Go Back  Fodor's Travel Talk Forums > Destinations > Canada
Reload this Page >

most beautiful mountain scenery for easy summer hiking

most beautiful mountain scenery for easy summer hiking

Nov 27th, 2010, 07:55 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Aug 2007
Posts: 34
most beautiful mountain scenery for easy summer hiking

After being spoiled by Switzerland I am wanting to see comparable scenic beauty in north america. I am thinking Lake Louise to Jasper is my best bet. Is there anything to rival that region in the lower 48? Or is Lake Louise to Jasper unsurpassed in north America?
s2000bob is offline  
Nov 28th, 2010, 08:00 AM
Join Date: Sep 2004
Posts: 1,477
I long to hike in Switzerland but my husband does not--Someday... We do love hiking in Lake Louise and Jasper. The day hikes are not difficult and the scenery is spectacular. We are "view" hikers. I want to hike and I want to be rewarded along the trek with great views. This is not problem in the Canadian Rockies.

Be sure to book 3 months in advance so that you can schedule a day to hike at Lake O'Hara--or if money is no object, plan on staying a couple nights there. We had our only day of rain when we visited Lake O'Hara--so it was a bummer with no visibility--but we will try again next time we visit. I have 2 trip reports on this site. I could visit this area every year, which is something I say about very few places.

A great hiking book for the area is the Brian Patton book, The Canadian Rockies Trail Guide.
LindainOhio is offline  
Nov 28th, 2010, 08:12 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Aug 2007
Posts: 34
thanks for the tip about Lake O'Hara.
s2000bob is offline  
Nov 28th, 2010, 10:42 AM
Join Date: Nov 2003
Posts: 14,069
I second Linda's recommendation of Lake O'Hara. I will top two threads on the O'Hara bus and our trip this past summer. I also like Mt. Engadine Lodge in that area.

I love hiking in the Canadian Rockies and have had many a glorious day there. But there is some wonderful hiking in the USA as well. I highly recommend the Glacier National Park region, the Grand Tetons, in fact several of the national parks have splendid hikes and scenery.
Two other places we stayed and hiked (and on which I did trip reports on the US forum) were the Sawtooth Range in Idaho and the area around Red Lodge, MT. You are going to be spoiled for choice.
On the USA forum you can find a thread by MRand about favorite day hikes and one by Enzian on hiking in Glacier. Both make good reads.

Happy hiking wherever you choose.
cmcfong is offline  
Nov 28th, 2010, 02:27 PM
Join Date: Jul 2007
Posts: 593
The Canadian Rockies are incredibly beautiful (I am an avid hiker and have lived in the Rockies - first Lake Louise and then Jasper, since 1979) but I would not say they have a monopoly on great hiking or beautiful scenery. Other mountain ranges to the west, in BC, are also very beautiful. I have not done much hiking in the US (yet), but did spend a couple of weeks hiking in the Sedona, AZ area - also incredibly gorgeous, but in a different way. Have not been lucky enough (yet) to hike in Switzerland, but have hiked in the mountains in Germany and Austria, and am just back from three weeks' hiking in the mountains of Andalucia, Spain (and learned, to my surprise, that Spain is the second-most mountainous country in Europe, after Switzerland).... all very beautiful in their own ways.

