I had the joy of travelling to and living in many beautiful places in my life. The landscapes of Lord Of The Rings in New Zealand, coral gardens and white beaches in the Philippines, jungles of northern Sumatera or surreal blue ice caves in Iceland. I hardly thought, that something could surprise me and make my jaw drop again.
Yet the Canadian Rockies blew my mind. The rugged mountains, pristine hiking trails, deep Canadian woods and colourful alpine meadows full of wildlife, crackling glaciers and dramatic waterfalls and lakes whose turquoise blue waters are unreal.
If you love mountains, lakes, backpacking, camping and squirrels, and if you are still not sure what should be your next travel destination, think no longer. The Canadian Rockies should be your next choice.
At the end of this article you will find travel tips on how to travel to and around Canadian Rocky Mountains.
Let's get this started!
Here are some of pictures I took during six months of living in Banff, in the very heart of the Canadian Rockies.
#1 - Peyto Lake
You have probably seen this stunning view before, in a calendar, or just somewhere. Famous Peyto Lake is changing its milky blue colour depends on season and time of day.
#2 - Cavell Lake
Situated in Jasper National Park, Cavell Lake with its icebergs floating in the powder blue melt water of the two glaciers feels like you had stepped back in time and were looking at the scene of an ice age.
#3 Fairmont Hotel
#4 - Grassi Lakes
A short easy hike close to Canmore will lead you to this slice of paradise. Crystal clear waters of two small lakes full of tiny brook trouts, surrounded by dramatic cliffs (good for rock climbing), will leave you speachless.
#5 - Cavell Meadows
In summer popular Cavell Meadows are covered with a colourful carpet of alpine flowers. This picture is from September after the first snow fall. Angel Glacier hanging just above the Cavell Lake is the one to remember.
#6 - Bighorn sheeps
You will see lots of these beauties in the Canadian Rockies. This herd crossed my way next to Lake Minnewanka.
#7 - Eiffel Lake
Make yourself a favour and when you visit famous Moraine Lake, take a moderate trail to this beautiful lake up in the mountains. There were almost no tourists in June, but lots of beautiful alpine flowers, shy marmots, white mountain goats and even one female grizzly bear. And that's why you here for, right?
#8 - Maligne Lake
A very popular destination close to Jasper. Not so popular in late April, so I enjoyed this view in complete silence (and with freezing toes). In summer you can take a boat tour to famous Spirit Island.
#9 - Takkakaw Falls
A beautiful drive on mountain serpentines will get you to the second largest waterfall in western Canada (302 m).
#10 - Mt. Assiniboine
Welcome to one of my favourite places in the Canadian Rockies so far. This pyramid-shaped mountain is nicknamed Matterhorn of the Rockies and it takes a bit of an effort (or money) to get there, but it's well worth. You can either hike in, which takes up to a few days, or you can pay a few hundreds dollars and get a heli ride.
#11 - Bears
Some people hiking in excitement to spot them and some people are carrying thousands of bear bells on their backpacks to scare them of. I belong to the first group and I am happy to have had spotted both black and grizzly bears. This black gentleman was obsessed with dandelions more than with my humble presence.
#12 - Icefield Parkway
This 232 km long drive connecting Lake Louise and Jasper is claimed to be one of the most beautiful scenic drives in the world. And I can only confirm that. The views along all the way are just amazing and there are many stops to see waterfalls, glaciers, lakes and deep limestone canyons within a walking distance from the highway. There is so much to see, so be sure you allow some extra time to drive through.
#13 - Sunshine Meadows
A beautiful alpine setting high in the mountains. Flowers, lake with an island in the middle and some of the highest peaks of the Canadian Rockies. Sunshine Meadows now belongs to some of the most beautiful places I've ever visited.
#14 - Sulphur Mountain
If you happen to stop by in Banff, Sulphur Mountain is kind of 'a must do'. You can hike up (2-3 hours) or get a ride with Gondola. Once you up there, you can admire breathtaking mountain views in all directions including overlooking the town of Banff itself. Take a swimsuit, so on your way back you can soak in Banff Upper Hot Springs for very reasonable $7.
#15, 16 - White Swan Lake
Incredible blue water will make you think that you are on a beach in the Philippines. Only the mountains in the background will remind you, that you are still in Canada.
#17 - Ogg Lake
That moment when you feel like a Hobbit! On the way to Mt. Assiniboine.
#18 - Squirrels, squirrels, squirrels
They are everywhere and they are not scared of you. Resist your temptation to feed these cuties (it is hard, I know!) Please, respect the rules and do NOT feed any wildlife. Thank you, thank you!
