Ever since I moved to Canada visiting the Rocky Mountains was part of my new year’s resolution. It took me 3 years and 3 friends crossing the world to do it, but I finally checked this item off my bucket list! We planned a girls-only Rocky Mountains Road Trip and nailed the perfect itinerary. As expected it was an spectacular experience and I feel obligated to share.
There were only 4 days and too many places to visit, but we decided to do as much as possible and I don’t regret it at all! We drove about 1,200 kilometres through the Canadian Rockies, but I hardly felt the hours passing. Curve after curve was a breathtaking view with lakes, rivers, mountains capped with snow and eventual wild animals. Since time was limited, flying from Vancouver to Calgary was the best option. The plane ride is only 40 minutes, but the drive from Vancouver can also be amazing if you have more time. Here is how our adventure started:
Day #1: Calgary – Lake Louise – Jasper
We got our car at airport and headed for the first stop – Lake Louise. A 2 hour drive into Highway #1 will take you to one of the most famous and beautiful lakes in the Rockies. I highly recommend stopping at the Information Centre to get tips for the way and to buy a parking pass (required anywhere between Banff and Jasper National Parks.)
Lake Louise is just amazing, the beauty is impressive and I could spend the whole day admiring it! There are lots of activities too, such as canoeing, walking around the lake and hiking to view points. Unfortunately we didn’t have much time, so we had to hit the road after a few hours there.
The drive from Lake Louise to Jasper is an entertainment itself, it takes about three hours to get there, but you can add a few more hours for the stops along the scenic drive. You can pull out literally anywhere you like to admire and take pictures (Bow Lake is an absolute must). Keep an eye on the wildlife, they are very common along the way too – watch out for cars stopped on the sideways, they might have spotted something! Food and gas are pretty much limited, so be prepared before taking off. We decided to stop at Icefield Centre to eat while admiring the Glacier.
By the time we checked in at our hotel in Jasper it was pretty late, so we went to town only for a walk and dinner. A few places recommended to us were: Famoso Neopolitan Pizzeria, The Raven Bistro and Evil Dave’s Grill.
Day #2: Jasper – Banff
In the second day we woke early to explore the area around Jasper in the morning and headed back to Banff in the afternoon (while visiting some of the attractions we skipped in day 1). Our first destination was Maligne Lake, we drove for approximately one hour and saw 4 bears (including a cub) and a family of horned sheep on the way! The lake was very beautiful, but unfortunately it was raining and we couldn’t see its true colour After a few hours of hiking we headed back to Jasper, stopping for a short walk on Maligne Canyon.
Back in the highway to Banff we went for a short hike in these two jaw-dropping places: the Athabasca Falls and the Sunwapta Falls. Lunch was at Icefield Centre (again) and dinner in the cute town of Banff. The town is full of shops, cafes and restaurants.
Maligne Lake, Icefields Parkway, Sunwapta Falls, Moraine Lake
Day #3: Banff
We were back on the road early morning on day 3, driving for approximately 1:30 hours until we reached Moraine Lake. This glacier-fed lake is even more beautiful than its neighbour, Lake Louise. Just a few steps from the parking lot is this amazing blue lake surrounded by grey mountains topped with snow, you can walk by it or take an easy hike up to the rocks for a breathtaking view. Canoe rentals are also available during summer.
Back to the tiny city of Lake Louise we packed a picnic before heading to the next adventure 38 km north, Peyto Lake, which was hands-down the most beautiful place in the Alberta Canadian Rocky Mountains. I just couldn’t believe the colour of Peyto Lake, the light blue colour can change depending on the position of the sun and clouds, so every time you look at it the colour can be different. The view of the lake gets better the higher you go, so I recommend going for a short hike on the Bow Lake lookout trail. We drove back to Banff through the Bow Valley Parkway for wildlife viewing.
In our last night in Banff we decided to explore the city, browse some shops and toast the end of the trip at Banff Brewery Co.
Day #4: Banff – Calgary
The last day unfortunately had to be shorter, we went early morning to hike up a little peak close to downtown Banff before leaving town, the Tunnel Mountain. After going uphill for approximately one hour we were rewarded with this amazing view of Banff and its surroundings. It was a great way of saying goodbye to this amazing place and having one last look at the mountains. Once we were back in the hotel it was time to pack and drive to Calgary.
We were lucky enough to do almost everything in our itinerary, but if we had more time I’d definitely rent a kayak or canoe to explore the lakes, get a rental bike to ride around Baff and take the Gondola!
I hope this itinerary will be helpful and inspire you to plan a similar trip, I can’t wait to repeat it!