’t closed due to a bear sighting). Towards the end of my stay, catastrophic wildfires consumed British Columbia, blanketing the blue sky with harmful smoke and throwing a hazy filter over the summer sun.

Walking home from Quarry Lake, consumed by wildfire smoke

This was the first time I’d experienced poor quality air due to wildfires, which since has become somewhat of a summer staple. At the time, the correlation between increasing frequent and large wildfires was not explicitly linked to climate change, but as these ‘unprecedented’ events continue to occur, summer after summer, the impact global warming is having on our eco and weather systems is increasingly obvious, and harmful.

Before the fires

Before being resigned to watch Pepper Pig reruns indoors due to poor air quality, I had the opportunity to explore some beautiful trails around Canmore and nearby Banff. I wasn’t a trail runner at the time, and with two young kids in tow, hiking was a much more achievable, and enjoyable way to take in the incredible mountains. Anna and I would strap on a kid each and head off for the morning, jabbering away constantly to keep the bears at bay. From waterfalls to glaciers, alpine lakes and rushing rivers, there really was an endless array of incredible trails to explore. Plus, hiking with a toddler on your back made for an excellent workout, as my Australian legs weren’t quite used to the Canadian mountain terrain!


Exploring the many trails of Banff & Yoho National Parks. Takakkaw Falls (centre) is one of the highest waterfalls in Canada, and is part of the Iceline Trail

Next time

There is no shortage of epic single track around Canmore, and next time I’m keen to pull on the running vest and explore a bit more. High on the list is the Iceline via Little Yoho Trail – a 20km loop with ~1000m elevation in Yoho National Park, on the western slopes of the Canadian Rockies. We did the first few kilometres up to (the diminishing) Little Yoho Glacier which was spectacular, with vast moraines and crystal blue alpine lakes. Further east near Lake Louise is the picturesque Moraine Lake, which is swarming with tourists. But venturing just a few kilometres along any of trails will soon have you surrounded by snowy peaks, with not a soul in sight. We went as far as Minnestimma Lake, but further on you’ll find Grand Sentinal and an array of technical switchbacks with jaw dropping views across the surrounding Banff National Park.

Walking through the Valley of the 10 Peaks, en route to Minnestimma Lake

Or if I’m in the mood for life changing mission, there is always the Great Divide Trail – 1100 kilometres of trail between Alberta and British Columbia, traversing the vast wilderness of the Rocky Mountains. While I write this, I’m sitting at home with a broken leg and the Canadian Rockies feel incredibly far away. Revisiting these places memories has been a welcome distraction and provided some much needed inspiration for adventures to come! And I hope they’ve provided some travel and trail inspiration for you too!

Until next time!

Hilary McAllister, Friday 24th September 2021