Rocky Mountain Road Trip
- 2 Weeks
This once-in-a-lifetime trip takes in four parks and covers pretty much everything the Rocky Mountains have to offer.
Start out with three days exploring Glacier and the magnificent mountain scenery around Going-to-the-Sun Road and warming up with some short hikes around Many Glacier. On day four, head north across the Canadian border for Waterton Lakes and a hike along the iconic Carthew-Alderson Trail. Spend the next day driving north to Banff, your base for the next four days. How you divide the time is up to you, but make sure you factor in the gondola ride up Sulphur Mountain, wildlife spotting around Vermilion Lakes and the Bow Valley Parkway, a boat trip across Lake Minnewanka and at least one day hike. Day 10 is set aside for more mind-blowing scenery around Lake Louise and Moraine Lake, followed on day 11 by a drive up the Icefields Parkway – it won’t take long for you to realize why it’s often dubbed the world’s most spectacular road. Round the trip off with three days in Jasper, including a cruise on Maligne Lake, a day hike, a ride on the Jasper Skytram and a dip in Miette Hot Springs.
- 1 Week
This itinerary combines day hiking around Banff with a side trip into the neighboring (quieter) national parks in British Columbia.
For the first few days, base yourself in Banff Town and spend the time breaking in those boots: you could hike up to a hidden icefield at the C-Level Cirque, admire the Bow Valley from Castle Lookout, or trek through the colorful wildflowers of Sunshine Meadows.
From Banff, head west across the Alberta–British Columbia border into Kootenay National Park. This is one of the most fire-prone areas of the Rockies: you’ll still be able to see the damage wrought by the massive 2003 burn. Take the time to hike up to Stanley Glacier before chilling in the ‘hot’ and ‘cool’ pools of Radium Hot Springs, both fed from a volcanic spring hidden deep beneath the mountainside.
From Radium, the route loops north via Golden, a lively little town where the outdoor brigade congregate at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort. From here, the road heads east along the Kicking Horse Valley into Yoho National Park, where you can spend the remaining few days admiring the sights: don’t miss Emerald Lake, Takakkaw Falls and a guided walk to the fossil fields of the Burgess Shale.
- 5 Days
This five-day itinerary squeezes in Banff’s key sights, with the emphasis on sightseeing rather than hiking. You'll cover sixty driving kilometers, taking in Banff town, Lake Louise and the Icefields Parkway.
Kick off with a day exploring Banff Town, a lively mini-metropolis with a cosmopolitan mix of shops, bistros, pubs and museums. Check in for some chateau luxury at the historic Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, followed by a day exploring Lake Minnewanka, canoeing on the Bow River and relaxing in the Upper Hot Springs Pool.
On day three, drive out of Banff and detour off the Trans-Canada Hwy and onto the Bow Valley Parkway. Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife, and don’t miss the famous waterfalls of Johnston Canyon. By mid-afternoon, you’ll reach the iconic sight of Lake Louise and nearby Moraine Lake, both renowned for their sapphire-blue waters and stunning mountain settings. Spend day four stretching your legs, either on the dramatic trail along the Plain of Six Glaciers, or on the steep climb to Lake Agnes and the Beehives.
On day five, drive along the breathtaking Icefields Parkway, passing jagged peaks, mighty glaciers and sparkling lakes en route to Num-Ti-Jah Lodge, one of the Rockies’ most famous mountain retreats.
Jasper’s Classic Hikes
- 1 Week
You’ve seen Jasper’s must-see sights, so now’s the time for something a bit more challenging. This hike-centric itinerary incorporates a couple of short trails with a longer one, after which you can take some time off for glacier viewing.
Warm up with some easy hikes around town. Old Fort Point is steep but short. The Mina & Riley Lakes Loop is peaceful but never strays too far from civilization.
Now you’re ready for the wilder stuff. The two- to three-day Skyline Trail is without doubt one of North America’s premier overnight hikes, taking in everything from snowy peaks and glacial lakes to lofty passes with mind-boggling views. You don’t even have to rough it, thanks to the cozy Shovel Pass Lodge.
After the exertion, it’s time to sit back and let the views come to you. Spend a day driving south along the Jasper section of the Icefields Parkway, and finish up with a visit to the Columbia Icefield, the largest area of ice this side of the North Pole. Most people trundle up in a Snocoach, but a guided walk will give you an even more memorable perspective.
A Weekend in Jasper
- 3 Days
Even with only a long weekend at your disposal, it’s still possible to get a taste of what makes Jasper special. Base yourself in Jasper Town, and take three little day excursions that combine the main sights with a couple of short trails.
On the first day, tick off Jasper Town: get an early morning ticket for the Jasper Skytram, visit the museum, pick up lunch from the Bear’s Paw Bakery, then spend an afternoon at Patricia and Pyramid Lakes. Stroll along the Discovery Trail as the sun sets, with a smart dinner at Evil Dave’s.
On day two, pack a picnic from Patricia St Deli and drive along Maligne Lake Rd – a hot spot for wildlife. Explore the crashing cascades of Maligne Canyon, and then head for nearby Maligne Lake for a guided cruise to tiny Spirit Island and an early evening walk on the Mary Schäffer Loop.
On your last day, it’s time to hit the trail. Jasper has lots of day hikes, but it's hard to top the spectacular Path of the Glacier and Cavell Meadows Trails. Reward yourself with an evening soak at Miette Hot Springs, followed by farewell drinks and dinner at Jasper Brewing Company.
Gems of Glacier
- 3 Days
Three days in Glacier will bag you the highlights if you don't stray too far from the Going-to-the-Sun Road. Use one of the hotels or motels around Apgar as your launchpad and then employ the park's handy free shuttle to get you from west side to east with various stop-offs en route.
On day one, explore around Apgar, West Glacier and nearby Lake McDonald, perhaps taking a walk among ancient rainforest on the Trail of the Cedars, or admiring mountain scenery on the Avalanche Lake Trail.
On day two, travel east along the Going-to-the-Sun Road, one of America’s most stunning stretches of asphalt. You can take your own vehicle or climb aboard one of the vintage Red Jammer buses, which have been trundling along the road since 1936. Stop to see the sights: the tumbling cascades of Bird Woman Falls and the Weeping Wall, the dramatic stretch of highway over Logan Pass, and the Jackson Glacier Overlook, which affords a knockout view of one of the park’s namesake glaciers.
Stay overnight at the Rising Sun Motor Inn on the shores of St Mary Lake, and spend your last day hiking trails and spotting wildlife in Two Medicine Valley.
East Glacier to Waterton
- 1 Week
This trip focuses on the eastern side of the Rockies in Glacier National Park, using the small settlement of St Mary as a base. Afterwards, you'll be within striking distance of Waterton Lakes just across the border in Canada, a beautifully compact and often-overlooked national park.
Spend the first couple of days exploring north and south around Going-to-the-Sun Road. Two Medicine Valley is a short drive south of St Mary, while Logan Pass lies to the west: both are fantastic areas for walking and wildlife watching. To get underneath Glacier’s skin, a hike is essential – the Sun Point to Virginia Falls Trail starts near St Mary Lake, while the Highline Trail starting at Logan Pass is one of the park's most popular – and spectacular. Frequent buses on Going-to-the-Sun Road mean you don’t even need to worry about transport.
Then it’s north for a couple of days in Many Glacier, arguably the national park’s most beautiful valley. Reward yourself with a stay in the Many Glacier Hotel, overlooking the sparkling waters of Swiftcurrent Lake.
Finish up with some more hiking and sightseeing in Waterton: don’t miss the classic Carthew–Alderson Trail and the equally impressive tramp to Crypt Lake.