You know those trips that will just stay with you forever? Because of the awesome people you met, or an incredible guide, or because of the moments that just completely stole the breath from you and left you speechless? My Trek America Mountie tour in Canada was one of those trips.
Even weeks later, I’m still reeling from the onslaught of emotions from the trip. Which is possibly why it took me so long to put together my vlog! But, the video is finally finished and I wanted to share it here to show you exactly what we got up to on our Trek America Canada trip – the Mountie Tour through Alberta and BC. Enjoy…
The Mountie Tour is one of Trek America’s Canada tour offerings. It’s a small group tour of Western Canada – camping at several locations across Alberta and BC. Despite being called a trek, it’s more of a road trip. We travelled by minibus, camped every night, and stopped off at some of the region’s most impressive attractions for hikes or other adventures.
I wrote up a full review of our incredible Trek America experience, so go check that out for loads more info! Below, I’ve done a brief-ish round-up of everything we got up to on the trip….
Hitting the Road!
There’s no easing yourself in to a Trek America trip! An early morning briefing, a quick pit-stop for Tim Horton’s coffee, a Supermarket Sweep style race around Walmart stocking up on an unnessarily high number of red and white Canada-themed accessories, and then we were on the road! Ten bloggers and two guides bundled into our sexy Trek America minivan, thirsty for adventure.
Our first glimpse of the Rockies was impressive and daunting, in equal measure. The skies looked grey and unfriendly, with light rain whipping at the van window. Most of us, myself included, had naively packed for summer. Suddenly, here we were in the Rockies, realising that camping in Canada might be tougher than we thought.
Luckily, by the time we rolled into Banff, the rain had eased off – even if the sky still looked grimly disapproving. Perfect conditions for our first hike of the trip – the short and sweet Tunnel Mountain Trail for epic views of Banff.
That night, camping was a bit of a culture shock for most of us. I’ve camped before, but mostly in England – and even in June Canada is COLD! But after triple layering in two jumpers and stuffing my sleeping bag with a coat, I survived the night – and woke up ready for a day of adventure!
Lakes and More Lakes
Day two was all about Alberta’s famous lakes! First, canoeing on the Emerald Lake, marvelling at the green colours and some leftover snow from a recent avalanche. And doing a lot of pirate voices with Travel Dave for some reason.
Next up was Lake Louise. Thanks to the mineral-rich glacier water, it’s a stunning shade of blue. Like most of the lakes we spotted throughout our Trek America Canada trip – it didn’t look real!
On day three, we hit the Icefields Parkway. A helicopter flight over the Rockies, hiking the Athabasca glacier, and one amazing surprise. I’ve already written about that day in detail here, so go read it for more info (and some of my favourite pictures).
Halfway through the trip, we crossed the border from Alberta to British Columbia – our guide Heather’s home region and Canada’s westernmost province. West Coast Best Coast (apparently). Saying goodbye to Alberta’s famous national parks seemed sad – until we headed to BC’s provincial parks! First up was Mount Robson Provincial Park, named after a looming mountain that’s almost always veiled behind clouds. Ignoring the stubbornly hidden peak, we hiked to Kinney Lake for one of our best lunch spots of the trip – and for the more, erm, insane members of the group to swim in the icy waters. Yeah, not for me thanks. But I had fun watching!
Wells Gray Provincial Park
We rolled into Wells Gray Guest ranch in the late afternoon sunshine and wow, did I fall in love instantly. The ranch is exactly that – complete with fields of horses and low wooden buildings. It also had a bit of a cowboy theme. Ok, a massive cowboy theme. There was a fake jail and sheriff’s office, and a real-life saloon with swinging doors. I was in my element. Especially after I found a battered cowboy hat in the minivan and insisted on wearing it for two solid days! Particularly on the night that me and two other members of the group (big up Who is Milly and Backpacking Simon) had to cook an al fresco campfire dinner for the team.
With two nights in Wells Gray Provincial Park, we had a full day in the area to explore at a nice, lazy pace. The park is known as Canada’s “waterfall park” and is home to a staggering 39 waterfalls. So what else could we do but get out chasing them, whilst singing an irritating amount of TLC?
We hit up Helmcken Falls (grand and dramatic in the rain); Dawson’s Falls (sang the Dawson’s Creek theme song. A lot.); Moul Falls (formed a britpop cover band with Milly, Vicky and Dave), and finally Spahats Falls (just ridiculously beautiful) before moving on from Wells Gray. Possibly one of my favourite stops of the trip.
Clearwater to Whistler
Day eight was our “van appreciation day”. Aka driving 450km from Clearwater to Whistler. It took about seven hours, with a few stops along the way. We followed the Historic Gold Rush Trail, passed some crazy pretty views and the staggering Fraser Canyon, and we sang along to cheesy nineties music FOR HOURS. It was great.
Whistler Chill Time
After all that adventuring, Whistler was the perfect last stop. We went out for a mega sushi feast, then got – err – a little merry at some of the town’s bars. Then me and Vicky couldn’t find a taxi and tried to sweet talk a hotel receptionist into letting us stay the night – he didn’t – before sharing a taxi with a randomer and then getting lost trying to find our tent. Canada is full of adventures even when you’re not trying to have one!
