Destinations

Oh, Canada

The northern border is finally open and adventures await

By Micah Drew
The Elk River near Fernie, British Columbia. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

As of Aug. 9, half of the restrictions that have been in place since March 2020 regulating travel across the U.S.-Canadian border were lifted as Canadian officials allowed Americans to enter the country to shop, vacation or visit. As of Sept. 9, however, restrictions remained for Canadians heading south. 

In order to travel to Montana’s northern neighbor, U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents must be both fully vaccinated and have a negative COVID-19 test within three days of crossing the world’s longest land border. Travelers are also required to fill out a detailed application on the ArriveCAN app before crossing. 

WHAT TO DO

Explore a new national park: While you can reach Canada by hiking roughly 30 miles through the backcountry of Glacier National Park, it’s much easier to drive to Glacier’s sister park, Waterton Lakes National Park. Take in the view of Upper Waterton Lake from the porch of the Prince of Wales Hotel, and then book a two-hour cruise on the M.V International, the oldest operating passenger ship in Canada.

For a longer road trip, travel 300 miles north of Whitefish to Banff National Park, one of the country’s iconic attractions. The idyllic getaway spans 1.64 million acres, half again as large as Glacier Park. Visit the turquoise waters of Moraine Lake surrounded by the towering Valley of the Ten Peaks, and then hop on a bike and cycle the 13.8-mile Banff Legacy Trail, a paved pathway that stretches from the park’s east gate to the Bow Valley Parkway. 

Soak in a hot spring: The Banff Hot Springs range between 27-46.5 degrees Celsius (81-116 degrees Fahrenheit), depending on the season, and were established as a commercial operation in the late 19th century for people to partake in the soothing and reputedly healing properties of the mineral-rich waters. The town of Fairmont sits at the north end of Columbia Lake, the birthplace of the mighty Columbia River, and Fairmont Hot Springs Resort offers several pools of deep, warm, blue water to soak in and even has diving boards to practice your best Olympian impersonations. 

Visit Fernie: Start at the Fernie Museum and take a walk through the historic downtown where you can marvel at the old rail station or stop by the old Orpheum theater that entertained residents in the 30s and 40s. Before the snow hits the mountain, ride Fernie Alpine Resort’s lift-accessed bike park, one of eight different trail systems that can be reached by two wheels from downtown. If there’s just time for one ride, opt for the Lazy Lizard, a 7-kilometer (4.3 miles) long flow trail with only 350 meters (1,148 feet) of net elevation loss. 

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