We drove a gauntlet through snow-iced mountains, glaciers poking at us from the left — then the right.
We walked on these black- and gray-streaked glacier hulks, peering into turquoise crevasses. Then we kayaked on avocado-colored lakes, biked along bubbling streams, and hiked to the summit for views that seemed to reach to the end of the continent. We saw bulls in a rodeo and bears by our picnic table.
This was our summer road trip through the Canadian Rockies.
HIGHLIGHT OF CANADIAN ROCKIES (why choose this trip):
#1: Mountain scenery and cascading waterfalls!
#2: chance to see, learn about, and walk on glaciers
#3: bald eagles (and elk and moose and even wolves) complete your alpine experience.
WHAT’S THE DRIVING ROUTE THROUGH CANADIAN ROCKIES:
There are many organized coach tours through this area, but if you want to travel independently, stopping to hike and take photos at will (and you WILL!), rent a car.
It’s a condensed route, too – a straightforward triangle connecting Banff, Jasper, and the Parkway to Calgary, your arrival city.
You can either drive out and back, or you can drive the loop through Edmonton.
A 3rd GREAT OPTION FOR GETTING AROUND THE ROCKIES:
Viarail! Drive from Calgary through the Icefields to Jasper, then return your rental car and hop the train west to Vancouver. You can choose a special glass-topped sightseeing car for this journey, or a regular coach, and both This one-way route is more expensive, but is by far the most efficient and allows you to also experience the great coastal metropolis, sometimes referred to as the City of Glass for its architecture!
WHAT TO DO IN THE CANADIAN ROCKIES:
We loved our bike ride along the creekside trail in Lake Louise. Straight from our lodge (see below), our group of 8- to 45-year-olds could all enjoy this relatively flat route. Rent bikes here and check out a full biking guide with more routes here.
I also have a touchstone to Jasper’s Lake Maligne where we kayaked in silence, in pristine wilderness, for hours. Yes, the water really IS this blue. Magical….
THE ICEFIELDS PARKWAY, A NATIONAL TREASURE IN THE CANADIAN ROCKIES:
This 144-mile national park route is designated Top 20 Drives to take in a lifetime!
There’s a shouldn’t-miss visitors center and a snow coach ride that helps even young families and disabled folks get out to the face of the glacier.
ICEFIELDS PARKWAY LOGISTICS:
- only ONE gas stop that’s very expensive and often backed up with long lines, so fill up before you enter the drive
- it’s convenient to grab a snack at the Visitors Center, but it’s ideal to organize yourself the day before and pack your loveliest picnic, to enjoy along the route.
- this drive is do-able in wintertime but sometimes is closed for weather, so call for updates before you drive
WHERE TO STAY IN THE CANADIAN ROCKIES:
I highly recommend The Post Hotel in Lake Louise. It’s hand-heuned wooden king bed had the fluffiest mattress I’ve ever laid my body on, and I can still remember the crisp sheets and cozy duvet. Either I was exhausted from a day of mountain biking or this place was extraordinary — probably both! If you’re going to splurge anyway, take a cabin by the stream.