There are two highways in the Canadian Rockies that get overlooked by most photographers. Both highways have stunning scenery and abundant wildlife yet few photographers spend any time there. The first secret drive is Highway 11 from Nordegg, Alberta to the Saskatchewan Crossing in Banff National Park. The second drive is Highway 93 South (the Kootenay Parkway) from Castle Mountain in Banff National Park through Kootenay National Park in British Columbia ending at Radium Hot Springs.
Highway 11 through the Kootenay Plains
The Kootenay Plains is the hidden gem of the Canadian Rockies. It is one of the last places on the eastern slopes of the Canadian Rockies that does not have golf courses, ski hills, malls and spas. It’s still mostly wild and it feels that way when you spend time there. The highway follows the North Saskatchewan River and the shores of Abraham Lake where you’ll find drifted sand dunes, twisted ancient pines, swirling waterfalls, open grasslands, plunging canyons, mossy forests and windy-tossed aspen groves.
The Kootenay Parkway
The 105-kilometer Banff-Windemere highway (Kootenay Parkway) snakes north to south through 96 kilometers of Kootenay National Park. In my opinion this is easily one of the most scenic drives in the Canadian Rockies, second only to the Icefields Parkway, yet few photographers take the time to explore the wealth of photo possibilities it has to offer. Perhaps the reason that Kootenay is overlooked is the lack of a major front country destination. There are no glaciers to drive to, no turquoise lakes with lodges to stay at, and no mountain towns with souvenir shops to visit. Indeed, if it were not for the hot springs at Radium, we doubt there would be much to attract most visitors, but for photographers, Kootenay has much to offer. Because this highway runs north and south, the light in both the morning and evening is exceptional with both east and west facing peaks available to capture the dawning and waning light of the day. As an added bonus the Kootenay Parkway is teeming with wildlife from deer and sheep to wolves and bears. This is a roadside wildlife photographers paradise. The highway is very busy though with most travelers rushing to get to other destinations in BC or Alberta and few people stopping to see Kootenay National Park in all its glory.