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Drive the beautiful Rocky Mountains, one of Canada's pristine attractions. Winter or summer, this drive encompasses soaring mountains, pristine lakes and frozen glaciers, be sure to pack your camera as you'll want to remember these stunning landscapes.
Duration: 366 km – 5 Days
Start your self-drive adventure in Calgary, renowned for its pleasant and laid-back lifestyle. If you’re visiting in June or early July, the town goes crazy for the annual cowboy Calgary Stampede. As you head west towards Banff on the Trans-Canada Highway, the snow-capped mountains of the Rockies will start to emerge in the distance. Lined with colonial buildings and boutiques, Banff is a quaint, yet mighty town. Soar above Banff on the Banff Gondola or take a dip in the famous hot springs. Summer or winter Banff is beautiful and the majestic soaring Rockies will leave you breathless.
We Recommend: As you arrive into Banff National Park, remember to buy your park pass from the Parks Canada booth. This must be displayed on the left hand side of the vehicle. The pass is free in 2017 to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday.
Leaving Banff behind, head north east towards Lake Louise, along the Bow Valley Parkway. This winding stretch of road takes you to the Johnston Canyon Hiking Area. Hidden away from the road, accessed via an easy 1km hike along canyon-clinging catwalks and cliff-mounting staircases you’ll arrive at the lower falls. The mighty power and force of the rushing water has carved the rock away over hundreds of years, creating a magnificent site. Keen hikers can continue a further kilometre and a half up the steep cliff face for a peek at the 80m high falls. In the colder months, the surrounding rivers and gorge freeze over, a breathtaking sight.
Continue on to Lake Louise - This picturesque, glacier fed lake is home to the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise and thanks to the turquoise lake amongst the snow-capped mountains, it’s one of the most picturesque views in the world. Stay and spend a night in the stately chateau to experience true luxury, or walk around the lake on one of the many hiking trails. In winter, the lake is frozen over and is a magnificent example of the harsh winter experienced in the Rocky Mountains. If you would prefer an experience more in touch with nature or less crowded than the bus loads of tourists at Lake Louise, Moraine Lake is another stunning picture perfect lake which embraces the beauty of Banff National Park. There are an endless amount of activities to do in the Lake Louise region including skiing, snowboarding, hiking, snowshoeing, sleigh rides and nature expeditions to name a few.
We Recommend: Avalanche season is a thing in the Rockies and can result in road closures. Be sure to stay up to date on road closures before you head off on your journey at www.roadreports.ama.ab.ca
Today we leave the province of Alberta, and enter Yoho National Park in British Columbia. Covering 1,313 km2, the word Yoho comes from a local indigenous language meaning for awe and wonder, and once again this certainly rings true in Yoho National Park. Tonight’s stop is at Emerald Lake Lodge, another impressive lake fed by a large glacier sitting in the middle. Consider a stop at the historic town of Field, first established as a base for builders of the Canadian Pacific Railway. Today it is home to the visitor information centre with local rangers offering advice on the region and interesting flora and fauna exhibits. An exhibition on the world famous Burgess Shale fossil site, considered one of the most important fossil sites in the world, allows visitors to take a glimpse into this private UNESCO historic site.
We Recommend: Be sure to try a warm mulled cider or hire a canoe from the gift shop at Emerald Lake to get up close to nature.
Continuing north of Emerald Lake Lodge, head along the Icefields Parkway to the Columbia Icefields. If you thought the lakes, mountains and waterfalls experienced thus far have been stunning, the experiences in the Columbia Icefields are truly magical and something you’ll never forget. Your first stop in the Icefields must be the Icefield Discovery Centre, where you will board the Ice Explorer. Designed for glacier travel, this all-terrain vehicle drives (ever so slowly) directly on to a 10,000 year old sheet of ice known as the Athabasca Glacier. Take the time while on the glacier to take a pic or two or one hundred – no judgement here, and bask in the glory of this truly spectacular 360 degree view. Once you have returned to the ‘mainland’ continue to the Glacier Skywalk. Step out on a cliff-edge walkway where giant glaciers perch above you as the sweeping Sunwapta Valley spreads out below. It features waterfalls, wildlife, fossils and more on an exciting 1-kilometre walkway that leads to a platform where glass is all that separates you from a 280 m drop to the valley below. If you are not a fan of heights, don’t worry there is an option for you!
We Recommend: Remember to take warm clothes and sunglasses, as even in the warmer months temperatures, out on the ice are lower and the sun reflection is blinding. Don’t forget to bring an empty drink bottle as you may have the opportunity to fill it up with crystal clear glacial water.
Say farewell to the glaciers as you head towards Jasper on the final day. Your first stop should be Athabasca Falls, although not so well known for its height, it is well known for its force and picturesque backdrop of surrounding mountains and forest. The falls can be safely viewed from various viewing platforms and is very popular in summer so we suggest arriving early. If you are a winter sports enthusiast a stop at Marmot Basin Ski Resort is a must. Considered the premier ski resort in Jasper National Park, Marmot offers a range of ski slopes for the novice to the seasoned pro. Sign the kids up for the Marmot Kids Camp so you can enjoy skiing without them and sip on a hot drink after your day on the slopes. Leaving Marmot and continuing North into Jasper, be sure to make a detour to the Jasper SkyTram, the highest and longest aerial tramway located in Canada. Offering panoramic views of Jasper, take a walk along the interpretive boardwalks, or for the more adventurous step off onto a sign posted hiking trail. Make your way into the township of Jasper at your own pace. Jasper is the end of our road trip, but it doesn’t have to be the end of your Rocky Mountains adventure!
We Recommend: Jasper National Park is the planet's second-largest dark sky preserve. Light pollution is so minimal here that conditions are ideal for viewing the night sky, which both professional and amateur astronomers can do!
Cruise around Canada on these additional top drives in the comfort of a hire car with DriveAway. If you would like to book car hire, simply use our online booking engine above or contact our friendly reservations staff.