Tour the Canadian Rockies with Moose Bus

The Canadian Rockies have some of the most breathtaking views in the country. 😍 ⛰️

Moraine Lake in the Canadian Rockies ❤

I traveled through the Canadian Rockies with a company called Moose Bus, a hop-on, hop-off tour bus. I chose to book their complete 14-day Pacific tour, but it is possible to book smaller segments of that route as well. 🚍 🇨🇦

Moose Bus parked at the Saskatchewan River Crossing

Since I booked their full Pacific tour, I had already completed two segments of that tour (i.e. the Island Explorer and Sea to Sky route), and now I was on to their Caribou loop, which toured the highlights of the Canadian Rockies, including Kelowna, Banff, Lake Louise, and Jasper.

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L: Caribou loop (8-day tour), which is part of the 14-day Pacific tour; R: Here, you’ll see the Caribou loop can be booked in even smaller segments as well.

On day one of this loop I was picked up in Vancouver, where I met the new people on my tour, mostly from Australia and New Zealand. I also met my new guide/driver, who was very organized and wrote our schedule on the bus white board each day. 📝DSC_5513On the way from Vancouver to Kelowna we made a stop at Bridal Veil Falls, which resembles a delicate white bridal veil.DSC_5516We also stopped in the town of Hope for lunch, which is apparently where Rambo was filmed. 😮

L: sign from the movie Rambo, found at the entrance to Hope; R: Rambo t-shirt in the Hope gift shop

After lunch we made our way to the Othello Tunnels.DSC_5530The Othello Tunnels are five old railway tunnels, built in the early 20th century by the Canadian Pacific Railway. The tunnels are a true engineering marvel, considering that, without modern technology, and in such a remote area, they built this solid infrastructure, even with the constant danger of the sheer rock cliffs and rushing waters around them! 😮DSC_5529Anyway, from there we pressed on to our hostel in Kelowna, where we quickly checked in before hightailing it over to the harbor at Okanagan Lake for our jet boating ride (included in the tour). 🛥️

jet boating with Kelowna Jet Boat Adventures on Okanagan Lake

I wasn’t quite sure what jet boating meant, but essentially, the boat just drives really fast and does a lot of 360-degree turns to get your adrenaline pumping. Hah! 😛

Some people in our group went parasailing as an optional activity as well.

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Moose Bus participants get a huge discount with Ogopogo Parasail, so it only cost about 36 USD. Fun and affordable!

In the evening we all hung out together at our hostel, Samesun-Kelowna, where they provided us with dinner.

We could choose either a chicken cordon blue or spinach and feta spanikopita (pictured) with mashed potatoes and bean salad.

The second day we continued on towards Banff, making stops at Kalamalka lake and Craigellachie Last Spike.

Kalamalka Lake

Kalamalka Lake is a glacial lake named by National Geographic as one of the most beautiful lakes in the world.

our Moose Bus mascot, Merv 🙂

Craigellachie Last Spike was the spot where the Canadian Pacific Railway hammered their last silver spike in the railway. DSC_5542

As well as those two roadside spots, we also spotted two more black bears, among other wild creatures.

black bear munching on vegetation
Columbian ground squirrel
female bighorn sheep

At this point we also left British Columbia and entered the Alberta province where we changed time zones. 🇨🇦 🕑

Roger’s Pass, near to where we left British Columbia and entered the Canadian Rockies of Alberta

In the afternoon the group had an option of either kayaking or swimming at Williamson Lake in Revelstoke.

Williamson Lake
canoes at Williamson Lake

Since I felt like relaxing, I chose to sunbathe there with a few girls from Germany, England and New Zealand. ☀️2017-07-07 14.46.35 (1)

The kayakers, on the other hand, went on a 2-hour paddling excursion across a mountain lake, booked with a highly recommended company, Natural Escapes19731882_10212190310246648_5705525592404496883_n

Anyway, our last scenic stop of the day was at the Meeting of the Waters, where the Yoho River and the Kicking Horse River collide. Nature looks so hardcore! Wow! 😮DSC_5602
Afterwards we checked into our hostel, HI-Banff, which had a lovely log cabin feel.PicMonkey CollageThe third day we made our way from Banff to Lake Louise, stopping at Two Jack Lake, Hoodoo Lookout, Johnston Canyon, Takkaw Falls, Emerald Lake, Natural Bridge, and Moraine Lake.

