Let’s travel to the Canadian Rockies. Emerald watercolor lakes that at night become mirrors where you can see reflected the Milky Way. Rows of pine trees painted by brush. Animals that cross your path and change it. Northern lights that want to dance with you until dawn.
If you have reached this post browsing the Internet I recognize that I deeply envy you. I tell you that you are about to live the most amazing travel of you life. A trip that will change you inside like it did to us. I know you will feel a deep emptiness when you say goodbye forever to its snowy peaks through the rear-view mirror. Western Canada will become part of you and no new place you explore will fill that gap.
In this post and in the following we will try to condense all the necessary information so that your Canadian Rockies road trip is perfect.
This is the first article about our 15 days Canadian Rockies trip. Here you will find:
WHY TRAVEL TO THE Canadian Rockies
The most beautiful place on Earth is in a mountain range in northwestern North America, crossing Canada and the United States. Our 15-day trip focused on the Rocky Mountains that belong to Canada. This area is located between the provinces of British Columbia and Alberta.
The Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks were declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1984. And it’s no wonder. Its mountain landscape formed by peaks, lakes, waterfalls, glaciers and canyons is unique in the world.
This means that every year miles of tourists visit this Western area of Canadá. Many of them photographers willing to grow their galleries.
Other visitors that are received by the Canadian Rockies are tourists with high purchasing power attracted by luxury hotels and lodges hidden in the mountains.
But do not worry because the Rockies are for all budgets. It is also an ideal trip for backpackers in search of nature and adventure. Also, there are many cheap campsites that can reduce your travel budget.
Within the Canadian Rockies, we find four national parks: Banff National Park, Yoho National Park, Jasper National Park, and Kootenay National Park.
TOP THINGS TO DO IN THE CANADIAN ROCKIES IN 15 DAYS
In this section we will tell you essential things to do and what to see in the three parks of the Canadian Rockies that we visited.
BANFF NATIONAL PARK
Banff National Park was the first national park we visited. It is the closest park to a commercial airport, the Calgary airport, only an hour and a half away. The park is completely located in the province of Alberta.
In total we spent in Banff 6 days. Although these were not successive. The return to Calgary was also done inside the national parks. In this way we took the opportunity to do things that were previously missed.
Of all the national parks, Banff has the most things to do. If you are planning a 15 days Canadian Rockies road trip, reserve approximately one week for this park.
Banff town is the ideal place to start your Canadian Rockies road trip. The two nights we spent in this area we stayed at the Two Jack Lakeside Campground. The lake views of this campground will make you fall in love immediately.
The small Two Jack lake is united to the lake Minnewanka by a narrowing of the same one. I recommend that to know the Minnewanka do some of the trekking touring part of its shore. We did the Steward Canyon.
Another thing you have to do in the Canadian Rockies is to enjoy the sunset from the Vermilion Lakes, which are very close to Banff Town.
Also, staying at Banff town is a good option to do some of the activities that we found in the Bow Valley Parkway.
BOW VALLEY PARKWAY
The Bow Valley Parkway is one of the most amazing natural areas we’ve ever seen. Its slender pine trees and tight curves make it just special to drive across it. Over there you can find several Canadian Rockies landamrks as Castle Mountain or Morant’s curve.
One of the most popular excursions in the area is Johnston Canyon, where you can see waterfalls with two levels of height.
If you still maintain your energy after reaching the upper waterfalls you can continue ascending to the Ink Pots. One of the places we liked most of our Canadian Rockies road trip in 15 days.
LAKE LOUISE Town
Two days is recommended to discover the area of Lake Louise town.
Lake Louise itself is probably the most visited lake in all of the Canadian Rockies.
If you want to find a place a little less crowded, I recommend that from here you ascend to the Lake Agnes passing first through the Mirror Lake. We found it very funny that they could have a tea house so isolated from any other place.
Another thing you can not miss on a trip to the West Coast of Canada is Moraine Lake. This lake is popular for the 10 peaks that border it. We liked it a lot more than Lake Louise. The best time to see it is at dawn.
When hiking through the Lake Louise area, you should be careful. This area is the best to see Grizzly bears.
The Icefield Parkway links Banff National Park with Jasper National Park through 232 km of road.
We drove it completely twice, one way and way back. And it is considered the most beautiful road in the world.
As you can imagine in so much extension there are many interest points. We stayed two nights in its surroundings to see the most interesting natural attractions. One night in the area belonging to Banff National Park and another night in Jasper National Park.
Within the area of Banff the most beautiful lakes that we saw crossing this road were Bow Lake and Peyto Lake, where we stopped both on the one way and on the way back.
