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  • Writer's pictureXPLORid

The Badlands and the Rockies

Neither did we think of timing the crossing of the Rocky Mountains, nor did we know about the long waiting time to get an extension of our Canadian visa. We do want to see the Badlands and the Rockies, so we change our plans.

Slow travel

A train takes us from Sudbury to Edmonton, 2,800 km to the West.

It’s wise to cross the Rockies before October, so we are skipping a large part of West Ontario and the prairies in Manitoba en Saskatchewan. On bicycle it would have taken us too long.

To the Badlands

The roads from Edmonton to the Badlands are long straight lines. These are the prairies of Alberta. Merely flat, but a lot of head wind and quite hot.

The first true view of the Badlands is at Horse Thief Canyon.


The ride through the canyon is almost unreal. And to make it even more magical: in Drumheller we happen to knock on the door of the curator of the Royal Tyrrell Museum. Donald gives us a warm welcome and we can stay in his house that’s all about dinosaurs and amphibians.

Rest stop in Calgary

More magic happens on our way to Calgary. In Strathmore we’re lucky to knock on Ernie and Hildie’s door. We can stay for the night, but we are also invited to stay for a couple of days with their daughter Marcia in Calgary. After cycling many days in a row we are blessed to have a short break.

With new energy we are back on the Bow River Pathway heading to the Rocky Mountains. Calgary is stunning with its rivers colored in blue turquoise. A lot more beauty is awaiting us in Banff and Jasper. With bear spray, bear sacks and enough provisions we are ready for more.

The Rocky Mountains

On the first day in the Rocky Mountains we have our first up close bear encounter. Just before Johnston Canyon Campground we decide to have a small break to have some bread. Just when we are about to sit down Linda spots a black bear walking towards us.


She immediately yells:

"Hey bear. Yo bear! Go away!"

The bear stops and looks at us. When Linda starts waving her arms up and down the bear turns away and heads off. No extra break today. There’s no one else at this picnic spot and we are afraid the bear will return.

This won’t be our last bear encounter. Every time when we see a bear we are very alert during the next hour of cycling. The scary feeling fades away and we start to enjoy the scenery in front of us again, in stead of scanning the bushes non stop.

Lake Louise

Like we did before, we leave some panniers and our sleeping bags in our tent. This time we are going to explore Lake Louise. The emerald lake is absolutely stunning!

View from the top

Ben suggest to cycle all the way to the end of the lake. A sign saying Plain of Six Glaciers Tea house 3.4 km is hard to resist. We decide to go for it, not knowing this is actually a hiking trail. The trail is tough especially when you also need to push and lift a bicycle. There are rocks and hills and more rocks, gravel and trunks.

The view at the end is all worth it.

* Lake Moraine. A slightly different colour, smaller and with a lot of trunks.


After a nice day at the lakes we return to the campground. We are flabbergasted when our tent is gone. The park warden has confiscated it.

This campground is divided into 2 areas: one for trailers and one for tents. The tents are surrounded by an electric fence to keep out the bears. The trailers aren’t. It turns out we camped in the wrong area.

This got to be a huge misunderstanding. When we arrived the campground was full. We were allowed to ask to share a spot. But nobody informed us about the 2 areas. Eventually we get a warning and we can collect our stuff.

Too many people, way too less control

Four park wardens take care of 4 national parks: Banff, Jasper, Waterton and Yoho. Way too less to control 5 million tourists visiting Lake Louise every year. They have to act immediately when they see illegal activities. Just like they did when they spotted our tent.

Five million tourists and this isn’t the end yet. They are taking over nature. This year the number of bears killed by traffic is sky high. It’s the main cause of death. The park doesn’t act accordingly. The speed limit is still 90 km/h and “shuttles only” hasn’t been implemented yet.

*Athabasca Falls. Leave the bicycles at the point where the river thunders into the canyon, we walk down to see more of this canyon and pot holes.

Different style next time?

We regret the amount of traffic on the Icefield Parkway. At the sightings we avoid the crowds by getting there very early or very late. In the next national park we want to look for a lodge and go hiking. A lodge will be quite expensive though. Moreover you have to make a reservation 1 year in advance. We can never plan something like this. We might be better off skipping national parks altogether or taking the unbeaten path.

Let's see where the road takes us.



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