My favourite four hikes in Jasper National Park ("must do's" that I do each season, often multiple times each season): Opal Hills (Maligne Lake), Sulphur Skyline (Miette Hot Springs), Wilcox Pass (Columbia Icefields) and Cavell Meadows (Mt. Edith Cavell). Lots of other great hikes in Jasper NP .... Nigel Pass, Parker Ridge, Bald Hills... lots of great hikes in Lake Louise and Moraine Lake areas of Banff NP: Plain of Six Glaciers, Eiffel Lake/Wenkchemna Pass, Larch Valley/Sentinel Pass, Lake Agnes) and other areas of Banff NP (which I am not that familiar with) and as mentioned, Lake O'Hara in Yoho NP, which many consider to be the Canadian Rockies' hiking "holy grail".
krp329 is offline  
Nov 28th, 2010, 02:38 PM
Join Date: Jul 2007
Posts: 593
P.S. If you are interested in staying at Lake O'Hara Lodge, this is the time of year to send in your reservation request. My understanding, from American friends of mine who have stayed there quite a number of times, is that the lodge does all their bookings for the upcoming summer in December/January and notify those who are successful. My friends waited one year until January to put in a request and were successful in getting a booking (probably because they were repeat guests) when some from the first round backed out and did not confirm with their deposit, but it wasn't exactly when they wanted, nor the number of nights they would have liked... but they love it there so much that they shuffled their holidays around for the stay at Lake O'Hara Lodge. They also told me that repeat guests and longer stay requests are given priority.
krp329 is offline  
Nov 28th, 2010, 08:44 PM
Join Date: Nov 2010
Posts: 1
Having been to most of the major parks in the western US and Canada, I thought I would add my two cents here. There is no doubt that Banff and Jasper National Parks are among the most beautiful places on the continent, and for dramatic mountain scenery they hold their own against any place else. Lake Louise is a sight to behold, although it is but one of the dozens of incredibly blue mountain lakes for which the area is famous. The peaks are especially rugged in this region, as the geology in the Canadian Rockies is different than that of most of the American portion of the range. Also the glaciers are much more impressive than the ones further south, as the northerly latitude allows for the formation of the huge ice fields which sustain them. There is a wide variety of hikes in this region and, as a previous poster mentioned, there is no shortage of views.

Other nearby areas offer some outstanding scenery has well: Mt. Robson to the north and Yoho and Kootenay National Parks to the west all contain phenomenal scenery, with fewer of the crowds which seem to overrun Banff and, to a lesser extent, Jasper during the summer season. Even further to the west is Canada’s Glacier National Park, which is not technically part of the Rockies. The British Columbia coastal region, particularly Garibaldi Provincial Park and the area around Whistler, are other contenders for good Switzerland-like hiking areas. Pretty much all of the places mentioned offer good day hiking and easily accessible alpine scenery. Unlike Switzerland, most of these areas are still relatively pristine. Banff has a significant amount of resort development, unlike most national parks in North America, but nothing on the scale of Switzerland and what commercialization there is can be easily hiked away from.

With regards to your question, however, there IS some excellent alpine scenery in the Lower 48 as well, although not all of it has the fame of the Canadian Rockies. Some of the very best of it is hidden away in places like the San Juan Mountains and Elk Mountains of Colorado, the North Cascades of Washington State (incidentally known as “The American Alps”) and Glacier National Park in Montana, to name just a few places. I am especially familiar with the latter, having worked in the area, and can say unequivocally that Glacier is every bit as beautiful as its Canadian counterparts, although on a somewhat smaller scale. Although it lacks the massive ice sheets of Banff and Jasper, the dramatic contours of the mountains and the vast amounts of wildlife more than compensate for this. The mountains actually seem closer to each other in Glacier than in Banff and Jasper, where wide green valleys can separate peaks and ridges for considerable distances. In Glacier one feels completely encircled by mountains, as though they were close enough to touch. The trail to Swiftcurrent Lookout and the Dawson-Pitamakin Trails are especially good hikes to achieve this effect. Incidentally, in geologic terms Glacier has more in common with the Canadian Rockies than with the rest of the range, and it might be difficult to tell them apart in pictures. And there’s no reason you couldn’t visit both areas on the same trip, if you had sufficient time.

The mountains of Washington State are said to resemble the Alps and for snow and glaciers there is no better place to see them south of Canada. Mount Rainier National Park- another place I am intimately familiar with- is incredibly imposing and offers some of the best hikes I have taken. The Sunrise area of the park offers a great variety of day hikes, from tundra to glacial views to some of the world’s best wildflower displays. Farther north, North Cascades National Park has some of the country’s most jagged peaks and the largest concentration of glaciers outside of Alaska. In fact, this is the area of the country which is most commonly compared to Switzerland, although it is much wilder and receives far fewer visitors. The Cascade Pass Trail is one of the shortest and most popular introductions to this area. Nearby, the Olympic Peninsula offers an unparalleled variety of scenery. Whereas in the Canadian Rockies and in some of the other areas mentioned above, you might see the same type of scenery spread over a large area, in Olympic National Park you have glaciers, temperate rain forest and a rugged coastline all in the same place. The view from Hurricane Ridge and the hike along nearby Grand Ridge offer some of the best “Sound of Music” scenery anywhere with ocean views as a bonus.