YOHO NATIONAL PARK
Before going to Jasper National Park we spent two days in Yoho National Park. This national park is much smaller than the other parks, but no less interesting. It is located within the province of British Columbia.
Here you can find Emerald Lake, one of our favourites places in the Rockies. The color of its turquoise waters with the green of the pine trees that border it is magical.
Also here we live the best experience of our Canadian Rockies trip: seeing the Aurora Borealis for the first time.
From this lake, a lot of hiking trails start. We did the one that goes to Yoho Lake.
JASPER NATIONAL PARK
We spent five days discovering Jasper National Park. This is located at the north of the other two parks, in the province of Alberta.
This national park was the one that most surprised us in terms of Wildlife. If you like to see animals in freedom the visit of this park is a must-do thing that you have to do in the Canadian Rockies.
On the way to Jasper Town, we followed the Icefield Parkway that we had traveled from Banff National Park. In this part of Jasper National Park you should not miss the waterfalls of Sunwapta Falls and Athabasca Falls.
It is also highly recommended to approach the Athabasca Glacier to see this huge block of snow and ice.
From here you can also take advantage to see the Abraham Lake, an artificial lake. Although it is not inside the park, it is very interesting in winter when very curious gas bubbles appear on its ice.
We spent 4 days around Jasper Town. Near this town we will find the Valley of the Five Lakes, a hike highly recommended.
To the east of Jasper we can visit the lakes of Patricia Lake and Pyramid Lake.
If you like to see wild animals take note. Drive by car at dawn or dusk the road from Medicine Lake to Maligne Lake across Maligne Road, at the west of Jasper. Every day we saw different animal species, it was the most fun part of our trip to the Canadian Rockies in 15 days.
USEFUL INFORMATION TO ORGANIZE A TRIP TO THE Canadian Rockies
And we did not want to end this post without speaking about certain things you must do before making a trip to the Canadian Rockies.
VISA FOR CANADA
There is an agreement with 52 countries so that their citizens can enter Canada by air without visa. Here you can check if your country is exempt from visa for Canada.
If you are from one of these countries, an electronic travel authorization (eTA) will be enough, which is done very conveniently and quickly through this link.
Spain is exempt from visa for Canada so in 5 minutes we made and received the eTA at a cost of 7 CAD (5€ ).
If you arrive in Canada by land or ship from the United States, you will not need a visa or eTA if you belong to one of those 52 countries.
The official currency of Canada is the Canadian dollar, with an exchange rate at the time of our trip of 0.68 € (May 2017).
We do not change money before the trip. As always, we had our Evo smart card with which you can draw with zero commission from anywhere in the world. Although up to now they did not charge for the currency exchange either, it seems that lately the policy has changed and they don’t apply the exact change.
As in all trips it is essential to hire a good travel insurance. After the experience we had in Cuba, we did not risk hiring the first insurance we found.
Since then we always travel with MONDO , which offers more coverage than other travel insurance for a similar cost. We also have a discount for our readers.
Here you can find the coverage of this insurance.
Best TIME TO visit the canadian rockies ACCORDING TO THE CLIMATE
The climate of the Canadian Rockies is a factor to consider when deciding the best time of year to visit them.
The winters are cold and humid, with quite a lot of precipitation in the form of snow while the summers are mild.
If you plan to take a trip to the Canadian Rockies in winter (November – March) you should know that there will be many closed roads and excursions that you will not be able to do. However, it is a good option if you like winter sports, snowy landscapes or if you want to see northern lights.
If you travel to the Canadian Rockies in summer (June – August) the lakes will be thawed with a beautiful emerald blue color. However in these months the most popular places of interest are filled with tourists. If you want to get away from the masses in summer it is best to do some of the hiking trails for several days.
We believe that September is the best month to visit the Canadian Rockies. We will have thawed lakes, all roads and routes open, not so many tourists than in the middle of summer and possibilities to see Northern Lights.
May is also a good month, depending on how hard is the previous winter. We traveled in May of 2017 and the previous winter was very cold. Although most places of interest had open access, some were closed. There were tourists, but not as many as in summer, when the number skyrockets. And we had the great luck of witnessing theNorthern Lights.
HOW TO GET TO THE canadian rockies
The two most recommended options to reach the Canadian Rockies are:
- Flight to Calgary + 1 hour by car.
- Flight to Vancouver + 8 hours by car.
