Best Things to Do in the Canadian Rockies: Top 12 Attractions to Visit

by Jen
Best Things to Do in the Canadian Rockies
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Ahh the Canadian Rockies, a land where jagged peaks kiss the sky and turquoise lakes reflect the heavens. It’s a place that beckons adventurers, nature lovers, and anyone yearning to bask in the sheer majesty of Mother Earth. If you’ve ever dreamed of standing amidst towering mountains while breathing in the crisp, pine-scented air, then things to do in the Canadian Rockies await in your ultimate playground.

The Canadian Rockies are more than just a pretty face. They’re a treasure trove of exhilarating activities and unique experiences that can fill a lifetime of vacations. From hiking through emerald forests to soaking in natural hot springs, and from spotting majestic wildlife to exploring charming mountain towns, there’s no end to the things to do in the Canadian Rockies.

So, grab your hiking boots and your sense of wonder as we delve into the ultimate guide to making the most of your trip to this natural wonderland. Whether you’re a seasoned explorer or a first-timer, prepare to have your wanderlust ignited. Get ready to discover the best places, coolest activities, and most unique spots that the Canadian Rockies have to offer. Here’s everything you need to know about these fun things to do in the Canadian Rockies.

The top places to visit in the Canadian Rockies right now
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Best Places to Visit in the Canadian Rockies

Ready to jump into all the coolest things to do in the Canadian Rockies? As noted above, there’s something for everyone at this unforgettable vacation spot. So keep reading to discover all these unique Canadian Rockies places to visit.

Are you looking to hike through stunning trails, kayak on pristine lakes, and experience exhilarating wildlife encounters? Or would you prefer to unwind in hot springs, enjoy scenic drives, and revel in the peaceful mountain atmosphere? Whatever you’re planning, these must-sees in the Canadian Rockies can accommodate your needs. Here’s all the best attractions in the Canadian Rockies that you should know about.

1. Lake Louise Tea House

Get ready, adventure seekers! One of the coolest things to do in the Canadian Rockies has to be the Lake Louise Tea House Challenge. Picture this: you’re hiking through lush forests, crossing charming wooden bridges, and finally reaching not one, but two historic tea houses. Yes, you read that right—two!

The first stop is the Lake Agnes Tea House, a rustic cabin offering a variety of teas and homemade treats. After refueling, continue your journey to the Plain of Six Glaciers Tea House. Along the way, you’ll be treated to jaw-dropping views of glaciers, waterfalls, and the ever-stunning Lake Louise.

This hike is a full-day commitment, covering about 14.6 km (9 miles) round trip. So, pack some snacks, plenty of water, and don’t forget your camera. The vistas are Instagram-worthy, to say the least. And the best part? You’ll feel like you’ve truly earned that cup of tea and slice of pie at the end of the trail.

What to do in the Canadian Rockies? look no further. The Lake Louise Tea House Challenge is a must-try experience that combines natural beauty, physical activity, and a touch of Canadian history. Trust us, it’s a day you won’t soon forget.

Lake Louise Tea House is one of the best things to do in the Canadian Rockies.
Experience the Lake Louise Tea House Challenge—a blend of natural beauty, physical activity, and Canadian history.

2. Icefields Parkway

If you’re wondering where to visit in the Canadian Rockies, then you can’t miss the Icefields Parkway. This scenic drive stretches for 232 km (144 miles) and connects Jasper National Park to Banff National Park. It’s not just a road; it’s a journey through some of the most breathtaking landscapes you’ll ever see.

Start your trip in Jasper and make your way south, stopping at iconic viewpoints like Athabasca Falls, Sunwapta Falls, and the Columbia Icefield. At the Columbia Icefield, you can even hop on an all-terrain Ice Explorer vehicle to get up close and personal with the Athabasca Glacier. Talk about a cool experience—literally!

The drive itself is a feast for the eyes, offering panoramic views of towering mountains, turquoise lakes, and sprawling glaciers. And don’t forget the wildlife! Keep your eyes peeled for grizzly bears, mountain goats, and bighorn sheep. Just remember to keep a safe distance and admire these majestic creatures from the comfort of your car.

If you’re creating a roster of Canadian Rockies attractions, make sure to prioritize the Icefields Parkway. This route captures the very essence of the Rockies—untamed, stunning, and profoundly awe-inspiring.

The Icefields Parkway is a 232 km (144 miles) scenic drive connecting Jasper National Park to Banff National Park.
The Icefields Parkway is a 232 km (144 miles) scenic drive connecting Jasper National Park to Banff National Park.

