Most Iconic Landscape views in the Alberta Rockies
Summer has just officially begun and the outdoor season is in full swing. The Canadian Rockies are a huge place, where can you go to get the perfect shot? Here we look at some of the most iconic views that are no more than a day trip from Calgary.
Two Jack lake
One of the closest options to Calgary is Two Jack lake. Its still about one and a half to two hours outside but you can literally drive right up to the lake edge. Whats great about this particular view is that the mountain in the background of the picture above is Mnt Rundle. One of the most famous mountains in the Canadian Rockies as it towers over the Banff townsite.
As you head along the Transcanada highway towards Banff from Calgary, take the first turnoff to Banff. To get to the townsite you would turn left, instead take the Lake Minnewanka loop on your right. After going over the Texas Gate, you can follow the loop in either direction. There are three lakes along the short loop - Lake Minnewanka is the largest, Two Jack Lake and Johnson Lake. Regardless of which direction you take, Two Jack Lake is the second lake you come to. Pull into the Two Jack Lake day use area and if its not busy, feel free to drive down to the lake edge.
Vermillion Lakes is similar to Two Jack Lake in the sense that you are photographing the same mountain - Mnt Rundle. However, at Vermillion Lake you are photographing it from a different angle. This time you are photographing it from the same side as the Banff townsite, however you are far enough away that you do not see the town in your pictures. One thing to note, when shooting Mnt Rundle from Vermillion Lakes, you are facing east and are perfectly situated to have the sunrise behind the mountain like in the shot above.
To get to Two Jack Lake you took the first turnoff into Banff from the Transcanada Highway. However, to get to Vermillion Lakes you will need to take the second turnoff. Once off the Transcanada you will turn left and head over the bridge as though you were going into Banff. Once over the bridge you will want to take your first right, be careful as it comes up pretty quickly after the bridge and you have to cross over the lane of traffic coming into Banff from the west. Once on the non-descript road, it curves slightly before following the Trancanada almost underneath it. Keep going along the road until you find a decent spot and pull over onto the shoulder. It is a 30km an hour speedlimit but watch for traffic. The road is a dead-end so you can go as far as you like. I have had some good luck shooting from the end of the road as well so make sure you explore the entire road.
Moraine Lake, which lies at the bottom of the Valley of the Ten Peaks. (I bet you can't guess why its called that ;) ), is known for its bright blue water and epic view of the surrounding mountains. There is a Lodge on the edge of the lake if you want to stay there for a few days and explore the surrounding peaks. Even if you don't want to stay there, they have a restaurant where you can grab a bite to eat before heading out on a hike. If you're not too into long walks, there is a mound of rocks on the lodge end of the lake which is actually called a moraine and gives the lake its name. Most of the most famous shots of the lake are taken from on top of this mound like the picture above. One thing to note, this lake is a famous lake and during the summer can get extremely busy, so if you want a shot without people, consider going early in the morning or late in the evening.
Head east on the transcanada Highway past Banff until you reach the Lake Louise exit. Follow the signs to go to Lake Louise. You will come to a winding 20km road up a cliff and towards Lake Louise, keep an eye out, about half way in there will be a turn off to your left for Moraine lake. Once you turn onto that road, it is another 14 km's to the lake and lodge. Another note, the road to Moraine Lake is only open from mid-June to mid-September.
If you didn't turn off towards Moraine Lake and instead carried on the long winding road, you would eventually come to the Lake Louise parking lot. A quick walk through some trees will then take you to the edge of Lake Louise. Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise is another hotel but unlike Moraine Lake Lodge it is open all year round.
There is usually something to photograph throughout the year as well. In the summer you can hike around the Lake to a teahouse on the far side, giving you views of the spectacular lake from multiple angles. in the winter, when the lake is frozen solid, they clear off the snow and you can go ice skating or cross country skiing over the lake. They also have an ice sculpture competition in the winter which makes for some fun shots. Probably what draws people in the most is a photograph of the glacier on the far side of the lake that is beautifully framed by the mountains on either side as you can see in the photo above.
Peyto lake and Bow Lake
The longest trip on this list from Calgary, Bow Lake and Peyto Lake are about a three hour drive away. Peyto lake is probably the more famous of the two as it looks like a wolf from the view point. Both lakes have dedicated parking lots and while you can drive right up to the edge of Bow Lake, it is only a short ten minute walk to the Peyto Lake viewpoint.
To get to these wonderful lakes, you will want to take Highway one west about two and a half hours. You will eventually come to Highway 93 (Aka The Icefield's Parkway), and turn north towards Jasper. The lakes will be about another half an hour up the Icefield's Parkway on your left hand side. Bow lake will come first with the turnoff to Peyto lake's parking lot about five minutes further down the road.
There are many other truly beautiful places and photo opportunities in the Alberta and BC Rockies, these are but a handful of the most famous ones. We will make some more lists throughout the summer of other great spots around here.