Since most flights to Calgary made connections in Vancouver, we decided to take a two-day stopover to fulfill the dream of my life:
Killer whale watching
Orca watching is not assured. The whales are in total freedom. Maybe the day you are going to watch them they will not show up. Fortunately, most companies offer you to take the trip as many times as necessary until you meet these giants, paying only the first day of tour.
Therefore we decided to make the scale of two days instead of one, so that if we did not see them the first time, we had a second chance.
If you are visiting several national parks on your trip to the West Coast of Canada we advise you to buy a Discovery Pass. This is a pass with one year of validity that allows you to enter by free all national parks and a lot of sites managed by Parks Canada. Here you can see the complete list.
Only one pass per vehicle with a maximum of 7 occupants is required, which must carry the pass hanging from the mirror at the entrance of the parks.
We were lucky because in 2017 it was the 150th anniversary of Canadian Confederation and therefore the pass was free.
You can buy it online here. We recommend ordering it with time because the arrival usually takes more than a month by mail. You can also buy it directly there in certain establishments mentioned here. The price is 136 CAD ( 94€).
There are many accommodations throughout the Canadian Rockies. Although we opted most of the nights for camping, there were two nights in which we decided to stay in the typical wooden cabins also known as lodges. A highly recommended luxury after so many days camping in nature. To search for them we used the Glamping Hub web, where you can find tree houses, wooden cabins and the most original hotels. Here you can see his offer for Canada.
I have to say that the prices were not cheap; but after many days camping, having a fluffy bed and a sparkling fireplace is appreciated. Luckily May is not high season and we got very good discounts at those lodges.
The best way to travel the Canadian Rockies is by renting a car. Also a Canadian Rockies road trip is very fun. You will see a lot of animals and roads that will look as if they were taken from a story.
Remember that you need a credit card (not debit) to rent a car.
Indispensable in you baggage
If you are going to travel to the Canadian Rockies you should be prepared for all kinds of weather situations. Even in summer, going from a hot day to a snowstorm happens in a matter of hours.
In addition to clothing for all kinds of temperatures, camping and mountain material there are other essentials in your backpack that surely you have not stopped to think.
As we want to make it easy, we have created a list of essential things to carry in your backpack for an adventure trip of these characteristics. Type of plug, bear spray …
PHOTOGRAPHY IN THE canadian rockies
Traveling to the Canadian Rockies for the first time for a photographer is a dream come true. Prepare the equipment, plan different locations … the work begins long before you arrive. That is why Dani is preparing four special posts that we hope to publish very soon:
- Aurora Borealis in Canada – How to photograph it
- Canadian Rockies Photo Tour
- Canadian Rockies – Photo Gallery
ITINERARY OF Our canadian rockies trip + ACCOMMODATIONS
In order to serve as an example and although the possibilities are endless, here we show you our travel itinerary to the Canadian Rockies in 15 days.
Day 1: Orca whale watching tour from Richmond. Dinner in downtown Vancouver – Airbnb in Vancouver
Day 2: Spend the day in Vancouver – Airbnb in Vancouver
Day 3: Arrival in Calgary. Camping at Two Jack Lake and sunset at Vermillion – Two Jack Lakeside Campground
Day 4: Johnston Canyon Falls and Ink pots – Two Jack Lakeside Campground
Day 5: Stewart Canyon and Bow Valley Parkway – Kicking Horse Campground (Because there was no open campground in the Lake Louise area)
Day 6: Lake Louise and Lake Agnes + Moraine Lake – Kicking Horse Campground (Because there was no open campground in the Lake Louise area)
Day 7: Sunrise at Moraine Lake + Natural Bridge of the Kicking Horse River + Wapta Falls – Emerald Lake Lodge
Day 8: Canoeing at Emerald Lake + Trekking to Yoho Lake + Northern Lights – The few hours we slept were in the car. We did not have accommodation booked for this day.
Day 9: Icefield Parkway + Peyto Lake + Bow Lake + Mistaya Canyon – HI-Mosquito Creek
Day 10: Athabasca Glacier + Sunwapta Falls – Sunwapta Falls Rocky Mountain Lodge
Day 11: Valley of the Five Lakes + Annette Lake + Maligne Lake – Wapiti Campground
Day 12: Pyramid Lake + Patricia Lake + Maligne Road – Wapiti Campground
Day 13: Miette Hotspring + Icefield Parkway + Sunset at Peyto Lake – Lake Louise Campground
Day 14: Sunrise at Moraine Lake. Return to Calgary. Flight to Vancouver – Airbnb in Vancouver
Canadian Rockies map
We leave a map of the Canadian Rockies below with all the highlights. However keep in mind that in the individual guides of each national park we left a more complete and downloadable map that will be very useful for your trip.