Get in Touch With Nature in the Canadian Rockies
Written By: Brianna Romano
Photographed By: Brianna Romano and Andrea Martinez Canadian Rockies Trip
A road trip through the Canadian Rockies has always been on my bucket list, but it seemed so daunting that I postponed it until I was better equipped. Little did I know that there is something there for even the most novice of adventure seekers. From the turquoise-blue lakes and the towering jagged mountains to the abundant wildlife amid dense forest, this drive was undoubtedly the most scenic of my life. And if you’ve driven on the 74 Freeway, in the summer months navigating the stretch between Banff and Jasper is practically a piece of cake. Keep in mind that if you are going back to Calgary, you will be taking the same road back, so don’t feel like you have to stop for everything in one stint. We did the Icefield experience on the way up and explored Peyto and Moraine Lake on our way down.
BANFF Canadian Rockies Trip
A 90-minute drive from the Calgary airport, this little resort town is a perfect home base for exploring the surrounding area. Stay right in the heart of downtown at Mount Royal Hotel to be close to plenty of shops and restaurants, or for epic views of one of Banff’s most famous glacial lakes, experience the luxurious Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise.
Eat & Drink: Canadian Rockies Trip
If you’re a whiskey drinker, Park Distillery Restaurant & Bar is a must-stop. Be sure to try the Plain of Six Glaciers cocktail served with their housemade Park Glacier Rye, or try a Skoki Lodge, served with their Park Maple Rye and a scorched piece of wood on top of the glass to give it that smoky flavor. Maybe even take a bottle or two home with you to go along with a pizza from Bear Street Tavern. Don’t forget their signature chili oil and honey mixture to dip the crust in!
Take the Banff Gondola to soak in a panoramic view of six mountain ranges from above. Pro tip: take the first gondola at 8:30 a.m. to secure a parking spot and have the viewing deck almost completely to yourself.
The two most famous turquoise glacial lakes in the area are Lake Louise and Lake Moraine. Going later in the day in the summer (after 4 or 5 p.m.) is encouraged if you want to ditch the crowds, and since there is daylight until about 10 p.m. in the summer, there is still plenty of time to enjoy the sights. Rent a canoe for an hour or enjoy one of the many hikes around the area. We rented a canoe at Moraine Lake, as it seemed to be less crowded and just as picturesque. If you’re feeling adventurous, take on The Devil’s Thumb climbers’ trail—a 7.4-mile hike with an elevation gain of 2,897 feet—for an incredible view of both lakes at the top. If you’re like me and begin panting profusely at the slightest incline, the 1½-mile hike to Fairview Lookout at Lake Louise is good enough to catch a sight from above.
As you make your way up toward Jasper, you can catch a glimpse of Bow Lake from the road, and Peyto Lake is only a short 10-minute hike (and well worth the stop). The Icefields Parkway is the road between Banff and Jasper. It takes about two and a half hours to traverse, but keep in mind you will want to stop about every five minutes because the views are that amazing, and you might spot a bear like we did! You can’t miss the receding Athabasca Glacier as you drive down the parkway. Ride in one of the massive buses, Ice Explorer, onto the glacier to see it up close or take a quick look at the bottom. If you aren’t afraid of heights, a little bit down the road is the Columbia Icefield Skywalk, where you can step out onto a glass platform separating you from a 918-foot drop. Both of these experiences require a check-in and tickets at the Columbia Icefield Discovery Centre, so book in advance. Also, keep in mind that these experiences will take a few hours, so be sure to factor that in when planning your day.
JASPER Canadian Rockies Trip
Enjoy breakfast at the Sunhouse Cafe before making your way to Maligne Lake, one of the most Instagrammable places in Jasper National Park.
ROAD TRIP ESSENTIALS: Canadian Rockies Trip
- Spotify Playlists: Be sure to download them before you leave!
- Camera: I take my Canon 6D with 24-195mm lens with me everywhere.
- Extra SD Cards and Batteries: Because you are probably going to take 1,000 photos.
- NOCO Jump Starter: There is nothing worse than your battery dying because someone left the lights on in the car.
- Paper or Downloaded Maps: You may find yourself without any cell service on the Icefields Parkway, so be prepared to read a map if you need to.
Starting Line: Keep in mind when planning your trip that there will most likely be no snow or ice in the summer, but driving in the winter is a completely different story. If you are not experienced in driving through snow, I recommend going from June through August.
Pay the Fees to Save the Trees: Be sure to pay the Banff National Park and/or Jasper National Park fees when driving into the city. It’s easy to drive past the toll booths; there are open lanes for cars that already have passes, so keep an eye out. If you don’t have your ticket on your dash, you will be fined.
Why So Blue? As a glacier melts into a lake, it scrapes the bedrock, creating sediments or glacial silt that causes the water to appear bright turquoise and milky.