Alberta Rockies Information
Words can’t do justice to the raw beauty and grandeur of the area that encompasses two of the world’s most famous and historic national parks, Banff and Jasper and their charming alpine towns. Add in the unique attractions of neighbouring Lake Louise, "the Jewel of the Rockies," Canmore and Kananaskis Country and you have the makings of a truly memorable vacation. Just make sure you take enough time to stop, breathe the pine-fresh air and take in the magnificence around you.
Drive or take one of the excellent motorcoach tours on the Icefields Parkway between Banff and Jasper and marvel at glittering glaciers and turquoise lakes. This mountain playground delights in both summer and winter and though it’s been a tourist mecca for over a hundred years, seclusion is always only a quick drive, bike or hike away.
Many visitors fly in to either Calgary or Edmonton and then transfer by car or shuttle towards Banff (if they land in Calgary) or Jasper (if they land in Edmonton). A popular option is to take the Icefields Parkway to make a circuit between the two and leave from the other city. Though rental car is certainly the most convenient option, there are numerous guided motorcoach tours around Banff and Jasper and if you’re a skier, shuttles to and from the ski resorts. Once you’re outside of resort areas or Banff and Jasper, car or motorhome is the most convenient (and sometimes the only) way to get from place to place.
Things to Do
Explore the Region
Kananaskis – less than an hour’s drive from Calgary, this large wilderness area offers access to first-class golf courses, hiking, horseback and bike riding, as well as campgrounds, resort-style lodging and a handful of shops and cafes.
Canmore – many choose to make this their base as there are numerous family-friendly homes and condos for rent, all conveniently located just outside the borders of Banff National Park. Canmore has it all – spectacular mountain views, an easy-going but vibrant restaurant scene and laid-back locals who glow from healthy living. Take a rock-climbing course from a world-class guide, golf a mountain course or explore Main Street’s galleries and shops. Then linger over a hot chocolate or micro-brew and watch the sun drop behind the Three Sisters mountains.
Banff – this small town attracts over 4 million visitors per year and with good reason, drawing on its rich history as Canada’s first national park. So in addition to sightseeing, hiking, golf, rafting, horseback riding, skiing and plentiful outdoor activities, Banff offers fascinating museums, galleries, world-famous festivals and a wide range of restaurants, nightlife and spa options. Ride the gondola, hike to a pristine mountain lake, soak in the hotsprings, visit the magnificent castle-like Banff Springs hotel or wander next to the Bow River. Snap some photos of the wild elk that roam the townsite and amaze your friends in the city!
Many of Banff’s pleasures lie outside the townsite, so head out to see the jewel-toned Lake Louise and the Chateau-style hotel overlooking it, hike to the Lake Agnes Tea House, or take an afternoon cruise on Lake Minnewanka. There are countless ways to get off the beaten path, and the Information Centre staff are happy to help.
Jasper – Those landing in Edmonton can make a four-hour drive to Canada’s largest mountain park and the little town at its centre. Jasper is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts and is known for its hiking trails (both close to town and backcountry), canoeing and kayaking, wildlife watching and skiing. In winter, skate on a frozen lake or mush your own dog team through the snow. In summer, join the locals swimming in chilly Lake Annette or stay warm in the Miette hotsprings. The town has a rustic, friendly charm but still boasts eclectic and imaginative restaurants and a wide spectrum of lodging, from beautiful campgrounds to luxurious lodges.
Icefields Parkway – A couple of hours south from the town of Banff and on the borders of Banff and Jasper National Parks, the Icefields Parkway runs for 230 km (143 mi) past some of the most spectacular scenery in North America. Make sure you stop to take a tour on the specially designed Ice Explorer coach, which takes you on the glacier itself. Read more on the Icefields Parkway or look at these 360° panoramas to see for yourself.
Take a View – Whether you're a hardcore hiker, a gondola rider or a passenger looking out a car window, you'll have plenty of jaw-dropping views. Apart from mountain vistas, lakes and meadows of wildflowers you’ll see wildlife such as deer, bear and moose, even from the road. You’ll also find educational trail or roadside interpretive panels and centers to explain what you’re looking at. More on hiking in the Alberta Rockies here...
Horse Around – Those wanting to giddy-up and go horseback riding have numerous opportunities to do so, from short rides to multi-day horsepacking trips with skilled guides, or guest ranch stays. Every equine experience, from comfortable to backcountry is available to you in the Rockies region, so saddle up and hit the trail.
Ski – the Alberta Rockies downhill experience rivals any in North America. Choose from Sunshine Village, with its extra-long season, Lake Louise, Canada’s largest single ski area with four mountain faces and deep powder, family-friendly Marmot Basin with its super-long quad chair, or night skiing on Mt. Norquay and Mt. Nakiska, site of the 1988 Olympic ski events. If cross-country skiing is your pleasure, join Olympic athletes training at the world-class Canmore Nordic Centre.
Spa and Wellness – Spa and wellness options are abundant in the Rockies, from day spas to indulgent destination spas and yoga retreats.
Restaurants, Shopping and Accomodation
Restaurants – Dining runs the gamut in the Rockies region. Whether you’re a trendy locavore or just looking for a great burger, you’ll find choices to suit your budget and tastes.
Shopping - There is much to be had by way of retail pursuits in the Rockies region, from active to apres, fudge to fly-fishing rods, the stores and boutiques of Banff and Canmore are sure to interest a wide variety of shoppers, while the funky independent shops lining the small streets of Jasper are full of pleasant surprises. Whatever your passion -- photography, local-interest literature, or just finding the perfect sun-hat or souvenir, you won't go away empty-handed when you shop in the Rockies.
Accommodations – The Rockies region offers accommodations to please every traveler, from campers, hostelers and motorhome enthusiasts to luxury seekers looking for the comforts of a resort and everything in between – backcountry inns, cabins, rental condos and B and B’s.
Return to the Alberta Regional Overview page.
Map: To zoom closer click the "plus" (+) button in the navigation bar on the left of the screen. To zoom out click the "minus" (-) button on the navigation bar. To navigate (move/pan your view), click and drag the map. To view street-level imagery for a specific location, click and drag the yellow man icon from left hand side bar onto streets highlighted in blue.
Photo credits:Hker coutesy of Tourism Calgary,Columbia Icefields courtesy of Jeff Patterson; Riders courtesy of Travel Alberta; Fishernan courtesy of Travel Alberta
Tipis (photo credit Travel Alb...
View from Sulfur Mountain Gond...
Alberta Art Gallery (Photo R. ...
Open Road Cowboy Country
"Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and celebrate the journey" - Fitzhugh Mullan