The Canadian Rocky Mountains are home to some of the most picture-perfect attractions on the planet. With soaring mountains, blue-green lakes, lush forests, towering waterfalls and unique wildlife, the Rocky Mountains are truly breathtaking and one of the best ways to experience this region is on a road trip.

The freedom to choose your route, pull over for animal sightings and take in the views at your own pace truly makes for the trip of a lifetime. The region is vast and expansive, showcasing plenty of hidden gems and views for days, so you want to make sure you are not missing any of the top spots.

So buckle up, get your playlist ready and focus your eyes out the window—here are the top 40 stops for your Rocky Mountain Road Trip.

  

Lakes

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  1. Emerald Lake, Yoho National Park

A British Columbian gem tucked just outside the provincial border, Emerald Lake shines true to its name. Rent a canoe or take the 5.2 kilometre trail looping around the lake for incredible views of the vivid turquoise waters and spectacular mountainous surroundings.

  

  1. Lake Louise, Banff National Park

One of the most iconic attractions in Canada, Lake Louise attracts tourists from near and far for good reason. The sweeping slopes framing Victoria Glacier in the distance make an incredible backdrop and the light turquoise hue of Lake Louise's water is truly unparalleled.

photoKellie Paxian

  1. Lake Moraine, Banff National Park

Nestled in forested mountains, Lake Moraine feels hidden away from civilization, a serene hush hovering over its waters. Climb the 0.8-kilometre viewpoint trail for epic views of this Gatorade-blue lake and the stunning reflections of its majestic peaks.

  

  1. Pyramid Lake, Jasper National Park

Pyramid Lake is a lovely place to spend a day, whether you're canoeing or kayaking, setting up at one of the beaches along the shores for a picnic or dip or hiking along the trails in the surrounding forest. Cross the small bridge to explore Pyramid Island, which is teeming with photo opportunities and views of the pristine wilderness.

  

  1. Lake Annette, Jasper National Park

Lake Annette is stunning and turquoise like many of its neighbouring glacier-fed lakes in the Rocky Mountains, it's perfect for diving in and cooling off in the summer! Bring a floatie, picnic basket or a good book, and enjoy the summer day away at this Carribean-esque lake.

photoKellie Paxian

  1. Maligne Lake, Jasper National Park

Maligne Lake is known for its sheer size and its colour that turns increasingly turquoise as you venture along via canoe or ferry. The lake becomes truly magical in the early hours of the morning, with mist floating above the surface and frequent moose sightings in the area.

  

  1. Vermilion Lakes, Banff National Park

Right outside of Banff’s town centre, the Vermillion Lakes are a lovely spot to watch a sunset, paddle out on a SUP board or canoe, keep an eye out for local wildlife such as elk or Canadian geese or just soak in the peaceful vibes and serene setting.

  

  1. Bow Lake, Banff National Park

One of the most eye-catching stops along the Icefields Parkway, the picturesque Bow Lake is the head of the Bow River, which flows through Calgary and onto the Oldman River and ultimately to Hudson Bay. It’s a great spot to view the Bow Glacier, Wapta Icefield and surrounding mountains.

  

  1. Lake Minnewanka, Banff National Park

Stretching 21 kilometres through the mountains on the outskirts of Banff, Lake Minnewanka attracts visitors for its hiking and mountain biking trails, picnicking areas, canoeing, boating, snowshoeing in the winter and of course, stunning Rocky Mountain views from every angle.

photoKellie Paxian

  1. Two Jack Lake, Banff National Park

Located about 12 kilometres from Banff, Two Jack Lake provides a great outlet to escape the hustle and bustle, have a picnic or catch a sunset. To the delight of wildlife lovers, it’s not uncommon to see elk grazing on the road towards the lake.

  

  1. Grassi Lakes, Kananaskis Country

When visiting Banff’s less-touristy neighbour, Canmore, Grassi Lakes are a can’t-miss treasure. Embark on the beautiful four-kilometre trail, taking the difficult route up and the easier way down, and you will be treated to stunning views and two aquamarine lakes.

 

Viewpoints

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  1. Maligne Canyon, Jasper National Park

Follow the leisurely trail winding through Maligne Canyon, which provides phenomenal views of the rushing river, vivacious waterfalls and jaw-dropping rock structures throughout the canyon. In the winter, join a tour to walk on the ice.

