Over the years, we’ve accumulated a stack of maps covering the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks – everything from freebie x-country ski trail maps handed out at Parks Canada visitor centers to detailed topographical maps with scores of hiking trails.
We’re always on the lookout for new trails and points of interest to explore, so when Jeff Clark, lead cartographer at Clark Geomatics, reached out via email to see if we’d be interested in receiving a copy of their brand new Banff, Yoho & Kootenay National Parks Recreation Map and Visitor Guide in exchange for an honest review, we said heck yeah!
Measuring in at 30 x 36 inches (76 x 91 cm), this is a big map! That’s good, because it helps convey how vast these national parks are and gives a sense of relative locations and distances that is hard to get from online resources.
The large size also accommodates a ton of content that you’d usually have to pull from multiple sources. The map side includes:
- Geology highlights
- Natural and cultural history timeline
- Thumbnail history of each park
- Planning tips
- Climate information
- Things to keep in mind while hiking, camping or driving in the parks
- Visitor centre locations and contact information
- Map key
- Cross-references to the park highlights detailed on the back side
- And the star attraction: a beautiful, shaded relief map of Banff, Yoho & Kootenay National Parks, along with Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park and a few bits of Kananaskis Country, all at a scale of 1:250,000
The flip side covers:
- 80+ sights & attractions
- More than a hundred popular hiking trails
- Stunning colour photographs of more than a dozen iconic locations
- Driving distances
- Wildlife viewing guide (including tracks for many of the most commonly spotted carnivores and herbivores)
The content is logically grouped and organized. The main colours (soft green and pale mauve) are appealing. And the font is clean and crisp, so even my middle-aged eyes found it easy to read! As expected from cartographers with several other detailed hiking/topo maps in the market, the whole thing is waterproof and tear-resistant.
Why Buy This Map?
- It’s a great resource if you’re planning a trip to the Canadian Rockies. It’s an all-in-one recreation map and visitor guide that covers all the basics we consider in the early stages of trip planning: climate, best times to visit, driving times, availability of transit, range of attractions, etc. It provides a brief description of 80+ sights and attractions, shows picnic and camping areas, and includes tips for safely viewing wildlife. For every hike, you’ll find information you need to help you choose which trails are best for you, including distance, expected hiking time, elevation gain and difficulty rating. Because it folds flat, it’s easy to tuck into your day pack as a reference when you’re out and about.
- It makes a great souvenir. The map side is pretty enough to hang on a wall, with pins or sticky dots marking all the places you stopped and trails you hiked. In additional to the beautiful map, I really like the few line drawings of animals. If you prefer to scrapbook your trips, a map is easy to incorporate into your project.
- To foster your exploration and appreciation of the Canadian Rockies. We’ve been hiking here for a couple of decades, with a particular focus on Banff, Yoho & Kootenay National Park over the past seven years. Even so, I’ve pored over this map for several hours, picking up tidbits of history, new ideas for extensions to our Legacy Trail rides, sightseeing ideas for when we’re hosting out-of-town guests who aren’t into hiking (gasp!), and several hikes to try in 2018 and beyond. We’re not big into camping, but for those who are, this map shows a lot of campsites and huts, including information on whether they’re accessible by hikers, bikers and/or horseback, number of sites, etc.
Our copy of this map is now tucked into the basket of pocket guides and quarterly tourist publications that we keep in our guest bedroom to inspire visitors.
This map does not contain sufficient detail for route-finding while day-hiking or back-country camping. Our collection of topo maps includes 5 or 6 1:50,000 scale maps that cover the same general area as this single 1:250,000 scale map. Even when we carry a GPS loaded with topo maps, we always carry the appropriate printed map for the area we’ll be hiking. After all, trail signs can fall over or fade and batteries can die.
Because of the large scale of this map, some hikes listed on the flip side are hard/impossible to find on the map side. The trails are printed on the map, but are not labelled. Two examples are Helen Lake in Banff NP (the lake is too small to appear on the map) and Iceline in Yoho NP. This is where the second stage of trip planning comes in – once you have a short list of hikes that spark your interest, check out the Parks Canada website and sites like this one to gather more information. Then buy the appropriate topo map (or at the very least, download a detailed map into your phone before leaving town – cell reception is spotty to non-existent in these parks).
There are three hikes/attractions that I’ve added to our list of potential shoulder season/winter activities after studying this map: Sulphur Mountain trail, Banff gondola and Emerald Lake lakeshore trail. I’ll be sure to link back to this post with further feedback as we move these onto our completed list.
The closest similar map/guide I’ve been able to find is Gem Trek’s Canadian Rockies Explorer’s Map and Guide (Banff, Jasper, Yoho). It’s priced a little lower than the Clark Geomatics map, but doesn’t look like something I’d want to hang on my wall. 🙂 Plus, it’s short several categories of information.
Finally, this fresh take on Banff, Yoho & Kootenay National Parks would make a great stocking stuffer or spring pick-me-up. There seems to be limited availability through just a few retail stores, so your best bet is to order online directly from Clark Geomatics or through MEC.
Note: while Clark Geomatics did provide a review copy of the map/guide to us at no charge, the above are not affiliate links (so there’s no financial upside to us when you purchase).
Is there another comparable map/guide we’ve missed? If you own a copy of this map/guide, what are your thoughts? As always, we look forward to your comments and feedback!