The UNESCO World Heritage-listed Canadian Rockies stretch for 69,498sqmi (180,000sqkm) through British Columbia and Alberta. The region brings in millions of visitors from around the world every year, due to its picturesque views at every turn. Here are some of the most beautiful places to visit in the Canadian Rockies.
The Icefields Parkway
Yes, one of the best places to experience the Canadian Rockies is along a highway. The Icefields Parkway stretches 144mi (232km) and connects Banff and Jasper National Parks. National Geographic has called it one of the world’s most spectacular driving tours, as people can’t help but pull over frequently and explore the many pristine lakes, glaciers, wildlife sightings and valleys along the way. Recommended stops include Peyto Lake and Athabasca Falls.
Horseshoe Lake is a horseshoe-shaped swimming hole within Jasper National Park. Known for its rugged high cliffs, which are popular for cliff diving, the lake is a brief 0.9-mi (1.5-km) loop away from its trailhead off the Icefields Parkway.
The Columbia Icefield
The Columbia Icefield is actually the largest of its kind in the entire Rocky Mountain Region of North America. It sits on the Continental Divide between British Columbia and Alberta, as well as in both Banff and Jasper National Parks. There are six major glaciers within the Icefield, and there are daily tours to explore and walk on Athabasca Glacier. Another way to enjoy the view is to take a walk out onto the Glacier Skywalk, which descends 918ft (280m).
Peyto Lake might win the prize for the most beautiful, brightly colored lake in the Canadian Rockies. Named after Bill Peyto, who was a trail guide and trapper in Banff, the lake sits in a valley and is best viewed from Bow Summit, which happens to be the Icefields Parkway’s highest point. Summer is the best time to visit and see Peyto Lake at its brightest, thanks to the light-reflecting glacial rock flour flowing in from Peyto Glacier.
Canmore might not get as much attention as Banff, but it still has the same incredible scenery. Located in Banff National Park, it’s an ideal place to base yourself to enjoy the Canadian Rockies and the beautiful Three Sisters Mountain Range, both of which surround the township. Canmore is an adventurer’s paradise, with its Nordic Centre, hiking trails and access to lakes such as Quarry Lake and Upper and Lower Kananaskis Lakes.
Yoho National Park
Yoho National Park, located in British Columbia, takes its name from a Cree word meaning awe and wonder – for obvious reasons. Highlights include the 13-mi (21-km) Iceline Trail, the town of Field, Emerald Lake, Takakkaw Falls and Kicking Horse Pass National Historic Site.
Maligne Lake is beautiful for a number of reasons, including its surrounding Rocky peaks, its three visible glaciers, summertime boat cruises, access to the Skyline Trail and Spirit Island. Reader’s Digest subscribers said the lake has the best boat cruise in Canada, and it isn’t hard to see why. The Skyline Trail is Jasper’s most popular multi-day hike, which begins at Maligne Lake.
Banff Springs Hotel
One of the most picturesque hotels in the Canadian Rockies is undoubtedly the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel. It resembles a European castle, perched high on a hill overlooking the township and surrounded by mountains. The hotel has a golf course, relaxing spa, several restaurants, and is within walking distance of Banff and the Bow River.
Lake Louise is both the name of a town and the most popular lake in the Canadian Rockies. The best part of the glacier-fed Lake Louise is that it’s beautiful no matter what time of year you visit. In winter, the lake freezes over and becomes home to a winter wonderland, plus there’s the nearby Lake Louise Ski Resort. In summer, the lake is a turquoise masterpiece and adventure playground for hikers and kayakers. But the beauty doesn’t stop there – nearby is Moraine Lake, which is every bit as magnificent.
Waterton Lakes National Park
Located in the southwest corner of Alberta and straddling the United States border, Waterton Lakes National Park is usually far less crowded that its northern counterparts. It’s just as beautiful, however, and is part of the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park. Fun activities include visiting Red Rock Canyon, hiking to the top of Bear’s Hump and Crypt Lake, and taking an international boat cruise to Goat Haunt, Montana.
For discovering more amazing things to see in Canada, check out our guide to incredible natural wonders in Canada that will take your breath away.
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