 

  1. Athabasca River, Jasper National Park

Designated as a Canadian Heritage River, the Athabasca River is the longest in Alberta. It’s a great attraction as its icy blue waters run through the town of Jasper and wildlife can sometimes be spotted along its shores.

photoKellie Paxian

  1. Bow Valley Parkway, Banff National Park

The Bow Valley Parkway is a stretch of road that winds through the forested mountains with occasional views of the vibrant Bow River. As of Summer 2021, it's currently closed to vehicles so is peacefully enjoyed by cyclists, joggers and hikers.

 

  1. Policeman’s Creek Creek Boardwalk, Canmore

A flat and easy 3.9-kilometre trail weaves around Policeman’s Creek in Canmore, just past Main Street. It is adorned with bridges, benches, ponds and forested areas that are ideal for photo opportunities or simply relaxing. 

 

  1. Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park & Jasper National Park

While this list includes several scenic stops along the Icefields Parkway, this 230-kilometre-long road is an attraction in itself! Don't miss this gorgeous collection of mountains, waterfalls, lakes, glaciers and wildlife. This scenic highway should be on everyone's bucket list.

   

  1. Johnston Canyon, Banff National Park

One of Banff’s most spectacular attractions is Johnston Canyon, a display of eroded canyon walls, cascading waterfalls and green forest. Stroll through and take in the views, or consider ice climbing here during the winter months. Continue three kilometres from the Upper Falls to find the seven Ink Pots, pools of sparkling mineral springs.

   

  1. Athabasca Glacier, Jasper National Park

One of the principle toes of the Columbia Icefield, Athabasca is a gleaming glacier that is definitely worth a stop. Tour buses provide an opportunity to get up and close with this wonder and even walk on the glacier; bundle up because the temperature is about 10 degrees Celsius cooler at the top.

photoKellie PaxianKellie Paxian

  1. Spirit Island, Jasper National Park

A spiritual place for the Stoney Nakoda First Nation, Spirit Island has a powerful presence with a small patch of trees set against striking cliff faces and the vibrant blue water of Maligne Lake. One of the most photographed places in Canada, Spirit Island can be reached by boat cruise or, if you’re feeling ambitious, canoe.

   

  1. Angel Glacier, Jasper National Park

A short drive from Jasper, Mount Edith Cavell towers in all its glory, with Angel Glacier trickling down into a waterfall to the sage-green glacier lake below, where icebergs float on the surface. This is truly a special spot and the glacier can be enjoyed up close or from higher up along the Meadows Trail.

   

  1. Hoodoos, Banff National Park

A view of Banff’s hoodoos can be seen from Bow Falls Trail, and the location just outside of town is usually less crowded than other tourist hotspots. The sedimentary rock spires make for a fascinating sight and the mountains and river below aren't too shabby either.

   

  1. Radium Hot Springs, Kootenay National Park

The Canadian Rockies can get a bit chilly so for those looking to warm up their trip, Radium Hot Springs is definitely worth a visit. Browse the shopping and dining options in the small village and spend the day relaxing in the hot mineral waters while soaking in the beautiful mountainous setting.

  

Hiking Trails

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  1. Giant Steps, Banff National Park

Tucked off the road to Lake Moraine is a trailhead that leads to various attractions such as the peaceful Annette Lake, but if you keep following the trail you will be rewarded with cascading falls known as the Giant Steps and a pristine surrounding landscape that will make your 20-kilometre return hike incredibly worth it.

  

  1. Lake Agnes Tea House, Banff National Park

Nestled in the mountains past Lake Louise, Lake Agnes Teahouse is a perfect stopover for your alpine adventures. Soak in the views of the lake and waterfall and visit the teahouse, built in 1901, for a warm beverage and a bite to eat. 

  

  1. Big Beehive Hike, Banff National Park

The colour of Lake Louise looks even more unreal as you ascend in elevation, so from the top of Big Beehive Hike, it looks like a little puddle of aquamarine playdough. This 10-kilometre hike will test your limits, but its views make up for the effort and Lake Agnes and its teahouse make for a rewarding stopover on the way.

photoKellie Paxian

  1. Tunnel Mountain, Banff

One of the most beloved go-to hikes in Banff is up Tunnel Mountain, a 4.5-kilometre trail that leads to gorgeous panoramic views of the mountain town. You’ll see the turquoise Bow River meandering through the town and the iconic surrounding mountains.