3. Banff Upper Hot Springs

When it comes to best things to do in the Canadian Rockies, soaking in the Banff Upper Hot Springs is a must. Situated at an elevation of 5,200 feet, these natural thermal mineral springs offer a one-of-a-kind experience. Imagine yourself immersed in warm, soothing waters while surrounded by the snow-capped peaks of Mount Rundle and Sulphur Mountain. It’s relaxation at its finest!

The hot springs have been a popular destination since the late 19th century, and it’s easy to see why. The mineral-rich waters are believed to have therapeutic properties, making it a perfect spot for those looking to unwind after a day of adventure. Plus, the facility offers a range of amenities like a café, gift shop, and even swimsuit rentals for those spontaneous visits.

And don’t worry about the weather; the hot springs are open year-round. So, you can enjoy a warm soak even when it’s snowing outside. How’s that for a Canadian Rockies experience?

In short, if you’re making a list of best places to go in the Canadian Rockies, the Banff Upper Hot Springs should definitely be on it. It’s a rejuvenating experience that you won’t soon forget.

Must-do in the Canadian Rockies: Banff Upper Hot Springs. Relax in natural thermal springs with mountain views.
Must-do in the Canadian Rockies: Banff Upper Hot Springs. Relax in natural thermal springs with mountain views.

4. Jasper National Park

When putting together a lineup of Canadian Rockies attractions, including a wildlife safari in Jasper National Park is an essential recommendation. This sprawling park is a haven for nature enthusiasts and wildlife photographers alike. From majestic elk to adorable chipmunks, the park is teeming with creatures big and small.

The best way to experience this natural wonder is through a guided wildlife safari. These tours are led by experienced naturalists who know the park like the back of their hand. You’ll be taken to the best spots for wildlife viewing, all while learning fascinating facts about the park’s ecology. The awe-inspiring backdrop of rugged mountains and pristine lakes make every photo a postcard-worthy shot.

For those who prefer a more hands-on approach, there are also self-guided options. Just grab a map, hop in your car, and let the adventure begin. Keep your eyes peeled for the elusive Canadian lynx or even a grizzly bear if you’re lucky!

A wildlife safari in Jasper National Park is one of the coolest activities in the Canadian Rockies. It’s an unforgettable experience that brings you face-to-face with the untamed beauty of nature.

Wildlife safari in Jasper National Park—a haven for nature lovers and photographers, showcasing diverse wildlife.
Wildlife safari in Jasper National Park—a haven for nature lovers and photographers showcasing diverse wildlife.

5. Kananaskis Country

Giddy up, adventure seekers! If you’re pondering what to do in the Canadian Rockies, how about a horseback ride through the scenic Kananaskis Country? This is not your average trail ride; it’s an immersive journey into the heart of the Rockies, led by experienced guides who are as passionate about the land as they are about their four-legged companions.

The trails wind through lush forests, cross babbling brooks, and offer panoramic views of the towering peaks. Along the way, you’ll likely spot some local wildlife—think mule deer, mountain goats, and maybe even a moose if you’re lucky. It’s a fantastic way to connect with nature, and you don’t need any prior riding experience to join in on the fun.

For those looking for a more extended adventure, multi-day rides are also available. These trips include camping under the stars, hearty meals cooked over an open fire, and the chance to truly unplug and unwind.

If you’re searching for unique Canadian Rockies things to do, horseback riding in Kananaskis Country should be high on your list. It’s an experience that combines the thrill of adventure with the serenity of nature, making it one of the cool destinations in the Canadian Rockies.

Experience the Canadian Rockies with a horseback ride through Kananaskis Country.
Experience the Canadian Rockies with a horseback ride through Kananaskis Country.

6. Kicking Horse River

Hold on tight, because whitewater rafting on the Kicking Horse River is one of the coolest things to do in the Canadian Rockies you won’t want to miss! This adrenaline-pumping experience takes you through some of the most exhilarating rapids, surrounded by the awe-inspiring scenery of the Rockies. With a helmet strapped on and a paddle in hand, you’re ready to conquer the river’s untamed waters.

Guided by professionals who know every twist and turn of the river, you’ll navigate through Class III and IV rapids, each with its own unique challenges. The guides also ensure safety protocols are followed to the letter, so you can focus on the thrill of the ride. Between the rapids, you’ll find moments of serenity as the river winds through scenic canyons and past towering cliffs.

