Alberta is home to some of the most epic scenery of the Canadian Rockies with National Parks such as Banff and Jasper. A road trip through the mountains is an absolute must to experience the ‘real’ Canada! Everywhere you look, you will see something beautiful. From the mountains, waterfalls, lush forest, and wildlife, there is something breathtaking around each corner.
The best way to experience the Rockies is by camping right in the heart of the forest up in the mountains! A tent is my preference, as you can uncover the top to see the sky lit up with millions of twinkling stars, the milky way galaxy, and northern lights (if you’re lucky)! Roughing it allows you to truly experience the vast outdoors of The Great White North. Based on much experience and many trips to this area, I have perfected an itinerary for your travels through Banff National Park!
Day 1: Drumheller
Although this destination is not yet in Banff National Park, it is northeast of Calgary if you are driving from that direction & a definite must-see! Also known as Dinosaur Valley, Drumheller is home to dino fossils and the mesmerizing Canadian badlands. On clear nights, witness spectacular starry skies and a chance to see the northern lights depending on the season!
Day 2: Canmore & Banff
Only an hour away from Calgary is the lovely town of Canmore. Canmore is lesser known than Banff and should be the first stop to take in the mountains and outdoorsy lifestyle before heading into the National Park.
There are also a variety of day hikes to do around Canmore – one of my favourites being the Grassi Lakes Trail. This trail is a 3.8 km beginner level loop and takes you on a journey to see crystal clear turquoise waters and panoramic views of the mountains.
Banff National Park
After a short drive northwest of Canmore, you will arrive at the borders of Banff National Park. You will need to purchase an entrance ticket which costs around $20.00 per day.
Head down the road straight into Banff Town. Although the town is a bit touristy it is still beautiful and a perfect stop to relax! Wander down the main road and find a variety of local boutiques, cafes, and chocolate stores meanwhile having breathtaking views of the Rockies right in front of you.
After shopping or grabbing a coffee on the main street, I would suggest taking a stroll down the Bow River Trail. Just a few steps from downtown will take you directly back into nature where you can enjoy the 1.2 km riverside trail leading to Bow Falls.
Day 3: Johnston Canyon
This may be one of the busiest trails but if well worth the while. Hike along the Bow valley creek, through the trail of waterfalls. Check out the Upper Falls, Lower Falls, and Ink Pots to take in all the beauty this trail has to offer! Be sure to head down the side trail on the way to the Lower Falls to see the infamous Secret Cave.
Day 3: Lake Louise & Lake Agnes Trail
Lake Louise is an iconic destination known for the glacial-fed turquoise lake. You can walk around the paved parts taking in the lake and tremendous mountain backdrop from different perspectives. Once you’re ready, head around the right side of the lake towards the Lake Agnes Trail, leading to the Tea House. On the way, there are several stops to take in more natural beauty, such as Mirror Lake. The hike is 3.5km (one way) & you can enjoy a hot cup of tea (with an amazing view) once you get to the top!
Day 4: Moraine Lake
Moraine Lake is one of the most breathtaking views I have ever witnessed! It is another glacial-fed Gatorade blue lake, home of the Valley of the Ten Peaks. The mountain range is over 6,000ft in elevation. With the snow-capped mountains as a backdrop and turquoise water below, head up the Rockpile Trail, encompassed by forest and enjoy Mother Nature’s beauty at its finest! Explore the lake by canoe or hike the area on several trails including Larch Valley, Consolation Lakes, & the Tower of Babel.
Day 5: Peyto Lake & Bow Lake Trail
Yes… ANOTHER glacial-fed lake! But you’ll be so mesmerized by these iconic bright blue waters that you’ll chase them through the entire National Park! Peyto Lake is another astonishing view of the mountain ranges and glacial water together with pine trees and rocky trails. Start off by pulling into the lot to the Peyto Lake Viewpoint and after head by foot on one of the trails to get a better view! Drive further down the highway and you’ll find Bow Lake and a relaxed 9km hike. This hike begins at the Num-Ti-Jah Lodge and continues past the lake, creek, and eventually leading down a rocky trail to Bow Glacier Falls. The rewarding view at the end and the chance to dip your feet in the glacial water is worth the hike!
Day 6: Icefields Parkway
Enjoy the most scenic drive through the Icefields Parkway, stretching across 232km, taking in the true beauty of the Rockies on route to Jasper National Park! There are plenty of stops to pull over and snap some photos or search for wildlife.
Get some more inspiration for your trip by checking out my Canada Photo Series here!
Stay tuned for my next blog on Jasper National Park to complete your itinerary!