The Best of the Canadian Rockies
This itinerary combines the best of the best—the best-known natural highlights, the hikes you won’t want to miss, and the most scenic drives. Understand that you will not see all of the Canadian Rockies in one week, but you won’t miss anything major either.
Fly into Calgary, pick up a rental car, and head for the mountains. After settling in to your Banff accommodation, spend the afternoon exploring the town, including a stop at the information center and a walk along the Bow River to the Fairmont Banff Springs.
Head to Lake Minnewanka for the morning’s first tour boat departure. After a picnic lunch at Two Jack Lake Campground (the prime picnic table is on a chunk of forested rock attached to the mainland by a rock causeway), take the Bow Valley Parkway to the village of Lake Louise. This is your overnight destination, but it’s worth driving up to the lake itself to watch the sunset.
Rise early to visit Lake Louise, one of the world’s most photographed lakes, before the crowds arrive. Nearby Moraine Lake is surrounded by mountains and glaciers, but it gets crowded, so hike into Larch Valley. Head to Yoho National Park and spend the afternoon driving through the steep-sided Yoho Valley and visiting turquoise-colored Emerald Lake.
Go white-water rafting down the Kicking Horse River. Head north along the Icefields Parkway, stopping at the Crowfoot Glacier overlook, beautifully blue Bow Lake, and the high lookout platform above Peyto Lake. As dusk falls, keep your eyes out for wildlife such as bears, elk, and moose. Bunk down for the night en route to Jasper.
Continue to Jasper and take a boat tour on Maligne Lake to photogenic Spirit Island. As a general rule, the lake is less windy in the morning and there are fewer crowds. After lunch, head west to Mount Robson Provincial Park and view the park’s namesake peak as the sun sets. Return to Jasper for the night.
The Icefields Parkway is dotted with scenic pullouts and day-use areas. You will have stopped at many of them on the way north, but the Columbia Icefield was left for this return trip. Here, choose between an Ice Explorer tour onto the glacier and the hike to Wilcox Pass, for a sweeping view of the glacier-filled valley. Continue south to Canmore.
This morning is free to explore the town of Canmore and its history, to walk along the riverfront trails, and to catch up on souvenir shopping before returning to Calgary.
© Andrew Hempstead, from Moon Western Canada, 3rd Edition