When we visit the Banff area we always stay a timeshare in Canmore. Canmore is a very nice town. It is most definitely a tourist town but it is a very nice one. The downtown has lots of nice shops, eating places, galleries, etc. Banff is way too large and crowded for me but Canmore is just the right size.
On the west side of Canmore is a long loop road that goes by Spray Lakes and on to Kananaskis. To get there take Three Sisters Drive and turn on Spray Lakes Road. Take Hwy-742 (Smth-Darrien Highway) to Kananaskis. This is a gravel road but it is wide, well traveled, and easily drivable. There are some rough spots but just go slow, watch the road, and be careful in the more difficult areas.
When we started on our Kananaskis trek I thought we would spend 2-3 hours but we actually spent nearly the entire day. It was a pretty long drive with LOTS of impressive scenery. My favorite photo stops were the reflection shots where the lake water that was almost as smooth as glass. The photo shooting started at Spray Lake and just continued all day. There were photo opportunities galore. Once you turn on to Spray Lakes Road it takes only a few minutes to get to the lake. The lake is very close to Canmore and looks like a nice place to kayak.
There are several bodies of water that reflect the mountains and trees around them. I did not get the names of these places but they are spectacular. The layering on the mountains is impressive. Many are not parallel to the horizon and it looks like the mountain was picked up and replaced at an angle.
There were many places to stop, take photos, and have a picnic. Nearly every body of water was clear, cold, and very still. There were lots of opportunity for reflection photos. When driving this road I highly recommend including a circular polarizing filter in your camera kit. A polarizing filter makes the reflections more clear and removes some of the scattered light from the photo.
One very unexpected sight was this ancient monolith. This appears to be some sort of communication device used by ancient civilizations. When the corded handle is removed and placed next to one’s ear it makes a strange and other-worldly buzzing noise. This device was spotted in nearly the middle of nowhere at a turnout on the loop road. It is rumored that the device is activated by flat discs that have very little monetary value.
As we neared the end of the loop road we encountered some small, but tenacious trees growing defiantly through the snow.
One of the final views from the loop road was this mountain that reminds me a bit of the Opera House in Sydney Australia. The Spray Lakes and Kananaskis road is an all-day sightseeing, photo adventure. If you drive the loop expect to spend the entire day and prepare to be very tired at the end of the day. Also expect to take LOTS of stunning photos. Be sure to pack some emergency supplies, snacks, lunch, and lots of water. We stopped at a campground for lunch and saw some bear scat on the ground. You would be wise to carry bear spray with you for protection. It is better to eat lunch than BE lunch. The gravel road is generally very good but there are a few rough spots so keep your wits about you while driving. You will need to stop often because spectacular photo spots appear very often. Start the trip fairly early and just enjoy the scenery.