For those who crave even more excitement, some tours offer cliff jumping opportunities during the calmer sections of the river. It’s a heart-stopping moment that adds an extra layer of adventure to an already unforgettable day.

Make sure whitewater rafting on the Kicking Horse River is on your list of the Canadian Rockies attractions. It’s a pulse-quickening, jaw-dropping experience that’s a must-visit in the Canadian Rockies.

Whitewater rafting on the Kicking Horse River is a must-do in the Canadian Rockies, offering exhilarating rapids and stunning scenery.
Whitewater rafting on the Kicking Horse River is a must-do in the Canadian Rockies, offering exhilarating rapids and stunning scenery.

7. Yoho National Park

If you’re wondering where to visit in the Canadian Rockies, let me introduce you to the lesser-known but equally stunning Yoho National Park. Situated just a stone’s throw away from its more famous neighbor, Banff, Yoho offers a tranquil escape from the crowds. Here, you’ll find turquoise lakes, cascading waterfalls, and hiking trails that lead to jaw-dropping vistas.

One of the park’s highlights is the Emerald Lake, a body of water so vividly green it looks like a gemstone. A leisurely walk around the lake offers panoramic views that will have your camera working overtime. Don’t miss the Natural Bridge, an intriguing rock formation sculpted by the erosive powers of the Kicking Horse River.

For the history buffs, the Burgess Shale fossil beds offer a fascinating glimpse into life half a billion years ago. Guided hikes to this UNESCO World Heritage site are available, providing insightful commentary on the ancient marine creatures preserved in the rocks.

The Yoho National Park is a sanctuary of natural beauty and historical significance making it one of the cool destinations in the Canadian Rockies. It’s also one of the top places to visit in British Columbia!

Emerald Lake's beauty in Yoho National Park.
Emerald Lake’s beauty in Yoho National Park.

8. Legacy Trail

For those who love the wind in their hair and the open road ahead, cycling the Legacy Trail is one of the coolest activities in the Canadian Rockies. This 26.8-kilometer trail connects the towns of Canmore and Banff, offering cyclists a safe and scenic route to explore the region. The trail is well-maintained, making it accessible for riders of all levels.

As you pedal along, you’ll be treated to awe-inspiring views of the surrounding mountains, valleys, and rivers. The trail also passes through several picnic areas, perfect for a quick snack or a leisurely lunch. And for the wildlife, keep your eyes peeled for elk, bighorn sheep, and even the occasional bear—though always remember to keep a safe distance.

If you’re not keen on bringing your own bike, don’t worry. There are plenty of rental shops in both Canmore and Banff where you can pick up everything you need. Helmets, maps, and friendly advice are usually part of the package.

Hop on a bike and conquer the Legacy Trail. It’s an exhilarating experience that combines physical activity with some of the most stunning scenery you’ll ever see. This is truly one of the best things to do in the Canadian Rockies.

Legacy Trail—an exciting 26.8-kilometer route connecting Canmore and Banff, perfect for cyclists of all levels.
Legacy Trail—an exciting 26.8-kilometer route connecting Canmore and Banff, perfect for cyclists of all levels.

9. Sulphur Mountain

Elevate your Canadian Rockies experience—literally—by taking a gondola ride up Sulphur Mountain. This is one of those Canadian Rockies attractions that you simply can’t miss. The eight-minute ride will whisk you up to an elevation of 2,281 meters, offering panoramic views that will leave you speechless.

Once you reach the summit, you’ll find a range of activities to keep you entertained. There’s a boardwalk that leads to Sanson’s Peak, where you can find a cosmic ray station and a weather observatory. For the history buffs, the interpretive center offers fascinating insights into the area’s geological and cultural history.

If you’re feeling peckish, the Sky Bistro offers a dining experience like no other. Imagine savoring a delicious meal while overlooking the sprawling landscapes below. It’s a feast for all the senses!

Where to go in the Canadian Rockies? Sulphur Mountain should be on your list. The gondola ride is more than just a way to get to the top; it’s a journey that offers new perspectives, both literally and metaphorically.

Ascend Sulphur Mountain by gondola for jaw-dropping panoramic views, a must-do in the Canadian Rockies.
Ascend Sulphur Mountain by gondola for jaw-dropping panoramic views, a must-do in the Canadian Rockies.

10. Moraine Lake

If you’re searching for unique things to do in the Canadian Rockies, look no further than canoeing on the iconic Moraine Lake. This glacier-fed lake is a jewel of Banff National Park, known for its stunning turquoise waters that seem almost otherworldly.