Two Jack Lake is named after two whisky jack birds that were apparently fluttering around this lake when they discovered it. DSC_5574Hoodoo Lookout offers a panoramic view of Tunnel Mountain, as well as, numerous hoodoos, which are sandstone pillars formed over millions of years.

the hoodoos are in the bottom left of this image

Johnston Canyon is a narrow inlet of carved limestone, formed by the rushing waters of Johnston Creek, which empty into the Bow River. While walking through the canyon we came across a few waterfalls, which are apparently popular for ice climbing in winter! 😮DSC_5592 (2)Takkaw Falls is the second highest waterfall in Canada, and usually isn’t visited, considering the treacherous road to get there has a high prevalence of avalanches, and is closed for 10 months of the year! ❄️DSC_5606

Fun Fact: Parks Canada actually causes controlled avalanches, where they launch explosives into the mountains in order to decrease the size of the snow banks hanging over roads, and reduce the threat to passing traffic. Sometimes these explosives don’t detonate though, and it is possible to find them when hiking. Obviously don’t grab it for a photo op! 😮

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L: display explosive at the Roger’s Pass visitor center; R: explosive warning sign at Parker’s Ridge

Anyway, our next stop was one of my favorites, Emerald Lake, which has a striking turquoise hue. DSC_5615Fun fact: This area has 17 stunning lakes, which get their vivid color from deposits of powdered rock, typically limestone or quartz. Initially, when these lakes were discovered, they were all named Emerald Lake for their color. Since then, the 16 other lakes have changed names, and this is the only one that kept the original. ❤

soaking up the natural beauty at Emerald Lake

Natural Bridge is quite literally a natural bridge formed by the rushing waters of the Kicking Horse River. DSC_5627Moraine Lake is an incredibly impressive glacial-fed lake that is surrounded by the Valley of the Ten Peaks.DSC_5630I really couldn’t ask for a better view! Wow! ❤DSC_5642In the evening, we checked into our accommodation, HI-Lake Louise, and had a bonfire in their woodsy backyard, with s’mores and cheap wine to boot. 😉PicMonkboney CollageThe fourth day we gathered at 7 am to begin a scenic hike, which started at Lake Louise and ended at Lake Agnes, with a halfway stop at Mirror Lake along the way.

PicMonkemirrory Collage
Mirror Lake was swarming with skeeters, so I didn’t stay too long. 😉

Lake Louise is a serene glacial lake surrounded by steep mountains, perfect for climbing. In fact, this area is known as the birthplace of Canadian mountaineering.DSC_5656As well, the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, the hotel beside it, historically served as a retreat for outdoor enthusiasts.

view of Lake Louise and Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise (left-hand side) from the top of the Little Beehive

This all began in the late 19th century, when Swiss guides came to Canada, and started teaching people how to scale the surrounding mountain peaks. ❤DSC_5683In accordance with its Swiss history, along the shores of Lake Louise, we spotted a man playing an alphorn, a wooden horn traditionally used to communicate in the Swiss alps.DSC_5658

All we needed were a few yodelers, and we’d be set! It was the perfect atmosphere for our morning hike. ❤

Anyway, after about an hour of hiking, we made it to Lake Agnes, where we were greeted by the staff at its lovely lakeside tea house. DSC_5675The Lake Agnes Tea House historically served high tea to the Swiss when they were hiking in the Rockies. Now-a-days, it’s a popular stop for tourists and a helicopter stocks the tea house once a year. ☕

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The maple tea came highly recommended! 😀

While some of our group sipped on tea, I decided to make an additional hike up to the Little Beehive lookout point, which offered spectacular views over both Lake Agnes and Lake Louise.

