The Canadian Rockies are famous for their breathtaking beauty. You won’t be disappointed! From snow-covered mountain peaks to endless forests and turquoise lakes, the Rockies really are amongst the most spectacular nature wonders on this planet. Start from Banff to end in Jasper, with plenty to see along the way. You will drive through 2 national parks, so be sure to buy the pass for the entire duration of your visit (the national parks can be driven through without a permit but in this case you are not allowed to stop at tourist spots and take smaller roads).
One of the most best-known spots in the Rockies, Lake Louise is essentially about the big Fairmont hotel on its shore. Crowded. That’s the first impression of the site… It can take long to find a parking place, especially if your are not a Fairmont guest (which is not recommended, see below for way better accommodation nearby). Then you can have a short walk on the lakeshore, or hike to lake Agnes and its famous teahouse. This can be skipped without much regret, unless you really want to hike (the climb is quite rough and will take 1 to 2 hours depending on your physical condition). The path is likely to be crowded as well. Up there, no view of Lake Louise (for that you need to hike many more kilometers until the Big Beehive…) and an expensive teahouse (no road there, so all the goods have to be delivered by foot, horse or even helicopter!). And the teahouse is also full of tourists, of course… A way more recommended (and much shorter) hike from the hotel is the one to Fairview lookout! After less than 30 minutes of walking you get a beautiful view of the lake and the chateau. Don’t rent a kayak at Lake Louise, there is a much nicer place for that too nearby (see below).
This is THE spot in the Rockies. Thepickytraveller’s favourite one by far. And the most famous scenery is from here. Top tip: spend the night at the very nice Moraine Lake Lodge (the only human construction around the lake). When the evening comes, most of the tourists are gone (the only ones remaining are the lodge’s guests) so you have the wonderful lake and its surroundings almost for youself! In the morning take a canoe (included in the lodge rate) to enjoy the fresh mountain air and clear turquoise water up close. Divine.
Next stop on the way to Jasper. After a short walk from the parking you get to a small belvedere that tends to fill up quickly and become totally packed up with tourists, which unfortunately reduces the pleasure of the moment…
After Peyto Lake and before the Columbia Icefield you will pass by a point called the Crossing. A good place to fuel up. But try to eat elsewhere… Not only is the food expensive (ok, that’s the case anywhere in the Rockies…), it’s not good at all!
Columbia Icefield center
Another highlight of the Rockies, with a lot of different (and pricey) activities to do like expeditions to the glacier on big-wheeled engines or glaciers walks. A guided glacier walk is very interesting if you haven’t done one before. But here you can also walk for free to the edge of the glacier from the parking. Don’t venture on the glacier by yourself though, it’s very dangerous and many people have perished because of their curiosity (the limits are clearly marked and cordoned off).
Mount Edith Cavell
A beautiful place close to Jasper, and our last stop. Hike approximately 30 minutes from the parking to the viewpoint (longer hikes can also be done from here). As this is a less frequented area, beware of wolves and bears (a close encounter is unlikely but check the safety procedures before you go).
In Jasper, if you spend the night at the famous Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge be careful what type of room you book (the ones located in old cabins detached from the main building are quite shabby…). If you have a third day to spend in the Rockies, you can drive to Maligne Lake and take a boat to the Spirit Island (not accessible by car). Keep in mind this will take you several hours (if not the whole day) only to take that one iconic picture…