The only reason I was able to see all the beautiful places I practically drooled over in Canada was because I booked with Moose. Their amazing staff members and clientele, along with perfectly chosen sights and locations, made this trip one for the books.
Moose offers a number of guided tours through Western and Eastern Canada. Although there were quite a few that seemed amazing we settled for the Tomahawk, which is ultimately the first portion of the Big West, and we’re so glad we did! The Tomahawk starts in Vancouver and ends in BANFF, stopping in all the big cities and at all the beautiful sights along the way. The beauty of Moose is that these fairly long drives between cities are broken up by amazing sight-seeing spots, fun excursions and lots of singing/napping.
Our first leg of the tour began in Vancouver and brought us to Whistler. Our tour guide, Marshall, was knowledgeable and funny. Highway 99, or the sea to sky highway, was amazing in itself however we stopped along the way in places like Porteau Cove, Shannon Falls and at Whistler Bungee to hike from the Cheakamus River to Brandywine Falls on the sea to sky trail. These stops really break up the drive an allow you to see beautiful parts of British Columbia that you might otherwise miss. You also have the opportunity to Bungee Jump before arriving in Whistler. After group members Bungeed the entire group hiked about a mile to Brandywine Falls; the hike lent itself to beautiful views. From here Marshall picked us up and we were on our way!
We arrived in Whistler village with time to plan our following days’ excursions, grab a bite to eat and shop around. Our tour included dinner at HI-Whistler which provided four delicious options (the chilli was amazing). After dinner, Marshall drove anyone who wanted to go down to the village and instructed them all on how to take public transportation back to the Hostel. The following morning the group was dropped off by 9AM in the village where we had the day to complete our excursions and explore! For more information on Whistler click HERE. An afternoon pickup brought us to the HI Jericho with ample time to hang out on the beach and make a hostel dinner with the crew.
The HI Jericho Beach had an incredibly laid-back vibe. We rented a volleyball and made our way to the beach where we enjoyed some fun in the sand, a quick dip and a beautiful sunset.
For the next leg of our tour, we had a new tour guide who was amazing from the very beginning; the trip would not have been the same without Mike as our guide! (If you click his name it will take you to his guide page where you can see what he’s all about!) He really brought us all together with his thoughtful gestures and passion for travel. Our destination was set for Kelowna. We stopped along the way at Bridal falls, for a picnic lunch at a park in the town of Hope, and at Othello’s Tunnels before arriving in Kelowna where we took a speedboating adventure that was included in our Moose Tour. We spent another beautiful, sunny afternoon on the beach before devouring a salmon dinner at the Samesun (included in the tour). We spent the evening conversing (and drinking) on the back patio area of the Samesun before a small group of us made our way to Level Nightclub; we entered into a whirlwind of electronic music and sweaty dancers before we were whisked away to the upstairs country bar where we ‘learned’ how to two-step. We are all still amazed that everyone knew this dance and at how men actually asked women to dance.
The following day we were up and at it early! We stopped in Revelstoke for lunch and kayaking, which can be done at an additional cost. My party opted out of the kayaking and instead explored the town of Revelstoke. Revelstoke has many cafes and shops to entertain you for quite some time, however, the walk into town from the drop off point (a park next to a few fast food restaurants) is a bit of a walk. From there we continued on to Roger’s Pass and the beautiful Emerald Lake. Since it was later in the day Emerald Lake was practically tourist free, calm and serene. With the time change, we arrived in Banff fairly late. Mike gave us a half hour to check into our Hostel (HI-BANFF ALPINE CENTRE ) and then drove us down into town for dinner at Wild Bills (where he was kind enough to reserve us a table). Wild Bills had delicious BBQ food and a live country band. We never thought we’d travel north and into another country and listen to more country music then we already do in NY. We wound up staying out for a few drinks, where we again, learned/ were whisked away into two-stepping, before exploring the Dancing Sasquatch. We were packed into a techno nightmare. Needless to say, we exited rather quickly.
Now, in the Canadian Rockies, the true fun begins. Our first stop on our way from Banff to Lake Louise was Johnston Canyon. It’s about a 45-minute ‘hike’ to the Upper Falls. I quote hike only because it is a designated, easy to follow path which doesn’t necessarily count as hiking in my book. The Canyon is unique and beautiful but I suggest an early morning or late evening trip to avoid the hoards of visitors. Our next stop was my absolute favorite of the trip; lake Moraine is one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen. Blue as blue can be and peaceful. We ate lunch here and enjoyed the stunning view, however, I wish I had the opportunity to spend a bit more time exploring. I’ve read of a few really great hikes from this location (especially the rockpile/shoreline hike) that I would have loved to try. It can get a bit chilly up at the lookout point so be sure to pack some layers! I put everything I had in my bag on my body for this stop. Also, look out for small, furry friends if you plan to eat lunch here! My cousin picked up a hot date; who says guys don’t appreciate girls who eat salads?