Lake Louise on the left and Lake Agnes on the right

Absolutely stunning! DSC_5694After our hike we began our drive to Jasper, stopping at Bow Lake and Mistaya Canyon along the way.
Bow Lake is a crystal clear lake, where some of our crazy group members jumped in the water. It looked absolutely freezing!DSC_5707I chose the warmer option, by checking out the on-site coffee house and gift shop. 🙂DSC_5703Mistaya Canyon is a narrow passageway for the water flowing into the Saskatchewan River. What’s interesting is that all the potholes formed in this limestone come from the rushing rock debris that have been carving away at the canyon for hundreds of years!DSC_5708After the canyon we drove through Icefields Parkway, one of the most scenic drives in the world.

the view out my window when driving along the Icefields Parkway

This is the Big Bend, a famous turn along the Icefields Parkway. DSC_5736While driving along this road we stopped for a picnic lunch at the Saskatchewan River Crossing.DSC_5729In the afternoon our group could choose a few optional activities, like visiting Columbia Icefields and Maligne Canyon.

Columbia Icefields’ Visitor Center

Unfortunately, I got a terrible cold, so I decided to take it easy at our hostel, HI-Athabasca, which had rustic log cabins powered by solar energy. So cozy!

PicMonkey Collage
The large solar panel is pictured in the bottom right, near the outhouse.

I also chatted for a few hours with the hostel receptionist, who’s semi-retired, but still helps out here during the summer. He’s an avid cross-country skier and spent many years in these mountains. Since he seemed so knowledgeable, I decided to ask him about the effectiveness of bear spray and bear bells at scaring off bears. We had already seen three bears on our trip, and I had also seen both of these bear repellent products in the stores.

PicMonkey Cbearollage
L: how to protect yourself from a bear. 😛 ; TR: bear spray for sale in Lake Louse (it is a very powerful pepper spray); BR: bear bells, which make noise as to not startle the bear

His answer was this: “There’s an old Canadian joke that goes something like, “How do you tell the difference between grizzly poop and black bear poop? Grizzly poo has a bell and pepper in it.”” Hah! Basically, these things are not very effective defense mechanisms. He did mention though that bears usually won’t give you any trouble unless you threaten them or get between them and their young. I think I should be OK then. 🐻

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friendly bear 🙂

Anyway, the fifth day we made our way from Jasper back to Banff, stopping at Athabasca Falls, Crowfoot Glacier, Beauty Creek, Tangle Falls, and Peyto Lake along the way.

Athabasca Falls is the most powerful waterfall in Canada. DSC_5749My favorite part was the beautiful rainbow we saw when we were there. 🌈DSC_5753Fun Fact: Since these falls are constantly damp and covered by shade, the vegetation here consists of mostly lichen and moss.
DSC_5747Crowfoot Glacier is supposed to resemble a crow’s foot, but unfortunately global warming has caused one of the ‘digits’ to recede. 😢

now you can only see two talons of the crow’s foot

From there we hiked to Beauty Creek, which took about 30 minutes, but we were rewarded with some beautiful views. They might need to get a bit more creative when naming places though. 😛DSC_5762Tangle Falls is a gorgeous multi-tiered waterfall. DSC_5765Next up was another one of my favorite places, Peyto Lake, a milky blue lake surrounded by dark green evergreens. Just breathtaking! 🌲💚DSC_5779I seriously can’t get over these views! Wow! DSC_5781In the evening we checked into our accommodation, Samesun Banff, where we had dinner provided by the hostel.

veggie wrap filled with quinoa, feta, and fresh vegetables

The sixth day we had a free day in Banff, so my British friend and I decided to hike up Tunnel Mountain. The weather was rainy and cloudy, but we weren’t going to let that stand in our way.😊 ☂️

standing at the summit of Tunnel Mountain

After the hike we went into downtown Banff for some shopping.👜

downtown Banff

Banff is incredibly touristic, full of cute hotels, shops and restaurants.

PicMonkbanffey Collage
L: shopping center in Banff; TR: hotel in Banff; BR: home in Banff

One of the shops we found was called BeaverTails. Beaver tails are a whole-wheat, fried-dough pastry, which looks like the tail of a beaver. They are traditionally topped with cinnamon sugar, but can also have fancy toppings, like maple glaze and chocolate.

PicMonkebeavrtaily Collage
Other beaver tail toppings include Nutella, caramel and cheesecake. Talk about a sugar rush!

