The Canadian Rockies offer some of the world's most breathtaking scenery and activities for the entire family. This extensive chain of mountains essentially splits the Canadian provinces of Alberta and British Columbia with its peaks, valleys, lakes, rivers, and streams. The southernmost point of the Canadian Rockies sits near the borders of Idaho and Montana, while the Rockies' northernmost point reaches the Liard River in northern British Columbia. The Rockies feature plenty of attractions that bring tourists from all around the world, including numerous national parks that are ripe with wildlife. Sightseeing, guided tours, skiing, nature watching, river rafting, fishing, and golf are just some of the activities that tourists can enjoy in the Rockies throughout the year, making it a must-see vacation destination.
While there is no shortage of things to see in the Canadian Rockies, their highlight has to be their numerous national and provincial parks. Five national parks call the Canadian Rockies home, including Banff National Park, Jasper National Park, Kootenay National Park, Yoho National Park, and Waterton Lakes National Park. The first four connect and are part of the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks World Heritage site. These parks are ideal spots for sightseeing and photography and are also great destinations for adventurous outdoor types.
Beyond its five national parks, the Canadian Rockies are also home to three provincial parks that make up its UNESCO World Heritage Site. Set within the gorgeous province of British Columbia, the Hamber, Mount Assinibone, and Mount Robson provincial parks are also spots worth placing on your Rockies itinerary. The diverse landscape of the Rockies' provincial parks not only features snow-capped peaks and lush valleys, but sites such as canyons, waterfalls, and glaciers that are all worthy of a picture to last a lifetime. If you are looking for an attraction that cannot be left off your list, try visiting the Burgess Shale. Archaeology fans and budding paleontologists will find the Burgess Shale fascinating with its abundance of well-preserved fossils. Speaking of paleontology, if you want to see some old dinosaur stomping grounds, be sure to make a stop at the Royal Tyrrel Museum at Drumheller and the Dinosaur Provincial Park. Both of these attractions are located in Alberta just east of the Rockies and are known by dinosaur enthusiasts all around the world.
The Canadian Rockies are not all about sightseeing, as they have plenty of attractions for the more active crowd as well. River rafting and mountain climbing are two activities that are sure to get your blood pumping, while bike climbing and hiking are also available. Try climbing Mount Robson, the highest mountain peak in the Canadian Rockies at 12,972 feet, or Mount Columbia, the second-highest peak at 12,293 feet. Guided tours through the Canadian Rockies are a great way to see all that this land has to offer. If you're a wildlife lover, the Rockies offer plenty of nature viewing tours, fly fishing, and more.
There are multiple driving routes through the Canadian Rockies that offer differing scenery. Take the Trans-Canada Highway #1 route if you want to experience the most popular Canadian Rockies route that flows through the Banff, Glacier, and Yoho National Parks. Try the Yellowhead Highway #16 route to see Jasper National Park and Mount Robson Provincial Park. The Cariboo Highway #97 route offers a scenic journey through the Cariboo Plateau and its many lakes and rivers. To travel through the Nechako and Bulkley valleys, use Highway 16. As most of these routes are through the mountains and across areas with low populations, there are some tips to keep in mind. Snow and ice can delay some trips, and animal crossings for bears, deer, and other creatures can create hazards. Fuel should never reach below the half-full mark, since gas stations can be scarce in certain areas. It's also a good idea to keep a charged cellular phone and a first aid kit handy should any unexpected emergencies occur.
As you make your way through the Canadian Rockies, you will find many unique towns in Alberta and British Columbia that will leave a lasting impression. Some Alberta highlights include the towns of Banff and Canmore. Lake Louise is a beautiful mountain resort with great views, while Jasper is a top stop for skiers, hikers, and mountain climbers. If wilderness is your main point of interest, Kananaskis Village is an Albertan town worth seeing.
Popular British Columbia towns in the Canadian Rockies begin with the picturesque settings of Field, Elkford, Golden, and Windermere. Active British Columbia hotspots include Invermere and Fernie. For kayaking and fishing, take a detour to the towns of Fernie or Valemount. For relaxation, Fairmont Hot Springs is perfect with its outdoor hot pools. As you can see, there is plenty to do and see in the Canadian Rockies, so do not hesitate to plan your trip to this magical destination in the future.
To learn more about the Canadian Rockies, here are some links featuring maps, attractions, and more.
Banff National Park: A comprehensive guide to Banff National Park.
The Burgess Shale: Information on the Burgess Shale in Yoho National Park
Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks: An overview of parks in the Canadian Rockies
Canada's Official Tourism Site: Things to do in the Canadian Rockies
British Columbia Driving Routes: Maps of various driving routes in the Rockies
Alberta, Canada: Tourism in the Canadian Rockies and Alberta
Canada Maps: A listing of various maps of Canada
Canada Relief Map: A map showcasing Canada's mountain ranges
Kootenay River Runners: River rafting in the Rockies
Explore Rockies: Canadian Rockies map
Rockies Scenery: Photos of Canadian Rockies flowers, lakes, animals, and more
Banff Lake Louise: Website of Banff National Park
Jasper: Tourism in Jasper National Park
Canadian Rail Tours: Travel the Rockies by train
Canadian Tourism Commission: Official site of Canada's Tourism Commission
By: Lisa Smith