The Ultimate Canadian Rocky Mountain Road Trip

Photo by Esther Lee

Visit 5 Rocky Mountain parks in one glorious 2 week loop

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For the ultimate Canadian Rocky Mountain road trip, try this ambitious 2 week itinerary.

It would be easy to stretch our 7-day itinerary into a great two week adventure by simply adding a free day between each scheduled day to explore some of the other local trails, sights and activities, or to simply relax in the great outdoors. But this road trip packs in about as much of the region as you conveniently can in 14 days, and is designed to be done with your own vehicle from Calgary – though it would be pretty easy to adapt it to fit from Edmonton. The trip could also form the backbone of a fantastic longer itinerary that takes in the Kootenays if you have the luxury of three-weeks or more.

DAY 1: Banff
From Calgary head to the town of Banff, park downtown and wander Banff Avenue, its main shopping street, before walking the Bow Falls loop and maybe treating yourself to drink at the grandiose Banff Springs Hotel. Stop in at the Banff Park Museum on the way back to round-off your insight into Victorian-era Banff; the era that put the town on the map.

Consider hiking up Tunnel Mountain for views over town. Easier routes to great views are the Banff Gondola, or simply the pullout by a hairpin bend on the road up to Mount Norquay. There’s a good selection of places for dinner in Banff.

DAY 2: Lake Louise
Drive to Lake Louise Village then head to one of its premier lakes: Lake Louise or Moraine Lake. There’s plenty of hiking around both and you should at the very least stretch your legs along the lakeshore at Moraine Lake or head up to the Farview lookout at Lake Louise. With enough time try heading up to the Lake Agnes teahouse. You might also like to dine at Chateau Lake Louise, which has a rarefied atmosphere of its own.

DAY 3: The Icefields Parkway
Pickup picnic goodies at Laggan’s Bakery, then make tracks north to the most spectacular portion of the Icefields Parkway. The best half-day hike here is Wilcox Pass, so save your legs for that, or head directly to the nearby Athabasca Glacier to explore that using a choice of
activities that include exhibitions in the Icefield Centre; trips on the ice in an oversized bus; guided hikes (that require a very early start from Lake Louise); and a walk along the spectacular Glacier Sky Walk. Afterwards push on north to the town of Jasper. Earmark one or more of this day’s activities for your return trip along the Icefields Parkway on Day 5.

DAY 4: Jasper and Maligne Lake
Head up to Maligne Lake for one of a number of outdoor activities (boating, hiking, fishing, lake cruising); plan for a stop at Maligne Canyon on your way back when it’s less busy. Drop in at Jasper’s Visitor Centre for help organising an activity for the following day.

DAY 5: Raft, Bike or Hike
Take a whitewater rafting trip; do some mountain biking (such as the Four Lakes Tour); hike the Cavell Meadows; or just sight-see on the Jasper Tramway and in the town’s Yellowhead Museum.

DAY 6: The Icefields Parkway
Drive back south along the Icefields Parkway – perhaps via Cavell Meadows if you haven’t already been there – and then on to Yoho National Park; explore the Yoho Valley if there’s time, then stay in Field.

DAY 7: Yoho National Park
Get a head’s up at the Yoho National Park Visitor Centre, then go for a hike – you might be able to get lucky with a reservation for Lake O’Hara, but otherwise pick from the other hikes around Emerald Lake or up the Yoho Valley. Afterwards drive to Golden.

DAY 8: Golden and Kicking Horse
Mountain bike at Kicking Horse Resort or at the Moonraker Trails; or sign up for a whitewater rafting trip. There’s info on all three at Golden’s Visitor Centre. Alternatively, drive south to Radium and hike the Kindersley trail. Either way, consider finishing the day with a soak at Radium Hot Springs and stay in the nearby eponymous town.

DAY 9: Kootenay National Park
If you haven’t already, hike the Kindersley-Sinclair Col trail; or head to Panorama Resort for some golfing or downhill mountain biking; or simply laze away a day on the beach at Invermere; or head to Fairmont Hot Springs Resort for activities there, which of course include soaking in hot springs. Stay in or around the resort.

DAY 10: Kootenay Valley
Continue south along the Kootenay Valley and stop at Fort Steele to see something of the region’s pioneer origins. Then drive to Fernie.

DAY 11: Fernie
Explore the hiking and biking at Fernie Alpine Resort; do an easy hike around Island Lake Lodge; or bike one of the myriad of trails around town such as Castle Mountain or Swine Flu. Stay a second night in Fernie.

DAY 12: Crowsnest Pass to Waterton
Drive east across the Continental Divide at the Crowsnest Pass and visit the Frank Slide centre which details a devastating local rock slide. Continue on the the plains and drive south to Waterton Lakes National Park, where the short Bear’s Hump hike offers a great introduction. Stay in Waterton.

DAY 13: Waterton Lakes National Park
Chose one of several spectacular hikes such as Rowe Lakes; Crypt Lake; Red Rock Canyon or one of several options around Cameron Lake. If you’d rather not hike then a Cruise on Waterton Lake or the Crandell Lake mountain bike loop are the best options.

DAY 14: Back To Calgary
Drive back to Calgary and visit Head-Smashed-In Buffalo-Jump, a fascinating native site along the way.

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