At this point, the weather had cleared up, so we decided to begin our second hike of the day, to the summit of Sulphur Mountain.DSC_5814To get there from Banff we took a free 10-minute shuttle to the Sulphur Mountain trail head. The hike was a strenuous uphill battle, where we followed a series of switchbacks up the mountainside, gaining an elevation of over 700 meters. The hike was estimated to take 2.5 hours, but we made it up in 1.5! Woo hoo! 😀

downtown Banff and Tunnel Mountain, as seen from the summit of Sulphur Mountain

At the top of the mountain is an observation deck and discovery center, which has educational information about the great outdoors.

observation deck and discovery center in the distance
It’s Canada’s 150th anniversary! 🎉

Now, there is actually a gondola that can take you up and down Sulphur Mountain for about 50 USD round-trip. If you want to save a buck though, you can do what we did and hike up the mountain for free, then ride down the gondola for FREE after 7 pm. 😀

Fun Fact: This is also the first gondola in Canada, and the original gondola carriages can still be found at the entrance.

PicMonkey Cgondolaollage
L: modern gondolas on Sulphur Mountain; R: original gondolas from the 1950s-1980s

On the seventh day we began our drive from Banff back to Kelowna, stopping on the way at numerous roadside attractions, including a cedar boardwalk for lunch, Dutchmen Dairy for ice cream, and Log Barn, quite possibly one of the most bizarre places I’ve seen yet!

dinosaurs and farm equipment at Log Barn

The lawn at Log Barn has a display of over-sized, mismatched lawn ornaments, plus they offer a petting zoo and they sell old-fashioned treats, cured meats, and party dips. 🤔🤔

PicMonkeylognb Collage

They even had goats on an elevated platform that pull up their own food using a bucket and pulley system. 🐐

After that we arrived in Kelowna, where we had our last meal included in the tour.🍔

the hostel provided either veggie burgers, beef burgers or grilled brats with cabbage salad

On day eight, our last day, we made our way from Kelowna back to Vancouver, stopping at Skaha Lake and Lightning Lake along the way.

Skaha Lake, near Okanagan Lake, has sandy beaches and stunning mountain views.DSC_5864While here, we took a stand-up paddle boarding lesson (included in our tour). Our instructor, Bella, with Glow SUP Adventures, showed us tips on how to maneuver on the inflatable board, as well as, how to use the paddle to propel forward.DSC_5866After the mini lesson, we had 30 minutes to paddle around the lake.

Here I am with a girl from New Zealand and Germany paddling on the lake, with our Spanish friend catching a frisbee in the foreground. Nice action shot! 😀

Overall, the hardest part of paddle boarding was remaining stable when boats would zoom by and cause a lot of waves. I just didn’t want to fall in the cold water. Hah! Other than that, I found it super fun and easy!

paddling with a German girl on our tour

Later in the day we stopped at Lightning Lake, where our group relaxed on the lawn and one English guy with us painted a watercolor portrait of the landscape. 🎨

endless evergreens at Lightning Lake

My favorite part was the large group of friendly ground squirrels that call this lake home. There were at least 30 ground squirrels running around here, and they did not seem to be shy around people. So cute!DSC_5888Anyway, after that we pressed on for another two hours before we finally arrived back in Vancouver, and completed this 8-day Caribou loop.

Overall Review of Moose Bus

After completing this 8-day Caribou loop, as well as, the previous two loops with Moose Bus, I would definitely recommend this company. After considering the price of public transport, as well as, the numerous stops we made that are inaccessible with public transport, I found the tour to be very cost effective. As well, the company provides a lot of free time, so you don’t always feel like you’re on a tour. Additionally, their hop-on, hop-off option is great if you want to spend more time in a city before rejoining the Moose Bus tour. For my tour, I found the demographic to be young people, in their 20s and 30s, coming from all over the globe. That being said, this didn’t seem like a big party tour, and many group members were here just to enjoy the beauty of nature. Overall, the trip far exceeded my expectations and I couldn’t have been more pleased! 😀

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our tour group at Moraine Lake with our guide (bearded man in the middle) :p

Well, I hope you enjoyed this tour recap and review. Stay tuned for my next big adventure. ✈️🇪🇸😉 Until then!

24 thoughts on “Tour the Canadian Rockies with Moose Bus

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