Yes, one of the best places to experience the Canadian Rockies is along a highway. The Icefields Parkway stretches 232 kilometers (144 miles) 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 1.5-kilometer (0.9-mile) loop away from its trailhead off the Icefields Parkway.
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, but 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 drops 280 meters (918 feet).
Peyto Lake might win the prize for the most beautiful, brightly colored lake within 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 Icefield 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 amazing 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, was Canada’s third national park. Its name comes from a Cree word, which means awe and wonder, and you will be in awe visiting this amazing national park in the Canadian Rockies. Highlights include the 21-kilometer (13-mile) Iceline Trail, the town of Field, Emerald Lake, Takakkaw Falls, and Kicking Horse Pass National Historic Site.
Yoho National Park, Field, BC, Canada, +1 250 343 6783
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 scenic 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 it’s within walking distance of Banff and the Bow River. It’s a beautiful place to stay and enjoy the Rockies.
Fairmont Banff Spring Hotel, 405 Spray Ave, Banff, AB, Canada, +1 403 762 2211
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 competes with Lake Louise for the title of the most gorgeous lake.
Waterton Lakes National Park
Located in the southwest corner of Alberta and straddling the United States border, Waterton Lakes National Park is quite uncrowded compared to its northern counterparts. But it is just as beautiful and is part of the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, the only park in the world that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 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.
Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta 5, Waterton Park, AB, Canada, +1 403 859 5133