The adventure did not stop here! We continued on to Lake Louise, and although beautiful and picturesque, I found it significantly less majestic then Lake Moraine. At the time we arrived it was packed with people and in my opinion too commercialized; there is a gorgeous hotel right off the shoreline and I feel that some places are meant to stay wild… this is one of them. With that being said, the hike to Lake Agnes Tea House was strenuous and rewarding. I would have enjoyed the opportunity and time to hike to the Beehive or grab a tea from the tea house but I can save that for a future adventure.
Our Lake Louise travel day was short which made our Hostel (HI Lake Louise Alpine Center) enjoyment long. We made a lovely dinner, drank quite a bit of wine/beer/liquor and enjoyed the most amazing conversation with members of our tour and some friends we met along the way. We ended the night with a full-tour-group campfire which included plain chocolate AND Reese’s cup s’mores by yours truly, the Americans, while we drank, sang campfire songs and laughed.
Day 6 of the tour is for Ice Fields! Up and away to Jasper with our first stop being Bow Lake. Bow lake was practically glass, reflecting a mirror image of the mountainous backdrop. We had 45 minutes here to walk around the lake and enjoy its beauty. Be sure to follow the pathway into the bush towards the backside of the lake. It will bring you away from the clutter of people and provide you with a more rugged feel for such a beautiful landscape. From here, our tour guide challenged us to an ‘ice swim’ at Waterfowl Lake. Most of us accepted the challenge, changed into our suits and took the plunge into the icy waters. It’s only cold for a minute before you simply can’t feel your submerged limbs anymore! From here we went for lunch at Mistaya Canyon; a short downhill hike to a rocky shoreline proved to be an amazing lunch stop. There’s nothing quite like peanut butter and jelly Sandwiches with a view!
We made a few roadside stops on our way to The Columbia Icefield at the Saskatchewan river crossing and the big bend, but our main excursion for the day was walking on a glacier! The Glacier Adventure was a lot of fun. It wasn’t an overly long experience, or incredibly thrilling, however, it is so inspiring to walk on the surface of the Athabasca Glacier. You can also fill your water bottle with fresh glacier water, which I took full advantage of. Also, the all-terrain ice explorer that takes you onto the glacier is pretty gnarly in itself! There are other glacier experiences that you could partake in if you were to travel here on your own such as the Glacier Skywalk; through moose, our tour was discounted to $50.00 where it is $85.00 otherwise. If you have time at the Discovery Centre before your Brewster Bus takes you away to the glacier, head downstairs to the museum and sit in on the glacier film. From here we headed to the town of Jasper for dinner. There were plenty of options from fast food like A&W and Subway to Indian buffet to Steakhouses. We found a quaint Mexican Cafe called Cafe Mondo/ El Mondo Loco where they have $3.00 Taco’s and $4.00 Margaritas on Sundays. We stayed in the HI Athabasca Falls which is different from many hostels in that it is AWESOMELY located in the middle of nowhere. It is the most rustic, quaint little place that I’ve ever seen and we LOVED it! We all (18 of us) slept in a cabin together after enjoying yet another night of a fire and drinks! There is also the opportunity to see wildlife on this portion of the trip due to its remote location!
Our drive back to Banff was our last day with Moose, and was referred to as ‘Waterfall Day’. We spent 45 minutes at Athabasca falls exploring its many paths and more remote beauties. Next, we stopped at Tangle Falls where a decent portion of the group did some minor rock climbing and/or scrambling to the top! The view was beautiful from both ends and the climbing adventure was exhilarating. Next up was Moose Falls, an unnamed waterfall named by our tour guide upon discovery. This short hike is on a narrow path that leads you to the side of a waterfall where the sheer power of the water will leave you in awe. Our final stop before coming into Banff was at Peyto Lake. This is the lake on a lot of the Moose Flyers. We just beat the rain, so our view was slightly overcast, but beautiful nonetheless.We spent about 45 minutes here taking photos, enjoying the view and playing hide and seek with a cute little Marmot! It was terribly sad to leave the tour group upon our arrival in Banff but we did manage to plan an excursion with our tour friends for the following day (white water rafting) and enjoy the included dinner at Samesun Banff with everyone!
Our trip would not have been as memorable if it had not been for Moose tours, our group members and most importantly our guide. We would have never seen all of the beautiful sights, acquired the amazing memories or made beautiful friendships without the Moose Network. Not only was our tour affordable, but the Moose discounts and included meals and excursions along the way kept our 10-day adventure costs to a minimum. If you’re looking to explore Western Canada I suggest booking with MOOSE and leaving a few extra days for yourself in Vancouver and Banff to see more of what you’d like to see!
Moose is the G.O.A.T
(Sorry for my terrible pun)
((For all of you who do not teach Middle School: GOAT stands for “greatest of all time”))