Colorado is another area to consider. It offers some of the highest altitudes in the Lower 48 and, in my opinion, more diversity than the Canadian Rockies. Rocky Mountain National Park is a good place to start and is particularly conducive to easy hiking. The trail up to Sky Pond and the Ute Trail are my favorites there. However, the most rugged scenery in the state is arguably found around the Maroon Bells or farther south in the vast San Juan Mountains around Ouray and Silverton. There is plenty of hiking in these areas and probably fewer crowds. Also, the state has places like Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Mesa Verde and the Great Sand Dunes which are well worth exploring. Just over the Utah border are Arches and Canyonlands, where you can have an entirely different experience on the same trip.

Finally, the Sierra Nevada of California must be considered, as these mountains offer some of the finest hiking anywhere. I would think they probably are the least like Switzerland of the bunch, as the climate and terrain are very distinct- yet the weather in the summer is excellent in this range and the topographic relief is immense. While glaciers are few, the largest trees in the world grow along the western flanks of these mountains and the many of the continent’s most impressive waterfalls are located here. Yosemite is a popular starting point but Sequoia and Kings Canyon to the south offer as many or more hiking options with fewer crowds.

I could go on and on. Places like the Grand Tetons, Sawtooth Mountains, the Alpine Lakes region of Washington, the Beartooth region of Montana, etc. Of course the idea is not to deter you from visiting the Canadian Rockies- you definitely should. For Switzerland-like scenery, they are among the best contenders and probably offer some of the best immediate accessibility to Alp-like terrain. The kind of views you can get from the Icefields Parkway alone generally can only be obtained by considerable hiking in other places. Also the camping and lodging options are extensive in these parks, and the Canadians developed them to appeal to tourists of all types- the American parks tend to offer fewer amenities in this regard. Yet I think you could find areas in the Lower 48 that would fit your criteria for breathtaking alpine scenery and some may even be more to your liking for weather, crowds, cost or whatever other factors may be important to you. Lake Louise to Jasper is just one of the many outstanding areas on our incredible continent, and while it may be unsurpassed I couldn’t fairly say that it is unrivaled. Besides, we haven’t even mentioned Alaska, but that’s definitely another forum Enjoy your travels, wherever you choose to go...
jtmcl is offline  
Nov 29th, 2010, 05:51 AM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 2,944
Rocky and rough, or more alpine-like, with grass?

Big show on TV lst night explaining why the Cdn, Rockies are rockier, and almost grass-free, compared to south of the border.

Two sets of good Canadianmountains; Coast mountains near Vancouver have the advantages of a nearby giant city.

Rocky Mountains -- Banff, Jasper, etc. are more rural.

I like your Banff - Lake Louise -- Jasper idea. Good hioghways, good parking lots, nice reasonable walks.

BAK is offline  
Nov 30th, 2010, 07:30 AM
Join Date: Sep 2004
Posts: 1,477
Welcome to Fodors. I sure hope you continue posting on the forums. Great description of some beautiful areas to hike. You make me want to start planning another hiking trip right now. I would love to read a few of your trip reports.
LindainOhio is offline  
Dec 10th, 2010, 05:01 AM
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 5,856
I am posting purely to bookmark. I visited North America for the first time this year, and did some walking in the Lake Louise area (Larch Valley/Sentinel pass, Big Beehive etc). Without doubt the most scenic hiking I have ever done.

The extra information here is already copied and pasted so that I can plan my next trip.
willit is offline  
Dec 13th, 2010, 01:55 AM
Join Date: Jun 2008
Posts: 12,269

Lots of great hiking for me around Banff /Bow River

Lake Louse especially with emerald green water more altitude

and ice fields..some bear issues on some trails though.

Actually prettier more spectacular

than many Swiss Hikes I have done.

www.gorp.com nice for info research on this

Happy Hikng,
qwovadis is offline  
Dec 28th, 2010, 06:46 AM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 1,079
Bookmarking. Thanks for all the great info here!
Kristinelaine is offline  

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are On

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy -


All times are GMT -8. The time now is 10:18 PM.