Canadian Rockies road trip in 15 days

Canadian Rockies road trip in 15 days

Let’s travel to the Canadian Rockies. Emerald lakes that become mirrors at night where you can see the Milky Way’s reflection. Rows of pine trees looking like watercolor paints. Wild animals crossing your path. Northern lights that want to dance with you until dawn.

Canadian Rockies road trip in 15 days. things to do in the canadian rockies tours banff national park

You are just about to experience the most amazing travel of your life. A trip that will change your life like it did for us. You will feel a deep emptiness when you say goodbye to its snowy peaks. Western Canada will become a part of you and no new place you explore will fill that gap the same way.

In this post and the following, we will try to gather all the necessary information so that your Canadian Rockies road trip is perfect.

This is the first article about our 15-day 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 the northwest of North America, which crosses 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 is no wonder why. Its mountain landscape formed by peaks, lakes, waterfalls, glaciers, and canyons is unique to the world.

This means that every year thousands of tourists visit this western area of Canada. Many of them are photographers aspiring to boost their galleries. The Canadian Rockies tours have become very popular to the travel agencies.

Other visitors received by the Canadian Rockies are tourists with high purchasing power attracted by luxury hotels and lodges hidden within the mountains. But do not worry, the Rockies are for all budgets. It is also an ideal trip for backpackers in search of nature and adventure: there are many cheap campsites that can reduce your travel budget.

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There are four Canadian Rockies national parks: Banff National Park, Yoho National Park, Jasper National Park, and Kootenay National Park.

During our 15-day trip to the Canadian Rockies, we were able to visit the first three.

TOP THINGS TO DO IN THE CANADIAN ROCKIES IN 2 weeks

In this section we will tell you essential things to do and what to see in the three parks of the Canadian Rockies we visited.

These are:

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 6 days in Banff, though these were not consecutive 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 biggest offer of the Canadian Rockies attractions. If you are planning a 2 weeks Canadian Rockies road trip, book approximately one week for this park.

Banff town

Banff town is the ideal place to start your Canadian Rockies road trip. The two nights we spent in this area we stayed at Two Jack Lakeside Campground. The lake views of this campground will make you fall in love immediately.

The small Two Jack lake is linked to lake Minnewanka by a narrowing of the same one. I recommend some of the trekking routes setting out from this lake. We took the one following towards Stewart Canyon.

Another thing you have to do in the Canadian Rockies is to enjoy the sunset from Vermilion Lakes, which are very close to  Banff Town.

vermilion lakes banff national park. top things to do in the canadian rockies by rail. 15 days road trip

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 landmarks 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 have energy after reaching the upper waterfalls you can continue ascending to the Ink Pots. One of our favorite spots in our Canadian Rockies road trip in 15 days.

attraction and sights you cannot miss at the canadian rockies map in 15 days. Inkpots banff national park

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 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 Mirror Lake. We found it very curious that they could build a tea house so isolated from any other place.

Another thing you must see on a trip to the West Coast of Canada is Moraine Lake. This lake is popular for the 10 peaks it is surrounded by. We personally preferred this to its neighbor counterpart, Lake Louise. The best time to see it is at dawn.

Moraine Lake Banff Canada Canadian Rockies banff road trip in 15 days

When hiking through the Lake Louise area, you should be careful. This area is the best to see Grizzly bears.

ICEFIELDs PARKWAY

The Icefields 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 such a long road 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 way up and on the way back.

Peyto lake banff national park 15 days canadian rockies hiking road trip

Another essential thing that you have to do in the Canadian Rocky Mountains is to visit Mistaya Canyon, one of the landmarks inside the Icefields Parkway.

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 favorite places in the Rockies. The color of its turquoise waters with the green of the pine trees that border it is simply magical.

Also here we had the best experience of our Canadian Rockies trip: seeing the Aurora Borealis for the first time.

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From this lake, many hiking trails start. We did the one that goes to Yoho Lake.

If you come to Yoho, you can not miss the Natural Bridge of the Kicking Horse River. Its electric blue-dyed waters seem to be out of this world.