#19 - Lake Louise
Charming at any time of year. In winter you can enjoy ice skating, while in summer Lake Louise is great for canoeing and hiking around.
#20 - Autumn in the mountains
Autumn is my very favourite season and my oh my! I've never experienced such a beautiful autumn in my life like the one spent in the Canadian Rockies. Especially if you go to a place with larch trees like this Kinney Lake below or Lake O'Hara, with all that contrast of yellow trees, turquoise waters and white snow-capped mountains, you will witness some of the most spectacular views of your life.
#21 - Athabasca River
Sitting here makes you feel so small. You will enjoy many of these views and moments along the Icefield Parkway.
#22 - Berg Lake
The most favourite place of mine in the Canadian Rockies. You have to hike 22 km long Berg Trail before you get to this magical lake, where the silence and pristine nature hit all your senses. The only sound you can hear is crackling of glaciers hanging above the lake.
#23 - Mt. Robson
Once you make it to the Berg Lake, put your tent up in one of the campgrounds along the shore of the lake, have a rest and don't miss the opportunity to enjoy views of Mt. Robson from Mumm Basin. Mt. Robson with its 3954 m is the highest peak of the Canadian Rockies and usually it's hiding in the clouds.
#24 - Wildlife
I truly can't get enough of all those beautiful creatures wandering in the woods (sometimes in towns) of the Canadian Rockies. I have spotted both black and grizzly bears, mountain goats, bighorn sheeps, one wolf, one cougar, countless deers and squirrels, majestic elks, marmots and many many more. In my home country - Czech Republic - I am used to see deers only from a long distance and for a very short time before they spot me and run away. Here in Canada I feel like in Disney movie. And I love it!
#25 - Moraine Lake
There are really no words to describe the beauty of this place.
Arrive early to avoid crowds, rent a row boat or a canoe to escape them, hike up to Eiffel Lake, or just enjoy a picnic on the shore while soaking in these postcard-like views.
OK these were just 25 images, but let's be honest: photos can’t show enough the magic and majesty of the Canadian Rockies, you just must get up here and experience it yourself :)
Here are some useful tips and links for traveling in the Canadian Rocky Mountains:
When to visit
The Canadian Rockies are undoubtly beautiful and spectacular at any time of year. Although if you want to hike and camp, the best time to visit is mid-June. It’s when the most of trails is already snow-free and hence open. Winter starts early, heavy snow fall in the beginning of September (I even experienced one in mid August) is nothing unusual.
Me personally, I loved exploring the Canadian Rockies in September with significantly less tourists, magical snow falls and still not frozen turquoise lakes. Snow in the Rockies is like a whipped cream to your hot chocolate.
How to get there
If you are entering Canada from abroad, the best will be to fly to Calgary in Alberta. It is just about an hour and half drive to the Canadian Rockies. You can also fly to Kelowna in British Columbia and enter the Rockies from the west.
My favourite website to find cheapest flights to Canada from abroad is Momondo.
You will have a few options to explore this stunning place.
If you really want to explore around, I wouldn’t recommend it.
Hitchhiking of course can be fun and certainly the cheapest option to get around, but you might will find yourself struggling with getting to many beautiful remote places and head trails. I can't imagine traveling in the Canadian Rockies without my own car.
Two of the following options on how to travel in the Canadian Rockies I find the best:
- Rent a car / campervan - Rental car prices may vary a lot. Between national companies, they’d be two to three times as expensive for the same vehicle. Make your rental car reservation early—if you’re flying into Calgary—and check back before you leave to see if prices have changed to see if you can lock in extra last-minute savings.
- Buy a car / campervan - I bought my minivan for just as low as 950 CAD and converted a family car to a campervan - got rid of its five back seats, built a bed, made curtains and bought all the camping and cooking gear. Voilaaa! To buy your own car is a great option if you want to come to Canada for at least two months. Advantage of this is that you will save a lot of money on renting a van plus you can sell it quite easily after your trip. Downside is a certain effort and time you have to put into the searching right car. Calgary or Kelowna are both great places to buy a car. Car insurance is not the cheapest, I pay around 130 CAD a month. But especially if you are sharing expenses with one or more travel buddies, it won’t ruin your bank account so much. You can look for a car at Kijiji or eventually Craigslist (personally I find Kijiji better).
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I will soon publish more detailed guide on travelling in the Canadian Rockies!
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
I'm Martina Gebarovska , an adventurous traveller and photographer originally from Czech Republic. In 2010 I quit my job in film industry to travel the world and live the life I have always dreamed about. When I'm not exploring deserted islands of South Pacific or diving with whale sharks in the Philippines, you might could find me prospecting for some gold in New Zealand, surfing waves in Morocco or hiking peaks in the Canadian Rockies.