Canadian Rockies travel guide

The Canadian Rockies are far from the ordinary; a 1,600km stretch of mountains that knits together almost the whole border of British Columbia and Alberta. This is the realm of rainbow sulphur-tinged meadows and subterranean springs. So-bright-you’ll-need-sunglasses glaciers. Hikes that start with a helicopter flight to the mountaintop trailhead and end in bear forests.
Take a leaf out of the book of 19th-century Canadian Rockies naturalist Mary Schäffer Warren when she declared, “I hate doing the ordinary thing.”
There’s a whole lot of ground to cover, so organised tours do it best. A seasoned guide is invaluable in this vast neck of the woods, helping you cycle the Icefields Parkway and connecting your family to the best rafting on the Kicking Horse River. In fact, any holiday to the Canadian Rockies is crammed with optional activities, from camping to horse riding. Plus, there’s a city waiting for you at either end of the trip: Vancouver, with its downtown rainforest, and the frontier city of Calgary. Read our Canadian Rockies travel guide to find out more.

The Canadian Rockies are…

for those who don’t just want to look at nature – they want to hike, bike, raft and camp it.

The Canadian Rockies aren’t…

a quick break. You’ll need at least 10 days to tackle these mighty mountains.

Canadian Rockies map & highlights

The number of things to do in the Canadian Rockies is practically limitless – so where to start? Organised tours take that dilemma out of your hands. You could travel with up to 16 fellow adventurers on a small group tour commandeered by a guide whose expertise will get you to the best glaciers and away from the over-trod trails. Accommodation is usually a mix of cabins and camping, although if you opt for a tailor made holiday you can pick and choose your lodging (especially useful if you’re travelling with kids). One thing’s for sure: you’ll need two weeks to make the most of these highlights of the Rockies.
Banff National Park

1. Banff National Park

True, Banff town is Disney-esque and you’ll have to battle through coach crowds at Lake Louise in the summer – but it only takes a sideways step to escape the selfie sticks. Hike to the Lake Agnes or Six Glacier Plain tea houses to take in the blown-open vistas of Canada’s oldest national park.
Glacier National Park

2. Glacier National Park

More than 100 glaciers fracture this national park, offering up plenty of tough hikes through tree-stripped alpine tundra and past jade lakes. Saying that, you don’t have to follow in the footsteps of the old Swiss mountain guides and make for the summits. Wander the subalpine meadows polka-dotted with boulders. Or take the kids to the swamp boardwalks, where alien skunk cabbages grow taller than teenagers.
Icefields Parkway

3. Icefields Parkway

The Icefields Parkway is one of the most spectacular drives in the world. It traces the Continental Divide between Banff and Jasper, where tectonic shoving has created 232km of mountain passes, glaciers, peaks, forests and lakes. Be sure to admire chalk-blue Peyto Lake and the immensity of the Athabasca Glacier – while also noting the markers that measure its 1.5km retreat since 1890.
Jasper National Park

4. Jasper National Park

At over 11,000km², Jasper National Park is the biggest national park in the Canadian Rockies. You can soak at Miette Hot Springs, raft down the Athabasca River, camp under the eye of the Saskatchewan Glacier, or kayak the otherwise unreachable corners of Maligne Lake. The Stoney Nakoda people believe that the mountains looking down embody their ancestors.
Mount Robson Provincial Park

5. Mount Robson Provincial Park

Who says that national parks are the prettiest in the land? At Mount Robson Provincial Park, you can hike to Kinney Lake, where canine-sharp mountains reflect precisely in glassy water. Or boat down the Blue River, where bears and moose delve around the forested riverbanks. Mount Robson towers above at 3,954m. It’s almost impossible to catch it without a photogenic wreath of wispy cloud.
Yoho National Park

6. Yoho National Park

Yoho is an exclamation of awe and wonder in the Cree language – and they didn’t get it wrong when naming this park. Takakkaw Falls (373m) is seven times the height of Niagara, and you can clock the falls, Daly Glacier and Yoho River in one fell hike. Happily, Yoho National Park is overshadowed by Banff and Jasper, so you’re more likely to see bears and moose than other people.
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about Canadian Rockies or need help finding a holiday to suit you we're very happy to help.
Photo credits: [Page banner: Sergei Akulich] [Is/Isn't: Gorgo] [Banff National Park: Tobias Alt] [Glacier National Park: Jiri Eischmann] [Icefields Parkway: Wolfgang Zenz] [Jasper National Park: Jeanne18] [Mount Robson Provincial Park: Florian Fuchs] [Yoho National Park: Zeljko Kozomara]