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 surprised us the most in terms of wildlife. If you like to see wild animals the visit to this park is a must-do thing that you should consider in the Canadian Rockies.

ICEFIELDs PARKWAY

On the way to Jasper Town, we followed the Icefields Parkway that we had previously driven from Banff National Park. In this part of Jasper National Park, you should not miss the waterfalls of Sunwapta Falls and Athabasca Falls.

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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 Abraham Lake, an artificial lake. Although it is not inside the park, it is very interesting in winter when very curious gas bubbles appearing on its ice.

Jasper Town

We spent 4 days in Jasper Town. Near this town, you can find the Valley of the Five Lakes, a highly recommended hike.

To the east of Jasper, we can visit the lakes of Patricia Lake and Pyramid Lake.

If you like to see the Canadian Rockies wildlife take note. Drive at dawn or dusk the road from Medicine Lake to Maligne Lake across Maligne Road, to the west of Jasper. Every day we saw different animal species, it was the funniest part of our trip to the Canadian Rockies in 15 days.

moose maligne road jasper national park 15 day canadian rockies travel guide road trip

Finally, to relax there is nothing like visiting Miette hot spring. Although they are a little far to the north, your visit is worth it.

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.

Currency

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.

TRAVEL INSURANCE

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.

things to do in the canadian rockies. travel insuranceHere you can find the coverage of this insurance.

Best TIME TO go to the canadian rockies ACCORDING TO THE CLIMATE

The Canadian Rockies weather 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.

Minnewanka Lake banff national park canadian rockies road trip and canadian western 2 weeks canadian rockies

If you plan to take a Canadian Rockies trip in winter (November – March) you should know that there will be many closed roads and excursions that you will not be able to take. However, it may be a good option if you like winter sports, snowy landscapes or if you want to see the Canadian Rockies 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 Canadian Rockies 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 will be open, not as many tourists as in the middle of summer and possibilities to see the Northern Lights.

May is also a good month, depending on how hard the previous winter was. We traveled the Canadian Rockies 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 the Northern Lights.

HOW TO GET TO THE canadian rockies

Many people decide to travel the Canadian Rockies by rail.  For us, it wasn’t an option because we wanted to go to places also during the night or very early at the morning to shot at the best light hours so we didn’t consider discover the Canadian Rockies by train.

By car, 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 in Vancouver freedom everything you need to know to travel to the canadian rockies by train

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 for the first day of the 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.

In fact, it’s no wonder to find many Canadian Rockies tours from Vancouver.

DISCOVERY PASS

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 all national parks and a lot of sites managed by Parks Canada for free. 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€).

The discovery pass is usually included in the Canadian Rockies vacation packages.

canadian rockies places to stay

There are many accommodation options. Although we opted most of the nights for Canadian Rockies campings, during two nights we decided to stay in classical wooden cabins also known as lodges. A highly recommended luxury after so many days camping in nature. To search them we used the Glamping Hub web, where you can find tree houses, wooden cabins, and the most original Canadian Rockies hotels. Here you can see their offer for Canada.

Emerald Lake Yoho National park top things to do in the Canadian rockies in 15 days canadian rockies by car

I have to say that 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.

TRANSPORT

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 your 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 equipment, there are other essentials in your backpack that may not stopped to think about.

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 …

canadian Rockies photography

Traveling to the Canadian Rockies for the first time for a photographer is a dream come true. Preparing the equipment, planning 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 with the best Canadian Rockies Pictures

Milky way two jack lake banff canada alberta mirror pines sky photography night banff things you cannot miss at the canadian rockies campgrounds

 

our 2 week Canadian Rockies itinerary + 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 2 weeks.

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 + Icefields Parkway + Sunset at Peyto Lake – Lake Louise Campground

Day 14: Sunrise at Moraine Lake. Return to Calgary. Flight to Vancouver Airbnb in Vancouver

Day 15: Return flight

Canadian Rockies map

We leave a map of the Canadian Rockies below with the main landmarks. 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 during your trip.

I See you around the Rockies!

written by Ascenphotography by danzafra
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