Alberta's Favorite National Parks, by Ted Cookson

 Return to the list of Ted's travel articles

by Ted Cookson
Published in July 2011
Lake Louise, 37-second video clip
Icefields Parkway view #1, 26- econd video clip
Icefields Parkway view #2, 32-second video clip
Canada geese at Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge, 31-second video clip

Of all of Canada's wonderful parks, perhaps the most beautiful and certainly the best-known cluster is in the Canadian Rockies of Alberta, where Banff and Jasper National Parks are located. Banff, Canada's first national park, is a mere 113 km (70 miles) from Calgary and its large international airport. Jasper, on the other hand, is some 367 km (228 miles) from Edmonton, Alberta's second-largest city, which is in turn 365 km (225 miles) north of Calgary. The two parks are connected by the spectacular 230-km-long (143-mile-long) Icefields Parkway linking the towns of Lake Louise and Jasper. This geography lends itself well to a lovely multi-day circle trip by rental car from either Calgary or Edmonton.

Banff, first declared a nature reserve in 1885 and now (along with Jasper and other parks) part of the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks UNESCO World Heritage Site, consists of 6,641 square km (2,564 square miles) of mighty snow-capped Rocky Mountain peaks with their glaciers and alpine forests. In addition, there are wooded valleys, rushing rivers, lakes which are cold and clear, and even natural hot springs. Hiking trails abound. The construction in 1888 of what is now the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel by the Canadian Pacific Railway led eventually to the current tourism boom in the Canadian Rockies. This grand hotel, a Canadian national historical site, was built in the style of a Scottish baronial castle. Today the small town of Banff, with a permanent population of only 7,000 or so, is the number one resort town in Canada, both in winter and summer. Over five million people visit Banff each year and many more transit the park while traveling between Calgary and Vancouver.

Lake Louise, named after Queen Victoria's fourth daughter and situated under Mt. Victoria, 55 km (35 miles) west of the town of Banff, is said to be the most popular photo subject in the Rockies. Glacier water with suspended particles is the secret to the blue-green hue of this and many other alpine lakes, including nearby Moraine Lake, which was once pictured on the Canadian twenty-dollar bill. The well-known Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise sits directly on the lakeshore. One of Canada's iconic hotels, this institution opened in 1890 as a log chalet, and part of the current building dates back to 1911. Over the years Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip, Queen Margrethe of Denmark, King Hussein and Queen Noor of Jordan and Prince Rainier of Monaco have all stayed there.

On the scenic and well-engineered Icefields Parkway the distance from Lake Louise to Jasper can be covered in several hours nonstop. But, if one takes advantage of some of the fabulous photo opportunities en route, the drive can consume a good part of a day. Glacial lakes abound all along the picturesque route, which follows the Bow River Valley. One of the highlights of the drive is viewing the Athabasca Glacier, a finger of the extensive Columbia Icefield, which lies midway between Lake Louise and Jasper.

Jasper National Park, named after trading post operator Jasper Hawes, is Banff's northern counterpart. With an area of 10,878 square kilometers (4200 square miles), Jasper attracts over two million visitors annually. Situated at 1,304 meters (4,279 feet), the town of Jasper, a convenient place to stop for supplies in between drives or hikes, has a population of only about 5,000. Ten kilometers (six miles) south of town is Jasper Tramway, the longest and highest guided aerial tramway in Canada and the only guided aerial ropeway in the Canadian Rockies. A smooth seven-minute aerial trip whisks visitors up to high alpine habitat at 2,277 meters (7,472 feet) with awe-inspiring views of six mountain ranges and the Athabasca River. Interestingly, Jasper forms part of the Arctic Ocean watershed. Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge is this national park's iconic resort. A complex of cabins spread on the side of pretty Lake Beauvert, it was visited by King George VI and Queen Elizabeth in 1939 and by Queen Elizabeth II & Prince Phillip in 2005.

It is well worth undergoing the long intercontinental flights for a chance to see Banff and Jasper, Alberta's two favorite national parks. The least expensive round trip economy class airfare from Cairo to Calgary, Alberta in July 2011 is approx. EGP 9,800 on Lufthansa via Frankfurt. Those planning to visit the Canadian Rockies in summer should book their air and their accommodation far in advance.

ABOUT TED COOKSON:  Egypt's most widely-traveled travel agent, Ted has been to every country in the world!  He has also visited 315 of the 320 destinations on the list of the Travelers' Century Club (visit and refer to World Travel Club).  A travel agent in Cairo since 1986, Ted manages EGYPT PANORAMA TOURS, a full-service travel agency, at 4 Road 79 (between Roads 9 and 10, near the "El Maadi" metro station) in Maadi.  Contact Egypt Panorama Tours (open 7 days a week 9 AM-5 PM) at:  Tels. 2359-0200, 2358-5880, 2359-1301.  Fax 2359-1199.  E-mail:  Web site:

  Return to the list of Ted's travel articles