Lake Louise is not just a stop on the Icefields Parkway between Banff and Jasper. It is the last stop on the Trans-Canada
before heading across the provincial boundary (and over the Continental Divide) into British Columbia. You can follow the route taken by the first
Canadian trans-continental railway (you can even see some of the old tracks beside the highway). Take the time to explore the just-over-the-
border attractions, so close to Lake Louise.
This park straddles the Trans-Canada Highway on the western slope of the Continental Divide, and has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There are 28 peaks over 3,000 metres (10,000 feet) inside the park boundaries. The word “Yoho” is the Kootenay Indian expression of astonishment. This trans-continental railway was built in 1884 and followed the steep path now used by the highway. It wasn’t until after several serious train derailments that the railroad built the Spiral Tunnels that dropped the grade of the track to a more manageable 4 percent.
Here are the attractions between Lake Louise & Yoho (from East to West):
- The continental divide separates the Atlantic waters from the Pacific waters at this point. The Kicking Horse Pass, slightly to the north and west of Lake Louise is also the path of the Canadian Pacific Railroad which still follows the route surveyed over a hundred years ago.
- On the south side of the Trans-Canada, just to the west of the Contiental Divide, is Lake O’Hara. The second-largest of 25 named lakes in this valley, Lake O’Hara has over 30 hiking trails, totaling 80 km in length. In order to minimize environmental impact, the road is not open to the public.
- A few miles past the Continental Divide are two vantage points where you can watch the long trains (they’re typically a mile long) make their way up or down the Kicking Horse Pass. Trains enter one tunnel above the highway and emerge below the highway and viewpoint, only to disappear into another tunnel. In a few minutes, the front of the train emerges from a tunnel below the track that is still carrying the back end of the same train. Canadian freight trains are typically 100 cars and about a mile long. The double spiral tunnels help trains safely climb the narrow valley, since the large trains can only manage slopes of 2% or 100 feet per mile.
- This waterfall, on the north side of the highway, drops 253 metres (830 ft)–which is higher than Niagara Falls–and is named for the Cree word for “it is wonderful”. it is a favorite spot for ice-climbers in wintertime.
This lake, located on the north side of the Kicking Horse River, is held back by a glacial moraine. A shoreline hike takes about two hours, with other longer hikes branching from the lake. Emerald Lake Lodge is a very popular tourist stop.
- This fossil treasure trove, discovered in 1909, has the remains of animal remains over 500 million years old, and has contributed significantly to the scientific understanding of evolution.