Rent a canoe and paddle your way through this serene setting, surrounded by towering mountain peaks and lush forests. The lake is calm, making it perfect for beginners and experienced paddlers alike. As you glide through the water, you’ll feel a sense of peace and connection with nature that’s hard to find elsewhere.

Don’t forget to bring your camera because the photo opportunities are endless. Capture the lake’s beauty from different angles, and if you’re lucky, you might even spot some local wildlife like elk or mountain goats near the shoreline.

For those who prefer a guided experience, there are plenty of tours available that offer insights into the lake’s ecology and history. It’s not just about the paddle; it’s about immersing yourself in one of the best places in the Canadian Rockies.

Moraine Lake must be right at the top of the unique places in the Canadian Rockies.

Try canoeing on the iconic Moraine Lake—a jewel of Banff National Park, famous for its mesmerizing turquoise waters.
Try canoeing on the iconic Moraine Lake—a jewel of Banff National Park, famous for its mesmerizing turquoise waters.

11. Canmore

For adrenaline junkies, one of the coolest activities in the Canadian Rockies has to be rock climbing in Canmore. This charming town is a gateway to some of the most exhilarating climbing spots you’ll ever encounter. With routes that cater to all skill levels, from novice to expert, Canmore offers a rock climbing experience that’s hard to beat.

The limestone and quartzite cliffs provide a variety of challenges, from straightforward climbs to complex multi-pitch routes. And let’s not forget the views! As you ascend, you’ll be rewarded with panoramic vistas of the surrounding mountains and valleys. It’s a visual feast that makes the physical exertion totally worth it.

Local climbing schools offer courses and guided climbs, ensuring that even beginners can safely enjoy this thrilling activity. Gear rental shops are abundant, so you don’t have to worry about lugging your equipment from home.

Curious about where to go in the Canadian Rockies for an adventure that pushes your limits while offering jaw-dropping scenery? Canmore is your answer. It’s not just a climb; it’s a journey into the heart of the Rockies that you’ll remember for a lifetime.

Rock climbing in Canmore is a must-try activity in the Canadian Rockies, offering diverse routes for all skill levels.
Rock climbing in Canmore is a must-try activity in the Canadian Rockies, offering diverse routes for all skill levels.

12. Kootenay National Park

If you’re searching for unique things to do in the Canadian Rockies, look no further than snowshoeing in Kootenay National Park. This winter wonderland transforms into a playground for those who crave a serene yet invigorating experience. The park offers a variety of trails, each with its own unique landscape and level of difficulty.

As you trek through the snow-covered forests and meadows, you’ll feel a sense of peace that only nature can provide. The crunch of snow under your snowshoes, the crisp winter air filling your lungs, and the sight of untouched snowfields stretching as far as the eye can see—it’s a magical experience.

Guided tours are available for those who prefer a structured adventure, complete with historical and ecological insights from local experts. For the more independent spirits, trail maps are readily available, allowing you to explore at your own pace.

Snowshoeing here isn’t just an activity; it’s an unforgettable journey through one of the most enchanting landscapes you’ll ever encounter. So, if you’re compiling a list of Canadian Rockies places to visit, make sure Kootenay National Park is on it.

Scenic view of Tokkum Creek in Kootenay National Park
Scenic view of Tokkum Creek in Kootenay National Park

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about the Best Things to Do in the Canadian Rockies

Looking for more content on the top things to do in the Canadian Rockies? Here are some popular questions (and answers) I get that will help you plan your trip to the Canadian Rockies:

What is special about the Canadian Rockies?

The Canadian Rockies are a treasure trove of natural beauty, boasting everything from towering peaks and emerald lakes to diverse wildlife and rich cultural history. It’s a destination that offers a myriad of activities, catering to adventurers, nature lovers, and those simply looking to unwind in a stunning setting.

Are the Canadian Rockies worth visiting?