We spent the last day chilling out at Lost Lake after a lush sunny walk through the pine forest. I was the only one woman enough to swim in the (flipping chilly) glacier-fed water, but mostly we just sat in the sunshine chatting and relaxing. Some of the group headed into town and actually did stuff but I had a bloody lovely day doing nothing and enjoying the nature.
Whistler to Vancouver
Our last day involved another long drive, one LAST waterfall (Shannon Falls), and an afternoon of food and beers in sunny, spectacular Vancouver. There were some emotional goodbyes and a LOT of hugs. It was SAAADDDD.
You connect with people so fast on these trips and form some really tight emotional bonds. Especially when the group is small and you spend so much time squished into a minivan together. It was hard to say goodbye and I hope we all get to have a reunion soon.
Book at least one night in a hotel before and after the trip!
Jetlag is exhausting, the trip itself is exhausting, and ten nights without creature comforts (like mattresses) can be a long time. Make sure you book a night in a hotel either side of the trip, or even return home a few days after it finishes to give yourself time to enjoy the final stop. You don’t actually get much time in the start and finish cities so if you want to see the sights of Calgary or Vancouver book a couple of nights in each.
Prepare for Cold
Even in June, with sunny days, the Rockies were still pretty cold. I was told to expect cold weather but I don’t think I really believed them – so I wasn’t prepared. I had to wear the same stuff a lot – and buy an extra jumper and a hat while I was out there.
Buy (then Donate) Bedding
If you don’t have much room in your luggage, hit a thrift store or a supermarket before the trip begins and buy a few necessities. Grab a pillow and an extra blanket. Your life will be MUCH more comfortable if you do. Me and Vicky also used an old thrift store duvet we found as a ground sheet under our sleeping bags, to block out the cold from the ground. It was SUCH a good idea.
After the trip, drop it all off at a thrift store or donate it to a shelter so that you’re not being wasteful.
What to Pack
Monica from the Travel Hack has a great Trek America packing list. It’s not specifically for the Mountie Tour, though, so bear that in mind. Most of the stuff on her list is relevant to all tours – but for this one you need to prepare for cooler weather and less city time! Or Aly from Psycho Traveller has a mini packing list and some top tips in her post. Plus I’ve included my suggestions below…
A really really good sleeping bag. Mine was for summer conditions and it wasn’t the warmest. I had to stuff it with clothes to make myself a cosy little nest! Get yourself something a bit more substantial like this oneif you want a good night’s sleep!
A decent water bottle. I LOVE my Water-to-Go bottle because it filters water from any source, so you never have to worry about where you fill it up from. (Read the review here and use my 15% discount code ELUX15).
Decent waterproofs. Yep, it can rain in the Rockies quite a bit! I love my North Face Sangro jacket which is perfect for taking on ALL the elements!
Footwear. I recommend a pair of hiking boots (like my Mountain Warehouse ones), a pair of something like Converse, and some lighter trail shoes like my super lightweight water-resistant and quick-drying (and glacier stream surviving) KEEN Ethos hiking trainers. Oh, and a pair of flip flops* for sunny days and chilling at camp. FYI – you do not need “going out-y” shoes. All the towns you visit on this trip are camping/mountain towns and no one expects you to glam up.
*Check out my list of comfy flip flops for some great options!
Cold weather stuff. You might not need them much, but it’s honestly better to have them and not need them. Take gloves, a hat, and a few jumpers and thick trousers – I loved wearing my cotton trackie bottoms EVERYWHERE.
Zip-off trousers. You just can’t beat a sexy pair of hiking trousers that zip off at the knee to turn into shorts. Prepared for anything!
Athabasca Glacier Hike Tips
Be warned – the windburn is real and it will getcha. It’s bright up on that glacier so slap on lots of suncream – at least factor 30. Probably 50. To protect your nose and mouth from the icy windburn, I recommend layering up with a scarf around your face. Definitely a lifesaver. You’ll be given protective gear and crampons but wear sturdy, weather-proof hiking boots and some warm clothes for underneath. It is COLD on that glacier!
Only take what you need with you. As in, a camera and a water bottle. Don’t attempt to take two cameras like I did. Your hands will be cold and you’ll have thick gloves on. Trying to do stuff is a faff. Take the bare minimum is what I’m saying!
Splurge on the Helicopter Flight!
There are several optional extra activities on the Trek America Mountie tour. But if you only do one, make it the helicopter flight. I cannot stress this enough. It is the BEST thing I’ve ever done. The views are stunning, the feeling is amazing, and it’s just an incredible opportunity at a pretty decent price. You won’t regret it!
Get to Know Your Guides
Trek America guides are amazing – at least in my experience! Take time to chat to them; you can bet they’ll have some hilarious stories of tour disasters or guests gone astray. And they are so full of knowledge about Canada and the places you’ll visit. Press them for local recommendations, get them to teach you knew outdoorsy skills like wood chopping, or just sit up front on the bus and have a good old chinwag about life as a Trek guide. Being friends with your guide is bound to make the trip an even more incredible experience.
Are you considering the Trek America Mountie tour (or one of their other Canada tours)? I WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU! Scroll down and drop me a comment!
I was a guest of Trek America and Explore Canada on this trip. But, as always, all words and opinions are my own and unbiased.