  

  1. Valley of Five Lakes, Jasper National Park

The Valley of Five Lakes 4.7-kilometre hiking trail is fun for the whole family and provides incredibly rewarding viewpoints of the five blue-green lakes. During the summer, it’s a popular spot for swimming in the fresh and crisp water.

photoKellie Paxian

    28. Edith Cavell Meadows Trail, Jasper National Park

    One of the most gratifying hiking spots in the entire Rocky Mountains region is the Edith Cavell Meadows Trail. After enjoying a view of Angel Glacier, venture up through the forested trail to reach rolling fields of wildflowers while they’re in season. The trek is 8.4 kilometres.

     

    1. Old Fort Point, Jasper

    One of Jasper’s most central and accessible hikes is the 3.7 kilometre Old Fort Point trail, leading to sweeping panoramic views of the town and its surrounding wilderness. Keep an eye out for bighorn sheep in the area.

      

    Waterfalls

    photoKellie PaxianKellie Paxian

    1. Sunwapta Falls, Jasper National Park

    A short access road from the Icefields Parkway leads to Sunwapta Falls, fed by the Athabasca Glacier. Most visitors stop at the viewpoint for the upper falls, but a short hike through the woods will lead to the lower falls, which are a rewarding escape from the crowds.

      

    1. Takakkaw Falls, Yoho National Park

    Towering down 373 metres (with a 254-metre freefall), this waterfall is the second tallest in Canada—and it is true to its name, as “Takakkaw” means “wonderful” in Cree. The closer you get, the stronger the spray, so a waterproof layer isn’t a bad idea!

    photoKellie Paxian

    1. Athabasca Falls, Jasper National Park

    Athabasca Falls are a powerful force and the surrounding landscape is a treat in itself. Go to the lookout bridge and feel the mist in the air, as the falls pummel the logs below. Head down the stairs through the spectacular rock tunnel that was once carved by the river for more Mother Nature goodness.

     

    1. Tangle Falls, Jasper National Park

    Tangle Falls is a perfect little stop right along the Icefields Parkway—you can’t miss it! Pull into the parking lot and get your fix of these delightful cascading falls. It’s a popular place for ice climbing when it freezes over in the winter.

     

    1. Bow Falls, Banff

    The entire Bow River presents great views for biking, paddle boarding, canoeing or kayaking, due to its refreshing turquoise colour. But following the river around the town will lead you to the small but scenic Bow Falls, making for a beautiful picnic or photo stop while taking in this natural beauty.

     

    Dining Spots

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    1. The Spice Joint, Jasper

    The quirky and vibrant Spice Joint is bursting with Jamaican flavour and is a must-visit while in Jasper. You can’t really go wrong with anything on the menu, but the jerk chicken sandwich is always a taste bud pleaser.

     

    1. Jasper Pizza Place, Jasper

    There’s nothing like a good pizza to satisfy your stomach after a day of exploring the mountains. Jasper Pizza Place and its traditional wood-burning ovens are just what you’ve been craving. Head up to the rooftop patio for some sky-high views.

      

    1. Rose & Crown, Banff

    Possibly the best rooftop patio view in Banff is found at Rose & Crown. With pub-style eats and drinks, it’s a great spot to meet with friends and watch the sun go down, the mountains turn pink and the action of the town below.

     

    1. Three Bears Brewery, Banff

    Three Bears Brewery is designed to bring the outside in, with its leafy green decor, beer garden, dog-friendly patio and a retractable roof for stargazing. Its craft beers pair extremely well with the delicious food and lively vibes.

    photoKellie Paxian

    1. Rocky Mountain Bagel Company, Canmore

    Who doesn’t love a bagel? Rocky Mountain Bagel Company does them right, so come here to get a fluffy bagel sandwich or with a spread of your choice and enjoy the quaint patio located on the pedestrians-only street of Canmore.

     

    1. Rocky Mountain Flatbread, Canmore

    When in the Rocky Mountains, you must get your fix of Rocky Mountain eats wherever possible and although there are a handful of Rocky Mountain Flatbread locations around Western Canada, its original location in Canmore is not to be missed.

      
     

     

    PS. Why 40? Because Explore Magazine is 40 Years Old!

    In Spring of 1981, the first issue of Explore Magazine went up for sale on newsstands around Canada.

    Forty years later, explore is still on newsstands coast-to-coast; we’ve expanded to create a unique subscription box, adventure-focused podcast and a trusted online magazine, drawing in readers from around the world.

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    Don’t forget to pick up your free e-book copy of the Top 40 Hiking Trails in Canada.