Absolutely, the Canadian Rockies are a must-see for anyone who appreciates the great outdoors. With activities ranging from hiking and snowshoeing to wildlife safaris and hot springs, there’s something for everyone. The landscapes are so breathtaking, they’ll make even the most seasoned travelers stop in their tracks. Here are more reasons why the Canadian Rockies are worth it:

  1. Stunning Scenery: The Canadian Rockies offer a dramatic landscape of towering snow-capped peaks, crystal-clear turquoise lakes, cascading waterfalls, and vast glaciers. Iconic locations like Lake Louise, Moraine Lake, and the Icefields Parkway are postcard-perfect and offer views that are truly unforgettable.
  2. Outdoor Activities: Whether you’re an adrenaline junkie or someone seeking a peaceful retreat, the Canadian Rockies cater to all. Hiking, mountain biking, skiing, snowboarding, and wildlife watching are just a few of the myriad activities available.
  3. Wildlife Encounters: The region is teeming with wildlife. It’s not uncommon to spot elk, deer, bears, mountain goats, and a variety of bird species in their natural habitat.
  4. Cultural Experiences: Towns like Banff, Jasper, and Canmore provide a mix of cultural experiences, from local festivals and indigenous art to world-class dining and spa retreats.
  5. National Parks: The Canadian Rockies house several national parks, including Banff, Jasper, Yoho, and Kootenay. Each park offers its unique landscapes and experiences, preserving the natural beauty and ecological significance of the region.

What is the best way to see the Canadian Rockies?

Certainly! The best way to see the Canadian Rockies depends on your interests: if you’re an adventurer at heart, then hiking and camping offer an up-close experience with nature. For those looking for comfort and panoramic views, scenic drives like the Icefields Parkway or a ride on the Rocky Mountaineer train provide a more relaxed yet equally stunning perspective.

How many days are enough for the Canadian Rockies?

The ideal number of days to spend in the Canadian Rockies can vary based on what you want to see and do, but a week to ten days allows for a well-rounded experience. This timeframe gives you the opportunity to explore multiple national parks, engage in outdoor activities, and even have some downtime to simply soak in the breathtaking scenery.

What do people do in the Rockies?

In the Canadian Rockies, visitors are spoiled for choice with a range of activities that include hiking, mountain biking, and wildlife spotting in the summer, as well as skiing and snowboarding in the winter. The region is also famous for its stunning lakes, so canoeing, kayaking, and even ice skating in the colder months are popular activities.

Kayakers peacefully navigating the crystal-clear waters amidst the breathtaking landscapes of the Canadian Rockies.
Kayakers peacefully navigating the crystal-clear waters amidst the breathtaking landscapes of the Canadian Rockies.

What is the best month to visit Canadian Rockies?

The best month to visit the Canadian Rockies depends on the type of experience you’re seeking:

  1. June to August (Summer):
    • These are the warmest months, making them the most popular time to visit.
    • The majority of hiking trails are snow-free by late June or early July.
    • Wildflowers bloom in the meadows, and the days are long, allowing for extended exploration.
    • Wildlife is most active during these months, increasing the chances of sightings.
    • However, popular spots like Lake Louise and Moraine Lake can be crowded, and accommodations may be pricier and harder to come by without advance booking.
  2. September (Early Fall):
    • September offers a mix of pleasant weather and fewer crowds, especially after Labor Day.
    • The fall foliage, especially the golden larch trees, adds a different hue to the landscape.
    • The weather starts to cool, but many hiking trails remain accessible.
    • Wildlife, preparing for winter, can still be active and visible.
  3. October to April (Winter):
    • If you’re a fan of winter sports, this is the time to visit. The Canadian Rockies offer world-class skiing, snowboarding, ice climbing, and snowshoeing.
    • The landscape transforms into a winter wonderland with snow-covered peaks and frozen lakes.
    • Fewer tourists mean a more tranquil experience, but some facilities and roads might be closed due to snow.

How Do I Get to the Canadian Rockies?

The most convenient way to get to the Canadian Rockies is by flying into major airports near the region, such as Calgary International Airport (YYC) for Banff and Jasper or Vancouver International Airport (YVR) for the western Rockies. From these airports, you can rent a car or take a shuttle service to reach the heart of the Rockies, with travel times varying from 1.5 to 4 hours depending on your specific destination.

Are the Canadian Rockies Family-Friendly?

Absolutely, the Canadian Rockies offer a plethora of activities that are perfect for families, from easy hiking trails and picnics beside turquoise lakes to educational visitor centers and wildlife spotting. Many resorts and accommodations also cater to families, providing amenities like pools, game rooms, and family-friendly excursions.

Concluding Thoughts on Visiting the Canadian Rockies

And there you have it, folks! A curated list of the best places to go in the Canadian Rockies. Whether you’re an adrenaline junkie, a nature enthusiast, or someone who just wants to take in the awe-inspiring views, the Canadian Rockies have something to offer. Each activity and destination mentioned is a gem in its own right, promising an unforgettable experience. So pack your bags, grab your camera, and get ready to explore one of the most magnificent regions on Earth.

The top things to do in the Canadian Rockies for all types of travelers
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