By No Vacation Required, on May 27, 2013

Road trip to the top of the continent

We love visiting National Parks when we road-trip around North America. With this in mind, our dream road trip (with road trip tunes of course) would be the nearly 1,000-mile stretch of road from Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming to Jasper National Park in Alberta, Canada.

Over the years, we’ve been to all of the parks on this incredible stretch but never in one trip. Our epic journey would begin in Seattle and take us through Boise, Idaho, and Jackson, Wyoming to the Grand Tetons. There are no quiet foothills building into a jagged crescendo out here – just plains, then mountains. Naturally, the views in this part of the continent are simply breathtaking.

From the Tetons, the drive to Yellowstone National Park is a quick one. The smell of sulfur would waft through the open car windows, and we’d get out to watch the Grand Prismatic Spring in all of its splendor. No wonder this place is always so crowded. We’d escape the crowds with a hike on Mount Washburn Trail, and fight punishing winds in order to reach the observatory. From up there, the park would seem empty and endless.

Yellowstone NP

With the magnificence of two national parks behind us, we would take some time to just drive. Driving past Bozeman, Kent would say, “They say the sky is bigger here.” He always says that when we’re there. And it’s always true. We’d watch the landscape change as we head northwest. When we hit Flathead Lake, we’d know we were close to Glacier National Park – the Crown of the Continent, as it is called. And we’d be excited.

Viewfinder Tip: When visiting Glacier National Park, take the free NPS shuttle so you can enjoy the views.

Glacier is our “go-to” place, figuratively and literally. It’s where we go in our minds when we need a Zen moment. It’s where we go, every year, when we need an abundance of Zen moments. On this trip, we’d drive the engineering marvel that is Going-to-the-Sun-Road, appreciating the vistas it affords while knowing that those views barely hint at what lies deeper in the park. We’d need to stretch our legs, so we’d conquer Siyeh Pass, an 8.4-mile lung-busting hike that leads to carpets of sub-alpine wildflowers, glacial lakes, and trickling snow melt streams.

Afterward, we’d refuel with some razzleberry pie at Park Cafe in East Glacier. We have no idea what a razzleberry is, but it’s delicious.

Chief Mountain Highway would be our route up and into Canada, its namesake standing impressively in the distance all the while. Free-range cattle have the right-of-way here, so we’d have to take it slow. On the other side of the 49th Parallel, we’d stop at Waterton Lakes National Park.

Waterton Lakes NP

We’d then drive through Banff, a city that we have found especially intriguing over the years. Then we’d pop over to Lake Louise, one of the most picturesque lakes in the world (trust us, it’s even more beautiful than those desktop wallpaper pictures would lead you to believe).

From here, our trip would take us along the Icefield Parkway, a road that passes milky-blue glacial lakes thick with rock flour, glaciers and mountains beyond mountains. Finally, at Jasper National Park, we’d celebrate the end of our journey by hiking to the end of the Whistlers Trail. At the end of the trail, we’d soak up the panoramic view of the Canadian Rockies and gaze south, peering back toward where the trip began.